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Dianna Henricksen

Vanguard, former Alliance Marine, convicted felon

0 · 339 views · located in Mass Effect Universe created by Bioware

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

Description

5' 11" of lean muscle and quiet intensity. Dianna is a 35 year old veteran. She has pale blond hair cut even with her jawline. In repose, her face is pleasant, though unremarkable. Her eyes are such a pale gray, they almost appear white in certain lighting conditions. Her skin is also quite pale, obviously, she doesn't get outdoors much. Around her wrists and ankles are healing scars from what obviously were manacles.

Personality

Dianna is a quiet, intense person. She does nothing halfway. She plays hard, works hard and when she fights, she kills. It's a philosophy that's kept her and her squad-mates alive. She has a code of honor that only she seems to understand. Authority doesn't automatically come with bars on a uniform. It's earned. When she gives her respect it's to the very end. No questions. If betrayed, nothing short of killing her will stop her from exacting revenge.

With peers, she can fall into the easy camaraderie and banter all barracks seem to foster. She isn't stand-offish or pretentious. But, sometimes, it looks as if she really doesn't always get the joke, almost as if her sense of humor was stunted.

Equipment

L4 implants. She volunteered for the upgrade surgery 5 years prior to her arrest. HMW shot gun (with incendiary and AP rounds), M-5 Phalanx pistol, M-3 Predator, M4 Shuriken SMG, tactical armor, combat knife, normal kit, clothes.

History

Dianna was born and raised on a small colony planet called Endriken. Its only purpose for existing seemed to be a huge supply of mine-able ores (including pockets of Element Zero), needed by the races for their industry. Her childhood was uneventful in comparison to the unrest and tension throughout the rest of the Universe it seemed. And that made it boring. Suicidally so. While her Father worked long shifts in the mines, Dianna's mother drifted further and further in a black depression. Dianna watched in futility as her mother's mind drifted away and finally, when Dianna was 7, her mother finally took her own life and Dianna's innocence with it.

Neither Dianna or her Father really recovered from the loss. Her father became distant and either worked himself nearly to death or attempted the same with drink.

A few years went by in this purgatory of unlife when Dianna began displaying evidence of possessing biotic abilities. A message was sent out to the Alliance authorities of Dianna's potential and soon, she found herself aboard ship with Enriken growing smaller in the view screen. She listened as she was told of her ability and the surgery she would have to help her enhance her abilities and control them. She underwent the surgery and embarked on a long and sometimes painful training under the sometimes brutal BaaT program. At 16, she had an additional surgery to install bio-amps upgrades. Her focus and determination had served her well.

With her training complete, Dianna was sent to Earth to be enlisted in the Alliance Marines and was assigned to the 103rd Division. Her training honed her natural athletic ability and focused her intense resolve. She was assigned to the Alliance cruiser, SSV Omaha. She saw many battles at the edges of Human territories and part of a Vanguard Squad, she became brutally efficient at close quarters combat.
She served with unyielding bravery and grew close to her squad mates. She never questioned their orders, she gave complete loyalty to her superiors until a particularly bloody and disastrous skirmish at the outer reaches of the Amun system. Only 40 of the initial 800 Marines sent in to shut down a Pirate colony survived. It was eventually revealed that the commanding officer of the Omaha had decided to move against the stronghold without waiting for back up and seriously underestimating the fire power he would be up against. Rather than backing off, the commander had simply thrown more marines at the problem to even more blood shed.

When the dust settled and the truth had come out about the commander's negligence, Dianna seemed to take it more personally than most. During the court martial on Eden Prime, Dianna waited and when the inevitable happened and the Commander walked away with a new ship and a new crew, she couldn't take it. She saw him as someone who simply threw lives away and showed no respect for those under his command. Since he was likely going to do it again, she made a pre-emptive strike. She walked up to the man, snapped a crisp salute, which he returned and she promptly shot him in the head through the back of his hand. She didn't run, simply remained standing at attention over the dead man's body until the Military Police arrive to wrestle her to the ground.

Her trial was swift and she was sentenced to a life sentence in the Military prison there. She is kept in isolation and evidently forsaken by the Alliance military. But, she no longer feels her loyalty to them as she once had. They didn't deserve it, she'd gotten her vengence. She was content for now.

So begins...

Dianna Henricksen's Story

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Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen
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Her concrete cell was 9 feet by 9 feet square. It had no window, a bare bulb 12 feet over her head and the single steel door was a thick as her thigh. The steel cot was bolted to the floor and it's mattress was old, stained and remarkably uncomfortable. The cell also sported a white porcelain sink, and stainless steel toilet. The only privacy permitted was the fact that she didn't have to share that cell.

Dianna Henricksen had been a guest of the Alliance Military prison on the outpost planet Keckson for 18 months so far. She was growing restless. She was growing soft, it wasn't good. She was permitted 20 minutes per day in the 'yard' to stretch her legs, see the dim sun through the thick orange-tinted atmosphere and then was marched back into her cell. She was never without shackles linking her ankles and wrists together. It made walking difficult, but protected the guards from the dangerous prisoners housed in this special section of the prison. In those two buildings set off by themselves were the biotic-capable prisoners, some weaker than Dianna, many more were more powerful.

Dianna's court-martial after the murder had been swift and it's outcome was never in doubt; she hadn't even denied the crime. No amount of character witness testimony was going to save her. The only thing it had done was saved her from the firing squad.

In her cell at night, Dianna would sometimes have nightmares of watching her mother commit suicide or of her father trying to drink himself to death and occasionally, she remembered her time training at Brain Camp located at Jump Zero. She rarely got true night terrors, but she'd find herself struggling to come fully awake so she could banish the visions and memories.

Dianna spent every day considering her options, how could she get out and then, once out, how to get off-world. And then, where to? One step at a time, she chided herself. Getting out of the shackles was simple. The cell? Only slightly more difficult. She just had to wait for her 'walk'. In her strolls she'd mentally noted the two gates of the prison, along with the gun placements, the rounds the guards took, even the personalities of the guards. Some were more inclined to shoot to kill and others might hesitate at the wrong moment. She knew the best day, the best time, even the best weather to prepare for. Two more months passed while she paced inside her cell and waited. Finally, things fell into place. A sand storm was coming; they had a distinctive sulfurous smell. Soon everything would be shrouded in a red haze and howling winds. Her guard, a young woman who couldn't have been much more than her early twenties, was assigned to escort Dianna to the yard and Dianna knew that she'd freeze momentarily before she'd be able to react.

Dianna shuffled through the hallway with her young guard a few steps behind. The young woman was too close, however, putting herself well within Dianna's reach. Something she should have been trained she should never to do. The sand storm was just showing itself on the horizon about 10 minutes into Dianna's walk and the wind was screaming like a banshee. Within minutes, the other buildings were blocked from view. The young guard screamed for Dianna to head back to the cell block, but Dianna pretended not to hear. The guard moved closer so she could make herself heard. Knowing they couldn't be seen by any of the other guards, Dianna grabbed the young woman's arm, flipping her feet up to wrap the chains at her ankles around the guard's throat, cutting off any cries for help.

The guard fought, trying to get out of Dianna's grip, but Dianna was ruthless and in short order, the young woman fell unconscious. Extricating herself from the guard's limp form, Dianna rifled the guard's pocket and used the keys to remove the shackles from her ankles and wrists. She swiftly peeled off of her pale blue jump suit and stripped the young woman of her pants, shirt and cap. She remained crouched, listening for any sign of alarm, but she couldn't hear anything over the roar of the sand storm.

Rising to her feet, Dianna ran back to the cell block and then worked her way through the hallways toward the kitchens. She avoided other guards by turning suddenly down other corridors and it took far longer to reach the kitchen than it would have had she pushed through on a more direct route. Passing through the kitchen, she offered a smile and a wave to the startled cooks, but didn't stop moving. Beyond the kitchens, Dianna found herself at the loading docks. Two guards idly watched several truck drivers unload kitchen supplies under the critical eye of one of the kitchen staff.

Dianna slipped behind a few old pallets trying to get into a position that she could take out the guards and then prevent the civilians from setting off an alarm. She waited until the truck drivers started carrying in the crates of vegetables before rushing out from he hiding place. She closed the distance between her and the guards in three long strides. The first guard's chin was grasped from behind by her cupped hand and twisted violently, his neck popping with an ugly finality. The second guard barely had the chance to gape when Dianna had dropped his companion, dipped in with a leg sweep taking him right off his feet and driving the breath from his lungs with a vicious palm strike to his solar plexus. She then struck him with a knife hand to his larynx crushing his throat. His gurgling sounds were muffled under her hand until he died.

Dianna rose from the two bodies, swiftly dragging them behind the stack of pallets she'd been hiding behind mere seconds before. She then ran to the truck and climbed inside to lay behind the driver's seat to wait for the driver and his buddy to return. She heard the truckers and chef make snide remarks about how lazy the guards were, probably already back at their barracks, cutting down on their shift time. A few minutes later, the truckers started the truck and headed toward the gates. Dianna reached between the seat backs and poked the barrel of the guard's pistol into the driver's back. "If you expect to live tonight." She said in a low tone, "You make sure I get through those gates and to the landing platforms. Got it?"

The driver stiffened and Dianna could smell his fear sweat. His buddy gulped heavily. "Y-yeah. OK. Ok. Just don't hurt me....I got kids..."

"Shut up." Dianna snarled. "I don't care."

A few tense moments at the gate were spent with the usual search of the rear of the truck, but not behind the driver's seat while the driver made believable idle banter with the guards. The guards complained about the sandstorm and it's howling winds along with the electro-static charge. The driver shrugged, "That's too bad for you radios, I bet."

The guard only laughed, "Yeah, these storms drives the Commander's blood pressure through the roof." The truck was waved through the gate.

Once on the road again, Dianna looked at her watch. "The storm will be over in an hour or so. I better be on a ship and gone by then. I would recommend you two go have a several drinks for 2 or 3 hours. Got me?"

The two men nodded nervously in response.

Once near the landing pads, she made the smaller of the drivers hand over his clothes and then with the credits from the three guards and the two truck drivers, she bought her passage aboard a freighter headed to Omega. It was big enough to have a kodiak planet-side and still get out of the system. Once there, she'd have to get outfitted and begin her life under the Alliance's radar. But, it was a big universe. She was certain she could hide.

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Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen
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The freighter docked with one of the myriad platforms on the hollowed out asteroid called Omega. While the ship’s clamps were locked in and systems powered down, Dianna went through her plan again. Such as it was. First, get a bit of food and find a local that could steer her clear of the worst of the dark places and predators. She hadn’t come this far to die of simple ignorance. Then she would need to arm herself, and get some work. She wasn’t entirely certain an ex-Alliance Vanguard Marine would fit in with the little she knew or heard about Omega. The one hard and fast rule she’d heard over and over was Don’t Fuck With Aria T’Loak, Omega’s current reigning bad-ass. Dianna very much doubted she’d move through any of the social circles the Asari did, anyway.

As soon as the freighter’s airlocks opened, the crew and other passengers disembarked. Dianna was instantly attacked by the sheer din of the place. The drone and shrieking of construction, the clanking of the chains of the overhead cranes shifting cargo, the shouts in every conceivable language assaulted her like an invisible force. She tried to press through the crowds that hemmed her in on all sides. After the prison, where she’d been in isolation and in the Marines prior to that where everything was strict rule and regulation, she nearly had a mild panic attack in the throngs. Only her own iron will kept her back straight and her feet moving until she was in a slightly more open area of the station. The obvious divisions between neighborhoods or territories for the different races or gangs reminded Dianna of her first glimpses of the military prison. All the inmates were segregated into different groups. One way or another, you either ran things, supported those higher than you or bent over.

Dianna got herself under control and began pushing her way to the center of the station where it seemed a majority of the populace made their homes. It seemed that there were subtle and not-so-subtle divisions of the races or gangs and, more rarely, skilled trades people. Dianna knew who to look for. The children. No one ever saw kids, didn’t think to be careful of their secrets around them. She’d learned that in Brain School all those years ago. She needed one with a certain cunning, one that knew his way around. She didn’t see a good candidate right away, so she bought a questionable sandwich and drink, from a street vendor and settled in a doorway to wait.

Dianna saw several children wandering amongst the crowd; some with parents, some without. Every species was represented as was every demographic from wealthy to poor. None of the kids she’d seen so far suited her. But, after 4 hours, Dianna saw her. The girl that had caught Dianna’s attention was perhaps 15 years old, but her thin physique coupled with heavy mask-like make-up made it difficult to be sure. What Dianna really saw was the confidence of the girl as she moved through the throngs. She was completely at home on the streets. She knew where she was and was aware of everyone and every opportunity around her. Whether that was pickpocketing someone, stealing an item from a vendor or bargaining for odd jobs, this girl had grown up here. Perfect.

Dianna eased into the crowd to follow the girl, her height gave her only a slight advantage, but she didn’t know the station the way the girl did. But, she managed to keep the girl within sight. She’d followed the girl for nearly an hour when she simply vanished right in front of Dianna. Dianna kept moving trying not to look shocked. How had the girl done it? Dianna hadn’t looked away for more than a few seconds. She wracked her brain and kept her eyes open hoping to catch sight of the girl again.

She needn’t have worried. The girl found her first. Something that would not have been so easy under ordinary circumstances. Dianna felt the sharp point of a knife at her kidney. She froze, not willing to draw attention to herself unless given no choice so soon after arriving.

“Why are you following me?” The girl murmured from behind Dianna. “Who are you?”

Dianna kept her arms loose at her sides, maintaining an non-threatening posture. “I’m looking for someone that knows their way around. A guide. Someone like you?”

The girl seemed to think about it a moment. “It’s going to cost you. You’re too clean, so you’re new. That’ll cost you extra. Stiff back means military. Are you a spy or something? I don’t get into that shit.”

Dianna blinked slightly. The girl’s observations had been far too astute. “No, not on a mission, but new, yeah. I need to get outfitted, and to do that, I need a job that can get it for me. You get 15% off the top. Deal?”

There was a long silence behind her and the knife point in her left kidney didn’t slacken one iota. Dianna could have taken the knife away without much effort, but that would have drawn attention and lose a valuable asset. She had an instinct about the girl.

After what seemed an eternity, the girl suddenly asked her, “What’s your name?” From the way the question was asked, it seemed important

Dianna smiled, “Dianna. My name’s Dianna.” She paused and then added, “Can I turn around now? Even here, we’re getting weird looks.”

The girl seemed to consider that and suddenly the knife point was gone. “Sure. Got a last name?” The girl began to move back along the street with a jerk of her chin indicating Dianna should follow.

“Just Dianna.” She turned to follow the girl even more impressed with her poise.

“Well, Just Dianna. I’m Margot.” She glanced up at Dianna’s face, her eyes getting a longer study. “You’re ex-military. Alliance or Cerebrus?”

Dianna looked down at the girl as they wove through the crowd. “You know quite a bit for someone stuck on a station in the middle of…”

“Everything.” Margot finished for her. “You can buy and sell anything here. A lot of off-duty personnel come here to blow off steam. Some live through the experience. Most don’t. I wonder which you will be”?

Dianna glanced down at the much smaller Margot. “I survive.” She answered rather grimly.
_________________________________________________________________________________

In the next few weeks, Margot had gotten Dianna in touch with a couple Mercenary groups and even a couple Pirate captains. The meeting with the Pirates had ended frostily but without bloodshed. Small jobs for a couple Mercenary groups allowed Dianna to use her skills both as a biotic and in close quarters combat. She did well enough that one group decided to take her on permanently and got her outfitted. The weapons and armor were all provided for her, though not hers, so her money was split with Margot, just as she’d promised. She had Margot keep her apprised of any Alliance or Cerebrus crews that landed on the station, just so she might avoid the problems. She really didn’t think she’d have any trouble with anyone that came aboard. But she always liked to hedge her bets.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Sibyl Carson Character Portrait: Janis Freeman
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A blonde woman dressed as a typical mercenary flying out of a bar window was the last thing John had expected to happen during their casual walk to their objective. It was typical that such a sporadic event had to take place only a hundred meters from the place they were supposed to meeting with the quarian. As Serena helped her commander back to his feet, Janis moved to take cover behind a large column. Serena deployed a biotic shield before her, and John drew his pistol from under his jacket. He rushed to help the woman to cover behind a low, but solid kiosk.

"Are you injured?" he asked, checking her over while ducking his head lower as a barrage of shotgun rounds pelleted the other side of their cover.

"I'm fine!" The stranger peeked over during a lull in the firefight before glanced back down. "Just a Krogan charge; I've handled far worse."

John raised a brow at her, but quickly ignored the hard-to-believe tale. "Serena! Cripple him!"

Without hesitation Taylor hit the Krogan dead on with a biotic warp; bringing the large barbarian to the floor in agony. He may have been a two ton tank, but any organism can easily fall prey to an attack at the molecular level. As Serena's warp slowly tore him apart, the woman that had crashed into John stood up and place several well-aimed shots into the beast's cranium. John and Janis both leaned out of cover to focus their own fire on the asari that had tried to be a lone ranger and leap out into the middle of the street with biotics flaring. The two Cerberus operatives made quick work of her.

"That's all of them," Serena announced. The four of them entered the bar and observed the damage. An astonished whistle was all that came from Janis as he looked over the chaotic destruction. In one of the corners was a lone mercenary, covered in blood and clearly dead.

"Dammit," the woman said as she quickly made her way over to the body to check for a pulse. After as second or two, she closed the man's eyelids out of respect and stood back up. "Well... I guess I'm out of a job again."

"Who was that?" John asked.

"No one important," she replied. "Just a former colleague now." When she was sure the rest of the area was secure, she holstered her weapon and approached the three. "You guys obviously aren't typical civilians. No uniforms, no gang emblems, no distinguishing tats... Who are you guys?" She leaned back on one heel and folded her arms, a curious look in her eyes.

Serena and John looked to each other, seemingly trading telepathic thoughts and wondering just how to answer that question. Eventually the commander returned with an answer. "We're with a covert human group."

"Well," she said, "Terra Firma isn't much into military ops; and the Alliance wouldn't be found within light-years of Omega. That leaves only one organization you' could possibly be with... Cerberus."

"Clever girl," Janis commented. "And just who might you be?"




Agent Harrison's footsteps echoed across the reflective glass floor in the Operator's office dome as he made his over to her desk just beyond the center of the room. She stood with her back to him, dressed in the same, conservative-style suit she always wore, facing an array of holographic screens in front of her. They were strung out from the floor to the ceiling of the dome, panning out in a horizontal arc from one side to the other. Outside, was nothing but a dense, bluish atmosphere of a classified gas planet in a classified classified system. The station sat at a high altitude, but low enough to be completely covered and practically undetectable by simply surface scans from wandering (more like lost) non-military ships.

Adam finished his long walk through the interior of the Oracle station and stood with his hands behind the small of his back, waiting for Operator Carson to acknowledge his presence; which she eventually did so by simply turning her head to see him through her peripherals. "Ma'am," he began, "the Cerberus operative that Commander Slatton captured has been transported to our facility on Asphodel. We've mobilized Aurora assets in the area as a defense force in case Cerberus tries to take their man back. All Aurora knows is that they're safe-guarding a high-value target. They don't know who or why."

"Good to hear, Mr. Harrison," Sibyl replied. "But I didn't call you in here for a status update on the Harrens interrogation. Instead, I have a more important task for you. One that requires expediency, but delicacy."

"I'm listening."

Sibyl tapped on a haptic keypad in front of her and a hologram of a man with slick brown hair and a trimmed goatee materialized right before Adam. The man stood rigid, with military posture, and was wearing a Cerberus officer's uniform. The details jutting out to the side in the hologram labelled the individual as a Commander Johnathan Titus. He was a former N7 Marine, and a highly decorated officer of the Alliance Navy. Why he left was anyone's guess. But Adam didn't see why Sibyl was showing him this information.

"Ma'am, isn't Agent Freeman assigned to Commander Titus?"

"He was," she replied with a hint of spite in her voice. "But InOps has intercepted orders from a Cerberus command relay; orders meant specifically for Freeman. I'm afraid we've been dealing with a double-agent this entire time. Janis' loyalty, it turns out, is not with us after all." She turned to walk around her desk and leaned against the front of it. The hologram of Titus faded, and Adam was left staring directly at the Operator. "You're the only one left I can fully trust, Adam. Agent Freeman is working against us, trying to ensure Titus remains loyal to the Illusive Man. I can't have that. Somewhere within him is the man of honor I used to know and work with. I want the old Titus back; and I'm assigning you to protect him and do just that."

Adam was quite astonished by the assignment. He had been on countless protection missions before, but none of them involved protecting an enemy target. "So... just how am I supposed to convince Commander Titus that he's on the wrong side?"

"Play to his morality. I know John. He'll do everything in his power to protect the innocent; and that's why the Illusive Man's decisions are beginning to wear him down. With every op that Cerberus pulls that puts civilian lives in danger, practically making them petty sacrifices to achieve their goals, Titus' loyalty decreases. I know this because he's not one to just throw away his values. I can read it between the lines of the after-action reports InOps intercepts; and if the Illusive Man is personally assigned Janis to play tug-of-war with us, I know he's at the point of neutrality. You're my final pull, Adam. Are you up for it?"

Harrison took a minute to think over what was being asked of him. The mission would obviously involve either infiltration of Titus' ship, or a covert interference in his next operation. The latter would probably work best, seeing as Janis is already aboard the Vindicator. Being spotted by Freeman would be an instant mission failure. "Alright," he said, "I'm in. Where do I start?"

"I'll have Prophet keep you posted on Titus' locations. You'll need in get in close and sometime when Janis isn't around."

"It's like you're reading my mind," Adam commented.




"I'm assuming that was the typical riffraff of Omega?" Prophet's voice said in Adam's earpiece as the agent lay low on the catwalk overlooking the practically destroyed bar, below. Tracking the Vindicator wasn't as hard as it sounded during the intel brief, or according to the frigate's specs on a datapad. All one had to do was look for a CHA-owned cruise ship travelling in the Omega cluster. Its not everyday that a luxury cruise frigate just happens to dawdle in the Terminus systems. Cerberus sure had a funny way of defining covert.

"Yes, and no," Adam replied in a hushed whisper. He was leaning against a large support brace on the catwalk, perfectly hidden by the light-bending tactical cloak around his Oracle black-ops armor and Valkyrie assault rifle. He watched as Titus entered the bar after the firefight with a woman that had been tossed through a window by a krogan. "Lost sight of HVT. Re-positioning." Adam quickly moved down the catwalk a ways until he found himself just above a ledge that the catwalk branched out over top of. After securing the rifle to the magnetic clip on his back, he grabbed a hold of the railing and threw his weight over, landing gracefully on both feet on the ledge below. He then went prone and had a perfect view into the building from his new angle. "Eyes back on," he whispered into the comm. "They're not doing much. Just talking."

"Operator Carson would like me to remind you that 'time is of the essence', Agent Harrison," Prophet stated.

"Yeah, yeah. Tell her I'm moving as fast as they'll let me."

"Or you can just tell me yourself, Adam," Sibyl's voice came over. "You know the beauty of having quantum entanglers these days is that you can do practically anything with them; even hook an AI up to one."

Adam smiled to himself. "Never bothered to ask how I could talk to Prophet with absolutely no lag, let alone see that he's available at every Oracle outpost and base across the galaxy. Let me guess, you've got a QEC terminal in Omega that broadcasts data over a tight-beam range to my personal comm equipment, right?"

"More or less," Sibyl answered. "We're Oracle. We've got assets and equipment staged everywhere. In a sense, we're just networked and rooted as Cerberus. The only difference between us two is that I've got more friends and allies. It's hard to keep company when you're an elite asshole with a racist agenda."

The three that Adam had been tailing for quite some time now had finally exited the ruined bar and continued down the street; but his eyes widened in a bit of surprise. His HUD zoomed in to focus on the blond woman that had been thrown out of the bar. She was now moving along with Titus' group. "Hold on," he said, "it looks like your friend's team has a passenger."

"I know, I'm looking at your visor feed now," Sibyl said. "Prophet, can you get me a facial recognition scan? I want to know who she is."

"One moment, please." There was a few seconds of silence as the AI went to work on identifying the new female in the group. Finally, "Subject is former Alliance marine Dianna Henricksen. Reports show that she escaped an Alliance military confinement facility on Keckson several weeks ago; imprisoned for the first degree murder of her former CO. A biotic; vanguard class, and very deadly. I recommend extreme caution if you run into her."

"New friend?" Adam suggested.

"Probably," Sibyl answered. "Keep your guard up, but I want your eyes on Janis even more. It's him I'm more worried about. He may look like a smooth talker in his file, but he's also a deadly accurate assassin. One of my... or the Illusive Man's best."

"Roger that. They're on the move... and so am I."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Sibyl Carson Character Portrait: Janis Freeman
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Jal'Ishtet nar Idenna sat in one of the dark corners at the other end of the bar, completely alone and out of earshot of others. Titus and his crew wasted no time in making for him. Dianna broke off halfway there and took up a seat at the bar. Serena positioned herself against a wall facing toward Jal', keeping to the shadows. It was only Titus and Janis that joined their contact at his corner booth. The quarian's digits began nervously fumbling on the table's surface when the humans sat down across from him.

"You must be the Illusive Man's attack dog," Jal' asserted.

Titus maintained a steady frown, but narrowed his eyes. He could tell the quarian was trying to put on a tough look, but he clearly wasn't any good at it. "One of them. Jal'Ishtet, I presume?"

The quarian began looking in every direction around the bar, with barely visible eyes behind the darkened green visor hiding his face bouncing up and down, and from left to right. When he was sure that all was clear and no one was eavesdropping on the conversation, he raised a nervously shaking hand and begged, "Quiet! I can't be seen or heard talking to you. And I caution you using my name."

Janis shook his head. "We've shipped the Hallex to the loading bay of your choosing, Jal'," he said. "Just tell us what we want to know and you'll never have to see us again. Trust us; no one's going find out we ever talked."

Jal' relaxed a bit, but his eyes still darted around the room. They eventually stopped and locked onto Dianna, who was still sitting at the bar. "I've seen her before," he said. "She's with one of the gangs here on Omega; and I know for a fact that she's not Cerberus. How many other outsiders are aware we're meeting here? So far, you're not doing a very good job of earning my trust."

"You wanna talk trust?" Janis scolded. "How hypocritical is that? You're the one who's trading off classified information that will allow us to infiltrate the Migrant Fleet, betraying the trust of your own people."

"You humans have a saying: 'Trust is a two-way street.' My own people betrayed me first, Cerberus. I offered them a gift upon my return from the pilgrimage, but my captain rejected it. He said that my gift was unworthy of being accepted. Hallex may be a hallucinogen, but certain properties of the drug can be extracted for medical purposes. Each dose contains high concentrations of tygliceride-folic acid. A modified folic acid that only be produced through the chemical combinations found in the drug. TF18, as the medical experts have labeled it, can be used to fight a number of infections that my people are vulnerable to every time there's a simple valve leak."

"Let me guess," John said. "You offered a bunch of Hallex to the captain of the Idenna; but he refused. He didn't understand your intentions and he didn't give you a chance to explain their medical benefits."

The quarian nodded. "He didn't trust me. So to hell with them all."

There was a noise from inside Janis' jacket pocket and the man reach inside to take out a small communicator. He glanced briefly at the screen before getting up the seat. He glance down to Titus and quickly said, "Excuse me. I have to take this." The man swiftly walked through the bar and ducked out of the entrance. Titus didn't really think much of it. As a double-agent, the man must always be busy answering both Cerberus' and Oracle's bidding. He could only guess who was trying to get a hold of him now. What was really none of his business, and he wouldn't dare try and guess what the call was about either, fearing it would open a can of worms or simply cloud his judgment with too many negative thoughts. At times, secrets are best left with their keepers.




Adam remained in the shadows, but kept his adaptive cloaking system online as an added precaution. He had only been staking out the bar for a few minutes before Janis came walking outside. A pocket communicator was in his palm, and from the looks of the glow on his face from the screen, he guessed he was in the middle of a video conference. It had to be Cerberus. After Sibyl's startling investigation revealing Janis as a double-agent, there was no reason in the galaxy for Oracle to be contacting him now.

Harrison waiting on the sidelines and observed Janis speaking into the communicator. For a moment, it seemed as if it was just a normal, everyday conversation, but something suddenly changed and the man's expression turned to one of surprise. The Cerberus operative looked over his shoulder, in Adam's direction, and the Oracle agent froze solid. He was sure that Janis was staring right at him, but after the man turned away to look elsewhere, Adam relaxed. Still, things weren't quite right. Janis was definitely making sure that no one was listening in on the conversation, and Harrison knew for certain that whoever Janis was speaking to had just told him something unsettling. This was quickly confirmed when the man revealed a pistol from within his jacket and terminated the call on the communicator. Janis took one last look around before heading back inside the bar, a determined look in his eye.

"Shit!" Adam hissed as he darted from the shadows, his cloak flickering as the processor fought to keep up with his dead sprint.




Titus and Jal' were just about wrapped up with their meeting before he heard Janis over his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Commander Titus; but it appears I've been ordered to eliminate you."

"What?" Titus shot around in his seat only to stare down the barrel of Janis' pistol. The man had aimed it at him so fast that Serena and Dianna hardly had the time to react. Both of the women had their own weapons drawn and pointed at Janis, but neither dared to fire for fear of putting Titus' own life at risk. All of them knew that under the expensive attire, Janis still charging up biotics would most certainly force Janis to execute Titus on the spot.

"It appears your friend has caught me red handed. My access to Oracle resources has been cut off, and the Illusive Man has personally ordered me to terminate your contract with Cerberus."

"I don't understand. What have I done to the Illusive Man? Why am I even involved?"

"The Man has seen your loyalty to Cerberus waver for some time now. Sibyl sought to take advantage of that and recruit you to Oracle; but the Man thought he'd give you another chance and sent me to persuade you otherwise. I was to never deliver Sibyl's offer to you, but instead work to ensure you stay where you are. It seems though that my cover has been blown, and the boss wants me to simply kill you before another of the Operator's agents reaches you."

Janis' finger slowly squeezed on the pistol's trigger, but before it could be pulled back far enough to fire a round into Titus' skull, something burst through the front door of the bar and explosion just meters from away from the two of them sent Janis flying through the air and leaving Titus' completely deaf. Only after a few seconds of fighting off the disorientation did John recognize the effects of a high-impact concussion grenade. Whoever tossed it had just saved his life. He struggled to gain his balance when he crawled away from the booth, still fighting off the dizziness. His hearing was muffled and his sight was hazy. Seconds later, he felt someone lifting him to his feet. He glanced up to see Serena's concerned face. Her lips were moving, but he could hardly understand what she was saying. Finally, her words became clear.

"Titus?! Answer me dammit! Are you alright?!"

"I'm fine!" he managed to say.

Dianna's voiced called out to them. "Hey! We're not done yet!" They both looked from her to the man she was pointed a gun at, wearing white and black armor with no logos. His visor was pitch black with multiple blue slits of light forming a chevron pattern. He was wielding on the Alliance's new Valkyrie assault rifles, but wasn't pointing it at any of them. Titus looked back over his shoulder to see an unconscious Janis lying on the floor. Jal' was ducking below the table they had been sitting at, in fear for his life.

"It's fine, Dianna," Titus said, gently removing Serena's hand from his shoulder as well. "I don't think this guy is our enemy." He looked into the visor of his mysterious savior and asked, "Am I right?"

"Adam Harrison," the stranger said behind the visor. "I don't have time to explain, but I'm with Oracle. You can either come with me or-"

"They're they are! Get 'em!"

Everyone in the bar whirled around to see a gang of mercs bursting through the door with brandished weapons. From the look of the armor, Titus guessed they were with the last gang that Dianna's previous employer had been meeting with. Harrison opened fire before the first man through the door could pull his own trigger. "Out the back! Move!" Dianna and Adam kept the new comers suppressed as Serena and John led the way to the back of the bar. They charged through the a storage room and Adam briefly stopped to topple over a large supply rack to block off the door. They used the extra minute he bought them to sprint out the back door to the bar and disappear into a filthy alley on the other side.

The four of the kept running, with Adam leading the way. "We need to get back to the Vindicator," Titus exclaimed.

"No can do," Serena replied. "You heard Freeman. The Illusive Man wants you dead. Cerberus Command will already overridden EDI by now. The Vindicator won't budge until reinforcements arrive at Omega to take her back."

"I sure know how to pick 'em," Dianna quipped. "In less than an hour I'm already having to look for new work."

"Don't sell us out that easily, miss," Titus retorted. "You'll only miss more fun. Anyway," he looked back to Serena, "what's the plan, then?"

For the first time in a long time, his second-in-command was a loss for words. She struggled to think, but the entire situation was unbelievable. One minute they were being praised by their boss for their successes, and the next he's wanting them dead. "I don't know," she finally said.

"Perhaps I can be of further assistance," Harrison said. "The Operator didn't send me here alone. There's an Aurora frigate not far from where the Vindicator is docked now; the Marathon. We can be there in minuets if we take a sky car."

Titus, Serena, and Dianna all slowed to a stop in the middle of the street. The gang that was chasing them was nowhere around for the time being, all of them desperately needed to catch their breath. Adam wasn't phased in the slightest from the constant running, however; and turned around to look at them as if he was waiting on a child to hurry up their shoe.

"I appreciate the offer," Titus said, "but I don't know you."

John saw Adam placed two fingers to the side of his helmet for a few seconds. It was evident he was communicating to someone, probably a contact on the ship he had mentioned. What he didn't expect to happen was a hologram emit directly between them, and the figure of Sibyl Carson materialize in the middle of the street. She stood with hands on her hips and a stern look in her eyes. "Commander Johnathan Titus, get on that damn ship!"

He could only smile and say, "Nice to see you too, Sib."




Veronica dashed outside the airlock leading to the Marathon where Titus was standing, speaking with Adam. Her eyes were fixed on the datapad in her hand. "John, we've got a problem."

Titus turned away from Adam and asked, "I'm guessing we're missing someone, right?"

"Just one: Vala Buchan."

This took the commander by complete surprise. Of all the people that could have been missing, he would thought Vala would be the last. "I thought she would have been transported with the other medical bay patients."

"She woke up from the anesthetic shortly after you left the Vindicator. She insisted upon leaving the bay, as she did the last time she was supposed to be on recovery status, and no one has seen her since."

Titus brought a palm to his face. "This day just keeps getting better and better."

"I'm sorry, Titus," Adam said, "but we have to go... now."

The blast door on the far side of the docking bay whooshed open and the three of them saw Janis Freeman dashing into view with a large device in his hands. Only when he shouldered it did they realize that he was carrying an ML-77 rocket launcher. Harrison ushered the Titus and Dr. Porter into the airlock and spun around quickly to place a several shots from his Valkyrie down range toward Janis. One of the rounds managed to impact the man's leg right as he pulled the trigger on the launcher, sending a rocket off target. The projectile impacted with a bulkhead near the airlock; a little too close for comfort.

When all of them were safely inside's the ship's own airlock, Adam commanded, "Helmsman! Disengage docking protocols! Get us to the nearest mass relay!"

"Aye-aye, sir," an unfamiliar voice answered over the intercom. A second later the three of them heard multiple metallic clanks as the locks disengaged from the dock's bridge. They were now safely drifting away from the station. Titus was the first out of the airlock, making his way through completely unknown territory, trying to find a window anywhere on what appeared to be the Marathon's bridge. When he finally found one, he pressed himself up against the glass to see the docked Vindicator, only four ports down from where the Marathon had been a minute ago, becoming ever more distant.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Private Mido Hamaada Character Portrait: Sargent Hiro Kuriyama Character Portrait: Specialist Brody Caramelli
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Almost immediately after Titus took command of the Marathon, the Captain decided to start putting his stamp on his crew. He began with going through reports from all departments and recommendations on file to make some personnel changes. He had two fire teams, but he wanted someone to head up the second one. Someone with combat experience, so he went through the files. He found several qualified candidates, but more and more, the notable absence of a file kept coming to the forefront of his mind. The merc, Dianna Henricksen. Or Ostrander now, according to the meager file Sybil had provided him. He needed to know how the former Marine handled herself. He needed to be sure she could be trusted. “Prophet, when he comes aboard, assign Hiro Kuriyama to Fire Team Cobalt as second and ask Dianna Ostrander to come see me, please.”

“Very well, Captain Titus.” The A.I. acknowledged.

Ten minutes later, a piping tone at Titus’ office door announced Dianna had arrived. He called for her to enter and when the door swished open it revealed Dianna in a freshly-pressed Alliance uniform. She stepped into the room and offered a smart salute, waiting for him to acknowledge her.

Titus sighed and returned the salute before asking her to sit. Once she did, Titus asked, “You know that I have told the crew how I feel about saluting?”

Dianna nodded, her pale gray eyes meeting his calmly, “Yes, Sir. I know.”

Titus quirked a brow at the woman across from him. Somehow, he knew instinctively that regardless of his personal feelings about being saluted, she was going to salute him just the same. He decided to move on to the reason he’d called her to his office. “You have tactical team experience, I understand?”

Dianna nodded, “I do, Sir. Vanguard class.”

Titus nodded, “How do you feel about taking command of a Fire Team?” He waited, studying her for any tale-tell signs of how her mind worked.

Dianna’s gears were spinning in her head. Command meant she would be responsible for the lives of others. She wasn’t the finest tactician, but she did think things through. She was not personable, so making a cohesive team would be more difficult. She would lead by example and find a good sounding board. All of these thoughts went through her mind in less than a few heart-beats. Dianna lifted her eyes to meet Titus’ once more, “I won’t let you down, Sir. Thank you, Sir.”

Titus smiled finally, “Don’t thank me yet.” He said. “Prove me right.”
______________________________________________________________________________

During the outfitting of the Marathon at Lookout Station, some crew transferred out and some transferred in. One of the new crew members coming aboard for the first time was Sargent Hiro Kuriyama. He was a lean Japanese man with compact muscle reminiscent of a dancer. His Alliance uniform was immaculate and pressed perfectly. As he came aboard with his duffle slung over one shoulder and a hard sword case over the other, his gentle smile suddenly bloomed when he saw a young Marine leaning against a bulkhead with an answering grin on his face.

Hiro headed for Harrison and the pair of friends clasped hands and then gave one another a brief hug, clapping each other on the back. Hiro shook his head at his friend, “Didn’t think I’d ever run into you again, Adam. You catching a ride or assigned here?”

Harrison reached for Hiro’s duffel and turned to lead his old friend toward his assigned room. “Yeah, I’m assigned to the Marathon for now.” He indicated Hiro’s hard sword case, “I see you still have your katana. I look forward to teaching you a few lessons.”

That made Hiro laugh, “Oh do you really? I seem to remember taking you to task back on Arcturus.” He looked at his friend from the corner of his dark eyes, “Think you’ve learned enough to beat me?”

Harrison just shrugged, “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” He continued to lead Hiro toward his assigned quarters. “You’re being assigned to Fire Team Cobalt. Your chief is named Dianna Ostrander.” He paused slightly, then added. “She’s an unknown quantity. I’d like you to keep an eye on her for me.”

Hiro raised a brow at Harrison. “Oh? Shouldn’t that be something the Captain should know about?”

Harrison gave a little shrug, “He will, after you tell me, I’ll tell him.”

Hiro gave Harrison a speculative look, “Is she going to get me killed?”

Harrison shrugged again, “You know? Somehow, I don’t think so.”

The pair reached the door to Hiro’s quarters. “Here you are. I’ll let you get settled and introduce yourself.” Harrison stuck his hand out again with a smile, “Come find me in the gym when you’re in need of a beating.”

Hiro gripped his old friend’s hand and laughed. “Will do. Good to see you again.”
_____________________________________________________________________________

Brody Caramelli flipped through the pages of a well dog-eared pocket journal, the corner of his lips turned up in amused memory. “Hooo. Samantha.” He actually pressed his nose to the pages of the little book as if the girl’s scent had somehow become impressed upon its pages. The slender Italian lay on his bunk, bare feet where his head should be. He wore only his dark Alliance athletic shorts, showing off his whip-cord physique. “I do believe she did her very best to break me.” He chuckled fondly.

The youngest member of Fire Team Cobalt, Mido Hamaada, looked up from tinkering with a torn apart data pad and rolled his eyes as Brody read off the virtues of his rather extensive record of conquests. “You’re killing me here, Caramelli.” He grinned suddenly. “Caramel. Heh. Ice cream sauce.”

Brody lifted his chin to look at the Private upside down from where he was, “Stuff it, King Tut before you find yourself wrapped in sheets like your ancestors.” He grinned as he said it, so the threat lost all of its meaning.

Mido laughed, he’d already learned that Brody was kidding 90% of the time and he enjoyed the banter. “Your arms aren’t long enou-“ His crack about Brody’s lack of height was interrupted by a well-placed shot with a pillow right to the face. Mido was so startled by the speed of the attack, he barely registered what had just happened until Brody hit him upside the head again. This time with enough force to knock him from his chair.

Mido lay in a tangle of long, awkward arms and legs blinking up at the grinning heavy-weapons specialist. “How…?” He blinked again, “You weigh like 50 pounds!”

Brody just laughed and flexed an impressively ripped bicep. “And every effing fibre is carbon steel, my young urchin.”

Just then, the door hissed open to permit Hiro to enter. Hiro’s dark eyes took in the scene, including the pillow hanging limply in Brody’s left hand. “Wow. Pillow fights?” His eyes twinkled with amusement. “Are we painting our nails next?

Brody took in the flawless uniform and inwardly groaned. Flipping the pillow back to his bunk, he offered a hand to Mido to help the Private up before addressing Hiro. “No, uh. Just demonstrating the sagacity of never underestimating people, Sergeant.

Hiro simply looked between the pair for a bit longer, letting them stew for a bit. “Care to introduce yourself or should I break out my Ouija board?”

Mido, who was nearly fresh from the Academy recovered quicker than the more seasoned Brody. He snapped to attention. “Private Mido Hamaada. Engineer. Sapper, Sergeant.” His back was straight, his eyes straight forward and he looked terrified.

Brody was a complete contrast to Mido when he introduced himself. He also stood straight, but there was the impression of a coiled spring about him. He met Hiro’s gaze directly and smiled. “Heavy Weapons Specialist Brody Caramelli. Welcome aboard, Sergeant.” He introduced himself as if he expected Hiro to know who he was.

Hiro studied the pair for a moment longer he already liked Brody. The kid was still an unknown. “As you were.” He shook his head and headed for one of the two open bunks. He tossed his duffel onto the mattress, but he placed his sword case there carefully. Turning, he then offered his hand to Brody first. “I’m Sergeant Hiro Kuriyama. I guess I’m your second.” Broday shook his hand firmly, without the crushing grip some Marines are so fond of. “Good to meet you.”

Mido still looked intimidated, but brazenly smiled, “Yeah. Nice to meet you.” His eyes kept straying to the sword case. “You aren’t another one of those crazy blade nuts, are you? What’s wrong with a good old Carnifex?” It seemed to hit him too late what he’d said, because he stammered and tried to back-pedal. “Not that I…” He gulped, “I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. Sergeant.”

Hiro quirked a brow at the young Egyptian and then looked toward Brody, “Is he always like that?”

Brody grinned brilliantly, “Yep. Pretty much.” The heavy weapons Specialist did eye the sword case speculatively. “You know. We got a guy aboard all into blades. Thinks he’s all that….” He started.

“Harrison?” Hiro guessed as he began to unpack his duffel. “Friend of mine.” He grinned. “Word of advice? Straight up sword duel? Bet on me. Anything else? Bet on him. Make yourself a few bucks.”

Brody cast a glance toward the Private for a moment before turning back to his new Sergeant. “You know him?”

Hiro merely nodded, “Yes. I taught Kendo on Arcturus. He’s very, very good.”

Mido joined the conversation at that point. “Wait you are one of those sword nuts.” He accused.

Hiro straightened and pinned the rash Private with a hard stare. After a moment, he bent to open the sword case to reveal a beautifully wrought katana and not the mono-blade so many preferred. Its age was evident as was the deadliness of its design. “This has not seen true combat in hundreds of years. To carry a blade like this into modern warfare is suicidal at best, impossibly ignorant at worst. I practice with it as a form of martial training and meditation.”

Mido stared from the blade to the suddenly unsmiling Sergeant. “I understand.” He murmured wisely. He cleared his throat and meandered back to his disassembled data pad. “So…” He searched for a new topic. “How about our Alpha? Know her too? Dianna something.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Connor DeMarco Character Portrait: Private Mido Hamaada Character Portrait: Sargent Hiro Kuriyama Character Portrait: Specialist Brody Caramelli
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The last few weeks had been pleasing to Dianna. Training Fire Team Cobalt and training with them had felt...good. Time spent off duty had been awkward at first, but they had quickly relaxed around her. Brody before the others, naturally. He flirted lightly, but never had to be put down. A point Dianna was grateful for. He might be a talker, but there was an unexpected streak of good sense under the surface of the heavy weapons specialist. Mido had the hardest time of it. She’d pushed him hard during training, making sure he’d stay alive when on a mission. She wasn’t about to lose anyone. Ever. By far the most interesting, at least to her, was her 2nd, Hiro. He was always so calm, so together. He was everything Dianna secretly wished she was. He blended in fluidly, laughed easily, shared what he knew generously. She spent as much time training with him as she could manage.

Finally, Dianna had been called for a briefing. A mission. She was excited and nervous at the same time. On the inside, at least. As the door to the conference room hissed open, Dianna took in the faces of the occupants in less than a heartbeat. Titus and Harrison she had expected. The third man, was a bit of a surprise though. She’d seen him in the mess hall. He didn’t exactly seem the type to be in on a mission briefing. He barely looked anyone in the eye the few times she’d seen him.

Dianna stepped inside the conference room to allow the door to close behind her. She snapped off a crisp salute, despite knowing how Titus disliked it. Call it some perverse sense of what she believed was right. She waited until Titus waved her into a chair before joining the others at the table.

Above the table floated a holographic image of of a research base on a barren dust covered planet that had survived more than it’s fair share of asteroid strikes.

“About thirty minutes ago,” Captain Titus began, “I had our intel guys purge the space around Thenusi with high-intensity scans. They all turned up the same dark spot that Harrison found when he conducted his own scans several weeks ago. I had Darcy fly us in closer, and within minutes, we hit a far range EM barrier and this station became visible in the distance. It appears that Cerberus’ cloaking technology has surpassed that of the Salarians.

“Our mission here is simple: The Operator wants us to hit the station and eliminate whatever Cerberus is cooking up here. Whatever the Illusive Man has on that thing must be of considerable value to him considering the length he’s gone to to hide it in plain sight.”

Lieutenant Harrison was the next to speak up, pointing to the hologram, which turned out to be a haptic display as well. When his index finger tapped on an area of the station, the display zoomed in closer to detail the outer structure of what appeared to be an internal landing bay. “Our VI’s managed to hack into their security network and hold open this one hangar bay. Prophet is keeping the VI’s cycling every few minutes, so Cerberus is unable to counter the hack without an expert programming engineer. This is our way inside. We can take two kodiaks.”

The Captain nodded. “Two fire teams, then. One for each kodiak. Sergeant Ostrander, Cobalt will accompany this mission and split up from my team as soon as we touch base in the hangar. Mine will take the starboard sectors, yours will take port. Eliminate any Cerberus war assets, including hostile soldiers; but remember, their scientists are civilians. Unless one of them threatens your life, don’t engage them; simply force them on the ground and press on.”

Dianna used her Omni tool to tap in relative points and cryptic notes for her own briefing with the team.

“Are we destroying the station?” Lieutenant DeMarco asked.

“Negative,” Titus ordered. “I want this station captured if possible. Any weapons prototypes are to be preserved and their data transferred to our servers. Prophet can oversee the data movement using the Marathon’s FTL comm system and a link-up to your Omni-tools. Once the station is under our control and all hostiles have been eliminated or subdued, we’ll open the rest of the hangars and bring in the Aurora teams to detain the scientists and any other remaining Cerberus personnel.

“Any questions?”

“How do you want us to secure the civilians, Sir?” Dianna asked practically. She wasn’t overly fond of leaving possible hostiles at her team's back.

“You can detain the civilians by cuffing them and conducting a simple frisk of their clothing to ensure they don’t have any weapons. Round them up into groups and have them sit before moving on into other rooms.

“That’s all I have,” the Captain said. “Sergeant, have Cobalt ready within the hour and meet me down in Hangar Bay 1. Dismissed.”

Dianna stood and saluted Titus once more and nodded to Harrison and Connor. “I’ll brief my team immediately. With that, she turned on her heel and headed off to get her team suited up.

Dianna strode into the room shared by Fire Team Cobalt to find Hiro and Mido present. Mido had his Omni Tool in hand as usual while Hiro lounged comfortably on his bunk reading a physical book. Brody was nowhere in sight. Dianna groaned inwardly, she should have known Brody would be off somewhere being ‘social’.

Hiro and Mido looked at her expectantly. “Gear up. We’re taking a Cerebrus base with another fire team under Titus and Harrison. She brought up the information on her Omni tool with a few swift keystrokes. “Sync up and I’ll brief you as soon as Mr. Caramelli gets his pants back on.”

Heading to her locker, Dianna spoke again, Prophet, inform Caramelli that I want him here. Now.”

“Acknowledged” The AI confirmed.

Hiro and Mido rose immediately to don their armor while Dianna squeezed into her squishy. Hiro didn’t ask questions, he had been through this many times. Mido, however, had not. His hands shook slightly as he pulled on his medium armor and cloak. “Two Fire Teams?” Mido prompted, hoping for something other than the stoic silence exhibited by Dianna and Hiro as they readied themselves.

Brody chose just that moment to return to the room with a bright grin on his face. “Hey! Action at last. What’s the mission?” He walked directly to his locker to get dressed.

Dianna looked up when the heavy weapons specialist breezed in. “Looks like you’ve already seen action, Caramelli.” She touched her cheek, “Wipe that lipstick off your face.” That prompted a chuckle from Hiro while Mido tried and failed to hide a smile at Brody’s expense.

Unapologetic, Brody scrubbed his face and lips with his palm and grinned. “Not my fault, Sargeant. Women love me.”

Dianna huffed slightly at the man. She brought up the mission specs on her Omni tool again to allow Caramelli to sync his. “It’s a Cerebrus research base. Prophet’s got the security overridden and is keeping a hangar door open for us. We’re to go in and take out any and all hostiles. The scientists we’re are to bag and cuff unless they get stubborn.” She looked at each of her team, “If they try to be heroes, dissuade them from that course of action. Permanently.” Hiro and Brody merely nodded. Mido looked a little shaken.

“Civilians, Ma’am?” He asked.

Hiro took the question, “If they’re shooting at you, Private. You shoot them instead. Simple.” His tone was stern. “If some old man smelling of alcohol rub kills me because you hesitated, I will come back and haunt you to the end of your days. Clear?”

Mido blinked softly, looking from Dianna to Hiro and back again, “Yeah. Sure…” Anything else he’d thought to add to the conversation died on his lips.

To take over the Private’s train of thought, Dianna gave assignments, “We’re going to take two separate kodiaks in. The Captain and his team will take the starboard side of the hangar and base, we take port. Obviously, they’ll set up a perimeter and we can expect some heavy resistance in the hangar itself.” She looked at Brody who had wasted no time getting into his heavy armor and was checking it for fit and movement. “Caramelli, you’ll need to clear a path. Hiro and I will take out stragglers.” She turned her pale gray eyes toward Mido, “You’ll need to override any security locks or blow the doors. Expect turrets as well. We aren’t sure if how weaponized the place is. We’ll assume the worst.”

Brody laughed, “Maybe they’ll bake us a cake.”

After a trip to the armory to pick up their weapons, Fire Team Cobalt arrived in the Hangar bay with 15 minutes to spare. As her team entered, Dianna noted that the pilots and crew were already going over the kodiaks taking care of their pre-flight checks.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Private Mido Hamaada Character Portrait: Sargent Hiro Kuriyama Character Portrait: Specialist Brody Caramelli
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The flight from the ship to the hidden base aboard the Kodiak was silent…except for Brody. Hiro and Dianna sat calmly in their seats. But, Mido fidgeted continuously with his Predator, making sure it was secured to the magnetic clip at his thigh. His shield was up on his helmet showing his nervous and excited face. Brody kept up a running dialog regaling his squad mates with tales of his exploits with women in every system known. He had a soft smile on his lips remembering a particular Asari on Demara and produced a silk kerchief from one of his pockets. He sniffed it lightly as if it was still perfumed with the Asari’s scent. “Deandra. Lovely, lovely thing. She might have made an honest man of me if she hadn’t been the Regent’s heir.”

Mido, grateful for the disctraction looked at the heavy weapons specialist with something like wonder. “Nobility? Seriously?”

Brody nodded sagely and sighed. “It never would have worked out. I’m not one to settle down.”

Hiro fought a smile at Mido’s credulity. “The Asari don’t have Regents, Caramelli.”

The Italian drew himself up indignantly, “We’re on quite intimate terms unless you can prove otherwise.”

Hiro just laughed at the man.

Dianna just shook her head at Brody.

Just then the pilot called back to them. “Coming into the hangar now. We’re going to hover about 5 feet up so we can get back out quick. Get ready to jump.” He said.

Dianna stood immediately. “I’ll create a barrier. That should buy us a few minutes to get our feet on the ground. “ She looked at Brody, “Make a hole if anyone starts shooting at us.” Turning her head, she patted Mido’s helmet with her hand. “You keep your head down and follow Hiro.” Her eyes trailed over to her 2nd. “Ready?” She was rewarded with a simple nod.

The pilot counted down. “5 – 4 – 3 – 2 - 1.” He popped the hatch and Dianna hefted her Avenger rifle and sent up a crackling blue shield around the opening hatch. Brody exited in a rush, followed quickly by Dianna, Hiro and Mido. The team wasted no time getting to cover and crouched there waiting. But nothing happened. If Cerebrus had wanted to, they could easily have set up an ambush in the hangar making it virtually impossible to disembark without taking some serious hits.

The Kodiaks turned and exited the hangar in tandem leaving Cobalt and Titus’ team alone. Titus had Harrison drop his shield to see if it drew fire. Nothing happened. Dianna looked toward Titus with a quirked brow. Mido began to stand when he saw Titus come out of cover, but Hiro clamped his hand on the Engineer’s shoulder and shoved him back down. “Don’t grow over-confident. This mission has only just started.

“Cobalt!” Titus called out across the bay to Ostrander’s team. “Stick with the plan; take port-side! We’ll take starboard! Keep DeMarco informed every two mike!”

Dianna lifted a fist acknowledging Titus’ instructions. Without looking back, Dianna instructed; “Mido on my 7. Brody then Hiro. Keep your eyes peeled. I don’t like it.” She then moved toward one of the main doors into the hangar in a running crouch. As instructed, Mido stayed right with her while Brody and Hiro covered them. Once at the door, Dianna moved aside to allow the Engineer access to the keypad that opened the door. “Make it quick. As soon as you have it let me know and get to cover.”

Mido licked his lips and was grateful his shield was down on his visor so the others couldn’t see the sweat on his upper lip. He called up his Omni tool and quickly got to work bypassing the locking mechanism. “It’s not rigged…” He murmured to himself. It took the Private only a few minutes to get a green light on the pad before he moved back from the door. Brody moved forward and nodded. Mido punched a button on his Omni Tool and the door slid open easily.

Brody took a stance ready to unleash death and destruction. He was disappointed when no targets presented themselves. He straightened slightly muttering. “Don’t they know I’m here? Where’s the welcome wagon?”

Dianna moved up alongside the heavy weapons specialist, biotics at the ready. “I doubt they managed to evacuate that fast. Room by room sweep.” She ordered. “Stack up.” Slipping forward down the white hallway, they worked their way slowly along. After the first 3 rooms, it became clear that the occupants had left in a hurry; computer terminals were still logged on in the second room, a plate with a half-eaten sandwich surrounded by hastily thrown down cards were found in the next room. They kept moving down the hall sweeping each room carefully. There were no guards, Marines, or automated defenses. Nothing.

Mido laughed nervously, “Guess they’re afraid of us?” He tried to wipe his sweaty palms on his legs, forgetting he was in armor and couldn’t.

Hiro and Dianna shared an uncomfortable look. “Rigged to blow?” Hiro hazarded a guess.

Dianna shook her head, “I doubt it…all their people should still be here.”

Brody snorted, “Unless they don’t want us to know what they’ve been up to.”

The next room they came to was a large lounge area. Peeking through the glass in the doors revealed scientists, people in civilian clothes and a few Marines sitting quietly. Waiting. Dianna frowned heavily. It felt like a trap. But she couldn’t see one. Looking back at her team, she made a motion to follow her lead. Getting nods all around, Dianna threw up a biotic barrier and rushed through the door to confront the people inside. “Hands in the air! You’re all under arrest.” Her team spread out to either side of her with their guns ready.

The half dozen Marines held their hands and weapons over their heads. The scientists followed their lead and raised their hands as well.

“Guns on the floor and move to the other side of the room.” Dianna ordered. The hair on the back of her neck crawled. This was all wrong. No resistance, no bravado, nothing. They’d been expected and simply had given up. The Marines complied with Dianna’s orders. She looked back at Mido, “Cuff them and make them sit down on the floor.”

While Mido walked to the Cerebrus Marines and zip-tied their wrists, Dianna called up to Lt. DeMarco. “We found the personnel. They were waiting for us and just surrendered. We’re in the lounge 8 rooms to port of the hangar. 7 Marines and 22 scientists and support personnel.”

Dianna jerked her chin toward the Marines and Hiro walked toward them, “Are there any more Marines on the station?” He asked the ranking Marine.

He got a head shake in the negative. Hiro frowned. “You’re it to protect this place?”
“Yeah. We weren’t meant to stop an assault.”

“I see that.” Hiro considered. “What were you meant to do?” He asked pointedly.

He got no response at all from the Marine.

Hiro looked back toward Dianna and shrugged. Dianna relayed what little info there was to DeMarco so it could be passed along to Titus. She looked back to Hiro. “Take Caramelli and sweep the rest of this side. I don’t want any surprises.” She looked over the group of civilians, “We’ll babysit until we’re ready to transport.”

The civilians and scientists sat at the tables docilely, looking frightened and unsure of what to expect. They had been working for an organization that could arguably be called a terrorist group and now, they were in the hands of the Alliance. Most knew that prison was in their future. Dianna could almost see the thought progression register on their faces. A couple of the captives looked more defiant, but not so much so that they’d try to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, back into the hallway, Brody and Hiro began their systematic search of the remaining rooms on this side of the base. While both remained cautious with their eyes peeled, Brody blithely chattered away as if he was on a Sunday stroll. “Ever been to Omega? Incredible time there. You can buy anything. Any experience your devious mind can dream up, you can have it there.” He swept into another empty room, covering it with his huge assault rifle. When nothing presented itself, they moved to the next room.

Hiro shook his head, “I’ve never had the desire to go to Omega, no.” He replied quietly.

“You need to get out more, Hiro-san.” You’re growing old before your time.” Brody grinned, “Hell, you’re even turning gray already!” Brody teased as they moved toward the end of the hall. “You should let me give you the tour. Get you laid, have some drinks, play some games.” They swept into yet another abandoned room. Almost without pausing, Brody continued, “You need to relax, have a good time.” He grinned suddenly, “We could take Mido. Make a man out of him.”

Hiro merely chuckled. “I’ll pass.”

“Think he’s a virgin?” Brody speculated as they began to head back to the lounge area. “Maybe the Valkyrie will go with me.”

“Valkyrie?” Hiro asked quizzically.

Brody grinned, “Yeah, Ostrander. She’s Scandanavian or something. And a warrior…seems fitting.”

Hiro just shook his head, “I can’t wait to hear what you call Mido and me.”

“I’m working on it. Nicknames are serious stuff. Can’t rush it after all.” By then they had returned to the lounge. Brody called out, “Honey! I’m home! Miss me?”

From the other side of the base, they all heard the muffled sound of gunshots. Trading looks, Dianna tried to call Titus. “Captain? Are you there?” There was nothing. “Captain? Do you require assistance?”
After a few long minutes in which Dianna almost sent Hiro and Brody to find out what had happened, Titus came over her head set. “No. Stay where you are.”

“Affirmative.” Dianna acknowledged and looked back to a pair of suddenly anxious looking scientists. She strode over toward them and intentionally loomed. “What do you know? Who’s over there?”

She only got dark looks.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Braden Reynolds Character Portrait: Commander Jonathan Titus Character Portrait: Adam Harrison Character Portrait: Darcy Mansfield Character Portrait: Dianna Henricksen Character Portrait: Connor DeMarco Character Portrait: Commander Benjamin Slatton Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn
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"Captain?" Azuric asked. "Titus!"

Jonathan's mind was yanked back to reality and he shook his head. "Son of a bitch!" The Captain forced himself to stand up with the help of the sturdy Valkryie and took a second to regain his balance. He felt physically sick at the sight of Erik’s ugly, mangled corpse lying on the floor several feet away from him. When memories of the former comrade in arms started to cloud his thoughts again, he quickly averted his eyes to Adam, who was being helped to his feet by Azuric.

“You injured?”

“Nah,” he said, only to grunt and grasp at his side. “Well, argh... not bad anyway.” Harrison took a few breaths, filling his lungs with steady gasps of fresh air. “I wasn’t expecting biotics,” he managed to say. “Since when are husks-?”

“That was no ordinary husk,” Azuric cut him off. “Remember, this is Cerberus we’re dealing with. They have ways of making the impossible quite possible.”

There was crackle in Titus’ earpeace before Ostrander’s voice boomed through. “Captain; this is Cobalt Alpha. Do you read me?

The stress in her voice made the Captain realize that she was probably trying to contact them during the fight. Either Eri- or the husk’s, Titus reminded himself, phenomenal biotics caused an interference in the comm channel, or the adrenaline simply wouldn’t allow himself to hear anything else but the screaming and gunfire.

“Go ahead, Cobalt Alpha,” he said calmly.

“Do you require assistance. sir?”

Titus looked around the room for any other experiments that might jump out of the bulkheads at them. When he was sure the area was secure and they were safe again, he replied, “That’s a negative. We’ve wrapped up here. What’s your status?”

“Multiple civvies and sec-po detained, Captain. Our side’s clear.”

“Copy that. Escort the detainees back to the hangar bay. Break. Marathon Alpha.”

Connor’s voice chimed in with a response. “Go, sir.”

“Dispatch Sierra Zero-Zero-Two-and-Four; have same RV Cobalt and take over detainee ops. Have Sierra Zero-Zero-One sweep starboard and Three sweep port.”

“Passing directives now, Captain.”

With orders given and the comm channel now clear, Titus looked over to his teammates, awaiting directives themselves. The Captain swung his Valkryie over his shoulder and let the rifle collapse in on itself and attach to the magnetic clips on the back of his armor before saying, “Come on, you two. We’ve got a nasty decision to make.”




The war room on the command deck was full. A single, large, circular chamber wrapped in tactical displays, real-time information and data feeds, support terminals, combat information analysts, and a host of other support personnel made up the life and blood of the room. Sensitive information constantly cycled through every haptic interface, scanned by busy Oracle intelligence operatives, and then carefully digested by both Oracle and Aurora brass. Anything that needed a final say would go straight to the captain, or, if he was unavailable, to Commander Taylor.

In the center of chamber was a circular war table, where a large blue haptic interface covered the top. A layout of the Daedalus system had been brought up, covering the entire display with critical information and details about every planet, moon, and station. Multiple individuals were huddled around the display, including Titus, Taylor, DeMarco and Harrison. Other faces included the Marathon’s lead intelligence analyst, Staff Lieutenant Rene Dike; Commander Rhodie, the squadron commander; and Major Rhonda Thomas, the Sierra fire teams commander.

“This is the latest intel we have on Daedalus,” Lieutenant Dike announced in a calm manner. The averaged height woman was wearing her Alliance BDUs. The Captain noticed that she had kept the garments below the vest tightly pressed and looking sharp, with the hint of a lightly applied starch by the nearly perfect creases. There was no point to wearing them, given her MOS as an intelligence analyst, but he knew that most pencil pushers in the military did this because it was as close as they could get to living on the edge. He even wondered if this whole situation was possibly the first of its calibre for her.

“We know there are least two Cerberus signatures in the system,” she continued. “Only one, however, a cruiser-class, is showing up on scans.”

“We know this for sure?” Rhodie inquired.

“Yes, sir. If you’ll see here,” Dike pointed to where evident conflict was taking place by the Alliance-tagged distress beacons in one area of the system, “we’ve got multiple distress signals originating from this area, put out at the exact same time as these...” Her finger moved to a planet on the opposite side of the system’s sun where more distress beacons were flashing. Nearby those same beacons was the Cerberus cruiser, designated by a light-gray four-arrow reticule. “Considering we have no available scanning data of what’s happening on the opposite end of the system from the cruiser, we can make a safe assumption that Cerberus has a stealth class over in that area.

Commander Taylor, who stood opposite from Titus across the war table, instantly raised her head with a serious are-you-thinking-what-I’m-thinking? look. The Captain nodded his head. “The Vindicator.”

“Pardon, sir?” Dike asked.

Titus explained, “The Cerberus frigate I commanded before defecting to Oracle. When I spoke with the Illusive Man, he said Commander Buchan.” He now spoke directly to Taylor. “We left her on Omega... with the Vindicator.”

“I see,” Rhodie commented. “Then at least we won’t be flying in there totally blind.”

“Flying in?” Harrison spoke up, eyes showing how much he didn’t approve of the idea at all. He then turned to Titus, “Sir, what about stopping the Illusive Man from getting his hands on that research data? What about Lieutenant Kyle? Oracle has invested millions into that lab, and there are hundreds of innocents working there are now in harms way. The assets we have in Daedalus knew the risks when they signed their contract with Oracle. That Reaper data is a hundred times more important.”

“So you’re suggesting we sacrifice an entire system to save some science experiment?” Major Thomas argued. “As far as the majority of the galaxy is concerned, the Reapers are a myth. That ‘data’ is likely a bunch of a false positives only playing with the imagination of a few hopeful eggheads.”

“Easy, Major,” Commander Taylor calmly intervened. “Both targets are of great strategic importance. Whether or not they’re eggheads or spooks, they’re people... and they’re people we need alive.” When the room had quieted, Taylor looked to Harrison. “Lieutenant, you said earlier that there’s an N7 at that research station?”

“Affirmative, ma’am,” Adam said, doing his best to remain calm, even though it was evident he knew what Serena was about to suggest. “Lieutenant Amanda Kyle. We graduated from the Villa together. She’s in the same Oracle attachment that I’m in.”

Commander Taylor looked over to Titus, as did everyone else around the table, save for Adam, who was staring at the display over the war table with a blank expression.

“If you ask me,” a random voice called out by surprise, forcing all in the room to turn their heads and see Benjamin Slatton leaning against a terminal in the shadows, “you’ll want to go for the system.”

“How long have you been there?” Taylor asked with a quirked brow.

With a bit of a smirk, the Oracle commander shrugged his shoulders and pushed himself away from the terminal, casually walking over to the war table and placing himself between Rhodie and Thomas - both of whom gave him a quizzical stare of bewilderment.

“It’s an easier decision than you might think, Titus,” he said. “You can’t sacrifice a whole system simply to save data that can be rediscovered with time.”

This was not easy. In war, tough calls can’t always be avoided. The facts and the costs had been laid out in front of him, and it was now up to him as the Marathon’s captain to decide which target they would go after. Daedalus was under attack, and if they delayed any longer, the entire system could be lost. Countless more innocents... Alliance, Oracle, Aurora, and non-combatants could be killed. On the other hand, if they go after Daedalus, they would be giving up valuable Reaper data; practically handing it over to the Illusive Man on a silver platter, only advancing Cerberus’ knowledge and, if the fight against Keown’s husk had anything to prove, their arsenal of biological weaponry.

But Titus has seen the trends of science from the combat boots of both uniforms. He’s seen what Cerberus is capable of, and now he’s seeing what Oracle and the Alliance are capable of. If Cerberus gains a new technology, or a better weapon... the Alliance will find a way to counter it. The system comes first.

“Commander Rhodie,” Titus said, staring intently at the display over the war table.

The commanding office of the Marathon’s fighter and interceptor squadrons snapped to attention and held a sharp salute. “Sir.”

“Ready your pilots.”

“Aye-Aye, Captain!” Rhodie replied, turning on heel to depart the war room.

“Major Thomas.”

“Sir,” the fire team commander replied with equal ferocity and discipline.

“Make sure your Sierra teams get some chow and resupply. They’ll be heading back out.”

“Aye-aye, sir!”

“Darcy!”

The helmsman had most likely been eavesdropping on the entire meeting as his reply was instantaneous. “Daedalus, sir?”

“Do it.”

“Setting course.”

“Listen up,” Titus spoke aloud to the others remaining around the table. “I don’t like it when my enemy forces me to make a decision like this. When we enter that system, we will give them no quarter.” His words were clear and precise. Their mission had been given to them. It was time to respond. “Dismissed.”




The captain’s eyes looked into themselves through their reflection in the glass. As the Marathon travelled at FTL speeds to the nearest mass relay, Titus watched the shifting blue and violet lights wrap around the exterior of his ship through the window in his cabin. Such a display of magnificence deserved an orchestra of sounds, he thought; or a symphony. But in the abyss of silence around him, his mind was left to imagine the strings, the brass, and the woods. Eventually, though, it just became too much, and too difficult to bear.

Silence. He was surrounded by it. On the inside, he knew he was defeated, but on the outside he maintained that same all-is-well attitude. Only those close to him would be able to tell by the look in his eyes that all was indeed not well. For years now, he had tried to hold onto a strict set of core beliefs; values that he had taught himself a very long time ago as a marine in the trenches. Always do good. Always be just. They were the values he reminded himself of during the tough calls.

The Illusive Man had called him to the carpet. He had shown Titus just how arrogant he had become, and just how vulnerable he actually was. He hated his former employer, but he hated himself just as much. The Illusive Man was right. He had been a fool to think he was morally above everyone else. Some moral code I made, he thought.

A knock at his door woke him from his thoughts and Titus yelled, “It’s open!” The door opened with a smooth slide and hiss, revealing the young Braden to be standing on the other side of the threshold. “Braden?” Titus said. “Is something wrong?”

“I was going to ask you that,” the teenager replied. Titus eyed him for a moment, observing how much the kid had changed over the last several months; not just physically, but mentally. He had grown stronger, more intelligent.

“Oh?” Titus asked, trying his best to downplay his obviously depressed mood.

Braden walked into further into the room, allowing the door to close behind him. With all the casual, nonchalant manner of an adolescent male, Reynolds moved over the small two-seater sofa in the quarters and collapsed onto the cushion, leaning back and placing an arm lazily over the armrest. “Yup,” he finally said.

If I’m about to be counseled by a kid..., Titus put a stop to the thought before it finished. Maybe that’s exactly what he needed. No uniforms, no commanders, no intelligence analysts; but the simple mind of a child. True, Braden was far from being a child now, but he still had an optimistic outlook on life; and that optimism had only evolved into something greater ever since coming aboard Titus’ team and facing down his past. There were still a few shadows of the past haunting him, Titus was sure of that; but if anyone on the Marathon had a clear mind right now, it was him.

“Tell me, Braden,” Titus began, “and be honest... Have I failed?”

Braden raised an inquisitive brow. “What do you mean?”

Titus looked back out of the window, returning his eyes to the blue shifts of the FTL travel. When he spoke, his voice was distant, but loud enough for the young man to hear. “I thought I could be the moral center of this crew. But the Illusive Man showed me that I’m clearly not.” He turned back to Braden and with a saddened expression and defeated eyes, he said, “I tried to protect you.”

There was a long silence between the two of them. Titus found himself unable to look at the kid any longer and let his eyes fall to the floor of his cabin. He had never felt more ashamed about anything. For a soldier to admit defeat with such remorse was... unbecoming.

“Yeah,” Braden finally spoke. “You did.” Titus was sure he would have felt some kind of pain in his heart in response if there was any feeling left in him at all; but when he was sure that Braden’s answer was final, the boy said, “You failed... when you joined Cerberus.”

Somehow intrigued by the young man’s response, Titus’ eyes glanced back up to him. “And so did I,” he continued, “when I joined you. You said you wanted me to come with you, and gave me the choice. I chose. I decided to tag along with terrorists. I knew who you guys were. A team of people that all failed when they made the same choice I made.”

The boy stood up from the sofa and said, “It’s what we do after we fail that counts.”

As if by magic, Titus’ spirit was instantly lifted and he felt himself smiling. He turned around to fully face Braden and leaned back against the window. He crossed his arms and said, “Huh... How did you become so damn brilliant?”

With a quirky smile and shrug of his shoulders, the teen replied, “Liz likes to drown me in psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo from time-to-time. I think it’s starting to rub off on me.”

The two shared a laugh and Titus said, “Well keep her close, Braden. You’ve found yourself a very intelligent young lady.”

“Yeah...,” Braden said with a blush of red on his above his cheeks, “speaking of Liz; you think you can give me a bit of advice?” Titus’ eyes nearly popped out of his head and when Braden realized how that sounded, he ferociously shook his hands and exclaimed, “Not about that!