Friday, February 25, 2011

Flashback – Earthborn

"Do I really need to do this?"

Leanna sat on one side of her corner couch with Kelly on the other, facing her.

"Dr. Chakwas suggested you might have some issues to work out, and as the medical officer on this ship she does have the authority to relieve you of command."

"Ok, but why are you the one doing it? Aren't we a little too… close for this?"

"Leanna," Kelly said calmly. "I'm the only one on this ship with a degree in psychology. I'm also a professional. Any relationship we may or may not have had will not affect my evaluation of you."


"I'll stop feeding your fish. Is that what you want, dead fish?"

Leanna pouted. She loved her fish, but could never remember to feed them herself. If Kelly stopped feeding them, they would die.

"Alright, you win. I'll do it."

Kelly smiled. "Well then, why don't we start at the beginning?"

My parents died in a fire. I was two, maybe three years old when it happened. It's the earliest memory I have.

I remember the fire, the smoke. I screamed out for my parents. I tried to find them, but before I made it to their door a fireman scooped me up.

I kept trying to tell him to go back, that my parents were behind that door. He wouldn't stop though. He kept running until he got me out of the building.

He got me to a fire truck, one of those old fashioned kind with the wheels and everything, and he set me down on the rear bumper. I screamed at him. I told him to go back and get my parents. He said he'd try, but as soon as he said it, the building started to collapse.

I cried. I cried for what felt like forever. Even as young as I was, I knew my parents weren't ever coming back.

So there I was, three years old and an orphan. I had no living family members so that made me a "ward of the state" as they called it. That meant they threw me in whatever hospital my parents' leftover money could afford, and that wasn't much. See my dad had sunk all their savings into colony expansion, and the First Contact War had just begun. Any money they might've had went up in smoke with their apartment.

So they stuck me in this Catholic orphanage, St. Helen's I think it was called, and just forgot about me.

Looking back, I guess it wasn't so bad. I ate three times a day. I got a decent education. Still, it wasn't enough. I wanted a connection, a family. Sure everyone there was nice and all, but it didn't feel like home to me.

I guess that's why I joined up with the Reds when I was 14. They made it seem like a family. I felt closer to them then I'd ever felt to anyone back at the orphanage.

On my 16th birthday, they made me a full member. I dropped out of school and left the orphanage. Some of the nuns tried to stop me, but I didn't listen. Some days I wished I had.

The next year and a half was tough. I never stayed in one place because no one really let me. Some days I could stay in the hideout, other days I stayed with various guys in the gang, often for "favors" as they called them.

So next thing I know, I'm 17 and it's December. I remember because it'd just started to snow. I'd barely eaten in a week and no one in the Reds was helping me out. I spotted this woman walking down the street with her purse in an easily snatchable position. I gathered what strength I had left, snuck up behind her and grabbed the purse. I took off as fast as I could, but after two and a half blocks, I was tackled from behind and knocked out cold.

I woke up in a jail cell. Turned out the girl whose purse I'd grabbed was an Alliance Marine on leave. She was the one who'd tackled me. She came in the cell to talk to me.

She asked me my story, why I'd done what I had. I told her as much as I could. She said she knew I was telling the truth. She also said that, since I was almost 18, if she pressed charges, I'd be tried as an adult; that meant serious jail time.

She offered me a deal: get my GED and enlist in the Alliance, and she wouldn't press charges. I leapt at the offer.

She kept in touch with me while I was in basic training, sent me messages with advice, words of encouragement and such. She even visited a few times. She came to see me at graduation. She recommended me for the N7 program. She was my mentor, my friend, my…

Anyway, once I finished the N7 training, I found out exactly where I'd be working. She'd put in a request for me to be in her squad, as her Lt. I learned a lot from her. Until… until she…

"It's alright Shepard. You don't have to continue. You've already told me once before."

"I know," she looked up at Kelly. "It just hurts to remember."

"Focus on the good times," Kelly hugged Leanna, "I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted you to hurt when you think about her."

After a minute, Shepard pulled out of the hug. "Thank you Kelly. Really, it was good to get it out."

Kelly smiled gently, "That's what I'm here for."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hide and Seek, Part 5

Illium, Market District

Assassination attempts, bombs going off in buildings, a high-speed skycar chase between two Spectres, it was just another average day on Illium.

The two skycars weaved through the tall buildings that made up Illium's skyline. In the pursuer, the driver and front-seat passenger argued like an old married couple. In the lead vehicle, the lone Asari made call.

"This is Vasir. I've got the data, but Shepard and her pureblood whore are on my tail. I need backup."

"Sending in agents," a male human's voice said over her Omni-tool. "I'm plotting an escape route now, feeding it into your nav-computer."

"Thanks. If I make it out of this one, the first drink's on me." The other voice chuckled lightly.

Vasir checked the escape route. It would be tight, but she could make it work. She made a hard left, cutting her way through a construction site in the middle of a building. A hard right led her into a tunnel.

"Vasir, leave the tunnel, make a left, then punch it. I've hacked a pair of freight trucks to collide. It should slow her down at least."

She did as she was told. Sure enough, the proximity alert showed that the cab chasing her was falling out of range.

Vasir's escape route had been updated with a new course. She swerved around a few more buildings and crisscrossed a traffic lane. The proximity alert went off. Shepard was catching up.

"Damn, how the hell can this Bitch keep up with me?"

"I've been tracking her," the voice on the line said. "She's going full-throttle, even on the turns. Her recklessness is… surprising, to say the least."

Vasir's lip curled. "Well I've got a few surprises of my own."

As she emerged from another construction zone, she pressed a blue button on her steering console. Outside the skycar, the first of several proximity mines dropped. The cab was hit, but not slowed.

"That should've taken out their kinetic barriers at least!"

"It seems that the Quarian is amplifying the taxi's shields. Even so, looks like three impacts out to take it out."

Vasir jammed the button two more times. The second missed wide, the third impacted, though not as direct as the first.

She made a wide turn before dropping two more mines. Both missed. She hit the button again. She was out.

"Now would be a good time for that backup!"

"Head for the tunnel."

As she entered, she saw explosions go off above her. "What the hell was that?"

"Your backup."

She looked back to see a small troop transport behind her. Two of the gunners were firing on the cab.

"Vasir, what the hell are you doing!"

She looked out her front window. She was about to crash into a rather large truck. She bit her lip as she made a tight turn, swerving close enough to the front of the truck that she could see the Salarian who was driving.

The troop transport wasn't so lucky though. It impacted the side of it, igniting the fuel it was carrying. The resulting explosion dampened her proximity sensors, to the point where she didn't even realize the cab had caught up until it was beside her.

She slammed into the cab. It swerved into oncoming traffic, but managed to weave through the cars and ram back into her. She tried to ram back but was impacted again. The two skycars were scraping together.

"Damn bitch! What the hell do you think you're…?"


The cab swerved away. Vasir looked up and saw why. She tried to swerve, to stop, anything to get out of the way of the oncoming car, but to no avail. The other car impacted her windshield.

"Vasir, you're not gonna make it to the rendezvous point. Find someplace to land and we'll come to you."

She looked around frantically for a place to set down. She spotted a terrace on top of a hotel. That would have to do. She did her best to slow her decent, but she knew this was going to hurt.

Leanna set the cab down in the closest place to Vasir's skycar that she could. She had no intention of letting her get away.

Another of the Shadow Broker's troop transports came at them, landing in their path. Tali used her Omni-tool to hack their shields. Liara glowed blue and launched a singularity at them which pulled them all together. Leanna deployed a warp field, causing every last one of them to fly off in every direction.

Leanna smirked. "Just like old times, isn't it?"

"Hurry; there will be more on the way. We must continue to pursue Vasir," Liara responded plainly.

She headed in the direction of Vasir's skycar with Leana and Tali following her. They arrived to find a smoldering hulk. The care was totaled, but empty.

"Shepard look," Tali pointed to the ground a few feet from the wreck. "Blood"

Liara looked at it. "It's Vasir's. There's more up ahead."

"Follow the trail of blood. Sounds like a fun party game." Shepard quipped. The two just looked blankly at her. "Never mind, just keep moving."

They followed the trail through a hotel room. A man and an Asari were huddled in the corner, apparently too scared to speak. They looked unharmed though. It seemed likely Vasir hadn't even noticed them.

Sudden movement out of the corner of her eye made Leanna jerk around, then all at once lower her guard. The entire wall of the main bedroom was a giant vid-screen. It appeared to show previous hotel patrons with other Asari. She recognized one of the Asari in the vid as the one huddled in the corner.

"What kind of Hotel is this?" She asked Liara.

"Azure. It's a luxury resort with an… exotic edge. "Azure" is slang for a part of the Asari body in some areas of Illium."

Shepard gave Liara a sideways glance. "And where's that?"

"Mainly the lower reaches, near the bottom."

Leanna smirked. "I meant, where on the Asari body."

"So did I." Liara gave a smirk right back.

"In case you can't tell," Tali interjected, "I'm rolling my eyes."

Liara straightened her face. "We need to keep moving."

Vasir was limping along through the hotel. Her injuries were slowing her down. She was leaking too much blood. What little medi-gel she'd had was already used up. She hadn't heard a thing on her comms since she crashed. Did they even know where she was?

She stumbled her way into a rooftop party. A number of humans, turrians and salarians, all rather well off, were surrounded by asari "comfort women". They were too lost in their world of sin and vice to notice the bleeding commando.

"It's over Vasir!"

Vasir spun around. Shepard and the pureblood had caught up to her. Her suit's systems were damaged. If there was a fight, she'd have to rely solely on her biotics.

She drew up a biotic barrier around her then grabbed the nearest body she could, a human female, mid twenties if her estimates on human age were correct. The other patrons and staff ran off screaming. She pointed her pistol to the woman's head.

Shepard shouted at her, "Drop the hostage Vasir! This has gone too far. Put down the gun and we can get you medical attention."

Vasir only tightened her grip. She knew what would happen if she betrayed the Shadow Broker. Dying was preferable.

"What's your name?" she asked her hostage.

"M-Mariana," she stuttered.

"Mariana, you want to live don't you? Tell the nice people how much you want to live."

"Please, help me."

"Don't worry Mariana," Shepard stated calmly, "We'll get you out of this."

"Such a nice sentiment, but are you sure about that? You could've just walked away, but now it's going to get ugly." She dug the gun into the woman's temple.

"Please. I have a son."

Vasir could tell she was lying but it didn't matter. She knew Shepard would believe it. "I hope he gets to see you again. I hear losing a parent is horrible. Scars the kid for life, doesn't it Liara?"

That struck a nerve with the pureblood. "I am going to end you Vasir."

Shepard turned to her. "It's ok Liara. We're going to handle this. She's not getting away."

"You want Mariana's little boy to grow up all alone? Throw your guns on the ground. All of them."

"That's it?"

Vasir was shocked by this response. She was sure Shepard would surrender rather than risk a hostage.

"I sacrificed hundreds of human lives to save the Destiny Ascension. I unleashed the Rachni on the galaxy. Hell, I even sacrificed my best friend to blow up Saren's cloning facility. If you think I'm going to let you go for a single hostage, you're sorely mistaken."

Vasir turned her pistol on Shepard. "You're bluffing."

"Yes, I am. Garrus, now!"

A shot impacted her pistol and it flew out of her hand. A biotic field enveloped Mariana and she was thrown to safety. Three more shots and she couldn't hold her barriers anymore. The four shots that followed pierced her armor. She could feel blood pooling in her lungs.

The pureblood came up to her and pulled the disk she'd stolen out of her armor. It didn't matter. She was dead anyway.

As she slumped against the wall, she chuckled. "You think you can stop him? The Shadow Broker has been around since before any of you were born. He'll kill you before you get a chance to see him."

Shepard faced her. "Is that why you sold out the Council? You're afraid of him?"

"You think I sold out the Council? You think I'm like Saren? Screw you!" She gasped for breath. "The broker's intel has helped me save countless lives over the years. If the broker needs a few people to 'disappear', it's a price I'm willing to pay."

Shepard advanced on her, pointing an accusatory finger. "Trying to kill Liara is one thing, she knew what she'd gotten into, but Spectres don't blow up buildings filled with innocent people!"

"What do you think Spectres are for? We get our hands dirty so the council doesn't have to. The councilors might complain about our methods, but it's all just a show." Vasir's vision was getting blurry. It wouldn't be long now. "Besides, you're working with Cerberus now. Do you have any idea what your terrorist buddies have done?"

"Yes, I worked with Cerberus, but I didn't work for them. I never forgot who they are and what they've done. And I never betrayed who I am for them."

It was getting harder to breathe. "Enjoying the view from your high horse? You want to judge me? Look in the mirror. Kidnapping kids for biotic death camps? Your own unit on Akuze? And you work with them. You don't have room to judge me. You can't…"

Vasir closed her eyes as she felt herself slipping away. Her last thoughts were of the man she'd talked to as she tried to escape, how she'd never see him again. With everything she'd done in her life, this was her only regret.

End of Episode #2

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hide and Seek, Part 4

Illium, Dracon Trade Center

There was fire everywhere. Leanna was running, screaming for someone whose name she could not longer remember. A man in a yellow suit came up to her and scooped her up, carrying her to safety, but she didn't want this man. She wanted the person she screamed for. She wanted her Mother.

A second blast knocked her off her feet. She tried to shake off the memory she'd lapsed into. She hadn't even thought of her parents deaths in a long time, and now was not the time start. Liara needed her.

Vasir headed back for the skycar. She intended to take it to the top of the building while Leanna worked her way up. They'd find who did this and find Liara.

Leanna ran for the main entrance, Garrus and Tali hot on her heal. For once, she was glad that they were silent. She knew the question they wanted to ask; the one she was afraid to ask herself. Was Liara still alive?

There were scattered survivors among the debris. Some were injured, others just frightened. She ordered Garrus and Tali to look after them.

"Treat their injuries and get them to safety. We'll meet up when you're done or I've found Liara."

She went through the main doors to discover the elevator was out of order. She'd have to make her way up the 3 floors to Baria Frontiers on foot, and the building didn't even have a standard stairwell. Stupid Asari architecture.

She found the first set of stairs and ran up. She heard groans coming from a corner. A man was slumped against the wall, sliding down it. Blood flowed from his gut.

Shepard tried to get over to him in time, but he was dead before she could apply medigel. He wasn't injured in the blast. He was shot.

Leanna continued up another flight of stairs, past more shooting victims. According to the floor plan she'd downloaded, she'd have to go through an office before she reached the last set of stairs leading to Baria Frontiers. As she headed for the office, she noticed an unexploded bomb sitting off to the side.

Sloppy work, this was set up fast.

She entered the office. Several desks were overturned and there were a number of twists in the passage. This was the perfect location for an ambush. It was then that she heard the faintest squeal.

She managed to activate the light blocker on her visor just before the flashbang grenades went off. She reached for her Locust SMG while brining her Tech Armor online. The digital targeting reticle on her visor showed five Humanoids up ahead, but there were likely more. These must be the Shadow Broker's soldiers.

Shepard leapt over one of the overturned desks and faced her ambushers. She fired a massive biotic blast before firing the Locust, using up an entire thermal clip in the process. Her visor told her that there were more up ahead as she charged forward, replacing her clip in the process.

Another corner and she heard more soldiers up ahead. Shepard exchanged her Locust for a Phalanx and un-tinted her visor. She crouched behind a continently tipped over desk and took aim.

She managed to get three headshots in before the others even took notice of her. She took out a fourth before he could draw his pistol. She overloaded the fifth and sixth's weapons and they exploded in their hands. Only when there were two left did she have to duck back down as a missile soared above her head.

The Heavy was firing missiles in between blasts from the other's Assault rifle. If she wanted to get a shot in, she'd have to be tricky. She tapped a few keys on her omnitool and waited for a lull in the firing. After a missile impacted the wall behind her, Shepard stood and threw out a small glowing disk, squatting down before the firing could resume. She could only hope it reached its mark.

A beep on her omnitool told her it had landed. She slapped the center of it and heard a hiss coming from the soldiers. The firing had stopped.

Shepard stood to see the Broker's men frozen solid; still alive, but completely immobile. She smashed both their arms with the butt of her gun. They won't bother me again.

She was at the last set of stairs. Baria Frontiers was right at the top. She'd made it. She ran up the stairs and opened the door.

Tela Vasir was standing in the middle of the room. She lowered her weapon when she saw Shepard.

"I was too late." She gestured to the ground where a dead Shadow Broker soldier laid next to an equally dead Salarian. "He'd already killed him when I got here."

Shepard pointed to the Salarian, "That's Sekat?"

"Yeah, if only I'd gotten here sooner. Did you find your friend's body?"

A voice from behind Shepard said, "You mean this body?"

Liara walked through the door, her pistol trained on Vasir. "You tired to kill me."

"What?" Vasir replied. "That's crazy why would I want to kill you?"

"You broke into my apartment after I left it. You disabled the alarms and called off the police. I saw you."

Shepard pointed her gun at Vasir as well. "It all makes sense. You're the assassin. The Council didn't send you, the Shadow Broker did. You couldn't figure out where Liara would be until you found me, and then you called in the Shadow Broker's soldiers to bomb this place."

"And when she got here, she found Sekat, took his data, and killed him. I'm guessing she's still got the disk on her."

"Good guess." Vasir held up a hand that held a data disk. "Not that you'll ever see what's on it, you pureblood Bitch!"

The glass window behind Vasir shattered as she flung it at Liara and Shepard.

Tali and Garrus had just managed to fix up the last of the survivors as they saw Vasir round the corner. She hopped into a skycar before either had a chance to ask what had happened.

As she was taking off, two more figures came in sight.

Garrus spoke, "Shepard, Liara, what's going on? We just saw Vasir take off like something was chasing her."

"Yeah, we are. I'll explain later, just get in the cab."

The four of them piled in a nearby taxi and took off after Vasir.