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Espacole and Spork


Shepard lay across the width of her bed, head down by her stairs, as the Normandy turned away. And, in the distance, she could just make out the Kodiak's rear engines flash in the black abyss of space. A faint flicker of light, nothing more, that shimmered brightly for a moment as the little shuttle oriented up and around, on a different course to them. And then, with one final, brighter flash, it was off, cruising at best speed. Toward Omega. And she was accelerating the opposite direction.

Away from the fight…

"Shepard..?" She turned, looking up the stairs as Tali took her first step down them, head cocked to the side and voice low in worry. "What is it, s'vit?"

"I…" She couldn't tell Tali the truth of her plan - the part she'd played in this mess. But she couldn't keep it, either. Keep it from showing on her face.

"You knew…"

It hadn't been a question but, as Tali took another steps down the stairs, she turned to stare up at the coldness of space and nodded, "I knew. How could I not expect us to be noticed? Same stopping point, every time. Some had to see us…"

"Someone had to talk." The Quarian nodded, easing into the spot on the bed right beside Shepard's hips. Turning, she took Shepard's hand. Squeezed it gently, until the Commander turned to her. And then, quietly, she asked, "Is it… Necessary?"

"We need the Batarians to-"

"I don't need the rationale." Tali shook her head, "I just need you to swear to me, that it was necessary."

"It is…" She nodded, face hardening as she nodded again and promised, "I swear, it had to happen. We just… Don't have time, you know? To wait for them to trip the trap."

"Because of the Reapers?"

"Yeah…" Shepard nodded, "Because of the Reapers…"

"Damn them." Tali murmured, voice cracking a bit as she shook her head, "Damn every last one of them, for every last one of these damn choices. For making you-"

"A monster?"

"Don't ever say that." Tali hissed and, after a moment, she laid down and Shepard shuffled over, to give her space. Tucking her head in on Shepard's sternum, she said, "The Reapers are the monsters. You're just… A woman. With the weight of the galaxy on your shoulders and, what, a hundred people helping you?"


"Do your best." Tali said, curling tighter into her side, "But no matter what comes- You are not a monster. The Reapers are. You're just… Another victim."

Shepard bit her lip until it hurt - until she tasted iron - and only then did she let herself choke out a shot up and Tali turned over, rising with her and letting Shepard pull her into a hug. She let her cry into her shoulder, choking and letting every ounce of pain in her bleed out all at once. Like water coming through a dam finally pushed to breaking.

"I love you…"

"I love you, too." Tali said, "Always."

Somehow, that made her cry all the harder…


The old 'warehouses' were less 'big square buildings' and a lot more like a big ring that stretched across the end of a mountain sized spire of rock, dotted by outcroppings of construction all along it like sores. Two large, square structures had been built on the huge ring, at opposite sides with two of their outer hulls running in a curve along the ring's shape, and topped by a messy mix of ancient, more or less broken down monitoring instruments - dishes, antennae, the like - with just as many more modern versions of the same. Out of the two sides of each that faced the ring itself, curving down in a gentle, if jaggedly broken up, slope were long, winding things like giant pipes. Some of these were covered over by thick looking metal, corroded, dented and splattered in a mix of time-dulled colors, but some had glass tops, exposing rolling conveyors and dead lines alike and a few wider walkways through which the pictures showed droids and armored figures alike.

"Good breach points, there." Zaeed grunted, waving a hand at the holographic image projected on the wall just inside the Kodiak, along the hull between the transport compartment and the pilot's berth. "Break the glass, space a few of the unluckier fucks, and we're in."

"And risk the people they took?"

"Should be airlocks." He rumbled, less in argument and more in thought, scratching at his chin with a finger. "But that'd assume the assholes kept them up…"

"Trusting mercs?" Grunt rumbled, "Dumb idea. Especially if you're trusting them to do the smart thing."

"Likelihood…" Legion intoned simply, flanges flicking almost sarcastically. "Low."

"I mean, picking a fight with us is already pretty dim, right?"

"We won't risk it." Pyrrha cut in, ending the back and forth with what little finality it needed. No one contested her, in fact most agreed with her, grunting and nodding. Aside from Legion, whose flanges only flicked. She turned to him and asked, quietly, "What have you noticed so far?"

"Only forty two space-based weapons emplacements detected on surface scans using the Kodiak's systems. None with standard-pattern manual view-ports. Instead they utilise thermal scanners, as standard. Meaning we are undetectable while within the shuttle." Legion explained, using their access into the Kodiak's systems to light up all of the emplacements in orange. And then, a moment later, their possible firing vectors in green. Then a handful of little red spots lit up and they went on, "At these locations, we will be able to infiltrate the subsystems of the station and, using them, disable sensors for an infantry approach and boarding action."

"You can crack their software?"

"With little effort." Legion nodded, "However, these systems reset every twenty seconds to prevent such security tampering. As such, we will be required to remain at the access point."

"You can't leave?"

"Negative." Legion answered, "By the time you find and effect entry, we will be minutes behind you. Delaying for us is inefficient. However, from our location, we may be able to assist with internal security diversions."

"Distract 'em." Zaeed grunted, "Trip alarms, you mean?"

"Indeed." Legion answered, "Tripping alarms deeper in the super-structure would likely not arouse violent action towards the prisoners."

"They'd think it's just some vagrants movin' in, go lookin' for 'em to run 'em off." Zaeed rumbled, "Smart… Long as you know not to over-play it. Tip your hand, that would, and then shit would get real bad."

"They'd take the kids hostage." Grunt nodded, "Properly. Guns to heads. We're good, but…"

"Can't outrun a bullet." Kasumi snorted, chuckling darkly and shaking her head, "No one can. But, uh, Pyrrha, can you-"

"I can not stop the bullet in the chamber." She chuckled, shaking her head wryly and flicking the lithe little thief a look as she wrapped her arms tightly around her legs and tucked them into her chest. Smiling thinly, she said, "I could try and stop them pulling a trigger, if it's made of metal, but… I would have to focus, and keep them from doing it."

"And they'd swap guns." Grunt added quietly, "Or have someone else do it- You'd be hard pressed to keep that up for long."

"In terms of skill," she nodded, "and Aura. Controlling metal I haven't touched is… Still a challenge."

"Suggest Goto assist Legion's efforts." Mordin finally said, the first words he'd dared to speak since he'd settled into his dark corner of the shuttle and closed his eyes. He still didn't open his eyes, though, sitting where he was with his hands folded in his lap. "She can bring the nuance it needs. They can handle the heavy aspects of duty. We punch deep. Find hostages. Secure."

"Then kill the fucking pirates." Zaeed grunted, "Not a bad plan."

"Mhm." Grunt rumbled, "Better than bringing some old relic into a fight."

"Fuck you, dinosaur."

"Hmph." Grunt rumbled, "Battlemaster?"


"What's up?"

"I don't know, Kasumi, I just…" She frowned, something uneasy settling into place in the pit of her stomach. A foreboding weight that warned her of something coming, something dreadful. Like… Like…

Like when she'd gone up that tower, what felt like an eternity ago.

"It's nothing important." She finally said, shaking her head and straightening up in her seat, "We go with the Doctor's suggestion. And we hit them hard and fast. Straight up the middle, fast as we can go, while they direct us to the prisoners."

"Speed is good, but…"

"We rush 'em, we can't take prisoners, Red." Zaeed rumbled, meeting her gaze with a deep frown, "You can stomach that?"

"These people came here to kill innocent people. And did. A child…" She shook her head, let out a shaky breath, and nodded, "We do what we must. No delays, no hesitations… No prisoners."

For a long moment, the Kodiak's occupants fell silent. But, after that moment, they all simply nodded and turned to their weapons for last checks. Unnecessary as they were, she understood it was something of a paranoid tradition, and left them to it as she herself turned to look at the projection of the base and frowned deeply.

The unease persisted…


Pyrrha settled in, squatting down low with Grunt beside her and Solus and Zaeed on the other side of the old, rusted door that let into the airlock. Watching one of the heavy, tri-barreled turrets overlooking it slowly turn, Pyrrha felt a tiny bit of anxiety spike up her spine. But stood her ground, and sighed as the turret passed her by, unable to detect them even at this range, barely ten feet away.

Nodding, she turned to the door and sighed, "Still no response from security. Access Team, the door?"

"Working." Legion answered for them both, "Four seconds."

"Their security is shit." Kasumi added with a sigh, "At least on the outside. But on the inside, it's pretty solid. Not solid enough for me, of course. But way more than an old installation like this should normally have."

"Tracks with being a Batarian op…" Grunt rumbled, "Any ear-marks on their software?"

"A few, actually. None that can't be replicated, and aren't, by any random pirate with old Hegemony scrap, but…" Kasumi sighed, "Copying it over anyway, though. Gotta give Tali and Shepard something to actually do, right?"

Pyrrha snorted and Zaeed shot her a look, deadpan even through his visor, and she threw up a hand, "What? It was funny…"

"Sure, Red, sure." Zaeed chuckled, "Nothin' to do with you thinkin' she's-"

"We should breach now, hm?" Pyrrha cut him off, grimacing and standing up just a bit more, looking down on the probably ancient, worn bulkhead door. "Legion, Kasumi, whenever you're ready, open the door, please. I'll go first. Grunt behind me."


"Got it, Battlemaster."

"Wait," Kaumi mutter, "what am I?"

"We are opening the door in three seconds." Legion said, "Prepare."

On cue, the door shuddered and slid open just a bit, a minute amount of steam and other gases blasting out of its ancient pneumatics. And from the airlock itself. Silent in the near-vacuum that surrounded Omega, it slid open and she and Zaeed slid over the edge, turning in the same motion as the station's gravity took hold and brought them down to the floor. When they were sure it wasn't a trap, they turned and offered hands up to the other two, Pyrrha using her Semblance to help the bulky Krogan angle himself a bit more easily, and more importantly quietly, into landing in the airlock.

Just as silent, the airlock slid closed and Kasumi breathed, "Pressurizing…"

For a few nerve wracking seconds, they were all blinded as disinfectant gases and oxygen flooded the airlock. With a gentle 'click' the audio resynthesizer in her helmet switched off, letting the natural sounds around her flood in. Pneumatic systems in the door grinding, her team breathing and shuffling about, and the passive sounds of their weapons all filled her ears suddenly. It was all a stark difference from the muted, simulated sounds her helmet offered her where it could, her own breathing, and their chatter. But she was robbed of any chance to take relief in it - instinctual and deep - by the other door grinding open.

Wordless, she and Grunt moved forward, flanking it as it opened fully, looking in on a seeming ancient hallway, lit by flickering fluorescents and with old, rusted out floor gratings. They were pitted by spots where feet had, ages ago, fallen through them, and more than a few just as rusted out crates were shoved intermittently against the walls. The walls and ceiling were the same, ancient and pitted by time and, in a handful of places, bullet impacts.

But… No one waiting for them.


"Cams are on you." She reported, "I see you. Old ones. I have the system on a loop, though, so unless whatever sleepy idiot is watching them is paying real close attention…"

"Proceed." Legion summarised simply.

They did, with Pyrrha in the lead and Grunt just beyond her, Zaeed taking the rear point as always while Mordin stayed in their middle. In that protective formation, they advanced through the outer hallways, winding around corners and headed further in, guided by Kasumi's directions. It was several long and silent minutes, until they met their first man. A tired looking Batarian, helmetless and with a long rifle that had some sort of spear in its barrel, who had rounded the corner in front of them and blinked for a moment before registering what, exactly, was about to meet him.

Grunt's meaty fingers closed over his mouth and bore him back into the wall behind him with a muted 'thump' and 'crunch' as the alien's head vanished in a smear of gore that stretched down as the Krogan withdrew and turned. She spared the dead Batarian a look, but…

She didn't - couldn't - spare him a thought as they continued on.

Two more minutes, and two more turns, later they reached another sort of airlock. This one was newer, if still old, with ruddy grey steel from top to bottom and round little viewing windows at each corner. They stacked up on it quietly and Pyrrha asked, "Legion? Kasumi?"

"We have acquired access-"

"There's a large room through that door. My guess? This is some kinda… Inner air-lock. They don't use the outer halls, or accesses, so they locked all the ways from one zone to another. Security, probably. That'd be the obvious answer, anyways." Kasumi cut in quietly, rambling in that distracted way of hers while she worked. "Through here is a storage sector, right under part of the big door that used to give mining rigs access into and out of Omega's spires. Forty feet or so long, mostly empty, two entries from other halls to either side and another at the back. Barracks is through there."

"Can you seal the doors?"

"Already prepped." Kasumi said, "And before you ask- The room has spots for storage containers in it. Only one is in there, though, and Legion spotted them putting food and water in a couple hours ago."

"The prisoners…"

"Makes sense." Zaeed nodded at her words, meeting Pyrrha gaze and frowning. "Why only the one crate, though? S'a big place, plenty o' room. Why would a band of slavers running captures to wherever the fuck outta here only have one crate?"

"How many are in there, Thief?"

"Uh…" Kasumi paused for a brief second and then granted, "Eleven, Grunt. Mostly riflemen, Mattocks it looks like, with those harpoon guns on their backs. Scans of the crate show less than were taken, and only adults, but…"

"You usually lose most of your takes, when you run a raid like that." Zaeed grunted, "People get hurt, try something they shouldn't, or a guard gets rough, and down one goes."

"Plus if anyone was hurt and didn't make it." Grunt rumbled, anger flooding his voice as he hefted his shotgun. "We can find out after we get back whoever we can. And smear these bastards across the walls. Take us in, Battlemaster."

Sighing, she nodded and breathed out, "Legion, open up."

The door opened with a 'click' and a rush of cleaner smelling air, and some kind of incense, as she and her team slid around the corner and into the room. Her rifle found the neck of one of the two facing them and barked, ending him in a splash as he fumbled for his barrier generator's switch and opened his mouth to call out a warning. He and two others collapsed, one missing his head entirely, as their barriers sparked on a moment too late. One of the survivors raised his rifle, and Pyrrha felt the familiar impacts of round striking her barriers and, when they fell, glancing off her armor as she charged and her team cut those focusing on them down.

Her shoulder slammed into the last, staggering him as she flicked her hand and her rifle became a spear, punching up and into his neck, where his armor could do nothing. He gurgled something but, stomach turning, she yanked the spearhead free and turned to appraise the suddenly empty room. Empty and silent.

"Kasumi," she started, turning and heading towards the square crate sitting in the middle of one of dozens of long, entrenched slots that lined the room to either side of a slightly raised walkway between the two, "what are the other Batarians doing, outside the doors?"

"Talking on comms, looks like…"

"Their communication is heavily encrypted." Legion added, "We are unable to access it without a direct, physical input."

"As long as the room is secured." She shook her head, turning and barking, "Solus, with me. Zaeed, Grunt, watch the door. We grab the survivors and retreat, back to that airlock. Kasumi, get the Kodiak to come around to meet us there and have the pilot prep the extra enviro-suits."

"On it."

While they worked, she stepped over to the huge container. It was drab and grey, nothing of note standing out across its pitted surfaces and worn hinges. The only thing remotely new was the locking mechanism - a huge pad right in the joining of the two doors, with a hand-reader judging by the shape and a pin code. She trailed a hand over it, sighed, and turned, rapping her knuckles on each door once before she stepped away and turned toward the doctor.


"Semblance." She nodded, reaching out with her power-

Just as the doors flew open, and four Batarians in heavy, plated armor rushed out, two slamming into Mordin and hurling him off to the side. Mordin hit the ground and rolled, splashing an incinerate against one's helmet as he tried to level his Mattock on him. The other collapsed in a hail of gunfire while Pyrrha left her spear embedded in one's stomach and used her Semblance to hurl the second Batarian up, into the ceiling as soon as he struck her and sent her reeling. He hit with a 'thunk' and then screamed as she hurled him across the room, towards Grunt who slammed a heavy round into his stomach as he came down, carving him in two aside from a strip of armor plates along his back that remained joined.

The final Batarian, dressed in simple brown robes, leapt onto her and took her by the throat. With no metal on him, she reached for her spear with her power and-

"The Brother of Light sends his regards." The Batarian snarled, "Nikos."

And Pyrrha knew fire, as lightning danced up his body and into her.


Zaeed turned when he heard her scream and watched her back arch, electricity arcing up, out of her mouth as her hair burned and long arcs of excess fury bled off and burned into the ground and even up, into the ceiling. He raised his rifle and knelt as the Krogan beside him roared and, all along the bay, charges blew doors off their hinges and sent them flying into the open room. He ignored all that, though, and a clean burst slammed into the bastard holding Nikos right in his knee. He stumbled, dropped her, limp and faintly smoking as red particles flowed off of her, and turned as his Barriers sparked off and another burst-

Sparked off of him with a by now familiar spray of faintly visible bits of energy.

"Aura…" He growled, ignoring the 'how' of it, for the moment, and barking as Grunt rushed toward her and Solus backed away, raising hsi Carnifex on the Aura user. "Solus, get her and run! Grunt, I don't fuckin' care just smash! Get 'em out of here!"

"Whatever you say!" He bellowed, charging forward, towards the group on the right, "I! Am! Krogan!"

He turned, peppering the left side of the room as the half-dozen Batarians rushed toward Nikos. Two collapsed, bleeding, before he had to eject his thermal clip. Snarling, instincts drop him to drop the Avenger and reach for something older, resting across his waist. The old, leather wrapped handle felt almost warm in his hands as the old Lancer, finally up and running again, extended into form and he rose, pouring fire onto the other three Batarians as Solus grabbed Nikos by the back of her breastplate and dragged her back.

The Aura-fucker, whoever he was, leapt for teh Salarian as he did. But, cool as ever, Mordin simply tossed a canister between them, flooding the space with a nasty looking yellow gas that sent the bastard stumbling and choking away as Grunt slammed through the smoke and into him, his own cadre of Batarians already limp on the floor where he'd literally torn through them.

But more came, leaning around corners to pepper the Salarian, the Krogan and Zaeed in fire that sparked off his barriers.

And then, his armor…

"Fuck off!" He barked, advancing on one of the left most doors and firing Jessie as he prepped an Incendiary Grenade and used the little launcher he'd custom-built onto the bottom of the rifle to pop it through one of the far doors at the end of the room.

Smoke and fire billowed out as he turned, idly lifting the rifle up and slamming another little incendiary puck into the base of the weapon's feeder. The second slammed into the other door at the back, filling the back half of the room in smoke as Grunt, carrying Nikos over his shoulders, came charging back towards them. He backed up to the door as they came, and let them through it first as another unit of Batarians - this time nearly thirty strong - surged out of the door in the back, nearly tripping over each other and then the Aura user who pushed through them, coughing on whatever nastiness Mordin had put in his lungs, and pointed their way.

"Come on, old man, before-"

"Rocket!" He barked, grabbing one of Taylor's fancy little 'static smoke' bombs and throwing it on the ground in front of him. The rocket slammed into the wall a few feet away and Zaeed slipped through the door, leaning against the wall as the door closed and looking down at a ragged hunk of meat that had been his thigh. Growling, he groaned, "Fuck…"

"Medi-Gel here." Mordin said, kneeling in front of him as the Batarians slammed into the door, pounding on it and barking orders muted by the steel.

"Fuck me." Zaeed snapped as the Medi-Gel sealed the wound and stopped the bleeding and Solus stood to pull him onto his shoulder.

"Done." The Doctor said, standing and tugging him onto his shoulders, turning to drag him away as fast as he could while Grunt trudged ahead, watching the door behind them with narrow eyes. Growling, he pointed at the corner they were coming to and growled, "You can't carry us both, slow ya down too much. Post me there and run. I'll buy ya time."


"You'll die, Old Man." Grunt growled, taking a few steps towards the corner in spite of his words.

"S'what I'm paid to do." Zaeed grunted, turning and pushing off the Salarian just as they reached the corner. Staggering more than walking, he threw himself into cover and pressed the release on his under barrel, ejecting it to save some weight and waving them off. "Go on, get. 'Fore I shoot one o' ya myself."

"Will save Miss Nikos." Mordin vowed, "Swear to it."

"See you on the other side." Grunt added, turning with a parting, "Zaeed."

He watched them round a corner a few feet away and groaned, looking down at his ruined leg and chuckling, "Come on, Doc… Both know that there's a killer. Some Medi ain't gonna fix 'er."

Around the corner, he heard the doors slam to the ground, blown off their supports by shaped charges, and he hefted Jessie.

"Come on, girl." He sighed, "One last song, eh?"

Zaeed Massani died in that hallway, in a part of Omega long since left more or less derelict. Much like he had been, once upon a time. All alone…

Well, aside from a dozen of the Batarian Hegemony's special forces who died just a bit before him, in the same crowded hallway.


The God of Darkness turned as a presence once more made itself known in the confines of his Dark Hall. The man turning slowly, taking it all in with a slack-jawed expression and one wide eye, was bald and scarred. And muttering curses all the while, until Darkness rose from his seat and the motion caught his attention. He turned, looked up and along the hall at him, and then scowled.

"Damn, so you did take offense, eh?" He cocked his head, confused, and the old mercenary shrugged, "All the 'goddamn' this and 'goddamn' that, I mean."

"Hah." Darkness chuckled, "No. I don't care what people say, Zaeed Massani, I care what they do."

"Then why am I…"

"Fate's hand." Darkness sighed, "Not mine."

"Ah." He hummed, "That old, rotten bastard…"

"Indeed." Darkness nodded, "I only brought you here to thank you. For filling my first Child's life with what comfort, kindness and warmth you could. Truly, I owe you for this. As such, if you wish to be reborn, I could-"

"Nah, fuck that." The old man grunted, cutting him off with a wave and adding, "You know what happens when we head on over the line, then?"

"Not truly." More for a lack of curiosity than anything else, though. Regardless, he asked, "Why?"

"Cuz I'm itchin' to find out." Zaeed shrugged, smiling that lopsided, toothy smile of his. "Was just curious if you knew was all. Speakin' of knowing things…"

"I know of the Batarian who struck my Child down." He rumbled, rage bubbling up in him at it all - and most potently at the words he'd spoken. Hands curling into fists, he promised, "I will speak to my Brother about this, rest assured, my friend."

"Right." He nodded, "Send me on my way then, if'n you don't mind."

With a thought, it was done, and for a moment Darkness considered finding out. Reaching into their shared Knowledge to see just what did happen when a soul reached its end. But, after a moment, he discarded the curiosity and returned to his seat. After all, if the mortal was content to make it a surprise, why shouldn't he be as well should it ever come to pass?

He could not let a mere Human show him up, after all.


Captain Dick Scratcher :