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Nerita T'Lar

A powerful Asari biotic

0 · 271 views · located in Mass Effect Universe created by Bioware

a character in “Mass Effect: On the Edge”, as played by RolePlayGateway

Personality

Nerita, while not having taken any Commando training, is a powerful biotic and strong fighter. She often comes across as cold and unfeeling, preferring to check her emotions before she says or does anything, but she is a lot warmer than people would take her for. Her only true friend among the Call of Victory is Cecil Adams, a smooth talker brought with Horn from their mission on Illium. While she has proven herself loyal to the crew time and again, being the only alien on a Cerberus controlled ship has put her on edge, and she constantly watches her back and never backs down from a challenge, deeming it necessary to show why she was picked to join the crew at every given opportunity.

So begins...

Nerita T'Lar's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar

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"Mark two." Daniel stated as he quickly but carefully went prone near the edge of the forest, allowing the sand to start sweeping over him and concealing him from a casual glance. Nerita had followed suite, her smaller frame allowing her slightly more camouflage with the surrounding desert. As they crawled forward ever so slowly, a couple of blue suns Mercs patrolled near the very edge of the tropical belt on Invictus. Both of them were humans, judging by their armour configuration. Made sense, Turians were especially susceptible to the diseases that ran rampant in the forested areas of the planet, humans with their different DNA may very well be resistant or immune to them. Daniel adjusted the sights on his Vindicator for a moment, while Nerita simply held her pistol at the ready.

"We can't kill them both before they sound the alarm." Nerita stated simply, looking at the couple of guards. Daniel simply gave a nod.

"We rush them, they start firing, we lose our element of surprise. What about stasis?" Daniel looked over at Nerita, who simply shrugged.

"I could eliminate one for a couple of seconds, but the second one would be free to do whatever they please." Daniel gave a smile underneath his hood.

Daniel sat there in deep thought. They couldn't risk firing on them, not quite yet, but they were well over 100 yards away. He could hit the other with an overload, but covering that amount of distance on foot would be impossible. Luckily, he had other options. "You hit the right one on my mark, I'll take care of the rest." She nodded as a slight blue glow started to surround her person. One of the mercs started leaning forward, seeming to have seen something, but Daniel didn't give him a chance to capitalize.

"Mark."

Nerita stood, sand falling off her armour in what seemed like slow motion. The blue glow intensified around her body as she stretched her hand out. The merc on the right was suddenly enveloped in a white field that rendered him immobile and mute for the duration. Before the second merc could do anything, Daniel hit his shields with an overload.

"What the..!" The merc yelled as he jumped slightly due to his gear overloading. The moment he regained his balance and looked up, Daniel had already used his pack to cover the distance in a record breaking time. He hit the boosters at the last second, bringing his feet up and double kicking the man in the chest. The merc went flying to the ground as the second one was freed from the stasis. Daniel took the couple of steps to him, and with deft move had unsheathed his knife and planted it in the man's throat.

The man gurgled as he tried to yell and take in breaths, but dropped slowly as the crimson liquid flowed from the wound. Daniel turned around to see an M8 avenger being aimed at him, and quickly saw as it was yanked out of his hands. Daniel moved forward, using the surprise of the merc to his advantage as he slashed with his knife twice to keep the man off balance before stabbing the man twice upwards through the ribcage and into the heart. There was a moment of struggle from the mercenary, but it quickly ceased as his primary organ ceased beating. Daniel let the body unceremoniously drop to the ground, and looked back to see Nerita a few yards away. He wiped the blade on the side of his armour before returning it to his holster. "Nice timing" Daniel stated in reference to her yanking the M8 away from the target. Nerita simply shrugged.

They quickly made their to the building, and avoided the front door. The foliage was thick enough to prevent any camera, even infrared from seeing them, but Daniel wasn't taking any chances as they took a wide circle to the back. There, just as Kelly had pointed out. Daniel held out an arm, preventing the asari from continuing forward. He quickly scanned the area with his omni-tool, and found the camera he was looking for. There were a couple of security locks on the back door as well, but since it was hidden, they couldn't go all out with security in order to maintain appearances. The main problem was the video surveillance. Daniel carefully stepped up to the side of the building, and took a peek around to see which way the camera was facing. Luckily for him, the small orb looking device was facing away from them. He carefully made his way closer, before bringing up his omni-tool and hacking his way through it's systems to give the mercs watching on the other end an infinite loop of a clear exit. After that was done, he gave a look at the door.

Within a few seconds, Daniel had managed to bypass the lock and create a program that was sending false information to the servers, fooling them into thinking the door was still locked while in fact, it was wide open. He shut off his omni-tool, and gave the hatch a tug. It opened with a bit of air rushing outwards, suggesting the inside was insulated to prevent any diseases from entering the base. Nerita looked at Daniel. "I didn't expect a Demon to be so quick with an omni-tool." She stated bluntly, Daniel simply looked back at her before motioning for her to go.

"103rd Marine Division in the Alliance before joining up with Cerberus. Good combat engineers were a standard where I came from." Daniel kind of rolled his head slightly. "It helps if you happened to be a nerd at the time as well, you pick up a few more tricks then what you're trained to do." Nerita gave a smirk before heading into the shaft and descending the ladder to the first level. Daniel gave one last look before following her down.

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At the bottom, they waited near the door as they heard footsteps on the other side. When they believed the coast was clear, Nerita opened the door ever so slightly to see inside the compound. No one was in the immediate vicinity, but Daniel had picked up a camera right above the door they were about to exit. He prepared the program just like he had a minute ago, and opened the door so his arm could exit and he could interface with the security device. A moment later, and they had exited the escape hatch and were quickly but quietly making their way down the halls. Daniel had to constantly keep his omni-tool on in order to watch for any hidden security measures. He had a map of the area, which may or may not have been dated, but mainly he had it's sensors set to pick up any low band frequencies or electromagnetic signals that might indicate a hidden security measure. Every so often, they had to stop and hide as a few Blue Suns mercs would wander by, talking about anything from how they hated their boss to how much the last haul was. It was amazing just how stereotypical people could get once they were settled into a way of life.

Getting through the first level of the complex was relatively easy, but they still had to drop another four levels to get to the bottom. They stood before the elevator, the only possible option of skipping the rest of the floors but risky should they find themselves trapped in the shaft with no way out. They would also need to take the elevator itself back up if they wanted to take their contact with them. So, once Daniel had disabled the camera, they quickly started prying open the doors, not wanting to call the elevator in case the lift was monitored. After a few seconds of jerking the doors opened, Daniel looked in to see a rather long drop to the bottom. The elevator was in motion, but stopped around the third level. He contemplated just how they were going to get down quickly, when the elevator started moving again, this time further upwards. "We have company." Nerita stated calmly as Daniel nodded.

"Follow my lead." He stated as he waited for a moment before jumping into the shaft and catching one of the cables. Nerita followed suite, and once the elevator came up, they quietly dropped onto the roof of the contraption. Daniel looked up, and saw the roof closing in, and quickly slid to his stomach while Nerita did the same. He took in a gasp of air as the lift continued climbing, and only stopped once his back was touching the ceiling. There was a brief moment as two voices could be heard exiting the elevator. Their tone seemed to indicate confusion as to why the outer doors were already open, and were inquiring on their radios as to why they were this way. So far though, it didn't seem as if they suspected any foul play, just a malfunction. Once the door was closed, Daniel was left thinking about his options. Should they try to enter the elevator and chance it? Or should they wait for someone else to call it?

He took a moment too long as the elevator started heading down to the lower levels, and they both went into a crouching position. Nerita looked at Daniel. "We're not going to remain undetected for much longer, someone has to be noticing that people aren't showing up on the cameras."

"I thought about that." Daniel stated. "We might have a couple minutes if we're lucky, so let's make them count." The elevator stopped at the fourth level, and Daniel opened the top hatch ever so slightly. A bored turian merc stepped in, an standard M8 in his grip as he pushed the button to start the elevator. As soon as the doors were closed, Daniel hopped in with his knife in hand. The guard turned around, but Daniel was already moving. He pushed away the gun, grabbed the man in a chokehold, and dug the knife deep into the man's throat. There was a moment of struggle, then nothing as the man dropped dead. Daniel quickly applied the program he had for the cameras to the one within the elevator, hoping no one was watching, and stopped the lift. Nerita hopped inside, trying to not step in the blood that was starting to seep into the construction.

"That just narrowed our window." Nerita stated as she gave the turian a slight nudge with her foot.

"Hopefully we can get to our contact before this all goes south. Getting out was always going to be the harder part." Daniel stated as he pushed the button to the bottom floor. Almost as soon as the doors opened to reveal they were on the fifth floor, an alarm sounded throughout the base. Just outside the doors, twin automated turrets attached to the ceiling in the hall turned to lock onto the two of them. They both dived to either side of the door, and Daniel applied a tech burst to prevent the lift from being called up. "Nerita, give me a shield! I need to get closer!" She nodded as her body glowed blue and a small bubble started surrounding them.

Bullets ricocheted from the barrier as Nerita visibly flinched underneath the assault. She wouldn't be able to hold it for long, but she didn't say anything about it. Daniel pushed forward, allowing the distance to close between him and the death dealing machines. From a distance, he would have been able to hack one at a time, but it would have been time consuming. Instead, as he came up nearly underneath them, it allowed him to hack them simultaneously. As they both went offline, the barrier dropped almost instantly. Daniel looked back to see Nerita nearly breathless from the assault, but before he could say anything, rounds bounced off his shield as three mercs opened fire on him. He flinched backwards as the bullets rebounded off his shield, and he had no cover to think of. Instead, he simply switched to his Eviscerator Shotgun and started advancing forward as best he could underneath the fire. The mercs were advancing slowly up the hallway, using coordination to switch in and out so that their shields could cover one another.

Daniel watched as his shields started to flicker, and then ultimately died. He gritted his teeth at the inevitable pain that was going to happen as rounds started impacting on his armour. Most were deflected, but one got through near his hip, and another impacted underneath his rib and got caught in between his ribcage. As more rounds poured downrange, he tried sidestepping and rolling to avoid damage, but knew if he didn't take them out quickly, he would be dead long before he got to his target.

To his surprise, the blue barrier came up in front of him once more, and he looked back to see Nerita advancing behind him, both hands up and the stress the biotics were taking showing on her face as she forced enough strength into the barrier to repel the bullets. Daniel set up his combat drone behind the mercs as he fired more rounds at the mercs. One went down as his shields finally failed and took a full blast to the chest. The other two continued to advance, only to have the drone shock one and bounce to the other, catching them both off guard as the electricity stopped them in their tracks. Daniel hit one of the mercs with an overload, watching as his shields failed and he blew his head off with his shotgun. The other one recovered, and made to fire once more, only to have the barrier drop and a white glow envelope the man. Nerita dropped to a knee, gasping for air as Daniel walked up and pointed the barrel of his shotgun at the man's head. Once the stasis wore off, the man's head exploded, and everything was quiet once more.

Daniel breathed for a moment, grimacing as the rounds that penetrated were still causing unpleasant sensations despite the pain killers. He walked over to Nerita, who was using a wall to stand. He put one of her arms around him and they both started walking down the hallway. Daniel took a moment to look at her though. "You did good Nerita." He stated simply, she didn't reply as she finally caught her breath and tore herself from him.

"We still have a job to do." She stated as she readied herself once more. She looked at the blood starting to soak through his armour. "Will you be alright?" She asked, her tone cold as always.

"I've been through worse." Suddenly there was a sound and they looked back to see the elevator doors close and head back up. "Looks like we're going to have company." Daniel stated. He tapped a few buttons on his omni-tool, and the turrets came back to life on the roof behind them. "Luckily, I have a few surprises of my own." Nerita nodded, and they both jogged farther down the hallway to the cell that held their informant.

It was only a short run to where they needed to be, opening into a standard looking cell where a barrier was erected to split the rest of the room with the actual cell. A control panel in a small cut off section seemed to control the prison area, and Daniel walked in there as Nerita walked up to the barrier. With a few quick taps, the barrier disappeared, and Nerita walked in on the man sitting in the chair. "Tyler Kowl?" She asked, her voice void of any emotion. When the man didn't answer, she walked closer. Daniel half jogged, half walked out of the cut off section only to see Nerita looking back at him. She held up the man's chin, and let it drop. Daniel's shoulders sagged. "He's been dead for awhile." Nerita looked back at the man. "Should we try and bring back his body?" Nerita asked.

"No, this mission's a bust. Check him for anything the Suns might have missed." Nerita nodded as Daniel touched a finger to his ear. "Overwatch, come-" he was cut off from gunfire from down the hallway. Damn it. Daniel thought to himself as he continued. "Overwatch, come in."

"This is Overwatch, report." Kelly's voice replied on the other end. Daniel took a moment to look over at Nerita searching the body.

"The mission's a bust. Kowl is dead. It looks like they never planned to ship him anywhere. My guess is he simply got in too deep, and couldn't claw his way back out." Nerita walked back, a very small disc like object in her hand.

"It looks like a data packet, shoved into one of his molars." Daniel looked at it, then at Nerita. "If being with Cerberus has taught me anything, it's that you're paranoid." She walked over and took a position near the door as the fire continued from down the hall.

"Uh...not a total bust Overwatch. We just recovered a data packet from the contact that may or may not be useful. We are attempting extraction now." Daniel stated as he started walking towards the door.

"Confirmed ground team. Shuttle is en route to extract you at the designated coordinates."

"Acknowledged Overwatch, exfil will likely be hot, copy?"

"Acknowledged ground team, shuttle has been notified. Good luck. Overwatch out." Kelly cut the connection and Daniel looked out of the hallway. The firefight had abruptly stopped, but there was no telling which side had actually won.

"You ready?" Daniel asked Nerita, who just looked at him.

"It won't matter, we have no choice." She stated as she rounded the corner. Daniel simply gave a shrug, grimaced, and regretted the action.

"Just askin'." He stated as they carefully made their way through the hallway. They made it to the end, only to see the complete carnage unleashed by the hacked turrets. They had been placed as a bottleneck, and it had worked but in the wrong way for their would be owners. The bodies of multiple Blue Suns mercs littered the area as they looked back at the elevator. Smoke and fire illuminated the access shaft, the elevator having been destroyed to prevent their ascent back up to daylight.

"Can we climb the shaft?" Nerita asked, looking over at Daniel.

"I can boost us up, but they would no doubt have the shaft sealed by now. I don't have enough fuel to sustain both of us for me to weld through the door." Daniel stated. Nerita simply shrugged.

"So you boost up, open the door, and I'll climb my way back up using the elevator cables." Daniel looked over at her.

"Seems like a plan. You up for it?" He asked.

"I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't believe I could do it Lieutenant." She stated coldly as they walked towards the wreckage of the elevator. "However it doesn't solve our problem that they will most likely be guarding the door, and the moment it opens, they will open fire." Daniel brought up his omni-tool, and checked something before smiling underneath his mask.

"Don't worry, I got that part."



It had been a few minutes already, Daniel had gotten past the wreckage and was working on unsealing the door to the first level. He was just about done when Nerita finally joined him, exhaustion marking her facial expression as she wrapped her hand around the severed elevator cord. She was slightly below the door, to avoid the inevitable hail of bullets that would come from the other side. Daniel looked back, only seconds away from releasing the door. "Hold on." He stated simply as he cut the door open, gave it a good kick, and flew to one side of the door.

The answering call of assault rifles, shotguns, and snipers flew past him, barely missing him and Nerita as they literally filled the air with death. It took a few seconds of bullets flying everywhere for it to finally die down. When it did, Daniel leaned around the corner and set his combat drone right in the middle of the group, which consisted of about ten mercenaries of differing species. They all fired at Daniel, but he was already out of the way. Instead, they then quickly turned to his combat drone, which they started firing on quickly as well. He had been hoping for that.

As the drone failed, it sent out a burst of destructive energy. The closest guards were sent flying while the others were tossed to the ground. Daniel had altered it's core to overload the moment a critical failure was detected, and he flew in with his shotgun in hand as the mercs were picking themselves up. He deployed another drone quickly, and started unleashing hell with his shotgun. Merc after merc dropped, but some were finding their balance, and returning fire. Suddenly, a couple of them were lifted into the air, and Daniel looked back in time to see Nerita unload her twin pistols into the helpless soldiers.

The mop up took a little less then two minutes as the Blue Suns were either dead or dying on the ground. Daniel was about to say something to Nerita when Overwatch interrupted him.

"Ground team, whatever you did kicked up the activity of the Blue Suns. All members of the mercenary band that are stationed on Invictus are currently making their way to you. ETA of closest shuttle is less than a minute." Daniel was already prying open the door to the escape hatch.

"Confirmed Overwatch, out." Daniel ushered Nerita out first, and followed her up quickly. They had managed to take out a good number of Blue Suns today, but he wasn't will to see how long they would last against an entire company of them.

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Nerita and Daniel both sprinted out of the jungle as quickly as they could. Explosions blew sand into their path and tried to knock them off balance as Blue Suns with heavy weapons fired from passing Kodiak shuttles. Neither Daniel nor Nerita bothered saying anything during the run, knowing what was fully going on in each other's mind.

Fuck...fuck...fuck...fuck!

Suddenly a Kodiak started hovering a few feet in front of them, and a mech dropped from the bottom of the shuttle. "Ymir!" Daniel yelled as the mech came online. Immediately it started targeting them, and they both dived behind some dunes. Daniel tapped his ear one more time as another rocket nearly missed him and covered him in sand. "Overwatch this is ground team! We are under heavy fire, where's our evac?!"

"This is Kodiak 1, we're on your six ground team." A shuttle flew nearby and took the heavy mech's attention away from Daniel and Nerita. The door opened to reveal a couple of marines armed with assault rifles peppering the artificial construct. Daniel made a slashing motion with his hand.

"Nerita! Go go go!" She got up and started running as quickly as she could for the Kodiak. Daniel followed quickly behind, watching as the Cerberus Kodiak strafed to avoid the fire from the Ymir heavy mech. They wouldn't be able to board while that thing was targeting the shuttle. Daniel watched as Nerita bolted for the shuttle, but instead of running towards the shuttle, he hit the Ymir's shields with an overload, grabbing it's attention. It turned towards him as another rocket from another Blue Suns shuttle peppered his position. He dived once more, avoiding the heavy fire from the Ymir's heavy cannon. He rolled to the side, a bullet impacting a half a second behind him as he forced himself behind another sand dune. Rockets impacted in front of him, and one came so close it crashed his shields and forced static into his visor.

"Lieutenant! We need to get out of here!" The pilot yelled.

"Do a run past me, I'll hop on! We can't stop!" Daniel stated as he went into an almost fetal position as more rockets impacted on him.

"Acknowledged, moving to intercept!" Daniel gave a peek up top as the Kodiak lifted off the ground and started towards his position. More rockets impacted near him, and the dune disappeared underneath the unwavering barrage. Daniel summoned up his reserves of courage as he forced himself up and sprinting towards an intercept course with the Kodiak. His timing needed to be precise, for if he missed, there would be no second chance.

Daniel waited until the last second, and emptied the reserves for his jump pack and flew into the open door of the Kodiak. He crashed through the compartment and ended up on the far side head over heels against the wall. The door closed and the marines turned to help Daniel up and into a seat. "Hold on boys, they're trying to chase us. Bad choice." There was turbulence as they started to exit the gravity of the planet. The Kodiak pilot started talking to Overwatch, and a few minutes later, turned back towards everyone else. "Just to let everyone know, the Call of Victory says hi to us, and bye to our followers. We're in the clear."

Daniel gave a sigh as he placed his arms on his knees. They had failed in retrieving the informant, who had been dead before they got there, but managed to get a small data packet with who knows what on it. Nerita sat beside him, and mimicked his stance as the marines stood with their hands holding onto the top rails. "You should probably get those looked at." After a moment of silence between them. Daniel looked over at her, then at the blood on his armour that was obviously his and he was painfully reminded that he had been wounded. He grimaced once more, and shifted in his seat.

"Yeah, thanks for reminding me." He said sarcastically. He looked over at Nerita, noticing she was looking back at the marines who were obviously staring at her through their visors. Instead of reprimanding them, he turned towards Nerita. "You know, for what it's worth, I'm glad it was you down there with me Nerita." Daniel stated simply. "And, as is my power in a command position aboard the Call of Victory, I can order these boys here to spar with you and see how they do against a biotic powerhouse." The marines shifted nervously, and quickly altered their gaze. Daniel removed his mask, and smiled, rubbing his hair down. "You ever need anything N, you let me know."

Nerita simply gave a smirk, and looked at the marines. She said nothing, but that was a sign in itself.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar

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"...And this was all we were able to bring back ma'am."

Daniel stated in the comm. room just a few short minutes after they had docked with the Call of Victory. His armour was still on, and dried blood was still visible in sections where he had taken hits. His armour's personal field medical systems would be able to keep him going for much longer than would be necessary now, so he felt no real need to rush down to Dr. Grass's ever so condescending but professional care. Kelly stood across the table from him, holding the small data packet so carefully it looked like she was afraid that a twitch might destroy the tiny device. Her eyes carefully went over each inch of it, looking as if she was expecting something else from the device. Instead, she eventually put it down and looked back up at Daniel, placing her hands behind her back.

"You did what you could Lieutenant. If he was dead before you got there, then you made the right choice in leaving him there, his body would have provided nothing. I will see what this data packet contains, and then ship it to the Illusive Man. If our informant was intelligent in any sense of the word, it should contain any information right up to his capture." Kelly nodded towards the door. "That will be all Lieutenant, might want to get down to the infirmary before Dr. Grass comes parading through the ship looking for whose spilling all the blood on the ship."

"You got it ma'am, wouldn't want to have the doting mother on my case, now would I?" Daniel stated, and turned to walk away only to have the door open and watch as Dr. Grass walked in.

"Considering I'm neither a parent nor a member of the female gender, I find your joke in poor taste Mr. Harrens." Lincoln looked around at the comm. room before settling on Kelly. "I assume you are done with him, so I can get him patched up yet again because someone forgot to tell our marines how to duck in basic training."

"He's all yours doctor." Kelly stated with a slight smile on her face. Daniel simply shook his head as he walked out of the room past Dr. Grass.

"Indeed. 'doting mother'? Where did you come up with these jokes? A morgue?" Lincoln stated as he followed after the Demon.

"Well first you have to have a sense of humour to know what the word 'joke' means Doctor." Daniel retorted as the door closed behind them. Kelly simply shook her head, and picked up the data packet once more. She slowly slipped it onto the middle of the table, and watched as the lights dimmed slightly.

"Niki, can you read what is in this packet please." Kelly asked the ship A.I.

"It is encrypted using standard Cerberus protocols, along with a personalized defence algorithm that uses a six digit code encoded within a series of repeating signals. This will take a moment to break." There was literally a one second pause from the machine. "Completed, bringing up the documents now." The table flashed and showed several dozen reports, all depicting movements on several mercenary groups with the Terminus Systems. Most were standard troop movements, the occasional raid on a small commercial vessel or rival mercenary group, but what got Kelly's attention was a file near the back locked with it's own private security shielding. Niki broke through it within seconds, the file having been locked once again with Cerberus protocols. Once it was through, Kelly waved her hand a couple of times, and flashed through the files. Her eyes narrowed as she continued to scroll through them.

Hovering right in front of her was reports for slave transports, destinations, manifests, and trade deals. What really got her attention was the large amounts of humans being shipped to several locations, bought by 'unknown benefactors'. She couldn't be certain, but she would have placed her money on Collectors. The problem with the information though was that several of these transactions had already occurred and the next one wasn't to happen for several days. Alongside with this, all the planets or meeting spaces that were selected were close to mass relays or otherwise somewhere near a quick escape route. If they were to go in guns blazing, any ships in the area would be able to bug out quickly enough that the Victory wouldn't be able to do anything about it. "Niki, please see to it that the Illusive Man gets these files, and make sure you highlight this specific file for him if you please." Kelly stated as she shut down the files and the room lit up once more.

"Of course Operative Invaru." Kelly watched as it showed the files downloading, and then it quickly finished and the entire display ended. "Is there anything else Operative?" Niki asked as Kelly made for the door.

"Nothing for the moment Niki." The door opened, and Kelly walked out. "But I have a feeling we may have another run in with the collectors coming our way."

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"Aw c'mon Daniel! You never talk about missions! With Horn out of the fight for at least awhile, I thought you would take the opportunity to shine! Tell us some tales of your dashing heroism with a jetpack and all that jazz!" Jessie stated as she dug into some of the food provided by the Victory cooks. Several other members of the ship were around the table as well, ranging from marines to engineers to technicians. Daniel simply shook his head and smiled.

"You know I try not to brag, you're trying to bring an addiction on me McKrain!" There was a small laughter at the table.

"Hey, well we can't have you being all golden boy on us, you don't even have a vice! You don't drink much, you don't smoke, of course you don't do any drugs legal or otherwise before or after you joined the military, so there's got to be something." She stated, a wicked smile on her lips as she placed her elbows on the table and leaned forward. "Maybe he's a closet sex fiend fella's. Being in the military reigns it in, but maybe he does all this crazy shit so members of the opposite sex will be attracted to his crazy notions." There was a couple a faked gasps throughout the table, mixed with some laughter.

"Oh, I think we all know who the sex fiend is at this table, don't we Jessie. After all, you do work with really big guns for a living." There was another bout of laughter as Daniel finished up his meal.

"At least I won't be obvious and deny it all the time, trying to hide my inner tendencies. You've got nothing Harrens." She grabbed another forkfull of food, and Daniel raised an eyebrow at her.

"Oh really? Scuttlebutt says you have something going for the Commander." Her eyes went wide and she nearly spit out her food as the table erupted in laughter.

"What?! When did this...Where did...Wh-...When did this start?!" She demanded. Daniel simply shrugged and gave a knowing smile.

"Oh you know, right after you went to see him in the infirmary with flowers. Kelly caught you apparently, and you nearly got embarrassed. That was the best part." To her credit, she regained her composure quite quickly.

"He just saved our lives, and I get called a lovesick puppy when I try to show some appreciation, God, the rumours that go around this place."

"Hey, I was there too you know. I never got any of this so called appreciation." Daniel stated as Jessie narrowed her eyes at him.

"Well too bad regs prevent me from thanking you properly Danny boy." There was more laughter from the crowd at the table, along with a couple of 'Ooooooh's. Daniel simply gave a slight laugh.

"I'm just pulling your chain McKrain, no need to get all huffy on me." Before Jessie could say another word, the distinct image of Kevin Jaconis appeared behind her.

"Jessie?" He asked, and she turned around. "If you're done with your food, I need to run some calibrations by you. Some of the guns are having a bigger draw then they should, and I need to make sure that it's not an error on your end before I make any adjustments."

"Are you implying I make mistakes Kevin?" Jessie said in a fake insulted tone.

"All the time." Kevin stated in such a grouchy voice that if people hadn't known him, would have taken him seriously. Jessie simply gave a sigh, and grabbed one more bite of her food.

"Duty calls boys. Enjoy the meal." The two of them left the mess, leaving Daniel and the crew men to talk about missions, leave, and possible family on the fringe worlds that were being targeted. Most of the talk was uplifting, but some of it still rang sour with the crew in some ways. Any talk about what happened with the Titan still immediately got side tracked to something else, and they tried to avoid bringing up Linda anywhere in their conversation. It wasn't until Nerita showed up that the conversations really died down. She stood there slightly awkward as everyone seemed to pause to stare at her, the lone alien on a pro-human ship. Daniel looked up and offered a smile.

"You need something Nerita? Have a seat." She took a moment, watching as the eyes stared her down, but eventually sat down. The man next to Daniel gave a cough, an unspoken signal that he didn't approve. Daniel held up one finger to Nerita. "One moment Nerita." Daniel turned to the man, who grimaced and nodded towards Nerita.

"She's not one of us." He stated in a tone that said everything. He didn't want her there, and nothing Daniel said was going to make him change his mind.

"Well that's too bad private. Last time I checked, I outranked you. Therefore, I suggest you shut up before I decide to personally take you to the sparring ring and let Nerita have her five rounds out of you." The marine looked over at Nerita, giving her a once over before scoffing.

"I'm sorry, I'm not in the habit of beating up the helpless." Daniel didn't know the man personally, and for once, was glad he didn't. The bigotry spewing from this man was insulting, but he gave a smile anyways.

"So it's settled. After lunch, you and Nerita will head to Observation, where I will enjoy watching you get your ass handed to you so thoroughly you will have to spend a week picking it up off of the ring." Daniel stated as the man looked between him and Nerita, who gave a small smirk as she dug into her meal. The man's bravado all but disappeared when he saw that smirk, the one that told of hidden knowledge beneath the surface. he turned to say something but before he could, Daniel interjected once more. "Oh, and that's an order there Private. You don't get a chance to back out now." The man's shoulders slumped slightly, and he turned back towards his food. Daniel gave a large smile as he turned back towards everyone.

"Now, where were we?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar

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Kelly stood aboard the CIC staring off into the Galaxy map. She had been running over the systems, scanning for activity of note and had yet to see anything that might even be remotely worth looking into. She took her eyes off the holographic screen long enough to look out over the technicians that were currently on duty. Like always they were behaving in a very professional manner, with little conversation going on between any of them. The few that were talking were doing so in a hushed manner, preferring not to disturb the quiet atmosphere of the deck. Kelly gave a slight smile, it was nice to see that her presence brought about this change, seeing as when Horn was on the deck, it was noisy but usually filled with good humour. She was about to return to her relatively boring task of scanning systems, when a voice could be heard all over the CIC coming from the bridge.

“God damn it Niki! Every God damn time! Just once...just once I would like to enjoy something in peace without some obscure warning of something that doesn’t even matter!” Kelly looked at the others, who were simply looking at each other. She slowly made her way around the galaxy map, clasping her hands behind her back as she entered t he bridge and saw Harold fervently trying to wipe something off of his pants. Kelly raised an eyebrow at the situation, but said nothing, and Bretton had yet to recognize her presence. “The asteroid is several million kilometres away, easily avoidable. I just wanted to enjoy some quiet, finish eating my damn sandwich, and watch the stars go by? Is that so hard?”

“As you wish Mr. Bretton, although I would recommend that you be careful of your tone and your words in the presence of a superior officer.” Niki retorted, and Harold gave a disbelieving laugh.

“You’re calling yourself a superior officer now? That isn’t even possible! You’re just an A...She’s right behind me, isn’t she?”

“Yes I am Mr. Bretton. Is there a reason you are yelling at Niki with the highest volume you can muster?” Kelly stated as she looked at the pilot. His face immediately went red as he coughed slightly. He finished wiping something from his lap.

“Well...uhh...I was...” He stopped long enough to realize what it looked like he was doing, and got wide eyed. “Enjoying my sandwich here!” He yelled, his face bright red and suddenly he gripped his face. “Just eating a sandwich here, in complete silence. When Niki here comes on at damn near top volume to warn me about some obscure and easily avoidable asteroid.” He looked back at her to see her simply staring at him with a neutral expression. He coughed slightly once more. “It scared the shi-...It scared me ma’am, and I dropped my sandwich on my lap, Mayo and all.”

“You do know we have a mess hall, right Mr. Bretton?” Kelly asked. “You do have time when you can go down there to eat a decent meal.”

“Yeah...but I’m not so good with people...” Harold stated, his face as red as a beet by now. “That and I enjoy the silence.” He glared at the pad that held Niki’s avatar. “You know, when it’s not interrupted.” Harold stared at the pad for a few more moments before returning his gaze back to the controls.

“I felt that the information was relevant, and needed to be conveyed. I apologize for any inconvenience that I may have caused.” Niki stated, her form shifting to indicate that it was ‘talking’. Harold threw his hands in the air.

“Yeah, you’ve only done it several times. So either you’re doing it on purpose, or you’re an AI with a learning disability.”

“It would not do you well to insult the AI that might be protecting our lives against cyber warfare down the road.” Kelly stated. “However, in the future, try to keep your outbursts...non-existent if they tend to be about unimportant issues Mr. Bretton. I doubt the entire deck needed to hear that you dropped a sandwich on your lap.” Harold seemed to sink into his seat.

“Yes ma’am.” He said quietly, and Kelly gave a nod and turned to walk away when she heard the console beep once. There was a brief pause before Harold called after her. “Ma’am! Communiqué from the Illusive Man.” Kelly wandered back, and Harold quickly put it on a datapad for her to read. Once she had it in her hands, she slowly walked back to the galaxy map as she read the information before her.

Apparently the entire mission was a group assassination, or execution. In short, a group of highly powerful people, both financially and politically, had come together to form a committee that furthered their own goals. These people had been interfering with Cerberus for quite some time now, using their own private army to attack frigates loaded with supplies, or raid small time research outposts whose main defence was secrecy. How they were getting this information had been handled, a few crooked informants that were now...out of the way. The Call of Victory’s job was to now eliminate the main power behind the driving force of the pain in their neck. Kelly read the roster, and saw that there were six men, and one woman who sat on the board, and that they met regularly at different locations. While their current whereabouts were unknown, it was recognized that they would be meeting on Elysium in the Veta system. That location made Kelly frown for a couple of reasons.

One, Elysium was now highly defended by mobile planetary defence cannons. If the Victory was to enter airspace unannounced, they would be destroyed. Luckily, the Illusive Man had already taken care of that aspect. The Call of Victory was to remain on time for their arrival, and would be under the name of the ‘The Journey’, an armed merchant vessel trading in weapons and armed goods. This would explain their heavily armed nature, and why they were in the system in the first place. However, that did nothing to dissuade her concerns for the second problem.

Elysium was under heavy Alliance control. They would have better security, authorities would be better trained and equipped, and it was almost a guarantee that the Alliance kept a contingent of marines there along with frigates at any given time. It was going to be a tight rope of a walk. Getting in wasn’t going to be nearly as hard as getting out. Kelly set a course for Elysium, timing her travel route to arrive at the planet within the timeframe for the next galactic day. This time was good, as it would allow Daniel and the others at least some measure of rest before their next mission. She quickly turned from the galaxy map though, and walked through the hallways to the comm. Room. She wasn’t there to talk to the Illusive Man however, seeing as he would have called her if he was going to debrief her personally, but rather she laid the datapad on the table and brought up several images.

The first image that came up was the building and a two block radius. The building itself was twenty stories high, belonging to a local and small time corporation known as Kreen Exporting Company, or KEC for short. It had several elevators for people to ascend and descend, along with its own private security force which resembled an army. That was unusual for such a small time company, which only brought more suspicion on itself. However, that was the only thing out of the ordinary. Employees came and went as they were paid to do, and each of the group members from the execution list was linked to the company as well, making it easy for them to come and go as they pleased. The surrounding area was a mixture of modern architecture and parks that featured some very nice flora and fauna. If they went in armour, it would draw way too much attention and allow for the council to notice them coming, not to mention the security checks they would have to go through. Kelly put a hand underneath her chin, and held it there for a moment as she went over the area in detail, drawing a plan as she went.

After about an hour of analyzing the layout, the group member biographies, and possible entry/exit plans, she closed the file and stood there for a moment. She now had a plan, but she would have to run it by Daniel first. He had become the go-to soldier it seemed, since Horn had been left out of the action. Speaking of which, she hadn’t gone down too see him in quite some time, maybe it was time that she took a moment to find out just how he was doing if she could find the time. However, she had to focus on the mission at hand. “Niki, where is Daniel now?” Kelly asked the A.I.

“Lieutenant Harrens is currently in the Observatory overseeing some sparring.” Niki returned, and Kelly gave a slight nod.

“Thank you Niki.” Kelly stated as she left the comm. Room and made her way to the elevator.
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Daniel stood against the wall in his casual Cerberus uniform, watching as the private geared up for the fight. He was doing several stretches, trying to warm up his muscles as best he could for the upcoming ‘slaughter’ he had deemed it. Daniel knew who he meant, but he doubted it would end up that way. Nerita stood at the opposite corner of the sparring ring, slowly taking off her trench coat and placing it on the corner. Underneath she wore a tight fitting red T-shirt and some standard black pants that matched her black trench coat. She rolled her shoulders slightly, but aside from that, leaned against the pole in the corner and waited for the private to finish his stretching.

Cecil wandered into the gym, his face alight with a smile as he looked over the crowd. Daniel looked over and gave a smile of his own. “Cecil! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you around in awhile.”
“Oh you know, here and there. I’ve been appointed as the procurement officer, something that suits my talents.” Cecil gave a slight sigh and smiled. “Sometimes the marines are worse than the salesmen, but that’s just the way things go. It keeps me busy, and keeps me out of the line of fire for the most part.” Cecil nodded towards the ring. “I heard about a certain ‘challenge’ being issued?” Daniel gave a small laugh.

“Yeah, we get to see what happens when arrogance over comes respect and common sense.” Daniel said. “I think it should be an interesting fight at the very least.” Cecil clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

“Well splendid, I believe there is money to be made here!” Cecil removed his hat and held it up. “Hello fellows! Betting has opened! Who are you going to choose to win! Betting starts at 5 credits! 5 credits!”

Already credits were being handed out as people started betting on the fights. A couple of marines asked Daniel if he wanted to bet, but he respectively declined. He was here to watch Nerita prove once and for all that she belonged on this ship, regardless of her race, not make money off of her when she undoubtedly kicked this man’s ass. The private finally finished, and looked over at the Lieutenant. “I just want to know, isn’t using biotics in a sparring match against come kind of regulations or something?”

“I don’t see why it would be.” Daniel stated, giving a small smile.

“Well, it could be used to unfair advantage, and the amount of force used could very easily kill.” The private returned.

“True, but you are also a couple weight classes above Nerita, an unfair advantage. You could also use your weight to kill Nerita given the chance.” Daniel gave a laugh. “Commander Horn took a bionic limb to the face Private; you aren’t getting out of this fight because you’re too much of a pansy to take her on!” The Private’s face went red as anger errupted into his features.

“I’m not afraid, just cautious sir!” The Private stated as he stepped into the ring, a grey muscle shirt and long grey boxers adorning him. To his credit, the man was built very large and tough. Daniel doubted even he could have taken the man on in a fair fight one on one, but knew that large guys tended to be slow, predictable, if incredibly hard hitting. The Private did give Nerita a once over though, noticing that she wasn’t even in gym gear, and cocked his head to the side. “You not even going to bother to change bluesy? You given up already?”

Nerita simply gave a smirk as she pushed off the corner, and stepped up to the middle of the ring. She was no more than two feet away from the man, staring him dead in the eyes. The man looked like he wanted to give ground from the stare alone, but held his ground. Daniel spoke up. “Alright, we keep this clean, no cheap shots from either one of you. Aside from that, everything else goes, and the fight ends when I say it does. We clear?”

“Yes sir!” The Private answered, Nerita simply nodded.

“Alright.” Daniel stated. “Give each other some room.” Both of them parted and put about ten feet between them. Daniel gave a smile as people were already starting to cheer.

“Light it up!” He stated as everyone started cheering and the Private stepped forward, his arms in a standard boxing style. Nerita held her arms low, her hands flexing and a blue glow coming about her as her biotics flared to life. The Private saw this, and entered a more defensive state. There was a tense few moments as both waited for the other to do something first, but finally the Private got impatient, and launched a quick jab at Nerita’s head. She ducked, and launched her palm out. It connected with the Private’s chest with minimal force, but a quick twitch sent out a burst of biotics that sent the man stumbling back and clutching his chest. The Private looked up at the Asari, who returned to her posture before the attack, and remained in one spot. Nerita could have easily have killed him had she chose, but instead she simply pushed him back with minimal force. The Private closed the distance, and faked with his right hand, and launched a haymaker with his left.

Nerita flipped the right hand away, and ducked underneath the haymaker, catching it as it swung by. She held it against the man in an awkward fashion across his body. She stepped up, and head butted the man in the face, but that wasn’t enough. As the man was stunned for that millisecond, Nerita launched several punches in the soft spot right underneath the rib cage, managing to make the man flinch with each hit. The man pushed off, and launched a flurry of hits towards Nerita’s face, who managed to deflect or block a majority of them with the aid of her biotics. However, near the end, Nerita slipped up, and let a couple punches connect with her face. The Private took the opportunity to grab her from the shoulder and inside of the thigh and lift her above his head. He then flipped her and intended to crash her to the mat, only to have a blue glow surround her and prevent her from hitting the ground. She punched upwards with a biotically enhanced fist, and watched as the man sailed upwards and landed hard on his back. Nerita stood slowly, as did the man. Both were bleeding, the Private from his nose, and Nerita from her mouth. They stepped up to each other once more, and the man attempted to grab her and pin her in place. Instead, she broke the grapple, connecting with a fist to the Private’s face, followed by a knee to the gut as the man doubled over. She rolled over his back in a smooth fashion, and grabbed his head. She launched her knee upward but was stopped when the Private placed his hands in the way, and forced her leg back down. He quickly launched himself at her, tackling her to the ground punched her several times in the gut before she could react.

She reached out with her palm, and sent out a pulse that sent the man flying backwards into the ropes. He doubled over for a moment, and Nerita took the moment to summon some reserve pain-killer adrenaline and launched herself at the man. She jumped up, planning on drop kicking the man in the chest, but was met with a sidestep and a grab as the Private gripped her legs and in a devastating move swung her around and crashed her into the mat. She lay there for a moment before the man gripped her head, and literally lifted her in the air by her cranium alone and drove it into the mat once more. The crowd was in an uproar, some cheering others grumbling about the loss of their money. Daniel simply stood there as the Private looked at the Asari, who was unmoving on the mat, and then to Daniel. “She was going to kick my ass huh LT? I think I just proved my point! Humans will always be better, and she...” The Private pointed back to the Asari. “Is not one of us.” Daniel simply shrugged, and gave a smile. He then leaned forward for a moment.

“Good show Nerita, now if you don’t mind, clean up the mess will you?” Daniel stated. The Private gave a confused expression before turning back to see Nerita climbing to her feet. She looked over at the man, her face bloodied and bruised and the glare she was giving him was enough to kill on its own. The Private looked back to Daniel, then to Nerita.

“I won the fight though!” The Private stated. Daniel shrugged.

“Obviously not, she’s still standing.” The Private grunted and turned back towards the Asari to receive a hard right hook in the face. The man stumbled back a moment, only to receive another left hook to the face, followed by another right. A flurry of hits connected with the man before he was even able to put his arms up in defence. The moment he put his hands up to his face, Nerita hit him in the gut with a biotically enhanced uppercut that literally lifted the man up in the air a foot. All the air left him as he was left struggling to stand, but Nerita didn’t let up. Instead, she kicked his knee from behind, forcing him into a kneeling position. She twirled around to the front, and delivered a sharp biotic kick to the man’s chest, sending him flying to the ground and rolling around the mat. When he stopped, he gasped for air, only to have his throat gripped by the asari, and thanks to some fine usage of biotics and mass effect fields, Nerita lifted him off the ground with one hand, and punched him in the gut a few times with enough biotic power to make sure he wouldn’t be eating for a week.

“Nerita!” Daniel yelled across the mat. People simply stared with absolute silence at the sudden viciousness of one that had always been so calm and reserved. Nerita looked back, panting heavily and purple blood smearing her features. She had a slightly crazed look about her as she held the man there. “It’s done, he’s got nothing left. You’ve won.” Daniel stated, indicating the match was over. She stared at him for a moment, then looked back at the man who was for the most part, slack in her grip save for holding onto her arm as it choked him. Her eyes narrowed at the man as heavy breaths escaped her, but she finally dropped him to the ground and the man simply collapsed. Nerita let heavy breaths escape her as she wiped her face with the back of her hand, smearing some of her blood over her features. She looked at the liquid on her hand, and gave it a quick flick to the ground to get rid of most of it.

Without another word to the rest of the crowd that was still watching her, she grabbed her trench coat, slipped through the ropes, and exited the gym in a rather quick manner. Daniel watched as she left, a different side emerging from her today as Cecil simply smiled and came up beside Daniel. “I don’t know about you Mr. Harrens, but I made a killing!” He shook his hat and the sound of credits jostling around inside was unmistakable. He placed a few within his vest, but simply left the rest in his hat. He gave a quick nod, and made for the door after Nerita. Daniel looked around at everyone, most over the shock now and simply grumbling about the lost money while a few were in the ring already trying to help the Private to his feet. Daniel simply shook his head and went to leave and nearly collided full on with Kelly. He jerked back quickly and surprise etched his face. “Damn you’re quiet!” Daniel stated when he regained composure.

“When I need to be Lieutenant. Are you free?” The question was more of a kindness than an actual inquiry. It was an order in the most polite form. Daniel looked around at everyone, and caught a glimpse of the Private being dragged out of the ring no doubt on his way to see Dr. Grass. Daniel had actually meant to go after Nerita to ask her what was with the whole ‘rage’ thing that just happened, but he guessed he would have to wait.

“Yeah, what’s new?” Daniel asked as he started following Kelly out of the Observation room and into the hallway.

“Another mission, we need to go over the details.” Kelly stated as they reached the elevator.

“Of course.” Daniel stated as they waited for the elevator in silence, boarded, and headed up to the 2nd deck.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Once they were in the comm. Room, Kelly brought up a layout of the building and its surrounding layout, along with the limited bios of the members of the council they were going to kill. Daniel walked around the table slowly, gripping his chin deep in thought as Kelly walked him through the objectives, and some of the finer points of the operation, mainly including extraction. When she had finished, Daniel stood still for a moment, and dropped his hands on the table. “Let me get this straight. They want us to somehow get to the top of a twenty story building on an Alliance dominated world complete with mobile planetary batteries and kill a group of people that technically doesn’t exist and get away before the Alliance can muster a proper response?”

“I wouldn’t have put it quite as bluntly, but yes.” Kelly stated with a slight smile. Daniel threw his hands in the air.

“Why do they keep giving us this shit? I’m a combat engineer, not an infiltration engineer!” Daniel stated.

“No, but we do have one on hand.” Daniel paused.

“Yeah. Is Tia cleared for active duty yet, or is she still under house arrest?”

“If you decide to take her with you on this mission, I will allow it although I would recommend a high level of scrutiny when dealing with her. A relapse, regardless of whether or not she’s treated, is highly possible.” Kelly stated as Daniel leaned on the table once more.

“Yeah, but what else about this mission isn’t risky?” Daniel asked as he looked over everything on the table, doing his best to formulate a plan. “Can we bring up security specs of this building?” Daniel asked. Instantly a blue outline of several items within the map lit up, indicating possible security precautions. A giant blue block was in the basement. “Looks like we found our main security server.” Daniel stated.

“I believe that hub controls the cameras, and possibly the DNA scanners as well.” Kelly stated. “Shutting them down would reroute power almost instantly to another location...here.” Kelly enlarged the map, showing a separate warehouse-like building several blocks away. “This location here is programmed to instantly activate in the case of an unscheduled shut off, which would leave only a second for a window, not enough time to do any real amount of work.” Kelly stated.

“What happens if that one goes offline as well?” Daniel stated, a small inkling of a plan coming to fruition.

“Then the security within the building would switch to a third redundant battery operated internal source. You can’t access it from the corporate building or anywhere that would be feasible to visit.” Kelly answered.

“Alright, how long of a delay would there be if both servers were to be taken out at the same time?” Daniel asked.

“Around a minute, give or take a few seconds depending on the possible delay between servers and the redundant system. This would be the biggest window you would be able to achieve.”

“Alright, so we blast both at the same time, but the question is how to get to the bottom server.” Daniel pondered as he wandered around the table once more.

“I may have an answer for that.” Kelly stated. Kelly zoomed in on a small building a few feet from the corporation building. “These security booths hold around 4 guards at any one time. They have their own basement, filled with a small assortment of weapons but more importantly, a possible route into the basement without going through standard channels.” The screen did a 3D view of the wall in the basement, and showed the gap between the guard outpost, and the server room of the corporation building. “It would take some time and work, seeing as there is a fair amount of earth and concrete between you and the target, but it should be doable within ten minutes of constant work if you send only one person.”

“Alright, I can send Tia in through there; have her shut down the servers in sync with the backup ones. That solves our initial entry.” Daniel zoomed out, and brought it to the lobby. “However, even if the scanners are down, we still have to worry about the guards and the elevators. What are the rules of engagement on this one? Are we dealing with civilian security, or private army?”

“These are private army security, hired soldiers who would do anything for the bottom line. I’ll leave the ROE up to you Lieutenant.” Daniel gave a slow nod.

“Alright, so what are the numbers of the guard here? Are the elevators set up on an emergency shutdown sequence when the servers go down?” Daniel asked.

“As far as we know, the lobby holds about ten guards at any given time, with an unknown number patrolling the many levels of the building. The top floor, however, should be heavily guarded. Expect resistance once you get up there.” Kelly zoomed in on the elevators. “The elevators should shut down and await either a security or a CEO clearance before they move again. If you were planning on climbing the shaft, you might have to worry about the elevator suddenly moving.”

“Unless we disable it from the inside. What about external security? Won’t they come running once we start shooting the place up?” Daniel asked.

“I can assist there Lieutenant Harrens.” Niki spoke up. “When the servers go down there will be a limited window of opportunity. If you upload me to the security console within the main lobby, I can enter the building in a lockdown mode, preventing any access or exit from the building. I can also eliminate all override codes to the doors, preventing guards from spreading throughout the building unchecked.”

“Thanks Niki.” Daniel stated. “Alright, so we have our way in. We’ll need some climbing gear to get up the shafts, seeing as I doubt I’ll be able to walk around the streets in full armour. Once we get to the top, we eliminate the group, and how do we extract?” Kelly brought up the landing pad on the top of the building.

“Alpha extraction will be the topside of the building, where a Kodiak should be waiting if everything goes according to plan. If not...” Kelly brought the map out to a couple blocks away, to a relatively flat park. “We’ll perform a hot extraction here. If we need to use this one, chances are you may be on your own to get out of the system. We have a very limited window in which we can stay in orbit once the mission goals have been accomplished.”

“Wait, landing pad? What’s to stop the group from bugging out to the landing pad once we start shooting up the place?” Daniel asked.

“There is a double reinforced door leading to the landing pad. When I eliminate the override codes, this will effectively trap them within the room.” Niki stated.

“Understood.” Daniel stopped once more, and stared at the screen. Chances are, like always, nothing would happen exactly according to plan. He would have to improvise like he usually did, but damn it all if he wasn’t going to be prepared. “I’ll need Tia along, to deal with the server in the basement, along with the elevators and eliminating its ability to move without explosives. I’ll bring Carly along for the power, and I’ll get Lieutenant O’Ryan to get me a marine to round out the group with 4. I need backpacks and/or satchels to bring in some weapons and the climbing gear, and we’ll also need masks to make sure our identities will still be saved when they undoubtedly check the cameras. Generic weapons, gear, clothing, etc, just so we blend in with the average hitman/robbery crowd.”

“It’s all been taken care of. Cecil has already brought in several items which may be of use to you, and will be able to special order anything else that you may need.” Kelly stated. “Is there anything else you wish to discuss Lieutenant?” Daniel simply gave a smile.

“I know I’m going to be halfway through this mission, and think of some critically important question that I forgot to ask.” Daniel gave a small laugh. “I think I’m good for the moment ma’am. I think best on my feet anyways.” Kelly gave a nod.

“Understood. We’ll arrive in one galactic day, enough time for you to rest and be energized for the next mission Lieutenant. I suggest you take it.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice ma’am.” Daniel stated as he made his way through the door and out into the hallway. The door closed behind him, and Kelly stared at the display for a few more moments before shutting down the screen and walking out.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar

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Ontarom was beautiful. Or at the very least, it was a beautiful day on the planet. Kelly kept a light jog going as the entire company made for their stand by location, and couldn't help but feel her mind drifting towards any thought aside from the actual fight ahead. She thought about what she would do once she was aboard the Call of Victory again, what she was going to eat tomorrow for lunch, what she did three years prior when she was simply a floating information field agent within Cerberus's ranks. Every time her mind drifted, she had to snap herself back to the present, and was thankful her body seemed to be on autopilot for the time being. She doubted seeing their commanding officer day dreaming while she should be preparing for what was most likely an incredibly dangerous and risky operation would not do well for morale. She gave the slightest of glances backwards, but heard no sound and noticed any odd movement. Of course, she didn't think she would, they would all be using private channels by this point. A part of her wished for someone to talk to right before heading into the proverbial shit, but she knew there was no one here who really knew her. She was, at least metaphorically, alone. It wasn't long before they all started climbing a small hill, and once they were all stationed on top of the incline, she saw what their objective was.

Sitting in a valley that was unnecessarily large for the deceptive visible portion of the complex sat a single building. It wasn't large by any means, two stories tall and looking like a corporate office rather than a weapons testing platform. The only thing that deemed to give it away was the incredibly large antennae that linked their communications to the rest of the galaxy. It dwarfed the building in size five times over, and could have easily held an entire company of marines in it's dish. Kelly surveyed the field, noting that not much of the landscape had changed from the blueprints. Tank traps and trenches still littered a wide area 360 degrees around the complex. No movement could be seen, heard, or scanned from where they were standing, and Kelly doubted it would have been that easy. She knew there was also mines in the valley, but they were not visible to the naked eye. Being Cerberus issue, she hoped that their suits systems would at least detect them from a safe enough distance, but she still had her doubts. Overall, the scene was much like she expected. It was meant to lower their guard, to make it seem all too easy. The expected became reality, but what worried Kelly was the fact that there was nothing unexpected at all. Everything matched the blueprints almost to the letter, as if there hadn't been any preparation whatsoever. She paused, surveying the scene with an inquisitive eye. As she was doing so, Sergeant Carson came up to her. "Ma'am, are we green?" She held up a finger, not giving a verbal response. Carson simply gave a nod and took a couple steps back.

"Lieutenant O'Ryan, are you in position?" Kelly asked over the comm. channel.

"Yes ma'am, the radio is filled with minor static though." Leonard's voice came through, and as he stated, there was some slight white noise mixed in with his voice. They were right, the satellite dish had been converted to a large scale jammer but close range transmissions within it's area of influence were able to punch through to each other.

"What are you feeling?" Kelly asked, and there was a slight pause as O'Ryan most likely paused at what she was asking before understanding what she meant.

"If you mean everything looks too much like the blueprints, based on what this guy's IQ is supposed to be, I don't like it. Something doesn't add up."

"I have the same inclination. The problem is we don't have the time to sit and think as to what he could have done..." Kelly stated as she let her avenger fall to her side.

"We proceed as planned?"

"We proceed as planned. Initiate assault Lieutenant. Good luck."

"Same goes for you ma'am." Leonard cut the connection and Kelly looked to Carson, giving a single nod. He returned it, and looked to his marines.

"Alright marines, arm up and get your running boots on! Keep an eye on your squad, keep them safe, and stay alive. Let's go!" Carson took off running down the hill as the rest of the company followed. Kelly easily kept up to the front of the pack, refusing to get lost in the middle rather than show the others that she was there, in front, leading them through example. While her form lacked nothing in terms of looking like a foot soldier, her mentality was different. Her mind was racing with possibilities, inconsistencies, and thoughts of failure as she reached the bottom of the hill. She lacked the mental ability to think like a soldier, see one goal, and pursue it with an almost fanatical determination. She was a thinker, and she was afraid that her hesitation based on her thoughts of 'what ifs' were going to get her killed.

As they reached the edge of the complex's kill zone area, there was a slight pop as they crossed the threshold. Suddenly, a single blue ball launched from the two story building, and it had every soldier looking up at it as it continued it's ascent into the sky, before exploding into a beautiful fireworks display. Kelly stared at it for a moment, before her thoughts turned to something different and looked down too see MG emplacements rising from the ground on retractable gun platforms. At the head of each one was a Cerberus traitor. "Heavy weapons! Down!" She shouted as she slid into place behind one of the tank traps and heard the sound of death as the MG's opened fire.

It was like a symphony, one she had heard before many times, but refused to believe in it's beauty. The company scattered, spreading out to avoid taking too many causalities, but causalities were inevitable as the amount of bullets shredded some of the marines where they stood as the others managed to get to tank traps or trenches. Kelly looked around the tank trap long enough to see a man three feet away have his leg blown off from one of the Cerberus mines placed there. She took a deep breath, and rounded her makeshift cover, firing a couple rounds as she went but they were obviously wide as bullets blazed by her. Adrenaline was flowing through her body, but despite the whole rumour of time slowing down, it didn't. Had her amps been switched with that of Horn's, she knew it would have. In reality, everything simply speeds up and your body matches the pace. She was unused to this feeling, the pure energy inducing fluid running through her veins. She half stumbled, half jumped into one of the trenches, only to find the bloodied remains of the unfortunate marines who had jumped in there first. She looked around, and saw shards of metal jammed into the earth. "Marines!" She broadcast on an open channel to the entirety of the assault force. "The trenches are mined! I repeat, the trenches are mined!"

There was an explosion as one of the MG nests went up in flames from a tank shell fired from the Mako coming up slowly behind them. There was a slight cheer as one of possibly dozens of MG nests was taken out. Kelly prepared to lift herself out of the trench to continue, only to hear a high whistle above the cacophony of gunfire. She looked up once more, only to hear more than a few marines yell; "INCOMING!"

Mortar shells detonated among the marines, sending a few flying and a few more completely obliterated as they were hit dead on. A shell hit dangerously close to her trench as she ducked under the hail of dirt and rocks that threatened to bury her alive in her tiny little hole in the ground. She wiped the grime from her face mask, and crawled her way out of the trench. She shimmied along the ground, managing to see there was still a good 200 yards before they would be able to even breach the defensive line. For the moment, all that counted was making it there to begin with. A bit more crawling, and she rolled into another trench with a couple other marines who were taking the time to fire their assault rifles at the MG nests stationed at the defensive line. Rockets and tank shells were also flying towards it, but at this range, only the Mako could make accurate shots. Already another 3 MG nests were out of commission, but it still wasn't enough. The fire was simply too thick for the company to make any real progress, and every inch was paid for in quarts of blood.

She took a moment to assess herself, a shell had nearly hit her dead on but she had survived. When she took that second of a breather, she found herself hyper ventilating. The read outs on the HUD of her armour indicated that her heart rate was elevated a great deal more than what even this situation should entail. In all rights and respects, she was on the verge of shock and the worst part about it was the fact that she recognized it. She took a few moments to calm herself, to slow her breathing, the constant marine chatter on the public channel making it hard for her to slow her heart rate down to a non-life threatening state. However, as she looked up, she saw something that was enough to bring her heart beat right back to the near shock state.

Eclipse gunships, about 4 of them came flying in formation over the hills, blasting apart the killzone with missiles and machine gun fire. Missiles were fired from the marines as they passed by, and the sheer number of them going after the gunships was too much for even the pilots to avoid. 3 of the 4 gunships were taken out almost immediately after they did their strafing run, but the fourth turned back towards the battle and launched more missiles. These ones were directed at the Mako which, despite it's manoeuvrability, was unable to move in time to avoid the brunt of the impact. Missile after missile hit the broadside of it's hull, and once the smoke had cleared, the Mako was nothing more than a smoking ruin. Kelly could do nothing but stare at what had been their best chance to punch a hole with the least amount of causalities sitting there and burning. There wasn't supposed to be any air support, but then again, those were Eclipse gunships. That meant they were dealing with more than a possible fifty marines inside the complex. They could be dealing with just a large a number as they were throwing at them. It made her want to scream, to break something. Instead, she sat back down in the trench as the MG's lit up the area even more around her. She was starting to break down ever so slightly as she felt her hands tighten around her weapon to point of wanting to snap it in half. However, she looked over to her right, and noticed the three other marines in the small trench with her, staring at her. Her mirrored visor made it impossible for them to gauge her face, and her theirs. They sat there, staring at each other for a moment before Kelly managed to regain enough of herself long enough to crawl out of the trench and take to a crouching stance.

She ran, her elbows nearly touching the ground as fire flew around her and pinged off her shields a few times. She brought up the numbers about the companies, and was surprised to see that despite the attacks, ambush, and loss of the Mako, the companies were still faring much better than expected. The only problem was the fact that they weren't moving. The machine gun fire was pinning them in place, allowing for baby steps forward that would not be feasible with the mortar fire pounding on them every step of the way. She looked around, and found a single squad crouching behind a couple of tank traps. "You! With me!" Kelly ordered over the comm. and the squad simply obeyed. As they fell in behind her, She stood up and holstered her Avenger. She held out her hands, palms up and felt the biotic energy flow around her as her amps on her armour flowed in tune with the power being generated from within. A blue shimmer appeared in front of her about the size of a small car, and bullets seemed to simply bounce off it's surface. She walked slowly, more marines picking up the hint as they fell in behind her. However, as they started to crowd behind her, the guns started focusing on her to the point where the sheer force pounding on her shield forced her to stop. The marines quickly broke away from Kelly and searched for cover as the shield eventually broke and Kelly watched as the bullets came flying at her.

A few managed to get through, sparking her shields and causing them to fail before another blue orb surrounded them. She was on one knee and leaning to her side using her hand as a prop. Nerita came into her vision, her umbra visor glowing a deep blue as she took a hold of Kelly and dragged her behind the nearest tank trap. "That was risky Operative." Nerita said, her tone completely neutral despite everything that was happening around them.

"It was necessary, how much ground did we gain from that?" Kelly asked, sidestepping the statement slightly.

"Only a few yards." Nerita answered as she ducked from a few MG rounds that peppered their position. Kelly took deep breaths, but couldn't believe it. The exertion she felt, it must have been a couple dozen yards. As she looked back though, she saw she was only about ten yards from where she had started, nothing that would be ending this fight any sooner, and she didn't have the strength to continue to do that. She took out her Avenger rifle and rested her back against the tank traps, only to hear Nerita say something else.

"Shit." Her neutral tone betraying her this one time as actual anger and fear seeped into her words. Kelly bent over and looked around her cover to see LOKI mechs rising from the dirt a few yards ahead of the closest marine. Each one had no insignia, but as they rose, yellow armour could be seen from where the defensive line was that was without a doubt of Eclipse origin. "Eclipse mercenaries. They must have hired them while we were en route." Nerita stated, her voice back to her surprising tone of uncaring.

"Wait..." Kelly stated as she looked over at the woman. "If that's Eclipse, and they weren't already here before the base was here..." Kelly stopped talking, and looked upwards towards the sky.

"Shit." Nerita stated once more.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Do we have any idea how they're doing down there?"

"Once again Helmsman Bretton, I am unable to break through the jamming signal generated by the land based satellite dish that was converted for just such a purpose, that being we wouldn't be able to know 'how they were doing'."

"Yeah...still don't like it...and stop talking down to me." Harold Bretton stated in frustration as his hands moved across the display in front of them. He wasn't moving lazily in any way or form, but lacked any real direction. For all intents and purposes, he was simply sitting here, waiting for either Operative Invaru to contact him, or for enough time to pass to indicate that they were no longer among the living. Either way, he was of no use up here and was simply trying to make himself busy so he didn't think about the people fighting and dying down there while he got sit in a cozy chair talking to something that could at least be classified as a female in the loosest sense.

"Your heart rate is elevated Mr. Bretton. Is there something wrong? Should I contact Dr. Grass?" Nikki interrupted his thoughts.

"What? No!" Harold stated a little loud, earning a few stares from the closest techs which he ignored. "I'm just...feeling a little useless right now and it's making me edgy." Harold looked back at the CiC, and noticed an Operative simply pacing around the Overlay of the planet. "She makes me edgy."

"Operative Buchan? She has done nothing to incite any feelings of anxiety or stress."

"I know...it's the fact that they don't necessarily have ranks. That, and she's backed by the Illusive Man himself. She's an assassin, I hate assassins." Harold stated as he glared at her for a moment.

"That seems to be a personal issue Mr. Bretton." Nikki retorted.

"I guess. Assassins just rub me the wrong way, their job is solely to kill people."

"Soldiers kill people Mr. Bretton." Nikki stated.

"No, soldiers fight. Their job isn't always to kill people, it's to sometimes save people, items, etc. Their objectives vary, and while there are the bad soldiers who simply don't care, most of them don't go out of their way to kill people." Harold pointed at Vala for a second. "Assassins on the other hand, that's all they know. They kill, they kill, and they only kill. Hell, met a few of them before, half of them were crazy and the others were sadistic." Harold shook his head. "They're nothing but trouble."

"We have trouble." Nikki stated.

"I know, I just said that." Harold replied.

"Lieutenant Bretton, I meant I have detected energy signatures on the edge of Ontarom." Harold went wide eyed and whirled around. His hands immediately went flying across the display, several forms popping up and giving him more and more information. "They appear to be Frigate class Eclipse war ships. They are firing." The ship rattled from the impact of weapons fire from the Eclipse ships, but Harold ignored it.

"Nikki, get me a firing solution. Apply power to our shields until we get a lock, move us on an intercept course and keeps us out of knife fighting range. Leave a display showing the delay between their shots, anticipate for the switching of weapons." Harold fired off as his hands did half the work before he finished speaking.

"Done, course locked and timer activated. They are firing again and moving." The ship rattled as Nikki updated Harold and the techs could be heard talking to each other in forced calm voices. Harold was halfway through calibrating the mass accelerator cannon to fire on the first target when Nikki spoke up once more. "I have managed to predict their flight path Lieutenant Bretton. They are moving on a course that stations them directly on top of the bunker complex Operative Invaru and the marines are currently assaulting."

Harold weighed his options in the fraction of a second that he had. He couldn't move into the position displayed in front of him to intercept the frigates, the Cruiser would inevitable fall into the atmosphere of the planet and crash into the surface below. They couldn't pull away and force them into open space because if they were smart they wouldn't follow them and would then be free to fire on the ground forces. They were already entering medium range, and from The Call of Victory's position, by the time they were in position they would be a few hundred kilometres shy of knife fighting range.

"So we fire at them before they get a chance to get into position!" Harold stated as he was already moving the ship into position to fire.

"At their current speed, you will only get one shot before they are in position."

"Well then we take it! How are the GUARDIANS dealing with their torpedoes?"

"So far the fire is manageable, but they are more focused on getting into position rather than assaulting. Once they are able to focus their fire, there will simply be too much ordnance for the GUARDIAN system to counteract, along with having to deal with their mass accelerator cannons."

"A fine would have done just as well Nikki. Firing!" Harold let loose the first barrage of fire from the Victory, a mixture of their Mass Accelerator cannon and torpedoes. Harold didn't bother watching, knowing it was anything but a killing blow. The Victory outclassed the frigates independently, but together they managed to output more damage than the Victory could hope to manage. The only thing currently going for them was the fact that they were already in position, had an AI on board, and were more heavily armoured.

"Target one has taken moderate damage, their shields are down to 34%, hull damage minimal." Nikki recounted the data for Harold as he was moving through the controls.

"Kind of figured." Harold stated as Nikki started a countdown.

"Targets in position in 5...4...3...2...1...targets are locked in position, preparing for concentrated fire."

"Nikki, get me a god damn firing solution that has the least possible ratio to hit the planet!" Harold yelled as he tried to figure it out himself.

"Lieutenant Bretton, not only is it against the Citadel Conventions to fire large kinetic weapons intentionally towards a habitable planet, besides that the risk of hitting the marines on the ground is exactly 73-"

"Nikki, do not fucking argue with me! I need a firing solution, or so help me god I will ram those sons of bitches and fire that gun at point blank range if need be!" Harold yelled at the computer, not liking the fact that his own ship was arguing with his tactics. He didn't have time to sit here and think through all his options, limited as they were.

"Calculating...done. There is an 89.564% chance it will connect with the enemy ship."

"Good enough. Firing." Harold looked up for this one, watching as the Victory came alive with missiles and cannon fire pouring on the Frigates. Some of the missiles missed their target, soaring into the planet below them, but would burn up and explode long before they hit the ground. Luckily the cannon found it's mark and pummelled the Frigates' shields.

"Moderate damage. Target one is currently without shields and target two is down to 64% shields." Nikki stated. Harold was already on the comm.

"Lieutenant McKrain! I need those guns reloaded as quick as you possibly can! We're sitting ducks here if we intend to stay!" There was a slight pause before the response came.

"We're getting it done, stop talking!" The comm. channel was cut as Harold ignored her statement aside from the confirmation they were moving as fast as they could. Instead, he looked up in time to see a mass of hurt coming his way.

"Enemy ships have locked firing solution. GUARDIAN systems can't stop all of the incoming fire." She then went onto the ship wide comm. "All hands, brace for impact." Harold took the brief moment to make sure he was secure in his chair before returning his hands to the displays and continuing with the firing solutions and defensive positioning when the entire ship shook like it was hit with an earthquake. Some of the techs were thrown to the ground from the impact, and red warning lights started blaring through the halls. "Ship damage, shield is holding, hull integrity intact." Harold was straightening himself on the chair when Nikki hit him with the worse news. "Warning, ships are switching to alternate firing...I estimate 7 salvos before this ship is rendered inert."

"Well I guess we'll just have to do it in 2." Harold stated as he started moving the ship off and preparing for more deft evasive manoeuvres.

"Our estimated chances of survival are less then 35% Lieutenant Bretton."

"Nikki, if you haven't heard of the word 'Morale' I highly suggest you look it up and keep that shit to yourself." Harold replied through gritted teeth as he sent another salvo towards the frigates. Unfortunately, they too were attempting slight evasive manoeuvres, and Harold was having to deal with the firing solutions being exact for little chance for error. He grimaced as he watched the mass accelerator round fly by the ship, and missiles impact on the hull of the ship. Had that shell connected, it would have done major damage to the mercenary ship, luckily Harold had already been moving the Victory off to the side. If he was right, the shell would impact miles away from the fighting on the ground and do no harm to the marines.

He hoped.

"I will attempt to hold back my logistics Lieutenant Bretton." Nikki stated in a robotic tone. Harold didn't bother to respond as another salvo managed to rock the ship. "Shields are still holding, hull integrity still intact." Harold let loose several curses as his hands moved as quickly as someone could think.

"I am picking up a third signature, frigate class, Eclipse verification bearing in opposite direction targets 1 and 2 came from." Nikki stated, and Harold's jaw tightened to the point it looked like it would crack. Another volley of fire peppered the Victory, and Harold took a brief moment to look up at the screens before switching to navigations controls. "Warning, shield strength failing...hull breach on the fourth floor. Section sealed." Harold was about to respond when Jessie broke over the ship wide intercom.

"Medical teams report to the batteries! TJ! I need your strength down here now!" Harold hadn't known the armourer long, but he doubted she would like being ordered around like that.

"I'm on my way." The woman replied over the intercom, much to Harold's surprise. At least it seemed she was able to push past her anger long enough to get through the mission when it was happening. Dr. Grass was most likely on his way to the batteries as well, but Harold didn't have time to monitor the situation.

"We're doing a hard burn around the planet, we need to buy ourselves time..." Harold looked towards the fire controls once more, before bringing them over and quickly entering a firing solution. "But first...let's do a one timer." Harold fired the main cannon only, able to get a solution in quicker without having to worry about the missiles. Much to his pleasure, he was rewarded with a hit on the weakened frigate as the round took a chunk out of the bottom portion of the frigate. It wasn't a crippling blow, but it sent large pieces of the ship burning into the atmosphere as Harold turned the ship back around and made for the dark side of the planet.

"Are we running Lieutenant Bretton?" Nikki asked and Harold simply shook his head.

"The batteries have been breached, Lieutenant McKrain will need time to reload the guns and worry about the wounded. Our shields also need time to recharge, and I only managed to wound one ship out of three. Normally a frigate against a cruiser wouldn't be a problem...but now there's three out there..." Harold set the course on automatic, making sure the frigates weren't following him, and placed his face in his hands. "He's been planning this for a long time. This amount of Eclipse forces...he must have promised them some amazing amount of tech."

"We were warned he was a brilliant man Lieutenant." Nikki replied.

"Yeah, but we underestimated just how many forces he was willing to commit to this...apparently we have our answer."

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bullets flew by the very rim of Kelly's visor as she flinched with every audible ping of a round hitting the concrete tank trap she was hiding behind. She would step up to take a few shots at the LOKI mechs that were scattered on the battlefield. The soldiers up at the defensive line must not have cared how many mechs they destroyed, seeing as they would easily mow through a few of them to get to a couple of soldiers. However, the mechs were slowly but surely stopping their progress as they were forced to deal with such an intense frontal force. Kelly ducked back down, her breathing heavy but even although her eyes were erratic as they shifted from one thing to another. Even now, through all the chaos, her mind was running through plans and scenarios. Possible situations after this one, and after that one, and so on. She simply couldn't stop it long enough to really focus on what was happening right in front of her.

"Operative Kelly?! Lieutenant O'Ryan here!" Leonard came through on the comm. and Kelly placed a hand to her ear.

"I'm listening Lieutenant." Her voice was strained to remain neutral, and lost a lot of it's punch with the adrenaline coursing through her body.

"Ma'am, Titan Company is getting beaten back here. Causalities are still relatively low, but the amount of fire on us is preventing us from getting a good foothold. We will attempt to correct, but I fear we may lose the north section, do you read?!" Kelly sat with her back against the tank trap. If the north was forced out of the fight then all the enemy forces stationed there would come to the south, making an assault impossible from down below. Kelly took a gulp as she nodded to herself.

"Acknowledged Lieutenant! Keep me appraised!" She cut the comm. and fired a few more rounds, downing a couple more LOKI mechs. She went back down, and looked back to see sergeant Carson quickly making his way towards her. When he got to her, she simply looked at him, waiting for whatever it was that he was about to tell her.

"Ma'am, I hate to be the pessimist here, but if we don't make a move soon, we are going to lose our ground. We need to make a push!"

"A push is more likely to kill us then it is them..." Kelly sat there for a moment, her hand coming up to pinch the bridge of her nose before realizing she had a helmet on and let her hand drop. A mortar impacted a few feet from them, making their shields flicker and covering them in dirt. "Sergeant, take a few squads and start circling around to the east. We will push as hard as we can here, focus them on us. Once you hit the east, do one of two things. You run until you breach the defensive line, or get close enough for your missile launchers to be effective and start taking out those MG's!"

"And what if it gets too hot ma'am?!" Carson asked.

"Would you prefer to remain here and see just how hot it's going to get sergeant?!" Kelly asked, the adrenaline breaking through her neutrality for just a moment. "One way or another sergeant, we are all going to be under heavy fire until we breach that defensive line. Get it done!" The sergeant simply nodded, but right before he could move, a massive explosion miles away caught their attention. They both stared at what appeared to be a nuclear weapon going off, but Kelly knew what it was instantly.

"It looks like the Call of Victory has run into some trouble up in orbit." Kelly stated, her face twisted into a grimace but hidden behind her reflective visor. Carson simply looked at her for a moment before running off to grab some soldiers. Kelly took another peek around the tank trap, flinching back as several rounds flew past her head. She took a deep breath, and pushed herself around the cover.

She half ran, half crouched to the next trench as the fire around her threatened to overwhelm her psyche and force her to panic. A few feet from the trench, she felt a round hit her hard in the shoulder, and she spun to the ground with her shields blaring red to tell her she was without protection. She was laying on her back, and quickly flipped herself over and crawled into the next trench. She took that moment to listen to the comms of the marines. For the most part, it was surprisingly calm for people who were yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. There was military lingo being tossed around, but the pattern she was receiving was that everyone was getting stopped in their place from the LOKI's pressing down on their position to the MG's to the Eclipse mercs adding their fire to the already suppressing amount.

She then heard of references to the sky. A few people were seeing some things in the sky, and Kelly took the time to look upwards to see fireballs falling from orbit. They were moving too slowly to be ordance, and too varied in size to be a dropship raid. She ran through the possibilities in her mind right up until one of them impacted the ground on the north side. Then another way out beyond the hills, and the another a few more miles away. They were parts of a ship, which ship she couldn't tell, but they were definitely chunks of a space faring vessel. She was watching another piece when one dropped right into their killzone, creating a large gouge in the earth and burying itself partially into the ground. Luckily, it was further up and was completely beneficial to the marines as they were pressing up. It was as tall as Kelly was, but only a couple feet wide. Already, a few marines were taking advantage of the situation to press up behind the odd piece of salvation, and Kelly followed suite although she was forced behind yet another tank trap as the cover there was already too crowded. She fired a few more rounds forward, downing a few more LOKI mechs and using her biotics to amplify her shields, but even just that amount of action from behind her cover was enough to warrant a full assault on her position. She ducked down as the tank trap chipped and started to give way under the sheer amount of MG rounds. She gave a diving roll off to her side, ending up in a sprint which she then slid feet first into another trench.

She landed, and the previous rule about time speeding up was cancelled as she looked down to see a mine a couple feet from her. It started beeping rapidly, and Kelly pushed her hand out, creating a mini shield around the device in the split second she had. The explosion rocked the trench, and she blacked out for a moment. When she came too, she was covered in dirt and her suit was giving off warnings of shield failure. A few moments later, and her shields came back online. She sat there for a moment, simply looking into the sky and watching as round after round followed by the occasional mortar passed over head. After a few seconds, she assessed herself, finding that she had managed to avoid most of the damage. There was possibilities of fractured bones and internal bleeding, but the suit wasn't equipped to deal with those possibilities. She forced herself to think of something else for the moment, and with a fair amount of pain, managed to right herself in the trench.

She brought her head over the lip of the trench, and looked up to see that the soldiers had actually managed to make some ground in the amount of time she had been out. She looked at the time, and noticed that she had been out for only a few seconds, but it definitely felt longer. The falling debris from the ship was being partially beneficial, as some of it was creating cover, while others were actually falling on some of the less observant Victory marines. Inch by inch, they were approaching the defensive line and for the most part, the LOKI mechs had been taken care of. Just when it seemed like they would be at assaulting distance to the defensive line, Kelly watched with a cold neutrality as Eclipse marines poured over the lip and rushed out to meet the Victory marines to prevent them from actually getting within the base. Judging from the sheer amount of them climbing over the trench, Kelly had a feeling they were going to be pushed back, which would mean taking more causalities, which meant not completing the mission. It had been ages, but finally something snapped slightly within her as she looked at the situation.

"Fuck."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jason Horn Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar

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The drop down the elevator shaft was shorter than Horn was expecting, and had to boost his jump jets harder than what he would have liked to avoid breaking his legs. Both he and Kelly came down with a crash on top of the elevator that was parked on the last floor, and he casually dropped her. She stood for a moment, looking around at the interior of the elevator shaft before looking to the Commander. "Was that really necessary?" She asked, a bit of humour in her voice.

"Hey, I have to solidify my absolute bat crazy-ness to the marines early on, or they'll just think I'm a crazy old man." Horn opened the top hatch of the elevator and swept his gun through the empty metal box. "Speaking of which...why do we have a new ship?" Kelly looked at him, but didn't say anything. Horn kept his eyes down in the elevator. "Because, you know, I would be pretty damn pissed to hear that I almost died to save a ship that didn't make it anyways. So chances are I'm going to need expendable marines within arms reach when I get back to the Victory, am I right?"

"I can explain everything once we are back on the Call of Victory sir." Horn stopped, and looked up at the woman for a second.

"Oh, I know you will. I expect it to be good Operative." Without a further word, Horn dropped into the elevator. Kelly took a small breather before joining him in the cramped space. When she dropped, Horn was already working on the doors, trying to force them open by hand. Kelly walked over, and tried the button first, expecting nothing to happen. Instead, the doors slid open and revealed a lone and empty hallway. "Huh." Horn stated as he prepped his rifle and slowly stalked forward. Kelly did the same, just a couple steps behind him and off to his right. After a few feet, they both stopped almost exactly in step with each other. Horn looked back at Kelly. "You feel it too huh?"

"Yeah...get some cover?" She asked, and Horn nodded and looked forward, only to see a couple of automated turrets lower from the ceiling. Without hesitation, they opened fire on the completely exposed duo as they pressed themselves to the side as tightly as they could.

"Fuck! Kelly! Barrier!" Kelly dodged a couple of shots and threw out her hands, encasing them both in a small bubble. The bullets ricocheted off of the biotic energy, but already she was feeling the strain of such a large amount of fire. She was already on one knee, breathing heavily and shaking quite visibly. Jason didn't waste any time, firing his vindicator assault rifle at the turrets through the barrier. He was disappointed to see his rounds bounce off the shields of the turrets. "Of course, he would leave the best stuff for himself." He looked back to Kelly, he looked like she was on the verge of exhaustion, and gave a sigh. So much for taking things easy.

He gave a look as to how far the guns were from them, estimated just how much thrust would be needed to get going and to stop, and how much would be needed to propel him just the right height into the air. In order for this to work, he would need to be completely on his toes. So, with one last look back to Kelly to see if she would even last that long, and a quick priming of a couple of grenades, he ran outside the barrier. Immediately, the guns swivelled to acquire their new target. Before the rounds could even start exiting the chamber, Jason switched on his jets. The force blew him forward far faster than he had anticipated, not taking into account that he was working with what could be classified as five sets of rockets instead of the usual one that was attached to his back. He quickly adjusted, slamming on the brakes and landing himself right underneath the pair of turrets. Once again, the turrets turned to greet him, but he pumped out enough juice from his suit to suspend him against the ceiling next to the turrets. He planted a grenade on the turret, and moved swiftly to the next where he repeated the process. In the second or so that it had taken him to do this, the turrets had completed their turn, and were attempting to fill him with so much lead he would have become a 20th century human pencil. He dropped to the ground, landing in a roll and feeling more than hearing the bullets impacting so close to the ground behind him his shields flickered. However, once he finished his roll, the grenades went off, well within the confines of the turret's shields. In a bright flash, both of the automated defences were nothing but scrap.

"Ha! That's why you never let a machine do what a true soldier could do better!" Horn looked back down the hallway to see if Kelly was there, and was surprised to see Nerita helping her stand. He jogged over, looking over Kelly's vitals as he did so. He almost let out a sigh of relief at seeing that she wasn't injured, just exhausted. "Nerita! My favourite purple lady! How's it hanging?" He then got a good look at all the armour she was wearing. "Well that's different...what happened to the whole trench coat bitch look?"

"It wasn't bullet proof." She stated flatly as Kelly finally got her own feet underneath her. Horn looked at her, cocking his head slightly to the side.

"You good to go, or do I need to send you topside to wait for the medivacs?" He asked.

"No sir, I'm good to go." She stated as she gripped her gun with renewed purpose. Nerita looked to her, then back to Horn. Jason simply shrugged.

"Alright then. Nerita, I take it your a free operative if your down here then?" Horn asked Nerita, who simply gave a nod in response deeming it satisfactory. "Goody then. I get to play pimp with an assault rifle. Let's go." Horn immediately took off down the hall, reaching the end and rounding the turn before the ladies could even get half way. Nerita looked to Kelly as they were both running to catch up.

"Good to have him back?" Nerita asked as Kelly gave a small smile.

"He's a good stress reliever." Kelly stated, realizing the dirty joke that could have been used by Horn a little too late, but Nerita simply nodded, knowing she meant command wise. As they neared the corner though, Horn was diving to the ground, and rolled towards them. He pushed himself off the floor and slammed his shoulder against the wall. Kelly and Nerita simply stared at him for a moment. He looked back at them and gave a large smile.

"Lots of bad guys. Apparently this guy is a huge narcissistic asshole who believes everyone should die for him." Horn paused for a moment. "Any similarities between this guy and yours truly is purely coincidental." He took a breath and looked back down the hallway. "About five traitor marines, bunkered down at the end of the hallway with a sufficient amount of cover to make anyone coming at them piss their pants. None of us have snipers, nor do we have a sufficient amount of explosive ordnance." Horn looked down for a moment, before looking at Kelly and Nerita and smiling.

A moment later, Nerita and Kelly rounded the corner, their biotic barriers overlapping each other and taking the strain off of each other while Horn walked in between them firing his vindicator with an almost psychotic glee. The traitors opened fire on the group, but the rounds met nothing but biotic energy as the two barriers put together were more than enough for the small hallway. Horn started picking off the marines as his rounds eventually found their way through their shields and into their fleshy bits. By the time they reached the end of the hallway, the traitors were either dead or dying, and their barrier was nothing more than a shredded piece of metal from the amount of vindicator rounds pouring into it. Nerita and Kelly let the barrier drop as they walked up to stand next to Horn. Together they came up to the final door. "His office should be on the other side." Kelly stated as Horn looked at her.

"Aw...so soon? I was hoping for at least...ten...maybe fifteen more kills before the day ended." Horn hit the switch and the door opened to reveal a large room filled with containers, ammo boxes, weapon racks, and about six prison cell-size glass containers on each side of the room, each holding a civilian dead or alive. Oh, and there was about twenty marines securing equipment in the room. When the door opened, everyone froze and looked at them. Horn, Kelly, and Nerita all stood there. Both sides were staring at each other, the marines most likely never having expected anyone to get through the hallways so quick, and Horn's group not expecting another research lab this far down. Horn simply smiled, and flared his jets slightly.

"Wicked."

One of the traitor marines finally got his wits about him, and made to move when Horn let loose with his assault rifle and dropped the man before he could grab his weapon. The other marines reacted quickly after that point, dropping whatever it was they were carrying and moving to cover while readying their weapons. Horn and his team moved inside the room and took up cover behind some ammo crates. Rounds peppered all around them, and Horn looked to Kelly. "What was that about this being his office? Weirdest fucking office I've ever seen!"

"This room isn't on the blue prints!" Kelly yelled as rounds flew by her face, leaving tracer marks as they did so. "Either Dr. Mueller manipulated the schematics before it was sent to the Illusive Man, or this room was built so recently as to have not been added to the archive material!" Kelly replied as she flinched from another bullet barrage. Horn just shrugged.

"I was just wondering. Hell, I got my wish, aside from having you trounce around the battlefield in a skimpy bikini." Horn looked to Nerita, who was simply staring at him. "What?! You would be there too! Equally skimpy."

"Is this really the time?" Nerita stated as she stood and took a couple shots before ducking down again. Horn smiled.

"It's always the time. Anyways..." Jason double checked his rifle before giving it a slap and smiling at the women. "Who's up for a little bit of kickass, Horn style?" Jason looked around his cover for a split second, and the moment he did, his shields flared as several rounds found his helmet. He ducked back, and slowly touched his face shield. "Huh...accurate fucks aren't they." Jason made sure his vindicator was loaded, and looked to the other two. "Well, it looks like the room is about forty feet long, we have about thirty feet in width. More than enough room to manoeuvre, less then enough room for a flanking position. Roof means no flying for me. You two are too tired to keep up the barrier trick for much longer, which leaves me with my favourite option of doing things."

"With great stupidity?" Nerita stated as she took a couple shots. Jason simply looked at her.

"Well duh." He stated as he rounded the corner and bolted it towards the next piece of cover. Immediately his shields flared as several rounds found their mark on his armour. He fired his assault rifle on the move, his rounds going wide but managing to make the traitors flinched. He slid feet first towards the next group of boxes, and by the time he had reached the cover, his shields were completely gone. He gave a sigh of relief and let out a smile. "Gets the blood pumping!" He yelled back at the other two as he primed his last grenade. He peeked around the corner once more, checking to see which group of marines were grouped together the most, and found three that were using one piece of cover together. It was a large crate metallic crate, more than sturdy enough to withstand standard gunfire. The rest were too spread out for the grenade to do any real damage, so Horn lobbed the grenade. "Suppressing fire!' Horn yelled.

Immediately Kelly and Nerita stood up from their cover, their weapons spewing molten death at the marines, effectively pinning them in place until the grenade landed at their feet. They were left with an impossible option as all three of them ran to get out of the killzone. Almost immediately they were mowed with a merciless barrage. When the grenade went off though, another surprise was waiting for them.

The crate was sturdy enough to resist gunfire, sure, but apparently not a frag grenade. A hole in the side of the crate burst open, and from the wreckage crawled two vorcha who let out a howl and launched themselves at the closest traitor marine. Suddenly the battle had become a three-way without Horn even making a sexual innuendo. The marine's fire was split between the oncoming Cerberus commandos and the vorcha prisoners. Horn, Kelly, and Nerita stood their ground. None of them were wanting to close the ranks while the vorcha were still standing, knowing that they would easily mistake them for their captors and attack them as well.

Normally the traitors were cool, calm, collected, and highly trained. However, Horn could see the sense of panic that was slowly overcoming them as they were forced to split their attention. Apparently none of these traitor marines were in a command position, sent down here to simply secure cargo and prep for transport was the most likely option. With no authoritative presence, these men were slowly but surely losing their nerve. By the time that the marines had managed to secure themselves, only five of them remained. Between Horn's commandos and the vorcha, the fight was over quickly.

Horn and the others stood slowly, their weapons down but ready to be drawn at a moment's notice. The vorcha turned, their eyes viciously set on them but not yet closing to attack. Their wounds, while some were consistent of the battle they had just waged, others were more reminiscent of torture. Most likely weapons testing due to the vorcha's ability to regenerate. They hissed and Horn walked closer, but he didn't stop until he was a foot away from them. There was a slight stare down, before Horn stepped aside. "You better run." Jason said to the two of them, who gave him one last stare before bolting it past them towards the elevators. Jason quickly tapped his comm. "Attention marines, couple of vorcha coming up the shaft. Do not fire unless provoked. Let them pass."

There was a slew of confirmations as Horn finally looked at the containers alongside the walls. The civilians that were still alive, ranging from asari to elcor to hanar stared at him with such a pain he couldn't help but feel it. Kelly walked up and touched the glass of one of the containers, holding a hanar hostage. It returned the gesture, placing a tentacle up to the glass as well. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she looked at the creature. Horn walked up beside her. "I know what that look is. What's the problem, aside from the obvious?"

"We were told that Dr. Mueller had only recently gone traitorous, due to his nature of using live test subjects." Kelly's eyes glossed over the Hanar, as if feeling some sort of deep connection with him. "However, we were led to believe that the moment he started this, he was told to stop." Kelly pointed to some of the scars on the hanar. "Those wounds are the result of weapons fire sir...and they've been there long enough to become barely noticeable scars." Horn looked at the Hanar, and sure enough he had several scars along his body, all the apparent result of weapons fire. "The implications are...unpleasant sir." Kelly stated as she looked to him. His face was hidden behind the reflective face plate of his helmet, but he didn't say a word.

"Nerita, get these people free and topside. Make sure they get the medical attention they deserve, but make no mistake, if they attack you, you put them down. Chances are if they can't recognize help when they see it, they're too far gone to help anyways." Nerita gave a nod and made her way towards the closest container with a live hostage inside. Jason motioned to Kelly. "C'mon, we have a mad doctor to kill." Kelly gave a slight nod and took two steps towards the next door before pausing and touching her ear. Horn looked back, but didn't say a word.

"Operative Invaru? This is Kodiak Lead. As you can tell, the satellite has been taken out of service, but we are still reading the GUARDIAN systems as operational. We have reports from marines on the ground that the system will be down within five minutes. Can you confirm?" Kelly stood there a moment, trying to remember the marines that were sent after the GUARDIAN system.

"Hold Kodiak Lead." Kelly remembered who was the lead on that assignment, and patched into their comms. "Sergeant Oberacker. What's the status on those GUARDIAN systems?" Kelly listened for a minute before a man came over the line.

"Ma'am, Corporal Stevenson here. Sergeant Oberacker is currently engaged. We will have the guns down in five minutes ma'am."

"Are you positive corporal? Would you bet the lives of every singly Kodiak pilot on it?" There was a pause as he seemed to think about this.

"I would bet my life on it ma'am." Kelly seemed to take that at face value, and nodded to herself.

"You have five minutes Corporal." Kelly cut the channel and switched back to Kodiak Lead. "You have a go Kodiak Lead. Good luck."

"Copy command. We are en route. Kodiak Lead out." The comm. went dead, and Kelly looked ahead at Horn who was returning from the door.

"You done? Can we continue with the ass kicking then?" Jason asked as he turned to start towards the door once more.

"Yes sir." Kelly replied as she caught up to him as he stood in front of the door. He gave the door a tap with his boot.

"Door's locked with some sort of advanced mathematical algorithm. Way above my knowledge to hack this baby open." Kelly looked around for a moment, feeling the walls for any sort of bump or sign that there was a panel underneath. Sure enough, she found something, and with a little help from Horn, pried the panel loose. Underneath was an array of electronic wiring mixed with several dozen secondary systems that neither one of them could begin to comprehend. Jason pushed Kelly back several paces, unholstered his pistol, and fired several rounds into the panel. They waited a few seconds, but were disappointed to see that the door remained closed. "That always works in the vids." Jason stated as his smile disappeared. Kelly simply stared at the panel for a second longer. Then, with a sudden hit of clarity, reached far into the panel and grabbed a massive coupling near the very rear of the wall. With a bit of a yank, the coupling came loose, and the door's lights went off.

"There, power's cut. Magnetic locks should also be offline. All we have to do is force the doors open ourselves." Kelly stated as she started towards the door. Horn gave a slight frown, but proceeded to the door.

"Yeah, but we'll be completely exposed to enemy fire because we'll have to be gripping the sides. If anyone is waiting on the other side, we get shot up." Jason stated as he gripped one side of the door.

"It was either this, or request an engineer from one of the other strike teams which could take minutes off our operational clock sir." Kelly stated as she started pulling on the door.

"Oh I know, don't get me wrong. Strike of genius from the beautiful 2iC, but still there could b-" As soon as the door opened a crack, a hail of fire peppered door. Kelly and Horn ducked off to the side out of harm's way, and just as they did the fire stopped. Horn and Kelly looked back to Nerita and the Civilians, who seemed either oblivious to the fire or were actively ignoring it. They returned their attention to the door.

"Cerberus commandos? Hah! You're fighting for the wrong side there marines!" A voice came from inside the room. "The so called Illusive man is pulling your strings puppets! COME ON!" Another hail of fire exited out the inch wide gap in the door. Horn looked to Kelly.

"I need to open this door. Pour some fire through, pin him down." Jason stated, barely giving any time before he gripped the door and started pulling. Kelly poked her avenger rifle through and started spraying hoping for the best. Once Horn had the door open a few inches, she was able to see inside. Dr. Mueller had a spacious office with a desk large enough to offer sizeable cover. Off to the side was a single large aquarium with the flawlessly white walls offered excellent luminosity to the entire room. The roof was an odd circular shape, metallic as opposed to the rest of the office. Aside from the aquarium and desk, the entire room was surprisingly sparse. The man himself looked almost exactly like his photo, except for the fact that he was carrying some sort of modified two handed minigun-esque weapon.

The rounds from Kelly's avenger dug into the desk and ricocheted off the wall behind the doctor, forcing his head down for a moment as Horn doubled his efforts to get the door open. Before long though, Dr. Mueller was once again pouring fire through the crack, and Horn was forced to stop and duck as one of the rounds nicked his hands. "Fuckin ass!" Jason swore as he gripped the door once more. Kelly fired once again, and after a short burst, was rewarded with the man swinging to his side and going down.

"I nicked him." Kelly stated as she put down her gun and helped her commander open the door wide enough for them to slip through. Once they were able to slip inside, they both immediately found their target laying on the floor covered in his own sticky blood. The minigun weapon that he had been using lay a few feet away, tossed from his hands when he went down. Once they got a better look, it appeared that Kelly's round had hit a lot closer to home than first imagined. The round had pierced just above his heart, closer to his neck than his shoulder. Despite the obvious pain that he must have been feeling, he still gave a wicked smile and laugh. Horn looked to Kelly.

"You started the fight, only proper you finish it. Make it quick, we need to head topside." Horn stepped off to the side, eyeing the office and making quick notes about it's interior. Kelly grabbed her pistol, but was surprised when the Doctor's hand shot out to meet hers.

"I'm not the man you were told to believe I was." Mueller looked over at Horn quickly, noticing his attention was elsewhere. "They told you I was the one performing the experiments? That part is true...but only to a degree." Kelly was torn between her orders from Horn to simply kill the man, and her natural curiosity that came from being an information specialist. She held her tongue, but also her gun hand, which allowed him to continue. "The Illusive Man sent you here to kill me because I wanted to stop the mass murder these people were committing. We rebelled because they were bringing in dozens of people of all races for weapons testing. None of them ever left this place, and while I'm not claiming to be a saint, I couldn't stand for the amount of death these people were inflicting all for the cause of advancing our own race." He coughed for a moment, blood spouting up.

"He played you...He played all of us...like a chess board...You're just a pup-"

A round shot out, and suddenly Mueller's brains were splattered all over the floor while Kelly jumped back in shock. She looked over to Horn, who's carnifex hand cannon was still smoking from the cylinder as he put it back into his holster. Kelly looked between the man and Horn, blood across her features as well from the well placed round.

"Sir! Why did you do that? He was telling us why he-" Kelly wasn't able to finish that sentence as Horn closed the distance between them with a quick few steps.

"My job isn't to ask why Operative! My job is to give an answer at muzzle velocity!" Horn stared at her for a moment. "Besides, while you were sitting there taken in by his crazed eyes and blood stained figure, his hand slowly pushed a button on the desk behind you!" Horn walked over, flipping the desk as he did so. Underneath was a simple red button, that was now flashing. "I knew it was too easy." Kelly simply stared at the desk, suddenly the seemingly light resistance making sense now. Dr. Mueller understood that if they got this far, he wasn't leaving. So, he might as well take as many as he could with him. However, going by his words it meant that they still had time to escape. If he was telling the truth to her, there would be time left for the civilians to get out of the base and free from the blast. If not, they would be dead and it wouldn't matter either way.

"Sir, I believe we still have time. We need everyone out now!" Horn looked to her.

"Well make the order Kelly! Don't tell me about it!" Jason grabbed her arm and started making their way back towards the elevator. Kelly put a finger up to her ear.

"All teams, this is Operative Kelly. Fall back from the base! I repeat, fall back from the base! A self destruct has been initiated!" While she was doing that, Horn was also talking within his helmet.

"Nerita, how are the civies holding up?"

"Fine. Some of the engineers got the elevators working again, we're walking out of the base as we speak." Nerita's calm voice came through clear as ever. Horn nodded to himself.

"Alright, get them on the first Kodiak out of here, catch a ride yourself. This place is going out with a bang." Horn and Kelly made their way out into the hallway and started sprinting for the exit. The entire time, Kelly's mind was elsewhere and she had to forcibly pull herself into the current situation. Horn said something, but Kelly didn't quite get it. It wasn't until he yanked on her arm that she realized they were in the elevator shaft.

"Kelly! Wake up! We're leaving!" Pulling the same move from before, Horn swept up Kelly before she could say another word and used the last reserves of his fuel to bolt himself out of the elevator box and back to the top floor. Jason's jets gave a sputter as they landed on the top floor, but they still made it. With a slightly anti-climatic sprint out of the building, Horn looked to see about half of the assaulting force still trying to get everyone off planet. A man came running towards Horn, immediately he saluted and Horn gave a grunt and made to move past the man.

"Ma'am, sir...We're trying to extract from the area but the simple thing is that it still takes time for the Kodiaks to get to the Victory and back." Kelly gave a nod towards him.

"Lieutenant O'Ryan...good to see you still standing as well." The man quickly recovered.

"You as well ma'am. Commander Horn? A pleasure to finally meet you." Jason simply stared at the man for a second.

"I will bother to learn your name, rank, and placement on my apparent new ship once we are out of immediate danger. If we can't fly, then get people to start running Lieutenant!" O'Ryan gave a nod, and turned around.

"Alright marines! Form up and get on! The rest of you, double time back to the b-" Before he could finish that sentence, there was rumble underneath the ground. Horn looked back at the entrance to the facility, and before anything else could happen, pushed Kelly off to one side and dived off to another as a plume of fire came shooting out of the entrance. The ground rose a few inches then fell, and then everything was still once more. Everyone was still looking around, trying to discern what exactly had just happened. Jason stood, looking around at everyone.

"Well...I was really kind of hoping for a bigger bang, but whatever works I guess. Was everyone out by the time it went off?" Horn asked.

"Yes sir." O'Ryan stated bluntly as he went off to oversee the rest of the extraction. Jason walked over to Kelly, and gave her a hand up. As she stood, Horn retracted his visor and looked at her.

"You're going to need to learn something when you start commanding your own vessel." Jason stated as she stared back at him. "Learning the how's and why's are all fine and dandy...but in the end. You have orders, you carry them out, and when you're on a time limit, you do it quickly." Jason stated as he stared long and hard at her before releasing his grip of her wrist. "I do not expect to have to say this again." Jason stated as he turned and started walking towards Kodiaks that were still on the ground. Kelly simply stared after him, then looked back towards the base. The man had been telling the truth, there was enough time for people to get out, and it was an explosion that insured only those left inside would die. Which meant that, in this case, the Call of Victory and her marines were essentially the bad guys. They had just murdered those who were trying to free slaves from captivity and certain death, and she couldn't get that thought out of her head. Prevalent over all of those was the fact that the Illusive Man had deliberately lied to her and her crew. As she dropped her gaze and made her way to the Kodiaks, there was one thing that she knew she could never do to the marines who had fought and died for this mission.

She could never tell them.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The moment that Horn touched down on the Call of Victory, he had called a meeting for all of his officers. Despite the protests of Dr. Grass, and even Kelly herself, he had shoved them off and made his way directly to the conference room, well, once he had figured out the layout to the conference room anyways. Once all the officers were seated around the table, and Horn at the head in full combat armour aside from his helmet which was placed off to the side, Kelly could only hope that he didn't take out his pistol and immediately start shooting the closest body.

"Thank you all for joining me today." Jason started as everyone stared at him. "Now, in order to get me back up to speed the quickest...what the fuck happened?" Everyone kind of looked around at everyone as their glances went to everyone else in the room. Horn pinched the bridge of his nose before letting out an exasperated sigh. "I'm going to say this now...No one is going to be walking out of this meeting happy. Why? Because I'm not going to be walking out of this meeting happy. So...Kelly." Horn turned to his 2iC. "I remember being pulled off the Collector ship and being tossed through space, which was cool, but shortly after exiting the craft, I blacked out. Start from there." Kelly clasped her hands together, obviously not wanting the job of telling him what happened, but recognizing her duty.

So, in enough detail to satisfy the Commander but not warrant an emotional outburst, she described what happened from the point the Commander left to where they were now. She listed off the names of the deceased from memory, including the technicians and marines who were, in command terms, barely noticeable. Of course, she knew which names he would react to the most. Brandon Nicola, Lara Teesar, Jack Nathan, and Linda Goram. Horn sat there, his expression hard to read not because there was no facial markers of emotions running through his face, but because there was so many. Anger? Sorrow? Regret? Guilt? They all showed up on his face at one point or another.

Kelly detailed the destruction of the SIC Titan, along with the missions that happened immediately after. She hesitated when she started to describe the botched mission on Elysium. She carefully worded her statements as Horn's eyes dug into hers over the details of Daniel's capture. This time, he was easy to read. There was so much vengeance in his eyes, she didn't doubt that some people thought he might actually assault the closest Alliance post, and keep going until he found his brother in arms. Instead, he remained quiet. Kelly finished up with the mission there on Ontarom against Dr. Mueller, but left out the details of what he said to her. Horn didn't ask, and she didn't want to tell. When she was done, she simply fell silent. In fact, the entire room did. Not a single soul dared to say a word as Horn sat there, his hands clasped in front of his face and his fingers touching at the tips on his lips. After a couple minutes of no one speaking, Horn took a breath.

"So...what you're really saying...is that I failed?" His voice was strong, but most likely due to the fact that he took the time to compose himself. The others might not be able to see it, but Kelly could tell he was just about at his breaking point when it came to bad news.

"No sir. Had you not gone over there and disabled their weapons systems, Commander Titus would have appeared on the scene to see nothing but wreckage. The survivors of the Titan are only alive because of you, Daniel, and Linda sir." Kelly replied, trying to defuse a possibly volatile situation. Horn placed his hands on the table in a forced calm, he kept his palms glued to the table for fear of his officers seeing them shaking.

"Survivors? You just told me a little less than a quarter of the people stationed on the Titan got out alive...less than a quarter Operative!" Jason's voice started to rise. "I lost a damn good soldier and friend on that fucking ship! I nearly died myself! Daniel is now a prisoner of war, possibly dead as well. A number of those people I would have shared a beer with happily and they are now gone forever. I wasn't even around to give them a proper send off as a Commander should...and you want me to celebrate what I did accomplish?!" Horn was standing by now, his anger getting worse by the second. "What I accomplished, Operative, was nothing more than a stupid idea that bought no more than possibly a hundred people a few more days!"

"Sir...that was more than what others could have done sir." Kelly's voice was completely neutral as always, but in this exact instance, she feared it was simply making the matter worse as he slapped a palm on the table and glared at her.

"Don't you dare try that fucking calm and collected routine with me Operative! I am not in the fucking mood!" Horn pinched the bridge of his nose again, forcing himself back into a more reasonable position. He sat back down and covered his face with his hands once more. Giving his features a good rub, and placed his hands back down on the table. He was forcibly more calm, but everyone could tell it wouldn't take much to set him off again. "I wanted more..." There was a moment of silence before he started looking around the table. The first person he laid eyes on was the new pilot. "Pilot!" He barked as Harold started and stared at him.

"Sir yes sir! Present sir! I'm here sir! I'm...Present...accounted...present?" Harold stuttered as his face went red with embarrassment from his social awkwardness. Horn was not in a laughing mood, and instead stared at him with daggers in his eyes. Horn took a moment to read the data pad that Kelly slid in front of him to get a good read on the man. After a split second of reading, Horn looked back up at the man.

"Let me make one thing...absolutely...crystal...and without doubt...clear." Jason stated, enunciating every word. Harold simply gulped in response. "When I give an order...I do not like being second guessed. I do not like being told that I'm wrong...I do not like it when my pilot turns into a cowering pussy just because it seems that he's outgunned!" Jason yelled the last part, causing most of the people to jump at the table, Harold especially. Jason calmed down slightly and looked at the man. "I'm not going to go ahead and say what you were doing was wrong, taking the ship into a close orbit was risky as well and time consuming, which is what you were going for and possibly saved the ship. But in my command...in my orders...we do not sit back on our heels and wait for our enemies to fuck up. We make them fuck up! We pressure them so hard until their tiny little heads explode into grey matter!" Jason let that thought sink in for a moment. "So, when I give you an order Lieutenant...what's going to be your response?"

"Ye...ye...yes sir." Harold stammered, obviously not accustomed to these sort of discussions. Horn gave a sharp nod.

"This is your one, and only warning Lieutenant. Next time I transfer you, or shoot you out the airlock, whichever seems to be easier at the time." Horn stated so flatly that no one could even begin to guess if he was serious. He followed the table to the next officer, reading up on him as he got to him. "Lieutenant Leonard O'Ryan." Horn stated.

"Sir." O'Ryan returned flatly. Horn started reading through his file, but judging by the way his finger was scrolling, it was quite intensive. Jason eventually tossed it down and stared at the man.

"I hope you know you're following a great soldier and leader O'Ryan." Jason stated, to which the Lieutenant's face remained solid as stone.

"I am quite aware sir. I am also aware that Lieutenant Nicola and I have differing command styles, and have managed to assimilate my ways of running things throughout the ship while you were out of commission. Drills are run by the clock, scores have been slightly im-"

"Enough Lieutenant." Horn stated wearily as he waved a hand slowly in front of him. "I don't need the entire spiel from you, I'm going to be reading it in what is to be a very dry report later on this week. I have nothing else to say to you." Horn picked up the datapad once more, but seemed to remember something and looked back up at the man. "Aside from no more saluting...ever." As he looked over at the next person on the table, if you were looking closely, you could see Kelly's hands flinch.

Horn paused on the name for a moment, looking between the woman and the datapad. He scrolled through it incredibly quick, before tossing it to the middle of the table. "Is this some sort of sick joke?" He stated quite flatly. Linda stared at him, curiosity etched on her features. Already, this was enough to warrant a response from Horn. "You better stop psycho analyzing me right fucking now." There was no threat to come after that, and that was the key point in telling whether or not Horn was planning immediate violence. Linda averted her eyes, but she was not one to back down easily.

"This is my job and my name Commander. I can't change one, and the other comes naturally as part of my occupation. If you would prefer that I simply never look at you, I co-"

"You fucking bitch." Horn stated as he stood from the table before Kelly's hand came onto his shoulder. He looked over at her, and she was simply staring at him. There was an entire conversation with their eyes alone, and Horn slowly sat back down. He clasped his hands together, and through clenched teeth stated "I've got nothing else to say to you." As his eyes seemed glued to the door, Kelly thought the worst was over. He would start issuing orders, and hopefully retire to the gym to let out some excess frustration. Instead, she heard the words that she was dreading.

"What the fuck is she doing here?" Kelly looked over, and matched his gaze to that of Vala Buchan. Kelly made to respond, but Vala beat her to the punch.

"The Illusive Man place me here." She stated, her tone short and curt. She obviously didn't want to say any more than she wanted to. Horn just gave a mock nod, clapping his hands together.

"Well there you have it...the boss placed you here...Like he did last time? Like...how about disobeying my orders on my op, possibly endangering civvies because of...what was it? Oh right, a hardware upgrade." Horn stood up, leaning on the table towards her. "So let me rephrase my question then...Why are you still on my ship?"

"Because I listen to orders that matter Commander." Kelly's hands were clasped together so tightly now her knuckles were white, despite her face showing none of the anxiety. Vala stared directly into Horn's eyes, and he returned the favour. He slowly stood, his eyes never leaving the woman.

"Operative Invaru." His voice so cold his words would have frozen in the air if not for the climate control built in the ship. "Would you please inform the infirmary that they will have a patient very soon, and regardless of her state when we get to our next stop, that is when she will be getting off."

"Sir. Enough. The Illusive Man ordered her on the ship, there was nothing there to say that I couldn't take her on. I have orders, you have orders, we need to follow them sir."

Horn lost it.

"Orders?! Orders are what got me into this fucking predicament in the first place! Orders are what cost me my crew, my friends, my ship, nearly my life, and now apparently my authority! Don't you dare...Don't you fucking dare tell me to follow orders!" Just when Kelly thought it couldn't get much worse, it did when Vala decided to get yet another jab in.

"The irony...Follow your orders, but not the Illusive Man's." Horn immediately reached for his weapon, but Kelly was up and moving before he could clear it from his holster. She kept his hand down and stood between him and Vala.

"Lieutenant O'Ryan." Kelly stated, doing her best to keep her voice level despite having to hold back the Commander from legitimately killing the Operative on the spot. "Would you please have Vala removed from the this floor entirely. Escort her to her quarters, and she is to stay there until otherwise notified."

"Ma'am." O'Ryan stated as he got up from the table and grabbed Vala's arm and started hoisting her up from chair. He made no further comments as he did so.

"Cute, what a wonderful show of competence to your new command staff. So incapable of handling his basic emotion, and yet he's the one that will be calling the shots from now on. Truly inspiring 'Commander'." She gave a quick look to O'Ryan. "Don't bother." She stated, shrugging off his grasp and standing of her own accord. "I don't need to watch this anymore, it's making me sick." Vala made her way out the door and O'Ryan simply watched her leave. It took a couple of seconds for Horn to even realize she was gone, and calmed down slowly after that. Kelly looked at him, her hand still on his gun and forced him to give it up. After he had relinquished the weapon, she looked to the entire command staff who was staring wide eyed at the man who would be leading them.

"Lieutenant O'Ryan. Operative Buchan is not to leave her quarters unless otherwise specified. Set up a rotating guard to ensure so, and also inform her that failure to abide by these rules will have her classified as an intruder among this ship and be dealt with in such a fashion." She quickly turned to the others in order. "Lieutenants McKrain and Jaconis, Commander Horn expects up to date reports on the functioning of this ships engines and weapons by the end of this standard day. Same goes for you Lieutenant Bretton and Lieutenant Keller. Dr. Grass, Commander Horn will report to the infirmary once some of this business has been discussed and put behind us. Lieutenant Franks, I will talk with you when I get the chance." Kelly put her hands behind her back. "You're all dismissed."

There was a slight bit of hesitancy from all save Lieutenant O'Ryan who left immediately to perform his orders. Soon however, they were all gone, and the only ones left in the room were Kelly and Horn. Horn paced in the back, rubbing his head as he did so. Kelly let out a small sigh before turning to face him. It was obvious he was still angry, and that he needed some form of release. However, turning him loose now would only end up in a med bay full of broken bones and internal bleeding. "I...just...there..." He started and stopped sentences, as if he couldn't seem to form one to save his life. Kelly had only seen him like this once before, when the Shadow Broker agent had managed to infiltrate so far into the SIC Titan's inner workings.

"Sir, you need to retire to your quarters for the rest of the day." Kelly stated. Jason looked over, ready to argue, but Kelly simply stood there and locked eyes with them. "As of now, I'm deeming you unfit for command. Once you are able to calm down and get your senses back, I will see to it that command is returned to you. Until then, you are restricted to your quarters sir." Jason simply stared at her, his jaw hanging in disbelief that Kelly would actually take command away from him. Before he could argue, Nikki came over the speakers.

"As per Cerberus regulations regarding the psychological state of the Commander. It is deemed the second in command's duty to determine when a ship or base Commander has been so emotionally, mentally, or physically assaulted as to be declared unfit for service." Jason looked up at the speakers, back down to Kelly, and repeated a couple of times before he finally closed his mouth and sullenly walked past Kelly. She turned and watched him walk outside the door, and waited for it to close behind him.

"Nikki, keep an eye on him at all times. If he shows any threatening behaviour to crew, or more likely himself, notify me immediately." Kelly started walking and exited the room.

"Yes Operative."

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It had only been a few hours since the conference room incident, or so it was already being called by the marine rumour mill. It was a well known fact that marines gossiped more than old women, and unfortunately this time it was true. Kelly's job over the past few hours had been dealing with the collateral damage and fallout from the meeting. Jessie, Kevin and TJ weren't complaining too much, having been around almost as long as Kelly herself had been. Grass was complaining about medical concerns, which was going to happen regardless, but the new additions had yet to really weigh in, and this concerned Kelly.

After finishing the paperwork, she was about to head out of her office when there was a light tap on her door. "Enter." She stated lightly, her voice back to her flawless neutrality. The door slid open to reveal Lieutenant O'Ryan. He took one step in and looked at her.

"Ma'am." He stated.

"Lieutenant." She returned, waving to a seat in front of her desk. The Lieutenant walked in, but did not take a seat. Instead, he slid a datapad over to her, which she quickly took a read over. As if to solidify what she had just read, O'Ryan stated it as well.

"I'm putting in for a transfer ma'am." Kelly looked confused, and stared up at the man. That was enough for him to explain himself. "With all due respect to you ma'am, I refuse to serve under a man who is so emotionally unstable that he is incapable of controlling his own anger against a fellow Cerberus Operative. You holding his leash and keeping him back does nothing to ease my mind when, in the end, he will be the one issuing the orders." Kelly stared at the datapad, and slowly put it down before looking up at the man.

"That's a fair reason Lieutenant. I take it you have gone over his combat record?"

"All the material that wasn't covered in black tape ma'am." O'Ryan stated, and Kelly nodded before going to her terminal and typing a few words. Before long, she had transferred some information to a highly coded and protected datapad, and slid it over to the Lieutenant.

"Judging by the fact that you're coming to me before filing your transfer means your looking for a reason to stay. My guess is you saw his combat record, and are confused by the man you saw. You must be wondering 'how does this man fit the words on his file?'" Kelly pointed to the datapad. "I want you to look long and hard at that before you decide whether or not to transfer. Be warned that that information is highly classified, your eyes only." O'Ryan looked at it, before looking up to the woman.

"Permission to speak freely ma'am?" Kelly simply gave a nod. "It is true, I was confused. Everything in this man's records, the battles he's been in and his standard combat scores are in the peaks. So imagine my confusion when I saw what appeared to be a ten year old child throwing a tantrum in the conference room. There, I saw what happens when a man gets too much power too fast." Kelly took in the words, nodding as he said them. "I'm not sure I could follow a man like that. To lead with emotion is one thing, to let it completely override logic is a death wish."

"That's true, Commander Horn is a very emotional leader. He cares about those under his command, but only after he's gotten to know and like them. He forms bonds over months, sometimes years of working together. Even then the people he works with, barely know him." Kelly looked at the man. "He came out of a coma, and instead of staying on the ship where he should have been, he immediately grabbed an untested experimental suit of armour and dropped to the planet from orbit. From there, he helped breach the line on Victory's side, and personally lead the assault on Dr. Mueller himself. All within a couple hours of getting out of his coma." Kelly looked at the man, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Now mix that trauma with the fact that after coming out of a coma, he learns that nearly his entire crew was killed. Among the dead were some of his closest friends."

"We've all lost friends ma'am, it's part of the job." O'Ryan countered.

"Yes, it is. However, you usually have time to cope, if not at the time, at least in the future. Horn didn't get any time, he didn't get a chance to say goodbye a true friend would. He simply pushed too many things on himself at once, and unfortunately that was the result."

"Yes ma'am, but with all due respect I don't believe that's an excuse to attempt to shoot a fellow Cerberus Operative." Kelly looked at her terminal a moment, before returning her gaze to him.

"I'm not even going to pretend to justify his actions on that particular occasion Lieutenant. I've already stated as to why and how he got to that emotional state in the first place." Kelly pointed to the datapad. "If you're looking for a reason to stay, you'll find it in there. If you don't, then you've made up your mind and I expect your transfer papers on my desk by morning." O'Ryan stared at Kelly for a moment, before dropping his gaze to the datapad in his hands. "Is that all Lieutenant?" Kelly asked.

"Yes ma'am." O'Ryan stated as he stood and saluted. Kelly didn't bother returning it, simply nodding towards the door. She returned her eyes to the screen when she heard O'Ryan speak once more. "Lieutenant." Kelly looked up to see Franks step inside the door, come in, and sit down in the chair across from her. Kelly clasped her hands in front of her, and gave her undivided attention. Linda gave a sigh, and leaned in on the desk as well.

"So, do you ever have to tell that the Commander has PTSD, or do most of the psychoanalysts figure it out and you tell them to keep it to themselves?" Linda started, and Kelly simply gave a small smile. She had been betting this was what she had come to see her about.

"It's not something I'm proud of hiding, if that's your question." Kelly stated, leaning back slightly. Linda simply gave a frown.

"I'm not joking this time Operative. This is serious. He's not the standard case of PTSD, I will give him that, but he's displaying a lot of symptoms." Before Kelly could interject, Linda held up her hand. "I know you're going to tell me that the situation and the information was a lot to take in, but c'mon Operative. He unholstered his pistol with the intention of shooting it at Vala."

"I realize that, I was the one who stepped in between." Kelly replied calmly. Linda simply sat back.

"Well then give me something chief. I can't sit here and morally keep this to myself simply on your word. This is something that, if not treated carefully, could get us all killed."

"I think it would save us more than kill us." Kelly stated as Linda gave her a confused expression. "You already know more than most simply through your occupation Lieutenant Franks. In fact, you know more than Commander Horn himself knows." Linda stared at her, still confused for a moment before going wide eyed and leaning in closer.

"You're kidding...He doesn't know?" Kelly gave a short nod. Linda sat back, taking it in. "That's...rare. Not unheard of in regular grunts, but someone in a command position...is that even safe?"

"His form of PTSD is the emotional type rather than mental stunting, hence the outburst in the conference room." Kelly stated. "Basically, as I understand it, his PTSD has locked out his ability to feel fear, while enhancing the sensations of every other emotion. Imagine a close friend dies for you, and amplify that feeling by at least two fold. And that's just for one person..." Linda gave a nod.

"Amplify that by all the news...all the deaths...all the 'apparent' failures...My god. I'm surprised he didn't completely break down. All those unbidden emotions pounding at your inner mental wall." Linda stared back at Kelly. "Which comes back to my original question. Is it safe?"

"He's saved my life and that of the crew due to his inability to feel fear more times than I can count. I've always been around to advise him when his rational thought is sometimes sidetracked by the lack of fear in death. He doesn't know about it, and in fact, he finds the whole concept of fear 'interesting'." Kelly replied, and Linda shook her head.

"But he's got to remember times when he was scared previously in his life. He has to know what it feels like." Kelly shook her head.

"According to him, he can remember the fact that he was scared, but he can't remember the sensation or the rush that came with it. It's like looking at picture, seeing someone with a frightened look on their face but feeling none of the fear that they are supposedly feeling." Linda nodded her head.

"Well that's...that's...I'm not sure if words accurately describe it right now." Kelly nodded, and they both sat there in silence for a moment. "So...this whole thing with psychiatrists..."

"It was always there, just became more prevalent after he was diagnosed and they made him go from one shrink to another, each one telling him he was 'fine'." Linda nodded once more. Before slapping her knees and standing up.

"Well then, that answers just about everything I wanted to ask."

"Keep in mind Lieutenant. This is confidential information, blacked out by the Illusive Man himself. You are not to tell anyone else about this, and the only reason I told you is because you already figured it out." Linda stared at her for a moment.

"I don't agree with it...I feel he has a right to know..." Kelly stared at her for a moment, but she continued. "But I'll follow orders. I won't tell him or anyone else unless directed by the Illusive Man or yourself." Kelly gave a nod, and motioned towards the door.

"If that's all Lieutenant, I have some work that desperately needs to get done." Linda clapped her hands together and walked to the door. Before opening it, she looked back at Kelly.

"When he finds out...you should either have a good excuse or a better hiding place. Cause I can guarantee he's going to come to you first...asking why." With that, Linda opened the door and left, leaving Kelly staring at the wall.

Yeah...I know.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It had been a full day from the Conference Incident, or what some marines were now calling the 'Berserker Ballroom'. The story had been convoluted. Apparently Horn had actually entered a fist fight with one of the Officers and did what he always did, kicked some ass. She had stopped those rumours immediately through a useful showing by Lieutenant O'Ryan who started laying on harsh punishments to those he found spreading rumours about the Command staff. It didn't help matters that Horn did what he always did when he wanted to blow off steam, and went to the gym to go up against any and all marines stupid or brave enough to challenge him. Luckily, the rumour mill that Kelly and Leonard shut down quickly managed to warn the marines enough to give him a wide berth. So instead, he did the next best thing.

Kelly had been staring at several requisition forms for new gym equipment that Horn had beaten, broken, or otherwise dismantled beyond all form of repair. She had already managed to get through them, and have them shipped, but that still didn't answer the problem of Horn. It had already been a day since she had to take Command from him, this time with him being conscious. It was not something she did lightly, nor was it something she very much enjoyed. Before she did it out of necessity, now it was the same thing but a very different feeling.

Now she was heading up to his quarters, to check on his status. She expected to find him still very much raging and trying to get all of that anger out of his system. So, needless to say, when the doors opened and she heard absolutely nothing, she was curious. "Commander?" She called.

"Over here." Horn replied, quite calmly. Kelly wandered in a few steps, and found Horn staring at his computer with a bottle of some form of alcohol sitting beside him. That was a bad combination in itself, and nearly made Kelly freeze when she noticed that the bottle was almost empty and Horn had yet to punch a hole in a wall. She walked forward, and took a seat in one of the chairs facing Horn's desk.

"How are you feeling sir?" She asked, getting straight to the point. Horn didn't bother looking at her.

"Feeling? That's an apt choice of wording." Horn was silent for a few minutes. "I guess guilt is a good one. Regret? Anger? The better question would be what am I not feeling." Horn stated as his eyes never left the screen. Kelly gave a nod and sat there, not saying a word. "What do I say Operative?" Jason finally broke his gaze from his screen, shoving it so Kelly could see what was on it.

'Dear Mr. and Ms. Nathan.' Was all that was typed onto the screen.

"I've been trying to write a letter to them for the past six hours. Six, Operative." Horn stated as he downed another shot of whatever drink he was consuming and poured himself another. "I've been thinking about things to tell them. How Jack was an awesome guy, how he's saved our asses multiple times, how he was someone I could very easily start a conversation with. Hell, sometimes I think of him as my best friend." Horn gave a small scoff, then a laugh. "Ain't that funny? I thought that someone I worked with, and barely knew outside of that was my best friend."

"There's no reason he couldn't have been your best friend sir." Kelly stated, not exactly sure as to what to say in the conversation. She was no psychiatrist, yet out of the crew she probably knew the Commander the best. Yet, she had never seen him quite like this, the opposite side of the spectrum so to speak. Horn gave another laugh that somehow ended up being sad.

"My life is this job Kelly. I've known nothing else. Schooling? Done through Cerberus boot camp...family outings? If I could actually see my mom or dad for five minutes, it was to tell me that I was doing great in boot camp and then they were off on another assignment. Friends? In a business like this, those...things are temporary at best." Horn cupped his mouth in his hands before placing them on the desk. "I haven't even gotten to Teesar, or Nicola...or Goram. All great people, save for one of them being a shrink, but none of them needed to die."

"Sir, you did all that you could. More than anyone could have done." Kelly stated, feeling like she might be saying this quite a few times in the next few days. She was starting to wonder if she preferred the depressed version of Horn, or the angry version.

"Yeah...yeah I did." Horn stated, which caught Kelly off guard. "I mean, I went on a suicide mission with two team members, one of which didn't come back and the other now a POW. Almost died myself, got put in a coma, came back to immediately fight a battle and lose my shit like a pathetic child." Jason looked at Kelly for a moment. "It's not the fact that I don't think I did all I could Operative, it's the fact that I did all I could and it still wasn't enough." Jason dropped silent, and so did Kelly.

After a couple minutes of silence, Kelly stood from the chair and looked over at the Commander. "Do you need another day Commander?" Jason looked up at her, giving her a small smile.

"According to Grass, I need two weeks. So yeah, I'll be good to go by tomorrow..." Horn looked at his screen, taking a deep breath. "I'll be good." Kelly gave a nod, and walked back towards the door, but stopped just short of leaving.

"You know, the marines are spreading rumours that you fought with an officer in the conference room." Kelly stated, Horn looked up at her.

"Tell them it was TJ. Everyone will understand and should the need arise, I'll actually kick her ass later to prove it to everyone." Kelly gave a soft smile, and Horn continued. "I'll be giving a formal apology to the various officers who were present at the meeting. They shouldn't have to see me when I...when that happens." Jason stated, and Kelly turned towards him.

"Does this apology extend to Vala Buchan as well?" Horn twitched visibly, and Kelly was worried that she had hit a nerve.

"Let me put it this way. The less we see each other, the longer this ship will last...am I clear?"

"Crystal sir." Kelly gave a nod, and with nothing else to say, calmly strode out of the room.

She understood full well...that Horn wasn't joking.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jason Horn Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar Character Portrait: Carly Laren Character Portrait: Cecil Adams

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The Victory's gym was a blur of activity as multiple marines entered and left the area either done with their work out or just starting it. Nearly every machine was in use, from treadmills to punching bags to the sparring ring. In fact, inside the ring was something that was drawing the eyes of a few marines to watch, but most simply walked by. After all, Horn had been training Kelly in hand to hand combat techniques for a couple months at this point. Seeing them spar was something that was almost commonplace at this point.

Horn and Kelly stood at opposite corners of the ring, slowly the both started forward. Horn rolled his shoulders slightly, while Kelly simply brought her hands up in a standard Kuntao stance, an ancient Chinese martial style usually involving heavy use elbow and knee attacks mixed with deceiving the enemy with disorienting blows and cripple them through the use of nerve point strikes. This had been the style that Kelly had decided to go with, out of the entire library that was Horn's martial library. Horn himself stood in a loose kick boxer stance as they stared at each other. Both were in standard military work out gear, being black loose shorts and tight grey t-shirts. Training with Horn was one of the few times that Kelly also allowed herself a loose ponytail while technically on duty. While training with Horn hadn't changed her figure much, one thing differed from her standard look. Scars from her fight on Ontarom were still on her face. Simple deep line scratches on her otherwise immaculate face. One across her right cheek, and another across the bridge of her nose extending nearly all the way to her right ear. When she had been given the choice to get rid of them, she refused. They were her trophies, or her reminders, whichever one people wanted to believe.

They stared at each other for a bit longer, the other wanting the other to move forward first. Finally Horn grew impatient and took the first step forward. Instantly Kelly was moving forward, delivering a circling elbow to his temple, which he quickly and easily blocked with his forearm. He lashed out with his foot, which Kelly also blocked with her forearm. Almost immediately she was circling Horn while spinning in circles herself. An elbow lashed out at Horn, followed by a knee, a loose kick, another elbow, each of which Horn blocked out of practiced ease. In fact, from another perspective, it could have been taken that Horn was mocking her.

Finally, after about several unsuccessful attempts, Kelly backed up and stood several paces away from Horn. Already beads of sweat were starting to form on her face, and her breathing was slightly heavy. In the fifteen seconds that it had taken her to complete her attack, she had managed to deliver no less than 25 unsuccessful blows. Horn gave a wicked grin, and quickly shortened the distance between them with a quick jump. Instantly he delivered a triple kick at Kelly's side, which she was able to block with both her hands even as she flinched with each impact. When that attack was finished, Horn leapt into the air and performed a roundhouse kicked that forced Kelly to lean backwards to avoid the kick. Instead of simply landing on his feet, Horn dropped into a crouch upon falling from his roundhouse and swept at Kelly's feet. The blow connected, and Kelly was dropped to the floor almost instantly. Before she could regain her senses, Horn was on top of her, holding her forearms together with one hand. She struggled slightly before looking up at the smiling image of Jason.

"You know, someone could take this the wrong way." Jason started, staring off at some marines. "Here I am, sitting on top of my beautiful second in command, holding her arms together while she wears barely anything." Jason stopped for a moment. "Wait, is that similar to rape? Cause that would be wrong...incredibly wrong..." Horn paused a moment longer. "I...I am a bad man for the thought that just ran through my head. Cleanse!" Horn shook his head, and looked down at Kelly, who was only smirking slightly. Horn put on his best confused face, until he noticed the blue arcs of energy pulsing up his arm. Before he could do anything, Kelly released a biotic pulse that sent Horn flying to the other side of the mat. He managed to catch himself on the ropes, and was standing before anyone who wasn't looking realized what happened. Kelly herself stood, and dropped back into her Kuntao stance. "Biotics are illegal there babe!" Horn stated, Kelly shrugged.

"You told me nothing is illegal on the battlefield sir." Horn paused.

"Damn...I did. Well...fine then, if we're playing by those rules." Kelly's eyes went wide as he launched himself at her. Moving faster than Kelly was capable of reacting to, Horn's hand close around her arm, spinning and ending up behind her. He wrenched the arm upward, forcing Kelly off balance. From there he manoeuvred around her, switching to a wrestling style and picking up Kelly by the waist. In a mere moment, he had hoisted her onto his shoulder, and a moment later, crashed her hard onto the mat.

Horn gave a laugh as he stood over her and she rolled herself onto her back. She tried desperately to get her wind back as Horn knelt down next to her. "Don't quote my words like that Babe. Sure, battle, do whatever you want. Here, I'm here to train you to do without them. That way, when you need to use them, it's just one hell of a bonus."

"Yes...sir." She managed to squeak out as air finally started filling her lungs. Horn had barely broken a sweat at this point, but he was fairly sure he had damn near broken Invaru. So, with possibly inappropriate handling, he grabbed her by the waist and hoisted her up to the ropes so she could stand.

"Aw cmon...haven't you ever been suplexed?" Horn smiled. "Oh yeah, the sexual reference was planned."

"Can't say that I have sir." She stated, her neutral voice only flawed by the fact that she was still trying to breathe. Horn frowned.

"Now now Operative Invaru, lying is a sin and offence to your superior officer." Horn stated.

"I answered your one question sir." Horn was about to say something, but stopped as he realized what Kelly said. He looked at her to see her giving a slight smirk.

"You dirty Operative!" He stated as Nikki came over the comm.

"Commander Horn to the CIC. Commander Horn to the CIC." Horn sighed, rubbing his hands on his face.

"Damn, I was just getting started. Oh well, duty calls babe. Meet me up there when you manage to catch your breath." Horn stepped out of the mat, stopped, and turned back. "Sexual reference not intended, but still kind of funny." With that, he left the Operative leaning on the ropes in the sparring ring.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over the past two months since Horn's revival, the Call of Victory had managed to be nothing but an asset to the Omni Cell name. They had managed to run no less than 30 operations that ranged from assaulting a fortified stronghold, ship blockades, protection details, and Collector hit and runs. While the Call of Victory now bore new scars, it also now bore some new armour, and a more impressive array of weaponry. During what little downtime they had, Jason had managed to requisition that the ship be outfitted with Silaris armour, something that wouldn't have been possible in the timeframe they were given had the Illusive Man not bypassed some protocols and managed to get them on the list much faster than expected. During the time, the Victory had been patched up and prepped for all out war. Every gun had been inspected twice, hull integrity was made to be perfect. Shields were boosted past their operating capacity due to a newly installed cooling system for the generator. Needless to say, once the Call of Victory rolled out of the garage, so to speak, it was bristling with arms, armour, and a will to deliver death to the enemies of Cerberus and mankind.

During this timeframe as well, Horn had managed to quite successfully re-establish himself as Commander of a vessel. Several times he had managed to pull off something that would have been deemed suicidal by others. Time and again he has earned the respect of his officers and soldiers, and even though some of them refer to him as 'Commander Crazy' behind his back, he knew it was not meant as an insult. After the events of the Conference room when he first regained consciousness after his coma, he had managed to temper his temper, and lead by example. Many people had put that rumour and situation behind them, but Horn knew it would always be there. For now, he was simply glad that everyone was once again willing to follow his lead implicitly.

The elevator doors opened, and Horn walked out onto the CIC in nothing but his gym clothes and a towel draped over his neck. He looked off to his right, and gave a grin as Carly was standing there without her helmet on. Instead, she was opting to wear a Kuwashii visor rather than her standard helmet, her cropped brown hair giving her a very tomboy-ish look. "Corporal Carly!" Horn yelled right beside her, which caused her head to turn.

"Sir." She stated. Horn gave a frown, and instead gave her a hug right on the CIC, actually physically lifting her in the air even with her armour on. Carly simply gave a sigh, and the rest of the CIC didn't even look when Horn did this. "Is there a reason you feel the need to do this every time sir?"

"Oh C'mon Carly, I hardly see you otherwise. I would think that someone I personally recruited would be pleased by me being so emotional upon seeing them." Horn retorted.

"I realize that sir...but it's every time you step onto the CIC."

"Making it more special!" Horn yelled as he turned a quick ninety degrees. "Alrighty nerdlings! Tell your mighty overlord, master, and general leader in this mass of chaos just what it is that I had to come up here and not pin Operative Invaru to the ground for a bit longer?" Everyone went quiet, everyone wondering whether or not he was actually serious, or what he was actually doing with Operative Invaru.

"Ah Commander, a pleasure to engage in conversation with you once more." Cecil stepped around the CIC's main display, tipping his hat as their eyes met. Horn gave a smile and walked forward.

"Cecil, my good man." Horn stated, putting on his best regal accent. "I do believe that this entire...situation...that has...ah screw it." Horn stated, throwing away the regal accent. "Just tell me the good shit." Cecil gave a practiced smile and a slight bow.

"Nikki, if you would." There was a brief flash from the display as a system popped up. A few seconds passed, and the display re-arranged to zoom in on a small moon orbiting a planet. Horn simply crossed his arms, looking at the display for a moment before looking back to Cecil.

"Yes, it's a very pretty moon. What about it?" Cecil just gave another miniature bow.

"Well, when a certain Demon was...forcefully taken from us, Kelly approached me, asking me to reach out through my vast array of contacts for anything pertaining to Daniel and his whereabouts." Cecil pointed to the moon for emphasis. "I have a reliable source claiming that your missing brother in arms is, in fact, on Asphodel, the moon of Zion." Horn's face turned to stone, his eyes darting back between the display and Cecil to see if this was some sort of sick twisted joke.

"You're sure this information can be trusted?" Horn asked, all humour lost from his figure.

"I swear on it Commander. After all, Daniel was a good man, and the fact that he has been locked up with them for over two months now is nothing more than sickening to me. I would not relay this information if I did not believe there was a chance of him being there." Cecil finished and looked to the Commander, who only placed a hand on his shoulder.

"If he's there Cecil, anything within my power to give is yours." Cecil shook his head.

"We're all in this together now Commander. There's no need for favours." Horn gave a nod, and marched with renewed purpose from the CIC towards the Conference room.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Horn had made his way from the CIC to the Conference room in record time without actually sprinting to the room, but was surprised to see Nerita leaning against the door to the room. Horn walked slowly up to the room, which grabbed Nerita's attention as she stood to face him. "Commander." She simply stated. Horn gave a nod in return.

"I assume there is a reason you're watching guard over an empty room?" Horn asked, his humour leaking through but still evident that he wasn't in much of a joking mood.

"Yes." Nerita stated bluntly, but seemed to be searching for the words. It took her a few seconds before she spoke again, a weird thing from someone who was stoic and always sure of her words. "I would like to be on the assault team that extracts Lieutenant Harrens." Horn raised an eyebrow, an odd request from someone who often sought to distance herself from just about everyone else.

"Is there a reason for this specific request?" Horn asked, knowing there was but wanting to hear it from her. She stared at him for a moment before answering his question.

"While you were in a coma, he managed to help Operative Invaru take charge of the Call of Victory in a purely battlefield operational way. I've talked to him a few times, I've worked with him more than that, and he's stood up for me when no one else has. I owe him this." She stated everything very flatly, almost with no emotion but Horn didn't take any insult from this. It was simply the fact that she was offering her services without being asked, the fact that she waited for Horn to show up, the fact that she had trouble getting her words out when he first asked her what was up that Horn knew she was genuinely wanting to get Daniel out of that hell hole. Horn gave a smile and smacked Nerita hard enough on her shoulder to make her teeter to one side.

"Hey, I can always use a biotic on my team. Sexy ones are even better. You still promised me a nurse outfit one day." Nerita simply gave a scoff and Horn let his smile drop a little. "In all honesty, I was probably going to ask you anyways. I appreciate you offering your services Nerita." The asari simply gave a nod, and walked past him back down the hallway. Horn watched her go for a moment, before breaching the doors to the Conference room.

"Nikki, get me the Illusive Man." Jason stated as the table started to retract into the floor. He stepped onto it, for the first time, wishing the quantum entanglement worked faster. He quickly solidified himself, placing his hands behind his back in an 'at east' posture. The moment the field solidified, he spotted the Illusive Man in his iconic office, sitting in his chair looking over what appeared to be reports. TIM didn't bother to acknowledge Horn until he was fully materialized, and even then it was only at a sidelong glance.

"Commander Horn." TIM started, the smoke trailing from his cigarette in between his fingers as he swiped the reports across his vision. "You're not due for another report for another few days. I assume this is about Daniel?" Horn paused for a moment, not knowing exactly how the Illusive Man knew what this was about, but reasoned it away with the fact of why else he would be calling him uninvited.

"Yes sir. We have reliable intel stating that Lieutenant Harrens is being held on the moon of Asphodel, in the Exodus Cluster." TIM simply took another drag on his cigarette, not bothering to say anything. "I'm...here talking to you sir to request permission to go after him." TIM allowed himself the smallest of smirks for the briefest of a second.

"No, Commander Horn." The Illusive Man stood up from his chair, closing the distance between them. "You came here to tell me you are going, whether I sanction it or not." Horn said nothing, but to be completely honest with himself, he would have gone even if the Illusive Man had said no. When Horn replied with nothing, TIM turned around, and took a few steps away from him before turning back to him. "I understand that the bond that forms between soldiers is strong Commander. A brotherhood shrouded in blood, glory, and death. These bonds can end up being as strong, or even stronger than family ties." TIM took another drag on his cigarette. "But I have to wonder the value of one man as opposed to the mission we are now embarked on."

"I have not forgotten my mission sir." Horn said, half defending himself, half wanting to end the conversation so he could get going.

"I realize that Commander, after all, after your recovery you and your crew have made good progress against the Collectors. Despite Omni Cell's setbacks, you are once again proving yourself an asset to Cerberus." TIM paused, and slowly made his way back to his chair. Once he was seated and snuffed out his cigarette, he locked his fingers together. "You have my permission to go after him, Commander Horn. Make note, however, that where he is being held is most likely an Oracle outpost of some sort. The men that attacked Lieutenant Harrens on Elysium were affiliated with Alliance. If that is the case, rescue your man, but make sure that outpost doesn't remain standing."

"Sir, you read my mind." Horn stated, a smile creeping onto his face like a kid who managed to get the candy bar from his father.

"Good. Get this matter done and out of the way Commander. We have bigger issues in the galaxy than the fate of one man." TIM cut the connection, and Horn was left standing in the conference room with a huge smile on his face.

"Nikki!" Horn yelled up at the ceiling. "Get the priests! We're going to get ourselves a Demon!"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corporal Edward Stevenson Character Portrait: Specialist Maya Salazar Character Portrait: Private First Class Logan Fischer Character Portrait: Private Roger Pollard Character Portrait: Tia St. Jean Character Portrait: Commander Jason Horn Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Nerita T'Lar Character Portrait: Commander Benjamin Slatton

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Horn paced down in the hangar in his full combat gear. He had once again donned his Apocalypse armour, but it was no longer the shining white that it used to be. After his initial trial run, Horn called a couple of favours and managed to get the scientists who had worked on the armour stationed on the Victory for a couple of days. Within the time they were given, they were able to boost the shield strength enough that the paint was purely an accessory at this point. Along with new experimental self-propulsion devices, the giant pack on his back had been cut down to nearly half it's size. The only problem being that the jetpack on his back was now a very vulnerable section on his body. He had the option to jettison the pack if necessary, but it was still very much in his mind that it could turn into one very large grenade. If he had too, he had a cool idea to get rid of it.

His armour was now more in line with the Demon fashion. His colour scheme was backwards, his armour now jet black with red detailing, and his visor now had it's own decal. When his visor was down, a blood red smile with matching blood red eyes was drawn onto the screen. His squad was called the Demons, he might as well look the part. The only problem being that he had to actually look at it when he took the armour off. He still had chills from the first time TJ had painted it on.

Kelly stood off to his left in her standard Cerberus uniform. Despite her actions on Ontarom two months ago, she was no more eager to get back into combat than Horn was to get back into a coma. She held her omni-tool up, scanning over each and every detail with immaculate precision. Along with Kelly, Tia and Nerita were suited up behind them, each ready in their own way to kick some ass and get Daniel out of the Oracle prison camp. The only people left to arrive were Lieutenant O'Ryan and his selected team. Horn was getting impatient waiting for them, pacing around the room or stopping for a few moments to tap his foot in one spot. When O'Ryan finally arrived, he made a note to salute Kelly, but not Jason. This suited the Commander fine, since he didn't necessarily like the gesture.

"Sir, Ma'am. Fireteam Owl reporting." The Lieutenant stated with the crispness of a drill sergeant. Kelly simply gave a nod towards him, Horn was less subtle as he clapped his hands together once.

"About fucking time Lieutenant! We have some asses to kick and one in particular to save. Kelly, brief them." Kelly gave another nod and stepped forward a moment. Her omni-tool was already lit, so the display simply changed to a layout of their supposed target.

"Marines. This is Lieutenant Harren's holding location." Kelly pressed a few more buttons on her tool. "If you bring up your omni-tool, the display shall be linked to your equipment." She waited a moment as they all followed her instructions and were soon holding an image that mirrored Operative Invaru's. "The exact blueprints of the base are unknown to us, but judging by the layout of the building based on standard operating construction, we've made an estimated guess as to where exactly the Lieutenant is being held." Horn quickly stepped in.

"Daniel is our main target. Regardless of his state of being, we do not leave that building until he back aboard this ship. Do I make myself clear marines!?" There was a chorus of 'yes sir' from Lieutenant O'Ryan and his team. Horn gave a nod, and stepped back behind Kelly who gave a small, polite smile.

"Yes, Lieutenant Harrens is your main objective. However, we are to cause as much collateral damage as possible to the facility. For this purpose, each of you will be outfitted with several high explosive charges." Horn walked over to a couple of crates and popped them open, revealing several high grade planted explosives. "This does not necessarily mean you will need them. You're secondary objective will be to map the facility, and determine just how far it goes down into the surface. Any more than a few levels, and those charges will be needed to take out the supports and collapse the base from the inside. If it appears to be less than a few floors down, there will be no need for the charges. We will be firing the cannon from orbit and destroying the base that way."

Kelly looked over to Horn, who clapped his hands together. "Alright, so first thing is first. Fireteam Owl! Attention!" Horn yelled, showing off his more commanding tone as he did so. The entire team, including O'Ryan snapped to attention. "Aside from O'Ryan...Names! Sound off!"

"Corporal Stevenson sir!"

"Specialist Salazar sir!"

"Private Fischer sir!"

"Private Pollard sir!" Horn gave a nod as each stated their names. Even though their names and rank were displayed through the visor's HUD, he preferred hearing them say their name so it was committed to memory. With this done, Horn relaxed slightly into his more casual command setting.

"Alright marines. Enemy forces down at this outpost are sketchy at best. I wouldn't place more than a platoon strength in there. Add in a few techs, medics, administrative staff, the likes. I don't like to speculate, but we run this right, we get in and out before they understand that we just fucked them hard." Horn stood in front of them, his arms crossed across his chest. "As you know and Operative Invaru has stated, we're facing Oracle. From my understanding, I ran into a few of their operatives while on Hephaestus. They are well equipped, armoured, and trained. Expect nothing less than Alliance bred and controlled, and nothing more than fucking badass. Understand?!"

"Yes sir!" They stated in unison. Horn gave a nod.

"Alright, not going to bother you with the 'stay together, stay alive' bullshit, I'll leave that to Lieutenant O'Ryan. For now, if you find Daniel before I do, notify me and get him to the extraction point. Do not wait for me or my team, he is priority." Horn looked to Kelly. "Anything else to add?"

"Automated defences are most likely abundant in the base. Be on the lookout for hidden turrets, defensive lasers and mechs." Horn nodded once more, looking to the marines.

"Alright, you heard the lady. Watch out for mechanical booby traps and let's go get ourselves a Demon!" Horn made a waving motion towards the Kodiak and the marines jogged to board the transport. He walked back to Nerita and Tia. "Well? What are you waiting for? Board the Kodiak."

"You're not joining us sir?" Tia asked, looking towards the Kodiak and back towards Horn. Horn gave a smile behind his visor, mimicking the blood red paintjob.

"No, Operative. We don't know the anti-air capabilities of the facility yet. If I head out before you do, I can draw some of the fire. Also, we're going to need an area to land. The pilot knows to simply follow my FOF signal." Horn looked over to Kelly, who gave a nod before leaving the shuttle bay. He looked back to Nerita and Tia, giving a nod towards the Kodiak. Nerita followed without another word, and Tia followed suit. Once they were within the Kodiak, Horn looked up at the ceiling. "Alright Nikki, drop the hatch and let's kill shit!"

"Affirmative sir. Opening the Shuttle Bay Doors." Horn watched as the floor beneath him started to separate, revealing the planet down below. The already punched in coordinates of the base showed a way point trail to his destination as it recognized open space. Once the doors were open wide enough for him to jump, he looked over the Kodiak and gave a mock salute.

"See you grunts on the ground!" Without another word, Horn dived through the opening.

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Horn crouched down on a relatively open area, just a few yards from the entrance to the base. Surprisingly, there had been no Anti-air fire directed at him. It was almost like they had either turned it off, or not anticipated someone finding them here and didn't build any. Either way, Horn didn't like it and mumbled to himself right up to the point that the Kodiak landed a few seconds after he did. The doors opened and his team, along with the marines, trotted out to rendezvous with him. Horn pointed towards O'Ryan. "Take your team through that door!" Horn pointed towards another entrance a few more yards away. "Sweep the base, room through room, and kill everything that isn't Daniel."

"Understood sir." O'Ryan stated. "Owl! On me, we're moving!"

Horn watched as the Lieutenant's team as they jogged to the entrance. Meanwhile, Nerita and Tia had pushed ahead of him and taken up spots on either side of their door. Horn walked up, and with a slight motion towards Tia, she hacked the door and gained them entrance in a few seconds. Horn's Vindicator came up, quickly sweeping through the hallway to ensure there would be no unneeded surprises. When it became evident that there was nothing there, at least initially, they proceeded.

As they wandered down the hallway, rooms sat empty on either side of them. This didn't prevent them from opening and clearing each and every one, stopping only to allow Tia to pull a schematic of the base off of one of the terminals. It was bothering Jason to a visible point, his hand coiled around his Vindicator with so much tension it looked like he was going to break his rifle, his fingers played a silent drum roll near the trigger of the weapon. When they finally reached the end of the hallway, having entered and cleared 6 rooms to this point, Jason took a moment to look around. "They had to be here...We noticed activity when we came into the system...so where are they?" Before anyone could answer, Lieutenant O'Ryan came over the comm.

"Commander?" Horn put a hand up to his helmet.

"Hit me Lieutenant."

"Sir, it looks like they have either evacuated, or are in the process of it. We just passed a mess hall, food was still on the tables and warm." Horn quickly turned around.

"Saint! Where is the Hangar?" There was a moment as Tia brought up her Omni-tool.

"It's on the other side of the base sir." Horn was about to take off when Nerita spoke.

"How is it that they're evacuating but we're not picking up any ships leaving the planet?" Horn paused and then cursed at himself. "Because they got fucking cloaks on their ships." He switched to a platoon frequency so O'Ryan could hear him. "Everyone! converge on the hangar! Move it, or so help me god if they take Daniel off this planet I will be throwing each and everyone of you into space to chase them! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?"

"Yes sir. Owl converging." O'Ryan replied, calm as ever. Horn didn't waste any time as he started sprinting down the hallways and switching channels to the Call of Victory at the same time.

"Kelly! I want a missile barrage at these coordinates!" He brought up his omni-tool mid sprint, sending in a firing solution while rounding a corner.

"Sir, that's dangerously close to the facility. We can't guarantee that the shots won't hit you." Kelly replied, her neutral voice only spurring Horn on further.

"God fucking damn it Kelly! I gave you an order, not a suggestion! I don't want you to destroy the hangars or the ships, just prevent them from leaving! Get it done!" There was a brief pause.

"Acknowledged...entering firing solution."

"Good, now we-FUCK!" Horn rounded another corner, and barely stopped in time as a couple of automated turrets sprung out of the ground. He turned to his right, hit the button to open the door, and dived in as the guns started firing. "Down! Down!" Horn yelled, but luckily he had damn near left Nerita and Tia in the dust when he had started running. They were still behind the corner when the guns had opened fire.

"Saint! Overload their systems! Nerita, when their shields are down, I want you to molecular transform those pieces of metal into nothing but oversized lawn ornaments for rednecks!" As soon as Horn finished saying that, a large explosion from a distance away caused the entire facility to shake, nearly throwing them all off balance for a moment.

"Yes sir." Tia responded while Nerita only gave a nod. Within a couple of seconds, with their respective powers working in combo, the turrets had been neutralized. Horn took a moment, and realized for the first time that he heard breathing in the room. He spun around, his weapon at the ready, only to find a sole person in the room, dangling from hooks like a piece of meat. Horn cautiously strode forward until he was but a foot from the man. With a quick look, his anger turned to relief as he recognized it was Daniel, back to anger as he realized what they had done to him. A quick glance at the rest of the room told him all he needed to know about this section of the facility as torture tools lay strewn about the interior of the area.

"Hey...Lieutenant." Daniel didn't respond, so Horn grabbed his chin, retracted his visor and forced his face up. "Daniel you son of a bitch you better not be dying on me. That's bad luck and I would be sad. Seriously, a couple of man tears for you at your funeral. No more than two though, they're precious." Daniel stirred for a moment, his eyes glazed over as he looked up, and then slowly around the room. By this point Tia and Nerita had joined him in what Horn was now mentally dubbing the 'fucker-upper room'.

"What...there..." Daniel suddenly jerked up, spurred by some reserve of adrenaline he had managed to somehow keep to himself. "Where is that son of bitch sir! I want him dead!" Horn just placed his hands on his hips.

"First Kelly doesn't flash me when I save her, and now you don't even thank me and say a prayer to me not being in a coma. Jeez, you guys are real assholes, you know that?" Daniel shook his head, but didn't smile as Horn cut him down from the hooks.

"Sorry sir. Glad to see you're not dead sir." Daniel stated, his voice low as he dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Horn put one of Daniel's arms around his shoulders and attempted to help him stand, only for Daniel to push him away. "I can stand." Was all he said as he propped himself and slowly managed to get himself upright. Horn looked at him, and even knowing the fact that torture can change a man, was surprised by the dark look behind Daniel's once friendly eyes. Before Horn could say anything, a light flashed in the corner as a woman in blue administrative attire strode forward. Her shoulder length brown hair was let down, her bangs slightly swept off to her left as she stood a few feet from Horn through the Quantum Entanglement Device. Horn stared at her as she didn't bat even an eye at them.

"You must be Commander Horn. Captain Titus speaks very highly of you." The woman spoke, her voice light and almost inquisitive. Horn narrowed his eyes at you.

"Putting two and two together...You're the head of Oracle..." It was more a statement then a question as Horn strode forward, less than a foot between them now and dwarfing the woman by a good few inches. She gave a slight smirk, regarding him with a very curious gaze, reminding him of Kelly when she was analyzing something.

"In a sense. We all answer to a higher power." Horn stared at her as another rumble forced everyone but Horn to regain their balance. Horn's face did not change, a very dangerous stare looking into the woman's eyes.

"You made two very dear mistakes...One of them was capturing one of my people." She gave a smile.

"And the second?" She asked, her tone almost mocking the Commander.

"Showing me your face." Horn stated as his visor closed, showing the red demon smile and eyes, before raising his gun and firing a couple of bursts into the QEC. The Oracle leader's image flashed for a moment, she gave one last smirk at him and then disappeared entirely. Horn turned towards the others, who were simply staring at him by this point. He gave a cheeky smile behind his visor before clapping his hands together.

"Don't have time to play politics with the woman trying to act like she has dick the size of a dreadnought." Horn took a breath. "Alrighty then." Horn stated as he motioned for Nerita and Tia to patch Daniel up. He stepped back and opened a channel once more. "Lieutenant? We have Harrens. How close are you to the Hangar."

"We're just entering now sir..." There was a brief moment of silence before O'Ryan yelled back into the comm. "Everyone down! Down! Pollard! Salazar! Take the right flank! Fischer! Stevenson! Suppress the shuttles! Keep them off!" There was another moment as fire errupted, and even without the comm. open, Horn could hear the fire from where he was. "Sir! They're still evacuating! Two shuttles left!" There was another explosion as the Victory's firing solution came very close to facility, shaking them all down to their core. O'Ryan came back onto the comm. again. "Sir! Call off the attack! The missiles are getting too close! Friendly fire is a possibility!"

"Fuck!" Horn swore to himself as he connected to the Victory once more. "Kelly! Stop the attack! We have friendlies in the Hangar."

"Noted. Ceasing firing solution." Kelly stated back, but Horn could almost swear there was a 'I told you so' in her tone. Horn didn't say anything as he looked back at Daniel.

"I need to go help Lieutenant O'Ryan and his team. Nerita, Saint, get Daniel to extraction." Daniel looked up with a quickness that defied his current state of being, and shoved Nerita and Tia off of him.

"Not without getting a shot at that bastard who did this sir." Daniel stated as he walked with a noticeable limp towards Horn. Horn put his hand, blocking him from passing through the threshold of the door.

"Lieutenant, you're wounded, been tortured for the past two months, are possibly on the verge of collapse...and your lips are really chapped. Seriously, get some lip balm or something. You're in no shape to be fighting!" Daniel looked him straight in the eyes.

"How soon did you get into a fight after your coma sir?" Horn looked at the man, before realizing he couldn't have known and looked at his feet.

"Well...uhhh...that doesn't really count cause I'm me. The circumstances were different, reason, explanation, and bullshit excuses go here." Horn stated but Daniel didn't even give him a smile.

"Well sir, the circumstances are different as well. I may not be 'you', but I sure as hell not going to limp off while you guys try to kill the guy who did this to me." Daniel reached over, and took the carnifex off of Horn's side. "So, with all due respect sir...if you don't want me to go after him." Daniel made sure the carnifex was loaded, and of course it was.

"Then shoot me." Horn stared him down for a moment before giving a devilish grin.

"This is like a bad action movie! Revenge! Plots! Super badass monologue moment with a one liner! It's got it all...except...TIA! NERITA! Bikinis! Now!" Both of the women simply deadpanned at him. Horn gave a mock pout at them. "Oh well, worth a try. Well then..." Horn whipped his head towards the door, motioning his arm towards the threshold.

"Let's kill us some bad guys."

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Horn jumped over the remains of yet another automated turret that tried and failed to stop them. The fire from Owl's fight was getting louder every second, and Horn was sprinting as fast as he possibly could. Nerita and Tia were helping Daniel along, slowing their progress considerably, but that was understandable and excused. Horn didn't want to rescue his friend only to watch him die from one well placed round from one of the Oracle marines. Horn ran through another set of doors, and was rewarded with the final stretch before the hangar. Gunfire could be heard from the other side, and he didn't bother to check where his team was at the moment as he burst through the doors with all the grace of a drunken elcor.

In the two seconds it took to survey the scene, he managed to make out a squad's worth of enemy marines left, and saw that O'Ryan and his team had been engaged in hand to hand by what appeared to be the commander of the facility. Giving a quick glance at the man, the way he was moving was definitely familiar. Horn's mind flashed back to the Hephaestus, his fighting of the enemy Commander there. He gritted his teeth as he remembered the fact that the man got away, but managed to pull himself back to the present long enough to survey Owl's condition. By the looks of it, Owl was royally getting shit stomped, so Horn didn't waste any time. He pumped a clip into one of the enemy marines as he ran, and once he was close enough, holstered his rifle in favour of his combat blade. Horn ignited his jets, and literally flew at the commander, stopping just short to deliver a roundhouse kick to the man's chest.

The Commander finished delivering a powerful haymaker to one of the marines, laying him out on the ground and skidding a couple of feet, before looking over and seeing the terrifying sight of Horn flying directly at him. A mixture of training, experience, and luck managed to get him to duck in time as the roundhouse missed entirely. What the Commander didn't expect, was for Horn to put his hands forward to completely stop his momentum forward with the control jets built into his palms, and deliver a solid knee to the face as the jets in his boots boosted him upwards. The Commander flew backwards, landing on his back several feet away, but quickly getting back to his feet.

"Motherfucker...we have some unfinished business!" Horn stated as he spun the combat blade in his hand and ran towards the man. With the briefest of flares, Horn kicked up both his feet towards the Commander, who blocked them easily. For the moment, the Commander was on the defensive as Horn unleashed a flurry of blows amped up by split second flares of his manoeuvring jets in his hands in feet. Gunfire was erupting all around them as Horn's team, along with fireteam Owl fought off the Oracle marines, but Horn was deaf to it all as he developed tunnel vision at the man in front of him.

Suddenly the Commander gripped Horn's wrist as he tried to punch for the man's temple. With a quick flick, he had Horn flip sideways to avoid breaking his wrist. With another move, the Commander had delivered three moderate-power punches to Horn's chest, forcing him back a couple feet. Suddenly the Commander switched tactics, and pushed the offensive, launching a flurry of attacks as he too brought out his own combat blade. It felt like a re-enactment of Hephaestus as both of them swung, stabbed, punched, and kicked at each other. Blades sparked as they met, rounds flew by both of their faces but neither paid any attention to them.

The animosity of the fight was not lost on either of them, with both of their visors down staring at reflections of their own helmets in the reflection of their enemy. It was like metaphorically fighting themselves, which might as well have been accurate as the fight seemed more like a elaborate dance of death. Each other would land a couple of blows only to be blocked, dodged, or parried to be on the receiving end of the blows. Despite the fact that the fight felt like it was going on a few hours, most likely for both, something caught the attention of the Commander.

Another Oracle marine dropped as a hail of fire peppered him from Owl. With a quick movement, the Commander dodged inside Horn's guard, driving his combat blade up through Horn's hand as he made to punch the man once inside. Horn gritted his teeth, not expecting such a gutsy, and ultimately feeble attack considering that he was now at the mercy of Horn. Instead of reeling from the attack, Horn wrenched his hand, causing the wound to deepen, but also making the Commander lose his grip on the hilt. Horn drove his knee up into the Commander's stomach, causing him to double over ever so slightly. He quickly drove his own blade towards the Commanders back, but with a quick twist from his nemesis, it landed deep into his shoulder instead, even though the Commander barely gave notice. Before the Commander could do anything else, Horn managed to close his wounded hand into a fist and drive it into the Commander's face. With the split second it bought him, the Commander reeling from the hit, Horn jumped up and delivered a drop kick which sent the man flying several feet backwards.

Both of them landed in a roll, and Horn immediately looked to his hand, finally assessing the damage. The blade had gone through his palm, the hilt on one side and the blade on the other. When he looked up, he saw the Commander give him a look before turning and heading for the nearest transport. "Oh fuck no!" Horn shouted as he reached for his carnifex, only to find a empty holster. A litany of curses emptied his mouth as he remembered Daniel took the pistol in order to fight. Without wasting a moment, he attempted to grab his Vindicator from his back, but it was too late.

Before he could fire after the man, gunfire peppered his shields, forcing him to dodge to the side and find cover. Almost the moment he hit cover, he heard the doors close on the Kodiaks. He looked up over his cover of crates to see the Kodiaks lift into the air, and the doors to the Hangar open. Almost immediately, the oxygen started getting sucked out of the hangar as everyone prepped themselves up against something. "O'Ryan! Get those doors closed!" Horn yelled. With a quick order, one of the men from Owl was running to the nearest terminal. Within a few seconds, the doors were sealing themselves up again, but it was too late. The Oracle Kodiaks were gone. All that was left was the silence of the base, mixed in with the feeling of a pyrrhic victory. They had gotten Daniel back, but the man who did this got away and would try again. Horn stared at the exit to the hangar for a moment longer, only looking away when O'Ryan and his team jogged over. One of the marines was helping the other stand, but it didn't look too serious. For the most part, their wounds looked superficial. O'Ryan retracted his visor to look at Jason, his gaze flicking to the knife embedded in Jason's palm for a moment.

"I'm fine Lieutenant, to answer your unspoken question." Jason stated as he gripped the hilt of the blade and gave a quick tug. Blood spray painted the floor and Jason's armour as he had to literally bite his tongue until the taste of copper filled his mouth. "Mother..." Jason stated as he took a deep breath. He took a moment to look at his palm, before pointing at the marines with the blade end of the knife. "Don't do this at home, it's incredibly stupid...especially since this is serrated. Also hurts...a lot." With a few more muttered swears, he switched the knife to a reverse grip, and turned towards his team.

They were hunkered down near the entrance to the hangar, just inside near some metal piping. Upon closer inspection, Nerita and Tia were looking over Daniel, who had gotten a little paler since they had taken him off the hook. He still gripped the carnifex in his hand with a singular purpose, his knuckles as white as his face. Jason crouched next to the man, who lazily turned his head towards him. Despite his posture, his eyes showed a remarkable amount of self-awareness, despite the obvious physical trauma.

"Did you kill him sir?" Daniel asked. Jason retracted his visor, looking at Daniel before looking down slightly.

"No...but I did give him a pretty bad case of acupuncture." Horn lifted his hand to show his wound. "Had to repay the favour." Daniel nodded, obvious disappointment in his movements as Horn put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry Lieutenant. He won't get far. I know what his boss looks like, I'm here to protect all of us, and next time I see that guy he won't have a way out." Daniel gave a nod, but looked like all his efforts were on not passing out. Horn gave a pat on his shoulder. "Nerita, Saint. Carry him to extraction. He's had a hell of a two month leave." They both nodded as they took a spot under each arm. Horn paced away, his good hand reaching for his helmet.

"Victory? This is Horn. The facility is a go for orbital destruction. Send down the Kodiaks for extraction."

"Affirmative Commander." Kelly stated back as Horn turned around to see O'Ryan standing there. His team wasn't that far off, although they looked like they were talking amongst themselves more.

"Permission to speak freely sir." O'Ryan stated, to which Horn only nodded. "We are going to go after them right? I'm not to talk of vengeance, or revenge...but this was an attack on us, and Oracle is posing a big enough threat that they could disrupt our original goal. We can't stop the Collectors if we have to worry about the Alliance deliberately targeting us." Horn put up a hand, stopping the man in his tracks.

"Oh, I know." Jason stated. "Game plan's changed. We now know what the leader of Oracle looks like. We figure out who that bitch is, we find her, and we kill her. Then, for good measure, we blow up everything that has to do with Oracle." Horn looked at the blade in his hand. "But, I wanna kill that fucker who did this to Daniel and keeps running from me." Jason stated as walked past O'Ryan, who turned towards him.

"Sir, with all due respect, we can't let personal vendettas cloud our judgements and goals." Horn turned back towards the man, giving a smile.

"Oh, but it is personal." Horn held up the enemy Commander's blade.

"That asswipe has my knife."