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Noah Korol

Drell Sapper

0 · 243 views · located in Mass Effect Universe created by Bioware

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

Description

Noah is a Drell, 22 years old. 5’7” tall, 150 pounds, She had a wiry build,that belied how unusually strong she was. She had reptilian features with the Drell’s typical large obsidian eyes. Noah prefers to wear tight body suits in varying shades of blues or greens to compliment her carmel/yellow skin and adds black combat boots.

Personality

Attractive, dedicated, devoted, fearless, loyal, religious, stealthy, poetic, spiritual. Outside the mission, she's spiritual, curious, joyful because she knows what happens when he dies (for her it is not faith, she KNOWS). She's loyal, calm, sincere and supportive.

When on a mission, she's hell on wheels in order to protect those she is loyal to, like Menar. Because she does not fear death, she proves to be far more dangerous than anyone expects. She is lithe, quick, and her movements are deceptive. In hand to hand, she is not a tank, she is a scalpel.

Skills: Noah also has the Eidetic memory all Drell do. She is also fearless due to her personal spirituality, skilled in using nearly any type of explosive, even making IEDs from very disparate materials. Noah has an extensive knowledge of the religions and mythologies of the different races. Her natural attractive nature also affords Noah great luck negotiating and garnering good deals for the group she is with at the time. Along with that comes a high level of success in convincing others into revealing information they might not ordinarily have done with other, more aggressive questioners.

Equipment

M-5 Phalanx pistol, M-3 Predator, M4 Shuriken SMG, tactical armor, varying bags with specialized pockets to carry explosives, detonators and blasters, combat knife, normal kit, clothes.

History

Noah was born and raised on Kahje with her parents, who were very content to remain there close to the Hanar society they have grown close to. The family of Hanar her family served have fully integrated Noah’s parents into their family and her parents know their soul names. Noah, however was restless. She respected the Hanar and was grateful for them saving her race, but she wanted to see more and due to the high humidity on Kahje, she was unable to explore as much as she wished. Barely into her teens, Kjar (as she had been called then) made her way aboard a freighter and began to explore as she’d always wanted. Her first Captain, a human woman with a bad attitude to anyone not on the crew, kept a strong grip on her crew. They were a mix of almost all of the common races and their rough and tumble camaraderie was a far cry from the very polite and spiritual life she’d grown up in.

Taking a page from the Hanar ways, she chose to keep her real name of Kjar as her soul name and not to be shared lightly and after much discussion, she picked Noah, a human name as her face name. She just liked how it sounded. It sang to her. Little by little the crew adopted her. Noah’s eidetic memory and natural charm proved invaluable in trading with any merchants they came across. Slowly, more lucrative business presented itself and the ship became a raider. Noah was trained in hand to hand combat, and how to handle firearms. But, she excelled at explosives. Her memory made it remarkably easy for her to relate different tasks in sequence and provided her an advantage in ensuring things went kaboom in exactly the right way.

Over the years, Noah gained a reputation as a fearless fighter. Her highly spiritual beliefs made her own death merely a stepping stone for her and as a result, she was willing to take risks in order to protect those she considered her friends. She learned more and more and eventually became part of a network of experts an Asari named M’kel Lanair found jobs for and took her share of the proceeds from. Based on Ilium, Noah spent many hours, when not working delving into the histories and religions of the other races. She was and still is ever curious about everything around her.

One day, a call came for Noah to meet her new employer; an irascible Krogan named Menar. He needed a stable, smart and reliable explosives expert. M’kel knew that Noah was the one for the job. When Noah entered the room, the Krogan grunted in deep irritation at the Asari. “Are you kidding me? I asked for a soldier, not a little girl that will need looking after every step of the way.”

M’kel merely smiled, “Trust me, Menar. I’ve never let you down before.”

Noah simply studied the slightly under-sized Krogan in silence while Menar and M’kel discussed her suitability for whatever the mission might be that the Krogan needed an explosives expert for. “If it helps you at all,” Noah interjected politely. “I have managed not to blow myself up thus far, I’m sure my skills won’t disappoint.”

Menar just looked at the Drell, not entirely sure if Noah was being sarcastic or not. Glancing back at the Asari, he got only a smile and a shrug of a slender shoulder, so he grudgingly filled Noah in on the mission. A dangerously radical group of pro-human terrorists calling themselves “Earth First” had been making a name for themselves blowing up targets of opportunity on many of the races home worlds or important outposts; usually locations that had a cultural significance. It was speculated that these sites were chosen for the most impact and casualties possible. The Alliance could not deal with the group directly because doing so would be seen as interference in the affairs of the other races.

It was decided by some unknown to hire a mercenary group made up almost entirely of non-humans to locate the terrorist’s base and take them out before they could strike again. Thus Menar and his group had been hired to do just that. Since they would be dealing with some fairly sophisticated explosive devices as seen by Earth First’s previous attacks, Menar had reached out to M’Kel for an explosives expert. Through intelligence gathering on the part of their employer, they learned that the next target was to be Mannovai, one of the Salarian’s first settlements.

It was believed that the Earth First Group was to destroy one of the powerful female Dalatrasses cloistered there. The effect this strike would have in a society heavy in males could be devastating.

Noah listened intently and merely nodded to the Krogan. “I will come with you.” In less than 2 days, they were outfitted and arrived at Mannovai. Noah wished she had time to speak to and learn from the remarkably fast-thinking and talking Salarians, but she had to remain focused. They headed to the main government building where the first circle of the Salarian clan and Dalatress would be. Under the cover of night, they made their way inside and Noah peeled off soundlessly to hunt down the explosive planted within the building. She and Menar’s main group did not communicate at all and one by one, Noah found 12 explosive devices set within the supporting structure of the building. How anyone had managed to do so was beyond belief. The devices were so sophisticated; Noah might have admired them, if not for the intent to kill innocents they were meant for.

After 2 hours, she regrouped with Menar and to her surprise; they had caught one of the terrorists; a rather ordinary-looking human woman. She didn’t look insane nor did she spout pro-human rhetoric at them. She simply smiled, “This may be the end of Earth First.” She said. “But, there will be other groups like ours and they will put all your disgusting kind under our boot heel!” She then hit a switch on a detonator she had held hidden in her right hand. In a deafening explosion, the woman disappeared in a roar of sound and light. The other members of the group with Menar and Noah had been closer to the interior of the building when the explosion literally collapsed the floor above them onto them. Menar and Noah had been closer to the door, but the floor came crashing down on them as well. Noah dodge a few massive chunks of the floor, but a smaller one clipped her shoulder, breaking her shoulder and sending her to the floor. Menar took massive hits that drove him to his knees.

In a very small window when things teetered on the brink of utter collapse, Menar scooped Noah up under his massive arm and ran for the door and opening in the glass front that had exploded outward in the initial blast. Once more debris rained down on them, but, Menar took the hits and kept moving forward. He knew they’d both be dead if he didn’t. A final leap took the two of them out onto the grassy area outside just as the building collapsed. Menar just kept moving, though he’d taken some massive hits. Getting back to the ship they managed to get back to Ilium where they received medical attention and told M’kel the story of what had happened. M’kel contacted the Dalatress that had been targeted and negotiated a lucrative recompense.

Since that day, Noah has stuck with Menar, feeling she owes him a debt. Menar always pretends having Noah around is an irritant, but their banter gives lie to that feeling.

So begins...

Noah Korol's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: The Illusive Man Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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Ross didn’t even remove his armor as he left the armory but the sight of the Hornet breaking into millions of pieces still fresh in his mind. He had a call to make and his employer was not the kind of person who liked to wait for the news. His communication to the Illusive Man was in the briefing room, the sounds of his team could be heard through the door. There was a lot of laughs and banter, the sounds of a team who got the team well and truly done.

Ross snapped to attention and saluted as the room grew dark. “Sir.”

The Illusive Man silently dismissed some files he had been perusing as the holographic image of Commander Ross rose behind him, slowly spinning his chair to face the man, a cigarette perched between his fingers. Flicking the ash away, he broke the brief silence.

"Commander Ross." He exhaled, blowing smoke across the dimly light room, highlighted by the blazing star to his back, his face shrouded in shadow save for the glow of his eyes. "I take it you've dealt with Poitvin?"

Ross dropped his hand but stayed at attention. "Affirmative. Took a burst to the back of the head, it won't be an open casket funeral. We have also just destroyed the Hornet but not before taking every piece of data we could find on it. Phillis is sending it over now, preliminary findings show that Poitvin indeed failed his mission to retrieve the Prothean data."

The Cerberus head took another slow drag off his cigarette, before snuffing it in the ash tray on his arm chair. "Excellent work, Ross. It seems my decision to invest in you was well made." He tapped a few keys on his haptic interface, and a display image of Eliza appeared before him. "I trust you won't let your newest crew member's...loyalty issues cause any trouble?"

Ross took a moment and thought about it. "She's been fucked over and asked to do horrible things with both the Alliance and that animal I just put down. Dr. Chel and I believe that my type of leadership will work with her. The doctor will also begin taking Eliza through some therapy to help her with some of her issues with her time on Eden Prime and with Potivin. She is an exceptional soldier and we are lucky to have her. We also will have her manning our main battery. We do not believe she is fit for the field. Yet."

The Illusive man simply nodded, his chair spinning back to face the countless screens that kept him informed on the vast workings of his organization. "As long as you're committed to the cause, and keep them committed, you have total discretion with your recruiting." His finger raised to end the call, pausing just above it. "I'll contact you when it's time for another assignment." With that, he cut the call.

Ross had just relaxed from his at attention posture before a voice came from behind him. “Speaking of recruiting we need to make a stop.” It was said as more of an order than a request and Ross turned to see it was Menar who gave it.

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Two days later…..

Ross always enjoyed the planet of Illium, and not just because of all the beautiful blue Asari walking around. He enjoyed the energy of the cities and the various ways to lose yourself in them. It seemed to be one of the few ways to calm his panicked mind after he left the Alliance but since getting it all back together he has had little need to come back. Coming through the hallways of the ship dock and seeing the views made him take note that a leisure not business visit might be needed soon.

He was sure he’d not be able to relax this stay as the Krogan Menar followed him and complained. “I don’t understand why you needed to come with me Ross. I told you, she’s one of mine. That should be more than enough of a reference for her.”

Ross kept walking down the hallway, if ignoring Menar wouldn’t result in some kind of violent outcome he would have done that. Instead he said, “Forgive me for not taking your word on it Menar. Lord knows you’re a fine judge of character.” He made the last part dripping with extra sarcasm. “The Illusive Man may had given us every right to bring more people on to my ship. But it is still MY ship and I want to meet anyone we might bring on board.”

“There is no might about this Ross. She is coming with us.”

Ross stopped and stood toe to toe with the Krogan. “I don’t care if she was part of your crew. This is my team and my ship. If I don’t ok it, she’s not coming. And if you dare try to undermine me in front of the men like this we are going to have problems.”

Noah stood at the reception lounge where Menar had told her to be ready to go. As usual, she was early. She recognized the rumbling voice and particular pattern of his footsteps before he came into sight. Rising from her chair, she watched the Krogan come into view with a tall human male and they didn’t appear happy with one another.

She waited for an opening in the argument, obviously centering around her and interjected, “If you will pardon Menar, I am certain that was not his intention.”

Both Menar and the human turned toward her, startled by the sound of her voice.

She offered a gentle smile, huge black eyes gleaming innocently back at them. She bowed with a single hand pressed to her chest. “It is my pleasure to meet you. I am Noah Korol. Companion of Menar.” Noah then turned and bowed separately to Menar, “It warms me to see you once more, Menar.”

Menar was first to speak. “God damn it Noah, if that sneakiness wasn’t so damn useful in combat I’d have belted you long time ago for that.”

The Drell turned back to Menar, “I assure you, Menar. It was not my intention to startle. Please forgive me.” She said in a tone that was completely sincere and yet indicated that she’d heard his threats countless times before.

Ross meanwhile looked back and forth between the Krogan and the smaller Drell. The contrast at just the surface level was staggering, but more than that this Noah in no way looked to him like the killing sort. He looked Menar and pointed at the Drell. “SHE….is part of YOUR crew? And is your EXPLOSIVES expert?”

Her attention returned to the Commander with a new interest. “Indeed.” She assured Ross. “I am proficient in all forms of infiltration and explosives. Hand to hand combat and most known weapons. I have been privileged to work with Menar for 2 years and I believe it has been mutually advantageous.” She paused and then continued, “If you wished, I could…”

Menar interrupted before she could launch into a complete history of their missions together with a soft growl. “No. Not the whole perfect memory trance creepy shit. Trust me Ross she’s tougher than she looks.”

Ross looked back at the Drell and after a moment of looking into her eyes decided to go with his gut. “Commander Jensen Ross. Welcome aboard.” He held out his hand.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Yeoman Andrea Chel Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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(Thanks to Digi Muse for helping with Noah.)

Ross walked the 2 dangerous aliens up the ramp to his ship. Ops Chief Vasquez was at the end leaning on the doorway. "So I leave you for 5 minutes with Menar and you boys bring home a stray."

"Funny Ops Chief.” Ross said as he rolled his eyes. He stood aside to make introductions. “Susan Vasquez. Meet...Noah. Uhhh I never did get the last name."

Noah remained calm and serene, her double set of eye lids blinking at the off-handed remark from the Ops Chief. At the introduction, she turned her head toward Ross, “Korol, Commander. Forgive me.” She smiled through her apology, even though she knew quite well she’d given her full name to the tall man.

She turned her black eyes back toward Susan and bowed gently, a hand at her chest. “It is my honor to meet you. Noah Korol. I am a companion of Menar.”

Susan raised a very curious brow and looked at the krogan. "Menar?"

Ross was smiling ear to ear, he'd known very well her name but was curious as to her reaction. So polite. It was tough to imagine her to be the killing type. Killing them with niceness. Ross thought with a smirk. "Menar insisted she come as out demo expert."

The Ops Chief had the look of a person who's world had changed right before her eyes. Menar...vouch for someone? "Wait...her? Our demo expert?"

Menar let off a small growl. "God damn it people she's better than she looks."

Noah looked from Menar to Susan, then to Ross and back once more. She got the distinct impression that Menar’s word was being questioned and it disturbed her. She owed him her life and his honor was important to her as it was to him. Speaking quietly, Noah said, “If it pleases you, I would prefer you do not doubt the word of Menar. He has never spoken falsely in all the time I have had the pleasure of working with him.” Noah paused as if weighing her words, “I would take it as a personal affront otherwise.” Even though the words hinted at a threat, they were softly spoken.

Susan raised her hand, she was rather caught off guard by all this and now on the defensive. A position she was not used to being in. "No no. I have no doubt you as good as he says. Just...you’re not the kind of person I'd associate with Menar."

Menar glowered toward the Ops Cheif, "And just what kind of people would you associate with me?"

The Ops Chief may have been off guard at the start of all this but she'd be damned to give any ground to Menar. "Oh you know, hard headed, burly, uncreative types who solve disputes with head butts."

"You say that like it's a bad thing." Menar grinned.

Susan waved him off, "Anyways, I always said demolitions could use a female touch."

Ross cross in front of the group and into the ship while say, "Just not yours. I still have that scar on my thigh from that time you dropped the frag."

Susan glared at her CO as he went inside then she waited for the other two to go inside. "One time. That was one fucking time and you bumped into me!"

Noah tilted her head at the exchange between Susan and Menar. There was little doubt he’d made his usual impression, but it didn’t appear that it would escalate into a full on onslaught. Nearly unnoticed, she relaxed her body and even smiled at Menar’s response to Susan. “He does have a certain…way about him.”

The comment about explosives, however gained more of her attention. “It has been my experience that neither the male nor the female of the species surpass the other when working with explosives. It is mainly a matter of training and confidence….” She began to launch into an overly complex explanation of the precise properties of the many different types of explosives she had ever seen.

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While the commander and others were enjoying the life and lights of Illum, Eliza Yossarian was stuck in a room with a quack. She’d done her best to avoid it for a few days, but her new commander was able to corner her while she was manning her new post at the main battery. Sure she had taken the chance to expressed her disappointment at not being able to take a infantry role but the commander insisted she’d see the doctor before he’d even consider her proposal.

So now here she was stuck sitting in front of this person who knew about her many mistakes. Someone who was judging her, or so she thought. The silence that Dr. Andrea Chel let build was making her more and more paranoid. Finally she couldn’t take it any more. “I thought shrinks were suppose to be all chatty.”

Dr. Chel simply smiled at her new patient, she’d work on people like Eliza before. In fact he was now the commander of this ship. She knew it was best to wait for her to come to her. That included being the first to speak. “Some of us can be, others….like myself like to listen at first.”

“Well then we are going to have pretty quiet hours doc, because I have no intention of saying much.”

“I can wait. It took Ross 5 hours before we even had a conversation. But you’re talking to me now. So…perhaps I’m a little more ahead of the game with you. Or perhaps your craving a conversation with someone who is not a sociopath.”

Eliza glared at the doctor. “Nice way of starting this off doctor. Really a nice way to start off this whole trust thing.”

She stood up and made for the door. As it opened the doctor spoke softly. “What happened was not your fault Elly. The man was brilliant and ruthless. Stronger people than you had fallen for that kind of man.”

Eliza stood there for a moment before he began to leave, a few more words followed.

“Tell the Commander it is time for his session. He can’t be expected to send you and not come himself.”

“On that we agree Doc.”

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“So I got you message Doctor.” Said Ross said as he stood in the doorway of her office.

“Please come in commander.” She waited for the door to close before she dropped her formal persona. She leaned back on her desk her hands on the edge. “You still haven’t come to see me for a session Jen.”

“I’ve been a little busy Drea.” Ross replied his arms crossed. A sign he was getting defensive, or at least that is what years of working with the Commander has taught Chel.

“I know that Jen. Which is why I didn’t pursue it before the mission. Even after the mission I gave you several days after. Figured you needed some time to relax but now we need to talk about what’s been going on. And how your handling it.”
Ross looked at the doctor for a minute before letting out a sigh and taking a seat on the couch. He rubbed his eyes for a bit before speaking. “I’m doing fine Drea. The plan went off without any complications. Didn’t loose anyone. Which I was surprised about to be honest. It was a high risk mission.”

Chel smiled and sat down on her own chair. “From what I hear you changed the plan. Not like you Jen.”

Ross thought for a moment and shrugged his shoulders, “Well last time I followed the plan it didn’t work out so well. Maybe I‘m not quite my old self, probably will never be.”

Chel put her hand on Ross’ and nodded her head. “Oh you never will. But is that such a bad thing? Probably saved a life of someone you care about.”

“Might get them killed too.”

“Wise man once told me that is just war.”

“He might have said it, but he doesn’t like it.”

There was a fairly heavy silence that followed that. One which was broken by Ross moving his hand away from Chel’s. “How’s your new patient.”

Drea leaned back on her chair and with a flick of her hand and roll of her eyes said. “Stubborn. Like another soldier I know.”

Ross smirked and let out a chuckle. “Yeah…those are some hours we’ll never get back.”

“Oh I wouldn’t say that. All just what was needed before you came out of that shell.”

Ross smiled and looked down, he kept quiet for a few moments. He was about to admit he doubted himself. “Think she will be trouble?”

Chel smiled sadly at the Commander, some lingering doubts which will still take years to weed out. Though he had no reasons to have them. In this case. “Not unless you plan on becoming a war criminal. It’s a relief you brought someone on board is in this because they believe in it. She’s not in this for the money. And no amount will sway her from what she believes. And that is what she has been missing, She’s yet to have something to really believe in, or at least believe in and feel like it‘s the right way to go about it. A big difference between the two, and if you can give her that she’ll go to hell for you. “

Ross thought a bit longer on the doctors point about money. But it was quickly tossed aside as Ross’ nodded his head to the doctors evaluation. He felt his gut had made the right call with his own evaluation, but it was good to get the masters thoughts on the matter. A sudden commotion from the outside was enough to draw his attention away. He looked back at the door and thought he’d heard the familiar sound of Menar’s growl. He got up from his seat, “Back to work it seems Drea.”

Chel nodded her head as he moved to the door. “I’m not done with you yet Commander Ross. You are still to see me at least once every 2 days. Don’t make me have to track you down.”

Ross looked back with a smirk, “Oh now that would be awful.” With that he opened the door and heard a talk about loyalty.

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The elevator slid open as Susan led Noah out the door to the CIC with Menar close behind. Susan found it rather endearing to see Menar keep Noah within eye shot since she had come on board. "This is the 4th floor, consider it our command center."

Coming up to the hallway to the helm, Susan stopped and grew strangely hostile to even the thought of talking with Joe. She simply pointed down the hallway, "Up there is our helm where the pilot tries to keep us from getting kill. Or is trying...sometimes I'm not sure."

Noah listened attentively as Susan lead her through the ship. Menar had interrupted her lecture with a growling sigh. Her black, liquid eyes took in everything as the trio entered the CIC and she did not miss the sudden tension from the Ops Chief. Noah nodded politely at the indication of the helm. She smiled, but wasn’t entirely sure that Susan was making a joke or not.

Having heard other tension-filled jokes like this before, Noah extrapolated that something had gone wrong recently or there was a personal relationship between Susan and the pilot. “Your pilot and you…?” She inquired as her eyelids blinked innocently.

This little alien seemed to be a master at getting Susan off her cool. And her question was ambiguous and could perhaps been taken a different way but Susan only heard it one way. "NO! No no no no. Me and him. No. No no no."

She froze in place as she heard an irritating voice from behind. "My spidey sense is tingling." Joe smirked as he had walked down the hallway without Susan noticing. He took a few steps down to the others and waved to the new arrival. "Hello there! Name's Joe I fly you fine folks through these friendly skies."
Menar’s snorting laugh and Susan’s rather vehement denial of any sort of romantic relationship was quickly noted and Noah bowed slightly. “Ah. Forgive me. I hope I did not…”

Joe’s cheery greeting from behind them drew all their attention his way and in one way managed to save Susan from having to explain her true feelings any further. Once again, Noah’s head tilted in curiosity and she bowed toward Joe. “It is my honor, Joe. My name is Noah Korol. Companion to Menar.” She didn’t bother filling in the part about her expertise in hand to hand and explosives. She guessed that Menar secretly enjoyed showing off just how useful she truly could be.

Joe looked to Menar and smiled, "Complanion? As in." He procided to make bed squeeking noises. "Menar I knew you had it in you!" It must had been quite hilarious to any outside observer to see arguably the 2 toughest sons of bitches on the ship go completely defensive.

Because that was just was Menar did but in a more agressive way. "What did you say? You little. I'll break you in two." He took several thundering steps to Joe before Susan could get somewhat in his way holding him back.

Noah blinked in surprise at Joe’s misunderstanding or was it his very poorly conceived joke. One didn’t make a Krogan angry while standing within easy arm’s reach. That was tantamount to suicide. She reached out to place a slender, restraining hand on Menar’s huge forearm. It really would have had no effect had the Krogan truly wanted to tear Joe apart. For that matter, Susan would have been no obstacle either. Once again, Noah felt that Menar’s honor was being questioned. “My life belongs to Menar it is true. But making light of his honor twice in less than an hour is unacceptable.”

Joe was rather surprised and he wouldn’t lie, he was scared shitless about Menar's misunderstanding. "Whoa whoa!" After a few moments of sheer terror or at least in Joe's mind things had calmed down. Though Joe had not felt any safer as Noah's words seemed just as intimdatiing as Menar's rage. Before he could say anything to defend himself however Phillis voice rung into the room. "Helmsmans Butcher's confusion comes from the fact that the word companion has been used by humans for centuries to mean married partners." Joe pointed up to the ceiling. "What she said."

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence Susan keyed into a few words Noah had said. "Wait....belongs?" She took a moment to process it then glared at the korgan. "You brought a slave aboard a HUMAN ship?"

Menar growled even more lowly at the accusation the Ops Chief leveled at him, but again the lightest of touches from Noah’s hand prevented him from making any rash actions. She turned her black eyes toward Susan and noted her outrage. “I am no slave as you understand it. I have a compact with Menar as strong as the one my family has with the Hanar. He saved my life. I now accompany him and do all I can to save his. I am a comrade, an advisor, a negotiator, a member of his team. It is my choice to act in this way out of gratitude.” She paused and looked between Joe and Susan. “Perhaps such loyalty is uncommon here?”

Joe made a loud hissing sound with a muttered "Ohhh damnnn" under his breath. He quickly made his way back down the hallway to the helm however as he noticed a deathly glare coming toward him from the Ops Chief. She watched him go, the pause more for herself to get control of the rage boiling inside her. It seemed as though she was losing that fight as she was about to let into the Drell.

"Stand down Vasquez." A strong voice came from near the elevator as the door to the doctors room was open and the Commander stood in the doorway. He came up to the group, his eyes falling on Menar just a second longer. After a moment he looked at the drell, "Loyalty to the wrong cause is dangerous and in no way honorable. Cerbers took a chance on a broken old soldier, one that the Alliance had simply cast aside. More importantly than that however they seem to be the only ones actively preparing for a great threat that is coming for every member of this galaxy. Until they stray from doing everything they can to fight that threat they have my gun."

From down the hallway a cheery voice came down from the helm. "And my axe!"

Noah did not watch Joe leave as quickly as his legs could carry him, nor did she move a muscle while Susan tried to decide to take a swing at her or not. Noah believed she had a good idea of the woman’s true nature now and she could even admire her for it. But, the Ops Chiefs temper would make her take unnecessary risks. It was something Noah would need to remain aware of.

When the Commander emerged from an office nearby and ordered Susan to stand down, Noah noted how he held Menar’s gaze longer than was perhaps necessary. She’d have to ask the Krogan about that later. The Commander explained where he stood and his reasons for loyalty to Cerebrus and Noah looked deeply into the human’s eyes. He truly believed his words. But as if to break the tense atmosphere, Joe’s voice piped up as well “And my axe.”

One and all they traded completely confused looks. But Joe’s interruption had worked perfectly. Noah bowed slightly to both Ross and Susan. “Forgive me for speaking inappropriately; I did not intend to offend. Should your path and ours diverge, I hope it will be as friends.” She glanced up at the still seething Menar. “For now, I stand beside Menar who stands beside you.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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Once Menar had left her to her nightly prayers, Noah found she had some difficulty falling asleep. Her mind kept going over the impressions of the few crew members she’d met thus far and the shadowy organization she now worked for. She would need to learn all she could about the crew and the Commander especially to ensure Menar was not in an untenable situation. He tended to ignore the sensible choice of walking away to fight another day. It was late into the night before she finally found sleep.

The following day started with more prayers and then Noah had a light meal in the crowded mess hall where she was permitted her space, though she felt several odd looks from those around her. She had expected as much. It was unlikely that a majority of the crew knew of her arrival as yet. Once her light meal was complete, Noah rose and wandered the halls of the ship, familiarizing herself with the layout with the assistance of Phyllis. Noah knew from experience that knowing where to go might become vitally important in the future. She always preferred to plan ahead.

Returning her room, Noah decided it would be in her best interest to get back to her normal routine of working out daily to keep the vessel of her body in prime condition for whatever might come. Preparedness had always been one of her hallmarks. Changing her clothes she put on a green jumpsuit without sleeves and shorts for legs. The outfit showed off her slim, but strong physique remarkably. Noah left her room and headed down the hallways to the very small space called a gym.

Ross had gotten an early start to his day. He discovered years ago that a early start means he get a bit more of time for himself. And he’s been needing that more and more since the mission. It had all gone well, but the pressure of being in command in a combat situation was still running its way through his system. He was much more comfortable than he was before, however there is still a nagging feeling in his gut and his mind. Like an itch he can’t scratch. The good doctor however assured him that post missions shakes like this will occur less and less. She hadn’t been wrong so far.

But still he had his own way of getting his mind at peace and some may find it strange, but exercising in the gym of the ship seemed to put his mind at ease; his whole being concentrating on the actions of his body, willing it to go farther than the last time. He’s just completed work with weights, and had begun on a punching bag when the door had opened and another stepped into the room. He allowed himself a quick peek at the newcomer before continuing.

Entering the gym, Noah immediately saw its other occupant. She hesitated at the door and addressed the Commander, “Do I intrude? Should I leave you to your thoughts?” Ross only smiled and shook his head at her. “No, you’re fine.”

Reassured, Noah continued into the small room watching Ross as he returned to his workout on the heavy bag. She stretched in slow, fluid movements that reminded many humans of an ancient martial art called Qi Gong. The naturally curious Drell had looked it up and become instantly fascinated in the monks said to have developed the form. It resonated with her own religious views.

The pair worked in silence, Noah with her eyes closed, simply feeling her body moving through the space and Ross concentrating on whatever might be on his mind. Noah considered engaging the man with questions so she might be able to see if Menar’s questions about the man might be answered. But felt it might be too soon. Instead, she simply asks him, “You slept well, Commander?”

Ross worked in quiet as the bag rattled as his fist slammed against it. The tape on his hands no doubt saving his knuckles from serious pain with the force he was using. And it only grew stronger and faster at its pace. At the end of the forceful crescendo he took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from his brow, the soft question of the Drell pulled his mind away from the escape for a moment. “Better than I have in a while.” Which was strange to him, though he was never one to turn away any gifts life may give him. “How about youself? Adjusting to the new ship alright?”
He began to work on the bag again but this time his mind was not fully committed to it, he felt he could not be rude to the other in the room if she wanted to make conversation.

Noah nodded politely. “Quite well, I thank you. Several of your crew even offered to assist me to bring my things to my room. But, Menar and I managed.” She smiled at the memory of the looks on the face of the two Marines, one from simple confusion and the other angry resentment. In all actuality, both she and Menar had been right in assessing the intentions of others.

The subtle shift in intensity in Ross’ work out signaled his disengaging from the total immersion into his routine. She knew it and felt an honest remorse. “How might I help you get your mind back into your workout?” She asked, giving an unnerving impression of a mind-reader.

Ross looked past his bag with a smirk. "I'm sure Menar could manage and...'politely'told my men so." He shook his head in amusement, he believed things would gel together as time went. One thing he did not agree with Cerberus on was that species would quickly bicker when the chips were down. Maybe Ross was an idealist.
"I can walk and chew gum at the same time Noah." Ross said as he continued with the punch bag. After a few more solid combos, and with a touch of the button it was replaced with a speed on. Partly because it was his weakest point and he needed to work on it and partly because it left his vision a bit more open so he could talk more openly. "Besides you’re new to the crew, and nothing brings out the truth in people like sweating together. We may be bleeding but that will have to come later."

The reference to chewing gum went right over Noah’s head and she blinked her curiosity at him while trying to puzzle it out. She did smile when Ross very accurately guessed at Menar’s reaction to the Marines, “Yes…he threatened to fold one up and throw him in the trash. But I showed him that he saw things incorrectly.”

Noah moved smoothly to the mats set on the floor and began to work through some flowing but devastating-looking katas of whatever martial art she’d been trained in. Parts looked familiar and others looked completely foreign. The katas were probably meant to make the fullest advantage of a Drell’s ability to sneak in close and their inherent strength. The moves were the first glance Ross got that Menar wasn’t exaggerating about Noah’s ability. She worked through the katas with speed, hinting at explosive power and quickness. But it was equally obvious that she would be handicapped in a fight of attrition.

Ross’ last comment brought her black eyes up to observe him closely, “The truth?” She was quite curious now, “The truth about you or about me?”

Ross stopped the speed bag for a moment to give the Drell a bow. "Well thank you for making sure he didn't hurt any of my crew. I'd hate to have to throw him out the air lock." He added with a smirk. "He's a good man, just head strong but Krogan do tend to have that trait."
Ross had begun the speed bag again and watched the Drells move, he noted the speed and force behind the moves. The Drell may have been about the same size as many humans but they did seem to have a bit more of force. He noted however that such things would make her vulnerable to fights that did not end quickly. Ross was thinking about being stupid enough to test that.

Ross moved the bag away from himself as he walked up to the Drell after she asked about which truth would be brought out. "Both. Less you’re not sweating, at which point there is always sparing. It makes one less inclined to lie when there’s a fist coming toward their face." He took a pair of grappling gloves and tossed them to the Drell. "If you up for it."

Noah had been about to remind Ross that she did not and almost could not lie given her convictions. Fist or no. She paused in her work out when he invited her to spar. Noah dipped her chin in acknowledgement and caught the gloves Ross tossed toward her. “I would be honored. Learning strengths and weaknesses of anyone I would be fighting with is always wise.” In her own mind, she added, Or against. “You will learn, however, that there is no deception in me. It conflicts with my beliefs.”

Noah waited until Ross had his own gloves secured and once he looked up and nodded, she wasted no time and slipped inside his reach to tag him with a shockingly fast fist to his ribs before dancing backing out of range. Even though she had pulled her punch, he still felt it.

As she put on her gloves Ross hit several buttons on the wall removing most of the equipment around the pair. Ross walked back to the middle of the room to his new crew mate, "We all keep some parts of ourselves from view. Conflict brings this out better than any drink I know. Even if it's friendly such as our own." He began putting on his gloves.
The quick strike was impressive, he had expected it to be blistering from watching her before but he would never say he wasn't impressed. His ribs were perhaps not as happy with the show of speed but the commander in him smiled. He held up his hands, but this time instead of waiting for the Drell to strike again he moved forward quickly. Nowhere as fast as the Drell, but much quicker than a man of his size perhaps should be able to.

Noah had expected Ross to hesitate when she hit him, but was pleased when he simply moved forward to get her into his range. He wasn’t intimidated or unsure and that bode well should the ship ever get into real trouble. She noted his speed and backed away from him looking for another opening to dip in and tag him again. Noah found herself at a slight disadvantage, since she wasn’t entirely sure how hard she could actually hit him without causing harm. The only time she’d fought a human, she’d been forced to kill him. It had been swift and brutal and she’d prayed for his soul when the mission had been completed. She hadn’t regretted doing what she had to. But she did take death seriously.

Ross kept moving forward trying to cut her off when she tried to slip sideways, so she shot a straight jab toward his cheek to make him more wary.

Ross' head snapped back but not because of a jab finding its mark. He raised both hands up, "Whoa." And quickly took a few steps back, he was not in the least bit out of breath. "You're pulling your punches." Ross smiled, "While I appreciate the concern, I'm not flower. And I'd trust you not to make any moves to kill."
Ross took a few more steps back a smile on his face, he wanted to see just what his new crew member could do. Once the pair were in the middle of the room again, he nodded his head. This time he waited for the first blow to come from her, curious to see if she'd take his words to heart and looking to counter.

Noah didn’t drop her hands when Ross stepped back and scolded her for pulling her punches. She did tilt her head at him and spoke gently. “Forgive me Commander, but I have to advise against that. I do not wish for you to be harmed.”

But, in answer, Ross simply stepped back with a smile and nodded at her to continue. Saying a soft prayer in her mind, Noah took a few small steps toward Ross and then feinted with another shot to his ribs before dipping suddenly and sweeping her long legs out to try to take his legs from beneath him. If he went down, she would throw an arm bar across his throat. It would ordinarily be a killing move.

Ross gave the Drell a friendly smile before they began again. "I thank you but anything short of broken bones and death is par for the course" Ross eyes set on their target as she came forward again. He'd seen her hook to the ribs before, the difference in this one set off warning bells. The dip however is just what he was hoping for, and he wasted no time in moving forward. Driving his shoulder into her chest he used his power and mass to bring both of them down.

Noah was thrown back off her feet when Ross tackled her. His shoulder drove into her solar plexus, momentarily leaving her breathless. It was only her strength that permitted her to get her forearm under his arm to try to throw Ross off to the side. His superior weight was going to be a devastating advantage if she remained on the mat. Using her arm and legs, Noah twisted beneath him, barely managing to squirm out from under Ross.

Grappling was a tactic she had never expected from the Commander. It instantly got her attention and fueled Noah’s delight in learning. Even if those lessons came with some heavy bruises. Being inexperienced at ground-fighting, Noah tried to leap onto Ross’ back so she could try to get her arm around his throat and choke him out.

Ross was pleased to see she had the composure to make sure he'd not landed with his body on her. Ross tried his best to keep the Drell under his control on the ground, but she was quick and used that fluid movement she showed before to slip from his guard.

Ross was not sure how experienced Noah was when the fights got up close and personal. So he was rather surprised to feel her leaping onto his back. A rather desperate move by someone he realized had little experience. It was that surprise that nearly got him in trouble. But he'd gathered himself with enough time to not let her lock the move. A shift of his mass against hers, as well as a show of brute force, and she was sent over his shoulder. He made sure to keep a tight grip on her arm. She wasn't going to pull away from him now.

Noah nearly had the Commander in an arm bar across his throat when he lurched and threw her over his shoulder. She began to scramble to get back to her feet when his grip on her arm jerked her back onto the mat. Noah remained completely silent throughout the scramble and when Ross pulled her back onto the mat, she whirled her hips around trying to lock her legs around his waist to squeeze him tight.

Being in an awkward position and controlled by Ross’ grip, Noah wasn’t able to swing her legs around him fast enough. So she switched tactics and drove a hard elbow into his ear.

Ross was sure the power behind the elbow was enough to leave him a shiner. The speed was too quick to dodge, but he kept it together enough to stay standing and more importantly keep his grip on her arm. Ross used her next blow as momentum to once again bring her to the mat. This time however he brought an elbow with him aimed at her temple as the two went to ground.

Being unused to wrestling or grappling, the movement was not something Noah had ever seen before and so she couldn’t predict what Ross had planned. The two landed hard on the mat and his elbow into her temple made her world spin terrifically, but she didn’t lose consciousness. Once again, however, she found herself well controlled beneath Ross’ greater mass. Using her strong legs, Noah arched her back suddenly trying to throw Ross over her head in much the same way as he’d thrown her. While doing so, she lifted her head trying to break his nose as he came forward.

Ross kept his legs spread to keep his center of balance, looking to keep the advantage of his size. Though he was not thrown over by the move he did come forward and Noah’s head did its job of breaking his nose. He tasted blood but he did nothing but grin from it. And then he brought his own head down on the Drell’s, but this time on his terms.

Hearing the crunch of Ross’ nose breaking was satisfying, but the man did not seem in the least fazed by it. He followed it up with a head butt of his own. While her face was considerably different morphologically than a Human’s, the blow still had the desired effect. Between the elbow she took to the temple and this knew shot, Noah’s world went dark.

Ross looked down at Noah ready to deliver another blow but he noticed the one was enough. He took a deep breath as he stayed on his knees for a moment, he wiped the blood from his face before getting to his feet. He walked over to the wall and retrieve a water bottle from it, after taking off his gloves. Taking a long drink he moved back over to Noah and dumped the rest of the contents onto her face.

The water woke Noah instantly and left her sputtering slightly. Wiping the water away, she sat up gingerly, in case she got dizzy. Blood ran down her nose like Ross’ and she touched it gently testing for sore spots. There were a few. When Ross offered her his hand to help her stand, she blinked at him curiously. “It seems I have much to learn, Commander.” Her tone was as calm as if they had been discussing the weather. Once she was back on her feet, she smiled and bowed slightly to him, “Thank you. That was…enlightening.”

Ross smiled and bowed back to her, "I was just able to close the gap this round. However if you'd ever like tips for when the fight gets up close and personal I'm always willing to help my crew." He went back again to the wall and grabbed two more waters one, the other he threw to Noah. "And considering no one is really ever part of my crew until I put them out I suppose we can make it official. I'm joking by the way."

Noah snagged the water bottle out of the air and drank deeply. Tilting her head back hurt, she’d have to be careful of that for a day or two. When Ross offered to advise her on what to do if she got into a similar position again, she nodded, “It would please me to learn more of this type of fighting. I believe in being prepared.” She smiled until he made the joke about knocking out every new member of the crew and started to ask if he’d managed to do the same with Menar. But, Ross quickly confessed to joking to Noah’s relief. “Oh. I see.” She smiled in response.

She took another draft from her water bottle, not needing as much of it as a Human would. “And have you learned a truth as you said you would?” Noah asked curiously.

"Being prepared. Seems we’ll get along fine in that aspect." He nodded his head. "Oh you may want to clean that up." He said mentioning the blood. "Speaking of which…" He then took his nose with a hand and with a snap put it back in place. "That's better, don't want to look like some Vid celebrity"

Ross wiped his nose from the blood again and then with the clean half wiped his face while he considered his answer. "Discovered you won't be one to go quietly into that good night. Which is good. Quick to adapt too, granted you had no training for grappling, but you did well with escapes." He looked over the Drell, who looked much less regal in appearance but kept the same quiet power she'd given off as before. "All in all, a fine addition to the crew. And what did you learn of myself?"

Taking Ross’ advice, Noah used the water from the bottle, pouring it into her cupped hand and washed the blood from her face. Watching Ross handle the re-setting of his own nose made her blink in commiseration. She knew that must have been painful. In answer to her question, he explained that he felt she’d make a good addition to the crew. She had known this, but it was gratifying that the Commander also felt that way.

When he turned the question back to her, she shook her head at him. “I learned nothing new of myself, Commander. I am very aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I have, however, learned much of you. You take no one’s word. But it might also mean you cannot delegate. You must test the metal…is that the phrase? Of each person you may go into battle with. I believe this is wise, although it is possible this is a painful way of going about learning these things.”

Noah smiled, hoping to show she meant no offense and is simply telling him what she believes to be true based on her observations and past experience. “I believe I should return to my room to wash up and change clothes.” She paused and pursed her lips, “If Menar seeks you out…I apologize…he…can be overly protective.”

Ross smiled and bowed as the Drell left. She had touched on many points on himself that he was well aware of. He was a soldier first, not a politician. Because of this the art of delegating was something that had always eluded him. His ability with words were something he’d decided to work on since taking command once again. Wisdom had come with age, since he had first taken command with the Alliance he gave little thought to the matter.
Ross looked over the room and the blood which marked the floor now. A less painful way to learn what new people brought to his team, he was sure there was. But none were as fun. Ross smirked and walked out the door.
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Ops Chief Vasquez had already had a busy morning, after breakfast she was quick to get reports from all stations of the ship but when the Commander was not to be found in the CIC she had a good idea where he might be. Deciding to give him some time to himself, she’d even gone the extra step of organizing the reports in terms of priority, but now she’d need his word on the follow up. She made her way to the gym and as she approached she stopped dead as a rather battered Noah passed her with a bow and polite greeting, a few moments later the Commander followed looking just a bad.
“Really. REALLY? You’re still doing that? Still putting on the whole, ‘The truth comes out in combat’ shit.” She fumed at Ross.
Ross smiled as he walked to his friend and took the papers in her hands. “You’re just bitter because you haven’t beaten me yet.”
Susan felt her ears get hot. “Not the fucking point.” She noticed a crewman pass by their very curious eyes on the pair till the death beam of a glare from the Ops Chief made them look away. “Sir, you’re new to this command and the crew doesn’t need to see or hear about how a ‘frog’ got a shiner on you.”
“She is a Drell, Sue.” Ross said as he looked down at the papers. “And she’s a very capable warrior, I can see why Menar was so insistent to bring her along.” Ross looked back up to Susan, her eyes still had fire. Ross added softly. “She’s going to save lives Sue. Frog or not. Might even be yours. Let’s get to work.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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Ross waited for a moment for the door for the main cannon to open. It seemed to take a second longer than others to open. A curious thing he'd just noticed. As the door open the newest member of the team saw the Commander looking at the door. "Uhh....Commander?" Said Eliza.

"Oh sorry, just noticed something. Anyways. I just came down here for a report on how things are going down here." He said with a smile as he walked in and sat on on of the boxes in the corner. "Also if you new any combat medics."

"Sir?"

"We still need one, Dr. Chel can only handle so much. She's more for your soul than your body. We are going to take hits, it would be foolish to think other wise so I need a medic who can handle the worst of it."

"But why come to me? Would she know more."

"Yeah sure. Civilians. I need the kind who can kept there heads if and when things really go off. I need a man or woman who can save my crews life no matter what is going on around them. Those doctors Miss Chel knows are all bright sure, but you can't just throw them in the fire. Not with lives on the line. Not with MY peoples lives on the line."

Eliza looked at the Commander. He was a fair, if not complete change of style from her other...superiors. "Well...I do know one. We served together, but he was only in it for the financial aid for school.. He's a civilian now."

"Did he see any action?"

""Enough for him to tell me he was so damn happy when his time was up and was going to school. It was with Geth and Batarians. He left just before I was assigned to....." Her voice trailed off as her mind began to fall into a dark place. A hand on her soldier snapped her out of her thoughts. It was the Commander, look and small smile he gave her told her he understood.

"Sounds good. What's his name."

"John Kang"

"Thanks Elly. So how are things going?"

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Menar was the last to arrive to the briefing room as always, he arrived just before the Commander. "Not much of a mission today folks, another simple pick up. However WHERE we are doing this pick up means we need to watch what we are doing. We're going to Earth, right into the Alliances backyard which means just myself and the ops chief will be headed planet side. We will on a building run my one of Cerberus many many kind donors. But once on the ground we'll need to be working under the radar. Try not to bring much attention to ourselves. So that means Menar and Noah you stay on the ship with the rest of my marines. Most people down there might know of other life on planets but to see them especially ones are rare as yourselves will only bring a lot of attention we don't need. Stay on standby with the rest of my marines."

"Well then you all wake me up if you need me. If I'm stay on this tub I'm going back to bed." Menar said as he leaned back on the chair causing it to creak violently.

"You do that. Just make sure that if we do need you two. You all bring the pain. Menar lots of pain." Ross smirked at the krogan and Menar chuckled to himself at the thought. "Also some bigger guns, we'll be rather underpowered. Civilians don't walk around with M-8 Avengers after all. Any questions?" He ended and when he saw no hands go up he nodded. "Very well should be a quick one today but be ready. Dismissed."

After a few moments of shuffling chairs and feet, most had left the briefing room except for the Commander, the Ops Chief and a drell. Noah rose sharing a glance with Menar. The Krogan just rolled his eyes at her, but kept moving out into the hall after everyone else. It was almost as if he could read her mind. After their time together, maybe he could.The Commander however had not noticed as he was looking through his data pad one last time. It was a cough from the Ops Chief that made him aware of the 3rd wheel in the room. "Oh...sorry Noah I figured you shuffled with the others. Something on your mind?"

Turning her attention back to the Chief Ops and the Commander, Noah offered each her usual, formal bow and then nodded to Ross’ question. “Indeed, Commander.” Her large liquid eyes blinked slowly between him and Susan. “I have never been to Earth.” She stated leading.

Susan had not expected that, she was thinking the drell would be talking to the Commander about what that had talked about earlier that day. But Earth? Noah? "Oh no. No. I haven't been to....where ever it is you people come from."

Noah listened quite calmly when Susan spoke up. “Kahje.” She supplied when the Chief Ops fumbled for the name of the Hanar home world.

"Whatever but I'm sure I'd stick out like a sore thumb. We are trying to be incognito. A drell with a group of humans defeats that purpose you know. She shouldn't be coming with us sir"

Ross took a moment considering his Ops Chiefs views. She had some very good points. But he calmly looked back to Noah. "She does have a point, unless you have thought of something we hadn't. Can't imagine a mask would fool anyone."

“The Chief Ops brings up very good points and it is obvious that I could not hide. But a point you cannot argue is that to many, the reputation of Cerebrus for being Pro-Human, also means Anti-Alien. As such, my presence would be an additional layer of deception, do you not think?”

Ross couldn't help but let out a laugh at what really in his mind was a checkmate point by the drell. One that he himself had not considered. For a moment he even thought of bring Menar. But that was quickly tossed away with a hell no in his own mind. "I would say that you'll be having you first visit to Earth Noah. Unless the Ops Chief has something to retort?"

Susan thought it was still risky, but she could see Ross liked the idea of having someone else down on the ground with him. She shook her head.

Noah tilted her head at the Commander, “At least permit me to accompany you on the flight down. I wish to discuss my duty schedule as well.” Noah indicated Susan with an elegant wave of her hand, “Chief Ops Vasquez has given me suggestions for how I might best train and be trained aboard ship.”

Noah looked back and forth between the pair. Her rather rigid face somehow still registering hope on it.

Ross nodded his head to her questions about duties."So long as you can walk and talk, we should get on the shuttle and head down as soon as possible." He walked passed the drell and the door opened he allowed the ladies to go first. Who says chivalry was dead. "So Noah tell me what my friend has suggested." He said with a smirk toward the Ops Chief.

When the Commander acquiesced and allowed her to accompany them, at least on the flight down, Noah smiled brightly and followed Susan out of the meeting room. She paused very briefly trying to ascertain what the Commander meant when he commented that she needed to walk and talk. She finally decided he meant to tell him Susan’s suggestions as she accompanied him to the shuttle.

Noah explained enthusiastically how she’d met Alexander Pegg and his willingness to teach her about Mass Effect physics, but needing the Commander’s permission to be in Engineering. Noah also advised that she would be training the young Mensch in sapping.

As they entered the shuttle bay, Noah continued with her hopeful plans for hand to hand training, both with the ship’s Marines and if he was willing, more training with the Commander as well. She realized she had been babbling away for the entire walk down. “Oh…forgive me, Commander. I grow rather excited if I can learn.”

Susan was rather surprised to hear the drell speak for so long and without a pause for others. She could not however think of it as anything other than a positive. She would not however show her relief at the new side of the drell. Ross however could not stop smiling, the excitement the drell possessed was infectious. Something that would be needed from time to time on the ship.

By the time they reached the ship she raised his hand to stop her from possibly apologizing some more. "No need. Excitement is something to be cherished. As we grow older they can sometime be lead to less and less of those moments." He entered the shuttle and took a seat near the front.

"As for to reply to this flurry of possible activity. Number 1. I'm surprised but pleased by your talk with our resident engineer. I've tried to talk to him myself, however he always seemed rather occupied and eager to get me out." He thought for a moment and nodded, "You have my permission to learn of this ship and Mass Effect physics. Consider yourself an engineer in training. As such when you are down there you will be under Mr. Pegg."

Noah couldn’t help but note how the Chief Ops and the Commander’s line of thoughts so perfectly paralleled each other. “I think I frightened Engineer Pegg, Commander. He was not aware I was even aboard the ship. Phyllis had been unable to advise him of such” She continued, “He seemed very nice when he was certain I did not mean to harm him.”

Commander Ross chuckled a little to himself and rubbed his chin. "I suppose I have a bit of the blame myself. I had just seen him today I guess I could have told him there was more than just Menar on the ship now. You take care of him though Noah. I've noticed he can become rather...distracted. Amazing Engineer though, its why I want him around as long as possible."

Noah nodded at the Commander. “Yes. I have made note of Engineer Pegg’s habit of forgetting to eat and sleep. I have already instructed Phyllis to tell me if he should do this again. I will take food to him and make him teach me.” She smiled at the brilliant plan.

Ross leaned back and crossed his arms. "Number 2. I have no problem with your training Mensch. He's a bright kid, you'll like him. Very eager to learn. Or to move up. Either way he's passionate. However do take care of not blowing a whole in my ship." Ross smiled as he looked up for a moment. As thought thinking fondly of future battles. "Two teams complete with sappers. A scary thought for the enemy."

Noah nodded and smiled as Ross went down her list and allowed her everything she’d hoped for. She nodded brightly. “Yes, I have met Private Mensch. He was very kind and curious.” She smiled, “Menar does not like….” She paused, the shrugged. Menar didn’t like many people.

Susan rolled her eyes with a little smirk on her face. Then snapped her fingers to awake the Commander of his day dreaming. As he snapped out of it the shuttle lurched and left the ship. "Oh right. Ummm number...3! That's the number." A failed attempt to stifle laughter from the Ops Chief. Ross smirked. "As for number 3 it will only be granted if you spar with the smart ass Ops Chief."

"Well wait a minute there!" Said Susan, she was in no way afraid of the drell but her concern again of keeping up appearances to the crew was ringing.

"I'm joking Sue. Number 3 is granted Miss Korol the teams hand to hand training is 3 times a week to break up the firing range. And don't worry about training with me, Noah. My training is not as....destructive as sparing."

"Sure it isn't." Quipped the Ops Chief.

"Keep talking Chief and you'll join her for the lesson." Ross smirked as he looked out the window. They were just breaking out of the clouds in the distance the grand city of New York could be seen. "Is there anything else you wish to talk about Noah before we land?"

Ross brought her attention back to the ground. “Earth.” She breathed. She’d felt the same excitement on countless other worlds. But at each and every one she was shivery with anticipation. “Yes. I think you might do well to have me come along with you, Commander. I am…” She paused and looked back at Susan before adding, “I am unexpected in more ways than one and that may be an advantage.”

Ross smirked and closed his eyes as he relaxed as they continued their decent slowly moving closer and closer to the city as they seemed to approached one of the tallest towers. "Lets just hope we can do more site seeing and less using your skills Miss Korol."

The feeling of touch down is when the Commander stood up once again and walked toward the door. "Remember this building is Cerberus friendly. Well at least the people who matter. Once we're on the street though, hell I don't know. The Ops Chief and I are honeymooning and Noah can be our butler."

They all stood and Ross made to lead the way, joking that the Chief Ops acting as his wife while Noah acted as their butler. Before Noah could say anything, however, Susan punched Ross lightly in the back. Noah thought it best that she did not act like herself. It would certainly draw more attention to herself if she gave free rein to her natural curiosity. “I think perhaps, I shall just remain quiet beside you until we are returning to the ship.”

Ross smirked as he felt one punch to his back predictably from Susan. "Joking. Just act natural . We find out where this doctor lives, we offer him a job. We come back." What could go wrong he thought.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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"So Cerberus not only has contacts within the mob, but has enough pull to set up a meet with possibly the most secretive bosses on the planet? You sure they gave us good info Commander? Cause if it is, I'd like to know their justification for seemingly being in bed with men like this." Susan asked as they reached the roof of the building they had previously landed on.

Ross answered his anxious NCO. "Organized crime has made politics one of their strong basis since a market for the vices of men has been around. Now it simply stretches to planets. Just because we're flying in shiny pieces of metal that can fly from one end of the galaxy to the other does not mean everything is so...shiny. Men who control the vices of the people will always be watched and at some points collaborate with even the brightest of stars in the political circle."

Ross sat down at the pilot seat and began to start the transport, though the meeting was still hours away he had it in his mind to pass by the area and make sure they knew what they were getting into. And to know as much as they could about what they are getting into. "Cerberus is probably in bed with men like this because no one has more precious information about those in power or the changing shape of the galaxy like the underworld."

Susan growled a bit to herself as she took her seat. "Animals. All of them."

Ross chuckled to himself about his opinionated friend, and pulled the ship into the air and into traffic.

New York, like most of the major cities of earth, was a modern metropolis though some of its historical structures and neighborhoods remained. One such was Little Italy, though much of Midtown and others were modernized, this area of New York still kept much of the same charm and look as it had so long ago. Many a politician had tried to renovate the area, and each time it was quietly shut down which was perhaps a good indication of just who held power in those blocks.

Ross brought the shuttle out of the air and into the neighborhood, slowing it to a crawl as he looked out the mirror. He tapped the console for a verification of their location. "Down there." He pointed to an alley between buildings, "Should be a larger parking area in the back. The club should be downstairs. It says here the buildings are historical buildings, old headquarters for some newspaper and a restaurant."

"Also a good place for a trap." Observed Susan.

Ross nodded and looked back at the passenger in the back. "What do you think Noah?"

Noah had remained quiet while the Commander and his second argued the finer points of doing business with anyone involved in crime. She could only wonder how naïve the Chief Ops was. Power always corrupts. Those that cater to that corruption control that power. It did not matter what species one was speaking of. She and Menar made a very good loving from that very concept as had whole armies before them. When asked her opinion, the Drell looked out the window to the buildings that Ross was aiming for. They were old and extremely close together and she knew instinctively that even the Commander and Chief Ops would stand out as strangers to this insular community.

“I believe that Chief Ops Vasquez has a rather innocent view of politics, Commander.” She offered. Glancing up, Noah realized that Ross probably was referring to the buildings below them and not the debate regarding dealing with organized crime. “Getting in or out will be a challenge, I believe.” Somehow her tone indicated that ‘challenge” really meant “nearly impossible”.

Ross tried to hide his chuckle from the Ops Chief, but the glare of death she gave both of them cleared that right up. He cleared his throat and looked back at Noah. He landed the ship several buildings from the club. He brought up a screen which showed a map of the area. "People we are dealing with won't give us the doctor for what Cerberus is giving them. They'll figure they have the upper hands, both in negotiations and with fire power. We need our own ace in the hole to shock them out of that mind. Noah....I think it's time to see if Menar was right about your skill. Think you can get in there? Without spilling blood? We need this done cleanly, I'd hate to have to deal with both gangsters and police in one day if things get all boomy."

The three stepped down from the shuttle, with the Chief Ops leading the way, Noah’s usual innocent enthusiasm had evaporated disconcertingly. Her body moved more fluidly. Her large, liquid eyes seemed to take in everything. When Ross asked his question, she answered with a simple, “Yes.”

Susan checked the hang of her pistol in the shoulder holster under her jacket and then looked toward the club, checking for guards or obvious security. She murmured to Noah, "Don't engage, just get in and..." She turned her head to see that the Drell was gone. She hadn't made a sound.

"Fuck I hate when she does that." The Chief Ops growled.

In the short space of time that Susan had attempted to impress upon her how to carry out the mission, Noah had simply slipped away as if made of shadow. This was what she had been trained for and it was times like this that the soul took a back seat to the body. Despite her alien look, she gained the back door of the restaurant which was blocked open by a vegetable crate to help vent the heat. Crouching, the Drell peeked into the kitchen quickly to note that only two cooks worked inside and were focused on their duties. That quick glance had also granted her the basic layout of the kitchen, the exits, obstacles and anything that might be used for improvised weapons. For others.

Gliding forward swiftly, she crossed the narrow kitchen to the opposite door following a waiter that had entered to fill his tray with someone’s dinner. She remained in the waiter’s wake until she saw a door being guarded by a heavily-built man sitting in a chair and reading a paper. To Noah, this was obviously somewhere she wanted to be. Ordinarily, she would simply remove the obstacle, but Ross did not wish any casualties at this juncture.

Returning to the doorway to the kitchen, Noah hefted a heavy can of some food item she didn’t recognize and when the door swung open to admit the waiter once more, she slipped out behind him. Before the door closed, she hurled the can into the tray the waiter carried. Retreating, she hid behind the restroom door during the din of crashing plates and glasses. Swearing and shouting brought the door guard down the hallway allowing Noah to slip forward again and down the dimly lit stairs that lead to an underground room. She heard the soft sound of lackluster conversation below occasionally broken by the sound of some recorded game of a type she did not recognize. In this state, she was not curious, either. She had a mission.

The Drell continued down the stair until she could spy the occupants of the room. A pair of men, one was older and thin, but flint-eyed and the other was younger with the bored look of someone used to getting his way. They were focused on a vid while the younger man played with a knife idly. Their positioning allowed Noah to continue down the stair and into a darkened side room that smelled musty and was lined with shelves containing extra stores for the kitchen above. Satisfied, Noah settled into a crouch in a far corner, went perfectly still and waited.

The Commander and Ops Chief circled the area with the shuttle a few more times trying to get the lay of the land and alleyways. The maps from omni-tools are great sure, but they don't beat first hand recon the knowledge of where cover is ahead of time can give that split second speed which can save their lives. The Commander however, was growing impatient, and decided the meeting was happening now and put the shuttle down across the street. As they landed he pulled out his M-6, the Ops Chief seeing this followed suit checking her own weapon. The Commander however did not check his, instead he threw it into a compartment. He was rewarded with a curious look from his Ops Chief.

"What's the point when they are just going to frisk us and take them away anyway. This meeting right now is on their terms, their deck is stacked so we just keep folding until we change the odds in our favor."

The Ops Chief was about to argue against this, however the Commander was already exiting the car. She looked at her own heavy pistol with disappointment and with a sigh also threw it into the compartment. And with that she followed her Commander into the lion’s den.

Hidden in the darkened store room, Noah unwittingly fell into the embrace of the solipsism that was both a blessing and a curse to her race. The perfect clarity of Drell memories occasionally trapped them in a state between memory and reality, leaving them unable to tell the difference. The muscles in her thighs twitched and jumped as she relived the failed mission that had nearly killed her had it not been for Menar. She saw and felt the choking dust as the building she had been in imploded around them. Huge chunks of debris rained down on their group and innocent civilians alike, she could smell as well as see the blood-slicked floor and clearly heard the screams of the dead and dying. The depths of her dark eyes flickered and roiled as she remained trapped in the memory unable to escape, just as she’d been trapped that day nearly 3 years ago. Noah felt the pain of her shoulder breaking when a huge chunk of the interior facade hit her as she raced past a crumbling wall.

As the Commander had thought, they were greeted by two goons who'd had a look of having more muscles than brains. For a moment he wondered if he could have gotten away with bringing their weapons. But he was justified as before they were allowed in they were patted down. "A lack of brains yes," thought the Commander. "But well trained." Once they were cleared to enter they were very quickly escorted towards the back of club and into a smaller room and down the stairs, this the first time the Commander felt wary, sure that they'd be meeting the boss in his office upstairs. Instead they were brought to a much more difficult escape route of underground.

Arriving at the room they were made to stand near the center of the room with a table in front of them and then they waited with 3 heavily armed goons watching them. Ross gave a smile to one, "So....who you got money on this year?" He got no reply and perhaps an even harder glare. "Ok was just looking for some inside info." The Ops Chief rolled her eyes a bit until the door opened softly and a man entered. Well-dressed, but not opulently, so he reminded Ross of a boss of old, a dignified businessman. Smart.and dangerous. He was flanked by another goon who was dragging an unwilling man who was wearing a sack over his face. This person was shoved on the chair next to the table while the suit took a seat.

Still trapped in her memories, Noah struggled. She had been thrown off balance and fell onto her side to try to protect her injured shoulder, and was immediately buried by massive slabs of steel and concrete from the floors above. It had been a minor miracle that Noah hadn’t been crushed. While she lay under the rubble simply trying to breathe, dust and small chunks of the concrete began filtering down into the tiny space she’d been buried within. Ominous groans and sounds of cracking mortar foretold of the remainder of the building’s imminent collapse into the lowest sub-level two floors below ground level. Noah closed her eyes gently. She had no chance. She was prepared for that.

"Charlie Alfonso. I am the owner of this fine place and other entertainment around this city." Said the suit. A scoff came from the bagged man, Charlie looked at the goon next to him and who smacked the hood behind the head.

"I didn't fucking say anything!" said the muffled voice.

Charlie ignored the whine from the bag, "And you must be Commander Ross, and his loyal pet Vasquez. You are early, throwing me off my schedule is not a good way to get on my good side Commander I am a busy man. Not a good start for civilized negotiations."

The Commander smirked and thought, son of a bitch I knew he'd try and get more out of this deal. "I came here under the understanding that you had already come to an agreement with Cerberus. And on top of that I believe we can go no farther until I can see that the man you have there is unharmed and really is our man."

Charlie nodded his head, "Well I suppose it's only right." He motioned to his man next to him. The man smacked the bagged man behind the head again.

"Ahh what the hell was that for!!"

"No! Take...off...the...bag." Charlie said slowly to the goon insulting his intelligence and giving him such a look that the large man gulped and pulled off the bag from the prisoner’s head.

The man revealed was sweating profusely, both from the heat inside the bag and the general situation he found himself in. He was still wearing a fairly expensive suit though now the top collar and pits were soaked with sweat. "Oh thank god! It was ungodly in there! Couldn't you guys invest in one with a fabric that breathed a little more?"

"Now hit him."

Smack! "Ow ow ok! I'm shutting up!"

"Now Commander back to the matter in hand. Yes I've made deal with Cerberus. But they are nothing more than middle men. I prefer to do my business with the person I'm investing in face to face." He leaned a bit more forward, “Cerberus had generously offered to pay Mister Kang’s debt to us plus a generous interest of 18% for 5 years. However with you here Commander, I have decided that consideringthe risk I can only imagine he might be going into, that I need to add more to make sure I can make up the money this little bastard owes us. Doing the math in my head. I would say....32% more. That would equal payments of $500,000. A month."

Meanwhile, still caught in her memories, Noah continued to relive that day on Delganian.

Larger chunks of concrete became dislodged from her precarious tomb hitting Noah’s unprotected shoulder and she cried out softly. The sudden tearing away of the single, mammoth slab that kept her trapped caused Noah to look up in shock to see the Krogan that had been leading their team standing over her.

“You alive?” He’d asked curtly.

“Yes, but…” She started to answer.

“Never mind. Move your ass.” With that Menar had reached into the small area she’d been lying in, filled his fist with the front of her jump suit and jerked her bodily from the hole. Sparing no time to see if she was injured, he thrust a pistol into her hand making her fumble for it awkwardly. Then, with a powerful hand around her upper arm, he began to run. He had picked up momentum and simply smashed through most obstacles in their path.

There was some silence in the building as everyone wrapped their head around this number. It was the Ops Chief who spoke first. "Ten Million! How the fuck does someone lose Ten Million credits!"

Kang voice cracked as he screamed. "It wasn't my fault! These fucking guinea swindled me somehow! I did the math I couldn't be that unlucky! It not fai-Ack!" This time the smack came without any motion from Charlie, though the boss very much appreciated the imitative taken by the man.

The commander looked at the man in front of him and smiled, just roll with what you got he thought to himself. "20%" He countered.

Charlie was wide eyed by the reply, the guy in front of him has got some balls on him. He'll give him that. "Now now Commander you have to appreciate the risk I'm taking here. I was originally planning on just killing the man, can't have people think we'd gone soft now could we."

The Commander shrugged, "20% There are other medics."

Kang's eyes got wide, "N...now wait a minute! They...you had a deal! I can't....I can't die here!"

This time both Charlie and Ross looked at the man in the chair. "Shut up." Smack.

Charlie looked back to Ross, a hint of frustration on his face. His voice however was as calm as ever. "Commander, this is a negotiation and there are keys to its art. You're in my business, underground, with 5 highly armed men including myself. You're unarmed. You need to face facts here, Commander. I'm holding all the cards and I am being generous. I don't ask for 75%, but you will take this deal and like it because if you don't I have no reservations in killing you, your pet, or this pain in my ass."

Ross calmly looked back at the powerful man in front of his, though this time his smile was gone. He had to be ready for what came next. "Perhaps it’s time I bring out my ace in the hole."

Silence.

"I said ace in the hole."

Once again there was no movement.

"Well this is embarrassing," Ross said honestly, some awkward moments later he looked around those room. "So you boys Yankees fans?"

Susan let out an audible groan. "Sir...this is New York. What do you think?"

Behind them the floor began collapsing into the lower levels in slow waves threatening to swallow them up. Noah could barely keep up with the Krogan under full steam due to the grip he had on her injured arm. When they caught sight of the door leading to the exterior, the entrance began to collapse into the basements as well. “Well, shit.” Menar had muttered. “This is gonna suck.” With that cryptic remark, he’d thrown himself bodily through the glass doors as they shattered and tucking Noah up into his chest, fell an entire story before landing heavily on the grassy park-like exterior lawns that made up the corporation’s grounds.

The impact had driven Menar’s heavy exoskeleton almost 2 feet into the turf and winded him. Noah, unfortunately, had impacted against Menar and was knocked out cold. She’d added a broken pelvis and several broken ribs to her list of injuries.

The ‘feeling’ of hitting the ground on top of Menar broke Noah free of the sollipsism. She shook her head to clear it in time to hear Susan groan at something Ross had said. Rising from her crouch, she stalked to the open doorway to the darkened storeroom she’d been hiding in and peeked out to survey the scene.

Facing her at the table was an older man dressed in a suit with thickly waved silver hair. His body language left her in no doubt that he was the leader of this group. Behind him was a large man in an ill-fitting blue suit standing guard over another man who obviously was their doctor. His bruised countenance spoke to having had a rough go of it. Two more guards stood on either side of the older man, guns drawn, but held down in supreme confidence. The Commander and the Chief Ops stood before the table while another pair of gunman stood behind Ross and Susan effectively boxing them in. But, they had their backs to Noah.

Noah knew instinctively by the tension in the Commander and Chief Op’s bodies that she’d missed her cue. Remembering a move that Ross had used against her in their sparring session, Noah charged from the store room and using her shoulder, speared the farthest bodyguard in the back, driving him across the room to smash into the concrete wall beyond. The sickening sound of crunching bones was loud in the enclosed space. Scooping up the guard’s dropped gun as she whirled to face the other shocked guard, Noah tossed it toward Ross.

Not looking to see if he’d managed to catch the gun, Noah sprang forward toward the 2nd guard, flipped in the air and grabbing the man under his chin as she passed over his head, Noah brought all her weight down behind him, snapping his neck brutally. Landing in a light crouch as the man dropped, she grabbed the second gun and tossed that toward Susan.

Ross and Sue had caught the weapons though Ross with some fumble as he'd not expect Noah to attack. Figure her lack of appearance at first a sign that she had failed in getting into the building. But after some fumbling he'd aimed it at one of the men who'd been too shocked to pull his weapon.

Standing slowly, Noah rose and moved to stand behind Ross and Susan, but well within sight of the remaining occupants of the room. They had all gone still in dumb-founded shock caused both by the suddenness of the attack and the very presence of such an alien creature as she presented. Noah kept her dark eyes completely focused on the old man, but addressed Ross. “Is it time to bring the pain, Commander? If so, I have heard it is most sensible to cut off the head of the snake before it can bite you” It was a clear threat to the old man, that he would die first.

Ross nodded at the Drell's suggestion. "Thank you Noah. I had a similiar thought. But we'll see if we can come to agreement before that"

"What the HELL is that?!" Shouted Charlie who for a moment lost his composure.

"That is Noah. Now Charlie focus. We were negotiating." He popped a fresh heat sink and turned him aim to the man in front of him. "20%. Consider it generous I don't ask for 10%" He said with a smirk.

The negotiations came to a quick conclusion with the old Don understanding when it was best not to call someone’s bluff. Besides, he got his money out of a troublesome problem and got to make it go away. Ross and Sue lead the way back up through the bar and wasted no time in heading for the shuttle. Kang schlepped along in their wake grinning to himself with Noah shadowing him.

“Oh yeah!” Kang chuckled as he stretched. “That was sweet. I thought old Charlie was going piss himself. It was a beautiful thing.” He didn’t seem too worried about reprecussions from the mob even though Ross and the rest of those with him weren’t taking anything for granted. Sue and Ross kept their guns up and scanned every shadow. Noah kept close to Kang in case he needed to be thrown to the ground to protect him. Kang turned his eyes to Noah and his nose wrinkled slightly. “Where’d they find you? The zoo? Nice pet, Ross.”

Noah merely looked at him without answering.

Ross, however, did. “Shut up, Kang. We aren’t out of the woods yet.”

“Hey, you do whatever you want, I’m heading out. Have a nice time.” Kang retorted. He began to veer off away from the shuttle. He was blocked by the sudden appearance of Noah in his path making him stop short. “Get out of my way, Frog.” He snorted.

Sue turned a hard glare at the man. “You aren’t going anywhere, Kang. Let me spell this out for you so that you are crystal clear. We paid off your debt. That means you now owe us. And that means you just enlisted.” She waggled her gun barrel at him. “Get on board before I throw you on board.”

Ross traded a look with Kang when the man looked like he might argue the point. It made the Doctor bite back a harsh retort. Climbing inside, Ross climbed into the pilot seat and soon heard a swearing Kang follow him. Soon, Sue was in the seat beside him and Noah in her seat as well. As they lifted off, the tension seemed to leave the air to be replaced by one of seething anger. Some of it came from Kang who kept grumbling about being kidnapped and having to sit so close to a Frog. But the bulk of it was from Sue.

Once off the ground and headed back toward the ship, Noah’s body relaxed and her head dropped slightly. She knew she had failed and they all might have died because of it. How could she explain? Was that even an excuse? She could feel the heat fairly radiating from the Chief Ops. “I…I apologize.” She murmured. It was clear whatever personality change she’d undergone previously had ended.

Sue's head twisted around so quickly to the Drell it cracked."Apologize? Apologize? Just what the fuck happened back there? You left us out there twisting in the wind." Sue spat out. "You do not...do NOT fucking leave your friends out there like that."

Unseen by any of the others, Ross’ shoulders jerked slightly when Sue railed against Noah for leaving friends behind.

Noah took the blast of heat from Sue with her eyes aimed at the floor. The Chief Ops was absolutely correct and she couldn’t fault the woman for her anger. “Yes,” She said softly. “You are right” She didn’t even attempt to defend herself, probably to Sue’s great disappointment.

Kang looked back and forth between the two women, his eyes a bit wide by the blast of heat that came from the Susan. "Well...glad I'm joining such a tight knit group."

"You shut the hell up," Said Susan. "You'd better be worth the trouble and money we are spending or I'll deliver you back Charlie and let you deal with the rest of the payments on your own."Kang eyes flashed right to the floor as he became a target to the Ops Cheifs harsh words. And the entire shuttle was silent until they reached the ship.

Once they’d docked, Ross, who had remained completely silent throughout the flight, stood and exited the shuttle. His jaw was clenched tight as he passed Kang and Noah. Sue rose and waited for Kang to exit in front of her. With a sigh, Noah followed along behind.

Waiting in the shuttle bay, Noah saw Menar had gathered a squad of Marines and looked slightly disappointed that he hadn’t had to come to their rescue. He dismissed the squad and looked for someone to tell him what had gone down. It looked as though everyone was on their way out without pause.

Noah knew she had to explain to Ross somehow. He’d never spoken a word since they’d left Earth. “Commander…please. May I have a moment? I feel I should explain.”

Menar’s head came up, “Explain what? What happened down there?" The Krogan asked belligerently.

Ross looked at Noah, his voice and face expressed nothing more than a sad disappointment. "You have no need to explain Noah. Just know you almost got people killed, you need to keep it from happening again."

“But..” Noah began. A movement from Menar, drawing closer caught both of their attention. Noah continued, “I do need to explain if you will allow. It excuses nothing, but I wish for you to have some understanding.”

Menar snorted aggressively, “What the hell happened?”

Ross paused and looked at her expectantly.

“The Drell have a gift. The gift of eidetic memory. But it is more than that.” She spoke softly. “It can be so strong that at times we lose ourselves within the memory, unable to tell the difference between memory and reality.”

Menar grunted, “Well shit.”

Ross nodded his head with a small disappointed smile, the kind parent give children who try and explain their actions that might had hurt them."Thank you for telling me Noah. It does sound like quite the gift for your people. The draw back however nearly got people killed. You must be more aware of when you slip into it. I want to be able to trust you with the lives of my friends Noah." With that he began was about to walk away.

“You better get off your high horse, Ross. Noah can’t help when that happens and it’s damned rare.” Menar stepped forward to stop the Commander from leaving. “I wouldn’t have her working for me if I didn’t trust her.” A rumbling growl sounded in his chest, “No one’s perfect. Or did you forget your own shortfall? Lost a whole company, I remember.”

Noah stepped forward to keep between the Krogan and the Commander, “Menar please. He is within his rights to be suspect.”

Menar barely looked down at her, he was so focused on Ross.

Ross’ face though showing no emotion lost some of it's color. Just as he was about to speak, however, Sue swore and charged the Krogan intent on tearing his heart out. “You god-damned, genophage neutered plate-face! You don’t ever question your Superiors!” Sue cocked her fist ready to deliver a devastating blow only to be intercepted by Noah who got her shoulder under the Chief Ops center of mass and literally lifted the woman off her feet to carry out of Menar’s arm’s reach

Swinging heavily, only to be carried out of range, Sue delivered a punishing elbow to the back of Noah’s shoulders. “Get off of me , you Frog!”

Noah grunted softly in pain, but put Sue down gently just in time to take another shot to her cheek. She hadn’t bothered to duck out of the way. She merely stood there and blinked softly at the livid Chief Ops.

Red-faced, Sue glared from Noah to Menar, “You’re both trouble. If we were smart you’d have been spaced the minute you came aboard!” With that, she spun on her heel and began to march out of the shuttle bay under a full head of steam.

"Vasquez Halt!" Boomed a voice from behind her she turned her red face slightly to see the source came from her Commander. "At attention soldier." She snapped into attention from sheer instincts. She heard footstepd coming slowly over to her. Ross stopped beside her and leaned in and whispered. "You will go straight to my office and we will talk about your actions when I get there."

"He was talking about them, he doesn't deserve to ever fucking speak about them. But you're going to talking this and not that.....fucking plate he-" She said as well barely keeping her anger and voice soft enough so others don't hear her.

"You're the one acting like a Krogan Sue. You attacked a member of my crew. Not him." He waited a moment to let it sink in, he could almost feel the heat lower from her.

"Yes sir...."

"Good now I'll join you once I dealt with the plate head." Ross said before standing straight. "Dismissed." He said loudly.

As the Ops Chief walked off, Ross walked directly to the other two. He stopped and looked toward the Drell first. "Thank you for stopping her." He bowed slightly. She bowed back and when Ross Noticed she had no damage he looked back to Menar. "I lost my team Menar. I learned from it and now I'm never going to make that mistake again. I'm simply asking others who work under me to strive to do the same. To not will result in the offender being spaced. Man. woman." He looked at Noah. "Drell." Then took a step closer to Menar who growled. "Or Krogan."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol
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Leaving the Commander with the Doctor, Noah strode along the hallway toward her room. She had a great deal to think about after her encounter with the Psychologist. The woman’s overt racism and almost aggressive condescension was a puzzle. Was it possible the woman was truly that transparent? Somehow Noah did not believe that to be the case. The problem was that Noah didn’t have nearly enough information to form a working hypothesis. A puzzle.

Remembering the meeting that the Commander had mentioned, Noah paused, “Phyllis, can you please direct me to Menar?”

“Affirmative, Noah Korol. Marine Lt. Menar is in the training area.” The A.I. intoned.

Noah smiled, “Thank you.” Pivoting on the ball of her foot, Noah headed toward the elevator. Once inside the car, she shook her head. She could not get accustomed to a military rank being applied to Menar. He was the antithesis of military discipline. Emerging on the deck for crew quarters and the Marine’s training area, Noah wondered what new terrors the Krogan was inflicting on the Marines today. The door to the Spartan training area hissed open to reveal Menar standing behind a Marine, holding him by the chin. The man’s toes barely touched the ground as Menar snarled terse instructions to the gathering of approximately 30 Marines arranged in a half circle in front of him.

“If I can creep up behind you apes, you deserve your damned heads twisted right off your shoulders!” The Krogan spat out at them. “Be aware of everything around you and you might just stay alive long enough to…”

A slender, disembodied hand reached around the enormous shoulder of Menar and gripped his mid-forearm. Noah’s finger’s dug deeply into the tendons and Menar’s hand reflexively jerked open dropping the hapless Marine in Menar’s grip to his knees. With a snarl, Menar jerked his arm forward dragging Noah from behind his back, but before he could make a grab for her, she cart-wheeled out of his reach easily.

He rubbed his forearm with an irritated scowl. “Damn it, Noah, I might have killed you.”

Noah smiled gently, “Forgive the intrusion, Menar.” She did not make the obvious poke at him in reminding him to ‘be aware of everything around you’. She would never show such disrespect in front of others.

The Marines looked back and forth between the pair in obvious curiosity.

"If you wished it, I would be honored to show such techniques to your squads, Menar.” Noah offered softly.

Menar looked back to the Marines still gathered around. Most quickly looked away from his dark gaze. “Last thing I need is these idiots trying to incapacitate each other and doing permanent damage.” He scowled, “Pair up. Take downs.” The Krogan ordered before turning toward Noah. He jerked his chin for her to follow and headed to the door out.

Noah followed Menar out to the hallway after a small bow to the quizzical Marines. A few quick steps brought her even with the Krogan. He looked down at her scowling. As he walked, he rubbed the forearm she’d dug her fingers into. “Got a reason for coming down here? I got to get those jarheads into some semblance of shape”

“Why are they called jarhe-?” Noah began to ask

“Tradition.” Menar snapped impatiently. “Talk.”

Unfazed, Noah nodded, “Commander Ross Jensen has received our next mission and wishes you and I to attend the brief.” She paused while they waited for the elevator to arrive. The pair entered the elevator. Once the door closed, Noah continued. “Commander Ross Jensen said he would notify us when he needed us.”

Menar grunted. One floor up, the pair exited the elevator and turned left almost in lock step toward Noah’s quarters. “So? How’d your visit go with the shrink?”

“Why are they called-?”

Menar stopped mid-stride to fix Noah with an exasperated glare. “Don’t you ever get tired of asking questions?”

The Drell shook her head, “Oh no. Never. I find that curiosity is…”

Menar dragged his hand down his face with a groan. “Are you trying to make my head explode?” He asked rhetorically.

Noah looked perplexed, “No, of course not. Why should I wish such a…?”

Menar just thrust his chin out at the Drell. “The Doctor? Think we can move on here?”

Noah blinked slowly, “Are you upset?”

“Don’t make me strangle you.” The Krogan growled.

“Yes. Well.” Noah turned toward her room once more. “Dr. Andrea Chell is the very model of what may be considered the stereotypical Cerebrus recruit or supporter.”

Menar snorted as he strode into the Drell’s quarters. “She’s a bitch?”

“That is not entirely the whole of it, Menar.” Noah followed behind and waited for the door to close.”Dr. Andrea Chell is superior, a racist, cold and surprisingly well-educated.”

The big Krogan eased into a metal chair brought into Noah’s quarters that would handle his bulk. “Yeah? So what do you really think?”

Noah began to pace as she turned things over in her mind. “It seems she is too much like what I was supposed to see.” She paused in her pacing to face him. “But, I do not know why.”

“Gonna keep digging?” Menar held up a hand. “Never mind. Of course you are.” The Krogan leaned back in the chair and laced his fingers behind his massive head.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Yeoman Andrea Chel Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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Ross was a big man but he was sneaky when he wanted to be. ‘Stupidly quiet for a man your size.’ as the Ops Chief had once put it. And he needed that in order to get to the communications room without catching the attention of any crew members. It had been a few minutes since Joe had informed him that the Illusive Man wished to speak with him. Despite the dangers a new mission would bring Ross could not hope but to be given one. The last couple of months had come and gone without much action to speak of besides relieving the universe of a few pirates. The lack of action had him unnerved, perhaps bored. Which he knew made him less than hospitable to the crew.

He waited a few moments as the computer confirmed his presence and the image of his employer materialized in front of him. He gave a salute. “Sir.”

The Illusive Man sat in his usual chair, in his usual manner, with his usual cigarette. Just... the usual. When he spun around to face him, he was finishing up a drag and then slowly exhaled a stream of smoke before saying, "Commander Ross, how would you like to take a swing at Oracle? I'm sure you've been caught up by now on the reports we have of their activities."

Ross came out of his salute and nodded his head. "A pleasure to, Sir. Got to say, it’s tough to believe they had something running the Alliance that was so big and I never heard a word about it. Then again....I suppose if a clandestine agency was known then they weren’t doing a very good job. What kind of pain are we bringing them?“

The Man smiled, clearly pleased by Ross' sudden interest in the proposal. "Oracle has a hidden research outpost on Luna. They’ve collected multiple Dragon's Teeth that had been left on the Citadel during Sovereign's attack and have begun amassing large amounts of data on Reaper indoctrination processes. Cerberus would greatly benefit from their research."

[Ross was taken aback for a moment at the mention of the Dragons Teeth. "Dragon Teeth sir? You mean those huge spikes that turn people into...er tech zombies? Can't imagine they'd be looking for some way to reverse it. Dead is dead, then there is worse than dead. Those teeth...absolutely in the latter. You had mentioned this to be a swing, Sir, I take it you don't want us to go through the back door?"

"They aren't looking for a way to reverse indoctrination, Commander," The Man corrected. "They're looking for a way to prevent, suppress, or control it. I'm more interested in the control aspect of it."

Ross rubbed his chin and looked down as he thought about the Illusive Man’s bold plan. "Control it. Use the enemies forces against them...could be THE moment of this war. I'll get you that information, Sir. On my life." He said with a nod as he looked up.

The Illusive Man took another drag before dabbing the end of the spent cigarette in the small ashtray on his chair. "I'll be sending Kai Leng along with you. He's my best operative. Our intelligence suggests that Oracle will have an infiltrator of equal skill, that's why I'm mandating that he assist you on this mission."

Ross paused a moment. "I appreciate the assistance, Sir. But I'd like it on record that I believe my crew could handle this on their own. Where will we be picking up Mr. Leng? Also are we on the clock here Sir? Or do we take our time and perhaps let them do a bit more work for us in the research?"

"I'll note your confidence in your team, Ross; but just know that only someone of Leng's caliber will be able to face this particular opponent. Leng will meet you on Luna when you arrive, and yes, you'll need to make haste to the Sol System. I need this mission completed as soon as possible. Your EDI will have more information available on the exact data I need you to collect. Anymore questions, Commander?"

Ross swallowed his pride.

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Ross returned the slight bow Noah gave as she exited the Chel’s office. He turned to the doctor as the doors sealed, an amused grin on his face. “Philosophy and the romantic Dr? Are you making a new frien-?”

“Don’t you dare finish that word, Ross.” Interrupted the doctor. “I will never be bloody friends with a…frog.”

Ross raised his hands, “Alright, can’t make you be friends, but she is a shipmate so should and will be treated with that respect.”

“Oh please Ross, I may not have the same military experience as you and everyone else on this ship. But I do know how important it is to keep personal feelings out of the mission.” She sat back and crossed her arms. She had expected Ross to take his seat but when he had not after a few moments she looked up to see that same amused grin on his face. “Oh sit down.” She huffed.

“Yes ma’ am.” Replied Ross with a smile as he settled into the chair. “Not really here for a session though. Don’t have the time.”

Drea’s frustration bled away as she noticed the change in the Commander body language. “New mission?”

Ross nodded his elbows resting on his knees as his hands held his chin, folded as if praying though the Commander was never really a particularly religious man, “Big and loud one, hitting Oracle hard it seems. Should be messy.” After a moment he added, “I’m not under any belief that everyone will be coming home this time.”

Chel frowned a bit, “And you were last time?”

“More so than now, we had a good plan. Good odds. Had tons of advantages that negated their home court one. This time though. Longer odds, the only real advantage we have is surprise and when that wears off we can’t pack up and go till the mission is done. We’re going to have to be stubborn.” A smile broke through the Commanders lips. “Though with this group, I don‘t think stubborn will be a problem.”

Drea put a hand to her chin, “Well you’ve already accepted that but from when you entered the room I could tell you’re still feeling like a cocky prick. A hell of a lot better than you were when you first came to see me Mister Doom and Gloom.”

“I’ve had a good doctor.” Ross smiled.

Drea tried to use the hand on her chin to cover her smile. It wasn’t entirely successful. “Well I’d say in a few more years with this progress you won’t need a doctor anymore. Well you know besides one to stitch you up when you’re being particularly stupid. Wait so if you’re not here for a session and you’re handling the thought of the mission this well. Why did you come by?”

Ross couldn’t help but get a little embarrassed look on his face. “Well I don’t know it’s how I was before too. Before a big mission I made sure to go through every part of the ship. Talk to everyone, see how the mood is.” He shrugged. “Maybe it’s to make sure that if I don’t come back everyone will be saying good shit about me at the wake.” He looked up thoughtfully. “Wonder how many ex-lovers would show up.”

Drea let out an audible moan. “Oh please with your record, not many.”

Ross made a mimic of being shot in the heart. “Doctor please, wounded psyche here.” He stood up from the chair, “Talk to you after Drea.”

“Jen, sorry but, how sure are you of this mission?”

“The intel is good Drea. Very good, right from the inside.”

Drea face turned to concern. “Agent or asset.”

“Does it matter?”

“Well generally, an agent is a person who is a believer. He’s been with the cause from the start. He’s devoted and generally trusted. Well as trusted as you can be in a intelligence agency. An asset meanwhile is generally ‘turned’. They were picked from within the enemies ranks because they knew how to get to him, bribery usually. Can you really trust someone who would turn on their own people once for something like credits?”

Ross smiled a little, though a spark of concern did flicker in his mind. “The intel is good Drea.”

She nodded slowly the concern still slightly on her face but she managed a smile which the commander returned as he walked out, ordering members of the strike team to the briefing room from his Omni-tool.

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Sue’s mind was completely at ease as she worked on her precious mantis. The new scope glinted from the top and the Op’s Chief made a note to muss it up a bit. A shiny scope is just a target she would tell herself, but she couldn’t help but admire the new addition to her toy. It took a few moments before she noticed herself being called by the Commander on her Omni-tool. “Sorry sir.”

“I see the upgrades we got from Illum are being well taken care of.” Came an amused voice from her arm.

“Shaddap or I won’t lock down yours and not tell you. See how funny it is with a black eye at target practice.”

“We’ll have plenty of target practice coming up soon Ops Chief. But better make sure to leave that prank in the memory banks less you want someone here to get killed.”

“Mission sir?”

“Getting everyone to the briefing room now.”

“Well I could have done that sir.”

“Oh sure 15 minutes later after you’re done drooling over the new toy.”

“I wasn’t drooling….” She made a quick movement to the corners of her lips just to make sure.

“Uh huh. We’re on the clock here soldier.” Sue was about to cut the call before she heard. “Hey Sue.” She stopped and waited for the Commander to finish. It sounded like he was trying to figure out a way to put his question. “Do you trust intelligence assets?”

“Sir you know I trust every spook we meet about as far as I can throw them. And well look at the size of me. It ain’t far.” She heard a chuckle on the other side of the line.

“See you soon Ops Chief.”

What the hell was that about? She wondered.


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Ross was leaning back comfortably on the wall as the last of the group arrived.

“Afternoon everyone, we got ourselves a new primary mission from the big man himself.” He said as he pushed himself off the wall. “I know we’ve all been a little stir crazy here. Only so many pirates to bust before we need a little more. Well we’re going to get it. Oracle is a top secret intelligence agency. You should be getting everything we know about them with your mission briefs. Think of them like us, but without our style.” He smirked as a few chuckles came from all around.

Ross pushed a button on the controls for the table.An image of the Earth’s moon came up. “They have an outpost on Luna, though as you can see, it may as well be a base. Now we need some data. However we’ll be joined on this little venture by a Mr. Leng, some infiltration expert." A murmur of discontent came up over some of the men and others, though not vocal, surely had faces of malcontent. Ross held up his hands to quiet the room. He knew they were a restless as he. "However, the Illusive Man is not looking for some black ops whisper. Leng is in charge of getting the data. We are there for the bang."

"How much of a bang are we talking about here Ross?" Menar grinned.

"The kind that features a Krogan." Ross said, as he saw a grin spread across the Krogan’s face and grinned in return.

"We'll be sure to give Mr. Leng one hell of a distraction." Ross looked over the various faces of his men. "Any questions?"

Seated beside Menar, Noah glanced at the towering Krogan next to her when he grinned at Ross’ answer. “Is it wise to have only one front in this operation, Commander Ross Jensen?” She ignored Menar’s eye roll. “It might be prudent to allow a smaller unit time on ground to provide another door and back up.”

Ross couldn't help but chuckle as did a few of the other men. "Oh don't worry, I'm not in the habit of putting all my eggs in one basket, Ms. Korol. This is just a standard briefing, we'll be coming up with a more precise plan when the The Illusive Man gives us intel on our opposition. However we will be in charge of giving the enemy’s eyes on us, so most likely we'll have two teams. One to cover our exit and another to raise a little hell."

Menar bristled slightly at the few chuckles at Noah's expense. A dark glare silenced most of them. "Stow it you apes." He growled.

Noah spared a glance at Menar before smiling at his protectiveness. Turning her attention back to the Commander, she dipped her chin in acknowledgment. "I see. That is the most intelligent approach." She patted Menar's massive forearm, "I am sure we can fulfill our jobs with superlative fervor."

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Ross sighed as his eyes pulled away from the Omni-tool scene and new order. He had to worry about reaching the target first and not getting someone killed in the process. "ETA 7 minutes guys, bad time to call an audible but we've got new orders. We're to find a particular target and give him a very bad day. However we must still keep up the boom to give Leng a way in. We go in like before, the Ops Chief will be in charge of the shuttle party. I trust you all will keep our ride scratch free. Once the front line finds a good place to make their stand Menar will be left in charge. I trust the LT knows how to keep up the fireworks. Mr Leng will need them as will myself and you Noah. I need your stealth to reach our target."

Noah’s large, liquid dark eyes blinked slowly at the new instructions. Her normally polite, curious demeanor had vanished. As Ross and Menar already knew, the will of her ‘soul’ had taken a back seat to the training of her body. The complete change was unnerving to Mensch, however. He’d never seen Noah as focused as she’d become on this mission.

Menar lifted his assault rifle, checking the action calmly and nodded. “They’ll know I’m there. Don’t worry about that, Ross.” His face split into a savage grin. At Ross’ call to have Noah accompany him, Menar’s eyes flicked to Noah’s calm countenance. “And you.” He growled. “Don’t get dead.”

Noah turned her head slowly to meet Menar’s gaze. “I will not rush to meet death, Menar.” She assured him quietly.

Menar snarled and muttered under his breath, "I hate it when you say shit like that."

Noah ignored the rest of the Marines with them and looked to Ross. “Do you have the ID of the person we are to remove?” She asked with a voice completely devoid of feeling.

Ross nodded his head as he moved over to the Drell, while the Ops Cheif began more jawing with the others to keep them loose. "The unlucky winner is a Captain by the name of Jared Knockly. Not sure if he's an Oracle agent, just that he's to be taken down. On our first big boom, the Cerberus asset…. undercover will trigger a tracker so we won't be stumbling around a highly secure Alliance facility playing Where's Waldo."

Ordinarily, the cultural references Ross was so fond of would have prompted a curious look from the Drell. But, not while on mission. Noah nodded at the information and opened a hatch in the Kodiak to extract small breather masks. She stuffed them into her pack. Glancing up, she added handheld lights as well. “It would be best to assume we will be unable to see or breathe if Menar is as effective as normal.” She explained quietly. “I will be taking the advance position?” She said it more as a statement than an actual question.

"Well considering we'll first have to punch our way into the base I'd say the masks are a good idea. Wouldn't expect anyone here to be stupid enough to think they'll be going without their helmets or any period while on the ground." Ross looked up at the door way where a timer was counting down before landing. "The strike from our baby should hit the base 10 seconds before we land." He announced loud enough to break through the chatter. "If Joe is as good as he thinks he is anyways." He muttered to himself before he answered Noah. "Stick with us when we first hit the base. Do your little ghosty trick in the middle of the chaos. Don't be stupid if you come up against something you can't handle alone. I won't be far behind. And if you do cut me a way to the objective do not engage the target yourself. I'll take care of it."

Noah shifted the bag held on her lap that contained her demolitions kit. She kept her eyes shifting between Ross’ face and the floor. Anyone watching her would have equated it to ‘putting on your game face’. In actuality, Noah was silently praying for the safety of her companions. Most especially her friend, Menar.

She listened to Ross’ instructions regarding their portion of the mission. She nodded at each of his points to let him know she understood. She almost smiled when the Commander told her to wait for him as back up if she couldn’t handle something. The Commander was reminding her more of Menar every day. They both took the safety of their men very, very personally.

Ross’ last order to leave the target to him made Noah lift her eyes to the Commander’s face. “That may not be the most efficient manner of completing the mission, Commander Ross Jensen.”

Ross looked at countdown over the door and then looked back at Noah a little surprised by her questioning orders. “20 seconds Noah. We’re on the clock. Get it done.”

Noah blinked. “But.”

Menar interjected "You can debate tactics when you get your own ship, Noah. Now stow it."

The ship rocked harshly as the shuttle pilot cursed. “Fucking Butcher! That was way too close.”

Ops Chief Vasquez was the first to balance herself . “Well you did say for him to cut us a path sir.”

Ross couldn’t help but grin, in truth it was just what he need to get his mind focused. “Helmets on!.” He ordered as he felt the shuttle land. “Get the job done and get everyone home.” He told himself as the door opened and he looked out to utter devastation that he had wrought and this was just the beginning.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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The moon was a place that never lost it’s effect on Commander Ross. There was no other place like it in the galaxy in his mind. Stepping out the shuttle and “home” was right there, Almost every inch within a single look. And he was attacking Alliance within sight of it. It was something he’d never imagine to have been doing. But it needed to be done. A good quarter of the outpost was simply leveled by the Novum’s main gun. He had noticed to his relief that it had the South East quarter as planned.

“Where the hell is Lang.” Said the Ops Chief as squad began to spread out and secure the landing area.

“Already here. “ Came a disembodied voice, which was revealed to be coming through their communications. The voice was full of confidence though some may call it arrogance. “Hope you don’t mind, figured the giant ship destroying part of the base was my cue. Also hope you don’t mind, patched myself into you’re squads channel.”

“Well if you’re already inside I suppose I should pack up my guys and leave.” Replied the Commander.

“You still have another job to do. Seems the Illusive Man has faith in you’re ability to take a life, though I doubt it’s as much as my own.”

“I’d see that as a compliment sir.” Said the Ops Chief.

Ross smirked, “Good luck Lang, we’ll get started here. I already got the targets location locked.”

“Don’t freeze up.” Was the only reply.

Ross could see his Vasquez tense up, “Let it go Chief.” He said and turned to the team. “You know you’re assignments people. Intel says the next patrol will not pass for another 10 minutes. Phillis has already shut down communication with this base so we have till then before the whole of Alliance space knows we’re here. We do not leave till we get the clear from Lang and I take out the designated target. Back line, keep the car from getting scratched, and our flanks from being over run. The other team will only be able to handle so much coming around the side. Plus we need that shuttle in case the Novum is playing with Alliance birds. Be stubborn, keep to cover and stay alive. Ops Chief is in charge.”

Ross turned to Menar, “We go with Attack team till we find a good place to get lost. Then Menar is in charge. Make your presence known ladies and gentlemen. I know we only have one krogan on the team but I want the base to think there is an army. Be vicious, but not stupid. Don’t get dead. Does every one get me?”

A round of “Oorah” was the reply though Menar own war grunt was clear as well. Ross nodded his head and lead the attack team into the crumbled wall of the outpost, still unopposed until the 2nd wall where the first gun fire came in from the still mostly intact main building.

“Cover!“ Shouted Ross as and an all cover was used by the squad. The last of which was Menar who took a few more hits than some would say is necessary but picked off 2 more attackers before he found his own cover. Ross’ smirk was hidden in his helmet and though the krogans his body gave the impression of a man in put enjoyment.

“Move up in pairs. One provides covering fire the other moves up.” He ordered through his communicator. And pair with Noah as he began to fire. His eyes however caught site of a door exposed by a torn open part of the base. “Noah. See that door on the left.” He brought up the bases map on his Omni-tool. “We can use that to get into the base by moving along the left flank. Time to go all sneaky on us.”

Much as she would do with Menar, Noah moved in virtual lock-step with the Commander just behind and to his left to protect his flank. Though she only wore light armor at Menar’s insistence, it felt uncharacteristically heavy compared to what she was used to. A specially-fitted breathing mask kept the worst of the dust in the air from her lungs and her third set of clear eyelids did the same for her dark eyes. She spared Menar only a brief glance when he took a few glancing hits before raising her Carnifex with a single hand and keeping a biotic at bay by pouring round after round into her shields. Noah popped her heat sink and inserted another with deadly efficiency prepared to fire again when Ross drew her attention to a ruined section of wall with a door exposed in it.

A quick check of her own Omni-tool confirmed his suspicions and she stuck the Carnifex to the magnetic clip at the small of her back with a nod of her head. She waited for Ross to raise up to lay down covering fire before she moved smoothly from the cover they had been sharing. Despite her height, she managed to remain remarkably close to the ground and hidden among the larger pieces of blasted concrete from the Novum’s initial bombardment. Gaining the door, Noah tilted her head and examined it carefully. While the door was steel-reinforced, it didn’t appear to be secured with anything more than a simple keypad code. A few minutes in the shadow of the doorway gained her access to the interior. She glanced back toward Menar who shouted orders before keying a single tone into her mic for Ross to follow. That done, Noah slipped inside the darkened hallway.

Ross spoke into the coms again. "You go on ahead Noah, I'm going to need Menar to set up a bit of a bigger distraction if I'm going to disappear."

Ross pushed his finger to his helmet, making sure he heard the tone. "Go on ahead Noah, I'm going to need our friend Menar to give me a bigger distraction." He turned his head to the krogan. "Got anything Menar?" Though he could not see his face he did notice a perk in Menar’s stance and small chuckle over the communicator. Reaching behind his back he pulled out a rocket launcher.

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The hallway Noah found herself in was almost a long passage meant for vehicles to travel down, rather than a true hallway. Floor, walls and ceiling were all concrete with flashing amber lights every 15 feet set into the walls. The lights appeared to be flashing to indicate an alarm, most likely from the attack by the Novum. She acknowledged Ross’ command to keep moving and kept to the deeper shadows between the pools of orange-gold cast by the trouble lights. After 100 feet, she came upon a steel door. A quick check of her omni-tool showed it lead deeper into the base, but away from where she needed to be. She marked its location all the same just in case. Looking down the passage Noah noted that it made a right angle turn to the west and knew that was where she needed to go. A short sprint brought her to the corner where she froze in place upon hearing a pair of voices approaching her. Slowly, Noah drew her knife from its sheath at her waist and waited. The pair of guards in Alliance uniforms were on alert with their HMW shotguns up and ready. Noah remained perfectly still as they rounded the corner past her before stepping out. Moving close to the man nearest to her, Noah matched his steps perfectly and thrust it deep into his kidney. A single gurgling sound escaped the man’s throat and he immediately began to sag into Noah’s arms. The sound of his partner dying made the second man spin to meet the threat he hadn’t seen coming. Noah used the man’s momentum to step inside the swing of his shotgun and grasped his helmet firmly. A sharp twist sent him to the ground with him getting off a round.

Noah quickly dragged the bodies into a darker portion of the passage, then keyed her mic twice more to advise Ross that two guards had been bypassed before moving again.

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The big krogan turned out of cover and began to fire into the oncoming fire coming from above and in every space in-between. Dust and rubble began to cover the entire area. "That'll work." Ross said. As he made for the same door he heard another comm line come to life with a voice from the grave.

"CO. You really planning on leaving the guys with Menar? He can't resist a good fight. People get killed doing more than they need to."

"Chris?" Ross said out loud.

"Sir?" The Ops Chief voice came now.

"Didn't say anything Ops Chief." He replied quickly and turned his voice off the channel for now.

"Much as I hate to admit it, college boy has a point sir. This is wrong. The whole thing. Like last time."

"McKee?" Ross looked around despite himself. "This is wrong...." The two beeps seemed to stop the familiar voices. He shook his head for a moment and continued on.

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A few hundred yards further brought Noah to an area of the base that evidently contained shipping docks and warehousing. She knew from the map on her Omni pad that beyond that were offices and then barracks and common areas for the Alliance troops while the opposite side housed the civilians that worked at the base. The marker on the map showed her, or rather, the Commander’s target to be 200 yards to the north from the warehousing area on the opposite side of the wall from her. With the attack, the loading doors had been locked down with blast doors meant to withstand a heavy bombardment. Noah’s eyes moved across the door to the concrete wall it was set into. The door she couldn’t get through. But she could get through the wall that held the door. Noah looked back over her shoulder to ensure she was still alone and crouched next to the wall. Unslinging her pack of explosives, she moved 2 meters to the east of the heavy door and carefully rigged her explosives to blast a 5 foot hole into the reinforced concrete. She pressed a small receiver into the explosive gel and retreated to the corner at the far end of the corridor. Sparing one last look back the way Ross might appear from, she hit the button on her small transmitter and an enormous roar erupted from the corridor beyond. A massive fireball along with chunks of concrete and dust were thrown out in all directions. Noah remained crouched where she was eyes completely closed to protect them until most of the dust settled. When no further sounds other than a few falling bits of rubble and the alarms of the area beyond could be heard, she keyed her mic once more to advise Ross that she had breached the wall and then ran forward to gain the access hole before any soldiers could be sent to investigate what had happened.

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Ross heard the tone and looked at his omni tool to see what had been the effect. He slowed his movements as he came up to the same wall. As he thought Alliance was already there to investigate. 3 men looking around at the rubble. When two of the men walked into the other side of the wall to investigate he took his chance and quickly up to the one who stayed behind and drove his head into the wall. He waited a moment as he heard running feet come back to him and timed the moment her could rush out to meet them head on.

He quickly ran at the two men, each bringing up their arms up with a seconds hesitation from the brash attack. He quickly pushed then guns aside and gripped her their faces and brought them crashing down to the ground. Their dazed state was turned completely off as Ross lifted their heads again and slammed them down once again.

He stopped for a moment and looked down at both men and continued on.

A lively voice came over the com. One which could only come from some one just out of their teens. "God I remember when you first pulled that move on me. Commander. Think it was an intelligence asset who gave us info on our last mission chief." Ross shook his head even hard but continued on.

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Once through the opening, Noah took off at a gliding run toward the target just north of her position. This area was more regularly lit and the claxons of alarms was deafening. Noah didn’t realize she had been spotted until a round burned along the top of her shoulder, sending her spinning to the ground. Not stopping her momentum, Noah rolled forward and around the corner of a pair of offices. She didn’t look at her shoulder, the fact that she could move her arm made its inspection irrelevant. She opened her pack as more rounds peppered the walls above her head trying to flush her out. Using the last of her explosive gel, she inserted a receiver and rolled out into the hallway suddenly. Shots scored the concrete just behind her, but Noah managed to stay just ahead of the 3 soldiers firing at her. Before she managed to get across the hallway, she threw the explosive toward the knot of soldiers in a high arc. Just as it was above their heads, she detonated it. The massive downward blast pulverized one soldier entirely. Another had her arm blown off and was thrown several feet back and the last was severely burned, but still alive. Noah stepped from her cover and approached the soldiers quickly. She drew her Carnifex and put a round in the last two soldiers without a second’s thought.

Noah paused for a moment only to check her Omni tool and the target’s location before taking off at a run once more. The target was moving and she needed to secure it before he got away from them.

100 yards….east 50 yards…northeast 40 yards…30 yards…east 10 yards. “Stop!”

Noah aimed her Carnifex at the man who had nearly run right into her. He was breathing heavily and blinked in shock at the sight of a Drell pointing a gun at him.

“Who…?” He started to ask.

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Ross kept moving as slightly as his big frame would allow himself to, he looked down at the omni tool to see Noah's dot right on top of the target. "Hold fire" he spoke into the line to Noah.

Ross could still hear the others on the other end. "Keep up the fire!" "Their pushing on the right flank!" "You two head to the right to brick wall that advance." "You with me!" They were getting pushed farther now, the order slowly dissolving into chaos. 2 minutes till the patrol comes, things will be desperate then.

The voice was low, one that sounded perhaps a little tired from all the fighting. "Wonder if they were paid better I'd still be around. "

Ross burst around the corner at a full sprint, he had no idea he was running now. Perhaps to get away from the voices. He looked around a moment. "Davis." He said to himself before looking over to the drell and the man she held at gun point. He came forward and pulled his own weapon. "Captain?"

The man in front of him did not answer, out of defiance. Ross felt a pang of guilt that he had not felt with the last mission. "I'd do the same sir. I'll make this quick." He fired a round and the man's body went limp.

Another voice. This one a private so new to the squad that at the time he didn't know his name. "Every wish sometimes it was quick for me sir?" He'd been the last to go, torn to so many piece even the medi gel would not stop it all. Ross shook his head again.

"Well looks like I'm promoted." Came a voice which came around the corner, "They Said you’d be quick but had no idea a group like Cerberus employed Drell." The asset looked back at Ross, his gun now pointed at him. "N...now wait a minute! I'm Lieutenant Jay. I'm you're contact in here!"

"Do it Commander, he turned once. He'll get your people killed like we were." Chris spoke from beyond the grave.

The mans face was a look of terror and he knees grew so weak he fell back on his ass. Dragging himself away with one hand and the other desprately covering his face for what futile protection it would provide "I gave you people a way in, we had to stop what we were doing in here."

"Wonder if anyone here killed thought he was a friend." Said McKee.

Ross shook his head violently his breathing intensifying. Then it all stopped.

Noah looked from the Lieutenant to Ross and frowned. “Commander? Are you well? She had not taken her eyes off of the new man, but she could see Ross quite clearly was struggling with something from her peripherals.

A female voice came on the line, one he knew all to well. "Jen please...don't let him hurt our guys." Said the voice of Ops Chief Vasquez. Ross’ finger tensed on the trigger then relaxed. “N..no” he whispered to himself and began to lower the gun.

A rush of voices on the comms. "Man down! Man down!"

Ross raised his gun with a furious growl. And fired.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Op Chief Susan Vasquez Character Portrait: Helmsman Joseph Butcher Character Portrait: Marine LT Menar Character Portrait: Noah Korol Character Portrait: Commander Jensen Ross
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Noah’s body stiffened when she heard a voice call out over the comm that someone was down. She didn’t know who, because no name was given. But as soon as that thought flashed through her head she saw Ross raise his arm at the Lieutenant and fire before she could do anything to stop him. The lieutenant was dead before his body hit the floor. “Commander!” She stepped in front of Ross and gripped his wrist harshly. Noah forcibly jerked his hand with his gun down and away from her to make him meet her eyes. “His death was not our mission.” She stared into his face. “You have compromised what we were to accomplish here.”

She waited for some sort of response from the large man. “Do you understand me?”

The action of Noah grabbing his arm was the only thing keeping Ross from staring in shock at what he'd just done. He looked down at the man, and heard the comms on the other end. "We couldn't get to him. We've lost Mensch." His eyes steeled as he looked back at the Drell. "I made him part of our mission. My ship, my call. Now let go." When the Drell’s hand did not release right away, Ross stepped closer and spoke through gritted teeth. "That is an order."

Noah searched Ross’ face to see if his eyes were clear, unwilling to relinquish her grip on him until she was certain. Hearing the announcement that it had been Mensch that had been killed was not acknowledged, though she could call him a friend. The mission came first.

The order made Noah dip her chin in acknowledgement and she let go of Ross’ forearm. “And now?” She asked quietly.

Ross' eyes fell on the two bloody figures on the floor, then steeled as he looked at the door in front of him and heard the mass of voices on the channel. "Now we get off this rock before I lose any more of my guys."

Noah took Ross at his word and began to lead the way back toward the main tunnels they had come through. She was quieter than Ross and for now, she had to trust him to cover their backs. Nearing the hole she’d blasted into the wall, the soldiers Ross had knocked unconscious on his way in were just getting to their feet while trying to get their bearings. As one lifted his hand to his comm, Noah shot them both at close range and simply kept moving, stepping over their collapsed bodies. She did not glance back to Ross, she could hear that he was keeping up with her as she moved.

As Ross followed Noah he turned his communication back on with his team. "This is Ross. Attack team retreat, the patrol will be arriving at any moment now. We bunker in at the shuttle and make our stand. No one else dies today." He kept moving past the makeshift entrance the Drell had made earlier. "We're going to need some cover fire as we come out Menar."

"Actually out of action here Ross." Came the reply with a surprising amount of sincerity and pain. "A couple got through the armor. Need time to regenerate."

"I got it Commander." Came the voice of the Ops Chief.

Noah kept moving, leading the way out. For all the reaction she gave, she didn’t even hear Menar’s comment to Ross. At the turn toward the main hallway out, she paused with her back to the concrete wall and peeked around the corner. Her eyes found Ross’ briefly before she acknowledged, “Clear.” She then headed out at a jog toward the door to the outside. The sounds of gunfire became an almost constant drone as the pair approached the door.

Ross hesitated before talking to the Vasquez. "Ops Chief, we're here. Sounds like we've got maybe 2-3 guns on the second floor close to us. Not to mention the rest of the bees in the nest." Put down the ones closest to us first."

The sound of the Commander’s voice had shaken the Ops Chief out of her numb, shocked state from the loss of Mensch. Now she was ready to really send some hurt, and she did so at his command. Firing more for suppression than to kill, the rifle rounds pierced the second story windows at a steady pace. The new found bravery of the troops in the windows shot back down as another of their number had dropped.

"Left and right flanks, support fire on the first floor. Front team move and shoot in pairs."


*****

As Ross led her and his Marines toward the exfil location, he and Menar laid covering fire and moved in precise leap frog formations. Noah ran alongside the Krogan, ensuring that his injured flank was covered. Passing the building that the Chief Ops had set herself up in, Noah saw Vasquez begin to run towards them and she paused. The 2IC kept to cover and worked her way toward the rest of the tram quickly. As she got close, Noah stood up fluidly from behind her cover and lifted her Predator, aiming for the Chief Ops. The woman skidded to a halt, peering into the Drell’s dark, fathomless eyes and Noah fired.

The round passed so close to the Chief Ops that her shields flared briefly and she threw herself to the ground instinctively. Just behind her, Susan heard and felt a body crumple. Looking over her shoulder she saw an Alliance Marine laying just 5 yards from her.

Noah attached her gun to the magnetic clip at the back of her waist and reached out a hand toward Susan, “Come along, Chief Ops, we fall behind.”

****
Ross started as he fired rounds behind the Ops Chief and Drell as they made the final run to the cover around the shuttle. He hit two more targets but there seemed to be 2 more just as quickly to replace them. With all the rounds it was just a matter of time before some found their target and finally one did as Vasquez let out a scream of pain and grabbed her leg on the ground. Noah however was quick to get her the rest of the way to cover.

“Shit. Novum this is Ross, we’re getting out now.” Ross called out into the coms. “Everyone on board!” He rose once again to fire for cover as one by one they got on. Only once Vasquez was helped on did Ross follow. “Get us out of here.” He shouted up front to the pilot.

“Commander! Phillis reads ground turrets coming online!”

“What? Those were not in the briefing.”

“They were shut down and not part of the same system as the base.” Said Phillis through the comms.

“Drop lower! Pick up speed now!” Ross shouted up front, not a moment afterward the great force caused the shuttle to jerk downward knocking most off their feet. “Joe we can’t reach atmo with those guns on us, we’ll have to meet you at new coordinates.” Ross felt his feet lift off the floor of the shuttle as a new force jerked the shuttle violently.
“Must go faster. Must go faster Commander.” Said Joe in an almost bemused tone.

“Helmsman if we get out of this, you’re dead.” Ross growled as the ship once again gave a more violent jerk than the others. This time however screens inside the main compartment went black. Some screens busted. “And if you decide to run, you’re dead slow and painful.”

“Er….aye aye sir. Meet you once you break atmo.” Came a very quick reply, as the shuttle continued to jolt. Finally it began to taper off and everyone got to their feet, exchanging relieved looks.

****
Ross watched as the crew left the docking bay. A bit more chatter coming from some than what was the dead silence while everyone gathered themselves. He knew there would be a time to talk to everyone about what happened, but right now they would be able to take care of each other. Ross looked back in the shuttle as Menar slowly got up, while regenerating he was still hurting and slow off his seat.

He put his hand up to stop him and noticed Sue and Noah do the same. While he would never have let the others hear the next conversation he didn't think he had much of a choice with those two. "Ok Menar, what happened?"

Menar growled a little. However, it was not directed at the Commander. He looked over at the Drell before answering. "You told me to raise hell. That is what I did. Brought Mensch with me because you had to take her." He said motioning over to Noah.

Noah supported the Chief Ops as Ross confronted Menar after the remaining Marines had left the shuttle. At the mention of the death of Mensch, Noah murmured, “I will pray for his soul.” She held Sue more carefully, easily holding the Marine’s weight. “It was most efficient for the mission, Menar.” She warned gently. Her eyes then lifted to take in Ross’ face to see if he would explain his own failure in killing the insider in the base on Luna.

Sue growled as she pushed away from the drell holding herself using the wall. She looked toward her and nodded her head in silent thanks. "We were holding fine. More than enough chaos from the view in my scope." She looked over at the krogan. What little respect in her eyes she held from the drell replaced with loathing as she regarded Menar. "More to the point you never cleared it with me. You got that kid killed for nohting more than your own bloodlust."

Menar returned the glare and growl. "Well maybe I saw things different at the front with my men than through some scope."

Ross stepped between the two who had murder in their eyes, "Enough!" First he turned to the Susan. "Menar is right Ops Chief. As per my orders on the shuttle he was in charge of those men in the front." Ross' head snapped to Menar as the Krogan let out a 'Ha!'. "And you...these are my men. Not some merc you bought for 20 credits on Omega. Treat them as such."

Noah knew better than to try to restrain the Chief Ops when she pushed herself away from her. She merely returned Sue’s gaze when the Marine turned and nodded her thanks. She knew this was going to end up in another confrontation. It appeared to be the only response the Chief Ops knew how to give to a situation that didn’t go as planned.

She remained where she was as Menar and Sue squared off and shouted at one another. Finally, Ross cut off Menar’s almost childish crow of triumph. She knew Ross would take the loss of any of his crew very personally. She interjected softly, “Commander Ross Jensen, Menar does not wasted lives. He cares for those that follow him as strongly as you. It was Mensch’s time. None could have changed that.”

“I don’t believe in peoples ‘times’ Noah.” Ross said his body still tense from breaking up the spat between Susan and Menar. He looked at her for a moment then relaxed. “But I do believe you are correct and Menar did not mean to make waste of a good man. However,” He said turning back to Menar. “I still believe the entire incident was unnecessary and as the Commander of this ship that word is final. However it was nothing more than an regrettable outcome from a poor choice and not one of incompetence or malice.”

Menar raised a brow, his body was tense as he had been expect some kind of punishment but now looked equally curious as to what Jensen would do next.

“The men will be on edge after this. They’ll be looking for someone to blame and lash out against. That’ll be you both. More so you Menar. Because of that any training will be high strung and though I don’t want you to lay off them and let them get sloppy. We must be aware of potential outbursts. So with that in mind Chief you will shadow Noah for all training till I deem it safe otherwise. I will do the same for Menar.”

Sue only got a word of displeasure before Ross lifted his hand like a giant brick wall to her objections. “I don’t want to hear it Sue. You have orders.”

Sue snapped her jaw shut and the muscles in her jaw worked. “Yes. Sir.” She uttered sharply. Turning suddenly to leave the hangar bay, the Chief Ops winced and stumbled slightly.

Noah turned with her hand out as if to catch the Marine if she fell. “May I assist you to the sick bay, Chief Ops Susan Vasquez?

Sue glared at the Drell. “No.” She gritted out through her clenched teeth.

Before the Commander could say anything, Noah stepped up to the Chief Ops, took her arm over her shoulder and encircled the Marine’s waist. Using her hidden strength, she physically lifted and began walking the Chief Ops out, whether she objected or not. “You are as stubborn as a Krogan, Chief Ops Susan Vazquez.” Noah reprimanded the woman.