...So...yeah. It's been a while. And there's reasons for that, beyond the whole "2020 sucks" thing. I'll save the long version for after this chapter, but here's a short version.
I actually have been working on this story, and in fact have 2 chapters ready to post after this one, and another about halfway done. I'd planned to finish the arc before posting, but when someone pointed out it'd been 2 years, I figured...fuck it. Anyway, back to the story, longer A/N at the bottom.
"This doesn't count as the 'I owe you drinks' cause it's not the whole squad."
"Hmm...you buy the next round when you get here though."
"You know you're not gonna get drunk that easy right?"
"I'm up for the challenge."
"Fine. But if you pass out, I'm totally drawing a mustache on your face."
"Haha, very fun-" Raptor suddenly had the wind knocked out of her as Ashley tackled her to the side, a missile flying right through the spot her head had just been. What little alcohol she'd had wasn't nearly enough to keep her from tracking the contrail of the rocket as she fell and rolled behind a table as she knocked it over. Crouching behind it, she readied her widow, then popped up and aimed at where the missile had come from. Her eye was to the scope just long enough to see a masked mercenary aiming a missile launcher before she pulled the trigger.
The missile went straight up as the dead mercenary fell backwards, head practically gone. She took her eye off the scope and saw a large group of the same moving in. She ducked back down as she popped in a new heatsink.
What seemed a long time to her had only been a few moments to those without her cybernetic enhancements. The few other patrons were screaming or cowering, the bartender hiding behind the bar now. Ashley crouched next to her, holding a pistol. "You know, I thought you were just being paranoid when you brought all your guns, but now-"
"Here." Raptor passed Ash her Mattock, activating inferno rounds on her widow.
Ash nodded as she readied it, flicking the safety off and setting it for disruptor ammo "Any idea how many?"
"At least a squad. Probably more." She popped up and fired quickly before going back down. "Two less now though."
A grenade suddenly landed next to them. Shepard kicked it away from them, biotics sending it even further, but the flash still left her ears ringing as her cybernetics worked to get her vision back to 20-20.
In her case of course, any sort of vision was still bad news for the enemies. Her widow still found a target as a merc tried to flank them- just because she couldn't quite hit him between the eyes didn't save his life, especially with the sheer power contained in every widow shot.
As she blinked away her disorientation, she threw a biotic attack at another merc, which sent him flying into a third, though neither of them seemed more than stunned. They were, however, wide open for Ashley to take them out.
"Any idea who these guys are?" Ashley asked as she popped in a new heat sink, shaking her head clear.
"Not exactly a short list. And the annoying thing is they're probably after Bourne." She sighed, firing a concussive round to drop a vanguard's barrier, and taking his head off with the Widow.
Ashley's loaned mattock glowed blue from the electric ammo as she quickly took down an engineer's shields, before throwing an incendiary grenade that caught him and another nearby merc on fire. "If it is because of him, there might be a tiny bit of friendly fire. Pun not intended."
"I just wanted one short shore leave. A couple days, hell, a few hours even, with my girlfriend, to relax and *not* have to have billets flying the whole time." Shepard blasted the head off a merc with her widow as they tried flanking her. "But no, apparently even that is too much to ask."
"So he finally broke you down enough to call her that eh?" Ashley chuckled.
"Oh shut up." She growled, tossing a half dead merc into a wall and finishing the job.
"Well, maybe we can claim it as overtime."
"...fuck, now I half wish I *was* working for Cerberus just to screw them out of some extra credits. Hey, I said *half* didn't I?" She added in response to Ashley's disapproving look.
"Yeah, but still."
Raptor opened her mouth to respond, even as she got ready to fire again, only to stop as she saw her radar was free of any movement. She motioned for Ashley to stay put as she quickly popped her head up, enhanced reflexes ready to duck back if she saw anything or anyone hostile. Seeing nothing, she slowly moved towards another table, gun at the ready.
The other patrons had either fled or had been killed in the crossfire, and she gently closed the eyes of an older human as she passed him.
"Anything?" Ashley whispered, the radios apparently still jammed.
Raptor shook her head, thinking. "I doubt we got them all, so we either scared them off…"
"Or they fell back and are gonna be back this way." Ashley finished. "Where the hell is c-sec?"
"Well, if nobody can call for help, makes sense they'd be slow getting here." Raptor stood up, still keeping an eye out. "We could hole up here, wait for backup, but I don't like how many ways in there are."
"So we head for the Normandy then?"
"That would make sense...but it's also exactly what they'd expect."
Ashley nodded thoughtfully. "So, either we go the way they'd expect, and if we're lucky get backup from the others in your crew, or...we head the other way, get a shuttle of some sort and I fly that back to the ship?"
"I like that plan except for the implication you think I can't fly." She crossed her arms.
"Well, A, it's true, and B you'd be the better shot with a sniper rifle from a moving vehicle."
"...okay, I agree with part B so fuck it, let's do that." One of the mercs on the ground twitched, and Ashley shot him twice in the head to be sure he was down for good.
"I'll take point since I've got the biotics. Watch my six. Lots of places we could get ambushed...or followed."
"Wait- what if they didn't back off because of us?"
"Well, like we said, they might've been after Jason. Maybe they backed off when they saw he wasn't with us?"
Shepard mulled it over for a moment. "Maybe…or…"
"Vasir was after Liara. And apparently so is the Shadow Broker. If either of them sent those mercs at us…"
"Then maybe they're looking for her on the ship?"
"Exactly…" Raptor hesitated, but kept moving forward. "But with everyone on that ship, it's probably the safest place for her to be even if she is their target."
"The safest place for an Asari is on a Cerberus ship?" Ashley repeated dryly.
"Ex-Cerberus, at worst." Raptor glared. "Come on- if we find a fast transit terminal I can use a spectre override on it."
There was a sudden shot behind them, and the distinct sound of a head exploding . Raptor wheeled around, Widow to her eye, only to see a rapidly uncloaking merc dropping to the ground, most of his head gone as Vasir stored her gun on her hip.
"Or I can do the override so they don't know it's you."
Raptor adjusted her aim, pointing it right at Vasir's eye.
The Asari put her hands up placatingly, showing they were now empty.
Raptor didn't lower the gun, keeping her finger on the trigger. "What are you doing here?"
"Taking out the squad that was a block back that way sneaking up on you." She responded evenly. "As well as this one that could've blown the back of your head off."
"Any idea who they are?"
"Best guess? Shadow broker's army. I'm surprised they were able to get on board...but then again maybe I'm not…" her face became sober. "I interrogated one of the mercs. Apparently...they managed to shoot down the shuttle Bourne was in."
"You really think it's a good idea telling me that while I've got this thing aimed at your face?" Raptor's finger tightened, a hair's breadth more and Vasir was a memory.
"Shepard, what are you doing?" Ashley hissed.
Raptor was all but certain that shooting Vasir was the right move right now, but...she had nothing to go off of except for Bourne's word, which also wouldn't exactly go for proof for anyone else. And while she doubted he was so easy to kill, she also couldn't just expect him to come in out of nowhere and solve this problem.
"Come on Shepard, let's all calm down." Vasir slowly walked toward them. Raptor lowered the gun slowly. For now, she'd have to play along.
"So what do you suggest then?" She asked icily.
"Well, since I think we both know you know where Liara is, it's a safe bet that they do too, and they'll be heading for her as we speak...So I suppose if you lead the way-"
Vasir was cut off by the sound of an air-car's horn, which was getting louder and louder as it flew towards them, seemingly aimed right for Vasir.
"What is that car do-" Vasir was cut off as she was put in Stasis, the biotic field tinged with purple as well as blue.
Raptor quickly got out of the way, pulling Ashley behind despite her protests. Breaking a window with her elbow, she dragged them through the empty store and behind a counter.
As the car closed in on the Spectre she managed to break out of Stasis, and flared her biotics, arms up toward the car.
Raptor half aimed to shoot her in the head, but something stopped her from doing it, wanting to see what happened.
Vasir's biotics suddenly seemed to short out, and she looked at her arms in confusion, then rose them in horror as the car got closer, with no room for her to dodge.
Bourne suddenly charged out through a rolled down window, ducking and rolling then teleporting into the shop with them, facing them as he activated his visor and stood up.
Behind him, the vehicle exploded in a ball of fire.
Raptor just stared. "...did you...did you just…"
"Oh, what, like me being crazy is news?" He responded, raising an eyebrow, and pulling up his omni-tool. "And...boom, I have crossed 'stand in front of explosion wearing sunglasses or equivalent' off my bucket list."
"...since when do you have a bucket list?"
"It's fairly recent. I mean you literally kicked the bucket and came back, how do you not have one?"
"...okay now I sorta do want to make one, but it'd be more 'see the Thesian Gardens' Liara has told me about, as opposed to 'act out cliches from action movies.'"
"Meh, everyone's a critic." He suddenly tensed, spinning around and pulling his plasma shotgun into his hands.
The fiery wreckage seemed to expand, before Vasir's biotics snuffed it out, though she was clearly far from unscathed, one arm hanging by her side as she seemed to struggle to keep her balance.
"Goddamnit, I knew I should've stuck some explosive coils in the back."
"What...the fuck...is wrong with you?!" Vasir spat.
"Yeah, not gonna lie, kinda wondering that myself too." Ashley responded, gun aimed vaguely in Bourne's direction.
"Pssh, not enough time in the day to explain that." He responded dryly. "But I know plenty wrong with you Vasir, and I don't mean the fact you just got run over."
"I'm...aware you've had a tough time...I'm almost willing to let this whole thing slide, but-" She winced, her biotics fading in and out as she spoke.
"Cut the crap. Did you really think that those guys wouldn't talk?...I mean, more like they screamed and whimpered, but they still gave me what I needed." He actually smiled slightly. "I gotta admit, you actually fooled me-I genuinely thought you were after Liara. At least up until the point the shadow broker's goons tried blowing me out of the sky. See, I knew you and the broker were tight, I just didn't realize I was suddenly on his shit list too…obvious, in retrospect."
"Nothing personal." Vasir half-shrugged, a slight smile on her face. "If you'd lead me to Liara in the first place, wouldn't have found out you were a more important target."
"Flattery isn't gonna get you anywhere."
"Maybe this will then!" She threw her arms forward, and her biotics suddenly were gone entirely.
"...sorry, what'll get you anywhere? Trying to play patty cake?" He laughed.
She tried it again, as Bourne just put away his gun, crossing his arms as he watched.
Raptor debated just shooting Vasir, but had to admit she was kind of curious where he was going with this.
"You know that 'bad joke' I made about poisoning the tea? I spiked it with a little cocktail that negates biotics. Harmless to non-biotics, and not nearly enough to affect Shepard or I thanks to our enhancements. But it's had time- probably a bit too much time even- to seep into your system. And clearly, you didn't think you could take me yourself if you tried sending goons after me instead." He snapped his fingers, and sent an orb spiralling into Vasir's gut, sending her flying back against a piece of wreckage. "That was when you were still at full power instead of having weakened biotics and being run the fuck over."
Vasir managed to push herself back to her feet.
"See, Liara, smart as she is, she'd need the data on something. A drive, or whatever. But I don't. I deleted every little thing I dug up, keeping it all in here." He tapped his head. "So you can't just steal it and delete it, you can't just take and run, and hope I don't catch up. The only way you could stop me is by killing me, and that, is not gonna happen." He pulled his S-17 into hand. "Same gun that killed Saren. Guess that's another traitorous spectre I'll have killed with it."
"You think I betrayed the council? Like Saren? Go to hell." She spat, a bit of blood coming out of her mouth now. "The broker gave me good intel over the years- intel that helped keep the Citadel safe-"
He snapped his wrist forward, a lash shooting forward and hitting her in the gut. Though it didn't get through her armor, it took her shields down and sent her to the ground, breath knocked out of her.
"If you cared about keeping the citadel safe, you wouldn't have tried this whole thing. How many civilians were just killed cause of you and the broker?"
"Less than Cerberus has killed." She spat back. "You want to act like you're so high and mighty? Do you even know what they've done? You think me making a handful of civilians is any different than making an Admiral disappear?"
Raptor saw his robotic hand clench into a fist at her words as she and Ashley slowly walked up behind him on either side, guns trained on Vasir. Raptor wasn't really sure why she wasn't just shooting her, wondering if it was even her own choice or reality's.
"Or feeding an entire squad to thresher maws as some sick experiment?"
Raptor's hands tightened on her gun.
"Or on Virmire, would you have saved your own squad mate if you weren't screwing the other one?"
Ashley's eyes stayed on Vasir, almost like she was trying not to look at Jason.
"Hell, isn't your new flame why you murdered that justicar?"
How does she even know about that? Raptor wondered. Even for a Spectre working for the Shadow Broker that seems like hard info to come by.
"What was her name again? Kas-" Bourne cut the Asari short with a furious kick to her stomach, biotics focused and blue but sprinkled with fiery wisps of red.
"You know, this whole time I've been half trying to convince myself to hand you over to the council instead of killing you, and maaaan you are making that decision so much easier."
"You think the council would even actually care? We're spectres. We do the dirty things so they don't have to. Even if you brought me in, they'd just sweep it under the rug, and try to forget about it. Hell, might give me a new identity even."
"That might be the first honest thing she's said." Raptor muttered.
Bourne's eyes flashed between colors for a moment, and Raptor almost saw a change come over Vasir's face for a moment.
"So that's it? You're working with the broker cause you owe him?"
"What the hell do you mean?"
"Or is it cause you're scared of him? Or of something he could do to you, or something he knows?"
Vasir shifted slightly, fist clenching at her side. "You may as well just kill me- he will anyway once he realizes I failed, especially if he thinks I gave him up."
"Unless we kill him first- which we were already gonna do."
"We can't trust her with that." Raptor pointed out. "How do we know she wouldn't stab us in the back the second she thought we were in a bad spot?"
"What, you want to just kill a Spectre in the middle of the citadel?" Ashley commented.
"Once again-" Bourne waved his pistol pointedly. "Wouldn't be the first time...or hell, maybe like this would be the 4th or 5th, Saren just did not want to just stay down."
"That was his body being possessed though, not actually him." Raptor pointed out.
"Eh, semantics. Still counts."
Vasir suddenly managed a biotic shockwave, enough to knock the two Spectres stumbling and Ashley to the ground.
Raptor quickly rolled back to her feet and put the scope to her eye, right before Bourne teleported in front of her back on his feet, inadvertently blocking her shot at Vasir.
Before either of them could react the Asari pulled Ashley to her, biotics fading and leaving her gasping, even as she pressed Ashley's own pistol to the back of her head.
"Guess...the biotics...weren't...that weak." She grinned, smugness and pain competing on her face.
"Stalling to build them back up? Gah, should've seen that coming." Bourne muttered.
"That toxin is effective." She admitted, even as she dug the gun into Ashley's head. "But I don't need biotics if I have a hostage."
"Hostage? You mean my ex I'm on bad terms with?" Bourne replied, glancing back at Raptor, winking with the eye Vasir couldn't see. "To quote an old movie- go ahead, make my day."
"Jason, bad time to bluff." Ashley groaned.
"I mean, am I really? If this was a couple years ago would be one thing, but you know, break up, time off, new girlfriend, I mean I could probably get over you dying at this point."
"Jesus, that's dark even for you." Raptor commented, eyeing him sideways.
"What're you gonna do, shoot me through her?" Vasir asked, somewhat nervously. "I'd shoot her before you could get to me anyway."
"You both have barriers up, but this gun has explosive rounds. From this distance? I figure the third shot kills her and drops your shield, but that and the recoil gives you time to fire back. The risk to me is minimized if you shoot her first, which I'm encouraging you to do."
"He's quoting something else now too, I fucking know it." Ashley glared at him.
"Or you let her go and I just send this-" he pulled his boot knife into his left hand and gesturing. "Through your head for a cleaner less painful death."
"Because you don't want me to kill her. Might even still have feelings for her?"
"No, because I don't feel like dragging me killing you into a gunfight when I can just get it over with and move on with my day. Her not being in the way makes this easier, but you want to make this messier? Go ahead, it's quite literally your funeral."
"Gah, I can't believe I actually had sex with such an asshole!" Ashley yelled angrily. "Repeatedly!"
"Yeah, calling me an asshole really isn't helping yourself out here Ash."
"If the shoe fits- you can shove it up your ass!"
"Jason, maybe new strategy?" Raptor muttered just loud enough she knew he'd hear it.
"Enough! Weapons on the ground, and if I see any biotics I will shoot her in the fucking head! You think that's a bluff?"
"Vasir, darling, think about who you're talking to." He chuckled darkly as he put his gun away, his right hand going up, glowing blue as he gestured towards Ashley, thumb to his middle finger "I worked with Cerberus to bring down the collectors. I detonated a nuke on Virmire to wipe out Saren's lab. And I sacrificed 8 cruisers to save the destiny ascension, including three people I seriously want to stab half the time. You really think I won't kill my ex to take your crazy ass down?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I think!"
He responded by snapping his fingers, and Ashley went stiff before going limp, hanging loosely in the Asari's arm. "You sure?"
She stared at him open mouthed as she struggled to keep the apparent dead weight up with only one arm. "You actually-" she pulled the gun out from behind Ashley's head, but Raptor was quicker, firing into her chest with the Widow the second she had a clear shot.
Bourne was right, between Ashley's shield and Vasir's own Barrier and armor, even a powerful gun like her Anti-material rifle had limits, but the slug still slammed directly into her sternum and obviously cracked it. Vasir stumbled back and Bourne tossed the knife to his other hand, blasting with the dreadshot where Raptor's bullet had hit, and tossing the knife at the weakened spot in her armor for good measure with some extra biotic kick behind it. The Asari was flung into the wall behind her, collapsing to the ground unable to stand, and barely able to breathe.
"And for the record Vasir?" He snapped his fingers again and Ashley stirred on the ground, groaning. "You were right, killing her wasn't in the books. Knocking her out so you think I did? That totally was."
"Yeah you can get a freaking Oscar later." Raptor muttered, firing another shot into Vasir's chest, taking down the barrier and making the Asari cough up blood. "Damn, I know she's a spectre but that is some quality armor."
"Could've aimed for the head."
"This is more cathartic, and stops me from wanting to shoot you for pulling that whole stunt." She half glared, even though she'd known he was bluffing.
"Point taken." He agreed as they walked over to the fallen Spectre.
"I...think...hate...you." Ashley groaned as she got back to her feet. "How did you even do that?"
"Quantum entanglement biotic mind control, more or less. I basically hit the 'play dead' button. Figured you'd prefer that over actually being dead."
"...somehow I think I'd find the technical explanation easier to understand."
Vasir tried to speak but only ended up coughing blood.
He knelt next to her. "Let's see, you tried to kill my former squadmate, I tracked you down, ran you over with a car, you took a hostage and it ended badly...you already tried and more or less failed with the whole guilt trip thing...you're currently bleeding out...minus a fight or two, I think that should take care of just about everything." He yanked the knife out of her chest and stored it in his boot as she feebly gasped for breath. In one motion he drew his S17 and shot her in the heart, her torso bursting like a watermelon at such close range. After a moment of deliberation, he shot her in the head too, practically taking it clean off.
"So much for shore leave; let's get back to the ship and go kill her boss. And Raptor, I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe you should bring the cain."
"Jason, you just killed a Spectre in the middle of the Citadel- the one who I was supposed to be shadowing mind you- and you're planning to just leave and go kill the fucking shadow broker?!" Ashley responded in disbelief.
"In a nutshell, yes."
"Let's be honest, neither of us should be that surprised." Raptor commented.
"...okay valid but still." Ashley sighed. "What the hell do we tell Udina? Or the council in general?"
In response Bourne brought up his omni-tools, typing in the air. "Let's see, if that little device I planted is working- yep, got access to Tevos' email and therefore all the councilors'. So just gotta attach the files I recorded via the visor and my own quick report and...yeah that should cover it."
"Wait, what device?" Both women asked at once.
"The hacking device I threw together with Kasumi's help. I hid it in there last time I broke into her office...well, I had one in there already from the time before, but this one has better counter encryption software and is smaller."
"...I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that so I don't have to deal with more paperwork than I already will." Ashley rubbed her temples.
"Fine by me, since I'm guessing you don't want to tag along either?"
"Yeah I'll pass."
"Figured. That part Liara probably still covers." He muttered to himself in prothean.
"I mean, not exactly like I figured I'd be a Spectre when I joined the marines anyway, no sense being disappointed it didn't work out."
He glanced back at her, eyes shifting between blue and purple as he thought.
"I wouldn't say it's unlikely as is anyway. I mean Udina picked you for a reason,but..."
Ashley looked at him. "But you think it was more political than anything?"
"Yes and no. He wouldn't have picked you if you weren't qualified, but at the same time odds are he mostly wanted a Spectre that wasn't Raptor or I."
"So what, you think I should still go for it?"
"Is that a no?"
"Not what I said." He sighed. "Look, the fact is, it's not an easy job, and you're at a tiny bit of a disadvantage because you're all human, vs being a cyborg or a biotic or having genemods."
"Yeah, because there's never been a human Spectre without those." Raptor said sarcastically. "Definitely not the very first person they ever considered like Anderson or the first they actually made a Spectre."
"...okay yeah, point withdrawn." He admitted sheepishly.
"Plus I was there going up against Saren. Only reason I wasn't on Illos or here during sovereign's attack was that you and I had hooked up." Ashley added.
"Hey, it's not like I was saying you weren't good. Let's be real, if I thought you were gonna suck I'd tell you, and if I thought you were gonna get slaughtered I'd flat out tell you that too. All I'm gonna say is don't trust Udina or the council, and do trust yourself and your instincts...also, just throwing it out there to clear the air, we're not with Cerberus, we finally got around to just stealing their ship."
"Not really super relevant, but good to know I guess?"
"Well, don't want you trying to arrest me for it when you are a spectre." He teased. "Raptor's the one who likes handcuffs, not me."
Shepard rolled her eyes "Speaking of arrests, we should get back to the Normandy before C-sec gets off their asses and tries to move in on the Cerberus logo covered ship."
"And before I say something else to make you want to make a second dead Spectre here?"
"Makes sense...we never really got to talk though, so maybe we can just video chat at some point? Or at least email or text message ?" Ashley asked Bourne sheepishly.
"Yeah, probably. Although, fair warning? It seems like every single girl I talk to gets asked if they want a threesome with me and my current girlfriend." He rolled his eyes. "Literally like five and counting."
"Please, like she'd make that mistake again." Raptor chuckled, and Ashley cracked a smile before hiding it.
He just rolled his eyes. "Let's just go. Feels like we've been here for ages, and it's time to get a move on."
(Over 2 years huh?)
T117: Yeah, I know.
(A whole 18 months.)
T117: Yes Iron, we all know that.
(I'm just saying, that's a long time. What, did you go get a degree? Get married? Have a kid? Maybe fall into a coma?)
T117: Well, you're mostly right on the first one and completely right on two and three. No coma though.
(...what.) *What?* )WHAT?(
T117: Yep. Hence why I've been so busy. Beyond the whole "global pandemic" thing. A 4 month old tends to take a lot of time. and so does being married. But like I said, I have chapters ready to go, another mostly done, and I have ideas for how the story's gonna go. Hopefully a lot shorter delays between updates this time, but I make no promises. Honestly this chapter and the next couple were mainly written on my phone via google docs, just when I've had any spare time. So if there's some big major spelling or formatting errors or something just let me know please so I can fix them. No idea when I'll post next, probably by the end of the month or sooner, but no promises. I do promise however that this story isn't over, and I will finish it...Even if it takes so long we're on PS6 with a remaster when it's done.