0
followers
follow

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers

Daughter of Prof. Nina Rikers and Braden's love interest.

0 · 197 views · located in Mass Effect Universe created by Bioware

a character in “Mass Effect: On the Edge”, originally authored by The Ghost Writer, as played by RolePlayGateway

History

Lizzie Rikers had lived with her mother, Nina, as a Cerberus dependent stationed on one of the organization's most discrete R&D space stations, the Hephaestus. Her mother, Professor Rikers, had been tasked as the lead supervisor of the development of the Excalibur weapon system. She was in the middle of post-production modifications when the Collectors had stormed the station in an attempt to sabotage Cerberus operations. In the nick of time, Nina and her daughter were rescued by Commander Titus and his fireteam, Captain Villayn and Operative Keown. To assist in their evacuation and escape to the Vindicator, Professor Rikers entrusted Titus with the Excalibur pistols, seeing that he would be the better candidate to use them.

After being temporarily transferred to the Vindicator, Nina and Lizzie had the chance of being reintegrated into Cerberus after escaping the Hephaestus with the other, however few surviving scientists; yet they chose to stay as new crew members of the Omni Cell vessel. One night shortly after the mission, Braden Reynolds shared his quarters with Lizzie (probably out of an instant crush) and learned of her faith in the Christian religion. The reader realizes in this first post - portraying the olive branch of a love interest between the two (despite the girl being two years his senior) - that Lizzie is a very devout Christian believer. She attempts to explain the why's and how's of her faith over time, but Braden is still left puzzled and doubtful; still, he comes to admire and cherish the fact that the young woman choses to govern herself with a powerful and compelling ideal.

So begins...

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Lance Williams Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers

0.00 INK

Braden twirled his fork in the small scoop of pasta linguini on his tray. The biotic was starving, but he and Lizzie had made plans for dinner earlier that day, and he didn't want to spoil his appetite, if food was the kind of dinner date she had in mind. Instead of filling himself up on the mess hall chow, he stuck to eating just enough to keep the headaches and dizziness at bay. It had been a long time now his diet with the Ascension Project, where all of the students had received strictly controlled meals consisting of nearly 2,000 calories each. The expensive provisionary diets were required if one were to exercise their biotic potential. Throughout the sparring match with Villayn, Braden had used his biotics in small doses, but had also refused to take any breathers. Combine the abnormal exertion of energy with a lack of a healthy breakfast and lunch, and the boy was flat out exhausted.

Villayn had been busy going on and on about interesting war stories, talking about his years as both a soldier and then as a pirate. His lieutenants, Arkan and Darak, chimed in with their own dramatic retellings and Braden found himself more intrigued by the minute. Rather than staring back with glazed over eyes, he was actually asking questions, like "What happened next?" and "What does that mean?".

The story telling continued on for nearly half an hour before a tall figure joined the group and sat down right next to Braden. The teen hardly recognized Lance until he fully turned his head to look up at the grease-covered battery operator, who was currently eye-balling Villayn with little emotion.

"Operative Williams, am I right?" Villayn asked, though with an air of caution in his voice.

"That's right," Lance replied. "Just finished up some heavy maintenance on the Thannix. I didn't realize one of the gold coils came loose when we used it against your ship."

Dead silence fell over the table. Braden received a distinct feeling of discomfort and wanted to slug the man in the shoulder for being so callous; yet, Lance's surprising comment had taken him by such surprise, the boy hardly knew how to react.

"My, my," the turian captain replied without a hint of emotional reaction, "I hope it was nothing too serious. I'd hate for carelessness to be the demise of us all."

Lance smirked and then glanced down at Braden. "These guys aren't troubling you, are they, little man?" The kind, gentle face he had on while looking down at the young human was completely different the look of unsavory disdain he had expressed towards the turians only seconds earlier.

"Uhm...," was all Braden could manage before the familiar, authoritative voice of Commander Titus bellowed from across the mess hall.

"Lance! Come on over here and sit with the rest of us! Keown's got a sick joke you have to hear!"

Lance ignored the request and kept looking into the teen's eyes. Braden felt a lump in his throat and his hands began to clench each other under the table. He knew he wasn't in trouble, or doing anything wrong, but the way Lance was boring into him with only a brutally invasive stare made it seem like he was.

"Williams!" The voice belonged to Operative Taylor and was far more demanding in nature.

The big man huffed before standing up from the seat and furiously grabbing his tray from the table. As he turned to head back and sit with the other officers, Braden leaned over and whispered to the turians, "Sorry. He's kind of-"

"You don't have to explain," Darak said, stopping Braden. "Trust us... we know."




After the awkward final moments in the mess hall, Braden turned in his tray and headed toward the quarters. He figured that Lizzie might wait for him in his room, or outside his door if she wanted to find him easily. There weren't many places aboard the Vindicator that the two hung out at. They were far too young to be given tasking that required muscle or technical knowhow, and the lounge was off-limits per Titus due to the alcohol; not that Braden really cared anyway, considering he had no interest in drinking something that tasted so vial to him. The CIC used to offer a mild form of amusement to walk through - watching operatives and navigators hard at work at their control terminals, or running around and barking orders during exercises or real-time events - but even the energetic command deck had lost its spark. Now, the two spent most of their time in each other’s' rooms; playing games, surfing the extranet for holovids, or even practicing their... relationship.

Once again, the hormonal teenager found his mind slipping into the proverbial gutter. He could no longer dismiss what they had as a simple flare. It very well could be the simple fact that she was the only female around his age on the ship, but even so... his attraction to her was undeniable. He wouldn't settle for any other girl, not after knowing Lizzie.

At first, he thought her voice echoing down the hall behind him was a figment of his imagination, but the second time his name was called; he forced himself to glance around. Lizzie was poking her head just around the corner at the end of the corridor, signaling with one finger for him to follow. She didn't have to ask twice...




His steely eyes stuck to the holographic image of the ancient device like glue as it twirled above the black, polished tiles before him. It wasn’t until a trickle of smoke from the lit cigarette in his fingers glided into his line of sight that the Illusive Man finally pulled himself out of his fascination. The object was old, far older than any of the sentient species in the galaxy today; maybe as old as the Protheans, but that’s what his concern was. The device had been oddly positioned in the middle of a Prothean tell – a city so old that it had the remnants of cities below it – and where most Prothean technology was now inactive and decayed beyond repair, this particular machine wasn’t. Any archeologist that dismissed the Reapers as myth would jump at the chance to study this “Prothean” artifact up close; but the Illusive Man knew better. It was obvious to him what it was, unmistakable.

The machine wasn’t like the monoliths he had encountered in his past; it was much larger, and instead of a spike-like shape, it had taken the form of four tall braces supporting a large, blue sphere. The sphere itself seemed to be nothing but powerful, kinetic energy; like the kind one would witness enveloping an element zero drive core. The design of the supports was definitely not Prothean, black and misshapen, compared to the more regal and elegant architecture of the dead race.

“Orders, sir?” asked the man behind him, projected by the pad of the Illusive Man’s communicator. He was an operative working inside one of Cerberus’ many command centers throughout the galaxy. He stood with hands behind his back and his feet slightly spread, appearing disciplined and ready to carry out any task his employer had for him.

The Illusive Man slowly turned his chair around, away from the hologram of the device, and lowered his cigarette over his ash tray to flick off the build-up on the end of the stick. “Dispatch the Vindicator and the Call of the Victory to Lucr’n. Once on the surface, they’ll need to exercise extreme caution, especially when they approach the dig site. How many reports have we intercepted pertaining to sudden disappearances amongst the archeologists?”

“Dr. Kelton, the team’s director, has received reports of at least thirteen missing persons. He’s becoming paranoid and has withdrawn all of the scientists from the dig site. Their base camp is located approximately one klick south of the artifact. Since their withdrawal, no one seems to have gone missing, or is showing signs of indoctrination. Of course… Dr. Kelton wouldn’t know of indoctrination, so… our intelligence analysts suggest precautionary measures should be taken around them, regardless.”

The Man took a quick drag of his cigarette and rested his arm back down before saying, “Titus and Invaru only to obtain one Husk. I don’t image it being too difficult for them… as long as they keep their distance from the artifact and also ensure they’re not within the vicinity of its effect for too long.”

“And after they’ve succeeded? What should we do about the device?”

“Until we know about the process of indoctrination and develop a successful counter measure, I’m not willing to risk lives to study it, nor destroy it. Remove the archeologists and have the entire Prothean city cordoned off.”

“Yes, sir,” the operative said before the transmission was cut.

The Illusive Man turned back around to face the hologram, and took a deeper drag of his cigarette. He allowed his mind to fall back into the thought pattern of fascination and intrigue. The technology the Reapers possessed was evidently beyond all modern comprehension; but it was still a device that was created, not simply begotten – that much was clear. If he could find a way to recreate the technology of the Reapers, perhaps this war could take a turn for the better. Perhaps humanity would finally acquire the tools they need to dominate the stars.

As he sat in the violet light of the dying star outside the grand view port of his office, the words of Clark’s Third Law echo in the back of his mind: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: EDI Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers

0.00 INK

The arching spikes of discharging dark energy around the Vindicator's element zero core was tantalizing to the eyes. Being a biotic, Braden felt nearly renewed being so close to a massive sphere containing the same energy he could manipulate with his mind. The eezo core had a relaxing effect on his mind, despite the lack of nutrition. Lizzie, who had her head leaned back against his chest, with the two of them sitting on the floor of the core's surrounding deck against a bulkhead, had brought them some food from the mess hall to munch on. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep the boy going for a while longer.

Both of the teenagers had spent the last hour with each other, in the exact same spot. The engineers hadn't objected once to their presence, and Braden assumed that was Lizzie's doing. He figured she must have convinced them sometime earlier in the day that they wouldn't get in the way. As Lizzie slumbered against him, his mind began to recall the events of the past day. Waking up and feeling hateful animosity towards Cerberus, finding comfort in the arms of the girl he loved, releasing the hate still inside him through Villayn's training, and finding peace once again with Lizzie. He still felt angry at the people he was working with, and he knew that only time would tell if he could truly trust Commander Titus and Yeoman Brown.




"Darcy, what the hell is up with the beret?" Titus demanded with an amused smirk as he approached the helm of the Vindicator. His pilot was wearing a black beret, perfectly formed over his right ear. Judging by the fact that the wool was smooth and shaven, Darcy must have had it for quite some time. Though it wasn't a part of the Cerberus crewman uniform, it matched the black, white, and gray colors.

Darcy spun around in his chair and revealed a giddy smile from cheek to cheek. "Isn't it sick, Commander? A few marines on deck five found them in starboard cargo, we must have accidentally picked up the shipment at our last resupply stop. Terminus depots aren't always the most reliable when it comes to tracking their customers' goods."

"That was three days ago," John noted, folding his arms.

"Yup. I've been shaping it in the shower every morning; finally shaved it last night and let it dry out. How does it look?"

Titus leaned back, inspecting the ridiculous hat left and right, but he honestly couldn't find much to object to. It was dorky, but sharp at the same time, and it conveyed an air professionalism about Darcy that Titus thought he would never see. Besides, the beret out-did the stupid ball caps any day of the week. After taking a moment to fully appreciate Darcy's new fashion accessory he let his arms drop and asked, "How many of those were in the shipment?"

"More than enough if you're thinking what I think you're thinking."

"Then I'll keep thinking." The commander moved around to stand beside Darcy, directly between him and EDI's ever-present sphere, and changed the subject, asking, "Is that our relay?" The mass relay Titus was referring to was growing closer as the Vindicator made its approach.

"That's it," Darcy confirmed, rapidly tapping away at his cyan-colored haptic interface. "We'll make the jump through and I'll plot us a direct course to Lucr'n. Our current ETA to target is two hours, fifteen minutes. Now EDI's already taken a look at the planet's recent geological surveys. She found a few things you might want to take note of."

On cue, the ship's AI chimed in with her report. "Lucr'n is located close enough to its system's sun to warrant the use of heat protective armor. Over the past millennia, the planet's protective atmospheric layers have deteriorated due to a build-up of greenhouse gases. This was most likely caused by a planet-wide war event during its final moments of civilization. Whatever cataclysm started the decay is no longer traceable. While your shields are strong enough to hold out against the penetrating radiation, they will be ineffective in a firefight. Mass accelerated rounds will go straight through and your hard suit's armor will have to absorb the impact alone."

"Wonderful," Titus mused. "So, what have the archeologists been using for protection?"

"Thermal resistant white suits," EDI replied. "They sacrifice armor in favor of specially designed shield boosters. The suits are also equipped with a thrust capacitor."

"A what?"

"Adding to the dangers of Lucr'n are frequent earthquakes and tectonic tremors, possibly another result of the cataclysm that ended the Prothean civilization-"

"It was the Reapers, EDI," Darcy retorted. "We all know it was the fucking Reapers."

Ignoring the helmsman's interuption, the AI carried on without any emotional inflection toward him. "Some quakes can cause large debris to break off of ruins and endanger the lives of nearby archeologists. To compensate, a back-mounted thrust capacitor provides a powerful enough boost - using a micro fission core - to propel the individual several hundred meters, safely removing them from the danger zone. It is not a 'jet pack', but a more level alternative."

Titus nodded, but rubbed his eyes. “Berets, earthquakes, and jump packs... Just get us to Lucr’n, Darcy.”

“Aye-aye, Commander.”

Titus spun around and walked back down the helm toward the CIC. As he passed through, he observed many of the CIC operators settling down in at their terminals, preparing for the eminent mission. Each of them, though they appeared to perform the same task as their neighbor, played a vital, unique role in keeping the Vindicator running and operational. Most of the technicians in the CIC were combat operations managers; relaying vital intelligence to and from the battle grounds, or assisting in space warfare. While EDI did most of the data logging and calculations, it was up her human counterparts to execute commands.

“I hope you’re ready, ladies and gents,” the commander said as he briskly made his way past them. “This mission is going to get interesting.”




“All hands, prepare for relay jump, in thirty seconds!” Engineer Sullivan announced as he practically ran at full speed from one end of the core room to the other, skipping nearly three full steps as he partially jumped up onto the main observation platform. In response, Braden and Lizzie, now fully awake and alert, jumped to their feet and made their way up to the platform for safety. Being too close to the drive core during a relay jump could be dangerous if something went wrong.

Already, the giant sphere began to pulse violently with massive arcs of discharging dark energy. “Core levels stable, eezo reaction normal,” Engineer Foster stated as she approached a wide haptic interface and began to busy herself at the controls. There was another pulse, one more massive than the others, and Braden figured that the Vindicator was now very close to the mass relay that Darcy was about to make a jump through.

There was a crackle over the core room’s intercom as Darcy’s amplified voice came over. “Relay jump commencing in three… two… one!” As soon as his tongue struck the “n” on “one”, a final pulse burst outward from the sphere. The room was blinded in a brief second of blue-white light, and Braden felt a surge of energy passing into his own body; a vibration spreading throughout his nervous system. His head went light, and the room started to spin. Though the light was now dissipating, nearly gone, so was his vision. During the final few seconds before total darkness, he felt his legs give out, and he saw the ceiling of the core room high above him come into view, and heard the muffled voices of his friends call out to him.

“Braden? Braden?!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Lance Williams Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers

0.00 INK

Lieutenant Harrens’ decision to try and draw some of the pressure away from Titus’ own team only helped for a few moments. The husk numbers were simply too great and cutting them down seemed to do nothing. When the Victory team used their jump packs to land atop a ruined structure, the husks left on the ground turned to resume their assault on Titus, despite several attempting to follow the escapees by scaling the building’s walls.

“Commander!” Lance called out, loading a fresh thermal clip into his M-8 Avenger. “We can’t keep this up! I’m running low on ammo; and they just keep coming!”

Villayn’s voice came over the comm next, with more bad news. “I’m afraid Operative Williams is right, Titus. Our sniper rounds are rapidly depleting, and these things are trying to make their way to us. It won’t be long before they get smart and come up on our flank. We need to exfil.”

Titus nodded in agreement, though he doubted anyone of his teammates saw the gesture of accord in the middle of the shit storm they had gotten themselves into. He opened up a direct line to the Kodiak. “Ground team to Kodiak.”

“Go.”

“Send a message to the Vindicator. Tell Darcy I want his ass in the atmosphere, ASAP. This artifact is too dangerous to be left intact. If the boss wants a husk, he can have a pile of them… dead. Also, Lieutenant Harrins and Captain Villayn are split up from us. Egress them first, then have Darcy send another Kodiak to pick up my team. How copy?”

“I copy that, Commander. They’ve got the message, Helmsman Mansfield is bringing the Vindicator into suborbital altitude now and I’m oscar-mike to the LT’s location. ETA: one mike.”

Titus repositioned himself against the railing and opened up a hail of fire against any husk that crossed into his scope. He shouted orders for Lance and Erik to hold their positions and keep firing. The seconds ticked by, John counting every one of them as he fired, chambered, and fired again. Finally, when things seemed grim, he saw the Kodiak that had brought them in arrive in time to pick Lt. Harrens’ team up off the rooftop, hovering just a few feet away with the passenger bay door open for them to jump inside. When the team was loaded, it dipped down to Villayn’s sniper nest, allowing the three turians to cram inside with their colleagues from the Victory with only seconds to spare of husks overwhelming their position.

Now we just need to hold off a minute longer, Titus thought. He only hoped that minute would be a second, picturing Darcy’s bringing the Vindicator through the cloud cover and reigning down a firestorm barrage of air-to-surface missiles. Before he could finish the hopeful thoughts, however, another earthquake rumbled beneath them. This time, a chunk of debris from the structure supporting Keown’s end gave away and crashed into the scaffolding. It destroyed the staircase, preventing the husks from advancing on his end, and the operative nearly escaped being crushed himself. But when Titus ran over to help his comrade to his feet, the worst happened. The observation bridge began to give away from the impact of the debris, and Erik found himself tumbling toward the center.

“Erik!” Titus yelled as he tossed his Excalibur to Lance and dived on his stomach to try and catch his friend’s hand before he fell completely over, towards the artifact in the center. His palm and fingers grabbed onto Keown’s wrist at the last second, but he was forced to use his free hand and claw into the grating of the catwalk, lest he pulled over by the weight of Keown’s heavy Cerberus armor. His arm was straining and his wrist was screaming to let go, but the commander held on.

“John! Dammit! Let me go! You don’t have time to waste by trying to pull me up! Go help-”

“You don’t give me orders, dammit!” Titus yelled back. “Now don’t you fucking let go! Pull yourself up here! Now!”

“I can’t… You know that. I’m too heavy in this shit. If I use both arms, I’ll just bring you down with me.”

“Erik! Shut up!”

“Tell the Illusive Man… that since he wanted a husk so bad… I volunteered myself.

“No! You son of a-” But it was too late to convince him otherwise. Operative Erik Keown let go of his commander’s wrist and forced his own out of Titus’ grip. His body plummeted and punched through the energy sphere atop the four Reaper supports. Time seemed to slow as John watched his friend fall all the way through, rattled by arcs of electricity and energy spikes until he exited through the bottom of the sphere and continued to fall until he crashed on the dusty surface below. “Aaaagggghhh!”

Titus brought himself completely over onto the catwalk and pushed himself up. He took several deep breaths and took a second to absorb what had just happened. It wasn’t the first time as a soldier that he had witness a man give his life for a cause; and so he knew exactly what to do. A life given out of noble pursuit must not be taken for granted, not simply dismissed or only wept for. Titus raised his head, straightened his back, and rolled his shoulders. He turned around sharply and picked up the Excalibur rifle from Lance, who was continuing to mow down husks charging after him with tears rolling down both cheeks. He had seen what had happened… what Erik chose to do; and he was venting by unloading every thermal clip he had left onto the sorry, forgotten slaves.

[Begin playing soundtrack, "Embolden"]

Disengaging the rifle mode, John separated the Excalibur pistols and rearmed them with new thermal clips. Out of daring rage and a need to avenge Erik’s death, to honor his sacrifice, the Commander, flanked by Operative Williams, charged down the staircase, unloading round after round into the husks. Barrels collided with faces, and rocketing rounds pulverized those faces. Every cybernetic freak of nature that came too close to the duo fell to their fury.

The engines of a Kodiak roared overhead and Titus’ eyes glanced up only long enough to look past it at towards the Vindicator breaking through the cloud cover. Darcy was already giving orders to unload the much-needed rocket barrage. All the commander had to do now was retrieve Erik’s body from underneath the artifact’s sphere before the Vindicator’s hell storm destroyed it and buried the fallen hero.

“Lance: Kodiak. Move!”

“Aye-Aye! I’ll see you aboard!”

As Williams took off sprinting for the landing Kodiak, Titus spun around and aimed his torso toward the artifact’s base. He punched the activation for the ARS’ fission pack and rocketed at high velocity toward his target. A husk had managed to break into his flight path and Titus took aim with one of the Excalibur pistols, driving the barrel into the mutant’s screaming mouth. The neck snapped back under the speed, effectively “killing” it, but the commander pulled the trigger anyway, exploding the husk’s cranium with an overkill shot.

When he landed, Titus rolled for several feet; finally stopping to a skidding halt before Keown’s lifeless corpse. In order to carry the man, Titus had to field-strip the Cerberus armor off of him. The visor came first, and John could see the man’s already pale-skin; unusual, but no doubt a side-effect of the artifact’s sphere. The chest plate, shoulder pads, gauntlets, and leggings came after. It was a hassle, constantly having to left and heave Erik’s body in order to get to every release latch; but when everything had finally come off, Titus lifted his friend into a fireman’s carry over his shoulders and ran as fast as he could.

Thankfully, the Kodiak’s pilot had repositioned closer to the artifact, though safely away from the sphere’s energy output. The passenger hatch flew open and Keown jumped out to assist his commander in helping to carry Keown’s body inside. Two other Vindicator marines lent their support in gently bringing in their fallen comrade.

The Kodiak rapidly pulled away, just in time for the missile strike to enforce its punishment on the Prothean ruins and Reaper artifact. Because the Vindicator was in close, Darcy’s transmissions came through crystal clear.

“Bringing the pain, mother fuckers!”

Each of the flanking structures that had been used to support the observation bridge around the artifact crumbled inward, landing on top of the device and effectively destroying it once and for all. As Titus watched the devastation unfold beneath them as the Kodiak approached closer to the open landing bay of his ship, he heard a sharp ringing in both ears, and his head spun. A gravel voice in the back of his mind, one that spoke with authority and determination, was none like he had heard before. Unrecognizable, but worthy of his attention.

You cannot stop us, human. This war you wage is a pathetic and futile attempt at escaping what is destined to come.






Braden… Braden… Come on, sweetie. Time to get up.

The young Reynolds awoke in one of the medical bay’s recovery beds in a sweat, gasping for air. He through the covers back, attempting to cool his half naked body down as quickly as possible before it went up in flames. Every muscle cried out in pain, and he only ended up falling back on the sweat-soaked pillow and bed sheets. As he lay there, starring up into the light above him, he kept thinking of the woman’s voice he heard in his dreams before waking. It was familiar, comforting, loving.

“Mom?” his hopeful voice cracked.

Fast approaching, but light footsteps could be heard approaching him from the side, and another familiar voice pierced the silence of the ward. “No, honey; I’m afraid not,” answered Dr. Porter as she came into view of Braden’s peripherals. Her head bobbed above him as she checked his vitals on her Omni tool. When she done, she gently slid a cool hand underneath Braden’s neck and then worked her way up to the back of his head, slowly lifting it to remove the old pillow and replace it with a fresh, dry one.

“You’ve been out for several hours,” she said. “You knew better than to go so long without a sufficient amount of food in your system. Biotics need the calories, Braden. If Tony hadn’t have raced your unconscious body up here as fast as he did, you could have slipped into a coma. We don’t need two heroes hanging between life and death, now do we?”

Braden couldn’t bear to look at her. The why she was scolding him, upset but loving, reminded him too much of his own mother. He messed up, but Veronica was there to take care of him, a sick child in need. He actually felt… “Sorry…”

Veronica folded her arms, but offered a warm smile. She walked around the bed to check up on a monitor and said, “No need to be all blue about it. Your girlfriend told me the whole story. Personally, I think it was romantic how you held out for her; but professionally, I’d say you were an idiot.” She chuckled when she said this, finding the conclusive judgment to be quite amusing now that the boy was going to be okay. “We had to stick you with a few IVs, to rehydrate you and get enough nutrition in your system to keep you going. I’m sure you’re starving though, so I’ll have a tray brought in from the mess hall. Mess Sergeant Miles is already preparing something special for you. Oh, and, sorry about the clothing situation. Your body was reacting to the lack of sustenance by creating a fever; that’s why you’re sweating and dehydrated. I’ve got your shirt, jeans, and boots over there on the chair.” She pointed to the white and chrome chair adjacent to his recovery bed. Braden recognized it as the exact same chair he sat in while Vala Buchan was recovering after saving his life on Illium.

“If Lizzie comes in to see you, make sure to keep the covers pulled over.” Veronica winked before turning away. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to check up on Operative Buchan.”

“Vala’s here?” Braden asked. He turned his head over to see the woman sleeping peacefully – as ironic as that seems – in another recovery bed at the end of the bay.

“Yes,” the doc replied. “She just underwent surgery to have her biotic implants upgraded to the new L5x. She’s like you now.”

Veronica continued on down the bay to check on Vala’s readings. Braden could only watch the blonde woman sleep soundly and wonder why in the galaxy she would put herself through the immense risk of doing such a thing. Braden’s own implantation surgery was risky enough, and that’s when he was at the age it was supposed to be done. At Vala’s age, such a procedure could be life-threatening if not handled right. He had been outfitted with the Ascension Project's experimental L4 implants when he had been taken into the care of the academy. His upgrade to the L5x didn't happen until a year later when he was selected to be apart of the Eden Prime training. The surgery left him sore for weeks, and he would often suffer from mind-splitting headaches. He wondered if Vala was going to have to endure the same effects.

"Okay, so... not a bad first date," Lizzie said, startling Braden so much he nearly jumped out of the covers. The teens locked eyes for a moment and started to laugh. Lizzie pulled the chair over to the edge of the bed and sat down, holding Braden's left hand under both of hers. "You scared me down there," she said after a while, unable to look him in the eye. When she finally looked up, she had tears in her eyes. "Don't ever do that again."

"Liz, I-" Before he could finish, she stood up and leaned over him, meeting her lips with his own. They remained there for well over a minute, and Braden could hear the persistent tone of his heart rate on the nearby monitor beep slightly faster. Finally, Lizzie pulled away but only enough to stare into his eyes with an inch between their noses.

The boy opened his mouth again to say something, but her finger pressed down ontop of them. "Wait," she whispered. "I'll come back after you eat." Her finger slid down from his lips, brushed down his chin, and dropped to his exposed upper chest. Before pulling away, she gave him a light peck on his forehead.

Dr. Porter returned and placed a bottle of water on the folder-over table attached to his recovery bed and courteously unscrewed the cap. "She's a keeper," she mused at the expense of a red-faced Braden. She turned away and headed back to her desk near the front of the bay, taking her seat a second later to begin to tapping away at her haptic keyboard. As she worked, the boy took small, but greedy gulps of the water. He wasn't sure why, but there was something in the air that didn't quite feel right.

"Where's the commander?" he asked. Veronica's typing came to a dead stop, but she only stared straight forward, completely quiet. "What's wrong? Did... something happen?"

Dr. Porter finally turned to look at him with an expressionless face. "He's... down in the Kodiak bay," she said. "Operative Keown..." She only sighed, unable to finish what Braden already knew. The teenager threw the covers off and over the side of the bed, fighting the protest of his sore and cramped muscles as his legs hung over the edge. "Braden! No! You can't be moving around just yet!" Veronica jumped up from her seat and raced over to stop him, but Braden held up his hand as he slid off the matress and reached for his clothes.

"No," he insisted, "don't."

If he were any younger, or less assertive, Dr. Porter probably would have restrained him to the bed, but he had made his intentions crystal clear. There was no stopping him. He struggled to pull on the jeans and shirt, but didn't bother with the boots. The floors of the Vindicator were cold, but flat and clear, and would only offer some relief to his body's fever if he went barefoot. The first few steps were a rush to the head, but he quickly gained his balance as he made his way closer and faster to the door.

Finally, leaning the against the threshold, Braden swiped his hand in front of the access panel and turned back to look at Veronica and say, "Don't worry about me. I'll be back; I promise."




Braden quietly stumbled out of the lift and into the Vindicator’s Kodiak bay. No one had heard the blast doors hissing as he stepped out, or they at least paid no attention to him. As the boy looked around, he saw what must of the been the Vindicator’s entire crew, all gathered and standing in two impressive military formations of several ranks. Each Cerberus crewman was standing with feed shoulder-width apart, and their hands clasped into a V in the small of their backs. Parade rest, they called it.

The room was quiet, save for an echoing tapping sound somewhere near the front of the formations. Braden snuck around behind several supply crates and mechanical units. When he finally found a perfect view of the front of the formation he saw Commander Titus standing at the head of another smaller formation. Four men and two women, dressed in the black and white dress uniform of Cerberus’ higher ranking officers were unfolding a blue and white fabric between the six of them. Gently they lowered their arms, but kept their backs straight, and allowed the cloth to rest on top of an object between them; three of them on one side, three on the other side. A whispered command was given by one of them, but Braden was unsure who it was, and the six instantly snapped to face the rest of their shipmates. Another command was given, and Braden noticed this time that it was one of the men in the rear of the six. In response, all of them marched through the center of the formations. As the heels of their boots met the metallic surface of the Kodiak bay, the tapping sound from earlier was revealed, as was their role.

Those six were the Vindicator’s honor guard; and they had just unfolding and rested a blue and white flag atop of a fallen soldier’s casket. To whom the casket belonged was no mystery. Dr. Porter had already given Braden the answer up in the medical bay. Though he could not see the flag’s emblem, he recognized the colors. His time aboard the Jon Grissam space station while, attending the Ascension Project as a biotic student, allowed him to become familiar with the Alliance.

How Operative Keown died, Braden did not know. But what was clear to him now was that he must have been a former member of the Alliance Navy; and Commander Titus was giving him the honor worthy of a soldier that had made the ultimate sacrifice. The commander himself seemed grimmer than the rest of his shipmates. His eyes were downcast, full of sorrow and guilt. The young teenager had spent enough of his life feeling the same emotions that it was easy for him to tell when others were experiencing them.

“Erik Keown,” the commander said aloud, lifting his head to face his crew. “A man. A soldier. A friend. He sacrificed himself so that we may continue to fight for our survival; for our freedom. I knew Erik; and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“It pains me that I must return an empty casket to his family; and even more so that I cannot tell them why. Because of the importance of our mission, and the oath we have sworn to secrecy, I cannot explain to them that Erik Keown’s body is slowly becoming a tool for our enemy to use. But I can tell them this: that his sacrifice will not have been made in vain. Cerberus will avenge Erik Keown; and the Reapers… they will pay for what they have done and what they’re doing.

“But we have a mission. And we all knew the risks of this mission. So did Operative Keown. So if we’re going to bring humanity’s wrath to our enemies, then we must first annihilate their Collector servants. So if you want revenge as much as I want it right now… then set your cross hairs on them. The crew of the SIC Titan, Erik Keown, and all of the innocent humans that have been taken from their homes – the women, children, infants – deserve to be avenged.

“So we carry on; and we’ll wait for the right moment to hit them with everything we’ve got. And when we do… we’ll make them hurt so much that their masters will feel it all the way out in dark space.”

There was silence in the room once again, and the Vindicator’s commander snapped to the position of attention with arms straight down to his sides. He held his chin high and in a one, loud command, yelled, “ATTENTION!” Upon the command, every man and woman in the formations before him snapped to the position of attention. Their boots, all in sync with one another, made a thundering echo throughout the entire bay. “CENTER! FACE!” Both of the formations snapped out a perfect facing movement, turning their bodies to face the opposite formation across the center aisle.

Braden repositioned to another end of the line of cargo crates for a better view. The tapping of the honor guards’ heels could be heard again, echoing down the aisle. When he finally found another spot, he watched as the six of them were already carrying Keown’s empty casket, still adorned with the Alliance flag, down the aisle. As it passed by the servicemen, each rank presented a very slow salute. It wasn’t fast, like a traditional salute, but the presentation of arms given to the fallen – raised six paces before the honor guard, and lowered six paces after. Gentle and humble, but honorable.

The casket was gently carried up a small ramp and into the passenger bay of an awaiting Kodiak. When the honor guard carefully lowered it onto the floor and secured the clamps that would hold the casket in place during flight, Commander Titus marched down the aisle, head held high. He continued on up the ramp until he was merely a foot away and looked down at the casket. Like the his crew behind him, the leader presented a slow salute, held it for several seconds while whispering inaudible words, and then lowered it.




“Titus,” the Illusive Man said, putting out a cigarette in his tray as the hologram of the Vindicator’s commander materialized before him on his projection pad, “I’ve just received word back from the Alliance. Keown’s belongings and casket have been safely received. No interruptions, no discrepancies. I’ve personally contacted his family, providing an explanation for what happened; however, if you still wish to send a personal message condolence yourself, I’m sure they would appreciate it.”

John nodded his head. “I was going to do that anyway, sir. It’s just… difficult, right now.”

The Illusive Man stood up from his seat and slowly walked forward to Titus’ hologram. “Take all the time you need, Commander. It might be best to let Erik’s loved ones have time to mourn first, anyway. It will only be easier for them to receive your message afterward.”

“I see.” Titus didn’t want to spend the entire conversation with his employer wallowing in sorrow; and the he was sure the Illusive Man didn’t want that either. He was still assigned to a mission, and it had to take priority, regardless of the situation. “The Vindicator is standing by for orders.”

“I'm not willing to put either you or the Call of Victory back up against the Collectors just yet; not after the hits both of you have taken. Omni Cell still needs time to recover, and besides, two of my best operatives aren’t even battle capable. Vala is still recovering from her surgery, and Jason is still in a coma. When he’ll wake up, no one knows. Thus, his second-in-command must learn how to take the reins of his ship and get used to it. She’s our contingency plan should Commander Horn fall any farther away from us.

“Instead, I’m splitting the Vindicator and the Call of Victory up again to complete some smaller assignments. While we’re analyzing Keown’s body as it progresses through the stages of becoming a husk, I want you two to focus on gathering back your strength. The Vindicator is now down a man, so I suggest you start with that. I’ve already taken the liberty of contacting a skilled combat engineer by the name of Stephen Valentine. He goes by the name "Sentry"; and will prove to be a valuable new member of your team.”

“Where do I find him?”

“He’ll be waiting for you at a refueling station in the Terminus. Go to the Chandrasekhar system; and dock at the station orbiting Hebat. Once you meet up with him, I’ll send a personal message to your terminal with your next assignment.”

Titus nodded, but before the Illusive Man cut the transmission, he held his finger over the kill button for a moment. “And Commander... you have my word that I’ll treat Erik’s body with the utmost respect.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The setting changes from lucrn to The Vindicator

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Stephen "Sentry" Valentine

0.00 INK

Titus sat behind his desk in the captain’s quarters and tapped the key on the side of his computer’s screen to bring up the haptic interfaces. An unread message was waiting for him in his secure inbox, indicated by a flashing icon in the corner of the desktop. He tapped the icon the screen flickered to show a message sent to him personally by the Illusive Man. This wasn’t entirely uncommon. Sometimes there was simply no need to use the communications room, especially if the mission wasn’t critically regarding the Collectors or Reapers. Sometimes Cerberus Command would stumble across issues that needed to be resolved with a more militant approach, rather than using their clandestine resources. That’s where Omni Cell came into play. While the Omni commanders were primarily focused on slowing down the Collectors, standard Cerberus missions could still be delegated to them; and if the details were sent from their employer personally, it had to be of some importance.

Titus:

As you may be well aware of by now, I’ve had a special package delivered to your frigate’s shuttle bay. The M-44 Hammerhead will assist you in your next mission.

Your friend, Captain Marcus Shire, has mobilized Aurora resources on Noveria, in the Attican Traverse. We’ve pinpointed their activity in a remote region on the ice planet, far from the controlling grip of the Noveria Development Corporation. Shire is believed to be investigating Cerberus involvement in the NDC, and if his suspicions are confirmed to be true, will proceed to launch an attack on their headquarters. Since Noveria is outside of Counsel space, an Alliance-sanctioned attack on the company would go unquestioned, if simply scrutinized.

Yes, we are involved in many of NDC’s projects, as we just so happen to be one of their larger financial supporters. In return, the company provides us with reliable, high technology. Some of the twenty four other technology corporations established on the independent planet are actually Cerberus front organizations.

Commander, if we allow Aurora to interfere in our operations on Noveria, the setbacks would be detrimental. Since you’re the one that attracted Aurora’s attention to us in the first place - and, no doubt, sparked what appears to be a need for revenge from Captain Shire – I’m assigning the Vindicator the sole task of driving them from the system. Use the Hammerhead to destroy their forward operating compound, as well as any and all heavy militarized equipment they’ve imported.

I’ve assigned the Call of Victory to their own mission involving the Blue Suns, so you won’t have any assistance from them during this ordeal. Take care, Titus, and be sure to let Shire know to never interfere with our business.


The commander closed out of the message and leaned back in his seat for a moment, smiling to himself. “It seems I’ve started a war. Nice.”




“Can I at least have the chance to breathe fir-!”

“Nope!” Lizzie insisted as she shoved another spoon of Braden’s dinner in his mouth. The turians joining them only chuckled. “You’ll eat and you’ll like it.”

“Yesh, muhm,” Braden mumbled as he chewed as the food and swallowed. His cheeks were red with embarrassment, but he couldn’t do a thing about it. He was stuck in that seat, being force-fed by his girlfriend in front of everyone in the mess hall, and all so he wouldn’t pass out again.

The stern figure of Commander Titus gliding across the mess hall in Lizzie’s background caught Braden’s attention. When she had brought another spoonful up to his mouth, his hand intercepted her wrist and gently lowered it. “I can feed myself, now,” he said. “Thanks.”

Lizzie grimaced, but silently sipped her coke. The two of them sat and ate their meals quietly for a long while before she finally spoke up. “Where’d you get the tags?” she asked, nodding to the dog tags hanging down on the outside of Braden’s black shirt.

The boy’s hand reached up and gently tightened around them. “They were my father’s,” he said, looking down and away from the rest of group. “Titus gave them to me.”

“The son of a soldier,” Villayn commented. “I’m sure he would be proud of what you’re doing, kid.”

A shadow suddenly loomed over the table and everyone glanced up to see the commander standing at the end, hands behind his back and shoulders broad. “Reynolds… You up for a mission?”




Sentry, Braden, and Titus stood inside the briefing room, watching as the distorted blue light around the Vindicator’s tower faded away when the frigate exited FTL speeds. The large blue and violet planet of Noveria dominated the view. Simply looking at it made the young man shiver; an icy cold tingle running up and down his spine.

“Noveria,” the commander said as he turned to face the hologram in the center of the conference table. It was a layout of a particular surface area dominated on one end by what appeared to be a large military compound. The other end was nothing but cliffs, ice, and snow. “The mission is simple. The Vindicator will drop into low orbit, using the dense cloud cover in the atmosphere for cover. Darcy will keep the stealth systems while you-” Titus pointed across the table to Sentry “-pilot the Hammerhead down to the surface from the shuttle bay. Once on the ground, hit ‘em hard. EDI’s scans haven’t detected any heavy armor yet, but don’t be surprised if you run across a Mako or two. If that’s the case, the Hammerhead can easily outmaneuver them; even get the drop on them… if you know what I mean. Your objective is simple: destroy any and all militarized equipment in sight.”

Sentry nodded, studying the holographic map. He then asked, looking to the teenager standing next to Titus, “One question: What’s up with the kid?”

“His name is Braden Reynolds, and he’s a biotic… the best in my book. The Hammerhead doesn’t have much room for an entire fire team dressed in full combat armor. Only Braden and you will be planet-side. I’ll be in the CIC with Operative Taylor coordinating as your handlers and battlefield operators. Mr. Reynolds is along for the ride to simply learn; but if you find yourself in a sticky situation, he can use his own talents to your advantage. He’s a quick learner; give him a chance.”

"You've got it, bossman. One thing, though: If he comes back in a box, don't come hunting for my head. You won't have to hunt very hard seeing as how I'll be in the next box over, but I frown very heavily upon corpse desecration."

“Noted,” Titus replied with a smirk that he couldn’t help. Even Braden found the man’s surprisingly facetious response to be amusing. “Alright. We drop in one hour. Both of you need to get ready.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: The Illusive Man

0.00 INK

"You need a haircut," Lizzie insisted with her fingers combing through the mess on Braden's head. The young teen only snickered and let out a chuckle of amusement as he watched her reflection massage his neck and shoulder muscles in one of the windows of his - or their, really - room's starboard windows.

Eventually, his gazed focused on his own reflection. He had matured greatly since joining the Vindicator; not just mentally, but physically as well. His chin and jaw line were becoming more distinct, as well as his muscular tone. The training with Captain Villayn and the frequent use of his biotics kept his body in shape. He was still small, but he felt great; and looked it. From time to time, however, it wasn't just his body that he would find himself admiring. While Lizzie herself hadn't changed much since they first met, her body was always attracting his wandering eyes. Her eyes and lips were gracefully cute, and the rest of her was... irresistible. Especially now that he was sitting down on the foot of the bed and she had risen up on her knees to press down on his shoulders. The tilt in the window had given him a cruel, teaing angle and perfect reflection of her womanhood.

"You're staring again," she whispered, making him blush and divert his eyes elsewhere. As if to torture him more, her hand reached down and slowly slid across his bare chest. When he felt her lips on his neck, he squirmed and laughed. It was foolish, but he couldn't help it. She started laughing too.

Braden pulled himself away, but only turn around and gently push Lizzie back onto the mattress. Every nerve in his body screamed out, and a tiny voice in the back of his head was trying to say that what he was doing was wrong. Yet his adolescence and sexual desires urged him to keep going. As Lizzie laid out straight on the covers, he crawled over her, bringing his chest close to her, feeling her breasts press into him when she breathed in.

"Braden...," she started, stopping the boy from kissing her at the last second. "What are we doing?"

The young teen pulled himself up enough to look at her with fresh eyes. She was concerned, perhaps even frightened; and as she should be. Braden quickly pushed back and away, nearly falling off the side of the bed. He was red with embarrassment, but also felt guilty and overwhelmed with fear. "I- God, I'm so sorry! I don't know what I was thinking! I just-"

He felt her hands over his shoulders a second later, stopping him before he could ramble. "Its okay," she cooed. "Its okay. We're not ready yet."

"Yet?" He turned to see Lizzie smiling out of his peripherals. She leaned in and pecked him on the corner of his lips.

"Yet," she promised.




The next morning seemed to drag. By the time Titus had made it to the helm, he was already sipping down a second cup of coffee; which was a rarity for him. At most, the commander would hardly finish one cup, preferring to take only a few sips and let the rest sit on the edge of the galaxy map all day until Operative Taylor insisted he toss the cup in the trash. Maybe the recent increase in stress was causing him to act differently, or perhaps he was beginning to feel older.

No, it wasn't age, he told himself. He had been one of the youngest soldiers to hold the rank of Captain in the Alliance. In Cerberus, he still held that same rank. “Commander" was simply a title to them, and it wouldn't change unless the Illusive Man hand picked him to be promoted to one of his esteemed generals.

The thought of Cerberus becoming its own army only disturbed him. They were supposed to be covert, but with how things were going, the Illusive Man was making them look like any other galactic fleet out there: generals and their troops, ships outfitted with thannix cannons, and entire space stations devoted to the research and development of weapons. How much longer until Titus left Cerberus like he left the Alliance?

"Something on your mind, Commander?" Darcy asked, glancing up at a gloomy Titus standing just over his shoulder.

"Just stuff that's better kept to one's self, Darcy," John replied.

A tone sounded from Darcy's haptic interface. "Look's like the boss wants to see you upstairs,” he said, tapping a key to acknowledge the notification. John silently nodded in response and spun around to hastily make his way back down the bridge and into the CIC. He past by the multitude of technicians and navigation experts, offering a nod in greeting to Taylor as she gazed over the galaxy map, and entered the elevator. Stretching his index finger out from its snugged position around the warm coffee cup, he pressed the command to take him up to deck one, and then took a final, long gulp of the miracle liquid. In the back of his mind, he prayed the Illusive Man had not read his thoughts light years away. The timing of this summoning was uncomfortable, if he were to say the least.

At the ping and opening of the elevator, John stepped out and headed straight forward into the conference room, only stopping for a single second to leave the near-empty coffee outside. Once inside, EDI, as usual, had begun closing the outer shutters to darken the circular room, and the table disappeared into the floor. The Man's familiar office materialized around John. Today's star an odd complexity of deep reds and a tint of violet. As usual, nothing about it was recognizable.

“Commander Titus,” the Illusive Man greeted, lighting a fresh cigarette. “You look a little tired. I hope your burning out too quickly. The threat hasn't gone away over a few weeks.”

Titus straightened himself out before replying, “Don't worry about me, sir. I'm willing and able for whatever task you have for the Vindicator next.”

The Man smiled after letting go of a stream of smoke. “That's what I like to hear.”

Before the conversation carried forward, a figure came into view next to John. The commander shot a surprised sideways glance to Terrance Sinclair. “Professor?”

“Commander,” Sinclair said in return before turning his attention to the Illusive Man. “Happy to report, sir, that Operative Buchan's nervous system has received the immunity to O-E without rejection; and her new L5x implants are operating as hoped. She'll be fit for duty again in no time.”

“Excellent news, Professor,” the Illusive Man said, well pleased.

Titus was lost. “O-E?”

“Omega-enkaphalin, Commander,” Sinclair explained. “It's a biotic-supression drug that was secretly developed by Cerberus in 2169; codenamed 'Project Trapdoor'.”

“I'm having all of our biotics undergo nanosurgery so their bodies can adopt an immunity to the drug,” the Man said. “I don't want our own weapon turned against us.”

Titus nodded his understanding. “I see. What about Serena Taylor, or Braden Reynolds? They're both biotics, and on my crew. Will they have to undergo the same surgery?”

Sinclair shook his head. “Operative Taylor received her immunity shortly before Sovereign's attack of the Citadel. Braden received his at the Ascension Project when they installed his amps and implants. Cerberus is making sure all of the human biotics trained at the Grissam academy are made immune to omega-enkaphalin as part of our agenda to advance our race's own biotic abilities.”

“Well put, Professor,” the Illusive Man commented. “Thank you for your report. You're dismissed.” Sinclair bowed and humbly stepped out of the three-dimensional conversation; leaving Titus and his employer alone to carry on.

“How much do you know about our history with the quarians, Commander?” the Man asked.

John smirked. “Enough to know that we royally pissed them off, recently. Something about a bomb and a girl from the Ascension Project. Grayson's doing, right? Before he went rogue?”

“Vaguely, yes. Since that incident, we've had trouble to inserting spies into the Migrant Fleet, and I'm rapidly running out of eyes and ears inside their flotilla. Their entire population is strictly quarian-only; so we have to rely on converting some of their own to be our agents; and that's not always easy. If they're still apart of the tight community that makes up their fleet, then they're usually loyal to the core. Quarians aren't ones to have loose lips these days. Any small thing that threatens the security of the Migrant Fleet sends them over the edge. Thus, our only viable option left is to infiltrate and install our bugs. But to do this, I need the best infiltrators we have. Unfortunately, Vala still needs time to recuperate; and I have Kai Leng on an important assignment of his own.”

Titus shrugged his shoulders, not quite understanding why the Illusive Man was going to him about this. The Vindicator had no other infiltrators that were capable of the mission. He was right about Vala still needing to recover after the surgery; and other than her, no one on his crew had the technical or strategic know-how to replace her. “So... what do you need me for?”

“The truth is, Commander, I don't. But within a few hours, I will. I'm dispatching another infiltrator to your crew. Like Vala, he deserves high praise from me. In fact, he's so skilled at his job that I have working as an inside man in an organization I believe you've recently discovered. Does the name 'Oracle' ring a bell?”

John's eyes widened and his mouth almost flew open. “Ugh... Yes; it does.” He then folded his arms across his chest. “But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that you know about my relationship with Sibyl Carson, that particular organization's director, now should I?”

The Illusive Man smiled and took another drag of his cigarette. “No,” he said while blowing out the smoke. “You shouldn't. The agent's name is Janis; Janis Freeman. He makes infiltration, sabotage, and assassination his profession; practically an art. Where Operative Leng performs with the grace of a magician; Operative Freeman dazzles with the charm of a politician. They're both cunning, deceptive, and highly skilled; but for this particular mission, Freeman's expertise is preferred.”

“So how shall I proceed with the mission once Janis is aboard my ship?”

“He's on his way now via another Cerberus frigate. Once he transfers under your command, I want you to travel to Omega. In the past, I had one our agents bargain with an exiled quarian to gain the secrets of boarding the Migrant Fleet. He taught us how its done: through the use of unique pass phrases. Unfortunately, he couldn't provide us with what was required. The pass phrases taught to him in particular had been black listed per his banishment from the flotilla. We had to torture a captured quarian for his phrases. One denotes an 'all secure' message; where the other is a duress phrase. This time, however, we've cut a deal with a quarian whose not banned, and he's willing to trade his phrases.”

“What was the deal?” Titus asked, looking sharp for the catch.

“The quarian's name is Jal'Ishtet nar Idenna. It just so happens that the Idenna is the particular vessel in the flotilla that I need bugs installed inside the most. In exchange for getting you on that ship, he's asking for a large amount of the drug Hallex. We're not entirely sure of the reason for this odd request. Perhaps that's something you and Janis can find out while talking with him; though I have a feeling its a simple drug triad business.”

“Anything else I should know?”

The Illusive Man stood up from his chair, holding his cigarette down to just above his waste line. “There is one other thing...,” he replied, taking a moment's pause as he considered his words. “I'm well aware of your last visit to Omega, and Braden's particular attempt at exacting revenge on his former slave master. While I'm not concerned about that in particular, I am concerned about the possible consequences that situation may have led to in regards to Aria T'Loak. I hope her seeing you again won't be problem, Commander.”

Titus placed his hands behind his back and straighted himself with the discipline of the soldier he was. “No, sir. I can assure you that Cerberus presence on Omega is of no concern to her right now. I managed to smooth things over when we last spoke.”

“I know you did, Titus. I'm just making sure you understand that Cerberus - I - can't afford to be on bad terms with her at the moment.”

“Understood, sir.”

The Illusive Man took a final drag of his cigarette. “Good.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Stephen "Sentry" Valentine Character Portrait: Sibyl Carson Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Jacob Torx Character Portrait: Connor DeMarco

0.00 INK

Mass Effect
On the Edge
Season 3


Image


Jonathan Titus carefully stood just before the middle of the three large glass windows of the observation deck on what Oracle called “the Lookout”; a space station developed in secret, and masked by the bulk of the Alliance’s Fifth Fleet guarding Earth. This lone station served no military purpose, nor a diplomatic one; it was simply an outpost and small intelligence hub. In essence, it was just another dot among Oracle’s vast network of secret locations all throughout the Milky Way.

As Titus looked out over Earth, far below the Lookout, he wondered about his crew; or former crew. For the past two months he had simply been Jonathan Titus: former Alliance, former Cerberus, and now a simple civilian under the careful watch and custody of Oracle and the Alliance. In a sense, he was a prisoner; and he was waiting for the results of his commutation hearing.

Though Sibyl had personally vouched for Titus and his crew, the commutation board would have to render their unbiased ruling. Which of them would be deemed worthy to return to active duty for the Alliance? Which of them would be let go but barred from service? And which of them would be faced with war crimes, terrorism, dereliction of duty (had they been former Alliance); or charged with treason, espionage, sabotage, or anything else the board could dig up?

Whatever a price Jonathan would be forced to pay, if he must, he would gladly do so. He had no fear of what might happen to him, but he did fear for the men and women that had served Cerberus under his leadership. He had never, not once, given them an order thought to be malicious, or unbefitting of a soldier’s honor. He could not count a single moment when any of his crew had committed a criminal act, or done something that would be considered heinous or a war crime; save for the fact that they worked for Cerberus. That alone had been the whole reason for the stripping of his rank, and the detention under Oracle supervision. That alone was what the commutation board was dealing with right now. Yes, they had worked for a terrorist organization, and had carried out orders personally handed down by the galaxy’s most feared villain. Yet, in the process, they had managed to hold onto their dignity, their humanity.

As Jonathan stood there, with hands buried in his trouser pockets, he thought of Darcy and his witty jokes. The man’s careless bravado had pulled his ass out of the fire more times than one; and always a laughable punch line ready when he flew the Vindicator in for a daring rescue. Jonathan also thought of Lance, and how much he has grown and come to understand that hatred is a means only to the end of a man himself. Then there was Serena, her grace and professionalism always providing a worthy second opinion to any situation. If it wasn’t for her, Jonathan would lack in both the strength and wisdom he had come to gain over his time with Cerberus. And Veronica; oh, Veronica… Since he had been confined to the Lookout, Jonathan has only seen her but a few times. The entire crew had been separated and still remained apart from one another. He longed to look into her eyes again, to feel her breath against his lips, to embrace her in his arms.

And what of the children, Braden and Elizabeth? Would they be tried as war criminals despite their young age? Or the turians, Villayn and his lieutenants? There was also Sentry, who had just come aboard their mission, eager and ready to do the galaxy some good by putting his solidified knowledge of tech and weapons up against Reaper forces. And Elizabeth’s mother, Nina, who had been with them since the mission to Hephaestus, working alongside Terrance on upgrading some of the Vindicator’s more advanced tech.

These men and women were far more than just Cerberus grunts carrying out galactic crimes. They were and still are dignified, caring, and good-hearted people. During his own commutation hearing, their commander spoke for every single one of them. There was not a name on the Vindicator’s roster that he had not personally known and he had not vouched for. When the board asked what he thought of himself… He replied, “Ask my crew.”

Then there was Dianna Henricksen. Before picking her up on Omega, Titus had no idea that Dianna was actually an escaped convict and fugitive murderer wanted by the Alliance. This had come at little surprise to Titus. After all, she wouldn't be the only murderer on the Vindicator crew. But how would she fair in her own commutation hearing? Would the Alliance lock her back up?

Footsteps approached and stopped just beside him. He recognized Sibyl out of his peripherals and sighed before asking, “Well? What’s the verdict?”

He refused to look at her face, worried that the expression would only disappoint him, or give him the wrong idea. So, instead, he waited for her reply, clenching his fists in his pockets.

“Well…,” Sibyl quietly began, crossing her arms and looking out of the window at Earth with the same gloomy stance as her longtime friend, “…you’ll need a new uniform. I’m thinking one of blue and gold?”

Titus’s head jerked a full ninety degrees, so fast that he barely noticed the numbing pop in his neck. “Seriously?!”

Sibyl opened a clinched fist and revealed a brass pin in her palm, the Alliance’s arching “A” emblem. “You, and every one of your crew, have been cleared of all charges and offered a place in Oracle. While you aren’t officially apart of any of the Alliance’s fleet, you are Alliance again, nonetheless. You’re just working for me now.”

“Everyone?” Titus asked, still finding it hard to believe.

“Everyone,” Sibyl confirmed, nodding with a smile. “The two children you brought along were definitely a matter of debate for the board. But in light of your ability to teach, control, and above all, protect them; they deemed it okay for the kids to remain under your custody and supervision. However, you’re not Cerberus anymore. And while Oracle may or may not have skirted the lines of galactic treatise, we cannot condone child soldiers. Braden Reynolds is to no longer be used as a military asset. Is that clear?”

“Crystal, ma’am,” Titus nodded.

“Good. Welcome back, Captain.” Sibyl moved gracefully around and started walking toward the opposite end of the room that she had entered from.

“Captain?” Titus inquired, hastening to catch up to her.

Sibyl, again, smiled at his surprise. “You heard me right, Captain. The board cleared you of charges and handed you over to me; so to me falls the decision of your rank. I’ve decided to give you back the rank you had on your previous tour with the Alliance. Besides, a cruiser is better suited for a captain than a commander.”

“Oracle has a cruiser?”

“I see we’ve got a lot of talking to do,” Sibyl jested. “Come. Let’s take a walk.”




“Officer on deck!” one of the servicemen yelled to the top of his lungs as Sibyl Carson and Captain Titus boarded the Marathon. They had exited one of the portside airlocks and walked straight into the cruiser’s bridge; where every man and woman that had been working diligently at their stations stopped to stand at attention. The serviceman who had announced their presence was rendering a stiff and disciplined salute. “Ma’am. Sir,” he said in greeting.

Sibyl returned a salute of her own and shouted, “Carry on!” The bridge’s occupants returned to their work immediately.

Titus noted that the Marathon’s bridge was much larger than the CIC on the Vindicator. Then again, this was a cruiser; and a bridge is more than just a Combat Information Center. It’s the entire administration department of the ship. Communications, navigation, mission control, and warfare suites are all monitored and manipulated on the bridge. The helm, which was built in just below the bridge’s main deck, was ahead and to the left of the airlock, down a small ramp. That’s where Sibyl and Titus were headed to now.

“Darcy!” Jonathan said out of excitement to see his trusted helmsman and friend seated at the primary control terminal in the center of the stretched-out deck.

The man, who never looked better in a pristine Alliance uniform, jumped from his chair and bear hugged Titus. “Forgive the insubordination, Captain, but it’s damn good to see you! I was sure they were going to can you and put you in shackles.”

“Come on, Darcy,” Titus said. “If a control freak like the Illusive Man can’t hold me down, who is there that can?”

“True that.”

Titus nodded to Darcy’s controls. “So how does the Marathon compare to the Vindicator?”

“Well it’s like comparing a dog to a cat. Bigger, badder, and definitely a lot meaner; but not as quick and agile. However, where the Marathon lacks in mobility, it makes up for in flexibility. We’ve got four hangar bays with fighters and interceptors always ready to dish out some quick and deadly striking power in case we run up against frigates. And get this: our fighters are armed with new Thanix missiles capable of ripping a giant hole in ships the size of the Vindicator. Someone’s got to be pretty ballsy to take us on.”

Titus smiled, but more in response to seeing how happy and enthusiastic Darcy was. The man hadn’t lost a bit of his humorous charm since putting on that blue and white uniform. The two finished up their conversation and Titus let Darcy continue with whatever he was doing before he got there, and Sibyl led the way back into the bridge.

“Captain,” the familiar voice of Serena Taylor said over Titus’ shoulder.

Titus whirled around to find Taylor smiling at him; a datapad held down at her side. Her blond hair had been tied back into a neat ponytail and kept up and off her shoulders and the collar of her Alliance uniform.

“Taylor,” Titus said with a smile. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Likewise,” she responded.

“So are you still my second in command?” he asked.

“What else would I be?” she asked with a grin.

“Well I’m sure Sib can always assign you to the mess hall,” Titus joked.

Taylor laughed and replied, “You know damn well I can’t cook. Oh and since the Alliance didn’t exactly have a rank for me, your friend, Miss Carson, pinned on a Staff Commander medal.”

“Commander Taylor,” Titus said, getting the feel of the rank and name. “Now that’s hot.”

As Sibyl and Titus continued their tour of the Marathon, Titus took the time to ask her a few questions regarding the ship itself.

“The frigate that picked me up on Omega was also named the Marathon. Does Oracle have two Marathons, or what?”

“Correct,” Sib said. “The frigate is named after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, and the cruiser is named after the same city. Greek-Athenian history. The frigate uses the same stealth technology that the Normandy SR had. We tried to find ways to apply the same tech to a cruiser, but as it just happens, that’s a little out of our technological league right. But we haven’t given up on the idea. We wanted to give you the cruiser, rather than the frigate, because we’re well aware that the Illusive Man has several of his cronies looking for you right now and the extra muscle will help.”

“Thanks,” Titus mumbled, unsure just how eager Invaru and Ross must be to get their hands on him.

“All of your fighters, interceptors, and Kodiak shuttles are equipped with stealth tech, though. So don’t worry, you can still get the drop on your enemies planetside.”

“How many other ships does Oracle have?”

“Militarized ships? That’s it. One frigate, one cruiser; both named the Marathon. We have several recon frigates, but they aren’t built for combat and have only defensive weapon systems. If Oracle ever needs to use any heavy hitters, we call up Aurora.”

“The Aurora Initiative?” Titus stopped in the middle of the corridor they were walking through. “I remember running into them a couple of times.”

Sibyl stopped and turned to face her friend. “Yes; and I’m sorry about that, Jonathan. You’ll be pleased to know that I personally insured Captain Shire was replaced as the director of the Aurora Initiative.”

“Who’s in charge of it now?”

Sibyl grinned. “You’ll see soon enough.”

The ship was noticeably darker than the lighter, utilitarian environment of a Cerberus vessel. While the chrome and osmium was still there, as reflective and brilliant as ever, the corridors and main areas of the decks were kept in low light. This was typical of most Alliance warships. Even though a cruiser had enough power to light a city, much of that energy was reserved for emergency situations; thus non-essential systems, including unnecessary lights, were only used when they were actually needed.

The Marathon was comprised of ten decks and was currently home to two hundred and fifty souls. Not surprisingly, however, the decks weren’t all that crowded. With ten of them, more than twice the space the Vindicator had, there was plenty of room for the marines and servicemen to move about unhindered and not feel cramped.

The first deck was the bridge, helm, primary QEC chamber, and the Captain’s Quarters. Sibyl and Titus were now traversing the fifth deck, which held two of the enlisted ranks quarters, the gymnasium, lounge, mess hall, and an observation deck on each side of the ship.

Titus had to admit, he was greatly impressed with the Marathon. It had a bolstering amount of resources that rivaled Cerberus cruisers, and the technological upgrades that Oracle had installed made it a finally cut gem. The more he toured the ship, the wider his smile became and the more excited he was to be back in an Alliance uniform. As he moved throughout the decks and their corridors, he saw familiar faces. Veronica was as happy as ever to kiss him and whisper devious plans for the night in his ear; and the turian trio went out of their way to actually smile and slug his shoulder (all three of them). Lance, of course, was already talking up an egotistical storm about how he made his “new uniform shit look good”; and the timid Braden Reynolds grappled onto Titus’ torso without shame. Sentry wouldn’t shut up about all the new toys he’s able to play with now in the armory on deck seven; and Dianna set aside her moodiness long enough to actually nod in Titus’ direction.

Dianna simply being there meant good news. But curious as to why, Titus asked Sibyl, "Mind if I ask how Miss Henricksen survived her hearing?"

"She never had one," was all that Sibyl replied with. The neutral tone and obvious unwillingness to carry that conversation forward let Titus know that, that was all he needed to know. Besides, it wouldn't really surprise him too much if Oracle had other blacklisted or disavowed assets working for them.

Now on deck seven, Titus and Sibyl had just left the armory and were headed towards the hangar bays. Before they arrived, however, Sibyl took a detour and headed in a completely different direction. Titus noted that the sign on the bulkhead read “Training Chambers” next to the arrow pointed to wear Sibyl was heading for.

“What am I going to find down here?” Titus asked as they passed through the opening blast doors and into a large white chamber in the shape of a giant box. The lighting in the room was practically blinding compared to the darker environment of the rest of the ship and Titus’ eyes had to take a second or two to adjust.

When he could see clearly again, there was a man standing ahead of them wearing a black tank top, cargo pants, and combat boots. Sweat dripped down his face and forehead as he concentrated on the cushion-clad opponent before him. The two were holding what appeared to be katana.

“What in the…” Titus began.

“Captain, I’m sure you remember Agent Harrison,” Sibyl said, gesturing an open hand to the man in the tank top, who was now lashing out skillfully at his training opponent. The suited man deflected the swipes with ease, but Harrison used his free hand and struck his opponent with what Titus instantly recognized as a biotic push. The tell-tale violet hue and electric pulses were unmistakable.

“So he’s a spy, a ninja, and a biotic?”

“Agent Harrison,” Sibyl replied, “is one of the first recruits of a new initiative Oracle is heading off. You and I both know from experience in the field that the N7 program needs more than just muscle nowadays. It needs flexibility, ingenuity, and variety. I’m making sure they get that, and I’ll be the one to deliver. The recruits aren’t ready yet, but someday soon… they will be. You should see some of the other specialists we’re training up. Biotic ninja spies are only the beginning.” She finished her last sentence with a smirk.

Harrison relaxed his katana and walked over to where Carson and Titus were standing. “Sir,” he said, and offered a salute after transitioning the sword to his left hand. After the Captain returned his own salute, Harrison said, “If I may, it’s an honor to be serving under your command. I’ve read your dossier and you had quite the reputation in the N7 before you left. Even all the stuff you did when you worked with Cerberus is commendable.”

Titus never got to see the face agent that saved his life since he had never removed his visor, but now that he was looking the man in his brown eyes, he was quite surprised to see how young Harrison was. The first words out of his mouth were, “How old are you, kid?”

“Twenty, sir,” he instantly replied.

“You weren’t much older when you started hitting your stride, Jonathan,” Sibyl reminded. “Adam, here, in more ways than one, is a lot like you.”

“Adam, huh?” Titus extended an open hand and the young man took it with a firm shake. “Glad to have you on the team.”

“Glad to be here,” he replied. Adam’s handshake was relaxed, loose; the sign of a very timid young man. His physique was average, but that was typical of most biotics since it was hard to gain a lot of muscle when they constantly burned anything they ate within a matter of a few hours. His smile was wide, eyes soft, and his short brown hair a slight mess. He looked as though he should be in college, rather than be an N7 marine with a damn sword.




Braden’s room wasn’t as spacious as the one he had on the Vindicator, but it did come with more shelf space for personal effects, a bookcase filled with an assortment of novels for teens (courtesy of Sibyl Carson), and a private bathroom. The bathroom had to be the one thing that the boy was most thankful for, as Cerberus vessels hardly account for dependents of crew members to be aboard, especially minors. Braden had to take care of business in the latrine aboard the Vindicator like everyone else, but had to time his showers carefully, with an officer standing outside to hold off anyone until he was done; per Titus’ strict orders.

The room was still an officer’s quarters, however, and so he had the luxury of a double-windowed view of the galaxy, perfect ambient lighting for relaxation, carpeting soothing to tired feet, and cushioned furniture that one could fall asleep on instantaneously. Another accommodation that his new room had, that the one on the Vindicator didn’t, was a music system with hidden speakers in every wall.

Braden approached the small haptic interface on the wall that controlled his sound system and surfed through the many different tracks until he found a title that seemed familiar. When he pressed the play command, the speakers allowed the music to slowly fade in. He instantly recognized the opening beats and strings of the new age track and his mind raced back to his days on Omega. He remembered the song as one of many popular hits that entertained the various drug-induced, alcohol-poisoned, patron scum of Afterlife. In an instant, he was lost in painful memories.

“Who’s this?” one of Gavin’s clients asked. The constant flashing of red and orange club lights distorted the human’s facial expressions, but Braden knew the man was grinning by the malicious sound of his voice.

Gavin’s calloused hand tightened over Braden’s shoulder, sparking pain from a very recently inflicted wound, and barked, “Not for sale.”

“Is he at least available for rent?” the human asked, waving a credit chit in the air, further impressing the two asari glued to either side of him at his VIP booth.

Gavin’s silence meant that he was considering the offer, probably debating a price. Braden actually prayed that he would accept. One night, that’s all he asked for; one night to get away from his batarian owner. He wouldn’t technically be free, probably ever, but it would at least [i]feel
like freedom. Anything was better than being Gavin’s chikolah.

“Two thousand credits,” Gavin demanded. Braden’s hopes were instantly slashed to pieces. Two thousand was a steep price to pay for one night. Gavin always informed the client of his prices based on a nightly fee. The poor boy just knew that the human would refuse to pay that much for him. But yet, he still tried.

“Fifteen,” the human bartered.

“Nineteen,” Gavin countered.

“Make it seventeen, and I’ll buy some of your dust, too.” Braden was shocked. Whoever this man was, he wasn’t going to walk away without a fight. There was still hope after all.

“Fine,” Gavin grunted, shoving Braden so hard and so fast that he flopped over the table, knocking over one of the asari’s drinks. “Don’t be so clumsy, you idiot boy!” Gavin shouted, showing that, even though he was renting out his most prized possession, he still held authority over him. He then said to the human, “One night. That’s it. And the dust will be a thousand; or are you going to try and barter with me on that?”

“Of course not, my friend,” the man said. “And I’ll be sure to return the kid in pristine condition.”[/i]

Lizzie’s knocking dragged Braden back out of his horrible past. She was standing in his doorway, leaning partially inside; a gleeful smile on her face. But that smile quickly faded when she saw her boyfriend trying to fake one of his own. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Uhm, nothing,” Braden stuttered, instantly turning away to hide the tears welling up in his eyes. His free hand shot up to the interface to cut off the music, but before he could return it to his side, he felt Lizzie’s delicate fingers catch his wrist.

“Hey,” she said, her whispering voice soothing to his ears. “You can tell me.”

“You’d never understand.” As much as he hated to say that to her, he knew he was right. How would anyone ever know what he went through without having gone through the same torment themselves? How does one tell another that they were a slave; bidded on, used and abused over and over. He was nothing but a toy to sadistic psychopaths, drunkards, and drug addicts. He was a ruthless batarian’s pet and personal property.

“Maybe not,” Lizzie replied. “But you can still talk to me about it. I’m always willing to listen to you, no matter what or when.” Elizabeth’s hand tightened around Braden’s and they stood there for a moment, together in silence.

“Okay,” the boy finally said.




With the targeting reticule lined up for a perfect headshot, Villayn carefully squeezed his talon back on the Viper’s trigger until he felt the recoil of the round firing off and the subtle discharge ringing throughout the long range shooting gallery. Azuric remained peering down the rifle’s scope to observe the headshot in the target’s human-shaped silhouette.

“Very nice,” Sentry’s voice commented over the range’s intercom, coming from the safety of the control room behind Villayn. “Keep that up and you’ll be able to knock out one target per minute.”

“It would be easier for me to concentrate without the sarcasm,” the captain quipped. “Besides, perfect precision shots like that require patience. Something I doubt a loose-cannon like yourself would understand.”

Villayn heard Sentry’s happy chuckle before the armorer replied, “Is that a challenge?”

“Please,” Azuric said. “Don’t be so foolish. A turian can out-shoot a human any day.”

“Someone’s cocky.”

The hissing of the blast doors at the back of the gallery caught Villayn’s attention and he turned his head to see Darak walking inside. Thumbing a talon over his shoulder, the lieutenant said, “Have you checked out the gym yet? Two whole stories. Pretty nice.” Darak stopped next to Villayn and turned to look down the range at his captain’s target. After shrugging his shoulders he said, “Good, but... not your best.”

Sentry started balling in laughter over the intercom as Villayn leaned back, appearing to be visibly insulted his lieutenant’s observation. But he soon dropped the act and said, “I admit, maybe I’ve lost my touch after two months of not being allowed to handle a weapon. I didn’t think the Alliance would actually hold us in custody along with the rest of Titus’ crew. Not until the hierarchy officially gave us the cold shoulder, anyway.”

“Yes, but it was definitely for the best, sir,” Darak reminded him. “I much prefer what we’re doing now anyway.”




The main conference room on the Marathon was a lot larger than the one on the Vindicator, though not as dramatically perplexing; that is, it didn’t have a giant half-dome that looked out into the depths of space. Instead, it was enclosed by in an oval of glass, where the walls of the corridor wrapping around the outside had several mounted paintings from the late 21st century, a few more recent masterpieces; all of which were of a contemporary style. The glass surrounding the conference room doubled as both a sound barrier and a cradle for several screens of information. White lighting kept the area brightly lit, a nice contrast from the rest of the ship.

Captain Titus was seated at the head of the oval table, with many other faces, some new and some familiar, occupying the other seats. Titus held a blue datapad in his hand and quietly scanned through the briefs of each person at the table. After taking a moment to collect his thoughts, he placed the datapad on the surface of the black, marble-top table, leaned back in his chair, and said, “Well. It will definitely take me some time to memorize each of your names, but no more than a few days, tops. Anyway, let’s move on to the first order of business; which will be the cooperation between the ex-Cerberus personnel that served with me before and now, and the have-been Alliance personnel also serving aboard this ship. I want to make this perfectly clear: we are all in this fight together, through thick and thin. If anyone has a problem working with another individual aboard this ship, they are expected to speak up to their supervisor... with the proper paperwork in hand requesting a transfer to a new assignment. I have a very low tolerance for childish bickering.

“Now that I’ve made myself clear on that issue; let’s move on to something lighter. Security, for instance.” Titus looked down the table towards a man with strikingly white hair and a matching beard. Though his hair would make one assume the man is ready for retirement, he was enjoying a good stride in his mid thirties. “Staff Lieutenant Torx,” the Captain addressed.

“Sir.”

“How strong is your unit?”

As if expecting the question right from the start, the Marathon’s Chief of Security Operations replied with a slight Texan accent, “Twenty are ‘round-the-clock security specialists, Captain. They operate on rotating shifts. The rest of the one hundred and twenty-five marines aboard the Marathon are all capable of performing security tasks should we be boarded.”

“Sounds good.” Titus looked down one seat toward Sentry. “Weapons count, Sentry?”

With a smile, the armorer replied, “I’ve got 200 Avengers, 75 Mattocks, 20 Mantises and Vipers, 100 M-77’s, 100 Katanas - er, the shotgun kind, not the fancy sword kind that boy-wonder has.” Sentry nodded in Harrison’s direction, who was sitting right across from him. Adam only rolled his eyes and Sentry continued from where he left off. “200 Predators, 50 Phalanxes, and... well, a whole shit ton of other goodies. I even have a few Argus assault rifles down there.”

“So we have enough to start a Second Contact War,” Titus mused. “Good.”

Titus’s eyes moved to the opposite side of the table and he scanned down until he found a young first class serviceman with dark brown hair and a not-quite-five o’clock shadow. He had to be as young as Adam by the looks of it. “Connor... DeMarco, was it?”

The young serviceman nervously straightened his posture in his chair and stammered out a quick “Yes, sir!”

“Don’t be so skittish, kid,” Titus remarked. “You’re my comm specialist, correct?”

“That’s correct, sir. I monitor all in- and out-bound tactical communiques, maintain the QECs and Prophet’s connection, and I’m also your primary handler in the field.”

“And off the field?” Harrison asked aloud, looking right at Connor.

Everyone in the room found themselves glancing back and forth between the two men, wondering just what in the world Harrison was referring to, especially when Connor's blushing red face started to contrast with the white and blue of his uniform.

“Okay...,” Titus said, finally halting the awkward moment. “Well, DeMarco, welcome to the team. Moving on...”

[Begin playing Infinite, Immortal - from Fired Earth Music]

By the time Titus had briefly learned the job of everyone in the conference room, his heavy eyes beckoned sleep and he decided it was time to wrap up their little meet n’ greet. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, standing up from his seat, “this mission is not going to be an easy one. Our goals are many, and diverse. Cerberus is hell-bent on ensuring that I’m dead, and Oracle is buried. The Collectors are going to continue to try and abduct unsuspecting humans from fringe colonies. And, hell, I’m sure the Shadow Broker is planning on making a few plays, himself. But no matter who our enemy is, or what they throw at us, or how long we must travel the stars; nothing can stop us as long as we stick together. Lives are counting on our success, people. Let’s not let them down. Dismissed.”




"Are you ready, Captain?" Commander Taylor asked as Titus walked up to stand beside her at the galaxy map. "Way-points plotted and uploaded to the helm. Waiting on Alliance Naval Traffic Control to give us the green light."

Titus smiled and he held his shoulders back, taking in a deep breath as he glanced around the bridge. All eyes were now on him. Everyone had stopped what they were doing, waiting for the go-order from both the traffic controllers and Titus himself. Far ahead at the helm, Titus could see Darcy turning around in his seat to also join in on the dramatic stare, silhouetted by the full magnificent glow of Earth far below them all.

The speakers in the ceiling above crackled and a male's voice echoed through the bridge. "A-N-T-C to Marathon, standby for green light."

This was it.

Thirty seconds later, the voice came back. "A-N-T-C to Marathon, you are green in three.... two.... one. Clear to leave station. ... Good luck, Marathon."

Titus opened his mouth, but paused momentarily to savor this moment. It's not everyday you get launch off on a new mission with a new ship and new crew members. When he was ready, and when everyone had just about had enough of hanging onto the edge of their seats to hear the few simple words, the Captain bellowed, "You heard the man! Darcy! Put us on course to the Sol Relay!"

"Aye-Aye, Captain!" Darcy yelled back over the deafening sound of applause that filled the entirety of the command deck.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Stephen "Sentry" Valentine Character Portrait: Jacob Torx Character Portrait: Jason Trox Character Portrait: Connor DeMarco

0.00 INK

Damn I look like my grandfather.” Jacob Trox muttered with his light Texan accent, as he starred deeply into the small mirror in his quarters. He kept stroking a palm through his thin hair white hair atop his head. He had been grey for a long time, though he was only in his thirties, but it was always covered up by his hat so the only hint of age you could see was the short white beard that sat on his chin like a mass of cotton on his face. Why did you have to go grey early dad you rat bastard , he thought silently to himself. He stopped fiddling with his old mans hair, before he decided to hang himself from depression. He instead began to depress himself with the attire that was forced upon him by the alliance. It wasn’t that he disliked looking official, he just disliked the lack of comfort that came with looking official. The clothing was always too loose in places you didn’t need it, and too tight in places you did. He sighed deeply to himself “Now I remember why I hated being a cop.”

He stepped away from the mirror and strode his way over to the bed that sat in the middle of the dimly quarters. As he did he admired the stirrups, saddles, and pictures of his him state of Texas that flanked the walls around the bed. They might have told him he can’t wear dusters or cowboy hats, but damn it he was going to bring some decoration for his room. He reached under the bed and retrieved a large metallic box that had been delivered to him just the other day by an Alliance requisitions officer. He set the box atop his bed and pressed the open button onto of its lid. The box made a smooth metallic grinding sound as the lid split into two separate sections that slid to either side of the box, revealing a set of armor and a large 1940s style wooden baton. “Perfect” Jacob grinned as he looked as his delivery. He picked up the chest plate that shinned like a diamond in the dim light of his quarters, across the right side of the chest plate it read “Military Police” and on the left, just above heart level, was an alliance emblem. The armor was split into separate sections, unlike the average set of military armor.

He ran his hand over the smooth grey metal of the chest armor, past the white lettering and the two dark blue lines that ran vertically down its center. He puffed some air, never thought I’d be a flat foot again , he thought to himself. He turned the armor around and looked at the large white lettering that read POLICE [/i] before slipping the armor over his head. After a few moments of fiddling with it’s positioning, he finally pressed the back and front halves together, making a sharp clank as the two linked together through the magnets hidden within its kinetically protected plates. He grabbed the rest of the armor, which consisted of elbow, forearm, shin, knee and fist guards, and strapped them on. Still uncomfortable as hell , he thought as he moved to the mirror to check that everything was in order. Yep, just as he thought, he looked exactly like a cop again, felt just as uncomfortable as one too. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, 20th century, tin Texas Ranger badge and looked at it with a sympathetic stare “At least I don’t have to wear that damn built that you did.” He said to the badge as if it were a person in the room with him.

He looked at the time displayed on the holographic clock next to his bed; it was almost time for his new boss’s group therapy session. He walked back to the box, grabbed the baton then hooked it to his built with the magnet implanted within the oak wood. Call him old fashioned, but he preferred a nice solid object to the fancy electronic batons they used today. He tried to get a stun gun, but the Requisitions officer said that he didn’t have a license for any company that sold them. Oh well he thought as he patted his giant wooden stick this would get the job done . He grabbed his pistol and attached it to his side as he walked towards the door, which he had hung a steer skull above. The doors slid open with a rush of chilled air that shook Jacob to his bones. He walked out into the dimly lit hall; the Marathon was so dark all the damn time. He didn’t like it, made him strain his eyes to see down the hall which just plain out pissed him off. He looked back at his quarters, at least I have my own room he thought as the doors slid shut.

He continued down the hall past countless barracks and quarters, all full of people he didn’t, or just barely, knew. He wasn’t sure if he would care to know them really, all these career alliance types were so prim and proper all the damn time made him a little sick to his stomach. Maybe he should have just turned down the offer and stuck to his own business out in the terminus systems. But the money was good, he smiled as he reached into his left side pocket and took out a small flask decorated with engravings of Asari, it let him afford some great hooch. He unscrewed the top and took a swig, “Yeah, that’s the stuff.” He whispered to himself as he replaced the cap and shoved back into his pocket. He continued down the shiny halls, past uptight marines and other crew members, before stopping at a door before the elevator leading that would take him to the deck where the boss had requested his presence. Oh what was that guys name again? Typo? Titanic? Tidies? Tummy Tickler? He didn’t remember but it was something like that. He knocked on the door

“Jason, you still in there?” he called out to the occupant of the room

“Yeah, what’s it too you?” Jason growled through the door

Jacob glared through the door “Don’t you use that tone with me boy, or I’ll come in there and whoop your ass!” he snarled

“Hmmm” Jason answered unconvincingly

“Get out here and met some of the other kids, I here they are somewhere around here.” He ordered

“I don’t want to meet the other kids, probably just a bunch of dumbasses.” Yep, he was his father’s son alright, that’s what worried him. He needed to get more social; even if he refused to talk to Jacob like a human he needed some interaction.

“Just do it, son or I’ll hogtie you and hang you from the hull!” Jacob snapped, this time there was no reply. That boy is going to be the death of me he thought as he headed for the elevator and started his way to the deck containing the conference room.

Jacob strutted into the conference room, his foot long baton knocking against his left leg guard, resting his right arm on his pistol like some sheriff from a Wild West movie. He was the last one too, that was never good. He must have heard the time wrong. Oh well, he saw that Commander Tummy Tickler, or whatever his name was, sat at the front of the table. The reason he could see him was thanks to the fact that this part of the ship actually had enough light to see your own hand in front of your face. The glass around the room acted like computer screens and lightly reflected the figures at the conference table. What a rag tag bunch they were. Commander, Tummy Tickler was scanning each of them over with his eyes and studying a small data pad, when suddenly he stopped, leaned back and began.

“Well. It will definitely take me some time to memorize each of your names, but no more than a few days, tops. Anyway, let’s move on to the first order of business; which will be the cooperation between the ex-Cerberus personnel that served with me before and now, and the have-been Alliance personnel also serving aboard this ship. I want to make this perfectly clear: we are all in this fight together, through thick and thin. If anyone has a problem working with another individual aboard this ship, they are expected to speak up to their supervisor... with the proper paperwork in hand requesting a transfer to a new assignment. I have a very low tolerance for childish bickering.” Sir, yes sir, Jacob said in a stereotypical marine voice within his own head.

“Now that I’ve made myself clear on that issue; let’s move on to something lighter. Security, for instance.” Captain, Tummy Tickler said. Jacob was already running through a series of questions he might ask in his mind. He wanted to make himself look good, and then he might get some slack around here and get some more Red Giant, Whiskey and Asari made cigars from Thessia when his supply ran short. “Staff Lieutenant Torx,” The boss addressed him by name and rank. Jacob couldn’t lie, being he was basically a gun for higher he couldn’t complain about the high rank they gave him.

“Sir.” Jacob responded, resisting the urge to call him Tummy Tickler

“How strong is your unit?” The captain inquired. Really that was it? Lighter then he had hoped and too uptight for his liking. He wanted men who were strictly disciplined but didn’t feel the need to point out every break of protocol.

“Twenty are ‘round the clock security specialists, Captain.” Tummy Tickler he thought to himself, fighting not to burst out laughing as he continued “They operate on rotating shifts. The rest of the one hundred and twenty-five marines aboard the Marathon are all capable of performing security tasks should we be boarded.” He had ordered that the security specialists paint over the words on their armor that read [b] SECURITY
and replace it with the big bold POLICE instead. In his experience security was somebody you feared would call the cops, but police you feared because you knew they would tack direct action and put foot to ass. Fear commands respect, men may hate us, but we do not ask for their love…only their fear.” He quoted Erwin Rommel from the 20th century. Probably a little harsh considering police are there to protect the people, but only two things command respect in this universe. Politeness and fear, and criminals didn’t respect politeness so obviously the latter was the only option. That was Jacob’s opinion.

“Sounds good.” Titus looked down one seat toward Sentry. “Weapons count, Sentry?” He addressed another man in the room. The guy looked like an asshole to Jacob, but hey if he did his job and stayed out of his way he could care less. Jacob kind of tuned out the weapons count since he already knew it for security purposes, but he did partially take notice when Captain called upon a boy by the name of Connor. The boy shot up straight like he had just seen a group of Asari strippers walk by “Yes, sir?” replied. This kid was new, he could tell. Probably nineteen or twenty, he was going to get on Jacobs nerves with all this nervous high and tight shit. Maybe he was just in a bad mood today; he needed a long drinking session. The kid blabbed his mouth for a bit, and Jacob just thought about the long drink he would have after this damn meeting….

*******

Jason opened the door into the dimly lit hallway; it was a nice change from the usual blinding lights of the Citadel. He stoked a hand through his short blonde hair and moved to the elevator. He pressed the button for a random deck; he had been locked away in his room since he got here, so it was time to take a look around. The door opened and he found himself starring right at a mess hall. Oh yeah baby, jack pot, just what he was looking for. He made his way over to the service section of the hall, ducking and weaving through tables and chairs, and grabbed himself a glass of water and a roll before continuing on his tour. This place was pretty amazing, the dim lights, the soldiers, and it was a lot less crowded then the Citadel where you bumped into some alien every step you took. Arm room was always a luxury for him on the Citadel, at least when he snuck out of the house. His uncle never let him go places, so that was another plus about being on this ship. No C-SEC uncle to tell him where he couldn’t go or what he couldn’t do, his father didn’t give a rat’s ass about him and the Marines just ignored him for the most part so he could do whatever he wanted.

He made his way down halls, and went from deck to deck trying to find something to keep his attention. Finally he found something that got his attention, a young blonde standing in the doorway to a room. He grinned to himself hubba, hubba, I knew this place had to have some kind of fun. he strode his way over like he was some smooth cat and stepped up right behind her.

“Maybe not,” The girl said to some guy inside the room. He looked like he was going to break down and cry or something. Huh, and this chick must have been into him. “But you can still talk to me about it. I’m always willing to listen to you, no matter what or when.” Seriously? Jason thought as the girl took the boys hand.

“Okay.” The boy replied. Seriously? This guy and her?

“Well hello there.” Jason said with a self righteous smirk on his face.

The girl turned around and faced Jason “Oh…hello, I didn’t see you there. Who are you?” she asked, with a slight irritation in her voice. The guy just glared at him from behind her like he had just come over and punched a baby in the face.
“Names Jason Trox.” He replied with a grin “And who are you lovely girl” he asked with arrogance overflowing in his words.

“Lizzie.” She answered “And this is Braden.” Branden huh? He looked like a push over. But, Jason thought that about everybody, who wasn’t him.

“Nice to meet you Lizzie” he said, totally ignoring Braden “Want to go somewhere and talk a little?” he said with so much self pride that it stunk.

Lizzie gave him a dirty look “If you don’t mind we are busy.” She snarled as she walked inside the room with Braden and closed the door in Jason’s face. Fine then, kind of an uppity chick wasn’t she? He grinned, in time he thought. He turned and walked for the elevator, maybe he would go find the pilot. Jason had heard he was some good fun.

*****

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Captain, Tummy Tickler said, standing up from his seat, “this mission is not going to be an easy one. Our goals are many, and diverse. Cerberus is hell-bent on ensuring that I’m dead, and Oracle is buried. The Collectors are going to continue to try and abduct unsuspecting humans from fringe colonies. And, hell, I’m sure the Shadow Broker is planning on making a few plays, himself. But no matter who our enemy is, or what they throw at us, or how long we must travel the stars; nothing can stop us as long as we stick together. Lives are counting on our success, people. Let’s not let them down. Dismissed.” Oh great, he was one of those “inspirational” bosses. He was going to be one of those people who would make an inspirational speech on bowl movements if people could listen to it. He could just see it coming. Just like the Chief at the Police Department he worked at when he was in his early twenties.

He stood up and exited the room as fast as he could; he needed a stiff drink after that long and grueling waste of time. He made his way to the elevator with a purpose behind his steps and slammed on the button to take him to the deck containing his quarters. As soon as the doors closed he took his flask out and began to chug the last bit of Red Giant whiskey he had filled it with. That was the good stuff. Once the doors opened he shoved the flask back into his pocket and walked over to his son’s door and knocked.

“You still in there Jason?” there was no answer. “Jason?” He called again, but still no answer. That meant he either listened or he wasn’t talking to him yet again. Ever since he had gotten him from his brother on the Citadel, the kid hadn’t treated him like his father. Oh well, eventually he would come around, but right now it was drinking time. Jacob strode his way over to his quarters, opened the door and locked it tight behind him. He threw off his gear onto the bed, then made his way to his cabinet and opened the bottom drawer. In it was a safe with a fingerprint code and number code lock. He punched in the numbers 73301 the zip code for his home town of Austin, Texas. He then placed his thumb on the fingerprint scanner and the safe made a loud clank as it unlocked. Inside was a small box of “ Thessia Premium grade cigars those were for a special occasion, so he instead took a larger box marked “ Matriarch Zeena’s finest ” another good Asari made cigar, but nowhere the grade of the Thessia Premium. He took a cigar, then stuck the box back into the safe and locked it. He then made his way over to a small liquor cabinet next to his bed and took out one of his four bottles of Red Giant Whiskey, moving aside a bottle of Serrice Ice, Whiskey yet another special occasion item, and grabbed a glass, then poured himself a shot. He lit up his cigar with a lighter he kept inside a drawer at the top of the liquor cabinet and began his night of drinking. Soon he would be drunk enough to take out that data pad in the drawer with his lighter…and relive those painful memories.

The intercom in his quarters soon sparked to life and a male voice came through "A-N-T-C to Marathon, standby for green light." here we go Jacob thought “A-N-T-C to Marathon, you are green in three.... two.... one. Clear to leave station. ... Good luck, Marathon."

There was a moment of silence before Captain, Tummy Ticklers voice cracked over the intercom "You heard the man! Darcy! Put us on course to the Sol Relay!"

“Aye-Aye Captain” the pilots voice replied back.

Jacob raised his glass in the air “Yippee-ki-yay” he whispered under his breath, as the ship sped off for the SOL relay.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Jacob Torx Character Portrait: Jason Trox

0.00 INK

“Attention crew, the Marathon has docked” a crackly voice boomed and threw Jacob out of an uneasy, alcohol induced slumber. He looked at his ceiling, right into to the lights that were as harsh to his eyes as looking straight at a sun. His head was pounding like a baby Thresher Maw was digging around his brain. His inebriation had worn off, and now the hours of post drinking fun was about to begin. Jacob slowly sat up on the bed, and as he did his data pad fell off his chest and onto the floor. He looked at it blankly for a few moments before what had happened registered in his mind. Jacob rubbed his eyes, then bent over and grabbed the data pad with a slight groan. He flipped it over to reveal the image of beautiful young blonde women, wearing a gorgeous smile along with an amazing white dress. The picture would have brought a feeling of warmth to most, but to Jacob it brought only anger and pain. He quickly threw the pad back into the drawer and slammed it shut, the drink would give him the courage to look at those memories another day.

Jacob slowly stood from the bed, trying hard not to let his wooziness get the better of him and cause him to crash to the floor. “Ahh, Prophet?” Jacob groaned, and prophets blue image appeared on a panel at the far side of the room in response.

“Hello, Staff Lieutenant Trox. Did you enjoy your nap?”

“Enjoyed the hooch before hand more, where in Sam hill did we dock?” Jacob asked as he scratched his head.

“The Marathon has docked with the Citadel, Staff Lieutenant.”

The Citadel huh, good timing he needed to speak to his brother about something. He knew that the alliance was keeping tabs on Cerberus, specifically the Oracle. It was one of the many benefits of having good contacts within criminal organizations and corporations, you always got nice intel. However, he didn’t have as good of contacts as his brother did; he knew some diplomats and big wigs up in the government office. If anyone he knew could get some dirt on Cerberus, it would be his brother and his friends. He would go see him, get some information and some help. He wouldn’t tell the boss quite yet, it was always better to ask for forgiveness rather then permission.

“Thank you Prophet.”

“Yes Staff Lieutenant” Prophet answered emotionlessly as its blue avatar vanished from the panel. With that Jacob removed his clothing and jumped into the shower so that he could attempt to make him look presentable to for the boss. After his shower was complete, he brushed his teeth and hoped that the strong smell of a quarter bottle of Red Giant would die off just enough so that he didn’t smell like a brewery. He got dressed and strapped on his armor; he didn’t like walking around public places without armor protection, especially in an alliance uniform. As he strapped his pistol to his right side, and attached the baton to his left side, at a slant, he threw to painkillers into his mouth and swallowed them down. Hopefully that would keep his headache at bay. He grabbed a pair of darkly tinted sunglasses and marched out of his bedroom door. He never thought he would be so glad to have these dimly lit hallways before. He walked to the elevator and slammed the button, figuring his son wouldn’t answer him or was already gone so what was the point of even knocking on his door?

The elevator opened to reveal two familiar faces, Captain Tummy Tickler and that government spook Harrison.

“Howdy, ‘boss.” Jacob said as he entered the elevator and gave a friendly look to the men, even that damn biotic.

“Hello Jacob, how are you?” Captain Tummy Tickler asked, and it was obvious by the look on his face that he noticed the strong sent of alcohol on his head of security.

“I’m doing jus’ fine sir.” He replied

“You smell like you had a bit of a party when you went back to your quarters, Staff Lieutenant.” The stinking biotic butted in.

“What’s it too you spook?” Jacob growled

“Staff Lieutenant. Is there a problem, any at all?” the Captain intervened

You damn military types Jacob thought as he turned his gaze to the Captain thinking you can push me around like you own me. [i] You better lift your weight…’boss. “None sir.” He then glared at Harrison and you…you fucking mutant, you just stay away from me “None at all.” He whispered.

******

Jason took the initiative and decided to try his luck with that Lizzie girl again. He found her on the lower decks just leaving her room.

“Hey, Lizzie!” Jason called out to her

“Oh…you again.” She huffed back

“Ah, don’t be like that.” He said with a cocky grin.

“I’ll be however I want, thank you.” She replied with aggravation

“Look.” Jason said “Maybe I made the wrong impression, but I ain’t that bad one you get to know me.”

“Some how I doubt that.” Lizzie repented

“Come on, you just need to hang with me, then you will see.” Jason urged with that same cockyness he seemed to always have floating around him

“See what? That you’re more then just ignorant and oblivious?” Lizzie asked sarcastically and crossed her arms

“Especially that I’m more then oblivious and Ignorant, I’m also arrogant and misunderstood.” He joked, taking the chance to look Lizzie over as she rolled her eyes.

“You just do not give up do you?”

“Come on, I used to live on the Citadel I know all the good places to have fun.”

“I don’t thin me and you are into the same kind of fun.” She replied

“Oh and why is that?” Jason inquired

“Because, I doubt you take the word of God very seriously.” She was right, but what did he care?

“Sure I do, but nowhere in the bible does it say you can’t have a little fun once in a while” at least he was pretty sure it didn’t “plus it will give us a chance to get to know each other. I mean we are going to be living here on the same ship for a long time, so it is probably a good idea wouldn’t you agree?”

She looked at him with her lips screwed up for a moment “I guess you’re right. But don’t think this means you can try anything on me.”

Jason raised his hands in a mock surrender “Would never dream of it.” yet

“Good. And if I don’t want to go somewhere, I’m not going to go understood?”

“Crystal, ma’am.” Ma’am? Well he still was his father’s son.

“Then let’s go.”

********

The harsh artificial sunlight of the Citadel damn near knocked Jacob’s lights out. Hangover and huge artificial lights were not a good mix. He had left Harrison and Captain Tummy Tickler at the ships dock port and was making his way through the crowds of aliens towards the C-SEC headquarters on the Kitohi Ward. His brother was the lead director of the C-SEC Special Response School that was located in the Kithoi Ward headquarters. Last Jacob heard, his brother was up for some kind of promotion but he wasn’t sure what exactly it was, or if he even got it.

Jacob didn’t like being in large crowds like this, especially in a place like Kithoi Ward, which tended to be filled with the most degenerate and disgusting of all life in Citadel space. That’s why the Special Response unit was based out of this Ward; it was the one that needed them most. The streets were littered with drugged out civilians, and it smelled like all the residence had taken their trash outside and started burning it. It confused Jacob how such a place could look so clean and orderly, yet be so disgusting at the same time. As he walked Jacob passed a small bar a turian came stumbling out in a drunken stupor and slammed right into Jacob like he wasn’t even there.

“Hey you ugly ass human, watch where your going!” the turian spat into Jacobs face.

“You just picked the wrong ‘ugly ass human’ to fuck with, on the wrong day. So just turn your ass around and walk away.” Jacob growled. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with drunken aliens, not with a hangover like this.

“The hell did you just say to me?” the turian snapped as he grabbed the handle of a blade he had at his side. Oh great, he just got here and he was going to have to kill an alien. How was he going to explain this?

“Look, just walk away before you get a new hole to breath through ‘partner” Jacob urged as he put a hand on his pistol. Just then, a group of three more turians emerged from the crowd in defense of their fellow alien.

“There a problem here...primate?” one of the new turian asked, cracking his knuckles as he moved to the illumination of a street lamp which revealed the white skull shaped face paint he wore.

“There is about to be.” Jacob answered calmly as he started calculations in his head. Four targets, two yards away with about a foot and a half spread between them. They would be easy targets for a quick shot.

“Oh really. I think I like the sound of that.” One of the sober aliens hissed as he reached behind his back, probably for a weapon “I don’t like Police, especially human ones.” He continued as he read the words on Jacobs vest.

“What the hell is going on here Sar.” A human, male, voice bellowed from behind Jacob. By this time the crowd around the situation had started to clear out of the area, leaving the street basically deserted except for the Jacob, his opponents and this new figure. The folks around these parts knew when to stay clear of something, because the last thing they wanted was to be there when C-SEC starting asking questions.

“Another human? Don’t you idiots know that your kind isn’t welcome on these streets?” Jacob looked to his right, just for a split second so he could see who owned this new voice. It was a tall, Indian man who bore a C-SEC uniform, and Jacob recognized him immediately.

“Sar,” the Indian spoke to the turian, with the skull face paint, in a thick Indian accent “You and your men have already been arrested for assault on humans two times, if there is a third you’ll be going away a long time.”

The turian grinned, “What if we make sure there aren’t any witnesses this time?” he started to laugh as his arm came out just half of the way from behind his body.

The Indian C-SEC officer looked to Jacobs gun arm “You still got those reflexes of yours Jacob?” Jacob smiled, that was a queue if he had ever gotten one. “Just no messes please.” The Indian finished and then without so much as a slight flinch to give away his actions, Jacob, grabbed the handle of his pistol, brought it up so it was at his hip and facing the turians, then fired four rounds with lightning speed. Each metal slug hitting within inches of his intended target, he had a hangover what could you expect? The drunkard got one to leg, while the other three took rounds right to their shoulders. The skull faced one took the round in the arm that was behind his back, and he dropped the grenade he had pulled out, and was planning to use to blow Jacob and the officer to hell.

“Ah! Son of a bitch!” The skull faced turian screamed as he grabbed his shoulder.

“Ha.” Jacob laughed “I still got e’m.” The turians held their limbs in pain, not even bothering to retaliate.

“You! I’ll kill you!” the turian screamed at Jacob as he continued to hold his shoulder.

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea. He is an angry man, and if you make him any angrier…I think I was to busy eating a donut in my squad car to see the murder who killed four turians outside the Lowrides bar. So I suggest you pick up this drunk and get out of here…now” The C-SEC officer replied coldly. That’s what Jacob liked about this ward; the C-SEC officers knew how to deal with the local populace. It wasn’t like the other wards that were ‘high grade’. Here, everyone was a criminal and they had to be dealt with harshly.

The skull faced turian was just about to stay something when he supposed pack of loyal followers rushed over to the downed drunk and started pulling him off into a nearby alley. The skull faced turian looked genuinely shocked that the others were betraying him. “Stop! Where the hell do you think you’re going?” he tried to get his men to stop, but they paid him no mind. So, instead, the turian looked at the Indian and Jacob with a stare of pure disgust “This isn’t over.” He growled as he ran off into the alley after his men. Jacob holstered his weapon and turned towards the C-SEC officer.

“Umar! You son of a bitch how are ‘ya” Jacob exclaimed with cheer as he tuck his hand out to the C-SEC officer

“You are a crazy man.” Umar said as he shook Jacob’s hand “You should know better then to walk around these lower streets. You know the aliens don’t take kindly to us humans here.”

“I never got hired for my smarts.” Jacob replied. Umar was a good friend, and had been ever since Jacob met him during one of his bounties here on the Citadel a few years back. He knew Jacob’s brother as well.

“No kidding, my friend.” Umar chuckled “Here, come get in my patrol unit, we shouldn’t stick around too long.” The two ran their way over to Umar’s skycar patrol vehicle and hopped in. As soon as the car was off the ground and soaring through the skylanes, Umar began again “What brings you back here my friend? You finally decide to take up a job here?”

Jacob laughed as he rubbed his temples with index fingers, trying to calm his headache “Hell no. I told ‘ya the flatfoot life isn’t for me ‘partner” He thought about being a C-SEC officer and using his brother’s status to get him assigned to Kitohi Ward. However, even though the rules were able to be bent to extremes here, the rules and regulations still got in the way too many times. Jacob couldn’t go back to that life. Not now, at least while he was with Oracle. He was making good money, and helping defeat a great threat that nobody would complain to him if he broke moral ethics to do it.

Umar looked at him crookedly “You okay, my friend?”

“Yeah, just got a hell of a hangover.” Jacob replied

Umar shook his head “You have to stop drinking so much, my friend.”

“Makes me feel warm inside.” Jacob half joked

“You should try following the path of Hinduism my friend; it may help you find peace.”

Jacob looked at him with sympathetic eyes “I lost all faith a long time ago Umar, if you’re smart you will too.”

“Perhaps I do not wish to trade happiness for logic my friend.” Umar replied “Now, I suppose you are here to see your brother, yes?”

“That’d be right.” All the sudden the sky car took a nose dive, and then came to a complete stop outside the C-SEC headquarters building.

“Then get out.” Umar said with a joking tone. The man was good company, but he didn’t like to be held up when he was on duty.

“Thanks Umar.” Jacob said as he extended his hand and shook Umar’s “I’ll get in touch with you again soon.”

“I hope you do, my friend.” Umar said as Jacob opened the door of the skycar, and then slammed it shut when he was outside. Umar took off, probably to continue the rest of his shift, leaving Jacob outside the HQ alone. The C-SEC headquarters on Kitohi ward was its own independent building. Its metallic frame shone a magnificent starlight tint of white from the finish that covered the building. A massive C-SEC emblem was implanted right above the doorway and was illuminated from behind by a dark blue light, and a marvelous fountain circulated water between two massive stairways that led to the front doors. As Jacob made his way up the stairs he saw his reflection in the crystal clear water that rushed down a series of waves and small ramps before being sucked into drains at the bottom and then circulated to the top to restart the process. It was a beautiful building.

As Jacob approached the front doors, they slid open and led him into a small twenty foot by twenty foot room that contained six doors leading into the department, but each was locked. As the door to the outside closed behind him a female voice crackled over an intercom “Hello, welcome to the Kitohi Ward C-SEC Headquarters, how may I help you today?”

“I’m here to see Special Response Director Trox.” Jacob answered

“Okay, what is your business with Deputy Executor Trox?” Deputy Executor? So he did get promoted

“I’m his brother, Jacob Trox.”

“Okay, please wait there for me.” The female voice said so sweetly it was sickening then disappeared. Jacob waited a good five minuets before the voice returned “Your brother will be waiting for you in his office, please reference the map in the lobby to find it.”

“Thank you.” Jacob said as one of the doors unlocked. He walked through the door and found himself in a massive lobby. There were multiple black luxury couches spread around the room, and in the center was a thirty foot statue of four C-SEC officers, an asari, turian, salarian and a human. Engraved on the statue’s base were the words “A proud family, dedicated to protecting the citizens of the Citadel” The walls and floor tiles were white as pearls, and the lights were so harsh that Jacobs sunglasses barely helped to keep his hangover headache at bay. He tried his best to ignore the pain as he went over to a holomap located next to the doors. He activated it with a hand stroke and found his brothers office on the map. It was on the fifth floor, right below the roof level of the building. Jacob took the elevator to the fifth floor, and then walked down to his brother’s office at the end of a long, mind numbingly white hall. Why the Citadel government buildings insisted on being so damn bright and clean, he’d never know.

He walked right through the door, in too much pain to care about knocking, and found a man in a tidy C-SEC dress uniform; he had jet black hair and a clean shaven face. His cheeks caved in a little, and his nose was pointed, helping give notice to his dark eyes. Lucky bastard took after their mother; he didn’t have to deal with the early graying.

“Holy horse shit, Jacob! Your looking about as friendly as a Texas smile.” Jacob’s brother exclaimed as he stood from his seat and came around his desk to embrace his brother. After that, it became clear that his brother had gotten a little soggy around the mid section.

“Jack!” Jacob said with cheer as he returned his brother’s embrace. Once they parted, Jacob patted his brother’s stomach “What the hell happened to you? It looks like if I told you to haul ass it would take you two trips.”

“Oh ha, ha at least I don’t look old enough to have seen the baby Jesus born.” Jack repented. Jacob didn’t respond, he just threw his brother the bird and walked around him “So, Jason didn’t come with ‘ya I see.”

“Of course not, that boy is gonna drive me plumb crazy.” Jacob replied, he always got more country around his brother who liked to use the old country talk whenever he could.

“He still isn’t whipped into shape?” Jack asked

“Nope.”

“Just beat his ass like a red headed step child.” Jack suggested as Jacob examined the name plate on his brother’s desk that read “ Deputy Executor Trox

“Trust me, I’ve thought about it multiple times. So you got promoted?”

“Yep, I’m now one of the four Deputy Executors that control the four wards outside of the presidium, where the Executor has control.”

“So what, you just work with the Kitohi Ward?” Jacob asked with genuine curiosity

“It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m as a busy as a cat trying to hide shit on a marble floor.” Jack answered “But come now, Jacob there has to be a reason you came here looking for me. And what’s the deal with the Alliance uniform? Thought you were done with the formal things.”

“I was, until they offered me a shit load of money. That’s why I came and got Jason back from you a few months back. I’m posted on an alliance vessel, big secret mission stuff.” Jacob answered

“And this has something to do with me don’t it?” Jack said with a crooked smile

“Yes. I need your help. We are looking for a certain group of racist humans.”

“Are you now? Which one?” Jack asked

“Think Greek ‘partner” Jacob replied with cold eyes

“That’s one dangerous group you’re screwing with there Jacob.” His brother said with a sudden stroke of seriousness “What do you think I can do for you?”

Jacob got real quiet “I need you to call in some favors, some of my contacts in the pirate and mercenary communities have told me that the group that I’m currently employed with is tracking their movements all over the Terminus. I need to know what some of the higher ups know.”

“Who exactly?”

“Special Tactics and Reconnaissance level, high clearance stuff.”

“That’s a hell of an order.” Jack replied.

“Can you get it done Jack?”

Jack thought for a second, looking at his brother with a thoughtful glare, then sighed “Maybe, but I can’t promise anything. However, a little bird told me about a threat on the Citadel.”

“Cerberus?”

“One and only. Word is they have spies all around this place, some close enough to be a direct threat to the council. It’s so bad that a Specter paid me a visit the other day. A salarian called Tumak.”

“And?” Jacob said as he sat on the edge of his brother’s desk

“He thinks they may have gotten in as far as C-SEC. I’m supposed to start extensive background checks of all human officers and detectives. He also gave me orders to hit any possible terrorist safe houses as soon as solid leads come in.”

“Wouldn’t that cause a lot of attention?” Jacob asked, puzzled

“Said that he would issue me warrants on the premise that the safe houses are drug dens, a press release was already sent out to the media that says a major Red Sand problem is springing up, so when I do get leads they can be played off.”

“Then it’s worse then I thought. Can you get me more info?”

“Like I said, I’ll try. But, you know what you’re asking for is as big as hell and half of Texas.”

“I know, but I need that-

Just then the door to the office slid open and tall, red headed woman strutted in, wearing a blue dress. Her eyes were a brilliant green that reflected shear intelligence “Oh, I’m sorry am I interrupting Jack?”

“No! Of course not! Come her honey. Jacob, this is my girlfriend Margret, the most beautiful woman on the Citadel.” He said as he kissed her on the cheek.

“Oh you stop it!” she giggled playfully

Jacob got up and reached his hand out and shook Janet’s hand “Nice to meet you ma’am.” Jacob said with his sweetest Texan voice “My brother sure did find himself a looker.”

“Oh no, now I have to tell two of you I’m not all that great.” She said with a playful role of her eyes. Jack wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and kissed her neck

“Don’t be so modest.” He whispered

“Oh knock it off, your brother is here!” than, she did something that ruined the moment for Jacob. She used a small biotic push to playfully hit Jack, he smiled at first but then he remembered his brother.

Jacob didn’t say a word; he just stood up, walked around the two lovers, and out the door. “Jacob! Stay here Margret.” Jack let go of his girlfriend and ran after his brother “Jacob stop!”

“I’m leaving; please just get me my information.” He said as he stopped, still facing away from his brother.

“Jacob, you can’t keep doing this. I love her, so you’re going to have to learn to live with her.”

“She’s your problem, not mine.” Jacob said coldly

“You can’t blame all biotics for what happened-

Jacob interrupted with hissed words “Watch me.” Then he continued down the hall “Goodbye Jack, I’ll be in touch.” Jack watched as his brother get in the elevator and left, not looking back at him once as he did….


******

“See this place isn’t so bad.” Jason said as he sat with Lizzie on the side of a balcony overlooking the presidium reservoir. It was one of the nicer places he knew on the Citadel, he figured it would be a good place to start. He took a bite out of the Comet Ice crème bar that he had bought from a kiosk near the docking bays. He had paid for the cab ride here, then bought both him and Lizzie an Ice crème with hopes that it would make up for him pissing her off the other day.

“Yeah, it’s nice. I like the breeze, even though it’s fake.” Lizzie said

Jason laughed “Yeah, I kind of miss feeling that breeze everyday.”

“You used to live here?” Lizzie asked

“Yeah, my uncle works for C-SEC. I lived with him for all of my teenage years until recently”

Lizzie looked at him with puzzlement “But you’re with your dad now aren’t you?”

“Yeah, he just got me back a few months ago, when he got hired to be aboard the Marathon.”

Lizzie looked as if she was trying to tread softly, so not to upset Jason “Why did you not live with him?”

Jason stopped for a second, and just starred out over the waters “A long time ago…something bad happened in my family. My dad…he stopped being himself and then one day he just put me on a shuttle and sent me here. I hated it…so crowded, and my uncle never let me do anything.” He stopped for a second to remember back to how much he had hated the Citadel back then “But now that I’m back, I remember some things I miss.”

Lizzie looked at him with thoughtful eyes “I’m so sorry Jason.”

Jason shook his head “No, don’t be.” He said then slowly tried to put an arm around Lizzie. However, she shrugged his arm off and moved away

“What did I tell you? No funny business okay?!” She growled with irritation

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.” Damn it he thought this girl is going to be harder then I thought

“It’s okay…this time.” She warned. For the next few minutes the two sat in silence as the cool breeze brushed based them gently.

“Hey, I have somewhere more fun to show you.” Jason said

“Where?”

“Just trust me, come one.” Jason urged as he stood up. Lizzie looked at him with uncertain eyes “I know how to have fun here.” He said with that grin of arrogance.

“Okay…we will see.” Lizzie said as she stood up and they walked back towards the cab station…

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Lance Williams Character Portrait: Vala Buchan Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Jacob Torx Character Portrait: Jason Trox

0.00 INK

(music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYdSOCGBwLE )

“I don’t think I’m comfortable here.” Lizzie murmured as Jason led her into the dark club that’s only source of light were the flashing white and blue strobes that hung from the ceiling and illuminated the club like lightning strikes.

“Oh come on!” Jason urged as he pulled her through the door and over to the dance floor “It will be fun I promise.” The club was called Churoi’s and was owned by a volus of the same name. It wasn’t like most other bars and clubs on the Citadel that didn’t allow anybody below adult age in, here if you could pay you could play. Jason had paid the forty credit entry fee for both of them so he could guilt Lizzie into coming inside. She had a hesitant frown across her face as Jason practically threw her onto the dance floor and into the mesh of dancers, who were cramped into the dancing space with slightly more room than a sardine in a can. Lizzie looked extremely uncomfortable as she stood amongst the crowd, not even attempting to move with the rhythm of the heavy beat that thumped through the speakers.

“Come on get into a little.” Jason yelled over the music and started to pump his body in synchronization with the pounding beat of the techno music and the blinding flashes of the strobe lights. Lizzie slowly began to move her hips to the beat of the music, but her upper body was still stiff making her look like pendulum on a coco clock. Jason shook his head as he ran up next to her “No, no not like that come on!” he urged as he and began bobbing his head and snapping his body to the beat of the music.

Lizzie looked at him and tried to mimic his movements, but she gave up before even make a real attempt at it “Come on this is stupid! Let’s just go please.” She begged as Jason made his way behind her.

“You have to at least try!” he shouted over the pulsing beat “here let me help ya’.” Jason picked her arms up from her sides and brought them up just above here head and starting flailing them about in the air.

“What are you doing?” Lizzie giggled as Jason kept flailing her arms like she was some wacky cartoon character

“I’m trying to get you to dance! Come one if you don’t start moving your arms to the rhythm I’m just going to keep doing this!” Jason gave her one of his famous cocky smiles, and to his surprise Lizzie game a smile right back.

“I’ll dance, I’ll dance just stop that!” she laughed as Jason stepped back and she started to move her arms to the beat, her body began to sway with the rhythm but it all still seemed uncomfortable and unnatural.

“Put your body into it!” Jason said as he came over and grabbed the beautiful girl’s hips. She pulled away violently and turned to him with a little bit of irritation

“What do you think you’re doing? That’s not okay, okay?” She snapped at him

“Just relax; I’m only trying to help you get into the swing of thing!” He looked at her lustful eyes. He was speaking the truth; he was trying to help her dance since she moved like a dying sea turtle, but he trying to get his hands on her and move in a little closer as well. Who could blame him? Lizzie was a beautiful girl.

Lizzie looked at him, as she contemplated what to say. Then she turned back around and moved back into her original position “Okay, but no funny stuff.” She commanded. Jason smiled

“No funny stuff, I promise.”


******

The whiskey warmed Jacob’s blood as he took a swig from his silver flask then brought it back down between his legs and starred at his left hand. He closed the metallic fingers, then opened them, then closed them once more. The metallic fingers that were attached to his palm were just another reminder of the memories. Memories that he would rather have locked away forever, memories that required more whiskey to go away, he took another swig of whiskey and looked out over the small artificial lake he had found to sit by. Jillian would have loved the view, she always had a thing about water, said it reminded her of her home on Eden Prime long before the Geth invasion.

Jacob frowned, that day was the worst in his life…the day that she was ripped away from him. He looked at his hand and shook his head as a tear formed in the corner of his eye “I’m so sorry Jillian…I should have been able to stop them…I should have been able to save you” he held his tears back and leaned his head back and began to chug the last half of his whiskey. Still not enough alcohol, he would need to go back to the Marathon and refill, or maybe he would just find a bar somewhere and drown his sorrows there.

“Incoming transmission” a digitalized voice called out to Jacob from his Omni tool. He looked down to it and activated the communications array.

“Staff Lieutenant Trox.” Jacob recognized the voice as Connor DeMarco’s. Trox had talked to him a few times since he took the job as security specialist

“What is it Connor?” Jacob asked with irritation that was not meant to be directed at Connor.

“Captain Titus needs you to report to the cube immediately with a security detachment, they have a problem so go in with guns hot.” What? Captain Tummy Tickler was deploying the security force on the Citadel? There must be something big going on.

Trox’s old training kicked in and he began giving orders “I want six of my security officers, tell them to gear up with their High Risk Situations equipment make sure they have a sharp shooter and tell them to met me at the cube! Also warn C-SEC that an alliance Military Police team will be making a tactile entry into the cube arena.”

“Aye-aye sir.” DeMarco replied as Trox shoved he flask in his back pocket and bolted down the shining halls of the Citadel. As he ran he activated the map on his Omni tool so he could find his way to the Cube. He was forced to push pedestrians out of the way, since the streets were crowded with aliens and humans alike.

“Police! Police get out of the way, move your asses!” Trox was taken back to his day as a cop on Earth as he forced his way past people. He needed to get to the cube quick; he was in the mood to kick someone’s ass.


******

Lizzie tripped over her own feet laughing as her Jason made their way to a quiet corner of the dance club “So tell me I wasn’t right!” Jason yelled to Lizzie over the beating music.

“Okay, okay you were right!” Lizzie responded with a chuckle. She was a really good dancer when she got into it. Jason had been mesmerized by the way she had started moving her hips, and the way her body moved to the beat. The strobe lights had been bouncing off her hair, making her beauty even more defined in the harsh blue’s and whites of the club. When the two got over to the corner, where it was easier to hear once another, Lizzie inquired “How did you know about this place? It’s almost street level.”

Jason shrugged “Well my uncle was kinda’ strict so I spent a lot of time not doing what he said. He didn’t like me coming to these types of places, so I did and eventually I found all the good ones.”

“You know” Lizzie said with a serious look on her face “You shouldn’t have disobeyed him like that. It’s the fifth commandment ‘Honor thy father and thy mother, that your days may be long upon the Earth’.”

“Well I’m in luck.” Jason said with a know it all grin “He’s not my father; he’s my uncle so I’m in the clear.”

Lizzie gave him a crooked look “It’s talking about all your elders, plus if you spent most your life with him he is pretty much like your father so it would count anyway.”

Jason shook his head and his grin became a little less wide “Neither of my father figures were much of a father figure, so I think I’m safe.” Lizzie looked at him with a sympathetic stare like he was a hurt puppy, and it got his blood boiling. She was about to say something else but he interjected so that he wouldn’t go off on her “so, who was that guy you were with on the ship?’

She hesitated to answer, and just starred at Jason. She knew he was trying to avoid the subject so she decided not to chase it any longer “That was Braden, we have been friends a long time.”

“Oh really, so what’s your guy’s story? You two…” Jason brought his hands together in a joining gesture

Lizzie thought for a sec and smiled “yeah, I guess you could say that.”

“He looked kinda’ young, how old is he?” Jason asked with a shred of curiosity

“He is fifteen.”

“Fifteen? And you’re seventeen aren’t you?” fifteen! Fifteen! Jason thought to himself my competitions a goddamn fifteen year old!?

“Yeah, but he acts much older then he is. Plus it’s only two years so it’s not that big of a leap.” Lizzie answered with a shrug

“Hmm, well there must be more than meets the eye if he was able to snag a beautiful girl such as you.” Lizzie blushed a little, and Jason grinned yep, that’s right just working the magic he though arrogantly to himself

“Well, he’s smart, kind, good hearted.” She drifted off and Jason looked at her crookedly so he is a goodie two shoes?

“That’s it, nothing else spectacular that makes you like him? Because to be honest I think I could take him.” Jason made a mock muscle and showed off like he was some body builder.

Lizzie rolled her eyes “Yeah I don’t think so Jason.” She said with a grin

“And why not?” Jason arrogantly asked

“Because he is a biotic, I think he could handle you.” She said with a playful smile, but Jason’s grin dissipated like she had just punched him in the stomach

“He…he’s a biotic?” Jason asked, not sure if he had heard her right over the music

Lizzie looked at him strangely, wondering what had brought about this sudden behavior “Yeah…why is there something wrong with that?”

Jason cocked his head for a second and ran a hand past his mouth “Well, um no not with me I’m fine with biotics.”

“Then what is it?” Lizzie asked impatiently

“Well.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck “My dad doesn’t take to kindly to them, so you might want to keep Braden away from him.” He had seen his dad around biotics before, it wasn’t pretty.

“Your dad doesn’t like biotics?! I’ve seen him with that silver asari flask of his, they are biotics!” Lizzie growled, a little angered on Braden’s behalf

“It’s not all biotics he doesn’t like…just human ones.” He said cautiously

“What’s wrong with human biotics!?” Lizzie snapped, still with a tone of irritated anger in her voice

Jason didn’t answer, he looked to the floor, a feeling of utter emptiness started to overflow him and that aura reached Lizzie who starred at him awkwardly. The thought of what happened brought an unbearable pain to his heart, “A long time ago…when I was almost four…” he stopped and put a hand on his heart, the pain was still there “A biotic killed my mom.” Jason shook his head, he was so young but he could remember it so vividly like it was seared into his mind. He shook his head “It…was so long ago but I can remember it so clear.” He had to fight to hold back tears, that day tore his family apart. He grabbed onto his chest right above his heart and held it tight, and he and his dad had permanent reminders of it.

Lizzie looked at him with guilt written all over her face “I’m so sorry I didn’t mean too…” she trailed off, obviously in a little shock

“No...It’s fine. It was a long time ago.” Of course it wasn’t really fine, but he had learned to lock that pain away.

There were a few moments of silence, but then the strobe lights turned a light, red and a techno song meant for close dancing began to play over the speakers

(Music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W8Of04PvOI )

Jason started moving to the beat and looked at Lizzie with a smile that he forced himself to put on “Come on let’s dance”

Lizzie shook her head “but-” Jason didn’t give her a chance to answer as he put a hand on her back and started walking her to the dance floor “I don’t know about this.” She said as she looked at the other people in the club dancing extremely close to one another, but then Jason grabbed her hands

“Come on it will be fun.” He smirked as he pulled her over to the dance floor, she looked uncomfortable again so Jason did most the dancing at first “Come on move it! You were great before!” He egged her on, and with an unsure smile she began to dance with the boy. As Jason got closer in, to where their bodies were almost touching his smile became real, and hers became sure as they danced like they had no worries in the universe.

*****

By the time Jacob had made it to the entrance of the cube, his assembled team was just arriving. The team was decked out in bulky, grey, assault armor and totting assault rifles. They looked like a true force to be reckoned with. As Jacob got within a few dozen feet of the entrance he pulled his pistol, he knew he should have packed his Assault rifle.

“I want an assault entry! Clear the room for hostiles and for God sakes don’t shoot a civvie!” The team stacked up at the entrance and Jacob got at the end of the line right behind a woman with a sniper rifle “that you Jackson?” Jacob asked the women.

“Yes sir!” the women answered with an unhindered focus

“I want you as far back and high as possible, keep a look out for any hidden threats.” Jacob ordered

“Ready for entry?” the point man asked as civilians looked on in confusion. Jacob patted Jackson on the back, then she patted the officer in front of her and so on all the way up the line until the point man had been patted. Then as quick as a flash the point man hit the button to open the door and he rushed in going right, the man behind him going left and so on in that pattern as the whole team entered the arena seating area.

Each officer, including Jacob, yelled to the civilians around them “Military Police stay in your seats!” Jacob scanned the rows for any signs of a threat, but he couldn’t see anything he wouldn’t expect not the see there. In fact everyone seemed rather calm, except for the people who saw the alliance marines busting in with guns ready. Jacob scanned the seats for the captain and spotted him with some other Marathon crew members observing the security team’s entry. Quickly Jacob ran over to the captain and stopped when he was next to him, still searching for a threat in the seats.

“Where’s the threat boss’?” Jacob inquired to his commander, who pointed to the arena at a figure that wore a helmet but was obviously a women by her figure. She was standing, staring at Harrison and a kid that Jacob had seen once or twice on the ship but wasn’t sure who was. He looked a closely and saw the biotic energy extending from the woman’s hands…and his blood boiled to an absolute rage. “Team, the threat is a woman in the middle of the arena! Get to firing positions around the seating area and take aim, Jackson I want you aimed up for a clean head shot.” The team moved instantly, each member taking up a firing position at least forty feet away from one another.

“Orders boss’?” Jacob inquired, but in his mind he wasn’t looking for any other answer to the question besides ‘take the shot’. Let me kill her, let me kill her, you know you want to let me kill her . Jacob’s earlier reminiscence about his wife put him in a foul mood, and now all he wanted was to see a biotic dead.

“Hold your fire Trox.” Tummy Tickler said, What?!

“Sir?” Jacob asked with shock

“Hold your fire.” The Captain repeated

“Sir, with all do respect we can end whatever is happening now!” he got close to the captains ear “We can blow her fucking head off right now.”

The captain looked at Jacob with a look of irritation and slight anger “I said hold your fire, Staff Lieutenant.” Jacob shook his head and ran his metallic fingers through his beard. He then angrily pressed the communications button on his Omni tool so he could speak to his team

“Hold your fire. But Jackson, keep a bead on that bitch down there.”

“Aye-aye, sir.” Jackson replied.

Jacob looked on at the scene that was taking place, and then grunted with disgust at the captains orders as he continued to scan the arena for a secondary threat.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rikers Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Jacob Torx Character Portrait: Jason Trox Character Portrait: Connor DeMarco

0.00 INK

Jason and Lizzie ran through the dimly lit, metallic hall of the Marathon as they made their way to the medical bay. While they were off having a good time there was apparently some craziness went down. Some people were in the medical bay, and one of them was Braden. Obviously when that went out over the comm it sent Lizzie running for the ship like the road runner from those old Looney Toons cartoons. She had barely slowed down the whole way through the Citadel, and it was near impossible to get her to sit still in the cab. Even now she was charging past people like getting there was going to somehow save his life.

“Lizzie! Slow down!” Jason called too her with a voice that was weak and choppy from the lack of breathe. As she reached the elevator that would take her down to the medical bay she was forced to stop for a second to wait for it to arrive. “Oh thank God.” Jason let out through gasped words as he caught up to the girl. Jason bent over at the waist and took a few short breathes so that he could slow his repertory rate down before moving over to Lizzie who seemed to be damn near hyper ventilating “Lizzie, I’m sure he is fine okay?” Jason reassured her.

“Oh God please let him be okay.” She prayed, basically ignoring anything Jason had said.

“Lizzie just calm down.” Jason urged, but it made no difference to the girl who had gotten red and was breathing hard from the marathon she just ran. Before anybody could get another word in, the elevator doors slid open and Lizzie hopped inside without a moment’s hesitation. Jason jumped in after her and waited as she frantically hit the down button. Jason continued to give words that were meant to calm the girl, but they just seemed to have the opposite effect. The elevator doors slid closed and shot off down towards the deck containing the medical bay of the Marathon. There was silence the whole way down, aside from Lizzie’s prayers which she said quietly under her breathe. This girl and her blind faith…it was sad to Jason really. He couldn’t understand with all the bad things in the universe how people could just give themselves over to such silly beliefs.

The doors slid back open with a hiss of air and Lizzie was off again. Well the moment of rest was fun while it lasted. Jason took off after her as she charged past the marines and medical crew who were walking silently in the halls. She took a sudden right through a set of double doors which opened before her. She looked around frantically for Braden who was nowhere in site “Excuse me miss.” Lizzie spoke to a passing nurse “Where is Braden Reynolds?” she asked with panic

“Oh yes the biotic boy” the nurse said aloud “He is in the back, examination room 3.” The women answered “Don’t worry he is just fine, barely a scratch on him.” She smiled reassuringly and Lizzie gave a sigh of relief. She turned to Jason with a smile on her face “He’s okay.” She said as if Jason wasn’t standing in the room when the nurse had said it.

“Yeah I heard.” He said, trying to fake the same amount of relief she was feeling.

“Let’s go see him.” She was more giving a command then a suggestion it would seem by the tone of her voice and the fact that she just walked off as soon as she said it. Jason followed her too a room in the back that was marked by an illuminated 3 on the wall. The two entered to find Braden sitting in a chair sipping juice through a straw and watching that Harrison guy hugging some boy that Jason didn’t recognize.

“Braden! I thought you were hurt!” Lizzie exclaimed as she ran over too the boy and threw her arms around his neck. He seemed shocked for a second before his mind realized what was happening and let his hands fall onto her back

“No, no I’m fine.” He said in soothing voice, he seemed rather happy to see the girl. Then his eyes fell on Jason, it was like an instant hatred filled his eyes for some reason unbeknownst to Jason. “Why is he here?” Braden asked defensively. Aren’t you just a bundle of joy? Jason thought himself as Lizzie leaned out of the embrace and looked to him

“Jason and I were just hanging out on the Citadel when we heard that you were in the medical bay.” She gave a sweet smile too Jason, and this seemed to set make Braden even more angry.

He looked to Jason with a look of irritation “I see.” He said bitterly. Jason let air leak from his lips as he gave an arrogant glare to Braden

“Yeah, I’m just going to go.” He said patronizingly, he turned on his heel and began his walk back to the elevator. Just as he reached the double doors of the medical bay he heard a voice call out from behind him

“Jason, wait up!” Jason spun his head and saw Lizzie running up to him with a smile across her face

“What is it Lizzie?” Jason asked as he turned to meet her.

She stopped a few feet from him and looked at him with those sparkling eyes of hers “I just wanted to say thank you.”

“For what?” Jason couldn’t imagine why she would be thanking him

“Well just for taking me out to that club and stuff. It was really fun.” She smiled with the cutest of smiles, and suddenly Jason felt a feeling rising from his stomach into his chest.

“Oh it was no problem.” Jason said with a grin, and then she came closer and wrapped her arms around Jason’s torso for a quick embrace. That was all it took for Jason’s heart to almost explode out of his chest cavity, it lasted only a few seconds but too Jason it lasted even less. He wanted it to last for a long time, minute’s maybe even hours but it seemed to end so quickly. She backed out of the embrace and backed up a bit with that same smile still across her face.

“I’ll talk to you later Jason.” She said as she turned and walked back towards the medical bay. Jason watched her until she was out of sight, then he smiled to himself and turned back for the elevator with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. Nothing was going to ruin this mood, not by a long shot. He hit the button next to the elevator and waited for it to arrive, thinking of Lizzie the whole time.

*******

“Motherfucking lazy ass C-SEC.” Jacob was grumbling to himself as he returned to the Marathon after having a long chat with the cop in charge of searching for that would be assassin. It was such a simple task, shut down the damn cab services and secure all the exits off the Citadel, but they couldn’t even do that. They were the protectors of the most important diplomatic location in council space and they couldn’t secure their own territory. Wastes of useful space was all those damn “Officers” were. He hated being a cop, but at least on Earth the cops could make a perimeter and keep someone from leaving a closed area.

He just wanted to go get some chow from the mess and then go back to his room and look through the personnel files. He needed to know more about these damn biotics that were taking up his breathing air. Jacob walked down the dimly lit halls of the ship, without his hangover the darkness was once again unwelcome to Jacob. He hated not being able to see down the hall, it made him feel vulnerable, weak and useless. He walked up too the elevator and slammed on the button to call the lift up to his level. The elevator doors slid open to reveal Jason, leaning against the wall of the elevator with a grin as wide as the Great Plains. It was shocking to say the least; his son hadn’t smiled since he picked him up from his Brother on the Citadel. “You seem…happy.” Jacob stated with caution as he entered the elevator.

“Do I?” Jason said in a matter of fact like tone

“Yes. You do…oh lord son what did you do?” Jacob asked with worry as the boy stepped in front of the elevator doors to stop them from closing

“Just because I’m happy doesn’t mean I’m fucking doing something wrong…” he turned and looked at his father “ Dad ” he said with irritation.

“Watch your mouth boy!” Jacob exclaimed as he took a step forward “I’m your father goddamn it.”

Jason was so angry at his father…he always was “Could have fooled me.” Like a bolt of lightning Jacob reached out and grabbed Jason’s shirt with his metallic fingers and brought him close like he was going to hit him. Jason’s fathers breathe smelled heavily of whiskey like always and it was sickening. It took that fuzzy feeling in Jason’s stomach and turned it into a turning mess of vomit that he had to struggle to keep down. “What are you going to do…hit me?” Jason growled

All of the sudden, as if he had come to some revelation, Jacob stopped and just looked at his son. The hate that filled Jason’s eyes gave Jacob a feeling of sorrow…one that he could feel deep in his heart. He sighed and his grip loosened until Jason was completely free from the metal fingers of his father’s hand “No son…I wouldn’t hit you.” He looked to Jason with guilty eyes “I could never hurt you.”

Jason didn’t know what to feel at first…he actually had to think about how he felt about what his father had just said. How messed up was that? He thought for a long while, just starring at his father and having an internal battle with himself over what his reaction should be. But as always, the angry little boy won over his reasoning and he just shook his head “Of course you wouldn’t…you’re weak that’s why mom is dead.” Then before his father could even register his words Jason moved from the elevators doors and they closed immediately. By the time the words finally made it through Jacobs mind his son was gone and his heart had dropped down into his stomach. weak the words rang in Jacob’s head like an echo in an deep cave. weak…you’re weak…that is why mom is dead. it was hard to hear those words, and as the elevator took him to the mess hall he kept repeating the words in his mind. He had been weak…he had been stupid and now his family was torn apart.

Jacob moved to the chief with an almost zombie like movement, his body was on the marathon but his mind was lost in a sea of thoughts and regrets. The guilt that flowed through his veins every moment of everyday came back in full force, he needed to eat this food and then it was drinking time. He needed it if he hoped to pull himself together ever. He took the plate of food the chief had prepared and sat at a table, alone besides a few marines who sat and spoke amongst themselves in hushed words. Jacob just sat and slowly nibbled on what food he had and continued to lose himself in guilt filled memories that continued to haunt him. His wife’s face was feeling his minds eye….so beautiful and then that arm…that arm that would change his life forever reaches out and grabs her face in the palm of its hand. Jacob shuttered as he relieved the moment…the moment when his wife’s head was crushed like an egg in the hand of that monstrosity.

Someone sat down across from Jacob and threw him back into reality. When Jacob looked up he saw that the person who had sat across from him was a turian who Jacob recognized from around the Marathon. “How are you Lieutenant?” obviously the alien knew him

“Been better.” He looked at the turian trying to place who he was, then it hit him “You’re that pirate aren’t you?”

“Ex-pirate.” The turian said “you’re that ex C-SEC officer aren’t you?”

“Nope, never was C-SEC. I was a cop back on Earth though.” Jacob said as he starred the turian down. Call him crazy but he didn’t trust criminals.
“Ah, then we should get along quite well.” The turian said as he leaned back in his chair

“What makes you say that ‘partner?” Jacob asked in his usual Texan accent

“Come now ‘officer’, you know as well as I do that your people are as dirty as mine. The difference is yours don’t like to admit it.” Jacob had to give it to the turian, he had an interesting way of starting a conversation.

“Interesting observation there, except not all of ‘my kind’ is dirty.” Jacob repented in a calm voice

“Aren’t they?” the turian said cynically

Jacob just stared at the turian for a moment before taking in a spoonful of the soup he had retrieved from the chief. He put the spoon back in the bowl and looked the turian dead in the eyes “What’s your name pirate?”

“Azuric. And I already know yours Jacob.” Azuric said as he returned the aging cops stare

“So what brings you over too me Azuric?” Jacob asked

“I heard about the happenings at the cube, heard you did a good job.”

“We lost the assassins, forgive me if I disagree.” Jacob said as he spooned some more soup into his mouth

“Yes but your tactics were solid as I hear.” The turian then got in closer “I also heard you fought with Titus over some orders.”

Jacob gave Azuric a crooked stare “Word spreads quickly around this ship doesn’t it?”

The turian shrugged “If you listen in the right places.”

“What of are little…argument?” Jacob asked with curiosity as he spooned more soup into his mouth

“I like Titus as much as the next guy on this ship. He spared my life a long time ago. But…” he got in a little closer and put his talons on the table “You fought with a commanding officer, showed that you were not just a pawn to be used for his will that is something to be admired amongst men and women who will follow orders blindly like many of these marines.”

Jacob looked at Azuric, trying to figure out what the alien was getting at “Some people may consider that a bad trait ‘partner.”

“Ah yes.” Azuric sat back in his seat with a grin “But not me, I find it something of great intelligence. I find it even better when it is a man in a position such as we were.”

”And what position would that be?”

“I was a soldier in my younger days; you were a man of the law. The two are not as different as one might think. Both require courage, bravery…sacrifice and most of all the willingness to follow orders to the letter.” The turian went on

“What is your point?” Jacob inquired

“My point Lieutenant is that I and you are not so different. I may have been a pirate, but I have the feeling you were not always the man you claim to be.” He looked at Jacob with seriousness across his face “I have the feeling that you once traveled a path not so different then mine. It is in your eyes Jacob…I can see it. That is why I have come too you now, I want to speak too you so that maybe we can help one another some day.”

“Help one another?” Jacob asked curiously

“We are on the same side now, are we not Jacob?”

Jacob leaned in “so what is it that you want to talk about?”

The turian grabbed a drink he had brought over with him and took a sip “For now let us speak of our exploits, you can tell a lot about a man from a story he tells and the battle scars he has to accompany them.” His mandibles twitched a little as he looked at Jacob, who stared right back at the turian’s face, covered in that metallic like skin of theirs. Eventually Jacob slightly nodded and sat back in his seat,

“Okay ‘partner, shoot.”


********

Jason continued to wonder the halls of the dimly lit space craft. He enjoyed walking the ship actually; it was the first time he had ever been on a military craft before. He eventually found his way up too the helm where Darcy, the ships helmsmen, was busy messing with some controls on the ships many panels. Jason walked up too the man who was paying no attention to what was behind him. When Jason was within a few feet Darcy suddenly realized there was somebody behind him and he jumped in his seat

“Holy hell, don’t sneak up on me like that Braden.” Darcy exclaimed as he looked at Jason “Oh wait, you’re not Braden; you don’t have that stupid look on your face.” Jason looked at the helmsman with crookedness in his eyes “It was a joke man.” The helmsman said as he spun around and continued to mess with the panels “So who are you kid?” Darcy asked

“My name is Jason.”

“Jason? Like the murderer from those old horror movies?” Darcy asked

“Ummm sure I guess.” Jason said, not knowing what the hell the man was talking about.

“Of course you don’t know what i'm talking about.” Darcy sighed “Just know that it is bad ass kid.”

Jason chuckled “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

“Of course you will, I said it after all.” Darcy turned to look at Jason “So what brings you up here ski mask?”

“What?”

Darcy shook his head “Never mind. What’s up?”

“Nothing really.” Jason said as he got closer too the control panels “I uh, just wanted to see how the ship worked.”

Darcy looked a little surprised “You’re interested in star ships?”

“Yeah, actually this is the first warship I have ever been in; I’m interested in how it all works.”

Darcy grinned “Well kid, you have come to the right place. Come over here and you can learn a thing or two from the best.”

cron