"Kaidan's one of the most loyal and dedicated soldiers I've ever seen," Chief said as Ackerson reviewed her data pad.
"Sure. He has shown exemplary discipline with the highest recommendations from his previous superiors. He's also a very powerful biotic…even with the defects of his L2 implants. Tell me, has Lieutenant Alenko complained about headaches since he joined your team?"
"Yes…" Chief replied. "That's common with L2's."
"Mmhmm…I've heard stories about L2's and their headaches. Drove a few of them mad. Some had their biotic powers so overcharged they couldn't be controlled…" She paused to see the Chief's reaction, which he offered none. "…but Lieutenant Alenko has a clean medical record up to this point, so I'm sure that won't happen. Then again, there's the outstanding issue of the murder he committed during his time on the Grunt Hole."
Chief paused and watched curiously as she slid a window from her data pad to one of the holographic screens on the table. Alongside a variety of confidential documents were images of a dead Turian with his head smashed in like a pumpkin.
"I'm on it," Cortana whispered in the Chief's ear to do an extranet search.
"Commander Vyrnnus," Ackerson said approaching the desk. "First Contact War veteran. Hired through Conatix Industries for the Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training Program. During a training exercise with another student, Lieutenant Alenko attacked him. This…" she said gesturing to the images. "…was the result."
"I can't find anything about that," Cortana said returning to the conversation. "Just stuff about Conatix going out of business after Gagarin Station was shut down. It might be true."
"…even if that's true…" the Chief said directing his reply to Ackerson.
"Which it is," Ackerson noted.
"…Alenko told me what Conatix and the BAaT did to their kids. Hauling them away from their families to become living weapons."
"'Hauling?' Hardly. Everyone inducted into the program was given fair treatment. One of my soldiers was there with him and can validate that."
Chief crossed his arms. He wasn't a stranger to being hauled off to some camp that trains soldiers, so this was an issue he had some investment in.
"I'm sure Lieutenant Alenko performed admirably while on your team, but this…" she said pointing to the image. "Think if something like that happened to someone on your squad. Or to a VIP on the battlefield. Even if it was just this one incident, that's already an increased probability for a repeat offense."
"…is Alenko going to be tried for murder?"
Ackerson shook her head. "Not right now. Maybe never. If word got out about what happened, it could hurt our relations with the Turians. That and considering what it could have done to hurt human biotic development at the time…"
Chief had figured something was off about the lack of an explanation for BAaT's closure, but he never suspected Kaidan could have been the cause. Then again, maybe she wasn't telling the whole truth.
"I'm not surprised this never came up before now," Ackerson said looking at the Chief. "It's not something you can easily talk about on the battlefield, is it?"
"Bitch…" Cortana muttered as Ackerson slid another page on to the holographic screen.
"And while we're talking about your human crewmembers, we should discuss Gunnery Chief Williams…"
Ashley attempted to calm her nerves as she stared down the scope of her sniper rifle. Her finger curled around the trigger in anticipation. She could feel her breath held within her chest, waiting for the moment of release.
"Don't hold your breath too long, señorita," the familiar Latino voice of Jared La Rosa said over her earpiece. "You'll miss wildly if you don't time it right."
Ashley exhaled slowly and took another deep breath. Ok, she couldn't get overexcited. She already took a few potshots for practice, but now it was time to show off what she could do. And between Jared and Garrus, she had enough expert snipers to help her out in this game.
Right as she thought that, a Blackwatch soldier ran into view.
"Tango coming," La Rosa said. "Fíjate!"
"Got it…" she replied calmly aiming a short distance ahead of her target. Exhaling slowly, she fired.
Direct hit! The round struck the Raptor right in the neck. Instant kill!
"Olé!" La Rosa exclaimed. "Move, now!"
Ashley quickly displaced from her current spot as she heard gunfire whiz above her head. Thankfully, the first map they had chosen included opportune spots for sniper fire. This wasn't Ashley's strongest weapon skill, but that's what practice games like this were meant to improve. Better than leaving it up to chance in a battle.
Plus, it didn't hurt having one of her favorite professional arena combatants give some pointers. There was no way running into him a second time after that firing range on the Citadel was a matter of luck, so she used this time wisely. Her family would flip their lids knowing she got to fight alongside one of the greatest snipers the Grey Wardens ever had. It would be an even better story if they ended up winning!
"You're clear?" La Rosa asked.
Neither of them could spot each other easily, since La Rosa figured positioning each other on opposite sides of the map would work to their advantage. And she knew Garrus was out their ready to scoop up their kills if they weren't diligent, so they had to keep an eye out for him too.
"Yeah," she said moving to a new location to help spot their next target. "Is this bringing back memories?"
"…everything does," La Rosa admitted.
"Did you see the highlight reel from the last game I forwarded to you?" Ashley asked as she saw their next victim. "Also, Blackwatch hiding behind a wall. Second building to the center."
"I see him," La Rosa said. A brief pause later, Ashley spotted the muzzle flash from La Rosa's rifle as he shot at the target, striking him in the back.
"Good night," He continued hustling away from the incoming gunfire. "Thanks for playing."
Ashley smirked. This was a lot more methodical than she was used to, but it was good to see how other people fought. La Rosa had racked up quite the record during his professional days doing this technique. Maybe he still did this fighting for the ODST. Plus, this stealth angle was kind of fun.
"How did Prakoso do the last game?" La Rosa asked getting to his new position.
"I'll take that as a 'no.' The guy's carrying the Grey Wardens on his shoulders," Ashley replied scanning the area for a prime target. "Led in kills, but they barely beat the Blood Mages in overall points."
"That poor fool's going to break if they don't hire some better fighters."
"You and Olivera set a pretty high bar."
"Eh, it was more than us."
"Two targets pinning down our team," Ashley said spotting a couple of Cabal soldiers firing at Wrex, N'Tho and one of the ONI marines.
"I've got the one with the funny eye," La Rosa said. "On my mark."
Ashley lined up her sights on the other Turian. Poor suckers wouldn't know what hit them.
The two of them fired simultaneously. The Turians went down simultaneously. Simple as that.
"Nice shot," La Rosa complimented.
Ashley smirked once again as she moved to displace, only to hear another sniper round fire. However, this one struck the rock right above her.
"Shit!" She said scrambling from her position out of view.
"We've got an enemy sniper in the fray."
"Well, this should be fun," La Rosa said eager for the challenge
Ashley covertly moved to a new spot she hadn't tried yet. It required her to momentarily run across the main floor of the battle, but thankfully most of the fighting was concentrated in the center. In the distance, she could see gunfire, biotic energy and all sorts of things shoot up into the air. If this is what the first round was like, she could only imagine how two more rounds would look. Once she made it to her spot, she laid prone and looked through her scope trying to find the bastard firing at her.
"How are Uco and Bejo doing?" La Rosa then asked over the TEAMCOM.
"Huh?" Ashley said taking a moment to register the question. "Oh, right. Yeah, they're pretty good. They're leading the team in support kills. Prakoso's only in the spotlight because he has actual combat experience."
"Well yeah. That's what you get recruiting someone from the Indonesian military."
"Very true," Ashley said taking a moment to inspect her rifle. "How does fighting for the ODST compare to the old days?"
"Manzanas y naranjas," La Rosa replied. "There's a lot more fear for your life fighting people with lethal weapons though."
"Yeah, go figure," Ashley joked back.
"How do you deal with that fear?"
Ashley was a bit surprised by that. She figured being ODST would have helped him get over that fear. That's at least what the ads seemed to indicate. She had to think about that for a moment
"I…I don't know," she said looking back through the scope. "After a while, you stop thinking about your life and you worry about other people."
"That sounds just as hard."
"Do you feel that way about your squad?"
Ashley thought about that for a moment too. "…yeah. I mean, it doesn't help that we've picked up more civilians than I'd like."
"Ok, technically 'non-Alliance.' Wrex and Garrus aren't civilians."
"Do the Quarian and Asari fight with you guys?"
"Tali's a bit limited with that enviro suit, but she's gotten a lot better the more she's in the field. She took down a Brute single handedly a while back."
"…up close with a shotgun," she replied noting how unrealistic that sounded.
"Ah…well, that's still cool. And the Asari?"
Ashley paused and pursed her lips. "She's…she's an archaeologist,"
"…I sense subtext," La Rosa said.
Damn, Ashley thought to herself. "We found her during a mission and she's been with us since. She's mostly there to lend her research knowledge and Asari stuff."
"You know. That freaky thing they do when they swap brainwaves with people."
"I assume by your tone she's not swapping brainwaves with just anyone?"
Ashley paused. She didn't expect to get into this subject, but it's not like La Rosa was going to blab about it…she hoped.
"…no," Ashley said. "Just the Chief."
"I get that," La Rosa replied apparently 'getting it.' "A guy that mysterious, you'd need to do some prying. Still, I'm sure doing that often enough would develop some kind of…intimate connection."
Ashley didn't reply as she focused on the scope. She thought she saw some movement in the distance, but couldn't tell for sure.
"Sorry," La Rosa replied.
"No, it's fine," Ashley said trying not to sound annoyed. "You're not wrong. I'm sure being Benezia's daughter gets her a lot of easy sympathy too."
A shot then rang out and La Rosa yelped over the TEAMCOM.
"La Rosa?" Ashley said.
"Jared? Jared, you there?"
Damn…La Rosa was hit. That meant he was currently waiting to respawn, so she was on her own for the moment…
Or so she thought as the enemy sniper fired a shot at her direction. It thankfully didn't hit her body, but the alarm blaring in her earpiece meant her shield was shredded.
"Shit, shit shit," Ashley said springing to her feet and running to cover. The enemy sniper fired again, striking near her feet. She blindly fired a shot from her rifle before rolling behind a wall. Great…now she was pinned. Maybe he would move on to a different target though. She just needed to bide her…
Another shot struck the corner of where she hid. Ok, this person wasn't going to back off. She had to think of something. La Rosa should be re-entering the game any second, so they could coordinate to…
"Need some help?" A familiar voice said over the TEAMCOM.
Ashley rolled her eyes. "…yeah," she reluctantly admitted. "Yeah, I could use a hand, Garrus."
"Don't worry. Little did you know that your God sent an archangel to watch your back…"
"What about Ashley?" Chief asked.
"Well for starters, we could go over the complaints filed against her xenophobia," Ackerson said.
Chief waited to hear something from Cortana while the Major continued.
"And there have been quite a few," she said scrolling down her data pad. "I mean, you can't blame her given what happened to her grandfather. Bless that man, but he really shouldn't have surrendered. Ruined the poor woman's life."
"Her grandfather?" Chief asked.
"Ah right, you're probably a little rusty on current history. My mistake. Lieutenant Williams' grandfather has the special distinction of being the only human to surrender to an invading alien race. Which you think would have happened before, but the Covenant never took prisoners. At least, none that we have record of surviving. His actions became the catalyst for the First Contact War, which led to him being stripped of his rank shortly after."
"The man surrendered and was stripped of his rank?" Cortana noted. "Apparently that's true, but that's a bit excessive."
"I'm sure her grandfather had a strategic reason for doing so," Chief said to Ackerson.
"The man singlehandedly lost Shanxi," Ackerson replied, "And that would have given the Turians a forward base to launch an invasion of Earth. After the Human Covenant War, that's the last thing anyone wanted…but this is about Ms. Williams and like I said, she…well, I think saying she can't, quote, 'tell the aliens from the animals' is enough to validate the complaints."
"Does she have proof?" Cortana said.
"Do you have proof?" Chief parroted.
Ackerson then tapped on the data pad.
"'Look at that. I can't tell the aliens from the animals,'" Ashley's voice played back through the desk speakers.
"And that's relatively tame compared to everything else," Ackerson added.
"…damn it," Cortana said. "Well, hate speech isn't criminal depending on the jurisdiction."
"People say and do ignorant things all the time," Chief rephrased. "Your ODST lieutenant acted hostile to my Turian teammate."
"Yes, I am aware of Lieutenant Nolan's Turian xenophobia," Ackerson said. "You might not have known this, but he was one of the five people who survived the first wave in retaking Shanxi, so his behavior is…understandable, if not excusable. However, he has willingly submitted himself to therapy in the past to keep that in check. Ms. Williams has not made any efforts to reform her behavior despite multiple reports. I can only imagine being surrounded by mostly alien teammates hasn't helped."
"Or maybe you should look up contact theory," Cortana snarked.
"And if you factor in the added stress of Eden Prime…I'd keep an eye on her," Ackerson said. "Just a friendly suggestion."
"I sense you have more to offer," Chief said.
"You're so astute," Ackerson said with a slightly mocking tone. "Now that you mention it, I did want to talk about Officer Vakarian…"
"How many snipers are we looking at here?" Garrus asked from his sniper perch.
He thought it was cute how Ashley and that other human were trying to coordinate their sniper attacks. To be fair, the few shots he assumed he saw Ashley take were not bad…for a beginner. Now it was time for a professional to teach her how to fight other trained snipers.
"One so far," Ashley replied. "They got Jared."
"La Rosa. The sniper from the ODST."
"Right. One of the brown Humans."
"First of all, that's racist."
"Not my species, not my problem," Garrus replied.
"Tell that to him," she said clicking something on her omni-tool.
"-oddamn!" A new voice exclaimed in frustration over the TEAMCOM.
Great, Garrus thought. Ashley patched that 'Rose' guy through their channel.
"Jared, you hear me?" Ashley said.
"Yeah," La Rosa replied with a few huffs. "I'm good. Making my way to a new spot."
"Just sit back and let me work," Garrus replied.
"Who the hell's this?"
"The guy who didn't get shot. And you are?"
"Someone more famous than you."
Garrus's mandible twitched. He was going to play that card, huh? "I've never heard of you," he replied.
"Still pinned down here," Ashley emphasized.
"Right," Garrus said remembering what he was doing. He scanned the area where he saw the enemy sniper shoot from. He was pretty good at tracking people during the game so far, but this guy had proven elusive. A bunch of his squad mates had been picked off by him at one point or another. It was time to repay the favor.
"Where's he shooting from, Ashley?" La Rosa replied.
"That ridge over the—"
"I said I got this," Garrus interrupting her.
"I bet I can stop this guy before you," La Rosa snapped back in reply.
"The odds are in my favor."
"I can help too," Ashley said trying to settle things.
Garrus and La Rosa ignored her as they both focused on spotting this guy. It looks like they might have to wait for him to—
Another shot fired and struck Tali in the back a short distance away.
"Got him!" La Rosa shouted.
"Oh no you don't," Garrus said back as he fired at the area the shot came from, followed closely by La Rosa.
A short pause followed.
"Is he down?" La Rosa asked.
Before Garrus could answer, a shot struck right below where he was perched.
"Damn!" He said hopping off and running to a new spot. He heard La Rosa shoot a couple rounds towards the enemy sniper above him.
"What happened?" Ashley asked.
"Slippery cabrón," La Rosa cursed.
"Neither of us got him," Garrus answered.
"I got closer than you did though," La Rosa noted.
"Sure you did," Garrus said looking over to a nearby building. And wouldn't you know it, he spotted that ODST bitch perched on the roof. "And you might want to pick better cover than a roof."
La Rosa looked around him before spotting Garrus, who waved back tauntingly. As if on cue, the enemy sniper took a shot at La Rosa and grazed his shield. Garrus smirked as the ODST grumbled something unintelligible before hopping off the roof and running out of view.
"You still think you can beat me?" Garrus taunted.
"I've not yet begun to fight," La Rosa replied.
"Spirits help you if it takes you this long to get half-way decent."
"Hey, crazy idea," Ashley interrupted once more. "Why don't we work together?"
An awkward pause lingered in response.
"…fine," Ashley then said. "How about this? Clearly this guy can see us better than we see him. Maybe sending a 'rabbit' will help us track him."
Garrus twitched his mandibles at first, but then got the gist of Ashley's human metaphor. "While he's occupied with the bait, we can track the sneaky varren down."
"Are you volunteering, Ashley?" La Rosa asked.
"If it'll settle your dick measuring contest," she replied. "You see me here?"
A navpoint flashed on Garrus's eyepiece, directing him to Ashley near a small rock wall.
"Yeah, I see you," Garrus replied.
"Ditto," La Rosa said.
"Ok," Ashley said with a deep breath. "We have a few minutes left in this round, so let's see which of you two can get the guy first."
Garrus glanced over to the giant holographic scoreboard at the center of the arena. Sure enough, the round had been progressing very quickly. So now it was a time trial? Piece of cake.
"I'll take him down without even breaking a sweat." La Rosa taunted Garrus.
"Joke's on you - Turians don't sweat." Garrus replied adjusting his scope. "Let us know when you're ready, Ash."
She waited a couple seconds as Garrus heard her take a few breaths. What did she have to worry about? It wasn't even a real battle. She could stand taking a couple hits as long as he won this little game.
"And…I'm going!" Ashley said as Garrus saw her navpoint on the move.
Garrus kept a sharp watch on the arena as he saw Ashley come into view. She unfolded her sniper rifle, knelt on the ground and fired a round off to where they had last seen the sniper. Then she quickly went on the move…
…only for an enemy sniper round coming from the opposite direction to strike the ground near her feet.
"There!" La Rosa said firing a round at the direction of the gunfire.
Shit, Garrus thought turning around. Lucky for him, not only did La Rosa miss, but the sniper was now fully in view and on the run.
"Got him," Garrus said taking aim and firing.
The shot grazed the sniper in the shoulder, but didn't connect with the target.
"Damn it," Garrus said leaving his spot to follow. They had the bastard on the run. They weren't going to lose him again.
Apparently, La Rosa got the same idea because Garrus saw him bolt from his hiding spot nearby and run to find a better perch.
"That sucker's mine," La Rosa said between huffs.
"Yeah," Garrus huffed back. "I'm sure you said that when Kardus Drugarian kicked your ass during the playoffs three years ago."
"…wait a minute—" La Rosa said as another sniper shot fired…but not from the sniper on the run. This one came from the opposite direction, shattering La Rosa's shields. "Shit!"
La Rosa ducked behind cover while Garrus continued his pursuit. Ok…so he didn't see a second sniper coming. But it didn't matter. He said he would take this guy down before the timer ran out and they had a little over a minute left. He wasn't going to stop because La Rosa got held up by a trap.
"Ashley," he heard La Rosa say over the TEAMCOM. "A little help here."
"Kind of busy now," Ashley replied as Garrus heard the faint sound of N'Tho's 'worts' behind her. Apparently, she stumbled into her own little ambush.
Garrus felt satisfied that his other bluff paid off so well though. Yes, he followed the arena combat leagues enough to have heard of Jared La Rosa, mostly as the rival of the real arena combat celebrity Kardus Drugarian. Dropping his little reveal to distract La Rosa seemed to work to his advantage. He smirked to himself as he continued his chase.
The enemy sniper rolled behind some collapsible cover up ahead, which prompted Garrus to chuck one of the arena approved grenades to lure him out. The grenade detonated, but no one emerged from behind the cover. Damn! Garrus barreled over to a nearby hill for higher ground.
Right as he reached the top, assault rifle fire came from his right. Garrus dove to the ground and spotted the source: a different Blackwatch soldier charging right at him. Thinking quickly, Garrus aimed and shot the guy right between the eyes.
"Did you guys get him?" Ashley asked hearing the shot.
A sniper round struck the ground next to Garrus, forcing him to combat roll down the other side to get out of range.
"There's two of them," La Rosa said firing off his own sniper shot.
"But I'm getting the one that counts," Garrus replied running from his cover and barreling directly through a firefight between the Blackwatch and the ONI marines. His shield took a few knicks, but he was undeterred. He wasn't going to let that primary sniper out of his sights.
He eventually found the sniper dodging another shot from La Rosa.
"Damn it!" The human cursed.
"All mine!" Garrus shouted taking aim and firing at the exposed sniper.
But then something happened. Before the shot struck, the sniper was enveloped with a blue biotic energy and was flung off to the side.
"What the—?" La Rosa exclaimed as Garrus saw the source of the energy move from their cover. Liara held out a hand to pin the sniper down with biotic energy while that ODST lieutenant placed three shots into the sniper with a rifle.
"And another one down," the lieutenant said before nodding to Liara. "You're doing great!"
"Are you kidding me!" Garrus exclaimed to Liara's surprise. "I had that kill, Liara."
"You should have acted faster," The lieutenant said letting his rifle cool down.
"Wait, who got him?" La Rosa asked over the TEAMCOM.
"Your boss," Garrus answered.
"The one who hates Turians."
"Tell him he's an asshole."
Garrus smirked. Well, that's something they could agree on. "La Rosa says you're an asshole," He repeated to the lieutenant.
"La Rosa says a lot of stupid shit," the lieutenant replied. "Why does he care anyway?"
"We were trying to get both of the enemy snipers. I was going to rub it in his face too."
"He still would have beat you," the lieutenant replied snidely crossing his arms.
"Fat chance of that—"
"Did anyone get the second sniper?" Liara interrupted.
A pause lingered for a split second…followed by a sniper shot that struck right above the lieutenant's head.
"Shit!" The lieutenant exclaimed as he and Liara retreated while Garrus dove behind some cover.
"La Rosa!" Garrus said. "Did you see where that came from?"
"Yeah," La Rosa replied…sounding a lot closer than Garrus would have expected. "To your right."
The Turian turned to see La Rosa wave a short distance away from a nearby rooftop.
"You didn't…" Garrus said with an equivalent of a smirk.
"He stole my kill too," La Rosa said. "Maybe that'll teach him to stay out of our way."
"Well played," Garrus said with a chuckle. "Did you see where the other sniper went?"
"Yeah," La Rosa said pointing out to their left. "Bastard's hiding out amongst a group of his buddies. Think we can catch him before the match ends?"
Garrus checked his omni-tool. Two minutes left? Plenty of time!
"Sure," Garrus replied. "Just enough time to kick your ass."
"Challenge accepted, cara de pájaro."
"…am I still a part of this?" Ashely then asked over the TEAMCOM. "Or would I kill this bromance?"
"We could use another rabbit if you're up for it," La Rosa said moving off the rooftop.
"Sure," Garrus said prepping his rifle. "Just one question…what's a rabbit?"
"Garrus Vakarian," Ackerson said sliding Garrus's profile to her holographic window. "Son of Castis. Recently resigned from C-Sec to join your planet hopping crusade."
"He was a good cop," Chief said.
"Good cops do stupid things," Ackerson said. "Like exaggerating evidence to get people convicted."
"On it," Cortana said starting another search.
"For example…" Ackerson continued scrolling down the datapad. "Mr. Vakarian worked on a case against a Mr.….Kish…Paugh." She said with some difficulty and sighed. "People and their names…anyway, long story short, the case was thrown out because Garrus refused to file his paperwork properly. You should read the statement he argued against the suspect. It's…very sloppy, even for C-Sec. And an even crazier fact? The person who let Mr. Kishpaugh go…was Garrus's own father."
"…yeah, that all happened," Cortana replied.
"Then there was an incident involving a Sanghelli named M'deon. During that case, Garrus was accused of disobeying his superiors by following a lead that was a complete bust. This led to M'deon being let go and a case linked to an infamous crime lord going under. There was also an acquitted charge that he may have fabricated evidence to justify his lead to begin with."
"…most of that happened too," Cortana said again.
"Imagine if he did this when you apprehend Saren. Could you risk our case against him being challenged or thrown out when we have this much support already?"
Ok…so Garrus had been a little overzealous in his job. If anything, the Chief would have done worse in that position. They've butt heads over making certain decisions in the past like telling the crew about Cortana, but he had no reason to suspect he would under…
Then he remembered that technically Cortana would still be a secret if Garrus hadn't inspected her data disk on the Citadel…and then hadn't told the crew about Cortana on Eletania. Even though it led to some good in the end, Garrus did disobey the Chief several times to justify an end. Then again, would he have done any different? Well, yes. He wouldn't have disobeyed an order from a superior.
"Can you account for all of Garrus's actions over the last few months?" Ackerson asked. "Anything he may have done that was outside of his jurisdiction?"
Chief didn't know if he could answer that truthfully…but he knew he wouldn't give the Major any benefit of the doubt.
"Garrus has been loyal in every way since he joined my team," he replied.
"…ok," Ackerson said with a raised brow and then a shrug. "If you say so."
Cortana sighed into the earpiece as Ackerson pulled up her next head for the chopping block. "Now, about Mr. 'Sraom…"
N'Tho cursed under his breath while taking cover behind one of the buildings. The second match had been going on for a while now and while his team was doing well overall, he couldn't help but notice he was near the bottom of the individual rankings. He did have nearly double the amount of deaths that he had kills, but it wasn't his fault. The Turians had to be cheating or ganging up on him because he was the only Sanghelli in the whole arena.
"Racists," he murmured to himself. "Or is the proper term 'specist?' Whatever, point is, they're jerks."
He checked his storm rifle, watching the cooldown meter steadily go down. These Turians soaked up a lot of plasma. Perhaps he should go for more concentrated bursts than trying to hose them down.
One thing was for sure though. If he was going to kick more ass, he needed to kick ass with style. He opened his omni-tool and swiped his long finger across the holographic screen through his music playlist.
"No...not that one...listened to that yesterday..." he muttered to himself going through the songs one by one. A couple shots then struck the wall he was hiding behind only a few inches above his head.
"Argh!" He yelped raising a hand above his hand, before remembering that this was a holographic arena so any debris particle that fell couldn't hurt him. The three Turians nearby who heard his yelp, however, were more likely to hurt him as they charged towards his position.
"Wort!" N'Tho exclaimed before pressing the play button on a random song.
A familiar cymbal beat started to play in his earpiece, catching his attention. Then came that distinct electric guitar chord that caused a shiver down his spine. Yeah...that song would work.
He raised his storm rifle and took a deep breath. Time to make the burritos!
N'Tho pulled out one of the arena approved grenades and chucked it at the group of Turians. The four of them scattered to avoid the concussive blast, giving N'Tho an opening to pick off the one furthest from the group. He fired his rifle at the lone Turian as the first verse of this golden oldie song played.
"We come from the land
Of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun
Where the hot springs blow!"
The Turian N'Tho fired at disappeared in blue light. He then pulled out his holstered plasma pistol and fired a few shots at the nearest Turian while he let his rifle cool down. The Turian's shields broke under the pressure, forcing him to take cover at a nearby rock. The other two Turians fired at N'Tho, nicking his shields.
N'Tho was in the zone though, so he would not be deterred. Thinking quickly, he threw another grenade at the Turians. This time, it stuck onto one of their faces and detonated on impact. One Turian disappeared in blue light and the other was knocked onto the ground. This gave enough time for N'Tho's gun to cool down, which he wasted no time firing before the Turian could get back up.
Three down, one to go. N'Tho scanned around for that one remaining enemy as the song's hook started.
"On we sweep…with threshing oar
Our only goal will be the western shore…"
Almost on cue, a pistol shot whizzed in front of N'Tho's face and struck someone to his right. He turned to see that last Turian shimmer into blue light. Looks like he had someone watching his back, but still…they almost shot his face off!
"Hey, what the hell-?" He started to say switching off his music and turning to his left, revealing one of the ODST holding a smoking pistol at his hip cowboy style. The soldier deionized his helmet visor, revealing the face of that young Filipino trooper he saw earlier with the Chief and Nolan. The trooper clearly recognized him too.
"Hey! You're that guy-" Both of them said in unison pointing at each other before stopping.
"With the hand-" They both said again in unison pointing to their hands.
An awkward pause lingered before N'Tho decided to take charge of the conversation.
"Where the hell did you find a coffee pot on this station?" He asked.
"Employee lounge," the trooper replied.
"That instant coffee from the vendors tastes like shit."
"Pft…tell me about it," N'Tho replied putting an arm to his hip.
"How the hell did you get your hand stuck in the vending machine?" The trooper asked back.
"I got big bones," N'Tho said defensively. "Sue me! Anyway, maybe we should—"
It was too late though, as a stray sniper shot struck the trooper in the chest and sent him shimmering away. N'Tho turned about face to see a group of Turians aim their weapons at him, including two of the Turians he took down earlier.
"…worting hell," he squeaked out before they unloaded on him…
"What horrible secrets do you have about N'Tho?" Chief said somewhat mockingly.
"Not many," Ackerson replied with veiled surprise. "Kid's got a mostly clean record, save for a few mild charges of juvenile delinquency. Apparently, he did a little illegal Ghost-racing before he was drafted."
"Hm…" Cortana hummed. "That WOULD explain his driving back on Feros.
"He's still very green and kind of an idiot" Ackerson went on. "But great soldiers have come from worse backgrounds."
"An idiot?" Chief asked.
"I noted some of the statements in your reports. N'Tho might be another Garrus if you aren't careful. He tends to act impulsively in the heat of the moment. That's not a crime, but those kinds of behaviors can make him a danger to himself and those around him."
"I'm sure you've trained rookies before," Chief said.
"Not while being a Spectre. Can you afford to have someone like that hindering your hunt for Saren?"
"Is there a reason you're trying to knock every single one of my teammates?"
"I'm not trying to 'knock' anyone," Ackerson replied sternly.
"Could have fooled us," Cortana replied.
"The Council has trusted your judgment so far, but there are some within the Alliance who aren't convinced that your decision making is sound. You've proven successful so far, but how long can that 'Spartan luck' last? Saren will only get more vicious the further you back him into a corner. We can't risk the safety of our civilians on unreliable friends."
Ackerson then slid a new image onto the holographic projector. "Speaking of friends, I'm not sure if I even want to know how you convinced Urdnot Wrex to join your team…"
"You know what the Normandy needs, Kaidan?"
Wrex casually strolled the battlefield pumping his shotgun and waiting for Kaidan's reply over his earpiece.
"Kind of busy now, Wrex," Kaidan said clearly in the middle of a firefight.
"Is that a thing everyone's saying today?" Wrex said noticing one of those Cabal bastards trying to flank his right. Without missing a beat, he stretched out his arm and blasted the Turian in the knee. The arena's hit detection artificially crippled the Turian's leg, knocking him to the ground.
"You've got some pull with the Chief, right?" He continued strolling up to the fallen foe, who was muttering Turian profanity.
"No more than anyone else on the ship."
"Still, you're a human. He'd be more willing to listen to you," Wrex said stomping on the fallen Turian's arm. He was savoring this second wind he caught after the first round, so he could afford playing with his food for a minute. Speaking of food…
"The Normandy is a state-of-the-art collaboration between the Alliance and Turian governments, right?" He continued while blasting the Cabal's head. "And all they give us to eat is goddamn nutrient paste?"
"It's standard for all naval ships," Kaidan said over the shimmering sound of biotic energy. Wrex noticed the resulting blue glow a short distance away and casually strolled towards it.
"But we're not standard," Wrex replied stretching his arm out again and blasting another Turian sneaking up on him. "If the Alliance actually valued the Chief as a celebrity, they'd let him request some halfway decent food for the dispensers."
"Sure. And then we'll hire a cook to—" Kaidan attempted to joke until a round zipped past the human's earpiece. "Damn it!"
"Nah, think bigger," Wrex said watching another Cabal charge at him. With a flick of his wrist, Wrex sent the Turian flying into the air with a biotic pull. "Imagine if you could wake up in the morning, roll out of your sleeping pod, push a button and have muffins. Think of the morale boost."
"...you want a 'muffin button?'" Kaidan replied.
"Not just muffins, but yes, that'd be great," Wrex replied as the Turian fell to the ground behind him, bouncing on the ground with a couple flops. "Maybe one next to where I sleep. If that's not too much to ask for. Wink wink."
"There's no such thing as a muffin button, Wrex."
"Oh, come on!" Wrex replied pointing his shotgun over his shoulder and blind firing at the Turian attempting to get back on its feet.
"Gah!" Kaidan yelped at the feedback.
"We can master two modes of intergalactic travel, clone missing limbs and create synthetic intelligence. But a muffin button is out of the question?"
"I don't think it's-"
"Sometimes all a mercenary wants after a long day is a blueberry muffin on a plate. I'm not a complicated Krogan, Kaidan!"
"But didn't you say-?"
"I know what I said before, but I'm saying this now!" Wrex said rounding a corner and shooting a Turian in the back. Up ahead, three more traded blows with Kaiden and his arena girlfriend. "I think the Chief would understand that if he wants everyone fighting at one hundred percent, it would be worth investing a couple credits in something that dispenses food we actually likes."
"...have you ever had a muffin before today, Wrex?"
"No, and now I know what's been missing all my life!" Wrex said charging at the three Turians up ahead. He used his biotics to pull one towards him and blast him with his shotgun midair. Before the other two could react, Wrex shoulder checked one onto the ground. In a matter of seconds, he stuck his shotgun into the second Turian's stomach, blasted him, pumped the gun and shot the last Turian before he could retaliate.
That last stunt winded him a little, but he smiled seeing Kaidan and that blonde ODST woman's surprised reactions. He opened a compartment in his armor and revealed one last muffin that he took from the cafeteria.
"Think about it," he said taking a well-earned bite of his prize.
"I convinced Wrex by asking him nicely," the Chief replied with veiled sarcasm
"Nice one," Cortana whispered.
Ackerson raised an eyebrow as she picked up the Chief's helmet and inspected it. "Hm, you must be more persuasive than you let on. It's rare to see a bounty hunter as infamous as him be a team player."
"And I'm sure she'll tell us why right now," Cortana said.
"I mean…damn," she said setting the helmet down and looking at the holographic screen. "Contract killing, extortion, accessory in racketeering. The man literally has a millennium-long rap sheet. He's been committing crimes across the galaxy since our ancestors were hanging each other for witchcraft.
She snapped her fingers. "Oh! And there's the time he tore up a space station to kill a single target. I almost forgot about that one."
"Can't find anything about that on the net," Cortana replied.
"Which station?" Chief inquired.
"Some station in the asshole of some system," Ackerson said waving that detail away. "But the alleged manslaughter count alone is enough to worry me."
"Wrex hasn't caused any collateral damage or civilian fatalities since joining us," the Chief said starting to feel his throat drying up from the conversation.
"Give it some time," Ackerson replied. "And pray you don't piss him off or you might be one of those casualties. I mean, it's not like he hasn't ever attacked one of his leaders before."
"Nothing we can completely verify. Some gossip about a dispute with a clan chieftain that led to a huge slaughter. However, there's enough corroborating details to add legitimacy to the claims. I'd ask him about that."
She strolled over to the other side of the desk as she slid her next image over. "Oh, and let's discuss the civilians you've recruited for your mission. Like Ms. Zorah…"
Codex Entry (Humanity and the Systems Alliance) – Office of Naval Intelligence – Section Two
Section Two of the Office of Naval Intelligence is primarily focused on external communications and public morale. During the Human-Covenant War, members would be deployed to control the flow of information between colonies in an effort to prevent wide spread panic. They would also filter information being relayed to the public concerning major battlefields and events related to the war, sometimes dictating what pictures could or could not be taken following a conflict. Their operations also included information control between branches of the military, sometimes requiring blackout orders to completely cut off a branch's communication methods should a sensitive leak be detected.
Following the Human-Covenant War, Section Two's operations have largely remained the same, though the need for extensive censorship has diminished. Operatives serve as military, and occasionally legal, counsel in colonial enlistment material, propaganda campaigns within military branches and news trafficking from hub worlds to smaller colonies. The Section's reputation has made them a highly sought collaborator within the galactic intelligence community, with the Salarian Special Task Group and other non-human agencies reportedly seeking advice from operatives on developing their own communication networks and policies.
Where is Ackerson going with this investigation? How will this game turn out? Click on the next chapter to find out…