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Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

Spec Ops Combat Engineer, "Demon" Squad.

0 · 383 views · located in The Call of Victory

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

Personality

A solid, stand up guy. Daniel is probably one of the nicest storm troopers you will ever run into. Quick with a laugh, smile, or even a game of cards, you will find it hard to find something to hate about this guy.

History

Age: 26

Daniel is a decent guy, fun to get along with, and all around just Mr. Nice Guy aboard the Call of Victory. Despite his personable appearance, Daniel is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Years of battle along with dealing with Horn's intensified Marine Training and being part of the "Demons" have honed Daniel to a physical peak. He uses his technical knowledge to deal with any and all cybernetic or synthetic problems on the battlefield, but can also hold up in battle with just about any other type of enemy out there.

Due to Horn being out of the fight at least for awhile, Daniel has been called upon as a secondary Commander of sorts. Kelly still has operational command, but it has been made obvious that she is not a field operative. He has been trusted with leading the ground operations, and while anxious to get his first real command, he's also hesitant. Just like everyone else out there, he doesn't want to screw up, and is pushing himself harder than normal to make sure he doesn't.

So begins...

Lieutenant Daniel Harrens's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Once it was clear that Commander Titus had touched down, the plan had initiated itself. Daniel took his team and split up from Leonard's in order to cover more ground. It took them a couple of minutes just to get to their starting sweeping point, from there it was simply a mess trying to get anywhere. Collapsed buildings, fractured ground, and debris covered every square inch of the ruins, and even amidst that, there were still some buildings standing tall. A optimist would look at it and say that they are standing because of their construction and integrity, a realist would look at them and say they were another hazard just waiting to happen. Daniel waved his finger around in a circle, signalling everyone to fall in. They all complied without a further word, and Daniel took a small breath.

First time being a squad commander...let's do this. Daniel thought to himself as he slowly started making his way through the city. He could have gone faster using his jetpack, but his team didn't have that luxury and every waking moment he missed being a part of the Demons. Still, he had to make do, and was pleased that everyone was keeping up with him surprisingly well save for the odd time Tia would stop and seem to be slightly out of breath. Daniel chalked it up to being the first mission back, it was that way for a lot of people.

They had been travelling for quite a ways now, and were almost at the meet up point when things started to take a change for the worse. As Daniel's team moved forward, clearing whatever buildings they passed as they did, gunfire erupted West of their position. Daniel looked over in that direction, but couldn't make out anything other than the fact that either the Victory's second fire team or Titus's team was spending a lot of ammunition.

"Lieutenant!" Carly yelled, and Daniel whirled around quickly, his rifle raised. About twenty yards off, obscured by dust and debris, stood one lone husk. The creature looked at them, and reared it's head back giving off a scream that sounded like nails on a tin can. Suddenly, husks started crawling out from everywhere. In front of them rushed a small horde, and as Daniel looked around, lights started to come from the buildings they had just secured.

"360 degree coverage now!" Daniel yelled as they all went back to back and watched as the incoming horde started to press in on them. Soon, they were expending ammunition as quickly as they were taking breaths. Daniel made every shot count, dropping husk after husk, but they still pressed on. Where did all these come from? This is way more than 13. Daniel thought to himself as the horde got ever closer. Daniel quickly looked to Carly and pointed back in the direction they were heading. "Carly, make us a path!"

"Understood!" She yelled as she broke formation and lead the charge through the horde. Her commando armour allowed her to take a bit more punishment than Daniel's, whose armour previous to now relied a lot on shields. Carly proved her worth by punishing any husk that got within range and bashing a few out of the way with her shoulders. Nerita jumped in every so often with a biotic push that would send a few husks flying. Tia seemed to be handling herself, allowing her bionic arm to do most of the work.

Just when it seemed possible they may simply run their way out of this situation, the ground beneath them began to shake. Fuck, why now!? Daniel thought to himself as they all struggled to keep themselves upright as they ran. Luckily, the husks were having the same problem and the earthquake was throwing them off their feet as well. However, up ahead was the greater challenge.

Just a few yards away, the ground started to crack and open up as the earthquake continued. Even the short distance that they were away, it was opening quickly. Carly was in the lead, and she didn't slow as she approached the makeshift cliff. She sprinted as hard as she could, and when she was close enough, made a jump over the ever widening gap. The others were a few feet away yet, and already the jump was reaching six feet and continuing to expand at a frightening speed. Tia was the next over, her foot slipping near the edge but pulling herself up anyways. Daniel and Nerita both jumped at the same time, and Daniel made the choice to look down as he did so.

The drop was easily a few stories, definitely enough to kill them. Daniel made it over, and quickly did another standing jump as the earth gave away beneath him. Nerita landed, and started to tilt backwards when Carly reached back and grabbed her by the collar of her armour and yanked her back onto solid ground. The gap started to slow as the earthquake passed, and finally stopped at ten feet wide. The husks ran up to them, but simply ran into the fissure in the ground rather than try to jump it. "No chances, wipe them out!" Daniel stated as the entire team opened up with their weapons on the remaining husks. It was only a couple minutes longer before the rest were either dead on the ground or fallen into the crack in the earth.

"There's not enough bodies." Nerita stated as she looked down into the fissure. "Some of them must have broke off and entered the buildings."

"Alright, another complication for getting back." Daniel stated as they looked around them quickly. They seemed to be secure for the moment, but that would never last so long as the husks kept appearing like they did. Daniel was about to order them on when a voice came in over the radio.

"Lieutenant Harrens? This is Overwatch, please respond." Daniel took a couple paces away from everyone.

"Lieutenant Harrens here. Go ahead Overwatch." Daniel replied, and was greeted with Kelly's voice.

"Lieutenant, we've just gotten word from Commander Titus that the researchers are under attack from an unknown number of husks. I'm ordering Lieutenant O'Ryan's team to head back to help with the defence of the installation." Daniel nodded subconsciously.

"Understood." Daniel stated.

"Along with this Lieutenant, it appears that Commander Titus's team has been pinned down by husks near the artifact that seems to be causing the mass husk infestation. You are to attempt to relieve and assist Commander Titus with best speed. I'm marking his location on your HUD now." Daniel took a moment to read the map, the grimaced inside his helmet.

"Husk central, understood ma'am. Do you have a suggestion for a flanking or overwatch position?"

"Negative, the terrain is throwing off our charts with each earthquake, you're going to have to improvise Lieutenant. Overwatch out." Kelly cut the connection, and Daniel wasted no time raising Lieutenant O'Ryan.

"Did you get those orders Lieutenant?"

"Yes I did sir. We're moving now. Good luck." Leonard replied before cutting the connection. Daniel gave a small sigh, realizing that he had been right one again with nothing being as easy as it seemed. He turned back towards everyone.

"Change of plans, Commander Titus is pinned down, we're being ordered to move in and relieve. Let's go." Nerita gave a huff, but aside from that, there was nothing else said among them as they all ran as fast as they could to where Titus and his team were supposedly pinned down.

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It took them a few minutes to reach the last known whereabouts of Titus's team, and from there they simply followed the gunfire. Daniel was the first to round the corner, and the moment he did, he simply stopped. In front of him, crowding the staircase leading up to some scaffolding around the Reaper artifact, was the biggest horde of husks he had ever seen. What was worse, was that they were all ground level with them. They had yet to be noticed, but Daniel didn't waste any time as he ran instead of firing. The others followed him as he got to a semi-defensible position atop of some rubble. The husks would be hard pressed to climb it without getting shot right away.

"Suppressing fire, bring the heat off of Commander Titus!" Daniel yelled as he stood and unloaded his rifle into the husks. Immediately a good chunk of the husks broke off in order to attack their new found enemies. They rushed towards the position, being cut down as quickly as they ran, only to be replaced by two more husks. Daniel and his team managed to keep this up for about a minute before the husks actually managed to reach them, and they were forced to fire and fight at the same time. Daniel smashed the butt of his rifle into one of the husks, and kicked it off of the rubble much like the Spartans kicked the Persians into their pit. Nerita seemed to be getting swarmed by three or four husks, but before Daniel could turn to help Nerita pulsed with biotic energy and threw all of the husks off of her in a brilliant display of electric blue. She started panting, and took a moment to catch her breath before returning to the fight.

Carly was dual wielding her assault rifle and Carnifex pistol now, seeming to have taken the best parts of her training and amplified them as she maintained accuracy for both weapons despite the obvious weight disadvantage. Tia was finishing up a battle with a husk by the looks of it, punching her bionic limb into it's skull and flattening it. Despite their minor victories, it wouldn't be long before they themselves were overrun. Daniel looked around for a possible escape route when it hit him. Just a few feet away was a two story building that, while looking ready to fall, was still standing.

"Everyone, boosters to the top of that building! Do it now!" Daniel gave covering fire as one by one they managed to fire off their jets and make it to the top of the building. Daniel was the last one away, wanting to make sure the team made it first, and just as he was about to boost away, a husk grabbed his leg and was drawn into the air with him. His trajectory was thrown off as he kicked and punched at the attached husk. Finally it dropped to the ground, but by the time he looked up he flew through an open window and slammed against the roof of the interior. He dropped down hard, his assault rifle escaping his grasp and sliding several feet away. He brought himself to his knees as he fought to regain his breath, and finally stood up. He quickly ran over and grabbed his gun, and only then did he hear the moans from the other side of the room.

The husks were climbing up the side of the building and had entered through one of the many windows. Daniel fired some more rounds as he quickly ran to the nearest window and looked down. Sure enough, the horde they had been just fighting was clawing it's way up the building. One reached over the lip, and Daniel gave a swift kick that sent it flying down and taking a couple with it. Without any more hesitation, he jumped out of the window and boosted to the top of the building. There Carly, Nerita, annd Tia were all spread out over the roof trying to cover the walls from the approaching husks.

"What do we do? There are too many!" Carly stated as she fired some more.

"We hold until either the horde dies out or Titus finds an opening. We managed to draw at least half of them away, it should by them some time!" Daniel said as he took a firing position.

"What if neither happens?" Nerita asked, her tone as cold as ice. Daniel shot one husk off of the side of the building before looking over at her.

"We didn't survive the SIC Titan to die to some mechanical zombies Nerita! I will be damned before I let us die in this situation." Daniel stated with such conviction that it caught Nerita off guard. She simply nodded, and went back to firing at the zombies. Daniel looked off towards Titus's team, hoping they would find a way out of their situation before things escalated. One thing was for sure, Daniel meant what he said.

He wasn't going to die here today, none of them were.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Azuric Villayn Character Portrait: Tia St. Jean Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Daniel unloaded yet another clip from his assault rifle at the encroaching horde as they scaled the building in such a way that it defied their lanky manner. Everyone seemed to be doing the same thing, and Daniel started having doubts about whether or not they would get out of here alive. Daniel was on the opposite side of the building from Tia when she went down to one knee, something was wrong. Nerita was the first to notice it, and between shots she yelled at Daniel. "Operative Saint is down." She stated, managing to sound neutral despite her voice being raised. Daniel spared a glance backwards, and could see that despite having no husks near her yet, she was struggling to stand upright.

"Carly, pull Saint's ass to the middle!" He ordered the marine, who complied without a word. Without consent, she grabbed the Operative under the shoulder and dragged her to the middle of the rooftop, allowing her the most space out of them. "Everyone watch your peripherals! We've got an open flank now, stay focused!" Daniel ordered as he kicked the face of a husk that was gripping the edge of the rooftop down into the crowd below. "Saint! What's your problem!?" Daniel asked, not exactly in the position for niceties at this point.

"Something's...wrong...I don't..." Tia seemed to be having a hard time breathing as she was barely able to fire her weapon at one of the husks that climbed over the ledge. Daniel cursed under his helmet as he fired until his weapon clicked. He reached for another thermal clip, only to find that his pack was empty. He switched to his Carnifex heavy pistol, already loaded with a thermal clip and started backing towards the middle of the rooftop.

"I'm out!" Daniel yelled into his comm.

"Same here sir!" Carly replied a second later as she backpeddled to meet him. Nerita stood her ground for a few more seconds before retreating to their position as well.

"I'm out as well." Her voice calm and cool as always. They picked their shots, making sure to make each one count as the husks found their way over the ledge. Even amidst the firing, Nerita spoke to Daniel. "What was that about getting out alive Lieutenant?" She said, her voice almost accusing. Daniel said nothing as he continued to fire. They still had at least one more boost on their packs, but where would it send them? It would drop them right in the middle of the horde with no way out. Evac couldn't get there in time if they called it right now, and they were all running out of ammunition. Daniel glared through his visor as his Carnifex ammo counter ticked down.

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2

1

"Lieutenant Harrens?! Vindicator Kodiak 2 here! How about we give you a lift!" The Kodiak came around the building and parked a few feet away from the ledge to keep the husks from grabbing on. Daniel almost jumped for joy when the Kodiak appeared, but managed to keep his head.

"Nerita, clear us a path!" Daniel ordered. "Carly, get to the Kodiak, provide covering fire for as long as you can!"

"Yes sir!" They both stated as Nerita released a biotic throw that cleared a few husks off of the building clearing them an avenue of approach. Carly ran forward, and jumped the few feet landing on the Kodiak. She immediately turned around and used whatever ammo she had left. Nerita was next as she did the same thing, turning around to provide suppressing fire. Daniel stopped, and picked up Tia. She wasn't unconscious, but she wasn't able to move on her own fast enough. He quickly picked her up in a fireman carry, and brought her to the edge of the building. He built up enough speed, but still said something to Tia.

"This is most likely going to hurt, or kill us." Daniel said in a tone that meant he wasn't joking as he took the extra weight and tossed them both onto the Kodiak with a crash. Tia flew from his grasp, landing on the far side of the vessel in a heap, and Daniel was stuck hanging onto the edge of the Kodiak with his feet dangling below. Both Carly and Nerita grabbed a hold of each arm and yanked him up. As soon as he was inside, the door closed and he could feel them moving. Daniel didn't waste any time. "Pilot, what's our next destination?"

"We have to pick up a Vindicator sniper team about to be overrun sir, Captain Villayn." The pilot responded.

"Confirmed. Do you have spare thermal clips back here?" Daniel asked next.

"Top shelf on the left side, there should be a bundle of them." Daniel reached up into the compartment and grabbed a few thermal clips for himself and tossed out a few more to Nerita and Carly.

"Carly, patch her up, see what's wrong with her. Nerita, with me." Within moments, the pilots voice was heard once more.

"Opening the doors in five seconds!" He said. Daniel and Nerita stood on either side of the door, and the moment it opened, they saw yet another horde almost directly on top of the sniper team. They unloaded their new found clips from their rifles as Villayn's team simply broke and ran for the Kodiak. Daniel and Nerita didn't let up, slaughtering dozens of the creatures as Villayn and his team finally got aboard the vessel. The door closed, and the feeling of them lifting into the air was such a welcome reprieve that Daniel actually sat down placed his head on his rifle.

"Thank you for your assistance." Villayn stated, looking between Nerita and Daniel as he took a seat himself.

"Not a problem." Daniel stated, allowing himself some rest. The Turian managed a look over at Carly and Saint, who were crouched in a corner. He didn't say anything though, for the lack of wounds was apparent yet she was in obvious pain. "Carly, what's the issue?" Daniel asked.

"Physically she's fine sir. Whatever is affecting her, it's beyond what little medical knowledge I have." Carly replied.

"She's been sick for a few days Lieutenant." Nerita spoke up as well, but didn't say anything else. Daniel simply looked over at her.

"Sick? Aren't the nanites in her body supposed to prevent that?"

"Maybe it is the nanites." Daniel looked over at Villayn who simply looked back. "When we were aboard the Collector vessel, she was hit and her suit was breached. Seeing the way these...Reapers can control organic beings, it might have happened then when the nanites came into direct contact with them." Daniel simply shook his head.

"Indoctrination doesn't work that way. Hell, I've had my suit breached before by these bastards, I'm still good to go."

"Yes, but you don't have microscopic robots in your bloodstream." Villayn stated. Daniel looked over at Tia, then Carly.

"It seems logical sir. I can't see anything else wrong with her." Daniel looked down, before opening a comm. channel to the Victory.

"Overwatch, this is Fireteam 1, we're going to need a medical team standing by upon our departure."

"Already in place Lieutenant." Kelly replied. "Fireteam 2 is on their way up as well with survivors from the research team. Dr. Grass is standing by."

"Copy, Fireteam 1 out." Daniel cut the connection and looked over everyone else. This mission had been FUBAR, and there was literally no one to blame. No one could have known the numbers, let alone about how powerful the damn artifact really was. In the end, the mission was a failure at least on their part. They failed in securing a husk, and barely got out with their lives.

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Kelly stood watching through the window to the shuttle bay, waiting for Fireteam 2 to come aboard with the wounded scientists from the research base. Dr. Grass was waiting just outside the door with a couple of nurses and orderlies to assist with the wounded. Finally, the Kodiak came aboard, and Dr. Grass wasted no time meeting the group at the Kodiak. A couple of the scientists were put on stretchers to avoid further damage, while others were carefully walked off. Kelly stood patiently from behind the window, watching as O'Ryan's team approached the door and came out into the hallway to meet with Operative Invaru.

Once Leonard was within the hallway, he removed his helmet and gave a smart salute. The others followed their Lieutenant, and Kelly returned it but gave Leonard a look. "I already told you to stop with the salutes Lieutenant."

"Sorry ma'am, old habits die hard." He replied as he turned towards the rest of the fireteam.

"Squad! Debriefing will take place an hour from now, dismissed!" He stated. He was about to turn back around, when he stopped himself. "Oh, and good work out there team." He dismissed them as he turned his back on them to talk to Invaru. They quietly walked away from the two officers, leaving them to their conversation.

"Give me the quick version Lieutenant." Kelly asked, placing her hands behind her back. Leonard held his helmet under his arm as he swiped a hand through his hair.

"Well...the plan was a bust ma'am. Unless Fireteam 1 managed to get a husk, which I highly doubt, the Illusive man isn't going to be pleased with us."

"Where did all the husks come from?" Kelly asked, seeing if Leonard knew more than her.

"I don't know ma'am, but if I had to guess I would say numerous pirate and private research groups going for the same thing these researchers were going for. These ruins always attract the greedy, the brilliant, and the stupid." Kelly simply nodded. "Do we have word from Lieutenant Harrens?" O'Ryan asked keeping his voice neutral.

"They're on their way up as well. They have wounded, but they're all accounted for." Kelly replied, and Lieutenant O'Ryan nodded as he stopped himself mid-salute.

"Good to hear ma'am. If you need me for a formal debrief, you know where to find me." He turned smartly and made his way to the elevator. Kelly stood there watching him leave for a moment, before turning back to the window. Just a couple minutes later, another Kodiak was making its way into the shuttle bay. The elevator door opened at almost the exact same time, and Dr. Grass came out once more.

"You're timing is impeccable Doctor." Kelly said with a slight smile. He simply adjusted his glasses as a couple of orderlies came behind him with a stretcher.

"In my job, timing is what saves half the patients. Did he tell you the nature of the wounded at all?" Grass asked watching as the Kodiak finally docked.


"No Doctor." Kelly replied, and Grass simply gave a sigh.

"And people say marines are the only ones who go in blind." As soon as the words were out, Grass opened the door and walked in. "Alright, let's get in there." Kelly waited outside the bay, knowing that the Kodiak was actually the Vindicator's and would need to leave once Daniel's team was off. It took a couple of minutes, but she saw Tia loaded up on a stretcher much to her discontent and taken out. Even as they passed by through the door to the elevator, she could tell Saint wasn't liking the doting father treatment that Lincoln liked to hand out to everyone.

Once Daniel's team was safely inside the ship, the Kodiak left to join the Vindicator. Daniel, Nerita, and Carly all stood in front of Kelly who only seemed to look over them. "I assume you were unsuccessful in grabbing a husk Lieutenant?" Kelly asked, her voice not reprimanding but asking a simple question.

"No ma'am. We'll have to hope that the Commander Titus managed to grab one himself." Daniel responded as he gave a wave to dismiss the others. Carly and Nerita both gave a nod before heading off towards the elevator. "The truth, ma'am, is that we barely got out of there ourselves. I do not recommend sending another team down, even with the bombardment the artifact got with the Vindicator's cannons. There are simply too many for them to have gotten them all."

"Understood Lieutenant. Go, get some rest and hand in your report of the situation when you are able too." Daniel gave a nod and left for the elevator. Kelly turned towards the window for a moment looking into the shuttle bay as if waiting for something. After a few moments, she herself left the area and took the elevator back up to the CIC.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Kelly stood in the conference room, her hands on the table as she leaned forward going over the schematics for the base located on the edge of Invictus's tropical belt. The building was surprisingly deep and thought out for a simple mercenary gang hideout. In fact, she had only managed to pinpoint two methods of entry into the entire complex. Everything else was underground and was simply not an option. She had run over the entire map several times before Daniel walked in donning his standard Cerberus uniform. He gave her a crisp nod, which she returned. She noticed something about him though, a few bags were underneath his eyes that hadn't been there throughout his entire time with the Demons. She stared at him for slightly longer than necessary, but broke it off before it became noticeable. She had an idea what was bothering him, even if every other indicator he gave off showed he was ready to fight.

"Ma'am. We have a new Op to run?" His voice was, as usual, calm and confident as he stepped up to the table to look over the holographic display of the Blue Sun base. Kelly gave a nod.

"We're heading to Invictus for an informant grab, one of our own. He's being held by the Blue Suns within this underground complex on the outskirts of the planet's tropical belt." She stated as she retracted the view to show the planet itself. Daniel simply nodded, but didn't say anything more. It was obvious he wasn't familiar with the planet.

"Alright. Who we grabbing?" Daniel asked, ready to proceed for more information. Kelly switched the screen to show the face of a man in his late thirties. A red beard covered his face, but his head was bald otherwise. His dark brown eyes were covered by an arching brow that gave the man the impression of a dangerous Neanderthal. Daniel simply raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Really? He doesn't look like informant material."

"His speciality is with the various merc groups within the Terminus systems." Kelly stated. "You have to act tough, be tough if you wish to get anything out of the stone cold killers that populate that region of space." Daniel nodded once more.

"Makes sense, can't exactly be a bookworm with a pocket full of pens when the other guy is a soldier with a pocket full of ammo." Daniel switched the view back to the base itself. "So what can you tell me about this place? Do we have an estimate of strength? Maybe even some exploitable weaknesses such as a reactor of some sort, or maybe an air purifier." Kelly expanded the base to scan several rooms.

"As far as we know, they have a generator here, a few levels down from the surface." Kelly pointed to the area, and it lit up in a green color. "That won't do anything but shut down local electricity. They have several back up generators, all running at differing capacities." Kelly paused for a second, picking out the secondary generators. "The most I'm able to tell is that if you were to destroy that one, it would lead to power leakage all over the base, cutting power to a few doors and leaving a few hallways dark, but otherwise leaving the base intact. I would recommend it as a distraction tactic, nothing more." Daniel gave a nod as Kelly continued. "Aside from that, all other possible targets of opportunity are negligible, and will hinder you rather than help you." Kelly rotated the base slightly, bringing the view to what seemed to be the bottom floor.

"Your target is at the bottom of the base, approximately five levels down from the surface in a holding area meant to hold just a few people by the looks of it. There is a guard post near the elevator, meaning that any attempts to walk in the front door will most likely result in an alarm." She pointed to another area, which highlighted in the favoured color of green. "There's a ventilation shaft that runs from the edge of the fourth level right into the middle of the fifth level. It's a lengthy crawl, but will ensure that your presence will remain undetected." She expanded back to the outer view of the bunker, showing only a small building with a single door.

"The door is actually an elevator, the first level being the entrance to the base. No doubt this bunker has been in operation for quite some time. However, taking the straight path is not the only one in this case." She flipped the view around to the back of the building, showing a small window that appeared to be sealed with a metal sheeting. "This is one of their emergency exits, which leads to the first level in the bunker. It's considerably less noticeable, but will no doubt take time that you may not be able to afford." Kelly stepped off from the table, and came over to stand in front of the Lieutenant.

"Aside from these, the base has several automated turrets, alarms, and sensor nets increasing in difficulty as you proceed lower into the complex. You will need to be calm, focused, and cautious in order to avoid tripping an alarm Lieutenant." Daniel simply stared at the map, a hand over his mouth as his eyes indicated deep thought. Kelly tilted her head slightly. "Can you handle it Lieutenant?" Daniel stood there for a few moments longer before responding without looking over.

"I will admit ma'am, this isn't my standard operation. I'm a shock troop combat engineer. Infiltration is better suited to someone like Operative Buchan." He stood there for a moment longer. "Just how mandatory is it that we remain undetected through this entire field trip?"

"It is preferred." Kelly stated as she looked back at the specs for the base. "While these blueprints for the building may be relatively current, there is no guarantee that we are looking at the exact layout. They could have more exits than we may know about, or have increased their manpower in the time that it has taken us to get there. Either way, we don't want them to know we're making a move until it's already taken." Daniel nodded as Kelly looked back to him. Suddenly his face lit up.

"Hey, wasn't one of Saint's specializations infiltration?" Kelly shook her head, and Daniel returned to looking at the base with slight disappointment.

"That's true, but due to her nature regarding the last mission, I'm pulling her for this one. We'll see where she's at for the next operation, but for now, I don't feel safe sending her down there when she could have a relapse and compromise the entire operation." Daniel gave a slow nod.

"Of course, should have thought of that." Daniel gave it some more thought. "Well, I'm going to need a more flexible team then. People who are quick on their feet, able to move freely from point to point." Kelly looked at the man once more.

"Who do you have in mind Lieutenant?"

"Nerita will be coming. Despite her not being a full fledged soldier, she's a powerful biotic who is calm under extreme circumstances. She's also shown the ability to move quickly and quietly when she needs to." Daniel gave it some more thought. "Carly's good, but she's better suited to a front up fight. Tia's out on conditional leave, I haven't had time to look over the marine's qualifications..." Daniel stopped thinking for a moment. "It may be just me and her that go down there ma'am. I can't think of anyone else at the moment who would fit the bill for what we need." Kelly gave a nod.

"Understandable. The Call of Victory is meant for straight up fights, not infiltration tactics. I will have a couple of Fireteams ready to extract you, and retrieve you if necessary." Daniel gave a nod, and turned to walk out. Kelly just about let him, but turned to face him once more.

"Lieutenant Harrens."

Daniel stopped just as the door opened, and he turned back towards her. "Yes ma'am?"

"Is there something bothering you?" Kelly asked, her question genuine. Daniel cocked his head slightly.

"No ma'am, why?" Kelly gave a soft smile.

"I've known you for over a year Lieutenant, you're a horrible liar." Daniel looked off to the side for a moment, before returning his gaze back to his superior officer.

"With all due respect ma'am, I'm fine. I'm combat ready and able." Daniel waited for an answer, and when Kelly said nothing, he gave another nod. "If you'll excuse me, I need to prep and inform Nerita." He walked halfway out the door when Kelly spoke after him once more.

"Taking command is never easy Lieutenant, and it never should be. Lives rest on your words and your actions, and you can only take solace in what happened, instead of what could have happened." Daniel stopped but didn't look back. "What happened on Lucr'n was not your fault."

"That's where you're wrong ma'am." Daniel stated looking over his shoulder. he quickly made his way out of the room. Kelly looked back at the display for a moment, knowing full well that Daniel was dwelling on the fact that, had it not been for the timely extraction of the Vindicator Kodiak, he would have led his team to their deaths. A reality check like that rarely plants itself in your lap, but instead prefers to slap you in the face. Kelly shut off the display, and quietly made her way out of the room.

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"You get all that Nerita?" Daniel asked as he slipped on his mask and made sure his gear was secure.

"It's pretty straight forward Lieutenant." Nerita stated calmly as she prepped her gear along with Daniel down in the Shuttle Bay. It had been a couple hours since Daniel had gotten the briefing from Kelly, and they were now orbiting Invictus waiting for the green light aboard one of the Kodiaks. They were to fly in, just outside of their sensor range, and proceed to the outside of the base on foot. Resistance was supposed to be light until they were actually within the base, where the real challenge was. "I still don't think it's wise for just the two of us to do this Lieutenant." Daniel fixed his gauntlets as he looked up at her.

"Bringing more people poses a greater risk of detection. Besides, this ship was built and manned for the purpose of waging war, not hiding in the shadows. We're the best, and only people suited to this sort of mission." Daniel stated.

"You're a shock trooper who drops into battle from 10,000 feet with a jetpack. I don't think that classifies as infiltration." Nerita stated.

"And your the only alien among a Cerberus vessel who shoves out biotic powers as if they were candy." Daniel smiled behind his mask. "We both have our faults, but we'll do the best we can with what we got. You with me on this?" Nerita gave a shrug.

"Yeah. I'm with you." She stated simply as she took a seat once her gear was on. Daniel simply nodded and was about to say something else when Kelly came over the speakers.

"You're green for launch Lieutenant. Be careful down there, but keep in mind we are on the clock. We have no idea if they plan to move the informant." Daniel gave a nod as he felt the Kodiak lift off.

"Acknowledged ma'am, will let you know when we reach the surface." Daniel sat down opposite of Nerita, and they sat through the casual descent in silence.

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It was only a few minutes, but soon the Kodiak was touching down on the ground. "Here's your stop sir. Good luck." The pilot stated as the door opened to reveal a desert with a line of trees off in the distance as far as the eye could see.

"Appreciated Private." Daniel stepped out, and Nerita followed behind him. Once they were firmly on the ground, the Kodiak lifted into the ear, and they started their slow plod forward.

"This is Lieutenant Harrens. We're on the ground and moving to objective."

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.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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: Corporal Edward Stevenson Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Walking at a casual pace, Edward took his time navigating the familiar sights of the third deck of the Victory. The off duty marines and techs mingled and chatted as they moved about, and he’d pause every now and again for a quick conversation with one of the faces he’d recognize. As much as he usually didn’t care for the rumour mill, it was impossible to miss the latest one flying from everyone’s lips. An official brawl had been held in the Observatory, and the resulting beat down had taken the bored marines by storm. He couldn’t blame them. They hadn’t really seen any action, and when you were built to fight, you started to crave a little violence after awhile.

Apparently, Nerita had unleashed eight levels of hell on an unfortunate private and was about to unleash the ninth when Daniel had called it off. The asari had always struck him as the type to control her emotions, so the fact that she’d nearly killed someone was a bit of a shock. Part of him worried that it wouldn’t help the inherit hate lurking inside the majority of the marines for an alien, but the threat of being killed would at least keep them from trying anything. It was something the brass would need to worry about, not him, but Ed couldn’t help glancing back towards the mess, where he’d left the rest of his team to eat.

Logan wouldn’t really care; the man was mostly indifferent towards this sort of thing. He’d maybe comment on the foolishness of letting your soldier’s kill each other off duty, but he’d say it only to Maya, who’d spout it to every marine within ear shot. Nothing to worry about there. The combat medic wouldn’t appreciate the injuries to a fellow marine, and would no doubt be down in the med bay trying to help the doctor with whatever she could do for the poor bastard.

He cracked a smile, slipping his hands in his pockets as he started forward again. The only possible issue could be Roger, and he doubted the private would really go picking fights with Nerita. While he’d shown a passing…curiosity, was it? It was difficult to place where exactly he ranked aliens, but that was to be expected with a kid his age. Ed doubted Roger even really knew where he stood. As the corporal approached the crew quarters, he turned sharply away from his usual route to his quarters, instead heading towards the officer’s offices. He’d visited the Lieutenant’s quarters once before, retracing his steps to the bulkhead and lifting his hand to knock when the feint echo of voices reached his ear.

He strained slightly to make out the muffled voices, but one immediately identified itself as O’Ryan, unmistakeable from the harsh gravely tone that he was known for. The other was more difficult, requiring Ed to practically place his ear to the cold metal to pick up, but he soon realized it to be Lieutenant Harrens. Should he come back later? If the two were meeting behind closed doors, it was obviously important. Scratching his chin in a moment of thought, he quickly raised his knuckles to the door, and gave it a quick rap. The voices inside quieted, before the door hissed open to reveal Daniel’s curious face.

Ed saluted quickly, which the Lt responded to with his own lazy version. Ed wasted no time turning on his heel slightly to face O’Ryan as best he could, and snapped another, who snapped a sharp one back, before muttering an at ease. “What do you need, Corporal?”

Ed fell into the ‘at ease’, eyes level on the two men. “Forgive the intrusion, sirs. I was just coming to speak with Lieutenant O’Ryan about some specialized training for a member of my fire team. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Daniel raised an eyebrow at him.

“You sound familiar…” Ed looked to the man, whose eyes were examining him curiously, as if trying to place where exactly they had met before. “Where have we met?”

“I was on the other fire team on Lucr’n, sir. That’s likely where you remember me from.” Daniel snapped his fingers, a grin spreading across his face.

“That’s right! So you’re a fire team leader?” He half turned to O’Ryan, nodding his head towards Ed. “What about him? They did some good work down there, didn’t they?” O’Ryan half-frowned, but stepped closer to the two men, examining the corporal with a critical eye.

"If I were to put it into marine speak...'He doesn't fuck up often.'" Ed felt as if he’d been praised and slapped at the exact same time, but refrained from commenting on O’Ryan’s appraisal. After all, he’d heard far worse from the Lt, so this was likely the closest to a compliment he’d ever get. Daniel simply nodded, seeming more and more enthusiastic as the conversation went on.

“Not a fuck upper, eh? Sounds like just the man I need. What’s your name again, Corporal?”

To his credit, despite having no idea what the two men were talking about, Ed didn’t miss a beat. “Stevenson, sir. Edward Stevenson.”

“Alright, Stevenson, I’ve got a mission to run, and I need a fourth. You’re the lucky winner.” Of all the things he’d been expecting, that was not it. For once, Ed lost his composure for a split second, indulging in a stare of slight disbelief which Harrens responded to with a light laugh. “Relax; we’re not mounting up today, Corporal. We’re due in tomorrow, so you’ve got some prep time. Briefing will be at 0700 tomorrow, up in the briefing room.”

Nodding once, Ed asked quickly, “Armour on, sir?”

“No, we won’t need armour where we’re going. Bring your best civvies, Stevenson.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll be in the briefing room at 0700 sharp.” Daniel nodded and gave a two finger salute to the men before leaving the room to attend to his own business. After a moment or two of silence, O’Ryan turned to the corporal, eyes half narrowed and questioning. Ed didn’t need anymore invitations to speak from the man. “As for my original reason to being here, sir…”

“Specialized training, right?” O’Ryan moved to his desk, sitting down in front of the terminal and bringing up a screen. “Victory Company, Third Platoon, Fire Team 3.” The fact that the man could remember that off the top of his head was impressive and simply reinforced why he held his command position. “Who have you got?”

“Specialist Maya Salazar, Private First Class Logan Fischer, and Private Roger Pollard.”

O’Ryan tapped a few keys, bringing up the dossiers on the three, as well as Ed’s own. He spent a few moments reading over it, before looking over at the corporal. “You’ve got a fairly diverse team as if, Stevenson. A medic, a combat engineer and a grunt that can drive a Kodiak in a pinch. I’ve got three greenhorns with Ramirez that could probably use the training more than your boys.”

“I understand that, sir, and I have no intention of trying to draw your attention away from the more critical training we no doubt need.” Ed paused, considering his words. “It has, however, been brought to my attention by Specialist Salazar that Private Pollard has shown potential in the field of marksmanship.”

O’Ryan’s deadpan spoke wonders of what he thought of that idea. "I'm going to need more than the recommendation of your squad medic in order to give him special training Stevenson. I need scores. I need proof of how far he's shot with what weapon and how many times he's hit the target."

“Of course, sir. Which is why after her recommendation, I used my clearance to get access to his previous scores.” Reaching around his back, he pulled the small data pad out of his back pocket, and handed it over to the Lt. “These are his most recent scores with both the M-8 Avenger and M-97 Viper.”

O’Ryan spent a few moments looking over the scores, dismissing the M-8 with a neutral face, before focusing more intently on the M-97. Ed caught him leaning forward slightly, the surest sign he at least somewhat approved. It wasn’t surprising that the Viper was the selling point, really. Plenty of marines could be accurate with the Avenger, but the workings of a proper sniper rifle were an entirely different beast than most of them were use to. It was amusing to see that the wild greenhorn was the one who had the spark for the weapon that required the most patience.

"His scores are above average, that much is certain." The Lt sat back, fixing Ed with an even stare that spoke little of his thoughts. "He needs work, on his aim and his attitude if I were to ever give him an actual recon designation." He tossed the data pad across the table, and Ed quickly picked it up and tucked it under his arm. "I can give him the basic training that he needs, and can call in another marine to help with the finer points." He leaned forward without warning, eyes sharpening into daggers in the corners. "However, that attitude of his is against everything that makes a sharpshooter a professional killer. You keep his ass in line, Corporal. I will be grading both his performance and his personality before I finish with him. Failure in either department will result in the termination of his special training, are we understood?"

Ed swallowed hard. That was a particularly tall order, especially considering who they were talking about. Most marines seemed to quiet down after their first mission, but Pollard was still rather gung-ho, even after that fiasco with the director on Lucr’n. “I understand, sir. I think the training will be beneficial on all accounts. Thank you.”

O’Ryan nodded stiffly. “You’ve got a mission tomorrow, Stevenson. Prep and be ready. Bring your A game.” With that, the Lt turned back to his terminal, and the corporal quickly showed himself out. He walked stiffly down the hall for a few moments, before coming to a stop and simply staring ahead.

He’d taken a risk signing Roger up for this training without really talking to him first. Even if he had the potential, it didn’t mean he’d want to learn to use it. But that was his call to make, no one else’s. Nodding silently to himself, Ed cracked a slight smile. All he had done was provide the private with the possibility to learn. It was up to him if he wanted to utilize it. Confident in his decision, the corporal started back down the hall, planning to drop in on the armoury to check on his equipment before tracking down the no doubt scattered members of his squad.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corporal Edward Stevenson Character Portrait: Tia St. Jean Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Daniel stood in the comm. room, waiting to start the briefing. Kelly was there as well, standing slightly off to the side to allow Daniel to conduct the briefing as he saw fit. She was there for any possible information that she may be able to offer, along with answering any questions that may be above Daniel’s head. Daniel was taking deep breaths as he scanned over the blueprints for the building for what was probably the tenth time this morning. Kelly gave a small smile. “The layout isn’t going to change overnight Lieutenant. You worried about something?” She asked, even though she could read the man like a book, she preferred hearing it from him rather than guessing what the problem was. Daniel shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, the way I look at it. We’re going to be walking into a corporate building with masks and guns with potentially over a dozen innocent people in the lobby alone.” Daniel looked at the blueprints once more. “I can’t help but feel like a legitimate terrorist the more I think about this.” Daniel looked over at her. “I mean, it’s not like we haven’t been called that before...but those always felt more like actual operations...this one just feels wrong. Half of those people won’t know why they’re being attacked.” Kelly gave a soft smile.

“Maybe...but those aren’t the people you’re there for. The private security is well aware of what they are doing and who they are helping, and the people you are there to kill are murdering hundreds of our soldiers, scientists, and civilians.” Kelly stated as she pointed to the top floor on the diagram. “You can look at it in the sense that it feels wrong that you are doing this, or you can think of it in the sense of the lives you are saving cutting the head off the snake. Lieutenant, the methods may be shady, but the goal is deserving.” Kelly backed up slightly. “Just remember what you are there for. ROE is up to you, so don’t shoot anyone you don’t think deserves it. We’ll get through this fine Daniel.” Daniel gave a nod.

“Yeah, I get ya.” Daniel looked back at the map. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I understand you.” They entered a slight silence for a couple of minutes before the first of Daniel’s handpicked squad showed up in the comm. Room. He gave a head nod to each as they entered, and shortly everyone was within the confines of the room. Daniel was standing at the head of the table, and Kelly was standing back near the wall, the shadows overtaking her as the lights dimmed to allow the display to be properly viewed. Daniel looked over everyone and took a step off of the table. “Alright people, the mission I’ve picked you all for is a bit...controversial to say the least.” Daniel brought up the building with detail.

“We are to head into this building, get to the top floor, and eliminate 6 individuals.” Daniel brought up the limited dossiers for everyone to look over. “That is our goal...our methods however are going to be a bit different than normal. Seeing as how Elysium is an Alliance controlled world, with a contingent of marines and several ships within minutes of the planet at any given time, we can’t exactly do a hot drop in the middle of the park. We have to walk on eggshells for as long as we can, and when we do go hot, we need to move quickly. We have a limited window before the Alliance decides to stick its nose in our business. So no logos, no armour, and no civilian casualties if we can help it. Private security is fair game.” Daniel broadened the display to show several blocks. “Alright...so here’s the plan.”

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The briefing had gone routine, running over everyone’s roles along with Tia’s specialized position in dealing with the primary server within the building’s basement. The team was already walking on Elysium already, having taken an unmarked Kodiak down to the local Trading center under the flag of the weapon merchant ship ‘The Journey’. The entire team walked in a staggered formation, loosely together but not showing any sort of purpose or coordination. That was good, last thing Daniel wanted was to tip off any Alliance authorities that there may be more to these people than they let on. Every time a marine walked by, Daniel had to mentally brace himself not to flinch in case they were giving him a once over.

He knew he was just nervous, as he felt they all were, but deep down knew he had nothing to worry about. Everyone was wearing their civvies, and was indistinguishable from the average Joe within the city limits. Daniel himself wore a black fitting T-shirt, some green cargo pants, a black ball cap and some mirrored shades. Normally he never wore anything on his head, but he wanted to keep his identity a secret for as long as he possibly could. Everyone else was wearing their own chosen gear, Carly choosing a light sweater with what looked like a blue T-Shirt underneath and blue jeans to go along with it. She also chose to wear a small grey toque on her head, a very old fashion choice but it suited her. The only thing that was really the same with everyone was the fact that they were all wearing backpacks with the exception of Tia, who was carrying a gym bag to compensate for the extra equipment needed to break through the wall in the guard post. Daniel took another breath, and looked up at the Kreen Exporting Company HQ that was starting to loom in front of him.

The team had already managed to slip into the warehouse containing the secondary servers, and set charges to detonate without running into anyone. There were security cameras, but Daniel had used that same virus he had used on Invictus to run an infinite loop while they planted the charges. Now, they were walking in the courtyard leading up to the building. It was quite beautiful to be honest, a sparkling white walkway that lead to a simple large fountain that spewed water in the air and let it cascade down in a waterfall-like fashion. The walkway split off into four different directions at the point, covering North, East, South, and West. Trees were randomly seen on the perfectly mown grass, and the entrance of the building was adorned with color coordinated flowers that looked like they needed a full time caretaker simply to maintain them. The only thing marring the vision of peace and serenity were the guard posts that could be seen in the distance, along with the occasional guard walking through the courtyard. Daniel made it to the fountain, and took a seat, laying the backpack next to his legs. Everyone formed around him, and after looking around quickly and discretely, he looked at Tia.

“You know what to do, the guard post closest to the building on the far side. You have fifteen minutes before we breach, have it done in ten.” He leaned forward slightly. “No gunfire if you can manage it, we don’t want an alert until we’re ready for it. Go.” Tia gave a quick nod, and walked with purpose through the courtyard. Carly watched her go, and looked to Ed for a second before looking back to Daniel.

“So what do we do until then?” She asked, Daniel reached into his backpack and pulled out a small sandwich.

“We chill. We can’t do anything until Tia finishes with her section. In the meantime, enjoy the scenery; we won’t get much chance to look at it once this all starts.” Daniel took a bite out of his sandwich, and looked over at Ed. “And Stevenson, take a seat, you look like you’re going to have a heart attack.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daniel and the crew had been sitting around the fountain for about ten minutes now, watching as people walked by and enjoying the scenery. However, ten minutes was long enough to warrant an update, and he tapped his ear once when no one was looking, and went back to looking out at the trees and the walkways. “Tia, what’s your progress?” He waited a few tense moments before he was answered with heavy breathing by what seemed an exhausted infiltration engineer.

“I’m good, just about done...you?” She asked, and Daniel frowned slightly. He had been hoping she would be inside by now, but they couldn’t afford to wait much longer.

“We’re making our way inside. You have five minutes to get that server set to detonate and rendezvous with us. Harrens out.” Daniel cut the connection and waited a few minutes before looking around at the others. “Come on.” He stated as he grabbed his bag and started walking towards the entrance slowly enough to buy Tia some time but not look suspicious at the same time. Carly caught up to him.

“Something wrong?” She asked as Daniel started walking up the stairs, casting a quick glance at his watch to grab the time. She had one more minute.

“Not yet, we’ll see.” Daniel stated. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, Tia had forty seconds to set the charge and get clear. Daniel took this moment to look around for guards, and seeing none, brought his bag around and reached into his bag. “Everybody prep.” Daniel grabbed an old hockey mask and slipped it over his face after putting away his sunglasses. Ed and Carly did the same, sporting the exact same hockey mask as well. He looked at his watch. Twenty seconds, it would have to do. He quickly grabbed his carnifex out of the bag along with a detonator, and whipped it onto his back. “It’s show time.” Daniel said quietly, and kicked in the door with a loud crash.

The lobby was immaculate, with everything so white that it seemed that the light was coming from the walls and not the fixtures themselves. The floor was laminated and Daniel could swear that he could see his reflection in the nicely polished floor. About ten feet across from him was a DNA Scanner leading to the console that Daniel needed to get to. Pictures of modern art littered the walls, and the ceiling was the same bright white as the walls. Aside from a few scattered statues, the lobby was essentially bare.

Oh right, there was also about twenty civilians in the immediate area followed by another eight or so guards.

Daniel pushed the detonator in his hand, preferring not to give anyone any more warning than he had to. The detonation rocked the lobby, and the guards, who were unprepared for it, stumbled. “Light it up!” Daniel shouted to Ed and Carly as he rushed across the open ground towards the now dysfunctional and open security feature. Before the guards could regain their composure, three of them were down with heavy pistol rounds puncturing through their shields and armour while the civilians all screamed and tried to run towards the door. The guards that survived the initial onslaught returned fire with their modified M-8 Avenger assault rifles, some of them even hitting the civilians that were trying to escape. Upon closer inspection, it was seen that each guard’s weapon had an extended barrel as well as a modified scope, making them a slightly higher threat. Daniel broke off his stare at their weapons and made a last ditch dive into the DNA Scanner as rounds peppered the ground right behind him. He looked back only for a moment to see Ed and Carly breaking for whatever cover was possibly available to them. Daniel climbed to his feet and ran to the end of the Scanner, but was met with two guards opening the door from the other end.

Thinking on his feet, he quickly hit one of them with an overload, which jumped to the second man. Both stopped dead in their tracks as the electricity coursed through their body and destroyed their shields. From there Daniel pumped three rounds into one man and emptied the clip in the second. He was out the end of the Scanner before they both hit the floor and turned the corner quickly, hopping the desk in order to get to the computer. “Twenty seconds.” Niki reminded him as he furiously started typing on the computer. He could still hear gunfire from the lobby, and only hoped he was fast enough to stop reinforcements from coming up behind them. Within a couple seconds, Daniel linked his omni-tool to their security system, and tapped his ear.

“Niki, we’re good, go!” Daniel shouted as he ran back through the Scanner.

“Acknowledged, shutting down security, closing exits, assuming control of all backup systems...commencing shut down.” Daniel looked through the Scanner and could see several guards running up the stairs to the door only to be shut out at the last possible second by a large metal door falling from the top of the doors, blocking their progress. The entire building’s lighting shut down and red emergency lights switched on in their absence. Daniel took cover within the Scanner, and poked his head around the corner. He ducked back inside as a flurry of rounds pinged against the metal wall. Suddenly a barrage of pistol shots silenced the shooter, and Daniel looked around to see the would-be guard lying in a pool of his own blood. Looking around, he saw that the rest of the guards were either dead or dying on the ground, a couple moaning as the pain overcame them.

“Alright...that has to be a record for eliminating a room full of enemies.” Daniel stated more to himself then anything. Carly and Ed joined him near the scanner and he waved them through as he walked back towards the elevator. He brought his hand up to his ear once more as he passed through the Scanner. “Tia, what’s your status?”

“Right here Lieutenant.” Tia answered from off to Daniel’s right as she came running up the stairs from the basement. Despite the cameras being offline by now, he was still glad to see she remembered to put on her mask. He didn’t want any problems with their possible liberty out in space.

“Good, we’re all here and everything’s going smoothly.” Daniel stated as he came up to one of the elevator doors. “Niki, if you please.” A second later and the door opened to the elevator. Daniel stepped inside, and opened the top hatch and quickly climbed through before looking back down at them. “Alright Tia, rig the last of the explosives on this elevator so there’s no chance of it coming up and turning us all into pancakes.” Daniel looked at all of them with a slight smile behind his mask.

“After that, we go climbing.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corporal Edward Stevenson Character Portrait: Private Roger Pollard Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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“Again!” Ed’s voice was demanding, and Roger groaned from his position on the mat of the ring. “Pollard! Again!”

The private got to his knees, before Ed delivered a prompt kick to his stomach that sent him tumbling back to the mat. “Okay! Fucking A!” With surprising dexterity, he leapt back to his feet, arms up and fists clenched tightly. “You’re in a mood today, aren’t you boss? Normally I only get these kinda beatings from Maya.”

Ed’s eyes lightened for a brief moment, but hardened instantly as he unleashed a barrage of strikes against his younger foe, which, to his credit, had learned from the last salvo how to block properly, shielding his head and neck from the countless strikes. “I needed a warm up, Pollard. It’s always good to do exercise before a mission.” Roger perked up slightly at that.

“So Logan wasn’t shitting me then? You’re going on a job without us tod-” A fist across the face cut him off and he dropped like dead weight to the mat from the destructive strike. “Ah! Fucking christ!” Ed panted lightly, before all the seriousness of the fight vanished from his body, and he let a small smile cross his face.

“That’s right. Lt Harrens picked me the other day when I went to speak with O’Ryan.” He offered a hand to the young man, who brushed it off and climbed up to his feet, wobbling slightly from that last punch. “I didn’t exactly have the best sleep, so I figured a workout would do me some good.”

Rubbing his face, Roger could only grin with mock enthusiasm. “And beating the crap out of me is a good work out? I figured Logan would be a better bet for that. Maybe even Maya.” The two men climbed out of the ring slowly, Ed tossing Roger a water bottle while tearing the cap off his own and chugging half the bottle.

Breathing out heavily, Ed stared vacantly out the window that dominated most of the wall. “I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Logan is fairly capable in hand to hand. You, however, throw punches like you’re in a fist fight after school.” Roger scoffed lightly. “Besides, getting hit in the face a few times out to toughen you up.”

The younger man sat on the lip of the ring, slowly taking off the sparring gloves. “I noticed you left Maya out of that appraisal.” He raised an eyebrow at Ed’s half laugh. “What’s so funny?”

“She’s hit you so much since we got you; I figured you’d already know it. I can beat Maya in mind games, accuracy ratings and just about anything you can name. If I had brought her here this morning though, I wouldn’t be going on a mission. She’d destroy me.” The private seemed almost shocked at the man’s admission.

“You hit harder, and you move quick. I think you’re selling yourself short.”

Ed shook his head. “Maya is faster. Much faster. And she knows where I aim.” Roger winced at the mention of her aim, and the corporal continued. “Fact of the matter is, I can’t hit her, that’s the primary issue. If I remember correctly, she’s done the ‘shit-kicking’ arts since she was young. Boxing is her favourite.”

“Explains why she always aims for the face and kidneys.” The two shared a laugh over the shared experience. Roger rubbed at his chin, his breathing finally stabilizing from their rather harsh work out. “Well, I’ll count myself lucky that I’m not in the med bay after a spar, then.”

“Wouldn’t hurt you too bad. None of us would.”

The air seemed to grow tense, and Ed was reminded painfully of the light blood stains that still marked the ring behind them. Roger’s face lost some of its humour, but the corporal kept quiet, knowing the young man would speak when he was ready. “What about the asari?” There was a low tone to it, colder than Ed had ever heard him speak.

“You heard about that?”

“I watched the whole thing.” Ed turned to face him fully, but the young man gave the impression he was far from done. “She took it all at first. Impressively, I’ll admit. More of a beating than most.” His eyes darkened with something, but Ed couldn’t quite make it out. “But he was winning. That was clear as day. He, frankly, wrecked her fucking world for most of the fight. It was almost painful to watch…” There was a hint of amusement, and Ed knew it wasn’t at the joke. Pollard had liked the show on some level.

“…and then he let his guard down for a second. She was down. Anyone else would have called the match. And she tore into him. I mean fucking TORE into him. Like a…like an animal backed into a corner. I can’t say he was fighting fair but…it felt like she was trying to kill him. Truly fucking kill him. It wasn‘t just a…fight anymore.” He fell silent, eyes staring down at his hands as the thoughts of the fight washed over him.

Ed placed a hand on Roger’s shoulder, saying nothing at first. The few other marines that occupied the sparring hall at this ungodly hour were rather silent as well, no doubt sensing the troubled thoughts of the private. “Does that bother you?” There was a beat.

“Yeah.”

“Roger, as much as I wish I could offer some words of comfort, I can’t.” The private didn’t look up from his hands. “If it came down to it, what would you do? Backed into the corner? Back to the wall?” He stayed quiet. Ed smiled remorsefully. “It’s coming. I’m sorry, but it is. And when it does, you’re going to learn exactly what you’re capable of.”

There was a stiff nod. Ed patted his shoulder again, eyeing the display on the wall for the time. “I’ve got to get ready for the briefing, Roger. Go get some rest. I doubt O’Ryan is going to have a light training schedule today. You’ll need the extra sleep.” The private looked up, somehow having choked everything down and slapping his grin back on full beam.

“Yeah. It’ll be fun explaining all the bruises to Logan. Maya’s just gonna laugh at me.” He groaned lightly, although it wasn’t entirely serious. “For a medic, she sure doesn’t understand the concept of recovery times…”

Ed laughed as Roger rose and started towards the door, a lopsided smile dominating his face as he watched the younger man go. After a moment’s thought, he called out. “I’ll give you some advice. Cerberus folk don’t understand the concept of proper recovery times!”

“I’ll take your word on it, boss. Don’t get dead on us.” The private vanished through the doors, and Ed’s smile dulled into a shadow of its former self.

“That’s the plan.” He stretched out one last time with a heavy sigh, staring out at the thousand pinpricks of light dotting the inky black. Shutting his eyes for a moment, the corporal drew a breath to calm his shaky nerves.

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Ed found himself worrying every step of the way, even the playful banter with Saint doing little to take the edge off his nerves. From the briefing, all the way planet side, it was like he just couldn’t get comfortable in a seat, or pause in his pacing. This wasn’t like him. If the others had been more familiar with the corporal, it might have been comical to see him so jittery, but the most he was getting was curious looks from Carly.

He and the younger woman were walking almost side by side, and to anyone who happened to look over their little group, he might just appear nervous over something trivial. He took a deep, but sharp breath, earning a jab in the ribs from Carly. “Chill out. You look like a dead man walking.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.” With another breath, he straightened himself out, taking a moment to fiddle with the collar of his dark blue shirt. The button up front hung open, a white t-shirt visible underneath, and a pair of black jeans rounded out the outfit. Ed tried to remember the last time he’d actually worn some civvies, but nothing came to mind. Adjusting the backpack slung over his shoulder, the marine took a moment to appreciate the park the Lt had lead them too. Part of him just wanted to roll in the grass like he was a kid all over again, but he knew better, instead staring out at the sea of green with a content smile.

He needed to get planet-side more often. Tia’s departure drew his attention back to the mission at hand, and he shared a glance with Carly before they looked to Daniel in unison. “So what do we do until then?”

“We chill. We can’t do anything until Tia finishes with her section. In the meantime, enjoy the scenery; we won’t get much chance to look at it once this all starts.” The man was certainly more relaxed than Ed had been expecting. Was he the only one really worried about this? Hopefully it wasn’t showing… “And Stevenson, take a seat, you look like you’re going to have a heart attack.”

The corporal cracked a humourless smile. “Right away, sir.” Moving to one of the other benches a few feet away, he flopped soundlessly onto the bench, only mildly surprised when Carly dropped beside him. The corporal leaned back on the bench, watching the young woman out of the corner of his eye. “Is it really that obvious?”

She glanced at him, a dry smile on her lips. “A bit. You‘re a little on the stiff side.” She cracked her knuckles, presumably from boredom, but he couldn’t be entirely sure. “Why’s this any different than Lucr’n?”

Drumming a finger against the arm of the bench, Ed searched for an answer. “It’s been awhile since I haven’t gone out with my team. It’s a little weird to be on the opposite side of the command line again.” He glanced towards Daniel, who was contently munching at his sandwich. “Throw in the fact that it’s not exactly standard marine territory, and you’ve got quite the pre-mission jitters.”

Carly shrugged in a way that suggested understanding. “Stop worrying so much. You’ve probably been here longer than me, and you don’t see me getting all nervous.” She had a point, he’d give her that.

“You remind me of Pollard.” He glanced up at the building, eyes flicking over the countless floors. “What do you think of this?” He motioned towards the front, but Carly simply watched him out of the corner of her eye.

“Not important what I think of it, really. Just gotta get it done.”

“Professional.”

She scoffed, waving her hand dismissively at the corporal. “It’s just better to not worry about the moral parts. Job to do, let’s just do it and go home.”

Ed stared at her for a moment, feeling an inkling of understanding as to why she was called with the command squad despite her rank. The young woman had the mentality of a far more experienced soldier, a curious oddity that he almost wanted to question. Almost. A five minute conversation on a bench didn’t give him the right to snoop though, so he simply nodded. “Get the job done, and don’t get dead.”

Carly laughed. “I like that.” Ed smiled, feeling some of his worry dissipate with the happy sound from his companion. No point in stressing, right?

“Come on.” They looked over to Daniel in unison, the Lt quickly scooping up his backpack and starting towards the building. The marines quickly fell into step behind him, Carly pushing ahead to talk to Harrens, while Ed continued to stare up at the building as it grew higher and higher over their heads. They stopped just before the lobby, and took a brief moment to ready themselves. Sliding the hockey mask onto his face, Ed ignored how odd it felt to be doing something like this plain clothes, and primed the Carnifex they’d been issued for the operation.

He was more familiar with the rapid bursts of the predator, but there wasn’t a soldier alive who wasn’t at least somewhat familiar with the infamous Carnifex and its deadly power. Daniel wasted no time, kicking in the door with a whispered “It’s go time.” The room seemed to freeze as the three stared in, their guns already snapping towards their first targets as the Lt squeezed the detonator and the building shook from the blast.

Instinct kicked in, the barrel snapping to the first guard and unloading several rounds into his shields, before punching a single round through his chest. Ed was in motion before the man hit the ground, taking slow steps forward as he trained the gun on another unfortunate soul, firing a pair of rounds to drop the shields, but Carly beat him to the kill, a round smashing the man’s face apart as the private unloaded at the guards.

Popping the spent sink, Ed fished another from his pocket while his eyes surveyed the room quickly for cover. The lobby was rather bare, save for the odd statue of some strange surrealist shape…thing. Ed didn’t have a head for art, but he knew solid cover when he saw it, breaking into a sprint as the remaining guards recovered from the unexpected attack. Carly had the same idea, tossing herself behind a similar statue opposite the one he was headed for.

Ed slid across the ground, hands snatching up one of the fallen guard’s avenger’s as he passed before disappearing behind his newly christened bullet sponge. The corporal took only a moment to assess the rifle annoyed that the former owner had accidentally squeezed a few rounds off when he’d been shot. With practiced ease, he stepped out of his cover, dropping to one knee and sighting his first target all in one fluid motion. A prolonged burst saw the shields drop, as a trio of rounds punctured the chest and sent the man crashing down.

His next target had noticed the immediate threat, firing back at Ed while the marine simply lined his rifle properly, ignoring the rounds that sliced through the air past his head. They were panicking, and as such, sloppy with their aim. A cushy job that likely never saw much action, no doubt. Made them soft. It’d make a good lesson for Pollard. On that note, he emptied what was left of the sink into the man’s shields, tossing the Avenger aside and drawing his Carnifex to put a round through the man’s forehead. A quick check in his peripheries told him Carly was fine, and had already dispatched her own targets.

As if on cue, the room was plunged into darkness, the red warning lights bathing it in an eerie glow. The light flickering off Carly’s mask sent a chill down his spine. “Looking…charming there.” The private glanced towards him, and started slightly when she spotted him.

“You’re one to talk.” Ed opened his mouth to fire back, but the sound of gunfire drew both the marines attention to the lone guard aiming towards the area Daniel had gone. The man was sighted before he could even realize his blunder and they cut him down in a hail of Carnifex rounds.

“Alright...that has to be a record for eliminating a room full of enemies.” Giving the room a quick sweep for any more hostiles hidden in the shadows, the corporal was satisfied to find the room secure and devoid of threats to their immediate position. Joining the squad, he quirked a brow behind the mask as Tia emerged from one of the side doors.

“So, you can’t run in them, you just have the skills to take them off.” His tone was playful, following the Lt into the elevator. As they hoisted themselves out of the elevator and onto its top, the corporal stared up the dark shaft with the slightest look of displeasure on his face. “I always wanted to try mountain climbing…”

Carly thumped him on the shoulder, already rummaging through her own pack for their climbing gear. “You think this is bad, try being hoisted off the ground by a guy in a jetpack, with only his arms to keep you from plummeting.” Ed blinked, surprise apparently evident in his eyes as the private laughed at him. “Put’s it in perspective, huh?”

“That’s a story I’ll need to hear sometime.”

“Race to the top?”

He looked up at the massive climb ahead of them, and shrugged. A little extra motivation would help get this over with. “What could it hurt?” There was a devious chuckle from Carly, and it wasn’t hard to sense the competitive mood that descended over the darkened shaft. “I’m going to regret agreeing to this, aren’t I?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corporal Edward Stevenson Character Portrait: Tia St. Jean Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens

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Daniel looked down at the others as he continued his climb up the elevator shaft. It was a long haul, and the entire time he was chastising himself for not bringing any of his regular gear. Even with the armour and not the jetpack, the enhanced strength from the boosters within his armour would have been put to great use. “Don’t bring armour I said, it would be too high profile I said.” Daniel whispered to himself.

“You say something Lieutenant?” Carly asked as they continued the climb. Daniel gave a smile and shook his head.

“Oh you know, just bitching cause I’ve gotten soft without my armour. Save your breath for the climb.” Daniel replied and she simply nodded her head as they continued the climb. To be honest, it was excruciating and Daniel could only hope that there were no armed guards waiting on the other side of the elevator doors when they got up. The energy they would be exerting using this method would be enough to critical if they ended up in a firefight the moment that they reached the top. Daniel simply bit his lip, and kept his thoughts to himself as he continued the climb.

It took more than a few minutes, but they had finally reached the top level. Daniel reached up and opened the elevator doors to reveal a single empty hallway. That was good, too few doors between them and their objective to really worry about an ambush in the hallway, so he pulled himself up and grabbed the others as they reached the lip of the opening. After everyone was up and had a moment to catch their breath, Daniel brought out his pistol once more. “Alright everyone, let’s stick to the plan. Stay tight to me, watch your targets, and when the time comes, do not hesitate. These people have killed more of our brothers and sisters than I care to know, they are not civilians, they are enemy officers who have better living accommodations. Keep that in mind, and know that with each trigger pull, you’re saving lives.” Daniel gave one last looked to everyone before giving a nod. “Alright, let’s go.”

Daniel took off at a light jog down the hallway, his pistol lingering briefly on the four or so doors he passed before he got to the double door at the end of the hall. He lined up against one, and had Carly line up on the other side. Tia was behind him, and Stevenson had taken up a position behind Carly. Daniel paused for a moment and put his ear up to the door. He heard nothing, and something tickled at the back of his mind. “What’s the issue sir?” Carly asked.

“I don’t hear anything...movement, voices, nothing.” Daniel waited for a second.

“It’s a top secret meeting room sir; it’s bound to be soundproof.” Carly stated, and Daniel gave a nod although there was still that slight warning bell at the back of his mind.

“Yeah. Alright, on 3.” Daniel held up 3 fingers and counted down on them.

3

2

1

Daniel burst in the door and everything slowed to a standstill as his adrenaline kicked in followed by his shock. The first thing he saw as the door opened was the fact that most of the room was empty, save for an upturned table in the middle. Behind the table, 4 men were kneeling with weapons drawn on the door. Their armour configuration was unlike any he had seen before, and behind them was one more man, standing with his arms crossed as he watched the unlucky would-be assassins charge in through the door. Daniel glanced down quickly to see grenades planted on the side of the door, his door slightly more open than Carly’s side. As the adrenaline time distortion effect started to fade, Daniel grabbed Carly’s arm and threw her back into the hallway while literally turning around and kicking Tia back into the hallway in one deft and surprising move. Only a couple words escaped his mouth before time caught up with his perception.

“Get ba-“

Daniel’s quick reaction time managed to save the others from the worst of it, but the grenades caught him full blown as he fell backwards into the room. Had they been frag grenades, he would have been killed instantly. Instead, a bright flash and loud bang filled the room, cascading slightly into the hallway as Daniel landed hard on his back. Blinded, he waved his hand back where he thought the door was.

“Run! Cover now!” Before he could get any other words out, he felt a hand grab him by the throat and a hard fist smash his face in so hard that he could feel the hockey mask actually crack. It was probably the only thing that prevented the bones in his face from breaking.

“Get up Horn!” The voice yelled, and slammed his fist into Daniel’s face once more. He could hear gunfire behind him, and knew that the men he saw originally were now firing down the hallway. He could only hope his crew had managed to get into one of the adjoining rooms and lay down some cover fire. As for himself, he was blind but not unarmed. He could sense the man standing above him, and brought his gun to bear only to feel the man grab his wrist and yank so hard that he felt the bones shatter. Daniel yelled as his hand went limp and the pistol dropped to the ground. The man threw his arm to the side, and there was a moment of pause as he seemed to survey Daniel. “No...You’re not Horn. One of his Officers most likely...let’s see how he likes losing one of his own.”

“Go fuck yourself!” Daniel managed to get out as the man forcibly removed the mask from Daniel’s face. Daniel’s vision started to return slowly as a blurry shape was beginning to form in front of him. The man grabbed him by the collar, and yanked him up. Half dragging him, half carrying him behind the table towards the helipad. Before the man could get even half way, Daniel looked down, and kicked the man hard at the knee joint. There wasn’t as much give as he had hoped for as the man flinched but did not go down. Daniel stood and slammed his head into the man’s face plate, but again was rewarded with a less than favorable outcome. First off his head was now a pounding nightmare feeling like it was going to cave in, and the man barely flinched as his head snapped back ever so slightly. His grip never wavered however, and he delivered a kick to Daniel’s leg as well. Luckily he managed to twist at the last second, preventing a very painful break, but was quickly regretting it as an armoured face came around and once again smashed him in the face. Daniel went down, the entire world blackening as he looked up at the ceiling. The pain was the only thing keeping him from passing out as he brought his good hand up to it. He felt around, and knew that not only was his nose broken, but he was sure that some other bones were at the very least fractured as well. Soon enough, the man’s hand gripped his throat once more, and half dragged him the rest of the way around the table.

“Move out. We have what we came for.” Daniel’s vision was the only thing that seemed to be getting better since he entered that door, and he managed to see a small squad of commandoes slowly get up from their cover while maintaining fire down the hallway. He looked back to see the others still fighting back, but there would be no way for them to get to him. They exited through the back, where a Kodiak dropship was waiting, and Daniel was thrown roughly into the transport. He tried to move, but one of the Commandos quickly planted a foot on his chest and pushed down hard enough to make breathing difficult. Once the shuttle was properly secured and well on its way, the Commando released his foot and Daniel took a deep breath in. His vision had returned to him by this point, and he looked around at the soldiers who were milling around the Kodiak in assorted positions. The man in charge was standing in a corner, his head bobbing every so often indicating he was talking. Daniel’s adrenaline was running on an all time high at the moment, but mixed with the pain, the lingering effects from the flashbang, and the ultimate realization that they had been set up made his mind an utter mess as he started laughing.

“Who are you guys?!” Daniel asked, a smile lighting up his face like a man drugged up on Morphine. “You know what, it doesn’t matter! Fuck you all! You won’t be getting anything from me...and when we come back to stomp your asses, I’ll be there! I’ll fucking be there! I’ll wipe those arrogant attitudes of yours all over the FUCKING FLOOR! YOU HEAR ME! I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU!” Daniel’s rant continued for a bit more, his head getting slightly loopier by the second until finally the man in charge stopped for a moment. He pointed to another Commando.

“Shut him up.”

Daniel gave a large smile, but didn’t say anything even as the Commando came over and planted a boot on his face forcing the world into Darkness.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Carly had barely managed to escape the flashbangs that Daniel had tossed her back from. How he had managed to see them before they went through she could only guess, but it was only because of him that any of them were even alive right now. Carly and the group had gotten a reduced effect from the trap, but despite ringing in their ears and their vision putting up doubles of everything, they had managed to fall back and break down a few doors in order to gain cover, but were doing very poorly against the well armed, armoured, and set up Commandos. They had been expecting them, that much was obvious, but how was the question. Carly popped out every so often to fire a few shots, but with no armour and no shields against what was obviously modded ammunition, she could barely poke her head out without the soldiers destroying the wall and doorway. She could only watch as the Commander of the group proceeded to give Daniel the thrashing of a life time, and start to drag him towards the back. She looked to the others to see if they were in any position to assist, but already knew the answer. They were pinned, and any move forward or backwards would result in instant death.

Finally the Commandos started moving back towards the door. Carly tried to pop a few shots in the Commando’s while they were reloading, and while managing to land a lucky shot, it bounced harmlessly off of the soldier’s shield who promptly returned fire. As they exited the back of the building, Carly took off after them as soon as they were out of sight. She quickly hopped the upturned table, and ran to the end of the short hallway on the other side. The door was closed, and she threw her shoulder into it only to be stopped dead cold. She rubbed her shoulder slightly and looked down to see a keypad for the door. Tia came up behind her. “I can-“

“Fuck that!” Carly stated as she shot the pad several times and rammed her shoulder into the door a couple more times. The door held firm, but it was obviously straining. Carly shot the handle a few times, backed up, and gave the door a running charge.

She burst through the door, landing on the ground and managing to catch a glimpse of the dropship as it flew away into the upper atmosphere. The others ran out as well, seeing one last look at their Lieutenant as he was taken God knows where. She laid there for a moment, unsure as to what to do next, when an alarm went off that could be heard blocks away. She managed to get to her feet and get to the edge of the building. As she looked off in the distance, she could see Alliance Kodiaks mobilizing and getting ready for a full on assault of their location. Carly reached up and ripped her mask off, throwing it off the side of the building in frustration and anger, but also desperation. They were without their leader and she was at a loss as to what to do right now. Seeing no other commanding officer near her, she turned towards Ed. She didn’t know what to really classify Saint as, seeing as she was an Operative, but Stevenson was a recognizable rank that also led his own fireteam.

“What do we do Corporal?!” She asked her voice more desperate than anything. An underlying tone indicating she wanted to go after the Lieutenant.

“What do you mean ‘What do we do’? We go after Daniel! We can’t leave him here!” Tia stated, pointing after the long gone Kodiak. Ed turned from the two of them, a hand on his ear as he took a couple steps back from the edge of the building before turning back to the others.

“Prep for extraction. We’re leaving.” Ed stated as he walked towards the middle of the helipad. Carly didn’t argue and walked to catch up with Ed. Tia didn’t move. She stared down Ed as Carly moved to join him.

“We are not leaving! So long as Daniel is out there, we are not extracting!”

“And do you have a plan for dealing with dozens upon dozens of trained Alliance marines in full body armour with assault rifles? Cause I would love to hear it!” Ed stated as he walked forward slightly to challenge her.

“No damn it! I don’t have a plan! We don’t leave men behind! We can’t leave men behind!” Tia stated, stepping up into the Corporal’s face. Ed reached up and violently ripped his mask off and threw it to the ground.

"Sometimes, you have to leave men behind! We don't always have a goddamn choice! The Lt gave the order to fall back, and I am following that order. He sacrificed himself so we could get out, and I am NOT about to throw that away! We're extracting and that's MY call. If you don't like it, then I'll pull goddamn rank! Fall in line before I make you!" Tia growled at Ed as they both seemed ready to rip each other’s throats apart, when an unmarked Kodiak came flying around the building and hovering just an inch above the helipad.

The doors opened to reveal an empty cabin, and Carly started walking towards it only to turn back and see that the two of them hadn’t moved. “Corporal! Operative! We don’t have time for this! The Alliance is going to be on top of us!” They didn’t seem to hear her, and she was forced to run to them and forcibly yank them towards the Kodiak. “We can fight later, right now, let’s get out of here!” She stated as they all got onto the Kodiak. The two followed her grudgingly, half from her pulling them and half from the imminent threat of the Alliance marines. They boarded the transport and before they could even brace, the doors closed and the drop ship bolted around the building before flying high up into the sky towards the Call of Victory to get out of the system before the planetary defence cannons could get locked onto them.

The mood within the Kodiak was what was to be expected. Sorrow, loss, anger, frustration, and regret were replacing the oxygen within the cabin as everyone refused to even meet the gaze of the others. Ed had his head against the door while Carly sat on one of the benches and Tia stared off into the distance gripping one of the overhead handles. Carly removed her toque, and ran a hand through her hair before staring down at the floor. Debrief was not going to be the standard deal it usually was, and they would have to explain why they returned without their commanding officer. If anything, it should have been her that had done what Daniel had done. He was a higher priority, and was worth more to the organization she was. He had simply been faster, and that had gotten him captured, possibly tortured, and possibly killed. Worse yet, she had failed. He was one of the three that had managed to save her ass back on Anhur, now one was dead, one was in a coma, and now the third was officially captured. She felt helpless for the first time since watching her friends get slaughtered by the collectors on Anhur, and it made her want to sit down and cry. Despite this, she choked back unseen tears, and stared down at the floor. She had to keep a level head, she had to hold in these emotions, and she had to keep it together. One thing was for certain. They would find the LT, they would get him out alive, and she would settle her debt with the man.

That much was certain.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Commander Benjamin Slatton

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“The injuries aren’t overly serious, Commander. He’ll be ready for interrogation in a few hours.” The man nodded in response to the doctor, although it likely told him nothing he didn’t already know. “If you’d like, sir, we’ll contact you when he’s awake. You could likely use some sleep after the mission.” He nodded again, watching them work on the unconscious figure for a moment longer before turning away and heading out of the small infirmary.

Just outside, a young woman, likely no older than twenty stood waiting, her face expressionless as she saluted sharply. “Commander Slatton, congratulations on your successful mission, Sir.” He stared for a moment, as if debating with himself over what to do, before returning the salute.

“Thank you, Miss Adler. Mind if we walk?” He started down the perfectly cleaned hallway, and Adler fell into step a respectful distance behind him. “I trust the things I asked for have been taken care of?” She nodded, even though he couldn’t see it, pulling up a few screens on her small data pad.

“Of course, Sir. The crew have, by and large, perfectly blended back into the normal life of their chosen worlds. We’ll have a few local agents checking in on them every few weeks to make sure no one suspects who they are or might have once been.” She flicked along through reports, pausing on another. “The Operator has sent us a detachment of the Aurora Initiative’s marines to act as security for the duration of our guest’s stay. Speaking of, I’ve managed to find his face in the Alliance Network. One Daniel Harrens, former Sergeant.”

“Excellent work, Ms. Adler. I think I’m beginning to understand why the Operator assigned you here.” He paused as they came upon the door that led into the main control area of the outpost, Adler quickly tapping her code into the small sleek console beside the door. It slide open without a sound, and they stepped into the relative darkness of the Ops command. It was small, with less than ten stations arrayed neatly in a semi circle before the long window that provided an elegant view of Asphodel’s surface and, beyond that, Zion dominating the moon‘s horizon. He took a moment to appreciate the view, as Alder crossed the room swiftly, her heels clacking evenly with every practiced step. “Anything changed while I was out?”

“Very little, Sir.” His assistant stood beside the lone chair that served as his personal workplace, fingers rapidly tapping away on her own small work station. “A small outbreak of the common cold amongst the technicians, but those infected has been quarantined to their quarters until their symptoms vanish. Also, should your equipment require any repairs, it will be slower. The armourer had a sl-”

“That’s quite alright, Ms. Adler. I trust you to handle the small details for me.” He walked across the room, slowly lowering himself into his seat with a sigh. “You’ve already forwarded the preliminary report to the Operator?” Adler nodded, not even looking up from whatever she was doing, and Ben chuckled lightly at her dedication. “Alright. Forward all pertinent reports and notices to my screen. I’m in the mood for some paperwork.”

“Of course, Sir.” Pulling up a few of the necessary files, she tapped the screen in front of her, dragging the holographic image with her slender finger and flicking it gently over to the Commander’s terminal. Behind them, a low whistle sounded. Slatton blinked, as he spun his chair about to look at the source.

“No wonder you’ve been hiding out here. All this fancy tech, the killer view, and your own personal assistant? They spoiled you, Benny.” A pair made their just inside the door way, one a man, the other a woman, although the former wasted no time approaching the commander with his practiced swagger. His soft brown hair was smoothed back into a messy ponytail, lips turned up slightly at the corner in a charming smile that seemed to set one naturally at ease. With lightly tanned skin, and the devious spark lurking behind his light blue eyes, it wasn't difficult to be drawn to the man, but Ben knew from experience that was the entire purpose of his delicately crafted appearance.

“Camarda…” Ben craned his neck a little to see the smaller figure still hovering by the door. “And Pacheo?” He glanced at Adler, who was glaring daggers at Camarda, who slowed to a stop a few paces away. “I really shouldn’t be surprised that you’re here, but I still am.”

Adler quickly spoke to answer the unasked question. “They refused Oracle‘s offer, Sir. Neither was willing to, as they put it, ‘fade away’. After repeated attempts to get them to see reason, they were offered positions here.” She glanced back at her screen. “It was the second report I sent you. I’m more curious as to how exactly you got into this portion of the base. I don’t recall giving either of you clearance.”

Camarda winked at the assistant, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the door. “You thought a measly keypad combination would keep a commando out? I think you’re smarter than that, Angel.” The woman frowned, but other than that, gave no indication of annoyance at his comment. “But, here we are, and we’re eager to get working. Or, at least, Pacheo is. You know how she is.”

The woman kept her distance, eyes watching Camarda impassively from behind. Ben nodded. “She likes to have something to do.” His eyes flicked over to Adler. “Ms. Adler, in regards to our new security force, what did Aurora send for us to work with?” In no time flat, his assistant had the information up on her screen, flicking it over in front of him, the hologram blurring slightly around Camarda.

Pacheo stepped closer, dark green eyes now focused on the display in front of her. Where Camarda was all about charm and appearance, Pacheo held fast to stern practicality and function. Her light black hair was neatly tucked into a bun, not a strand daring to poke out of place. Her soft white face was about as animate as a stone wall, nothing save for the subtle movement of her full lips disturbing the stillness of her face. How she managed to compress them into such a stern line was a mystery, but it had long been established among the crew that, if Pacheo actually relaxed once in awhile, she'd be quite the attractive woman. Ben was quiet for a moment, simply letting the silent woman examine every detail of the small detachment. After a few minutes, she spoke in a displeased whisper. “Not good.” Ben nodded in agreement, and Camarda could only shake his head at the two.

Ben dismissed the screen deftly, scrutinizing his former crew members for a moment. “Alright then. Pacheo, I’m going to put you in charge of the security detail. Ms. Adler, get her top level clearance and a room away from the rest of the staff.” The assistant set to work immediately, doing as ordered without hesitation. “Do whatever you deem fit to get them into tip top shape, Pacheo. Anyone gives you trouble, they can answer to me. Ms. Adler can instruct you on our facilities and general layout.”

“Sir.” Pacheo saluted, before Adler motioned for her to approach and the two began to speak in hushed tones over the little details. Ben and Camarda watched each other for a moment, before the latter sighed heavily.

“I can already tell what you’re going to say.” He adopted a serious face that comically matched Ben’s own, before speaking in his best impersonation of the dark skinned man. “No Fs, Camarda.” He scrunched his face up in an attempt to look threatening, but it only made him seem more ridiculous.

Ben raised an eyebrow, smiling at the man‘s antics. “Fs?” Camarda grinned as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, rubbing his nose with his thumb.

“Fraternization, flirting, fucking, frisking, friendly fun…” Adler spared a glance, but said nothing as Ben stifled a laugh.

“I’d appreciate that, yes. Last thing I need is you sleeping with most of my staff.”

“Then stop hiring attractive people.” Ben rose from his seat, starting towards the exit as Camarda dutifully turned to follow him along. “I can’t help it if you’ve got beautiful people kicking around doing nothing all day.” As they left the room, Ben’s smile dropped his face, and the door hissed shut behind them. As they walked, Camarda kept close, and dropped his voice to a whisper. “What’s got you riled, Benny?”

Ben opened his mouth to reply, when his comm unit chirped once in his ear. Pressing a finger to it, he spoke. “Commander Slatton. Go ahead.” There were a few moments of silence before the Commander bit his lip in response to whatever news he’d just received. “Understood. Have him moved, assign two guards, and I’ll be there in ten minutes.” Lowering his hand, he sighed at Camarda. “Let‘s call it a hunch.”

“I prefer to call it pessimism.” The commando ran a hand through his hair, sighing lightly as his friend slowed to a stop. “But, I suppose we’ll never get anywhere if I don’t bite the bullet. What’s your hunch?”

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They had been sitting in silence for a half hour; neither man apparently wanting to talk to the other, although it was fairly understandable on the captive’s half. The guards, dressed in light armour baring the insignia of Aurora, shared a curious glance, as their apparent commander did little more than read from the data pad in his hand. The fact that their prisoner wasn’t even bound made them even more uncomfortable, but neither really wanted to voice this concern to the dark-skinned man between them.

Ben cleared his throat roughly, setting the data pad aside while his eyes examined the man across the table. “Well, I think I’m caught up on your Alliance service, Sergeant Harrens. Served in the 103rd, no real issues noted by your superiors…” Lacing his fingers in front of his face, the commander leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table, eyes never leaving Harren’s. “So, I suspect Cerberus recruited you with something other than a bigger pay check.” The guard’s stiffened at the mention of the infamous terrorist cell, faces betraying their own surprise. “Seems like as good as any place to start. Why did you leave the Alliance, Sergeant Harrens?”

“I didn’t like the food. Can you believe it? MREs every meal, everyday? Nasty.” Ben didn’t reply, watching with the same half-smile he’d had since the beginning of the session. “Alright, you caught me. The colour scheme clashed with my personal tastes, not to mention all that the officers in Cerberus are actually attractive.”

“I can agree with you there, but, if you’ll forgive me for speculating, I suspect it’s something similar to the average marine that joins up with Cerberus. Too much politics, not enough action? Close to the mark, Sergeant?” Harrens did nothing but watch, a wide grin stretched across his face, no doubt a mixture of painkillers and bravado. Ben smiled back, tapping a button on the data pad beside him. “Or maybe it was because you couldn’t stomach mercenary work. You’re not the kind of man to work for credits. And after your discharge…”

The slightest flinch was all the sign Harrens gave, but he caught it all the same. “Dereliction of duty. Abandoned your post in an ultimately futile bid to save civilians from being transported off planet by batarian slavers. After that, who would take you? Easy. Cerberus. They’d value someone with your skill set, and your betrayal by the Alliance would make it all the easier.” Slatton leaned back in his seat, eyes neutral as they took in Harrens body language. “Stop me if I’m close.”

“You’re getting there.”

Ben chuckled, tapping a few more keys on the data pad. “Well then, your service with Cerberus is up next. How long have you served with Commander…” He paused, glancing to the information displayed for a moment. “Jason Horn?”

“A little over a year. Kinda a crazy guy, but hey, who isn’t nowadays?” It wasn’t hard to notice the curiosity etched on the guard’s faces, no doubt wondering the point of this interrogation. Little of the information the commander was digging for seemed even remotely useful.

“Why did he place you in command on Elysium?”

“He thought I could handle it.” The way they watched each other made the simple nature of their conversation seem far more serious, as if the next few words would decide the entire outcome of this contest. The room was silent, save for Ben’s fingers tapping away short little notes about everything Daniel decided to ‘reveal’.

“Interesting. And what happened to your original ship? That wasn’t the same cruiser that was at the Hephaestus Station.”

“It’s called upgrades, ever heard of em? They’re great things.” Ben blinked impassively at the man‘s sarcasm, before sliding his data pad across the table. Daniel barely even blinked as he glanced down at the image on the screen.

“The Titan, right? Old girl has seen better days, so it seems more like a necessary switch.”

“Oh, so that’s where it went.”

“Is Commander Horn even still alive, Sergeant?”

“Well, wouldn’t you like to know?”

“There are a few possibilities; I’d rather just hear it from one of his own. He’d dead, he’s taken to hiding on his ship in orbit while his team takes all the risks, injured and deemed unfit for service…”

“Well, maybe he’s like, you know, betraying people he’s supposed to help. But if he was, I’d have to hunt and kill em.”

“Speaking from personal experience?”

“From A personal experience.”

“Do share.”

“Why should I? You’re smart. You can figure it out.”

"Anything I could come up with is conjecture at this point, Sergeant. That's why I'm asking, politely at first. Need be, we'll move to the less friendly methods of getting you to talk."

"You of all people should know I'm trained to resist torture. You know my record, the ship I serve on, and the people that I work with..." The captive leaned forward, and the guards twitched at his sudden closeness to the commander. "But you know nothing about me."

Like a switch had been flipped, Ben’s faced hardened, eyes narrowing into slits as his hand shot up, constricting around Daniel’s throat. The tension in the room was palpable. “Then we’re on an even playing field, Sergeant. You know my name, and my face.” With a grunt, he hauled Daniel up, slamming the man onto the table with no regard for his injuries. “You know nothing of what I’m capable of, or what I’ve done. Do not make the mistake of assuming you hold the cards here, Daniel.”

The man laughed in between fits of coughing, eyes zeroed in on Ben’s dark gaze. “Cards? Dude, you ain’t even playing with a full deck!” He laughed louder for a moment, before Benjamin pressed harder on his throat.

“You speak so confidently.” As the man beneath him started to gasp more frantically, the commander eased his grip, ever so slightly. “Why is that?” The frigid tone of his voice made it seem as if a whole other man had taken over the interrogation, his once relaxed body language now rigid and military.

“Because fuck you, that’s why!” Daniel roughly spat, gripping at the wrist of the hand around his throat, trying to break the hold. Slatton glanced up at the guards, seemingly ignoring the man thrashing beneath him.

“Inform Adler that I need Pacheo.” One of the men nodded, stepping out of the room while the other tried his best to maintain the composure his post asked of him. Ben’s free hand grabbed Daniel’s arm, twisting it roughly to stop him from struggling anymore. “Stop.”

"In case you haven't figured it out yet, let me spell it to you...YOU AIN'T GETTING ANYTHING OUT OF ME!" Daniel swung with his free hand to strike Benjamin in the face, but his target ducked back fluidly, dodging the strike. In one motion, he released the man’s throat, catching his other arm by the wrist and twisting until he heard the tell tale shatter of the bones inside.

Daniel thrashed, but to his credit, the man made no sound. “We had the chance to do this without causing further injury. You’ve made it clear that injury is the last method available to us.” The door hissed open, and the guard returned with Pacheo in tow. She took one glance at the room before looking back to the guard.

“Supplies.” The man blinked at her for a moment, before nodding hesitantly and stepping back out the door. Seemingly satisfied with this, she looked back to the Commander. “Information?”

“In the file.”

“We’re after..?”

“Everything.” The woman nodded sharply, sitting in the seat Benjamin had occupied a few minutes ago, and flipping open the file. Her eyes shot over the information quickly, pausing every now and again to examine the man pinned to the table. He had turned white as a sheet, and his teeth were clenched tightly to keep from screaming.

Despite the pain, he managed an insult. “Aww, you brought a cheerleader.” Pacheo’s eyes flicked up from the file.

“He’s a talker. The more he talks, the more confident he‘ll be.” She went back to her reading. “He will need to be gagged.” The man grit his teeth into a savage smile.

“Looks like someone has a fetish!” Benjamin raised a hand to strike again, but Pacheo stopped him with the slight tilt of her head. The commander stared at the woman for a moment, before dropping his gaze back to the man on the table.

“Slatton, I will get the information. Go rest.” Her eyes flicked to the thick bags beneath his eyes, and he nodded once. “Is there anything you’re after, sir?” Harrens chuckled, but far from the frantic laughter of adrenaline and painkillers. It was cold, and sharp.

"Slatton huh...When I get out of here, and you can rest assured of that..." He sat up slowly, face hovering dangerously close to Slatton‘s. "I'll tell Vala you said hi.” Pacheo tensed visibly at the name, her deadpan flickering as his words sunk in. Benjamin stared back, the corner of his mouth turned up in the lightest hint of a smile.

“You know what I want, Pacheo. Get it.” She nodded, the door gliding open behind her as the guard returned with a small bag. She took the bag and opened it, seemingly pleased with the ‘supplies’ the man had fetched. “She wants something done, do it. No questions. Clear?” The guards responded automatically, and the commander took his leave of the interrogation.

As he stepped into the hall, he felt the smug grin of Harrens burning into his back. The man had struck a nerve and knew it. “How’s that hunch coming?” Camarda’s voice echoed down the hall, and Ben half turned to fix the man with a cold stare. The commando’s response was to grin wider, closing the distance between the two in a few strides and slinging his arm over Ben’s shoulder. “You were right, I take it?”

Ben nodded slowly, although from the distant look in his eyes, he was rather distracted. “They’ll be coming to get him. We don’t have much time to prepare.” Camarda raised an eyebrow.

“You know this how?”

“Because it’s what I would do.”

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: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Commander Benjamin Slatton

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The room was quiet, as it often was. It was a point of credit to their prisoner, that despite it all, he remained deathly silent. Arms bound above his head, and attached to a hook, he dangled like a corpse, feet inches from the ground, which was coated in a thin sheen of red crimson. The guards had been given a temporary respite for rest, leaving Pacheo and the commander in the room alone with the man.

The woman occupied herself with a small table, cluttered with blades, hooks and other devices that didn’t seem to belong in the sleek, pristine base. The commander sat on a chair, a few feet from the prisoner, arms crossed impassively as he watched the man sway slightly from side to side. There had been little achieved, but every man had a breaking point, and every day brought them closer to his.

He stirred slightly, lifting his bleeding face to look at his ‘host’. “Why are you doing this?” Slatton straightened slightly in his seat, black-ringed eyes watching the man with subdued curiosity.

“Answers.”

“And what answers could you possibly want from me?” It was a familiar routine, one that Harrens rarely relented in. He’d speak, throw his words at them, before his seemingly aimless ramble would find its point and try to hammer at them. Ben didn’t bother holding his look.

“Numbers. Names. Capability.”

“I mean, what answers are you really after…” A curious choice of words, and a cursory glance towards Pacheo showed no protest to conversation with the man. Standing from his seat, the commander met his eyes once more, noticing the fragility inside them, but barely hidden sadness watching him. “We’ve been at this for weeks…by now, anything about numbers, names and capabilities…you already know. What are you really after..?”

“You haven’t been very co-operative. Why should I tell you?”

“For the simple fact we’re both tired of playing this game.”

“I’d imagine you would be.” After a moment’s pause, Slatton continued. “You should know, and I already suspect you do, but we’ll cut to the chase. Vala Katharina Buchan. This ends when you tell me what you know.”

“Vala Buchan.” His head hung, and for a while, it seemed as if the man was done for the day. Without warning though, he continued. “I’m being tortured…because I happen to work with someone you used to know…” There was a cold pause, before he broke into a hysteric laugh, growing faster and faster, although Benjamin could see thin rivulets of what looked like tears streaming down the man’s face.

As suddenly as the laughter had started, it stopped, Daniel looking back at his captor once more. "I've been a marine most of my adult life...I joined with sole purpose of helping people. The Alliance was good at first; until they prevented us from at least trying to save those people from slavers...I joined Cerberus with the thought of never letting that happen again."

He took a shuddering breath. "I don't know how many people I've saved, plenty. I've seen their faces, the way they look at me but don't know me. The way they see the symbol patched onto my armour and immediately run in fear. To them, I'm a terrorist. It doesn't matter if I just saved their family or butchered their dog in front of their children...I'll still be labelled with the fanatics."

"Yet, I didn't care. I was happy, because I never cared for recognition. I didn't care that they didn't know me, I didn't care that they hated the people I worked for, I didn't care that they hated me simply for being with them. All I cared about was the fact that they could move on, be safe, and enjoy what lives I helped give them regardless of their feelings."

His eyes fell, only for a moment. "I'm not saying I'm a saint, I've done some horrible things in the name of orders...where you caught me was one. Assassination of some political pen pushers who had been undercutting the boss. Yet, I went in there with the thought that the longer they operated, the more of our people died. I went in there with the thought that I was saving more lives then I was taking. A risk/reward scenario."

There was a thick pause; Benjamin’s face never betraying his thoughts, even as Daniel ranted. "My mission...my standing mission is to fight the Collectors at every turn we can. You know why that is Ben? TO SAVE LIVES!" He lunged, as far as he could from his position, tears streaming down his face. Ben didn‘t bother to step back, letting the man thrash in vain. "AND YOU'RE TELLING ME I'M BEING TORTURED BECAUSE YOU CAN'T GET OVER A GOD DAMN GIRLFRIEND?!"

He fell limp, head shaking slightly. "This is pointless...you're pointless...this whole god damn rivalry between us is pointless. If you so desperately want your damn soldier to come back to you..." The two men stared each other down, Daniel‘s hardening as he watched emotionless eyes. "Kill me...she'll come running, you trust me."

They stayed like that for a few minutes, simply staring each other down. Neither spoke, only the heavy, panting breaths and slight shuffle of Pacheo disturbing the silence. It was when she turned from her tools, Ben finally spoke. “Leave us.” There was no hesitation, just a sharp nod as she disappeared out the door. As it hissed shut, he continued. “Tell me…do the ends justify the means?”

"My boss would tell me yeah...I wouldn't agree, but I would follow orders."

“We’re not so different, as much as the thought may disgust you.” He sat, slowly and deliberately, fingers lacing in front of his face. “You’re willing to follow orders. You’re willing to bloody your hands. The irony that men on either side can be similar.” He laughed, but it was devoid of humour. Daniel leaned on his bound arms, eyes narrowed.

"You misunderstand our mentality. Yes, we're both doing our job, but where we differ is the fact that I wouldn't continue doing this shit, day in and day out for months! BECAUSE OF A SINGLE FUCKING WOMAN!"

“You’re so damn focused on her, but you don’t even understand!” Ben hissed, eyes flashing dangerously at the restrained soldier. “You haven’t seen how far you’re going to go, you haven’t been to the bottom, only to see how far you’ve sunk! One day, you’ll wake up to the blood, the bodies, the screams and wonder HOW you ever thought you had done ANYTHING good!” His fists coiled tightly, composure cracking as he rose from his seat.

“The clarity it hits with will leave you breathless. You’ll have dragged everything precious into the black with you, and as you try and claw out, you’ll see the demons YOU made trying to drag you back!” He stepped closer, gripping the bloodstained collar and pulling the marine inches from himself. “And with every fix, you just make more blood. I don’t justify my means, nor will I try to. I know full well we’re past that point.”

"If you're so focused on the fact that you've fucked up more than you've succeeded, then tell me this." Daniel leaned forward. "Why are you still here?"

“Because before they kill me, I’m going to correct as many of my mistakes as possible.” Ben released the cuff, pushing him back a few steps in the process. “Because I hope someday, I won’t just be remembered as a butcher. But I doubt that.” There was a quiet pause, Ben shaking his head slowly. “But you’re right about one thing, Daniel. This is pointless.”

He stepped back, eyes dully watching his captive. “I hoped you’d have something, anything useful, but it seems this was all for nothing. It’s worth nothing to you, but I’m sorry for that. Perhaps it would have been better to just kill you on Elysium.” Ben shook his head. “It matters little. You won’t be here much longer.”

Daniel was stone-faced. "So what, you plan to kill me now? Isn't that how a soldier's life should end? With a round from one warrior to another?"

“I’m not going to kill you. Never was in the plan.” He tapped the key on the door, which slid open soundlessly.

“That’s a mistake.”

“Most likely.” The commander turned back to the man. “But I’ve made plenty. One more isn’t going to kill me. Not yet.”

"That's where you’re wrong." Daniel looked up at him. "If you seriously think I'm going to forgive you, for two months of torture, simple because you didn't kill me." He strained once more on his bindings. "You don't know me...You don't know Horn."

“Daniel.” Ben’s voice was cold and low. “I don’t expect your forgiveness. I frankly don’t want it.” Ben stepped out through the door. “Not only are you incapable of killing me…you don’t understand something important.” With a final glance over his shoulder, Ben grinned. “She won’t let either of you, because she has to know.”

The door slammed shut.

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“And she goes, ‘Oh hell no! They’re not coming in the room!’ I asked why, and she just said one thing. Any guesses?” Maya looked around the table expectantly, eyes glinting mischievously as she burned off the first card of the deck, tossing the others two cards in rapid succession. At the men’s silence, she continued. “She says, and I shit you not…you are not bringing Pollard anywhere near my bedroom.”

Logan chuckled softly, each of the marines tossing forward a few chips, Maya and Roger posting their usual big blind while Ed and Logan favoured a small blind. “Someone is making a name for himself with the women.”

Ed raised an eyebrow at the engineer. “Not the good kind.”

Roger, fiddling with his cards, grumbled under his breath. “Not even my fault…Davids screwed me over…” Maya grinned toothily, as everyone quickly threw in to match. She burned another card, promptly laying three cards in front of them.

“You’ve been saying that for awhile. What exactly did he do?” Ed asked, tapping his knuckles on the table while Logan tossed in his cards. Roger and Maya shot each other suspicious glares, before the private threw in another ten, followed immediately by Maya’s fifteen.

“He got some footage of the woman’s showers…and fed it onto my omni-tool. Go figure he timed it perfectly for an inspection…only reason I’m not cleaning the latrines with sand-paper is because O’Ryan knows I can’t hack a camera to save my life…” The private rested his chin on his hand, eying his cards again. “Hasn’t stopped eighty percent of the women on the ship from thinking I’m some vile perverted ass…”

“You aren’t vile.” Logan commented, earning a sidelong glare from the young man. “Just growing. It’s natural at your age.”

“But I didn’t even look at it! O’Ryan deleted it the second he found it!”

“Not much you can do.” Ed watched as Maya burned off another card, laying another out onto the table. “For what it’s worth, Maya still talks to you. Same with Oberacker.”

“Oh yes, because I love female interaction that constantly involves me getting the piss kicked out of me…” He mumbled, tapping the table for check while Maya and Ed threw in some small raises. “I can’t be the only one who would enjoy some, oh I don’t know…gentle female company? Maybe womanly?”

“You saying I ain’t womanly?” Salazar hissed, cocking her fist threateningly.

“About as womanly as a turian.” He deadpanned, earning a slug to the shoulder which nearly sent him toppling out of his chair. “Worth it.”

Ed rubbed his chin, checking his cards as Maya revealed the final card. “So, you don’t enjoy your time with the Sergeant?” The corporal threw in his bet as the private thought for a moment.

“…well…not that I don’t enjoy it.” He fumbled, flicking forward a bet. “Just…you know. Would prefer to have some time not getting my ass kicked by her.”

“Good luck on that. Oberacker doesn’t understand anything other than beating the piss out of something.” Maya muttered, clearly annoyed at their conversation topic. “Just take your beatings and get away when they’re done. Oberacker will eat you alive. Alright, show the cards!”

The three revealed their hands, and Ed grinned. “Royal flush.” As Ed collected his winnings, Maya began shuffling the deck again.

Logan turned slightly to Roger. “Why not suggest it then?” He raised an eyebrow in confusion, prompting Logan to continue. “Ask Sparrow to take a break from the hand-to-hand. It’s not like it’s absolutely vital since you have marksmen training with O’Ryan.”

Pausing in thought, he chuckled sheepishly. “Maybe. I don’t know; she seems to enjoy herself. I’d feel bad if I ruined something she liked. Can’t really complain when a sergeant takes time out of her day to teach you, right?” Maya snapped her wrist, making a whip sound as she did. “Stuff it.”

Before she could deal, Logan’s omni-tool chirped a quick tone, drawing their attention. A small screen blinked across the device, flashing the words ‘incoming call’ over and over. Roger raised an eyebrow, but Logan rose from his seat. “Excuse me.” Maya and Ed simply nodded, attention turning back to their card game, Roger watching the engineer curiously.

As the door slid shut, Logan heard Maya demand the private’s attention, chuckling as he tapped a few keys to synchronize the call. After a few moments, it linked, and his omni-tool focused into a small ring around his palm, which he pressed to his ear with a smile. “Hey.” There was a brief pause, the lag from the distance before the caller responded.

“Hey there, stranger. I was hoping you’d be free.” The woman’s voice was soft, and he could practically feel the smile in her words.

“You know I’ve always got time for you.” He murmured, leaning back against the wall. “I’ve been meaning to call you, but they’ve been keeping us busy.”

“Don’t worry about it. How‘re you? Things quiet out there?” He nodded, although she couldn’t see it.

“Quiet enough. Been a bit of a dry spell. Good to get some rest in.” Logan chuckled lightly, rolling his shoulder slightly. “No big new holes to worry about. Shoulder’s a little stiff these days.”

“Then you best go easy on it, Logan, or I’ll take your ear off when you visit…” She warned, but he knew from experience she had that playful smirk on her face. “…but do try to be careful.”

“Always.” He murmured, earning a contented sigh. “How’re things back home? Teril keeping you busy?” There was a long groan. “A handful, I take it?”

“More like a pyjaks on sugar. She gets into everything the moment I turn my back! Always fiddling with data pads or the computer…a little engineer in the making.” Despite the exasperation, her affection was equally clear. “I wonder where she got that from.”

“Haven’t a clue.” Logan teased, turning towards the door slightly when he heard the sounds of scuffling behind it. “Sounds like they’re at it again…”

“Who? Maya and Roger?”

“Yeah…Roger seemed a little curious when I left the room. Maya’s probably scolding him.” She laughed, and he gave a confused look. “What?”

“Those two are something else. Like siblings the way they squabble.” She was quiet for a moment, before asking innocently. “Why would he be curious?”

The engineer frowned lightly at his reflection in the metal. “He’s…not entirely aware that I have you in my life.” She made a noise of confirmation. “Not that I’m worried about it, he’s just…young. And stupid.”

“I think he just doesn’t know any better, Logan.” Sighing into his hand, he nodded to no one in particular. “Maybe give him a chance. He might just surprise you. I’ve learnt that humans can be full of all sorts of them.”

“Alright, alright. I’ll give him a chance.” The sound of struggle grew louder, and Logan heaved a sigh. “I gotta go. Maya’s gonna kill him if I don’t get back in there.”

“I suppose…” She pouted, and for a moment, he simply considered letting Maya strangle Roger. The thought was quickly pushed out of his head, as she continued. “Come visit us soon, okay? I know it’s tough, but Teril has been missing you.”

“Just her?” A playful laugh was her reply, and Logan continued. “I’ll see what I can do. Shouldn’t be too difficult.” He pressed his hand to the access panel, causing it to hiss open. Inside, Roger was sprawled on the floor, Maya having pinned the private down with her fist raised threateningly. The pair paused their bickering long enough to notice his presence. “I’ll call you soon.”

“Good. I love you.”

“Love you too. Good night, Te’leia.” With the last exchange, he ended the call, staring at his team-mates with a light smile. “Do I want to know?”

“Te’leia? What kinda name is Te’leia?” Maya watched with poorly hidden interest, while Ed focused on shuffling the cards for the game he assumed they’d eventually continue. “Sounds…weird.”

“It’s rather popular on Nevos.” You could practically watch the gears begin to turn in his head, but Logan found it easier to cut to the chase. “Te’leia is an asari-”

“What?! You and a blue strip-”

Logan’s tone was low, and cautioning. “And my wife.” The words died in Roger’s mouth, which snapped shut as his eyes widened to the size of saucers. The engineer motioned to Maya, who climbed off him and retook her place at the table while he knelt down next to him. “Not what you were expecting was it?”

“Uhm…no..?”

“It’s fine to be confused.” Logan smiled, pulling the young man to his feet and dusting off his shoulder. Tapping a key on his omni-tool, Logan pulled up a small picture an asari. “This is her.” Roger glanced to the picture. The asari, Te’leia apparently, leant against a railing, over looking what looked like the presidium. Her skin was a light shade of violet, thin rings of reddish-white encircling her eyes partially, other small white marks forming a secondary ring near where a human might have eyebrows. Dressed in a white sundress, with a light smile upturning her lips, it was difficult to really focus on her as…alien.

“She looks…nice?”

“Don’t be too honest now…” Maya teased, and Roger turned sharply with a glare. “You done? Can we just get back to our game?” Logan rose, closing the picture while he gave the private quizzical look. He took a moment, rubbing his face before just giving a shrug.

“Yeah, sure, whatever.”

They didn’t get a chance to start. "Pack up the game, leave the winnings until next time. Everyone, on me." O’Ryan’s voice boomed in the small room, and all four immediately turned to the man. Roger had the slightest hint of disappointment on his face.

“I had a good feeling about the next hand too…” Ed quickly packed up the cards, with Maya taking a quick snapshot of the assorted chips for later sorting. The game dealt with, the fire team fell into step behind the Lieutenant, already knowing why he was visiting.

“Got an Op, sir?” Ed asked respectfully.

“Yes. Something that might be interesting to you especially, Corporal.”

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Fisting the gauntlet of his Assault Armour, Roger flexed each finger experimentally while Logan and Ed finished their gear up beside him. Idly glancing around, Roger mused on how many times he’d been in the prep room over the past few months. It was a section of the armoury he was far too familiar with; row after row of lockers with names displayed on small LED signs. It was incredibly big, despite the cramped feeling he got whenever he had to get his armour. During the few missions when the majority of the marines were deployed, whole platoons could crowd into the dense space for rapid arming.

With a few curtained change ‘booths’ for the marines to get into their skin-tight squish skin, no one was spared having to enter. Privacy was something you got when in your armour or off duty. Attaching the last few pieces of his armour, Roger idly glanced at one of said booths, Maya swearing colourfully behind the cover at her uncooperative squish.

“This will be an assault based operation.” O’Ryan grunted; helmet locked firmly under his arm while he watched them begin to finish up. “Avengers and Predators.” Logan and Ed nodded, gripping the rifle and pistol from their respective lockers and attaching them to their magnetic holsters. Maya’s voice called over the curtain.

“ML-77?”

“No.” Was his blunt reply, which she sighed in response to. “No need for heavy weapons in tight quarters.” Roger nodded in agreement, finishing up with his armour and reaching for his rifle. “Pollard, catch.” He turned partially, barely reacting in time to stop the white blur streaking for his face. Fumbling with the object for a few moments, the private managed to stop its tumble; blinking as it unfolded into an M-97 Mantis.

“Uh…sir..?” He mumbled, looking up at the Lieutenant with slightly widened eyes. O’Ryan’s face was as stoic as ever.

"Training only gets you so far Pollard. You want to be a sniper..." The man stepped close, looking him dead in the eye. "Prove it." It took all of his willpower not to shrivel under the intensity of O’Ryan’s gaze, mentally thanking Oberacker for beating some extra spine into him.

“R-right, sir! I will!” The Lieutenant stared down his nose at the private, who swallowed roughly. “I will, sir!”

“We’ll see.” Without another word, he turned his attention to the emergent Maya, who was rapidly fastening her armour. “Double time, Salazar. We’ll be meeting the Commander in the hangar bay.”

Ed glanced at the woman, chuckling as she finished the last few attachments. “You know how he hates waiting.” She grimaced, grabbing her avenger and predator and giving them a quick check to ensure everything was in working order.

“Good point. All good, sir.” With a satisfied nod, O’Ryan nodded towards the door and they followed him back into the main room of the armoury. With a quick direction to grab some thermals, and a cautionary glare from TJ that the box near her was off-limits, they stored several spare clips in their armour. Satisfied they were all properly geared, O’Ryan lead the way out, TJ gave a grin and the advice to ‘bust some heads in’.

A short ride on the lift brought them to the hangar, where Horn and his chosen team were already waiting. Roger recognized them both right away, St. Jean and Nerita, although he avoided looking at the latter, mind still processing Logan’s own revelation earlier. The Commander looked somewhere between bored and giddy, an odd companion to the perfectly neutral face of Operative Invaru, who watched them approach evenly.

The Lieutenant came to a stop, offering a crisp salute to the Operative before turning full to the Commander, each action mimicked by the fire team behind them. “Sir, Ma’am. Fire Team Owl, reporting.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tia St. Jean Character Portrait: Commander Jason Horn Character Portrait: Operative Kelly Invaru Character Portrait: Lieutenant Daniel Harrens Character Portrait: Nerita  T'Lar Character Portrait: Carly Laren

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The trip back up to the Call of Victory couldn't have been longer if they had been trapped in a black hole. The entire time Horn's eyes kept shifting between the window back to Daniel as his face got paler and paler. Horn kept his eyes on his friend for a little longer before going back to the window. No one said anything, and he didn't want them to. Yes, they did what they wanted to do, yes they got who they had wanted to get. The problem being is that Horn knew what torture could do to a man. That a scarring event such as the one that Daniel went through, Horn knew that he wasn't going to be the same man that he ever was. Even when he first woke up, much of that friendliness, mirth, and general happy feeling was gone from the man. Replaced with a sole desire that overrode even the feeling of relief to see his friends.

Horn had already radioed ahead, asking for Dr. Grass to ready the medical room for their patient. As soon as the Kodiak docked with the Call, Horn walked over to Daniel and gave him a once over. He had passed out a few minutes ago, scars and fresh wounds covered his body, and what little was left of his clothes was nothing but a giant red rag. Without asking for consent, nodding to his fellow soldiers, or even acknowledging the fact that they were still there, he picked Daniel up in a fireman's carry. He walked over to the Kodiak door so fast, one might have thought he was going to barrel right through it. Instead, with a mighty pull, he opened the door so hard and fast that the Kodiak rocked before he took off sprinting across the shuttle bay.

Once he reached the elevator, he didn't wait up. The marines, for the most part were alright. At least, they weren't unconscious, possibly bleeding out. He hit the button to get to the med bay, and watched as the doors closed in front of him in slow motion.

For what was minutes but seemed like hours, Horn stood there with Daniel on his back. The man breathed in slow, quiet gasps. The sound of laboured, but controlled breathing. Horn fidgeted in the elevator, putting his weight on one leg then the next, constantly looking from the floor to the door in hopes that it would open sooner rather than later. When it finally opened, Horn was treated to a group of marines crowded around the elevator.

They started clapping, but Horn paid them no mind as he quite literally bull rushed his way through the crowd. Anyone that wasn't smart enough to get out of his way was bashed aside roughly. Some of the marines landed on the ground, but they didn't do anything aside from crawling away. Once they actually realized what was going on, the clapping stopped as the doors to the medical bay opened and Grass stood there looking at Horn. Jason braced for some sort of sarcastic remark before the operating began, but instead Lincoln simply motioned towards the prepared cot.

"Put him there Commander and get out of my bay." Horn complied without hesitation as he tried to gently lay Daniel on the cot, failing slightly as the bed bounced lightly as Daniel fell into it. Once that was done, Horn took a step back but remained looking at his friend laying on the table. He wasn't afraid that his friend might die, that was part of the job. He was more angry at the fact that he believed this to be his fault. Had he not been stupid and gotten himself in a coma, Daniel would have never been taken as a POW, none of this would have happened. Anger directed itself inwards before Horn noticed the hand on his chest pushing him out of the bay. "Commander. Out. You want him to live? Let me do my job in peace!" Grass stated as the Commander backed up step by step until finally he took his hand off of Jason's chest and the medical bay door closed. Marines on the floor kept their distance, but were still wandering around and paying attention to what was going on. After a couple seconds of standing there at the door, Horn turned and walked to the elevator. Knowing that the marine's eyes were on him, he took off his helmet and placed it under the crook of his arm as he reached the elevator and pushed the button. He turned around, and gave them each a look.

"You marines enjoy the show? Would you like it to become an interactive commentary on the very short lives of Cerberus marines?!" The marines got the hint as they all started going about their regular duties. "That's what I thought." Horn stated as he turned back around in time to see the elevator doors open. Private Fischer stormed out with Specialist Salazar on his back. She was yelling something almost incoherent at Fischer, but Horn simply decided to get out of their way as the rest of the fire team strode out. O'Ryan was the last one out of the box, his helmet in his hand at his side as he gave a nod to the Commander. They walked on by, Horn not bothering to say anything as he got onto the lift and pressed the button for the CIC.

A few moments later, Horn was stepping out onto the CIC. Unlike the marine 'campus' no one bothered to applaud him for his mission, which he was extremely grateful for. Kelly stood next to the display, turning slightly at the ding of the elevator. She gave a curt smile, looking past him into the elevator than back at him again. "Went straight to the medical bay sir?" She asked politely.

"Yep, boy's in rough shape." Horn answered flatly as he looked at a 3D image of the base they had just raided. "Was there any sign of those transports the Oracle assholes were using? Anything we could follow?"

"Negative sir." Kelly looped through the tape of the battle, showing that about two seconds after the Kodiaks left the hangar, their signs disappeared entirely. "Miniature stealth drives in each one. It looks like these guys are better financed than we thought." Horn put a hand up to his mouth, dragging it down off of his face.

"Yeah..." Horn stated, his eyes glued to the picture of the base. "But they're still Alliance. They're bound by a code of ethics and laws that they can't skirt around." Jason stated as he slowly paced around the image, Kelly following a few steps behind him with her hands clasped behind her back. "Which means that, while they may have the law on their side, and possibly the entire Alliance fleet...they don't have our leeway." Horn stated, finally stopping once he reached the other side of the display.

"Are you sure sir?" Kelly asked as Horn looked to her. "We just found Lieutenant Harrens, tortured to the near point of death inside that base. I thought Alliance had strict mandates about the treatment of POW's." Jason paused, looking at the image and then back to Kelly.

"So basically the Alliance created an organization that is us, just on the other side..." Horn stated rather than asked. "The Illusive man told us they were our equivalents on that side, I just didn't expect an exact match." Kelly said nothing, and there was complete silence on the deck aside from the noises coming from occupied consoles. "Is that base destroyed yet?" Jason asked.

"Yes sir, confirmed destruction by the time you reached the Victory." Kelly responded as Jason rolled his shoulders. Giving a slight sigh as he turned to leave. Kelly tilted her head slightly.

"Sir, if you don't mind me saying...I expected you be a bit more...angry." Jason stopped and looked back at her.

"And why's that Operative? Because the Oracle Commander got away?" Jason gave a smile. "Oh don't you worry, I will find and kill him. However, I'm happier knowing that we got Daniel back...don't try and switch my mood Operative." Jason answered as he turned and strode off.

"Yes sir. Helmsman, set course for patrol route Alpha." Kelly stated.

"Aye Ma'am, setting course for patrol route Alpha." Harold responded as Jason once more entered the elevator.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

A couple hours and a shower later, Horn was sitting in his quarters. Reports littered his desk, along with an empty bottle of alcohol and medals scattered every which direction. He was currently trying to finish his report to the Illusive man, almost done too, when the intercom blared into his quarters.

"Commander?" The voice asked, Horn recognized it as Grass.

"Yeah doc? How's the patient?" Jason could literally hear Grass scoff through the intercom.

"You mean patients? Specialist Salazar got her shoulder dislocated by someone who knew how to put the hurt on your marines. Tell me, have you ever thought of bone replacement? Might help with some of the issues you are having with the breaking and dislocat-"

"Doc, I am really not in the mood. So unless you want your bones replaced by a vacuum of space that used to be your spine, I suggest you get to the point." Jason stated, and there was a slight pause.

"Lieutenant Harrens is awake sir. Preliminary results indicate that, given a few weeks of recuperation, he'll be good to go." Horn got up, but before he went through the door, he stopped.

"Wait, ready to go? Just like that? No long term effects?" Horn asked.

"Well there is calcification of the bones at numerous joints, as well as evidence of medical procedures meant to repair, not inflict pain. If they wanted to kill him, there would have been no need. Without that medical care, he would be maimed beyond all hope of returning to active duty. It seems your little torture troops like to keep their subjects alive longer than needed, or Lieutenant Harrens simply lasted that long."

"No Doc, it just means that whoever was doing the interrogating loved the act of torture so much, they kept him alive as entertainment." Horn stated as he exited his quarters and made for the elevator.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

A short ride later, and Horn was back on deck 3. When he entered the deck, most of the marines did their best to simply stay out of his way, remembering his words fro a few hours before. With this in mind, Jason made a beeline for the Medical Bay, and upon entering, was rewarded by seeing Daniel sitting on the table rather than lying on it. Grass was running some tests, and as he lifted Daniel's arms up and down, Horn had to take a guess and say they were joint stress related. He had had enough of those to recognize one when it was taking place. Daniel had been looking at the doctor the entire time, but when the door opened, his head perked up slowly and he got a good look at the Commander. Despite everything, his facial expression didn't change. It remained in a stoic, almost pained look that warranted further investigation.

"Dr. Grass. How is my favourite sky fall buddy doing?" Grass looked over, back to his notes, and then held the datapad at his side.

"About as well as any soldier who's been under torture for over two months Commander. Why he's practically shooting a rainbow out of his ass." Horn glared at the man, who simply rolled his eyes. "He's fine Commander. Although, and I'm going to be enforcing this one, he is not to perform any combat missions for the next few weeks or until I deem him fit for duty. There are no obvious signs of lasting damage aside from obvious corrosion of bone and skin tissue, but I need to make sure." Horn gave a nod.

"Alright fine. Clear out for a moment Doc." Jason stated, Grass made ready to say something, but stopped just short and walked out quietly. Jason looked at Daniel, who simply looked at him back. There was an awkward moment as neither of them could figure out what precisely to say, until Horn clapped his hands. "So...How you doin?"

"I've been better sir." Daniel stated, Horn already picking up on the lack of mirth that usually accompanied his words. Horn walked to the other table, and leaned on it, crossing his arms as he did so.

"Well that's an understatement. However, I'm not asking physically Lieutenant." Horn asked, and Daniel's head perked up. Horn continued. "I've been tortured as well Lieutenant, I know what that kind of damage can do to a man. Physically they may heal, but mentally that's a different question."

"How long were you tortured sir?" Daniel asked, skipping the when knowing he wouldn't get an answer out of the Commander.

"3..." Horn stated and Daniel stared at him, his eyes giving a very disbelieving look. "Days." Horn finished. "But, it was a very harrowing experience with buzz saws, pain-poison injections and the like."

"Well sir, I don't think 3 days can compare to 2 months, 4 days, 11 hours, 5 minutes and 32 seconds." Horn looked over at Daniel, who gave a shrug. "I didn't really have much else to do."

"Which is why I'm concerned Daniel." Jason stated, forgoing his usual gung-ho bravado and showing genuine sympathy. He moved across the distance, and sat down on the same table as Daniel. "I was tortured for 3 days, I still remember the time quite vividly. You were there for..." Horn paused, trying to remember what Daniel had said, but failed. "Quite longer." He ended up going with. He put a hand on the man's shoulder, but Daniel only looked forward. "I need to know that Lieutenant Harrens is still in there."

"He still here sir." Daniel stated. "He's just a little bit more angry now." Horn looked down to see him subconsciously clenching his fists. Horn gave a smile.

"Well, you still have emotion, that's good." Horn stated as he hopped off the table and stood in front of the man. He gripped both of Daniel's shoulders and gave the man one good shake, enough to get his eyes to meet up with Horn. "Listen to me Daniel. You are my friend and brother. First thing I did when I got up, aside from immediately jumping from the ship into the atmosphere and assisting in an assault on a heavily fortified traitor Cerberus scientist, was start a search for you." Horn looked down for a moment, before looking up. "When I woke up, I found myself on a new ship, with new marines, with dead friends, and a lot of anger. So much so, and I'm ashamed to say it, I nearly shot another Cerberus Operative."

"Mind if I ask who sir?" Daniel asked. Horn simply waved his hand.

"That's not important, but listen." Jason took a breath. "You were the one friend that was still out there. Not confirmed dead, and still had hope. Then we found you, and we brought you back." Daniel looked at himself for a second.

"Well as far as I can tell, I'm not dead." Horn shook the man lightly again.

"Your body isn't dead marine! But I look at you, and I start to see a different person. I understand, I sympathize, but I didn't go in there looking to rescue some angry man who forgot how to smile and in it's place put a blood lust that would never be sated." Horn paused. "I went in there to rescue a friend. A friend I'm having a hard time seeing when I look at you. Do you understand."

Daniel looked down from Horn. There was a few moments where nothing was said. Finally Daniel looked up again. "Yes sir, I understand." Horn gave a nod, finally releasing his shoulders.

"I don't expect you to go back to completely how you were before, nor do I expect an immediate improvement. Just do me one favour." Horn gave a smile, lightly slapping Daniel on the face. "Don't forget to smile you bitch!" Daniel gave a smirk, which was more than Horn was hoping for in this little session. There was a hiss at the door, and Horn was already speaking before he turned. "Damn it Doc, ten minutes from your duty ai-"

A blur rushed by him as Daniel was quite literally tackled from the table. Horn just gawked as he half-ran over to see Daniel cringing on the floor and Jessie giving him a bear hug. "You're back! You're alive! That's awesome! Did you know that's awesome! Commander tell him that's awesome!" Horn just stared incredulously at the pair as Daniel looked down at Jessie clutching him in a bear hug.

"Lieutenant McKrain...Do you mind tell me why you're trying to straddle Lieutenant Harrens...and why I didn't get a tackle sex hug when I woke up?" Jessie got up, helping Daniel back up as well.

"Well sir, he's more recent and you were...well you were in a really bad mood when you first got up." Jessie kind of shied away from the question, but Horn knew exactly the mood he was when he first got up. Horn opened his mouth to speak before glaring at Daniel.

"Barely back for a day and already he's stealing the ladies from me." The door hissed once more. "Doc, good timing! Get him to st-" Horn paused when he saw that Kelly was standing in the doorway in immaculate posture. She cocked her head slightly to one side.

"I'm sorry Commander...you were wanting Dr. Grass for something." Horn paused for a second, not moving a muscle.

"Nooooo...What did you need Operative?"

"Nothing sir. I came here to see Lieutenant Harrens. I only got news that he was awake." Kelly walked past Horn to stand next to Daniel, while Horn stared at them all opened mouth trying to form words but failing. Daniel looked at the Commander, giving a genuine smile and shrugging. Horn glared, pointing at the man with two fingers.

"You coy son of a bitch." Jessie gave a laugh and Kelly simply smiled. Horn shook his head, and made to leave. As the door opened, Tia, Nerita, and Carly were all standing there. Horn just stared. "Do you ladies just want to drop your panties now and join the fuck fest going on back there? Or should I assume you are here purely for the 'we love Daniel in a non-sexual way' club?"

"I'm...sorry sir?" Tia stated, which Carly just pushed inside.

"Hell yeah sir! There's a Daniel love party going on here?! Let's do this up!" Horn visibly twitched. Nerita stared at the Commander for a moment before pushing past him, Tia following her. Horn looked back to see the mini-harem that Daniel had now accumulated. They all stared back at him, Carly and Jessie teasing with Daniel's hair just to add effect as the veins were visible on Horn's neck.

"What do I have to do to get a fan club going for Horn?! I jump out of ships for fucks sake! SHIPS! Do I have to punch a collector in the throat? Lose a leg!? Kick a Krogan in the pancreas?! Do Krogans have pancreases...pancreasi?" Horn turned and walked out of the door. "Lincoln! Doc! Hey! Do Krogan have pancreases!?"

The door closed as nearly everyone let out a laugh.