Hey there. So another one of my famous 5 year breaks huh? I kept it under 6 years this time at least. It's not like the world ended or anything since I was gone right? Right?!
I originally started this chapter right after the last one back in 2015. It sat for awhile at about 3-4k words and lay forgotten. At one point the site's timer ran out on the doc and I had thought it was all lost. Then a couple years later I found a backup on my PC and fired it up again. I added another 2-3k and then promptly shelved it again for another few years. About a month or two ago, inspiration hit me. Probably when the Legendary Edition came out for Mass Effect. So I cranked up the engine once more and got this chapter finally done.
I have a plan to finish Noveria now. That was always a big part of my procrastination on getting back to writing it. Now we're here. Title still hasn't been guessed... I think. Haven't looked at my reviews in awhile so maybe someone got it. So if you want to take a crack at where the title came from, have at it. Always good to have group participation. But alas you're not here to read me ramble on about my failures as a hobby writer. You actually came to read my half-assed writing. So I thank you for that and I will let you continue on to what you came for.
Still don't own Naruto or Mass Effect. I've been writing this so long that Naruto's kid has reached his time skip arc. I gotta get moving on this.
Trapped Under Ice, Part 3
"Fall back!" Niera yelled to her squad.
The Asari Commandos assigned to Benezia's guard were being over run by the Rachni in the narrow corridor ahead. The squad threw a hail of blaster fire at the creatures in a relentless barrage but for every one they killed, two more jumped up to fill its place. The quadrupeds clawed their way savagely down the hallway ripping through fallen enemies as they moved. Dozens of bodies littered the floor. A majority of them were Rachni but a disturbingly increasing amount were from the commando squad and laboratory workers. They were losing the fight.
Niera had seen worse situations before but her options were dwindling for maintaining the facility long enough for her master's escape. As she returned fire along with her squad sisters, she contemplated what to do next. 'I have to reach Lady Benezia. She must survive at all costs.'
The enemy was fierce though. Far from mindless bugs, the Rachni had launched a revolt that sent the entire complex in an uproar. The initial assault killed the scientists in the hot labs and immediate hallways leading to it. This cut off their one failsafe measure, the neutron purge, from being implemented. The staff managed to shut down the elevator leading down there but that only slowed the Rachni down. Despite being immature in their brain development, the Rachni clones learned quickly and adapted to their environment well. Some of the larger ones were working to decipher the computer systems and managed to get the basic schematics of the ducts and piping to use for navigation. This allowed the smaller workers to make there way through and unlock doors for the larger soldiers. Others were testing the weapons from the dead asari. Luckily for the commandos, the Rachni hadn't been able to figure out how to fire them yet. It was the equivalent of a child picking up their mother's gun. They didn't know what they were doing but could still be dangerous.
The commandos fell back through the hatch and closed it behind them. Niera took control of the situation. "Seal these doors! You two, close every ventilation passage into this wing. Close all external caverns. Leave no small crevice or crack available. They will find a way in here but we don't want to make it easy for them."
The Asari soldiers got to work closing off every possible way in that they could find. The tedious task would most likely be pointless but it might slow the enemy down long enough.
Niera moved across the room and addressed the Captain of the ERCS guard stationed at Peak 15. "Captain Ventralis, have your men stand fast. You need to buy us time to get the Matriarch out."
Ventralis was growing weary from fighting back the Rachni horde for over twelve hours. "We're doing our best here but my men are running on empty. We're going to collapse at some point."
Niera did not care. "That's what stims are for, Captain. Make sure you hold this position. Do not let those creatures enter the main lab or you will find something more fierce than giant bugs waiting for you."
She moved through the checkpoint unconcerned with the angry glares she was receiving from the security guards. Her goal was simple. 'Benezia must escape this.'
She moved swiftly through the main area ignoring the pleas of the scientists and employees to give them aid. 'Waste of time. These vermin only slow me down.'
Turning down another corridor, she made her way towards the secure labs where she hoped Benezia was still safe. Niera had left the Matriarch with four of her better Commandos but she was worried that the Rachni would try to reach the Queen.
She carefully entered the junction for the next set of corridors. Her instincts, forged over many centuries of battle, were screaming at her to be on guard. They proved to be correct as two Rachni soldiers cut through the thin lining on the wall and darted towards her. The closest one sliced diagonally in an attempt to cut Niera in two but she nimbly jumped over the attack. Contorting her body around the second attack, Niera avoided several more slashes from the razor sharp appendages. Backflipping over the other rachni soldier to avoid an acid projectile, she finally found a chance to counter attack and took it.
'All too easy'
Using a biotic lash, she hoisted the first Rachni by its hind leg into the air. With a violent surge of dark energy, Niera threw the beast into its brethren knocking both of them off balance. Disoriented, the large creatures scrambled to their feet but Niera was on them. Unsheathing a short blade she had forged many centuries ago, Niera sliced the head of the right one in half with blood and brains splashing everywhere. The left Rachni never stood a chance as Niera pulled her shotgun in the same motion and unloaded a blast right into its torso. The beast lumbered backwards struggling to cling to life. Niera casually stalked over. Without breaking stride, she gave a final swipe from her blade severing the main artery. The head of the creature sagged, its blood pooled on the ground as she sheathed her sword.
Niera continued down the hall after the minor inconvenience. She contacted her troops on the comm as she spoke. "Squad three. The secure lab corridor is breached. Get in here and close it up ASAP."
Continuing along the path towards the secure labs, she ran into the undercover agent from her unit that Saren had placed in the labs, Alestia Iallis.
"Commander." Alestia addressed her superior. "I managed to secure all of the research and began to wipe the data drives clean of our work. It will be done within the hour."
Niera was not happy with the spy however. "Why were we never informed of the creature's full capabilities? This should have been prevented."
Alestia winced back from the reprimand. "Ma'am, I assure you the scientists only observed minor occurrences of advanced intelligence. Either the Rachni were hiding it or something in our studies was missing. We had no idea this would happen!"
"Then you were incompetent." Niera continued unimpressed. "You were briefed on what the Rachni are capable of. Now the Matriarch is in danger because of your negligence."
Alestia got right in Niera's face. "You can't blame this on me! I did what I was told to do! I'm no scientist!"
Niera swiftly reached out with her right hand and wrapped it around Alestia's neck. She began to glow a strong blue increasing the pressure on her subordinate. "Do not dare insult me by blaming your fallacies on others. Your insubordination will not be tolerated."
Alestia struggled to breath as Niera lifted her off the floor by her neck. The undercover Asari tried with all of her will to break the grasp. Her eyes were wide with fear that she would meet her end in this moment. She was seeing spots around her eyes and beginning to black out. Just before darkness though, Niera's comm link chirped.
The Asari commander dropped Alestia in a heap and immediately answered her comm. "Go ahead."
"Ma'am, our rear scouts have observed Commander Shepard and his team in the Noverian port. They are searching for Lady Benezia. They will most likely be heading towards the facility soon."
Niera pondered this information while Alestia lay pitifully on the ground trying not to sob as she gasped for air. "Are the Geth troops deployed?"
"Yes, ma'am. Between them and the storm, it should stall their arrival a bit."
Niera considered her options. "We don't have the luxury of worrying about them. Focus on the infestation. Make sure the creatures do not reach the secure labs. I will ensure Lady Benezia escapes." She cut the comm link after that.
Alestia had recovered from her near death experience and cowered before her commander.
Niera was still very unimpressed. "Stand up."
"You're not a scientist you say. You don't appear to be much of a soldier right now either." Niera scolded in an even tone. "If you want to redeem yourself, then prove your worth. I want you to remain here in the main facility and take out Commander Shepard and his team should he arrive. If you fail, don't bother returning."
"Yes, ma'am." Alestia gave a subdued reply.
Niera wasted no more time with her and moved on to find Benezia. 'I must find her. I must get her out.' Her mind kept telling her that she needed to protect and obey her master at all costs. If she could not do this, she would be just as much a failure as Alestia. 'A broken tool has no purpose' a voice in her head kept saying. She must obey.
Shepard, Garrus and Liara had been sitting at the Hanshan Hotel bar for the past 10 minutes waiting for whatever contact Parasini was going to send them. Shepard wasn't the type to drink on the job but he wanted to keep appearances. He order a round for the three of them to make it look casual. The bar was a fairly standard setting. Vaulted ceilings and waterfalls seemed to be the main theme that the locals were going for. Rock gardens gave it a cozy feel as well as ambient light and comforting music. It was a decent crowd of business people letting off some steam after work. The mood was pleasant and warm.
'I guess anything to take their mind off the cold.' Shepard surmised as he took a sip of his drink.
Alpha team was getting a bit antsy waiting for this meeting though. Garrus and Liara didn't really know why the secretary had set up the liaison but it didn't feel right. Garrus didn't like it.
"Commander." Garrus began. "Are you sure this is worth it? Shouldn't we be questioning people and investigating leads? This seems like a waste of time."
"Relax, Garrus." Shepard assured him. "They'll be time for that. Let's see where this takes us first. May be an angle we can exploit."
"I am certain that you know what you are doing, Comman... umm, Shepard." Liara sheepishly added. "I am just nervous about what my mother has in store."
Shepard set his hand on her shoulder to give her reassurance. "Don't worry, Liara. Whatever happens, I'll be right there for you."
"Don't forget about me." Garrus chimed in. "There's no way I'd leave a friend in need. We all have your back, Liara."
Liara gave a small smile having felt a little better about the situation. "Thank you, sincerely."
While keeping the banter light, Shepard continued to scan the room for targets. He noticed several Asari in the corner that had been interested in them since they arrived. 'They think they're being nonchalant but I'd spot a soldier anywhere.'
Without words, he signaled Garrus with his eyes. The turian was already aware of the surveillance and was glad to see Shepard had noticed as well. Giving a slight nod as he took a sip of his drink, Garrus confirmed Shepard's analysis. Liara having not been in many combat situations and being distracted did not seem to catch on to their silent communication.
"That one's all you, Garrus." Shepard stated.
Garrus grunted. "It's so nice to have admiring fans."
Before they could worry any further about their babysitters, a secure message arrived on Shepard's Omni-tool. He read it quickly and then ran his deletion program to erase it from the hard drive completely. He forwarded a message to Garrus and finished his drink.
"Let's go." Shepard stood up after banging the glass down on the table.
Liara was caught off guard by the sudden change in demeanor. "Are we not waiting?"
"Change of plans." Shepard said as they walked. "We need to lose our tail before she'll come out."
"Which one?" Garrus added. "I see ERCS guards in pursuit also."
Shepard nodded. "Mainly that one but the other needs to go too if we're going to be safe."
"Wait, who else is watching us?!" Liara scrambled to catch up to what was happening as they walked towards the exit of the bar.
Shepard turned to her and smiled. He leaned in to kiss her gently on the cheek. Liara's chest fluttered at the sudden contact. He then whispered in her ear. "I need to teach you how to spot people that are following you. There's an Asari commando squad that's been watching us since we came in here. Probably your mother's."
Shepard caressed her back to keep her from a shocked expression. "What should we do?" Liara asked as calmly as she could.
"Just act casual until we can find a way to turn this towards our favor." Shepard answered with a grin.
Liara could feel her anxiety lessen. She fell in with Shepard and Garrus to follow their lead. When they left the establishment out into the concourse, the trio blended with the dozens of people moving about. The ERCS surveillance unit was actively following them without much effort to hide their presence. The Asari commandos were a bit more subtle.
Shepard made eye contact with Garrus giving him a silent command. Garrus nodded and turned off in a different direction.
The ERCS guards hesitated not knowing who to follow. One of them finally broke off to follow Garrus while his partner remained to monitor Shepard and Liara. Two Asari followed Garrus while one stayed on Shepard.
'Garrus can hold his own.' Shepard thought. 'Time to throw these goons off our scent.'
Shepard reached out for Liara's hand and took it gently in his own. She looked up at him to see his beaming smile shining back down at her. Despite the situation, Liara couldn't help but feel giddy at the contact. Shepard led the two of them to a clothing store where he pretended to browse the selection.
"Hmm, this one would look nice on you." Shepard playfully alluded to Liara a sleak looking black, halter dress with backless cut that went very low on the model.
Liara did her part not to blush but instead welcomed the distraction from her gloomy thoughts. She turned the tables. "I suppose, but I think this would be a bit more entertaining don't you?" She said as she casually felt a silky negligee. The material was completely see through and left little to the imagination.
Shepard stuttered for a moment but regained his composure. "Maybe. Dinner might be a bit chilly with that on though."
Liara gave a sultry smile. "Depends on what's for dinner, doesn't it?" She added an eye wiggle for emphasis.
It was now Shepard that felt the temperature rising. "Uhh.. yea, I guess it would." He replied intelligently.
Meanwhile, Garrus had made his way around a corner and just out of sight of his pursuers. He took off in a sprint down the hall. The ERCS guard trailing him did the same followed by the two Asari commandos. Garrus led them down another corridor at top speed. He kept turning and leading them many different ways until he finally ended up in a maintenance storage facility with no way out but the way he came in. The room was dimly lit with numerous crates and containers haphazardly stored about. Despite it being fairly large, the ceiling height was only 2.5 meters leaving Garrus limited on cover.
He turned back to the door just as the ERCS guard arrived. He was a human male of average build. No outstanding characteristics but he unfortunately was fitted only in his basic uniform and not full armor. He leaned up against the door jam trying to catch his breath. "Just where the hell are you going?"
Garrus feigned ignorance. "I'm sorry. I really have to take a piss. Where is the rest room in this place?"
"What?!" The guard looked on stunned. "Are you serious?"
Garrus was about to continue the charade but he could hear the Asari approaching. His Omni-tool squeaked out numerous alerts of hack attempts in the immediate vicinity. Looking up, he noticed all of the cameras were offline. Checking his screen, he saw that he lost access to the network.
'They mean business.' Garrus thought as he pulled his sniper rifle and got it ready.
The ERCS guard stumbled to get to his weapon. "Freeze right there!" He yelled at Garrus. "Drop the weapon!"
Garrus barely acknowledged him now having raised his shields for the real threat. "Look, you're going to want to get down. I have no time to play anymore." Garrus pulled the guard inside the room and took up position at the door. Slowly he peaked his head out. His curiosity was rewarded with a plasma bolt whizzing by his head and melting the other side of the door frame behind him.
"What the hell? Who shot that?" The guard fell backwards into the room. "What's happening?!"
Several more shots littered the hallway with pock marks as the two Asari managed to setup an assault turret. Garrus tossed a sensor module out into the hall. A magnetic lock emerged and it took hold near the floor of the opposite wall. Once it was in place, Garrus observed his enemy on the HUD of his visor. 'Peak a boo, I see you.'
As the guard scrambled back further in the room, Garrus queued up an overload tech to take out the turret. He could see one of the Asari soldiers stationed behind it with her rifle trained at the door but the other was missing. 'Probably moving to flank me. Have to hurry.'
He tapped the haptic interface of his Omni-tool and fired off the overload. Garrus could see the turret malfunctioning through his visor and noticed the Asari lose focus for a moment when it did. He turned quickly into the hall and fired off a shot that destroyed the turret. The small explosion further disoriented the commando as her shields fluttered. Garrus wasted no time as he unloaded another shot that brought down her barrier completely. Before the Asari soldier could even comprehend what happened, Garrus' third shot pierced between her eyes and out the back of her skull.
Garrus scanned the hallway and could not find the other commando. 'Now, where did she go?'
The ERCS guard was still taking cover in the maintenance room waiting for the gunfire to be over. "Fuck it, I didn't sign up for this shit." He ran out from the room and tried to head the opposite way from Garrus. The turian reached out for him.
Three quick bursts of blaster fire erupted from up above. The tendons of the guard's left calf were shredded sending him tumbling to the floor.
"Ahhhhhh!" The guard screamed in agony.
Garrus knew the commando left the guard there as bait to see if it would draw him out. 'Quite the dirty trick. Cruel but effective. Though it would have worked more if I gave a damn about the wounded.'
Garrus wasn't going to leave the poor bastard to be gunned down but he wasn't rushing in there to save the guy either. His omni tool had been calculating the trajectory of the blast and working to triangulate where it could have come from. An affirmative chirp announced its completed analysis.
Garrus threw a disruptor grenade towards the location. He was rewarded when the Asari let out a stunned curse before the explosion frazzled her barrier. She frantically sprint down the hall diving for cover but Garrus was ready. A well placed sniper bolt exploded through her thigh causing the Asari to stumble head first into the wall. The commando instinctively grabbed at her belt for a plasma grenade.
"Ah ah Ah." Garrus taunted.
He let loose a second sniper bolt the severed her hand from her arm. The grenade rolled away unarmed. The Asari was starting to go into shock as she leaned against the wall.
Garrus carefully moved up to grab the ERCS guard and bring him back to safety, all the while his rifle was trained on the commando. He reached the guard and dragged him one handed to the storage room.
"Stay here. Once I've secured the area, I'll get you help." Garrus explained to the guard.
A pain filled grunt was all he got in return as the guard still writhed in agony. Garrus returned to the hallway, slowly stalking up to the downed commando. He kept his sniper aimed squarely at her skull the whole time just waiting for some form of counter attack. As he arrived at the body though, he could see that it wasn't coming. The Asari's eyes stayed open, lifelessly staring off into the distance. A small trail of white foam leaked from the corner of her mouth. Garrus remained cautious though. It wasn't until he removed her remaining weaponry that he felt safe.
'Phew, thank god that's over with. Hope Shepard and Liara made out ok.' Garrus thought.
Back at the boutique, Shepard and Liara continued their browsing. As the two strolled through the shop pretending to be a cute couple on a date, the ERCS guards stood just outside trying to act as casual as possible in their surveillance. Shepard took a glance at them occasionally making sure to keep tabs but he was more concerned about the Asari commando.
'Where did she sneak off to?'
He had lost sight of her after a few minutes moving through the store. She may have stayed outside to wait or she could have slipped in unnoticed looking to set up an ambush. Shepard was getting a bit concerned. To her credit, Liara hadn't shown any outward worry about the situation but Shepard could sense that she was growing more anxious.
The pair continued to casually wander around the racks secretly scanning for the missing commando. At the store entrance, a call suddenly came in for the ERCS. The frantic look on their faces made it clear a more imminent threat had come up. They quickly left the store front unguarded.
Shepard noticed their departure. 'Something spooked them.' His eyes darted around actively searching for the missing asari.
"Stay sharp. No one is watching now. This is her time to strike." Shepard warned Liara.
"Understood." His blue companion steeled her nerves and got ready for the oncoming conflict.
Suddenly the lights in the establishment went out. In fact all electronics in the surrounding area seem to have gone down. Shepard's Omni tool came alive blaring warnings. The two remaining members of Alpha team pulled their pistols.
From the shadows, a blade lunged for Shepard's back. The strike bypassed his shields but barely scratched his N7 armor. Turning quickly, Shepard knocked the blade from his attackers grasp with his left arm. He brought he pistol around and fired but the target retreated to the shadows.
'Damn jammers. Need time for my defense scripts to override them.' Shepard examined.
Liara stood back to back with Shepard searching her side of the store. A shot fired from her 2 o'clock ricocheting off of her barrier. Liara returned fire with three shots of her own in that general direction hoping for a hit. She heard no noise to confirm one though.
'By the moons of Thessia, she's quick.' Liara cursed.
Shepard didn't want to wait for the radar to return. He needed to turn the tables on the situation now. Looking up at the ceiling he got an idea.
"Liara, cover your eyes on my mark." He whispered.
Shepard modified one of his grenades to be a make shift flashbang. He dialed down the explosive damage but enhanced the burst emitted. With the timer set, he activated it. Tossing the modified device at the ceiling, he signalled Liara to take cover.
The grenade lit up the store for a couple of seconds but it was enough for Shepard to locate their assailant.
"Argh." The commando grunted as her eyes were not expecting the sudden light.
Shepard wasted no time moving in. He sprinted towards her location while he fired his pistol repeatedly to bring down her shields. The commando was caught off guard but managed to escape Shepard's subsequent attack. Diving under a rack of dresses, the Asari dodged a swipe from Shepard's Omni blade that pierced the floor behind her. She had avoided the strike. Unfortunately for her, she did not escape Liara's.
"You're not getting away!" Liara shouted as she threw a biotic push against the unprepared commando.
The Asari flew back into the cashier's desk, her back landing right on the edge of the counter. She then flipped over it into the wall bouncing clumsily off of it falling into a heap. She lay injured, face down appearing to be out of the fight.
Shepard and Liara approached her carefully. the power started to come back on but the lights were not at full strength yet. Guns drawn they moved in. Shepard rounded the counter to see the Asari commando laying motionless. Expecting a counter attack, he carefully moved in and nudged her with his foot. When no attack came, he flipped her over to find a white foam leaking from the commando's mouth.
"Suicide pill? Guess she didn't want to talk." Shepard observed.
Liara was visibly upset. "I don't recall commando units having suicide pills as standard issue equipment. By the goddess mother. What have you become?"
Looking down at his omni-tool, Shepard saw that the jammer was gone. His comm link opened up.
"Shepard, it's Garrus. Situation under control here. Minimal damage. One casualty but he'll live." Garrus reported.
"Good to hear, Garrus. Clean up and meet back up with us ASAP. We need to see if the coast is clear now for our host." Shepard replied.
"Understood. Be there in 5." the turian replied.
Shepard closed the comm and looked around at the mess. He debated staying to work with the ERCS team undoubtedly on their way to investigate.
'Dont have time to play 20 questions. Let them bill me later.'
He turned to Liara. "Come on, we're leaving."
She was uncertain. "But shouldn't we wait for..."
"No time. We need to catch up to your mother and find out what the hell is going on with Binary Helix." He explained as he walked out of the store.
They quickly made their way down the promenade away from the scene before too many bystanders showed up.
"Shepard, I'm not so sure..." Liara was getting used to the combat but skirting authority was still something she had to warm up to.
They continued to walk. "Sometimes you have to make a call on the best course of action to achieve your goals. An Asari commando squad just attacked us, so that means Benezia is still here. We can't get to where she is presumably located because the administrator is covering for her. If we wait for the ERCS, who do you think they'll blame for the damage? Who do the ERCS answer to?"
Liara understood. "The administrator."
"Which means, they're corrupt and not really worth listening to." Shepard continued.
Liara nodded. "I understand now. Sometimes those in power are not necessarily those who should be. Therefore they should not be respected as such."
"Exactly. We need to rely on ourselves if we want to get this done. No one else here is going to help us." Shepard explained.
They rounded a corner out of sight. Shepard's omni-tool chimed with a new message. He glanced down at it. It contained new coordinates for a meeting spot with their contact. He forwarded the location to Garrus and then deleted it.
"What about Ms. Parisini?" Liara added.
"We can't trust her as she may just be leading us on to buy time for the administrator. However, she is a tool we may be able to use. Let's see what she has to offer." Shepard concluded.
The pair casually walked on towards their destination ignoring the mayhem behind them in the distance to see what the administrator's assistant had in mind.
While Noveria was kept moving by the Administrator, he was hardly the only person of interest for the colony. Each of the founding investment companies was run by a manager. These positions required all aspects of a seasoned financial advisor and the shrewd political prowess of a career politician to navigate the murky waters of the Noverian business landscape. If the administrator was the president of the colony, each of the appointed leaders of these corporations acted as the de facto senate to keep him or her in check.
It stood to reason then that Anoleis was not a popular figure to many from this group of elite individuals. They're the types of people used to getting their way or being able to grease enough palms in order to do so. Those that didn't play the game by Anoleis' rules fell out of favor with the administrator. He made it a point to make sure the ones that opposed him regretted that decision.
Lorik Qui'in was a practical turian. He was a dignified individual, well respected by his employees and feared by his adversaries. As the manager of Synthetic Insights, he has taken to bending a rule here and there in order to gain an advantage for his company. However, Qui'in made it a point to never take personal gains from the company coffers. He was about as honest a being as you will find in the corporate free market that was Noveria and an honest being is a dangerous one on this frigid rock.
The Synthetic Insights manager currently found himself in one of few luxurious dining establishments found in the Port Hanshan recreation district. Taking a distinguished sip from his overpriced, caffeinated beverage, Qui'in pondered his current predicament.
'Anoleis has played his hand well up to this point. I must admit I hadn't expected to find his claws in that many pots when my team went digging but he's beginning to overplay it. What's the human expression? His house of clubs is starting to crumble.' Lorik pontificated.
Qui'in had become fed up with the Administrator's under the table dealings. He had looked the other way when officials wet their beak before but the brazen approach that Anoleis had taken was threatening the reputation of all involved.
'He had to have expected the higher ups would take notice at some point. He may be bold but the one thing that salarian isn't is stupid. He had to have had an end game in mind for all of these maneuvers. Did he expect to screw us all over and we would just lay down for it?' The turian further analyzed.
That was the thing that bugged Qui'in the most. As much as he thought he knew from the little evidence he stumbled upon, he realized it didn't paint nearly enough of the whole picture.
'For all the good it does me now. Anoleis has his dogs from the ERCS ransacking my office while he made up fake charges to keep me from interfering. I'm sure he'll destroy it all before I can use it against him.' He thought. 'But the frantic overreaction is just too reckless for him. Something bigger is in play here. Matriarch Benezia and Binary Helix are at the center of it, I just know it. He's been too brazen since her arrival.'
Lorik knew he needed some dirt on Binary Helix and what they were up to but any attempt to seek it out under his company's name was too great a risk. At best it could damage their reputation leading to lower profit margin. At worst, Anoleis could use it as an excuse to have him removed and kick SI off the planet permanently from the executive board. He had to find a different angle.
'If only I could convince a third party to look into it for me without my direct involvement. Plausible deniability all the way.' He pondered
As if hearing his request, fortune presented him with an opportunity. Beta team arrived at the entrance to the restaurant and made their way inside. Qui'in, ever the informed businessman that he was, recognized the gift that just presented itself.
'The spectre's team? Yes. Yes. That could work. My informants tell me they're looking for Benezia as it is. If I could get them to pick up a little evidence on the side to nail Anoleis to the wall, it could be beneficial to all parties.'
He took another sip as he calculated how to approach this potential deal.
Kaiden took a seat at an ornate looking table. Tali gracefully slid into the spot next to him while Wrex plopped down in the final chair and signaled the waiter.
"Hey boy!" Wrex called out to the human waiter. "Three drinks, strong." He then looked over at his companions. "And whatever these guys want."
Kaiden rubbed his temple at Wrex's antics and spoke up first, "Just a water for me."
"Water as well but filtered for Quarian consumption." Tali added in a well mannered tone.
The terrified attendant acknowledged the request and quickly made his way to the kitchen to fulfill the order.
"You guys are no fun. We've been to four different bars now and all you get is water. How you supposed to blend in without getting a buzz going?" Wrex teased.
"Not sure how much blending we've been doing regardless of our alcohol consumption." Kaiden rebutted. "We stick out like a whole bag of sore thumbs."
"Plus it doesn't take much to get me drunk. I mean physically. It doesn't take a large amount of alcohol to get me drunk." Tali added. "Actually getting me to drink would be an accomplishment in and of itself."
Kaiden smirked at her virtuous proclamation. "Is that a challenge I hear?"
Tali waved her arms frantically, "Oh no. Don't even think about it."
"You sure? That might be a goal worth pursuing. A drunken Tali could be all sorts of cute." He joked.
"Not in a million years, soldier boy." She shot down despite the mirth in her tone.
"I don't know. I can be pretty persuasive when I want to be?" Kaiden tried to boast with a cheesy grin.
Tali couldn't help but laugh. "Oh I'm sure you are, Lieutenant."
Kaiden mocked a frown. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, nothing." Tali giggled. "You need to work on those charm skills though."
"Ha! She's got you there, pup." Wrex further dug in to Kaiden's ego.
Kaiden leaned back in his chair and pretended to pout.
While they continued their conversation, an unexpected visitor showed up at their table.
"My my, you three certainly liven up this stodgy watering hole." A well dressed turian commented as he watched them with some mirth to his voice.
Kaiden sat up straight and assessed their guest. It was clear that he wasn't the owner of the restaurant.
'His suit is too clean and dignified for that.' Kaiden thought.
Wrex spat out first. "Do we know you, turian?"
The aforementioned turian did not take offense to the krogan's blunt address. "I suspect not but allow me to rectify that. I am Lorik Qui'in, Synthetic Insights manager. Pleasure to make your acquaintance." He offered his hand.
While Wrex was as impersonal as ever, Kaiden swooped in to hopefully salvage a potential lead they were looking for.
"The pleasure is all ours Mr. Qui'in. Please, have a seat." Kaiden offered.
Qui'in nodded and sat down at the table. He decided to get right to the point. "So, word has it that you and your associates are looking for galactic person of interest. A certain high profile investor for one of the companies here."
Wrex was uncharacteristically quiet. He didn't like dealing with turians, especially the business types. He was smart enough though not to let his personal feelings get in the way of intel. He left Tali and Kaiden to take the lead on the conversation.
Kaiden nodded. "That's correct, sir. We're looking for Matriarch Benezia. We believe she came through this port not that long ago. She's connected with the galactic fugitive Saren Arterius and we'd like to have a word with her."
"So I've heard. I'm sure you're no doubt aware that she is no longer in this facility and has made her way to the laboratory her company currently rents out up on Peak 15." Qui'in explained.
Tali stepped in this time. "Correct. Unfortunately it seems travel to that facility has been restricted right before we arrived. Rather convenient don't you think."
Lorik smiled at her intuition. "Convenient indeed. The administrator is fascinating individual. Some companies here seem to have all the leeway in the world while others get buried in fees and restrictions. My company for example seems to be on the... what do you humans call it... excrement list. Yet the Matriarch shows up and within hours, she's allowed to disregard standard procedures and finds her tracks covered for her. Quite the string of fortuitous coincidences wouldn't you say?"
Kaiden wasn't the most insightful guy on the espionage thing but even he could read between lines that wide. "Ok. So the administrator is a thorn in your side. How's that our problem?"
"I was just contemplating that myself. You see I recently came across evidence of the administrator's corruption. Not much but enough that could help to bring sanctions against him and have him back off my company for a bit. However, he managed to lock me out of my offices and sent his hired goons from the ERCS to destroy it before I can use it against him. This made me realize that I need to get rid of him altogether if I ever want to do business properly again." The turian explained.
Wrex casually chimed in, "So you want us to kill him? That won't be cheap for a being of his status."
Qui'in was finally caught off guard. "What!? Spirits no! I'm a respectable businessman. I can't have contract killing linked to me." He looked over at the waiter and signaled for a drink.
While his back was turned, Kaiden incredulously looked over at Wrex.
'What the hell are you doing?' He implied with his facial expression.
Wrex winked at Kaiden letting him know they got the upperhand back in the negotiation. Kaiden for his part understood what Wrex was doing now and fixed his gaze as Qui'in finished sipping his beverage.
Coughing to clear his throat and regain his composure, Qui'in started again. "No. I most certainly am not asking for that. What I am proposing is much more legal in the eyes of the NDC. You want to get to Peak 15 to find Matriarch Benezia? I want you to gather some concrete evidence that will put the Administrator away for good."
Tali understood where this was going now. "And I guess you happen to have a way for us to travel to Peak 15 then."
"Why of course my dear. You can take my personal shuttle." He tossed the access pad over to Kaiden. "Try not to get any scratches on the exterior. I just had it waxed."
Kaiden looked down at the pad. "Ok, I get what's in it for us. What exactly do you want us to find?"
Lorik took on a serious look for the first time in the conversation. "I need to know what Binary Helix is working on in that facility. Any data, samples, scraps of notes, anything that can show me what the Administrator is covering up for them and obviously the proof that he is directly involved. Whatever it is, he's willing to risk openly defying the executive board to do it. With Saren being a known criminal now, it can't be good."
Tali saw there was more to it though. "So what's the catch?"
Qui'in leaned in closer and spoke softly. "The matriarch had a full squad of Asari Commandos when she arrived. There's no way you're getting in there without a fight."
This peaked Wrex's interest. "Now you're talking my language."
Qui'in pulled up a schematic on his omni-tool. "One of the maintenance workers for the NDC happens to be an informant for me. He knows all the ins and outs of every facility on this planet. He provided me the maintenance entrance to all the Peak locations should I ever need to discretely arrive for an inspection or otherwise." He zoomed in on the hologram. "Right here is the secret entrance for Peak 15."
Kaiden looked at his two teammates and saw that they were in agreement. "Alright Mr. Qui'in. We'll do our best to get what you need but I can't guarantee we'll find anything out there."
Qui'in had a smile. "Don't worry. I have a feeling just your presence will shake loose whatever it is they're hiding. When it does, just be ready for it. I'll compensate you heavily for whatever you find once you return."
Kaiden stood up and shook Qui'in's hand. "Where's this fancy shuttle located then?"
"Shuttle bay 94. My personal launch pad." He replied.
Kaiden looked at his companions to signal that it was time to go. Tali and Wrex quickly gathered their equipment and started for the door.
"We'll be seeing you soon if all goes well." Kaiden stated on his way out.
"I certainly hope so." Qui'in quietly replied.
"On your left!" Ashley shouted.
Shiala turned quickly to her left and blasted yet another geth unit to bits. She squared up to take out another behind that one. After destroying it, she caught movement from above.
"Scout. Above us." She calmly announced.
"On it." Naruto acknowledged.
The blonde biotic took aim with his smg and blasted the pasty white geth's arm clean off. It hung precariously from it's spot on the ceiling. Another volley from his gun and it was on the ground no longer a threat.
Delta team was still engaged in a firefight for the last five minutes with the hidden geth troopers Benezia had brought with her. The trio managed to find cover near the garage entrance hunkered down behind an empty crate and one of the ground transports. The wall next to the doorway was about ten feet behind them making it easier to keep from getting snuck up on but it cut off their field of vision for the rest of the area. At least it was keeping the heavier fire off of them for the time being.
Ashley kept her rifle fire steadily pouring hot projectiles into the geth units and dropping them as quickly as she could.
"These bastards don't give up do they!" She cursed as she let her weapon cool down.
"How many units can a crate hold anyway? This feels like a whole battalion at this point!" Naruto shouted.
"As I recall, each contained 45 units." Shiala replied in between shots fired. "35 standard units" She took one out with a shot to the light bulb as she continued to list the details. "5 scouts. 5 destroyers. 3 snipers and 2 Primes."
"You just knew that off the top of your head?" He added while still returning fire.
Shiala shrugged. "Who do you think had to pack them up?"
"And there's what, three crates in this damn garage? I guess Saren never thought of leaving things to chance huh?" He continued blasting as many units to pieces as he could.
One geth unit managed to slip by on their right side. Naruto unleashed Kurama and quickly sliced it in two from the crotch up. "There can't be that many left can there?"
Three large destroyers appeared near the back of the bay. They took off in a full sprint towards the makeshift bunker. The cluttered parts and pieces of their fallen brethren didn't slow down their advance.
Ashley turned to face them. She pulled out her shotgun. "Bring it on bitches."
Shiala fired a biotic push to slow them down a bit. Naruto let out a lightning attack that managed to bring down their shields just in time for Ashley to unload. She blew the legs off the lead unit causing it to stumble and roll into their barricade tearing it open. With a hole in their defenses, delta team quickly went on the offensive.
"rrrrRRRRAAAAA" Ash let loose blasting the downed destroyer in the head shattering it to pieces. As she hopped the barricade she brought a double legged drop kick to the next destroyer knocking it off balance. Somersaulting away, she hopped right to her feet and blasted that unit in half. The third destroyer was peppering away at her shields moving in closer each shot. Ash rolled to her left firing three more blasts from her shotgun taking out the arm carrying the gun and one of its legs causing it to topple over. With he shotgun overheated and more units closing in, she tossed a grenade at the still moving remains and dove behind the ground transport to regain her shields. The explosion pulverized the remaining destroyer taking a couple of regular geth units with it for good measure.
"Not bad for a little girl" Shiala praised with a grin.
Still high on adrenaline, Ashley smirked back, "Let's see you do better, grandma."
Shiala hopped on top of the rover they were hiding behind and pulled out her phalanx pistol. Laying down in a prone position, she proceeded to collect head shots of a dozen geth troopers. One by one they dropped unceremoniously in a heap where they fell. She glanced back at Ashley with a smug grin.
"Pfft, show off." Ashley growled. Her rifle was cooled again so she switched back and unloaded into the remaining units.
Naruto was slicing and dicing the little units as quickly as he could. "Hey I thought you said there were primes in each crate?"
As if hearing his query, four prime units rounded the corner in the very back of the transport bay unloading heavy plasma fire on his location.
"Figures." he sighed
"You just don't know when to keep that mouth shut do you, pretty boy." Ashley added with a grimace.
"You know me." He replied.
Naruto darted to his right just in time as the transport he was next to exploded. He ran up the wall hoping to draw their fire away from his comrades. The four prime units stood side by side focusing their attack on the incoming yellow blur running along the wall. Naruto left a trail of melted durasteel walls behind him narrowly missing the plasma blasts from each of his attackers. He reached the junction for the side wall and the back wall and jumped off towards their formation.
"Is he insane?" Shiala blurted out as she lay down covering fire on the Prime units.
Ashley responded in kind with covering fire of her own. "You get used to it."
Their fire provided enough of a distraction to keep Naruto from being turned into barbecue.
'You know this would be a lot easier if I could get an empathic reading on Geth at all.' He complained to himself.
He slid down underneath the nearest prime unit with his HF blade making short work of the legs. As it was falling, Naruto brought the sword up through the head area to make sure it stayed down. Keeping his momentum, he dodged the fire from the other three slicing diagonally through his next victim. The remaining two blasted the downed prime unit catching Naruto off guard. A deep burn melted his right forearm.
"You insensitive jerk, do you have any idea how much that stings?" He cursed shaking his scarred appendage.
He didn't stop moving though. Switching the blade to his left, Naruto launched a wind jutsu at the two remaining prime units leaving nicks and scrapes on their outer casing. Sprinting forward, Naruto stabbed the blade through the head of one prime and dissected it sideways. As it was falling, the remaining unit rounded on his position. Before it could unload though, a sniper bolt rocked it backwards. Then another and another.
"Back off, bitch." Ashley spat as she let loose with round after round of from her harpoon sniper rifle. Each blast left a dent in the tremendous armor of the prime unit causing it to stagger backwards.
"# _ $ #!?" The Prime let out a screech of tech sounding gibberish.
Meanwhile, Shiala had been on the move towards their last enemy while her comrades commenced their attacks. With a burst of speed she came into range for a biotic attack. One of the first she ever mastered having been taught by her former commander.
"Lash." She whispered. Her eyes glowed a brilliant blue as a field of dark energy surround her. A blue strand reached out and grabbed the prime unit whipping it up into the air and then violently crashing it back down into the ground.
The last prime unit spasmed but looked to be getting back up. That is until a blade pierced the chest of the unit causing it to fall back down again. Naruto removed the blade and stood over the mangled pile of geth parts taking a moment to catch his breath. He gently lifted his damaged arm watching as the flesh rapidly healed before his eyes.
"God damn primes and their molten lava sprays. Who the hell made them? Dr Wily?" Naruto complained.
Shiala walked up next to him. She too was breathing heavy but couldn't help but admire her new companion.
"Those were some impressive moves. I'm glad to see my judgement was not misplaced in choosing to follow you." the green Asari praised while offering her hand.
Naruto chuckled. "Yea well give it time. I'll make you regret it eventually." He took her outstretched arm and pulled himself up.
Ashley walked up as she folded her sniper rifle and placed it back in it's holster on her back. She caught the tail end of the conversation. "He's not joking. Eventually he starts to grow on you..."
"Aww see I knew I won you over."
"...like a fungus."
"Hmm well I am a Fun Guy! get it, fungi... I'll see myself out."
Despite her teasing demeanor, Ashley was worried about his arm. She gently held it with both hands to inspect the damage. She could see most of the flesh was repaired but despite that she couldn't help let a lingering guilt creep into her brain. She looked up into his eyes trying to hold back the tears threatening to form in her own.
Naruto gave her a reassuring grin that he was ok. He wrapped his other arm gently around her back and leaned in for a quick kiss to her forehead that she gratefully accepted to further assuage her fears.
Shiala smiled at their antics. She hadn't really let her predicament facing her former squad sink in yet but it was good that these people found their way into her life.
'Perhaps one day I can repay the favor they have done me'.
"So what now?" Ashley asked as she broke away from the blonde's grasp.
Naruto looked around at the mess they made. "Well I ain't cleaning this up and we still need to find a way up the mountain to the Peak 15 facility. How about we borrow one of these ground transports?"
He walked up to the nearest one to see if it was able to be started. "Hmm wonder if I can hot wire one of these?"
Ashley chimed in, "I'd imagine we'd need a key or access pad of some kind. Doubt they'd leave these things unlocked."
"Going somewhere?!" A brute female voice called out from the entrance of the garage.
A squad of scruffy looking ERCS members led by Sergeant Sterling eyed them carefully with their weapons trained on each of the Delta squad team.
"Oh joy. This will go well." Naruto sarcastically stated as he rolled his eyes.
"Well, well, well. We got us a bunch of dead bodies back in the hall there, a pile of junk all over my garage and you three here with blood on your hands. Whatever shall we do about it?" Sterling mocked.
"You could let us take this transport up the mountain and remove that geth infestation you seem to have." Ashley stated hoping this wouldn't be an issue but knew better.
"Oh you'd like that wouldn't you? Well not this time. There's no fake ass spectre here to save you. Your asses are mine." Sterling threatened.
"You got a thing for asses huh? Never took you for an ass man." Naruto retorted.
Sterling glared back at the blonde. "I'm a woman, you dumbass!"
"Seriously?" Naruto stared at her. "Oh. My condolences."
Sterling's rage was reaching a boiling point. She aimed her shotgun at Naruto's head. "How bout I make your life a living hell?"
"Well, I'm not really ready for a relationship, Sergeant, but thank you for asking. Hey, maybe I'll give you a call sometime. Your number's still 911? All righty then!" Naruto mocked her sarcastically.
"I've had enough of your smart mouth!" Sterling shouted.
Naruto hopped off the truck and leveled his smg at the guards.
Naruto stared them all down. "Look before we begin, does anybody want to get out?"
Some of the guards looked around at their colleagues nervously. Their hands were getting sweaty and started shaking. This feeling of impending dread was weighing down on them just from the blonde guy's stare.
"Shit, I don't get paid enough to deal with this. I'm out of here!" One guard declared before turning tail back through the doorway.
"Yea fuck this shit. You can do your own dirty work, Sterling." Another one yelled as he ran.
"YOU FUCKING PUSSIES!" Sterling shouted. "Once I'm done with them, I'm personally hunting you all down and carving my name in your skulls."
Ashley turned to Shiala. "She's a real people person."
Shiala smirked. "Yes. A natural born leader." She added sarcastically.
Naruto stalked forwarded towards the abandoned Sergeant Sterling. Her gun was still aimed at him but her confidence was waning.
Naruto sighed. "Look, Kaira. Can I call you Kaira?"
"How do you even know my name?" She managed to get out.
"Not important." He quickly dismissed. "I'm sure in this little frozen beat, you're queen bitch here and everyone bows down to your will because you got a little bit of biotics in those limbs of yours. But here's the deal. I don't care."
"Yea well you're..." Sterling began to reply but he cut her off.
"No you don't understand. I truly don't give a shit." He continued forward.
"We are literally here to stop someone who possibly wants to kill millions of people in the galaxy." He stepped menacingly ahead.
"We don't have time to play these school yard bully games in your little sandbox. So if you want to keep going on terrorizing the weasely pencil necks from these piss ant corporations, be my guest." He was now directly face to face with the terrified ERCS sergeant.
Staring down into her shaking facade he poured enough KI into his words to get the point across.
"But do not get in MY way."
Sterling weighed her options and realized she was in over her head. In a rare moment of clarity, she lowered her weapon and backed away slowly.
"O..ok. F-fine. whatever. Just get out of her then." She stammered with as much authority as she could summon.
"Thanks!" Naruto personality did a 180. The pressure from his KI lifted and the room became less suffocating again.
Naruto started back towards the transport until he forgot one thing. Snapping his fingers he turned back to the subdued Sterling.
"Almost forgot. I'm going to need the keys for this thing."
"What? I don't have any key." Sterling found her backbone again with the KI gone.
Naruto turned towards his green companion. "Shiala? Tear her arms off."
Sterling quickly changed her mind. "Oh you mean this key." She tossed over a data pad similar to a credit chit.
Naruto caught it. "Thank you." Turning back he saw she was still standing there. "You can go now."
Sterling scampered off to salvage what was left of her ego.
Ashley eyed the smug look on Naruto's face. "You know it would have been easier if we just killed her."
Naruto shurgged. "You know me. I'm a humanitarian. Always gotta convert the hard luck miscreants. Case in point." He nodded turned Shiala.
"I am not a miscreant." Shiala said clearly unamused.
"What would you prefer? Delinquent? Convict? Scoundrel?" he pondered.
She rolled her eyes. "Can we just go?"
Ashley added. "Yes let's. I'm sure these weren't the only geth we'll see. We got work to do."
"Fine, fine" Naruto hopped into the truck and fired it up.
He hit the gas and peeled out the garage. Delta team headed out into the windy wasteland up the frozen cliff side toward their target.
The frantic shouts of people could be heard throughout the main complex now. Alarms were blaring out their warnings for the various calamities happening all over Port Hanshan at the moment. Various officials were directing fire control teams towards the shopping district while heavily armed ERCS squads were headed another way in a hurry.
"So much for keeping things discreet eh?" Shepard whispered as he casually walked towards their destination.
"I don't think that was ever going to be a possibility." Liara confirmed for him.
Most of the business men and women were sparing a momentary glance at the mayhem. However, they quickly returned to their tasks. Time was money and their bosses wouldn't accept any excuses for delaying business. This was good for Shepard and Liara as they went largely unnoticed walking through the area.
"Just up ahead are the coordinates. Garrus should be in position by now." Shepard reassured his companion.
"Hopefully our contact has something worthwhile for all the trouble we're going through to meet her." Liara complained.
The two members of Alpha team were headed to the alternate meeting point Parisini had given them. Having now shaken off both the ERCS and Benezia's commandos, she had agreed to discuss her proposal with them. Their destination seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. A little bistro that didn't appear to be too popular if the foot traffic meant anything. It wasn't out of the way or in a hidden alley. It just happened to be positioned between several, more popular restaurants and trendy cafes. Hiding in plain sight as it were.
Shepard and Liara entered through the quaint door with an old fashioned bell chime signalling their entry. A diminutive old woman nodded at them with a smile. They returned it in kind. Without any further exchange, they took a seat in a booth midway into the dimly lit dining room.
Shepard typed a message on his Omni tool to Garrus as Liara gave her order to the old woman.
'We're at the rendezvous point. You in position?' He sent.
'Affirmative. Got a bird's eye view in case it all goes tits up.' Garrus replied back ready to defend his squadmates from his hidden perch.
Shepard sighed. He leaned into the cushion behind him and tilted his head back. Staring up at the ceiling to catch his breath for a moment, Shepard pondered their next steps.
Liara leaned forward clearly exhausted as well. "So how do we know when she'll contact us?"
"I guess we'll know when we know." Shepard replied nonchalantly. His eyes closed taking in a momentary rest while remaining alert should the need arise.
A voice in the booth behind him spoke up. "You Spectres sure dont make it easy to have a private conversation do you?"
Shepard opened one eye but otherwise didn't make a move so as not to draw attention. "Well its not every day you get the local police and an Asari death squad after you." He scoffed. "And how about yourself? You sure like being clandestine."
She scoffed in kind. "Its not like I could just grab a table in the bar across from my office and talk out in the open about my boss. How stupid would that be?"
"Hmm good point." He admitted.
Shepard sat up and took hold of Liara's hand. She couldn't help but blush despite knowing it was to keep up appearances.
With how they were seated, Liara had the best view of their contact from her vantage point. She couldn't see much but from what she could tell, Parisini was wearing a pretty convincing disguise. Her hair was a much lighter color and left down instead of up in a bun. The clothing as well was more mundane. A simple business suit instead of her elegant maroon dress from earlier helped her to blend in with the rest of the working stiffs on this level.
Stirring a dark beverage, Parasini began to lay out her offer. "Let's cut to the chase. I work for the Noveria IA. The NDC board grew tired of Anoleis' business practices long ago and sent me in to find any dirt on him that they could use to legally remove him."
Shepard bristled a bit at that announcement. "Well it's not my intention to get involved with all that. You guys dug you're own graves on that one. I'm just here for Benezia."
"I know. She and Saren are the reason the board has gone from wanting Anoleis fired for lost profits to covering their asses on whatever scandal he got us all involved in. Once the news came down that Saren was a galactic criminal, the board started getting really insistent on me getting results." Parisini explained.
The old woman brought the drinks Liara had ordered. Shepard took a sip before responding. "Why didn't they just seize all of Binary Helix's data when the news of Saren came out?"
"It's not that simple. If the board threatened a company just because the Council demanded it, it would shake the trust in the investors. The whole point of this place is to avoid Council interference. Plus most of the outside world has no idea Saren has majorirty stake in Binary Helix. So there's no direct benefit for them to do so." The undercover secretary laid out.
Shepard countered. "Well there's plenty of downside for them. Whatever Saren has cooking up there is being done under the watchful eyes of the Noverian Trading Group. They could be complicit in the bullshit he unleashes on the galaxy from your labs."
Parasini agreed. "Yes. It's clear there is more going on at Peak 15 than is being reported. That's why I'm willing to give you this pass to take one of the ground transports up the mountain to check it out."
Liara spoke up this time while still putting on the charade of having a nice lunch with Shepard. "What's the catch?"
"I need evidence. Hard evidence. Data banks, samples, personnel testimony of corruption and details on what it is they're doing up there." She took a sip of her beverage. "If you can get us that, we can over look all the damage you and your team have been causing."
Shepard chuckled. "It has been a bit since we checked in with the kids. Wonder what they're up to?" He gestured to Liara.
She smirked. "Knowing them I'm sure they're getting into all sorts of trouble."
As if they could hear them, Shepard's comm chimed in. He tapped the interface to respond.
"Shepard here. Go ahead."
"Commander. It's Alenko. Just giving you a sitrep. We've aquired a shuttle from one of the locals and are headed up to Peak 15. The storms pretty bad but we should arrive in the next 20-25 minutes. I'll report back once we arrive."
"Good work, Kaiden. We'll meet you there soon. Try to stay out of trouble until we arrive." Shepard ordered.
"Affirmative, Commander. Beta team out."
Shepard closed the channel. Just as he was about to get back to the conversation at hand, another call came in. He pressed the button again.
"This is Shepard."
"Commander. Williams here. We had a couple of problems come up during our mission."
Shepard raises his eye brow. "What kind of problems?"
He could hear Naruto chime in from behind Ashley. "Oh the giant metal death machine kind amongst others."
Ashley admonished him for cutting her off and then continued. "We we're attacked by Asari commandos and then ambushed by a Geth battalion."
Shepard was caught off guard by that. "Geth? Here!? How?"
This caught Parisini's attention as well. She abandoned her discretion and turned around to try to listen in to the conversation.
"Apparently Benezia brought them with her. Popped out of a bunch of crates in one of the transport garages." Ashley recapped.
Shepard remembered their new squadmate. "And where was our newest teammate during all of this?" He asked with an edge.
Ashley took a moment to realize what he implied. "Oh. She was fine, Commander. Honestly, without her here we'd have been in much worse shape."
Shepard seemed satisfied with that report. "Understood. Where are you now?"
"We've commandeered a ground transport and are heading up the mountain Pass to Peak 15."
Before Shepard could respond, he could hear Naruto and Shiala shouting in the background.
"We got incoming. Geth troopers 1 o'clock." Shiala calmly announced.
"Ash, we need you back on the turret." Naruto shouted.
"Got it. Sorry commander. I'll report back shortly. Delta out." Ashley ended the call.
Shepard closed the comm link. He looked at Liara. "Well you were right, my dear. Looks like the kiddos found all sorts of trouble."
Parasini was frantically sending messages on her own Omni-tool. The news of Geth in the complex could cause a panic that would threaten the whole colony. She reported this to the board immediately and was awaiting further instructions. She turned back to Shepard.
"Ok. Change of plans. I provide you the means to get up to Peak 15, you destroy the Geth and whatever Saren and Benezia are cooking. Then bring me the data." She offered sounding a bit desperate.
Shepard raises an eyebrow at that offer. "That sounds like an awful lot of work. I just need to talk to Benezia to find out where Saren went. What's in it for us?"
"Look. I know this is asking a lot but the NDC would consider this a personal favor if you can clean this up quick and quiet. If word got out of Geth on Noveria, we could lose the whole colony due to investor confidence waning." Parasini openly explained.
"A favor is nice but I need more than that." Shepard negotiated.
Parasini bit her lip exasperated. "Well what exactly did you have in mind?"
"I need gear. Cutting edge tech. Weapons, surveillance, armor, the works. I want an exclusive contract with the NDC to use products from their donor companies at a 60% reduced rate for the next 10 years." He offered.
"60%?! That's outrageous! I can't offer that. I'm just a cop. I'm not a salesmen." Parasini replied.
"Well I guess you'll have to find a solution to your problem from some one else then." Shepard made to get up out of the chair.
"Wait! Wait. Give me a minute." She hurriedly typed on her omni-tool. After a few seconds she got a response. "I'm authorized to offer a 35% discount but only for 4 years."
Shepard had a knack for haggling. It was a game of reading your opponent and being able to bluff them enough to get what you want.
"Geez. I can get that from the volus around the corner. 50% for 8 years."
Another round of messages and she spoke up again. "40% for 5 years."
"We're discussing the safety and well being of your whole colony and your bosses are really trying to low ball me? 50% is a hard line but I'll go 6 years." He dug in.
She looked down again at her omni-tool. "50% for 5 years is their final offer."
Shepard smirked. "Fine. If that's the best they can do but I still want that personal favor available as well."
She finished typing. "Deal. The contract has been sent." She handed him a data pad. "Here is your garage pass and a key to one of the ground transports."
Shepard stood up. Liara followed suit. He walked past Parasini towards the door.
"Guess we better get to work." He stated.
"I was hoping we could finish lunch first." Liara pouted.
"Another time. I'll make it up to you once we get out of here." He assured her.
"I'll hold you to that." She smiled.
I wanted to add one more scene at the end here but nothing really made sense to just shoehorn in. So we'll just leave it at that. One more chapter should finish up Noveria and then we can get the whole thing back on track... by derailing the story into some side quests. Nah it'll be fine. I've only wasted 5 years ignoring this for the most part so what's a few more chapters of character building before we move the plot along. Whats the worst that could happen?
Thanks again for sticking with me all these years, unless of course you're new to this mess. To which I say welcome and may your expectations never be too high on me getting a new chapter out in a reasonable amount of time. But thanks just the same.
Either way, let me know what you thought with a review. I answer all of them. I'll start the new chapter soon. When will I finish it? Life will dictate that. Until then... I should go.