Mass Effect: On the Edge

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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:51 am

Finding something to do aboard the Vindicator when the Illusive Man when had not assigned a mission was like a summer's afternoon on a Monday. Even though the crew all had their daily tasks, any list of responsibilities was normally completed within an hour, or less. While most preferred to work out in the gym, play vid games in the crew quarters, or sip on martinis off-duty in the lounge on deck three; Commander Titus took to a more traditional method of relaxation. He had retired to his quarters this evening to read up on a novel on his e-reader. He had been busy reading the book that Aria T'Loak had quoted from earlier, A Cynic Looks at Life by Ambrose Bierce. The satire was published back in 1912, and Titus had little knowledge, if any, of the politics and culture of Earth so far back in time. He often found himself surfing the extranet on his Omnitool whenever Bierce made a reference to something that would have been common knowledge to the populous of the United States at that era in time.

The words that the Pirate Queen had quoted so elegantly were quick to stumble across, being in one of the earlier chapters of the book. Bierce went on to further clarify that patriotism “is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave and blind as a stone".

John mulled over the author's harsh words for a moment, deciphering their meaning and then why Aria had chosen to recite them to Titus, accusing him of being such a patriot. He was not angry at all, however, and he was quite enjoying the fact that he was constantly learning who he really was as a man.

He was roused from his contemplations when a knock came at the door to his cabin and he tapped a command on his Omni-tool to allow entry. Operative Taylor came walking in seconds later and stepped up to the raised, upper portion of the captain's cabin; where across the way sat the commander in one of two recliners. She made her way, with purpose, across the floor, which doubled as an expansive aquarium. The clacking of her heeled boots on the glass surface scattered whatever fish had been casually swimming beneath. Refracted light from the water beneath the glass shimmered across her black and white Cerberus uniform, and disappeared as soon as she stepped onto the carpet of the small area where her commander had been seated.

"Sir,” she began, standing at ease before the man, “one of the cleaning mechs has been trying to access Operative Buchan's former office, but is being constantly denied entry. I tried having EDI override whatever glitch we thought was causing the door to remain locked, but she informed me that Miss Buchan purposefully left it that way and only granted you entry."

Titus set down his e-reader and returned a similar look of dumb-founded confusion and curiosity to his second-in-command. “Well,” he started, “that's interesting. And she didn't leave EDI with any reason as to why she has decided to be so secretive?"

Taylor shook her head no and replied, “I'm afraid not, sir. EDI is refusing me and anyone else access to her quarters. You're the only with the authority to say otherwise."

"Reprogram the cleaning mech to another assignment, Miss Taylor,” he said, “I'll be sure to personally see to it that the quarters is well-kept in case she, or some other sleuth our boss sends us, needs it again."



The door to Vala's quarters hissed open and reclosed behind Titus as soon as he was past the threshold. The lights came on immediately after sensing the room's new occupant and revealed that everything had been left in order. There was no need for the cleaning mech to perform a task of any kind in the room. This, however, did not surprise the commander in the least bit. Cerberus operatives like Vala Buchan were neat and orderly. They didn't have to be told to leave something the way they found it. Such words, on the other hand, would be ironic to their job.

John took his time examining the small office space ahead of him. The two computer interfaces were set to sleep mode, and flickered to life as soon as their sensors picked up on Titus' approach to the desk. His eyes then diverted to the large bouquet of flowers. He had remembered carrying them for her on their way back from the med bay when she had decided to discharge herself from Veronica's care. A box of chocolates had accompanied them, but said gift was missing. She must have taken them with her when she left for the SIC Titan but left the flowers behind. But why leave them on the desk? Why not simply dispose of them?

The commander sat down in front of the main terminal, ignoring the personal extranet terminal on the side. There was no reason for him to go digging through Vala's personal files, which would be simply rude. In fact, there was no reason at all why he was even about to dig through the work terminal's files; but his curiosity, and intrigue in the woman's work, beckoned him. His fingers rapidly tapped away at the haptic keyboard and he was soon met with a prompt for a password. Titus barely knew anything about the woman that had been a member of his crew for only two days, so he didn't bother with attempting to input a random word or phrase that she might use for the prompt.

After a quick command on the keyboard, the screen flickered and brought up a series of code and scripts. It was time to shake the rust off of his hacking skills. A few more key strokes grouped various segments of the code into different blocks; three across, and five down. John selected three blocks of code that matched each other and tapped a final few keys into the keyboard to confirm his hack. Normally, this would have been all that a basic hacker would have to do; but that only granted him access to the main screen of the terminal. All of the files after that only brought up more blocks of encrypted code. The new blocks of cypher text that protected the contents in each file of Miss Buchan's terminal couldn't be easily hacked. He had to actually decrypt them the old fashioned way, as he was not looking at a security protocol or firewall...

"Vigenere cypher,” he mused. “Smart.”

This time, knowing Vala a bit better was required to break the cypher. As John's eyes scanned the cypher text on the screen of one of the files, he noted that there was absolutely no pattern. This was how the Vigenere cypher worked, and why it was – if used correctly – one of the few codes that could be impossible to break. The only way for John to be able to read the content was to know the encryption set used.

Typically, beginners at encryption with the Vigenere method only used a simple code phrase, like Mason or Freedom. Each letter of the code phrase would pair up with a corresponding letter in the plain text, and then create a resulting cypher text letter based on a 26x26 alphabetical grid. In a sense, it was like a multiplication table for the alphabet. If the code phrase was too short, a pattern can eventually be noticed – although it would still be quite daunting to find. Therefore, the only way to ensure a truly unbreakable cypher text, was to stretch the encryption algorithm as long as the plain text message itself.

Titus closed out from the terminal and stood up from the seat at the desk. He continued to inspect the rest of the quarters, moving back to the living area on the far end of the room. Like the office at the front, the living area was kept orderly and clean. Not a single inch appeared to have ever been disturbed. The wardrobe remained empty of garments, and provided towels neatly folded in their designated spot at the bottom.

The commander briefly recalled the last conversation he had with Vala in her quarters. She had mentioned that “if to live today would save a thousand tomorrow, then a hundred lives may perish today”. He had gotten the distinct implication that Operative Buchan was referring not just to her decision to save Braden for the sake of his biotic potential, but Titus' conflicts with Commander Poitvin. According to the Illusive Man, Vala's task was to bring them all together.

Horn was too fun to be hated. Poitvin was too patient and calm to openly argue. Prado was out of commission from an operation that had cost him his crew and nearly his life. John instantly realized, while standing there alone in that quiet room, that he was the one that was holding Omni back from its unison. It was his own god damn self-righteousness that was jeopardizing the mission. The Illusive Man had already called him out on it once, Vala as well; and Poitvin probably thought of him as a weak, hot-tempered child. There was no telling what Horn thought about Titus, but the commander couldn't bear to think about the impressions he had left on others any longer. It was time to set things right.

Before John had time to contemplate on how to start going about with correcting his path, an alarm rang throughout the Vindicator and Darcy's voice boomed over the intercom in the quarters. “Commander! We've got an unmarked frigate on intercept trajectory. EDI's picking up a few known signatures; possibly pirates."

A slight smirk appeared on John's lips. It was time to show that the commander of the Vindicator wasn't as weak-willed as other made him out to be. “I'm on my way up to the CIC now, Darcy."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:45 pm

John stood immediately behind the Vindicator’s helmsman with arms crossed, looking out through space at the maroon-colored frigate pointed towards them. According to EDI’s scans, the vessel belonged to a turian pirate by the name of Azuric Villayn. The ship was lightly armored, and carried only the most mundane in weapon systems. He would have been an absolute fool to take on a state-of-the-art Cerberus war machine like the Vindicator, had it not for his lack of knowledge in regards to what Titus’ ship actually was. The Vindicator appeared to be a luxury cruise vessel on both the outside and even inside. Only the most advanced scanning equipment would be able to detect the hidden torpedo bays, and twin Thannix pulse cannons.

“We’re being hailed, Commander,” Darcy said while rapidly tapping a series of commands into his haptic interfaces. “Shall I accept the call?”

“Go ahead,” John responded.

Darcy tapped a button on the cyan interface in front of him and a small hologram appeared over a projection panel text to Titus. The hologram was of a turian, dressed in a custom-tailored uniform, sporting the colors of the pirate’s organization and crew.

“I am Captain Villayn Arkades of the Solar Spear,” the turian announced with brash arrogance. “Do not attempt to flee or fight. In a matter of moments, your ship will be boarded and you and your crew are to surrender.”

Titus looked to Darcy and did his best to suppress a taunting smile. “You and what army?”

The turian captain tilted his head to the side and gazed at Titus through the hologram, looking as though he had evidently not made himself clear. He continued to speak, but a tad slower this time. “When we board your ship, you are to hand over any and all cargo you may be carrying. Passengers aboard are to surrender over any valuables on their pers-.”

“-And you honestly think you can board us?” Titus interrupted.

Villayn paused for several seconds and then looked off to the side, as if seeking for some explanation for Titus’ defiance from a nearby shipmate. He then returned his attention to the Vindicator’s commander and demanded, “Who are you, human?”

“My name is Johnathan Titus; Commander of the Vindicator, and Cerberus operative. Any attempt to intercept us, board us, or attack us will be met with immediate retaliatory action.”

The turian’s eyes widened upon the realization that he just tried to pick a fight with the wrong ship. “Did you say Cerberus?

“Yes.”

The transmission immediately cut off and EDI’s blue orb replaced the image of Captain Villayn. “Sir,” she said, “the Solar Spear has begun to power up their weapons systems. I’ve taken the liberty of closing our ablative plates over all port windows and structurally weak areas of the ship.”

“Thank you, ma’am. Open a line to Lance, will you?”

“Of course, sir.”

“Mister Williams,” John called out over the now open channel to the Vindicator’s battery controls.

Lance’s all-too eager voice responded over the intercom a second later. “Is it time to fuck shit up, Commander?”

“Hit ‘em hard.”

“Aye-aye, sir!”

A shadow was cast down over Titus and Darcy as the ablative plates covered across the large arch of glass that dominated the helm of the Vindicator. Seconds later, the inside of the plates flickered as hundreds of microscopic projectors displayed a crystal-clear, real-time image of what was happening on the outside. To anyone merely glancing down to the front of the helm, it would seem like the armored plates had never cascaded down to offer their protection.

EDI’s blue orb sprang back up over the projection panel. “The Solar Spear has launched two torpedoes. Impact in thirty seconds. I suggest immediate evasive action.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Darcy quipped, “I got it covered, EDI.”

John watched the image of the pirate vessel ahead of them glide out of view as the Vindicator swiftly maneuvered out of the way of the two oncoming white specs. Seconds later, a loud ping from Darcy’s haptic interface indicated that the GARDIAN defense lasers had activated to obliterate the torpedoes when they had come in range.

There was an ominous hum from deep within the Vindicator and John could feel an intense vibration beneath his feet. Darcy quickly turned the Vindicator back around to face the Solar Spear, and a second later John laid witness to the massive beam of blue light from the Vindicator’s Thannix cannons. The pulse tore through the starboard side of the enemy vessel, nearly splitting the Solar Spear in half. When the beam faded, Titus saw a beautifully carved hole right through the center of the ship, and debris floating everywhere in space around it.

“Shall I punch it again, Commander?” Lance’s voice asked over the intercom.

“Hold fire, Mister Williams,” John ordered.

EDI’s orb was soon replaced by a distraught and panicking Captain Villayn. His eyes were wide, his mouth agape, and Titus could see the tell-tale signs of a fire intruding in on the hologram. “You win Commander Titus! My ship’s life support systems have gone offline, and I’m losing my crew members left and right. Please! If Cerberus has any mercy, will you spare my crew?!”

Darcy turned back in his chair and said, “Commander, it’s your call, but his ship is without life support right now. EDI’s scans are saying that he’ll lose all oxygen on the bridge within minutes. There’s an emergency airlock on the port side that we can attach the Vindicator to and use to safely bring them on board.”

John looked from Darcy and back to Captain Villayn. Now was his chance to prove that he wasn’t weak, but for some reason his conscience was screaming at him to give the order to spare their worthless lives. Mirian had called him a crusader and the Illusive Man agreed with her. But crusaders are only charged to protect, are they not? And didn’t Vala make it clear that sacrificing a hundred is sometimes necessary in order to save a thousand? But then there was Lance and Braden. He had convinced Lance nearly a year ago to spare the life of a murderer; and the man, in turn, taught the teenage biotic on his crew that same lesson.

Cerberus’ goal was to both protect humanity and propel the race into the future; to dominate over all other races in the galaxy. How would sparing the lives of turian pirates help further that goal? Johnathan Titus was loyal to the Cause, and it was that loyalty that was pushing him towards the decision to just leave Captain Villayn and his crew of scum to die. But the satirist he was reading earlier argued that such thinking was pitiless and blind. Aria said that Omega had no room for patriots like Titus; as if that hell hole of the Milky Way actually had standards.

“Commander?” Darcy’s voice pulled Titus in from his thoughts.

John glanced over to Darcy and ordered, “Take us in for docking procedures. I’ll take a security team and meet Captain Villayn at the airlock.”

“Aye-aye.”
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:59 am

"If you aren't made, do not engage."

“Copy.” The comm cut, and she was alone with the inquisitive cannibal. The operative hadn’t dared move whilst the cannibal stared at the wall she was up against, but with each passing second, the threat of it noticing the slight shimmer of her cloak grew and grew. The slave was clearly disturbed, the quiet still of its pupils speaking of nothing inside, but her orders were clear. It had to attack first.

The slave rose slowly to its feet, tilting its head slightly as it approached hesitantly. Vala stiffened, pressing herself as tight as she could to the wall, levelling the Phalanx with the approaching human’s chest. The distance closed, and the slave stood before her, eyes staring unknowingly at hers. At such proximity, she could see the still bleeding cracks in the sickly thing’s lips, and pick out the bits of flesh still clinging to its broken teeth. The thick smell of gore rolled off its breath, burning her nostrils with the fresh decay.

It was a man, she concluded, slowly tensing her finger on the trigger. Thoughtless eyes examined the spot her head occupied, and he raised a bloodied hand towards her. She couldn’t risk being seen, not so close. Orders or not, she wasn’t about to become the slave’s next meal. Gritting her teeth, she pressed down slightly on the trigger. A sudden groan in the bulkheads cause the slave to freeze, and his head snapped to the side so quickly it looked like it hurt. It screamed violently, her presence seemingly forgotten as the slave broke into a sprint and vanished down the corridor.

Sighing in relief, she stepped away from the wall, gazing down the hallway after the suddenly furious biotic, wondering what exactly had pissed it off. Horn might have tripped something. But what? She hadn‘t heard any alarms. "Vala? Change of plans. I want you to find the engine room, and prepare it to be overloaded. Once we're done here, this entire ship is going to burn, understood?"

She was quiet for a moment, before she tapped her comm. “Yes sir.” The slaves were beyond saving. It was the logical choice. Swallowing the lump in her throat, the operative cautiously approached the half devoured corpse. Gripping the Batarians hand, she pulled it up towards her, grimacing when the limb came free. Ignoring the small rivers of blood it was making on her legs, she brought up the slaver’s omni-tool. Chuckling softly at the lack of encryption, she thumbed through the files, nabbing a few transcripts and logs for later, before finally finding the ship layout. Feeding the file into her HUD, she quickly mapped the shortest route to the engine room.

Tossing the now useless limb over her shoulder, the infiltrator gave her surroundings a once over, before ducking out of the room and orienting herself with the new map. The layout was vaguely similar to an alliance frigate thankfully, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way to her new objective. Creeping through the halls like a shadow, she didn’t bother with the rooms any longer, intent on getting off this ship as quickly as possible. The ship groaned again, and she paused to glance at the walls around her. “That can’t be good…” The wall beside her groaned loudly, and she gaze it a look before hurrying out of the corridor.

Rounding the last corner, Vala gazed at the massive bulkhead blocking her path. “Fuck.” Knocking a hand against the metal, she grimaced as the sounded echoed through the stillness around her. “How the fuck do I get this open..?” A moment of quiet thought later and she tapped her comm. “Commander, I’ve run into a sealed bulkhead just outside the core. Can you do anything from where you are?”

"Well, let me put it this way. The bridge controls looked more fucked up than a couple of asari strippers after they've spent a night with a couple of in-heat krogan." She groaned.

“I fucking hate krogan.” She said nothing more, pulling up the map in detail. Engineering was just up the hall. A cold smile spread across her lips, and she strode away from the bulkhead with purpose. The slaver’s ship was undoubtedly used in raids, which meant it was going to be utilizing an antiproton drive. A small antimatter rod detonation would carve the bulk head apart with ease.

Assuming it didn’t blast the entire ship out of existence. Maybe she’d be better off just grabbing a fusion torch and carving a hole in the bulk head…

Engineering, surprisingly, was mostly untouched. The engineers likely fled as soon as the slaves were loose, so the only damage the room had sustained was from the curious probing of their former captives. Unsurprisingly, they had barely done anything, knocking over a few work areas here and there, but the equipment was mostly untouched. Looking over the storage area, her HUD steadily translated the batarian text as she moved, eventually coming upon the antiproton storage tank. A few moments of translation gave her the gist of the controls, and with a nervous swallow, she opened the small container and retrieved the antiproton storage rod inside the machine.

“Steady…steady…” She whispered to herself, slowly bringing the rod over to one of the transport containers. The container took the volatile rod gently, and lowered it inside with the utmost care. Once the cylinder sealed itself, Vala grinned. “Perfect.” Hoisting the transport container up, she started back down the hallway, slowing to a halt when she spotted the eerily familiar blue glow of biotics from around the corner.

Peering curiously around, she grimaced at the sight of the cannibal from earlier. “Just couldn’t leave me alone, could you?” The groaning of the bulkheads was growing louder, and a feeling of urgency was flooding her senses. Time to get proactive. Setting the container off to the side, she holstered her pistol and crept towards the slave. It moved about, searching high and low for something, although she could only assume it was looking for Commander Horn and Saint since it was unlikely it knew she was there. The distance closed, and she tensed her muscles in preparation. As it turned to leave, she struck, leaping forward and grabbing its face. The slave screeched, but she used the surprise to slam its head into the bulkhead, pulling it back by the tattered mess of its hair before crashing it against the steel once again.

The man slumped to the floor, and she dusted her hands with a satisfied smirk. “Barriers aren’t worth shit when you don’t have them up.” Hauling the unconscious slave back down the hall, the operative set about rigging up the container to the bulkhead. A quick adhesive application of omni-gel later, and the container was fastened securely to the metal, and she jogged down the hall to clear the radius. Reaching the end, she about faced, taking careful aim with her pistol before keying the comm. “Brace for detonation, Commander.”

She didn’t wait for a response, taking a single shot before racing around the corner as the round punctured the storage unit and hit the rod within. The blast was brief but intense, shaking the floor beneath her feet and producing a brilliant flash that left her temporarily blinded. When the spots left her vision, Vala stepped out to admire her handy work. The bulkhead was mostly gone, pulverized into molten slag that lay strewn about the hall and in the core room beyond. Making her way inside, she gazed at the small chamber for a moment, before peering off the side of the railing. Unlike human ships, which had the core higher up, it appeared the batarians kept theirs lower in the ship, possibly to keep the valuable core from being damaged by any hostile attacks. Smart. She might have to pass the idea along to the Illusive Man.

Turning her focus to the worn console before her, the operative gazed over the foreign controls, chewing her lip slightly. The core was offline, so if she wanted to overload it, she’d need to bring it online first. As the first few translations came in, her fingers hesitantly clicked a few of the controls.

“Vala, why isn’t the core online yet?”

“I’m not an engineer, Commander, I‘m a combat operative. Everything being in batarian isn’t helping matters any.”

"Just hit the biggest button you can find." Of course, because that would magically make the damn thing work. A few hesitant presses later, and the core beneath her hummed to life, the light blue glow of the eezo dancing along the sphere. The proximity to the core caused her head to buzz, the eezo inside setting the nodules in her body ablaze with power.

Groaning at the strain it put on her body, she gazed back down at the control console. The soft scraping of footsteps made her freeze, and she glanced backwards over her shoulder. The slave was standing, face bloodied but mostly unharmed from her assault earlier. It stared quietly right at her, kinetic barriers flaring around his body as it moved closer and closer.

“You’ve got to be fucking with me.” Pulling her pistol up, she fired twice at its head, watching with a smirk as it head jerked back forcefully from the hit. The cloak around her frame fell, and she made to holster her pistol, only to freeze when the slave straightened back out.

It screamed as it broke into a sprint, its biotics flaring dangerously. Vala hissed a swear, attempting to ready her pistol again before it reached her. It was barely half drawn when the biotic fell upon her, limbs thrashing violently as it clawed at her armour. She ducked and weaved with a dancer’s grace, dodging most of the blows but failing to find an opening under the slave’s unrelenting assault. Catching the arm by the wrist, she twisted it painfully, only to find the shields strengthening in compensation to her assault. The ship groaned around them, but she ignored it, punching the elbow with enough force to snap it upwards slightly. The slave howled in pain, raking its mangled nails across her face before she tossed it headfirst into the console behind her.

Wiping at her cheek, she grimaced at the blood. “Lucky.” The armour by her breast opened slightly, revealing a handle which she promptly grabbed and tugged free, revealing a decorated 8-inch knife with a flourish. As her assailant reared about to face her, she lunged, striking a palm into the sternum, whilst slashing for its throat. The barrier quickly repulsed the blade with enough force to knock her off balance, and the slave rushed forward to strike again.

Leaping a step back, Vala did a hand spring backwards, delivering a kick to the unsuspecting slave’s chin that sent it reeling. The two didn’t waste anytime lunging back at each other, but the operative’s flexibility and speed gave her the advantage over the wild man, and she ducked under it’s attempted grapple, sending them toppling to the floor with her straddling it’s waist. She stabbed at the chest cavity, pushing hard against the barrier as it tried to repulse the weapon. The slave bucked beneath her, lashing at her head to dislodge her, but she endured the few hits she couldn’t duck.

After what felt like an eternity, the resistance vanished, and the knife plunged down through the ribs and punctured the heart. The biotic shuddered beneath her, dull eyes wide with panic and something that reminded her of fear. Pulling the knife out, she stabbed it through the wretch’s eye, ending it’s suffering with a single twist of the blade. Climbing to her feet, she tapped into the comm. “Commander, I’ve got the core online.”

Thumbing one of the small spheres on her belt, Vala gazed down at the core for a brief moment, then tossed the sphere at the side of the core. It attached itself with a soft beep, and she readied the detonator in her omni-tool silently. “It’s ready for critical overload. Are you ready for exfil?”
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Digital Muse on Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:15 pm

Once Vala had been given the change in plans, Tia followed Horn toward the bridge. The Commander seemed to have asked her opinion just to see how she'd react to his new orders. She felt little for the Biotics. They weren't human any longer. At the moment, they were little more than an incredibly dangerous obstacle. She did, however, have a problem with the Blue Suns. If any were found alive, they'd be sorry Tia had found them first. Once more on their way to the bridge, Horn and Tia came to yet another sealed door. She told the commander that it was sealed atmospherically and he nodded at her to open it while he hugged the wall opposite her. As she had with the previous doors, she bypassed the overrides and it hissed open easily. She threw herself to the side with her own knife in hand waiting for the pair of Biotics revealed in the passage beyond to come to investigate.

It was unfortunate, but these Biotics weren't any more sane than any of the others and the faint blue glow presaged their arrival within striking range of Tia and her eager Commander. Just as the first Biotic cleared the doorway, Horn reacted. He swung his combat knife hard and low, hoping the Biotic shield wasn't as strong further down along the woman's body. He was partially right; while his blade didn't penetrate as deeply as it ordinarily would have, it did get through. He managed a deep gash along the woman's thigh, sending her sprawling along the deck. Not willing to waste an opening, Horn leaped on her back and threw everything he had into driving his knife into the back of her neck, hoping to sever her spine. Despite the advantage, the woman's shield seemed to glow more brightly and again that ominous creaking of the bulkheads was heard but ignored by everyone in the struggle to simply survive.

The second Biotic, a man, was distracted by Horn's attack on the woman and he prepared a Biotic push to blow Horn away from her. He didn't even look to see if Horn was alone. Between his hands, he prepared an ominous dark orb. It would be devastating in such close proximity. Tia switched her knife from her left hand to her right and touched a haptic keypad on her left forearm in a rapid sequence. Suddenly, her armor emitted a soft purple glow of its own. This better work. She thought to herself. Reaching out, she delicately dipped her left hand into the blue field around the male Biotic. The feedback was intense and jolted them both with intense electromagnetic shocks. Tia gritted her teeth and pushed even harder while the man jerked and screamed as if having live wires attached to his body. His hair began to smoke and Tia's synthetic arm began to buzz with an unnatural numbness. "That can't be good." She muttered. The man tried desperately to throw up stronger and stronger shields but Tia varied the frequency of her own shield and kept interrupting his attempts. Suddenly, the male Biotic gave up all pretense of trying to using his Biotics and dropped it entirely. Whirling on her, he swung a back-fist at her with incredible animalistic strength that caught her full in the chest. The blow sent Tia back into the wall and she bounced off hard. Only her armor saved her from any serious injury.

Hurting, but not about to go down, Tia kicked off and drove her knife between the man's exposed ribs and used her left arm to wrap him up so he couldn't scramble away. She kept pushing and twisting the knife until he shuddered and went limp against her. His dead weight dragged her to knees and she let him slump to the ground. "That's gonna hurt tomorrow." She quipped.
Horn was having more of a fight with the woman. Her insanity made her unpredictable and the more power she pored into her biotic shield, the less success he had of finishing her off. She finally spun under him and blasted him with a Biotic pulse, sending him flying backwards to crash into Tia. They both went down in an tangle of limbs. Gibbering and screaming at them, the woman scrambled to her feet and charged them.

Horn glanced back at Tia and grinned. "Having fun yet, Saint?" Despite his casual attitude, Horn was up first and drove a boot into the middle of the woman's stomach, sending her flying several yards back along the walkway.

Tia climbed to her feet, then reached out to drag Horn to the opposite side of the doorway and waited, physically restraining Horn from taking the attack to the insane Biotic. "Wait..." She murmured softly.

The woman charged.

"Wait for it..."

The woman was within feet.

"Saint, if you're going to do some..."

"Now" Tia said calmly and hit a button on her Omni Tool. The emergency shield doors of the passageway slammed down into place crushing the woman where she was. The sound of bones breaking and the gore spilling was sickening. Even if the technique worked.

Horn looked at the puddle of goo that had once been a human and then to Tia. "Well. That worked." He quipped sarcastically.

"Yes, Sir." Tia agreed.

"Don't do it again."

"Yes, Sir" Tia grinned slightly.

Horn eyed his new Operative a moment, "Showing off there, Saint?"

Tia shrugged, "Maybe. Just a little."

Horn then turned back to the passageway leading to the bridge. "Let's move."

They continued down the corridors, only having to evade two more raving Biotic groups before arriving at the doors that lead to the bridge. This time, the security was far more complex. Tia would have been sadly disappointed if it hadn't ben. It took her a few moments working with her Omni Tool to get the encryption data packet uploaded and working and then a mere matter of minutes before the doors hissed open before them revealing another slaughter house. The few Blue Sun's crew that had made it back this far hadn't died easily. But die they had. Parts and pieces of bodies appeared draped almost artistically over nearly every surface. or perhaps had been used as hammers to destroy everything in sight. Consoles were smashed, wires torn out and entire banks of machinery were overturned. There was still some residual sparking and the smell of ozone that made it past their air-filters.

"Aww, damn it." Tia groaned. "We aren't going to find much, Commander."

"You're the Saint. Do what you can." Horn grinned at her. Horn helped her turn upright a few data banks to see what might still be viable, but it was taking too much time. Finally, a single access point was located and Tia hunkered over it, working intently on getting everything that might be salvageable. For those minutes, she forgot where she was or the circumstances they found themselves in. She was focused. Her fingers flew over the haptic display her specialized Omni Tool produced for her. She pieced together strings of code to make a semi-coherent whole. But huge gaps littered the data stream.

"Saint. Time's up." Horn snapped at her.

She didn't hear him and kept working.

"Saint. Move your ass! Or I'll leave you with the loons!" He gave her a shove.

This time, the Commander got her attention. Blinking, she glanced up and nodded, "Yes, Sir. I can't get much more anyway." She rose from her crouch and pocketed her data chip. Taking her shotgun in hand once again, she nodded to Horn. "I have control of most of the doors between here and the Titan. We should be able to get through."

Horn grinned at her, "Now you're just ruining all my fun, Saint." He keyed his comm, "Vala. Set it and move out. You got that?"

Vala answered in the affirmative. "Yes, Sir. Heading out."

With the sequencing of the doors as they moved, Tia was able to keep all but 2 of the captive Biotics out of their direct path. Those two were so shiveringly insane, that they barely noticed the pair as they ran by toward the airlock where the Titan awaited them. Arriving at the blood-caked docking bay, they saw that Vala had arrived before them. Horn grinned, "Who wants some steak? I'm starving."


Last edited by Digital Muse on Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:33 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added dialog)
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:40 am

Titus and Taylor stood immediately behind the bulk of the security detail positioned at the airlock. Operative Keown had taken point, and had his M-7 Avenger assault rifle at low-ready. The sound of mechanisms below their feet told John that an atmospherically-sealed bridge was extending from the Vindicator to the Solar Spear’s port side. A minute later, there was a heavy and loud clack indicating that the bridge had come into contact with the locking mechanisms on the pirate vessel.

EDI’s synthetic voice chimed in over the helm’s intercom. “Scans indicate there are three life forms rapidly making their way across the bridge.”

“Keown,” Titus said, “you and your men ready?”

Keown gave him a quick, stern nod and then refocused his eyes on the green haptic interface on the air lock door. The interface flashed to red, signaling that the air lock was now pressurizing and in-use. The sound of a hissing air came from within, on the other side.

“I’ve sealed the air lock as a precautionary measure, Titus,” EDI said. “Only three turians are inside. Security scans indicate that none of them are armed with any heat-based weapons. I will unlock it upon your orders.”

“Do it, EDI.”

The door’s haptic interface flashed back from red to green before rapidly whooshing open. The three turians on the other side, with Captain Villayn at their head, immediately froze and raised their hands at the sight of several Cerberus marines taking aiming at them.

“Hell of a welcoming committee,” Villayn boldly mused.

Commander Titus narrowed his gaze on the turian captain and demanded, “Where’s the rest of your survivors? Surely more than three of you were left alive by the time we docked.”

Villayn looked down and off to the side. Remorse covered his features as he solemnly replied, “There was nothing we could do. Once your pulse weapon ripped a hole in my ship, several blast doors sealed off various parts of the vessel in an attempt to maintain pressure and oxygen levels. Unfortunately, one of the doors that had to close and seal itself was the one leading to the bridge. There was no way for us to hack it open; and if we did, we’d lose ourselves to the vacuum of space. We were the only three on the other side of the door, commander.”

John felt a pang of guilt and found himself unable to look into the turian’s eyes when the captain turned back to him. Instead, he looked over to Keown and gave him a gentle nod. His right-hand man returned the gesture and lowered his rifle, a sign for the other Cerberus marines to follow suit and lower their own.

“I’m sorry,” Titus eventually said. “But you gave me no choice. I had to do what was necessary to defend my crew.”

Captain Villayn shook his head with a look of disappointment. “I know you did, Commander Titus; and you should not be apologizing. But…,” the turian seemed to struggle a moment before grasping onto the words he wanted to say next, “… thank you for getting us out of there.”

Titus smirked and folded his arms. “I like to face my enemies with kindness, Captain. Nothing annoys them so much.”

Villayn and his men weren’t sure how to respond to their rescuer’s words. Instead, the captain simply shrugged his shoulders. The turians were a predominantly militaristic race. It was customary for all adolescent turians to enlist in the military and serve a due amount of time. It wouldn’t surprise Titus if Villayn thought such a philosophy was absolutely ridiculous or unheard of amongst the species.

“So what now?” the turian asked. “Are we to be your prisoners? I’ve heard rumors about what Cerberus does to captives; torture, biological experiments. Perhaps you want me on some cold exam table to dissect me while I’m still alive.”

Titus raised a brow and, for a moment, wondered where in the galaxy the captain had heard such stories. It was true that Cerberus would often resort to torture in order to get answers from captives, but the Illusive Man had no interest in any of the other alleged crimes. Entire biological studies on every species were available over the extranet at the press of a button. If Cerberus really wanted to learn how a turian would fair under a biological agent, they would most likely resort to hacking a salarian intelligence network.

“How does hot food, warm beds, and a supervised stay on the Vindicator sound?” he suddenly asked.

Villayn and his two shipmates all dropped their jaws at the unexpected hospitality. When they glanced at both Keown and Taylor, and saw that their expressions bore no signs of defiance or question, they realized that Titus was serious.

“That,” the turian to his captain’s left began, “is quite generous. But, why?”

The answer to his question had come to Titus long before the Vindicator docked with the Solar Spear. He had wanted to prove that he wasn’t weak willed; so much so, in fact, that he was about to give up who he was by letting helpless turians die after almost obliterating their vessel. It wasn’t until Captain Villayn Arkades reached out for help did Titus realize this. It was John’s fault that Villayn had lost his entire crew. He had made it evidently clear only minutes ago that he wasn’t as weak as his fellow commanders. Now, it was time to show that he could be just as strong, by being twice as kind. Cerberus patriot or not, he wasn’t about to compromise who he was just to show his strength.

“Let’s just say… I owe you a debt,” John said as he walked forward, past his Cerberus shipmates, and extended a hand to Villayn. “Welcome aboard the Vindicator.”



Commander Titus was grateful that his crew had been open and welcoming to their turian guests. He had feared that the Cerberus racism would start to seep through and become a problem, but if he let them on board, then they didn’t dare start any trouble. His primary concern, however, was Lance. He knew the man’s history and struggle against discrimination, so John made a mental note to check up on him personally every now and then so long as Captain (or former captain, now) Villayn was aboard the Vindicator.

Right now, he was accompanied by said turian and his second-in-command, Serena Taylor, in the briefing room up on deck one. He wanted just the three of them alone so they could discuss the terms and conditions of Villayn’s stay on his ship. Titus had given him and his two comrades their own officers’ quarters, distanced from the main crew quarters on the second deck. He wanted them to at least feel comfortable and at ease being the only aliens on a Cerberus war vessel. The commander had graciously allowed them to join in with the rest of the Vindicator crew at chow times, open access to all areas of the ship, save for the quantum blue box (which was restricted to anyone anyway, save for the top-ranking operatives such as Serena and John), and the freedom to leave whenever they desire.

“You’re not my ‘prisoners’, nor will I allow Cerberus to mark you as such,” John said. “Consider the slate whipped clean now. I’ll no longer look at you as a pirate, as long as you don’t continue to be one.”

Villayn gratefully accepted the terms and offers, but was compelled to ask, “I’m getting the feeling that you actually want to consider me part of your crew, Commander.” His black eyes gazed into John’s own.

The commander smiled and replied, “If you want to, Villayn, then I’d be happy to have you apart of the team. But I’m afraid our mission might urge you to consider simply leaving at the next refueling depot.”

The turian tilted his head and his eyes betrayed his fascination with the cryptic warning. Curiously, he beckoned, “Oh… Do tell, Titus.”

Titus returned the look with a smirk and then nodded to his colleague. “Serena, would you do the honors?”

The brunette made her way around the circular conference table and stopped directly in between the two. Her eyes remained on Villayn as she began her briefing of the situation and mission. She covered everything from the Illusive Man being the sole leader of Cerberus and benefactor of the Vindicator team, to their goal to either stop or stall the Collectors at all costs. When she got to part of the Reapers, however, the turian took a cautious step back.

“The Reapers?”

“You’ve heard of them?” Serena asked instantly, as if she had expected the reaction from him.

Villayn replied in a more ominous tone, “Of course; but I always thought they were a bedtime story, nothing but the figment of hyper imaginations.”

“Saren Arterius’ flag ship at the battle of the Citadel,” John intervened, “was named Sovereign. That was a Reaper… And there are hundreds, possibly thousands more of them.”

The turian shook his head in slight disbelief. “Where could an entire army of those things be hiding? I know the galaxy is vast, but for surely someone would have stumbled across that many of them by now.”

“They don’t dwell inside the galaxy,” Serena said. “They hide in dark space; only to return every fifty-thousand years to start a galactic genocide against all sentient life. No one knows why, but the evidence is all around you. The Protheans were the last known space-faring species to just suddenly disappear off the galactic map. More races went before them. There’s no scientifically possible explanation for their sudden ‘extinction’.”

The discussion carried on for nearly another hour before Villayn finally came to accept the truth that John and Serena were trying to delicately reveal to him one step at a time. At first, the commander thought his turian guest would decline the offer to join the team out of fear, or even out of thinking he and Serena were insane. But, to his surprise, the warrior blood in the turian compelled him to accept the challenge.

“Well,” Villayn began, turning his dark eyes back to Titus, “I don’t know much about hunting ancient, genocidal machines, but…” He allowed himself a light-hearted chuckle. “I can’t very well sit back and let humans take all the glory for saving the galaxy, now can I?”

John leaned forward over the conference table, bracing his hands on the chrome railing that wrapped around the circumferential edge, and gave his new ally a daring grin. “Welcome to the team, Villayn.”


Professor Nina Rikers ran delicate fingers through her auburn hair while her gaze pierced through the high-magnification lenses of the microscope before her on the lab table. Beneath the lenses was a small silicon microchip being pecked at by a tool fit for its size. The tiny utensil, held by Nina's other fingers, carefully tapped the chip in several areas, sealing down different nodes with short bursts of intense heat. The sound of her coworker's own fingers rapidly tapping away at his haptic interface from over her shoulder accompanied her tedious work. Eventually Dr. Elias Taggart's smooth voice momentarily broke her concentration.

"How's the-?"

"-Fine," Nina swiftly responded.

Most of her time aboard Cerberus' most advanced weapons research station, called the Hephaestus (named after the god in charge of forging Zeus' lightning bolts), was spent with developing a state-of-the-art personal weapon system that would literally adapt from being a short range to long range fire arm. The microchip she had been repairing, from a previously failed test run, would control the weapon's auto-targeting systems after adaptation. Unfortunately, the chip kept frying, or would begin to overheat to the point of frying, after the weapon adapted.

The Excalibur system itself was actually two main, identical weapons. Twin heavy pistols could be placed together, one directly behind the other, to merge into a rifle capable of delivering high impact, deadly accurate shots. The concept was easy enough: the weapon system was personally linked to a heads-up display and would relay a "hint" to the user whenever the computer inside each pistol recognized a change in tactics was needed by analyzing familiar battle patterns and situations. If no HUD was linked, a holographic warning would flash from the barrel of each pistol so the user would still get the hint. Once combined, using rapid nano assemblers, the new rifle would disable only one of the mass accelerators of the original pair of pistols.

Everything had eventually been worked to perfection except for the auto-targeting system; but finally, after touching the last node, Nina was done.

“Finally!" she exclaimed while letting go of a breath she never realized she was holding in.

Elias stoo d up from his chair and briskly made his way over to her side. Nina had already moved the chip to a new table when he arrived to stand over her shoulder. Her fingers gently inserted the refined chip into one of the two heavy pistols on the illuminated table. There was a short, audible beep from within the weapon, signalling that the auto-targeting was now online and operational. Her hand went to reach for the pistol grip, but Elias heavier palm pressed down on the bulk of the machine.

"It's late, Nina," he calmly said. "Go see Lizzie and get some sleep. We'll test it tomorrow. Besides, you know the regs."

Professor Rikers couldn't help but be swayed by the man's charming smile, coupled with her exhaustion from working for the last twenty-four hours straight on the Excalibur. He was right, anyway. The Hephaestus station's devotion to developing the best new weapons technology for Cerberus had come with strict protocols for firearms safety. Anyone up for more than fourteen hours wasn't allowed to even think about touching a weapon. The mention of Lizzie, her fifteen year-old daughter, also beckoned her to retire for the evening.

As soon as Nina's hand hovered in front of the access panel to the lab door, the main lights in the room's ceiling instantly dimmed, and several red emergency lights began to rapidly strobe. An alarm pierced the silence and the distinct sound of Avenger rifle fire, accompanied by more shots that Nina didn't recognize the origins of, came from the corridor outside. The professor hesitated, her hand unmoving in front of the access interface. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Elias run over to the window that looked out into the white utilitarian hall beyond.

"We're under attack?!" he hollered. "By who? Alliance?"

Nina cautiously moved over next to him but pressed her hand down atop his shoulder, bringing them both down to hide behind the examination table against the window in hopes that they wouldn't be spotted. Her eyes peered over the surface and she saw several Cerberus marines sprint down the corridor; their black and white uniforms lit up by the flashing red alarm lights. Seconds later, the two scientists heard a brief exchange of gunfire. They held their breath, hoping to see the marines return, but the hideous aliens that came half running down the hall from where the firefight happened forced them to cower lower in utter fear.

"Are those...?" Nina began, but she couldn't bring herself to finish the question she knew the answer to.

"Collectors," Elias whispered, daring to peek over the top and back out the window. "But what are they doing here?"

Lizzie! The thought hit her so hard she nearly gasped for air. She had to find her daughter, and somehow escape the station. But the Hephaestus was gigantic, and the Excalibur development lab was deep inside the massive space station. The nearest escape shuttles were hundreds of meters away, and finding Lizzie during an attack... As a mother, she couldn't bear the thought any further. She was going to find her daughter, one way or another.




John and Braden sat atop the conference table in the briefing room, gazing out into the vastness of space while their legs freely dangled above the chromium floor. After Villayn and Serena had left, following the turian's proper welcome to the team, John stayed behind to reflect on the major decisions he had made in a matter of hours. He had nearly obliterated Villayn and his pirate crew and was going to leave them to die, but saved their lives (or as many as he could, at least) instead. Following that, he not offered them the Vindicator's hospitality, but a place on the team as well. He should be feeling good about himself, but somewhere in the back of his mind, Operative Buchan and the Illusive Man were shaking their heads in disapproval. Did he make the right call?

The young teen that now sat next to him had entered the room only moments ago. He wasn't sure why Braden was there, but he didn't mind the company - even if it was quiet. The boy's presence made him realize just how unorthodox he had truly become. A kid, aliens... what was next? He amused himself by wondering if fate was toying with him; seeing just how far he would go, and how much he could handle. Yet, even amidst the confusion of his inner arguments and conflicting thoughts, he still managed to find a reason for the decisions he made. The simple fact of the matter is that he adapted to survive. John figured that was why he had become so devoted to Cerberus' cause. Human beings had been thrown into the galactic community without much of a welcome wagon, and now they had to prove their worth.

There was a beep behind them, indicating that a call was waiting on the quantum entanglement communicator. John and Braden both hopped down from where they were sitting as the conference lowered. On cue, EDI sent the command to lower the ablative plates over the glass dome of the briefing room. Braden was unsure of what to do, as he had never been in the room with Titus while the communicator was active. He, at first, made to leave, but the commander placed a gentle hand over his shoulder and nodded for him to accompany him at the center of the pad.

When the two were firmly in the center, the orange holo-grid rose up and around and the briefing room faded into the surreal office of the Illusive Man. As he always was, the Cerberus leader was seated in his chair, with a cigarette in his right hand, and a glass of scotch in his left. The Man took a swig from the glass before placing it down on the arm rest of his chair.

“Mr. Reynolds,” he said to the boy with a slight nod, “it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Commander Titus has spoken very highly of you, and, if I’m correct, you’ve already proven yourself to be a great asset to this organization.”

Braden simply stood frozen, completely unsure of what to say. After a moment, and while the strange man before him took a drag of his cigarette, he managed to say a small “thank you” with a slight blush.

“You need something, boss?” Titus asked, jumping to the point of the Illusive Man’s summoning.

His employer nodded and brought up the blue haptic interface from the arm of his chair. He tapped a single key and several holograms appeared overhead, slight behind him. A large, three-dimensional hologram of a space station appeared in the center of the gap between the operatives and the Illusive Man.

“This,” the Man said, “is one of Cerberus’ most valuable and vital weapons development stations. It’s called the Hephaestus. It appears that the Collectors have taken the fight to us, now, as we lost contact with the station shortly after a distress signal was received through our private comm buoys. The signal also contained an encrypted security vid feed of several Collectors on board the station itself.”

Titus was genuinely shocked. Cerberus defenses for such high-value assets were nearly impregnable, unless your name was Shepard. The Collectors must have wanted enough revenge for Omni Cell’s interference in their operations to go so far as to actually launch a direct attack against them.

“What kind of weapons development were they working on there?” he asked.

“Every kind,” the Man responded. “But that’s not important. I’m not going to send you and the rest of Omni into that station simply to retrieve data, or toys, Commander. This time, you’re going on a rescue mission. Projects can always be restarted and recompleted; but that station is currently home to some of the best human minds in the galaxy; human minds that are loyal to the Cause. You can’t replace those as easily as you can a few test tubes and data. And I’ll be damned if I’m just going to let the Collectors abduct them like they’ve done with thousands of colonists.”

Titus gave a sharp nod. “Parameters understood, sir. Where do we start?”

“The exact coordinates of the station are never the same as it constantly moves around in a large ion storm just outside of the Terminus systems; well in between the stars. Thus, FTL travel won’t do you any good. Mr. Mansfield will need his full focus on carefully navigating the Vindicator through the storm. EDI can use the ship’s IFF and scanners to detect the station once it comes in range.”

“So… it’ll be like finding a needle in a hay stack?”

“Not necessarily. Whenever the Hephaestus moves, it relocates by the same distance each time. EDI will have the previous coordinates uploaded to her; she can provide you with all the possible locations – factoring in the storm’s safe zones and the station’s standard relocation distance – and you’ll be able to find it in no time.”

Titus took a closer look at the hologram of the space station. According to the readings, the Hephaestus was approximately five kilometers tall, and two kilometers across. It was made to look like a giant cylinder, with a large ring around its center mass. The ring was connected to the station’s main body by several bridges. Titus was able to count twelve of these bridges. The ring itself was used for docking bays.

‘Do we have any idea how many Collectors have boarded the station?”

Solemnly, the Illusive Man shook his head no. “We’re not entirely sure what you can expect in there, Commander. But know this: no ship larger that a cruiser can safely pass through that ion storm. Our past encounters with them have always been with a large dreadnaught. Thus, they either have technology that can provide them safe passage through the storm, or… they have more vessels we don’t know about. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. So just be ready for anything.”

“Noted. So, you said that you’re putting all of Omni on this?”

“That’s correct. You and Commander Horn is now all that Omni is comprised of as far as my ship commanders go. Prado is still recovering, and Commander Poitvin is, well… I’ve got him working on something special.”

Titus allowed himself a mental sigh of relief knowing that he would be able to avoid Poitvin for a bit longer. However, that also left him tactically concerned. Only two commanders to take on an unknown number of Collectors, and in the middle of an ion storm? It sounded like a suicide mission, but the value that those scientists on the Hephaestus presented to Cerberus, to humanity, trumped the odds.

“I’ll have the Vindicator wait up for Commander Horn at the edge of the storm. Once we rendezvous, we’ll get in and get out with as many human lives as possible, sir.”

The Illusive Man nodded and held his finger over his personal interface. “I know you will, Titus,” he said. He gave one last nod to Braden, adding in a surprising smile to the boy, before cutting the transmission.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:26 am

The trip through the entire crazed ship was entertaining, although far from the most dangerous thing Horn had done. He hadn't been expecting what he saw, but sometimes life threw you curve balls that just were trying to freak the absolute shit out of you. Horn, like always, had held his ground. He looked at the others, no one making a mention of his rather badly made joke. He shrugged his shoulders. "I guess not everyone likes steak." He said as they breached the airlock and finally made it aboard the Titan once more. Horn removed his mask as the final airlock closed behind them. "Jack, if you could get us away from the Joker's Academy for the clinically Hungry please?"

"On it sir." Jack's voice came over the speakers as Horn looked back at the two. Vala said nothing, but Tia was smirking towards him.

"So how'd we do Commander?" Saint asked, undoing her mask as well.

"Well, you didn't die or clothesline me again, so I'd say good. Vala, you did alright as well." There was a slight rock of the ship as the freighter they were just on exploded. Jason looked to the airlock for a second, before looking back to Vala. "Nevermind, you both did good today." Jason stated, then glanced over at Tia's arm. "Looks like you got yourself a war wound there Saint."

"Nothing a bit of work can't fix." She stated and she held it at a slightly awkward angle.

"Get to Dr. Grass first, make sure none of the organic tissue is damaged beyond repair. Then report to TJ, she'll fix it up for you right quick. You have a problem with her, just say 'Commander's Orders.'"

"Yes sir." She stated as she and Vala walked off. Horn looked over to see Kelly patiently waiting for him near the CIC console. He walked over with a swagger that gave the impression he had just slain a Reaper with his bare hands.

"So you blew up another ship? Why am I not surprised?" Kelly stated, amusement sinking into her tone the more she went on. Horn shrugged as he walked to the bridge.

"The most I can be charged for is cruelty to animals, that's all that was left on there."

"I understand sir." Kelly responded, facing Horn. "While you were out, a communication from the Illusive man came through. He wants to speak to you as soon as you are able." Jason simply gave a nod, and Kelly walked off leaving Jack and Horn on the bridge.

"Is there something you needed from me Commander?" Jack asked without looking backwards.

"Nah, just enjoying the view..."

"Forwards or backwards sir." Jack said, his voice void of humour, which made it all the more funny. Jason gave a smile.

"If I had two pairs of eyes, it would be both smartass." Jack gave a small smile before returning to his work. Jason continued to stare out into space for a few seconds more before turning and leaving for the briefing room.

Horn stepped onto the platform, the holographic display forming around him as always. TIM stood on the opposite side, admiring the gas giant or contemplating his next move. Maybe it was both, or maybe he was picking his nose, Horn couldn't really tell. Once he was finally integrated, and the holographic display had fully rendered his image, Horn stood there with his hands clasped behind his hands in a relaxed posture. "You wanted to see me sir?" There was a moment of silence, and finally TIM turned back towards Horn.

"Indeed I did Commander. Whether through your actions or some unknown reason, the collectors have decided to hit back at us where it hurts." TIM walked to his chair, sat down quite gracefully, and pressed a button on his display. A 3D image of a space station snapped up in front of Horn. The Illusive Man took a puff from his cigarette, and continued slowly. "This is one of our weapons facilities, called the Hephaestus. We have reason to believe that collectors have not only attacked the station, but are currently on board as we speak. I do not need to tell you the vital importance of this installation and its crew Commander."

"Noted sir, what are our objectives?" Horn asked, remaining in his 'at ease' posture.

"This is a rescue mission Commander. Those scientists must be secured and brought to safety. Their minds and their abilities are more valuable than anything else on that station. The damage it would cause if they were to die would be staggering." TIM replied, taking another drag on his cigarette. "The station itself is located within an ion storm, randomly relocating by a set amount of distance to local safe spots through out the storm in order to remain hidden from the galaxy. FTL speeds will be useless, so Mr. Nathan will need to be on top of his game for this one."

"My crew always is sir." Horn stated without batting an eye. TIM simply took another drag on his cigarette and rubbed the butt out on the arm of his chair.

"I would expect nothing less Jason."

"Do we have any idea what the numbers of enemies could be sir?" Horn asked, his hand moving over the diagram of the station in front of him.

"The storm itself is lethal to anything over the class of a cruiser, so the numbers that correspond with that type of ship. Either that, or the collectors have found a way to infiltrate the storm through another method. Either way, it shouldn't be anything that you and Commander Titus can't handle."

"You're sending Titus as well sir?" Horn asked, although he should have guessed since this was such an important task.

"Of course. One Commander, even one such as yourself, against unknown odds in an incredibly hostile situation puts the odds into the negatives. This is one of those moments where I like to play the cautious man, and make sure my end of the table is as stacked as I can make it."

"Understood sir." Horn replied.

"Good. I've uploaded the coordinates to Serah, and I recommend heading there right away Commander. This is something that simply can't wait." TIM cut the connection, and Horn stood there in his armour holding his mask in one hand.

"Course is set, and we are a go Commander." Jack stated over the speakers.

"Alright Jack, lets go save us some squints. Maybe they'll give us toys as a reward...or hot doctors." Horn gave a smile as he walked back out the door.

"Yes sir." Was all Jack said in reply.




It was a short time later that the SIC Titan was positioned just outside the ion storm where their helpless scientists and doctors were stationed. "I'm picking up the Vindicator sir. She's hailing us." Horn stood behind Jack in the cockpit, his armour not having been removed and still showing signs of blood from their previous encounter with the unsavoury lunatics.

"Let's see what Mr. Rightous has to say today. Put it on." Jack gave a nod, and pressed a button. Soon, Titus's voice came over the speakers.

"Commander Horn. A pleasure to be working with you again." The Commander stated in a generally polite tone.

"Right back at'cha Tito!" Horn stated, a large smile painted on his face. "The Titan is moving into position with your frigate as we speak. So, do me a favour, and tell me what the hell we are going to do to bring the most pain to those bug eyed flying whatchamacallit motherfuckers."

"Is that even a word?" Jack asked quietly, interrupting slightly. Horn ignored him and Titus continued onwards, showing no signs of being bothered by Horn's attitude.

"Don't worry, I plan too." Titus responded. "If you could, I would prefer that the SIC Titan takes the lead into the Ion storm. I assume that the Illusive Man sent you the coordinates as well, so you'll know where you're going. The Vindicator will stay in your shadow since our shields are not as...adequate as yours."

"I feel like a big brother now." Horn stated, slapping Jack on the shoulder. "No problem Commander. What do we do when we get there? Take either side and force our way to the middle?"

"That's what I was thinking." Titus responded, tapping a few controls on the console. "From what I can see, if the collectors are docked, are first objective will to get them loose. If we cut off their escape, everything else is cleanup. There are currently two docking stations, as you said, on either side. It's quite a walk through the station though Commander, and I doubt your jetpacks will work in such a confined space."

"You're only thinking vertically my dear Tito." Horn pressed his own buttons, and brought up a schematic of the station. "While it looks to be a bit of a walk, like you said, it seems it's almost an even amount of distance. Oh, we could race to the center! See who can save the most hot nursemaids along the way."

"Their scientists Horn." Titus responded.

"Pft! Lab coats are the new nurse outfits. Anywho, let's get this show on the road! Jack, pump it to eleven!" Jason stated as he looked back up towards the screen at Titus. "See you on the other side brother!"

"Wilco. Titus out." Titus cut the comm. and Jason looked back to Jack. "Will this storm cause you any trouble?"

"No sweat sir. This storm will barely tax our shields. The Vindicator would be more hard pressed, but so long as they stay in our cover, they'll make it through easily enough."

"Good." Horn responded, slipping on his helmet. "Let's be god damn heroes."

"I feel like I've heard that before..." Jack stated as he started the acceleration into the Ion Storm.




"Sir, I'm picking up something within the Ion Storm itself." Jack stated as Horn walked back up to the bridge.

"Alright, but if you're seeing the one eyed dog riding a tricycle while juggling three grenades, you're out of that chair." Jason stated as he walked up.

"I'm not even going to ask where that came from." Jack stated as he brought up some sensor readings. Serah decided to cut in at that moment, her little bobblehead-like avatar showing up on the holographic display next to Jack.

"The readings are faint, and are obviously clouded by the Ion Storm, but I have confirmed presence of other energy signatures within the cloud."

"Ok, so chances are they're collectors." Jason stated as a warning alarm came over the entire ship.

"Energy spike...confirmed Collector vessels. They are firing." Serah responded calmly as the ship rocked under one of their hits. "Hull is holding. A beam weapons that appears to be bypassing our kinetic barriers. We are, technically, without shields." The AI continued.

"Ok...are you waiting for me to give an order to fire?! Get us in line to that damn ship and fire the cannon!" Jason hit a switch, opening a channel to the batteries. "Jessie! Get me Big Bessie!"

"Sir, the Thannix Cannon is not yet ready to be test fired! I'm still having problems with the element zero core!" She responded, the shouts of the other crew members behind her readying the weapons nearly drowning her out.

"I'm sorry, did I ask for excuses? I asked for results! get it done!" Jason cut the channel. "Serah, how many are we looking at."

"The storm makes it difficult to get a definite read on the exact number, but I estimate at least two frigates surrounded by fighter escorts. The odds of winning this battle ar-"

"Ah ah ah!" Horn interrupted his AI. "Don't tell me the odds!"

"I feel like I've felt that before too..." Jack stated as Jason looked down.

"Could you just stop saying that? Serah, is the Vindicator responding?" Jason asked, looking at all the screens displaying information. Another burst hit their ship, and he could feel something creak underneath the power of the weapon.

"Yes sir. They are moving to target the fighters. Hull is still holding." Serah responded.

"Good, he's better suited for it anyways. How are we doing with out damage dealing output?"

"It's a little tricky." Jack stated as his hands flew across the controls. "The storm is making havoc with out controls. I can guess where they are due to weak signals, but it's pretty much like throwing darts with a thin blindfold..."

"Alright...well, focus on those frigates and nail them hard. When Jessie gives the ok to us-" Jason was interrupted by a voice over the comm.

"Sir, Thannix Cannon is good for use. Take it easy on the gal please!"

"Oh...well that makes my previous statement moot. Mr. Nathan, if you would please show them what happens when you fuck with Commander Jason Horn and his crew?" Jason stated, pointing to one of the signatures.

"Yes sir." Jack stated as he hit a few buttons and a blue beam shot from the Titan. A moment later, and the weak energy signal disappeared entirely. "That's a hit, and from the looks of it, a kill." Jack stated as he moved to target the next one.

"The other frigate seems to be backing off. Shall we pursue?" Serah asked, and Jason immediately shook his head.

"No, how is the Vindicator doing?" Jason asked as he leaned back slightly.

"They have appeared to come through relatively unscathed. The remaining fighters are also backing off and appear to be retreating behind the collector frigate." Serah answered.

"Alright, good enough for us. Ping the good Commander and tell him we're docking with the Hephaestus." Jason started walking off to the airlock. "Tia, Vala. You two ready?"

"Yes sir." They both replied.

"Good. I got an itch that needs scratching and this place is full of doctors. Let's see if we can't get a prescription."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:50 pm

Titus' eyes glanced up to the flashing eighty percent warning for the Vindicator's kinetic barriers. The ion storm and Collector ambush had done little harm with the SIC Titan taking the brunt of the damage. Darcy continued to skillfully maneuver the frigate in the Titan's shadow as they continued their traverse through the purple and blue clouds, constantly flashing with the surges of electrical chaos within their depths. Ionic anomalies were common this deep within the Terminus systems, and they were also fatal to unskilled helmsmen. But it was piece of cake for Darcy; so long as they stayed directly on Commander Horn's heels and used his cruiser for cover.

Minutes after the somewhat-expected ambush, the Vindicator left the dense clouds of the storm and glided into the safe zone protecting the Cerberus space station, the Hephaestus. The massive giant before them was more impressive than the hologram in the Illusive Man's office. Like all Cerberus assets, it was utilitarian in design; tones of silvers and grays reflected the cool hues of the surrounding storm. The central ring around the station was void of any docked vessels save for one, a medium Collector frigate. The brown, jagged hive design was all-too obvious; like a cancer.

"Incoming message from the Titan, Commander," Darcy said. "They're heading for dock seven. I'm pulling the Vindicator out of their shadow now that we're out of the storm. Orders?"

Titus allowed himself to smile, admiring Horn's proactive enthusiasm. "Get Keown and Villayn up here and combat-ready. Pick a dock and take us in, Darcy."

"Aye-aye, sir."

As soon as the Hephaestus’ locking system for the dock Darcy chose connected with the Vindicator, Titus and his chosen team had arrived at the airlock, fully armed and ready for anything that lay beyond those blast doors. When the access panel flashed from red to green, they stepped into and through the airlock's compression chamber. All three of them felt the tension of entering unknown territory as they crossed the bridge to the docking bay, weapons poised at their shoulders and fingers on the triggers. Their sites locked in on the blast door at the end of the bridge.

The access panel at the end of the bridge was green, which wasn't a good sign. Villayn was the first to say something about it. "Your enemies must have overridden the station's lock-down protocols. Anything with low security measures is probably vulnerable."

"Unless we can reactive those measures," Keown suggested.

"Our primary objective is to evacuate any Cerberus survivors;" Titus responded, "not save the station."

Keown was the first to reach the panel and waved his hand across it to open the blast door. The three of them waiting for a moment, listening and watching for any signs of movement towards their docking bay. When the coast was clear, Keown spoke again. "Not questioning that order, sir; but if we can reactive the station's security measures, we can use them to slow down the Collectors."

Villayn nodded in agreement, but said, "As long as they don't shoot turians as well, I'm okay with that. Besides, we can use the system to pin-point both enemy units and survivors."

"Alright," Titus said, "then we'll head towards the nearest security hub. EDI, can you point the way?"

"Updating your map now, Titus."

The commander pulled up his Omni-tool and studied the map on the haptic display while Villayn and Keown kept their weapons trained on their avenues of approach. EDI had marked the location of the nearest security hub with a small crosshair beacon. According to the map of the level they were currently on, which was a maze of corridors and offices, the hub was located at the inner edge of the docking ring. This particular hub controlled all of the security measures for their sector of the ring, which included three decks, and the bridge that led from the main Hephaestus station to the sector of the ring.

"What can you tell us about this deck of the ring, EDI?"

"The ring is comprised of three decks. The one you are currently on, as well as the upper level above you, is meant for vessel docking; which includes a dozen primary bays, fully equipped with ship locking mechanisms suitable for several designs. The lower deck is for escape shuttles. All security measures seem to be offline. I'm detecting a virus of Collector origin within the systems. If you patch me into the security hub's primary terminals, I will be able to leak an anti-virus to free up the security measures. These measures include lock-down protocols for all blast doors in the sector, as well as ceiling-mounted turrets controlled by the station's V.I."

By the time EDI was finished explaining, Titus, Keown and Villyan were nearly half way to the security hub. So far, they had not encountered any Collectors, nor survivors of the attack; however, bodies littered the corridors, all lying in slowly-expanding pools of blood. Coagulated stains of crimson-red were smeared on several of the walls, and burn scars from weapons fire dotted their surroundings. The atmosphere of the deck was cold and dry, deserted of life.

Titus' eyes shifted from left to right beneath his slated visor, constantly paying attention to the motion tracker on his HUD for any signs of movement. A minute later, the team had arrived outside of the security hub. The blast door had malfunctioned and was stuck to a halfway open position, leaving enough room for each of them to squeeze through one at a time.

"Keown, cover us. I'll go in first."

Keown took cover in the alcove of the door and trained his M-7 down the hall towards the bridge to the main station. Titus turned sideways and easily fit through the opening, immediately transition from his rifle to his heavy pistol for the close quarters environment of the hub. The room was dark, and scattered server towers created a lot of blind spots. Before advancing further into the hub, he waiting for Villayn and Keown to squeeze through the blast door.

When they had regrouped, Titus slowly led them past the server towers, constantly scanning the corners and shadows for anything that didn't belong. Upon reaching the far end of the room, they saw a red haptic interface, slowly fading in and out of projection.

"Alright, EDI," Titus said, breaking the tense silence of the room. "Can you link up from here?"

The interface flashed from red to blue and the projection stabilized. EDI's orb sprang up on top as if she had been integrated with the system the whole time they were there. "I'm activated the anti-virus now, however, the Collectors are monitoring all of the compromised security networks on the stations. As soon as the protocols in this sector are freed and rebooted, I suspect any of them nearby will merge onto your location."

"Do it."

EDI's orb vanished and the lights in the room flickered back to life. The hum of the fans within the server towers behind the team slowly grew louder, and the terminal monitors that were previously offline started back up. The A.I.'s synthetic voice came over the speakers in their helmets. "All security measures for this sector have been scrubbed of the virus and rebooted. I've also managed to insert one of my own viral programs into other security networks within the main body of the Hephaestus. I have gained access to live surveillance feeds that are still operational. So far, I am detecting small clusters of survivors that have barricaded themselves in several locations throughout the main body of the station. I will relay these locations to Commander Horn, as well. I recommend haste across the bridge, Titus. Collectors are on their way to investigate this sector. The auto-turrets will keep them back from the Vindicator's docking bay, but only for a short time."

The commander and his two squad members didn't bother to wait around while EDI explained what was happening. They were already at the end of the bridge when she had finished, and for the first time since docking with the Hephaestus were about to engage with a small scouting party of three Collectors. Their obtuse, bug-like heads spun around at the sound of their approach through across the bridge and raised their beam rifles to open fire. Villayn, however, was far too quick for the unsuspecting foes and had downed all three of them with well-placed head shots in the middle of their four, yellow beady eyes. His warrior blood of turian ancestry was clean and effective, and Titus knew he had made the right decision to bring him along for this mission.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:50 pm

As the Titan docked, Jason stood poised and ready with Tia and Vala at the airlock. He knew that they were probably thinking this was a little soon to be doing something else as dangerous as what they were attempting, and the only thing that Horn could think of was to say 'Buck up!'. He didn't have time to hear their complaints, and luckily for them, they didn't give any. Tia's arm had been repaired nicely in the time that it had taken them to get here, and everyone looked ready to roll. Time to give the mission plan. Horn thought to himself as he faced towards both of them. "Alright you two, a little bit of a different situation this time around. You two will be working in tandem and searching your own area of the ship. I, along with another two recruits that I haven't really taken out into the field yet, will be searching another. We'll cover twice the area, but your objective is to secure the scientists and extract them. If you come across any collector strongpoints, mark them for us on your HUD, we'll take them out. You're the scalpel, we're the hammer. Do not engage unless engaged. Understood?" Horn stated as he checked and double checked his gear.

"Yes sir." They both answered in unison once more.

"Good, I don't want them to know you're there if I can help it. Always helps to have an ace up your sleeve so to speak. As of this moment, you ladies will be referred to as Tandem Two, and our team as Tandem One." Horn looked over as Carly and Nerita both wandered over. Carly was dressed head to toe in standard Cerberus combat armour, the white and black portraying the signature colours of their organization as the blackened visor held her face from view. Nerita was wearing light armour underneath he black trench coat, along with a HUD Visor, and a respiration mask should they suddenly lose oxygen. "And here are more of the lovely ladies. We all set to go?" Jason asked with a smirk behind his mask.

"Yes sir." Carly said, Nerita simply gave a shrug.

"I asked you a question Operative." Jason said, staring her down. She gave a small sigh.

"Yes sir." Nerita said, crossing her arms as Horn gave a smile.

"Good. Now, we all have our assignments, let's make sure these collectors get what's coming to them. Jack, open the airlock."

"Yes sir, good luck in there guys." Jack stated as the airlock opened. Everyone stepped through, and Horn rolled his shoulders and made sure his mask was on tight for the fourth time. He was going to make those collectors wish they had never happened upon human space.




The airlock opened, revealing yet another bloody mess to the inside of a space faring vessel. Horn was reminded of their past little excursion, and looked back to Tia and Vala. "Deja vu, eh?" He asked, then pointed down one of the hallways. "You two take that one. Keep in radio contact at all times, and remember, do not engage unless engaged. Be heroes you two. Carly, Nerita, on me." Tia and Vala both gave a nod as they cautiously made their way around the Cerberus and collector bodies down the hallway that he had indicated. Horn did the same, although he made sure to step on the collectors. He had no remorse for agents of the Reapers, so he felt little need to respect them once they were dead.

As they swept hallway after hallway, and had yet to find a single contact, Serah came in over the comm. "Commander, I have been in contact with the Vindicator's AI. She has activated the station's security measures, although it is just a matter of time until they retake them."

"Copy Serah. Status on Tandem Two?" Jason responded.

"Still moving throughout the station, they have not yet been engaged nor have they seen Cerberus or collector life signs."

"Affirmative. C'mon you two, we got a lot of ground to cover." Almost as Jason said that, a couple of collectors rounded the bend at the end of the hallway. "Engage!" Jason yelled as took a knee and fired a few shots into the first one. Carly fired a barrage at the second one, and Nerita hit them with a biotic push to send them flying into the wall, where they landed on the floor unmoving. They quickly rushed up to them and kicked their weapons away.

"Two kills." Carly said, her voice dripping with venom. With someone who had her previous life destroyed because of these things, he couldn't blame them. Hell, he could barely even stand looking at a picture of a geth without wanting to shoot it.

"Alright, let's see where creepy one and creepy two came from." Horn stated as he walked the direction they had come from. A few feet later, and he heard the sounds of someone walking around in the room next to him. The sign on the side of the door said "Bio-engineering". Great, viruses, plagues, and herpes. Jason thought to himself as he took a side on the door and the other two followed. He opened the door, and looked inside to stare at one of the Hunchbacks surrounded by a few collectors. They looked to where the door had opened, but didn't see anybody as Jason ducked back around the corner. They cautiously started making their way over, and Jason looked to Nerita. "Singularity, on the hunchback, then switch fire to the collectors." She gave a nod, and Horn looked to Carly. "Once he's hit, focus fire on him." She gave a nod as well, and readied her weapon. Just as they were about to reach the threshold of the door, Jason readied a concussive shot, and whipped around the corner.

A collector was there, and Jason fired the concussion blast straight into its face, which tore the head to pieces at such a close range. Nerita rounded next, doing as ordered and creating a little ball of blue and black that caught that Hunchback in a gravity well. It stood its ground, and was struggling to raise it's weapon when Carly unloaded her assault rifle into the beast, keeping it off balance. Jason took to firing quick bursts at the remaining three collectors in the room, switching between each to keep them off balance and not get a decent shot off. Nerita fired at the collectors as well with her duel wielded Karpov's. Soon, all that was left standing was the Hunchback, and Carly stopped to reload as Nerita and Jason both fired on it until it collapsed under its own weight.

"Well...that thing was disgusting." Carly stated quietly, walking over slightly to give it a small kick.

"I've seen worse." Nerita said, looking slightly over at the Commander. Horn gave a small laugh.

"You know what's funny? The fact that I saved your life from being thrown off a bridge! I swear, that was hilarious!" Nerita gave a huff, and looked back to the body. "But seriously people, let's continue. Serah?"

"Yes Commander?"

"Mark the Bio-engineering lab as cleared, and upload it to Commander Titus's HUD display as a green room in his layout of the station. I'm locking the lab up with encrypted Cerberus protocols, make the collectors work for the room if they want it back." Jason told the AI as they all stepped out of the room and Horn locked it down tight from the outside.

"Affirmative Commander." Serah said before the channel went quiet. Alright, now to check in with the other team. Jason thought to himself.

"Tandem 2, what's your status?"


Last edited by quakernuts on Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:17 pm

If it hadn't been for her daughter, Lizzie, always wanting to stay the night at her friend's dorm, Nina would never have found her in the chaos. Collectors were swarming every corridor and every level of the Cerberus station, and she noticed that the security systems had been taken offline. Her guess, which was as good as any given the situation, was the invaders had hacked the networked and leaked some kind of stop worm. Whatever was going on, though, it seemed to be effecting every turret, security door, and even mech. Any security mech that had been patrolling the halls had just slumped into a pile of useless metal on the floor.

Nina grabbed her daughter's trembling hand, the Excalibur pistols clipped to each hip on their magnetic holsters. "Stay close to me, sweetie. Understand?"

Lizzie nodded, but the terror in her eyes told Nina that she rather stay exactly where she was, bunkered down behind the makeshift barricade the two of them had quickly placed together at the door of her friend's dorm room. Her friend was nowhere in sight and Nina feared the worst had happened; but there was no time to investigate. They either flee now, or hold off until help arrives.

The echoes of a stampede from somewhere in the corridor outside the dorm met Nina's ears and she gestured for Lizzie to hide. Professor Rikers quickly moved closer to the barricade, but did so while keep her head well below the opening above so as to not be so easily seen. Carefully, she pressed a shoulder against the tabletop of an overturned desk and gently unholstered one of the twin Excalibur pistols. The sound of the approaching entities suddenly stopped just outside of the dorm, and Nina held her breath. Her eyes darted over to where Lizzie had hid, and she prayed to God that her daughter wouldn't reveal herself.

The second came in a painful blur. Nina felt her entire body blow at an awkward angle across the room as the barricade she had been leaning against was thrown in every direction by some powerful force. Her head banged against the far wall and her vision struggled to focus on what she could still make out as the unmistakable figures of Collectors. There were three of them, or so she guessed, fighting to straighten the moving surrealism of her surroundings.

One of the hideous beings dawdled over to her and raised its beam weapon. She could hear the raspy, gurgling sound it made as a voice; completely foreign and unknown to her. Nina tried to reach for either of the Excalibur pistols, but her whole body had gone numb from the surprise attack. Her eyes moved to meet her daughter's. She saw Lizzie staring back at her, consumed by fear, through the shadows of her hiding spot beneath a meager table. She was hidden behind the drape of the table cloth, but she knew that they would find her, too.

It was hard to do, but also so easy; for a mother to say I love you to her own flesh and blood. Hard, because it these words were a goodbye, but easy because they were honest, sincere, and - above all else - truth.

The sound of weapon fire echoed in the dorm room, but Nina felt no pain. She was sure they had shot her, but then her brain registered the distinct sound of an Avenger assault rifle, not the beam rifles that the Collectors used. Her head rolled away from Lizzie's tear-filled gaze and to the source of the heavenly sound. She saw two armor-clad humans, and what appeared to be a turian, standing triumphantly over the bodies of the fallen Collectors. The face of the human in the center, who appeared to the team's leader, was obscured by an ominous black helmet. The bright blue LED lights of his armor only added to the confusion of Nina's still-dazzled vision. She tried to speak, but her voice refused to obey. Then, her savior reached out his hand...



Titus struggled to help the disoriented woman to her feet. Whatever concussive blast the Collectors had used to breach the room had done definitely taken its toll on her muscle control. After a moment, he was finally able to part-drag her, part-walk her to a clear location in the room, and set her upright against the wall.

"Keown," he said, "she needs a dose of medi-gel."

The man nodded and quickly set to work with readying a vial of the miracle liquid. As he did so, another female revealed herself from beneath a table on the far side of the room. She was much younger, but the physical relation was clear. The adolescent girl possessed the same auburn hair and hazel eyes. At first, she hesitated to move another inch, but after second of holding her ground, had darted for her mother.

"Mom!" she cried when she skidded over to the woman that Titus had helped lean against the wall.

Keown's needle was only centimeters from the woman's vein. As soon as he saw how her daughter's well-being had instantly began to recall her senses, he slowly backed away. "It seems that love conquers all," he mused.

Villayn and Keown kept watch just outside of the dorm in the corridor, covering each avenue of approach. Titus remained inside with the two station inhabitants. When the mother and daughter had recovered and had time to let their nervousness settle, Titus finally introduced himself.

"I'm Commander Johnathan Titus of the Vindicator. I'm here to evacuate you to safety. Is there anyone else on this level of the station?"

The mother shook her head and solemnly responded, "I- I'm not sure. We didn't have any warning of the attack. These bugs... these Collectors just came and started massecering everyone. Co-workers, friends, anyone that stood in their way or even tried to escape. Why is this happening?"

Titus took a second to carefully form his response. Finally, he only asked a simple question. "What is your name?"

"Professor Nina Rikers. This is my daughter, Elizabeth. I'm one of the lead SSA developers."

"SSA?"

"Special Small Arms," she responded matter-of-factly. "You must be from another cell, I take it? I've heard there were three, just like the mythical beast this organization derives its name from. An agent of one cell isn't supposed to be able to recognize agents of another cell; unless, of course, something like this occures."

Titus simply shrugged his shoulders. He wasn't here to learn about Cerberus' secrets. He had a mission to complete, and it had to be done quickly.

"I've cleared a path back to my ship. I'll send one of my team with you as an escort. I'm under orders from you know who to safely get you off of the station."

"Here," Nina said picking up the pair of strange pistols Titus had seen earlier when they had first come into the room and ambushed the Collectors. She handed the two weapons to him. "You'll need these."

"I've got some weapons of my own," Titus said kindly, "but thanks for the offer."

The professor stubbornly shook her head and refused to take back the pistols. "Trust me," she insisited, "these will top any other weapon you're packing, soldier boy."

"Soldier boy?"

"Commander!"

Titus shot around to spot Keown poking his head through the threshold of the dorm's entrance. "What's up?"

"You'll never believe who's here, sir," the man said with a large grin.

Titus quickly fumbled with the magnets for the new pistols and attached them to his armor. As he headed over to meet whoever Keown was talking about, he holstered the pistols that Professor Rikers had so generously given him. When he rounded the corner, he stopped dead in his tracks and placed both hands on his hips.

"Oh... hey there, Vala."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:25 am

“Simple slaves…” The words were barely a whisper, and she sighed heavily. “And powerful enough to keep an entire ship together with their biotics alone…that shouldn’t even be possible.” Her knife danced nimbly between her hands, never drawing blood despite the obvious distraction of it’s handler. The familiar weight kept her level, an anchor to focus on should she slip. The path was familiar by now, but it’s hazards remained the same.

Vala had said nothing to the Commander or Saint after their mission, quickly and silently retreating to her room to be alone with the thoughts of the day. Maybe not the day. “Be honest, Buchan…” She murmured to herself, tossing the knife into the air for a moment. “It’s very possible, they were just…just better.” The silence that followed didn’t comfort her like it should have. The knife clattered harmlessly to the floor, drawing her amber gaze. Shifting her weight forward to sit, she extended a hand towards the knife, pausing when she drew near.

Gritting her teeth, she reached, feeling the energy inside her body ripple in response to her call. It came quick, as it always did. Her heart began to thunder in her breast as the familiar ‘spark’ of the dark energy crept up her spine and arms, muscles tensing under the surge. The edges of her mind faded from thought, as the energy extended beyond her body towards the fallen blade. The knife stirred, and her breath sharpened as the air seemed to vanish from her lungs. A shaky breath escaped her, trying in vain to ignore the unwelcome feeling of her head ‘floating’ away from her body. The handle dropped into her hand, and all the sensations vanished as quickly as they came.

It took a few minutes for her breathing to even out, every nerve seemingly on fire from the simple task. Every part of her body seemed…crystal clear. As if she could feel the rushing blood in her veins, the muscles moving just underneath her skin, the cells in her brain fir- “Stop. Relax. Focus.” There was a reason she didn’t use her biotics. “…because they’re weak. Because you’re weak.” She gripped the knife tightly, staring hard at it’s worn blade. “Too weak for the Alliance. A biotic who can barely move a cup. Useless.”

“You’re sloppy. Compromised far too much.” Her fingers rubbed into her temples, squeezing her eyes shut in some vain attempt to silence her racing mind. “And that’s why he…he…” Any strength she had vanished from her body, arms falling lifelessly to her side. Her eyes stung with restrained tears, any furthers words unintelligible from the half-controlled emotions in her voice.

The familiar shake of a Mass Relay brought her gaze to the door. They were moving. Another mission? Likely. They couldn’t afford to waste time sitting idle. That gave her pause. Could she? No. She couldn’t. Rising to her feet, she wiped any wayward tears, sliding the knife back into it’s sheath on her armour, which sealed shut once the blade was inside. Gripping her mask quietly, she stared at the armour for a moment. “Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness.” Ben favoured the quote, and it rung true as it ever had. Jean Vanier if she remembered correctly.

Steeling her resolve, she donned the mask without hesitation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once again, it was simple stealth. Do not engage. They’d simply mark threats it for Horn’s team and they’d do the grunt work. As they crept up the hallway, she something in her gut told her that there wouldn’t be many marks for Commander Horn to be dealing with. She glanced back at Tia. “Any chance you have a cloak hidden in that armour of yours?”


"Not today. Gimme a day or two and I'll see what I can whip up." Vala caught a glimpse of the grin stretching across the Saint’s face. "You gotta give a girl some advanced notice."

“Good to know for next time.” The stealth systems powered quickly, and the familiar veil of active camo fell over the operative. “Keep an eye on your HUD, and try not to shoot me, alright?”
"I'll do my best." The sarcasm was difficult to miss, but Vala chose to ignore it, continuing on down the hallway. The hall stretched on for seemingly forever, the walls bare save for the occasional doorway that leads into one of the research facilities. Patches of clear ground were broken up by small groups of corpses, pocked with bullet holes or the distinct burn marks the collector beam rifles left on their victims. It was unsettling that the majority of corpses were Cerberus operatives.

The silence was unnerving, as they came across the first of the labs. Tia cracked the door with ease, slipping back into cover as the cloaked Vala swept into the chamber. A few steps later, she grimaced, finding the remains of some unfortunate scientist. “It’s clear.” The operative tapped one of the dormant consoles, quickly scanning over the various files that hadn’t been scrubbed by the scientist. “Looks like he stayed behind to try and prevent the data from falling into collector hands. Cost him his life.” She spared a glance at Tia, who was waiting quietly by the door.

“We’re here on rescue, not data collection, Vala. Let’s get to it.”

“In a minute.” If she noticed the sharp look Tia sent her way, Vala didn’t show it, thumbing her way through a few more files, saving a few scraps to her omni-tool before shutting the terminal down. “Done. Let’s go.”

The familiar tone of an EDI sounded over her comm. “Miss Buchan,” The ‘Miss’ gave it away as the Vindicator’s AI. She hadn’t gotten around to ‘identifying’ herself with Serah, as Horn called it. “I am uploading the locations of known survivors to your HUD now. Be advised, Collector presence is heavy.”

Vala spared a glance at Tia, knowing full well she was still hidden by the cloak. “Well, look at that. We can go be big damn heroes. Let’s move.” They left the room without another word.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A lone collector knelt by the door, calmly attaching a low yield explosive to breach into the room. Three more milled about the hallway, yellow eyes silently watching all the avenues of approach. None of them seemed aware of the wraith slowly passing through their midst. Vala’s eyes watched every twitch of the chitinous creature’s limbs, half expecting one of them to suddenly spot her and open fire. Thankfully, they remained as blissfully unaware of her as anything else in the galaxy, and she crept ever closer to the ‘demolition’ drone. “You think a knife will work on these, Saint?”

“Just shoot it.”

Sliding the phalanx level with the kneeling drones head, Vala cautiously flicked her gaze to the remaining drones. Two stood further up the hall from whence she’d come, where Tia lay in wait round the corner as the cavalry. The last was watching the other side, its back (she wasn’t even sure if these things HAD a gender, and frankly she didn’t care to check) turned to her as it wandered further down the hall. For combatants in a hostile facility, they certainly didn’t seem overly concerned for their safety.

Their mistake. A simple green light blinked on her HUD, and the two operatives leapt into action. Almost simultaneous shots rang out, the heavy and vicious bark of the phalanx sounding once, whilst the steady hiss of an M-8 carved through the first two drones with a single dedicated hail of fire. The last drone turned to face the sudden attack, only to catch a trio of rounds to the chest, before the fourth pierced an eye and the alien fell backwards into a heap. “Clear.”

Tia was already advancing, crouching in front of the slightly bloodied explosive. “I’ll take care of this and the door. Watch my back.” Vala nodded, not bothering to reactivate the cloak. The echoing rush of running feet brought her gaze to the right and Vala grit her teeth as she hunkered down to defend the engineer. The first collector that rounded the corner took two rounds center mass, obviously hitting something vital as it collapsed to the floor. The second ducked low, dodging the final round in the sink and firing back with its beam rifle. Buchan grimaced as her shield flared from the hits, popping the spent heat sink quickly and sliding the fresh one home. Two more collectors rounded the corner, wisely using the bend for light cover from attack.

“Now would be a good time, Saint!” Emptying another sink at the encroaching bugs, Vala glanced back, only to find Tia hefting the charge with her left arm and lobbing it down the hallway with ease. Before she could even open her mouth to question, the Saint squeezed off a trio of rounds, and the bend vanished in a blast of smoke, fire, and drone bits. Staring quietly at the remains of their attackers, the blonde gave her companion a surprised look.

“Improvising. Talent of mine. C’mon, I’ve got the door hacked.” She nodded wordlessly, following the older woman through the now open door, only to come face to face with a trio of guns held in shaking hands. “Easy now, we’re human.”

“As if that wasn’t obvious from the get go.” Vala regarded the terrified figures calmly, locking eyes with the most senior looking of the three and swiftly snatching the gun from his hands. “Thanks for the warm welcome. Now, if you’re down playing around, would you care to get the hell out of here?” The man seemed to wither under her gaze, and looked to Tia for some form of support.

“You two are all they sent?” One of the other scientists, an older woman with greying brown hair, spoke quickly, still holding the pistol in a vice grip, as if she expected them to shed their skin and attack at any moment.

“No, there are others. They’re sweeping the station for other survivors as we speak.” Vala looked to the last scientist as Tia spoke; raising a curious brow as he quickly accessed a terminal in the room and started typing furiously.

“What’re you doing?” She placed a hand on his shoulder, leaning in slightly to gaze at the data he was accessing. Countless minor data feeds flicked across the screen, and she managed to make out the word Nyx from all the lines of code. “What the hell is Nyx?”

The man, a younger sort, likely in his thirties, looked at her for a moment, before continuing his furious typing. “I’m trying to encrypt to armour testing area.” He took her silence as a cue to continue. “We had just shipped the Nyx prototype off for testing when the attack happened. I’ll be damned if I let years of research and failures fall into those damn bugs hands without a fight.”

“What’s so special about this Nyx armour?”

“Vala, we need to get these people back to the Titan now.” Vala glanced back at Tia, holding up a hand for silence, motioning for the scientist to continue.

He spared a glance between his two rescuers, before speaking again, although slowly. “It’s difficult to describe without going into excessive detail, but…”

His fellow cut in, somewhat jumpy from what she could only assume was nerves. “It’s an advanced stealth prototype that enables operatives to know what the enemy is doing before the enemy is even aware they’re there.” Vala’s eyes widened the slightest amount. “Can we go now? I’d rather not get killed for some slab of metal.”

Vala’s comm beeped, and Horn’s voice sounded in her ear. “Tandem Two, what’s your status?”

“We’ll move to the next group of scientists. I’ll take point.” Vala didn’t bother waiting for Tia to respond, tapping a finger to her ear piece. “This is Tandem Two; we’ve recovered three scientists and are moving to the next marked location. Collector resistance is light, nothing we can’t handle. Tandem Two, out.”

A few tense moments passed as the group pressed on in silence, the footsteps of the scientists echoing almost painfully in the disturbingly quiet station. Every few moments, brief pockets of gunfire would echo through the station, only for the silence to swallow the noise once again. Hephaestus was falling, there was little doubt.

A sudden explosion, far closer than the gunfights, set the escort on edge, the operatives exchanging knowing glances before Vala broke into a light sprint in the direction of the sound. Rounding a corner with gun raised, she blinked once in surprise as she found the familiar face of Keown with a turian figure just behind him watching the other avenue of approach.

She raised a hand in greeting, and she heard him call into the room for his commander. Holstering her phalanx as she approached, Titus emerged not a moment later, fastening two strange pistols to magnetic clips on his waste. He seemed surprised to see her; although she was sure she had a similar expression. “Oh…hey there, Vala.”

She offered a slight smile beneath her mask, nodding her head in greeting. “Commander Titus, imagine running into you here.” She glanced behind her to the slightly concealed form of Tia. “Friendlies.” The engineer slowly stepped round the bend, cautiously holstering her M-8 as she approached the unknown men. “Commander Titus, meet Tia St. Jean. She’s an operative under Commander Horn; we’ve been working in tandem for the mission.”

The two shared a brief handshake, and Vala found herself once more looking to the turian who watched the whole exchange with a weary eye. “A new recruit, I take it, Commander?” Titus looked back at the alien, but Vala cut off any response he might have had. “We’ll talk about it later. For now…” The words died on her lips, as the scientists under her guard entered her peripherals, and the strange prototype once again took the forefront of her mind.

It might not even work…but if it does, then it could be invaluable. The younger scientist seemed to read the look in her eyes, and he stepped forward. “Hold out your omni-tool.” She complied instantly, much to the confusion of her fellows. “I’m uploading the coordinates to your map now. The access codes are in there too, just make sure…”

“Buchan, you can’t be thinking about going after that armour!” Vala snapped her amber gaze to lock with Tia’s disapproving glare. “We have a job to do, and it’s not window shopping for some fancy upgrades! We need to get these people to safety! That’s the mission.”

She stared hard, and her mouth moved before she had even thought of what to say. “I count four of you. That’s more than enough in my books.” She took a few steps back, ignoring the voice in the back of her head telling her to focus on the mission. “I won’t be long. Try not to leave without me.” Vala turned on her heel and broke into a sprint, racing deeper into the massive space station.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:29 pm

Titus raised a brow as Vala made her way through his team and down the corridor in a full sprint. He wanted to say something else, something that would at least ease what he knew to be a troubled mind; but it was too late for that, and Miss St. Jean was right: they had a mission. Talking would have to wait. He glanced away when Vala rounded a corner up ahead, disappearing from view, and turned to his eyes to Horn's new crew member that he had been introduced to.

"Tia, right? We should continue to search for any survivors. Which areas did you and Vala already clear?"

Before the woman could respond, EDI's voice boomed in his helmet. "Titus, after hacking into the station's primary security network, I'm afraid there are no more human signatures on that level of the station. As a matter of fact, the only signatures remaining at all are near Commander Horn's location. I recommend you escort the survivors you have found back to the Vindicator immediately.

"Also, I am detecting strange fluctuations in the Hephaestus' element zero core. Though I now have access to most of the station's security, I am being blocked from the core chamber's surveillance feeds by a third party."

"What are you saying EDI?" Titus asked, trying to sound composed despite the fact that she just told him there are no more survivors.

"I am suggesting that someone is attempting to destroy the station by sabotaging the eezo core."

Titus looked at Tia and gathered from her own expression that his EDI had patched into her comm as well. He was only thankful that their evacuees had not heard the same disturbing report. Without saying a word, he nodded to his team and Tia to follow as he pressed through the scientists and started heading back down the corridor in the opposite direction that Vala had made off in. Instinctively, he unholstered the twin pistols that Dr. Rikers had given him and picked up the pace. Keown and Villayn came into his peripherals, flanking him with their own weapons poised. Together, they would mow down any Collector attempting to stop them from boarding the Vindicator.

"Eyes open," their commander said. "Pie your corners, check the shadows."

As the group rounded a corner, they found themselves in a jog down a long, two-hundred meter corridor. Titus slowed when he saw the distinct figure of a Collector on the far end. It had stopped and turned toward them and it's head tilted in curiosity before raising the beam weapon in its hands. The alien began to charge down the corridor in order to gain better range. John responded by raising his own pistols, but stopped dead in the middle in the corridor. Keown and Villayn both saw what he saw and they all gazed at a blinking holographic cross hair icon emitting from the inner sides of each pistol.

"What the-?"

"Put them together!" Rikers exclaimed.

Titus glanced over his shoulder to her and watched for a second as she gestured one hand directly behind another, forming an imaginary rifle. John then did the same with the twin pistols and heard an audible click and several high-pitched beeps. The barrel of the back pistol lurched forward, connecting with the back slide of the front pistol. Several tiny locking mechanisms protruded from each pistol and latched onto the body of the other. Finally, a series of three of holographic sights emitted from the newly formed rail mount on the body of the rifle.

Without wasting another second in the awe of the moment, John took aim through the sights and squeezed off a single thermal round through the head of the fast approaching Collector. The powerful shot struck the wall at the far end of the corridor with a loud crack.

"That... was..."

"Bad ass," Villayn finished, surprising Titus with his familiarity of the human connotation.

Titus continued to the lead the group through the station's maze until they arrived at the bridge leading back to the docking ring. "EDI," he began, "what's the status of those auto turrets you hacked?"

"Still operational, Titus; but you'll need to hurry. Collectors are attempting to take control of them in order to prevent your escape."

"Come on!" he hollered to the group. As they raced across the bridge, Titus briefly thought of Tia. Being a member of Horn's team, she was assigned to the Titan, not the Vindicator. However, John wouldn't dare tell her she had to turn around and find a way back to her own ship. For the time being, she would have to stick with him until the two commanders could rendezvous after the mission.

The group finished their crossing into the ring and thankfully found that the turrets had not engaged them... yet. A tiny green LED light on the side of the turret indicated that it was not going to engage, and John prayed that it wouldn't change to red anytime soon. When they had all reached the docking the bay, Titus noticed that the turrets were slowly turning around.

He hollered to Keown, Villayn, and Tia, "Get them on board the ship! Now!"

That tiny LED flash red as the barrels of the turrets kept turning, trying to find the targets that the security sensors in the room had detected. As they rotated on their ceiling-mounted axis, their scanners carefully sought out any new hostiles. Eventually, those deadly barrels would find the group at the airlock and open fire. But the hissing echo of the airlock behind John assured him that the machines would never get that chance.

He felt Villayn's boney, three-fingered hand tugging on his shoulder to fall back. Titus lowered the Excalibur rifle in compliance and turned to sprint towards the airlock. When he was safely inside, he glanced back to the barrel of one of the turrets aimed directly at him and heard the tell-tale hum of the charging mass accelerator inside. Before it fired, though, the heavy blast door of the airlock swooshed shut, sealing Titus and the others behind an Iridium veil.



Titus marched through the CIC, removing his helmet and gasping at the crisp, regulated air. He stepped up the galaxy map and looked around the deck at all of the men and women working tirelessly at their stations. As if they had sensed his presence towering over them, all heads turned away from their haptic interfaces and towards him.

John drew in a deep breath before he spoke. "We are to stay docked for as long as possible until Operative Buchan can join us. However, EDI has also discovered a possible sabotage taking place at the station's eezo core. If shit hits the fan... we still stay until remaining docked puts the Vindicator at risk. Is that understood?"

Everyone gave a stiff nod and chorused an "Aye-aye, sir!".

The Commander turned and stepped down from the platform overlooking the galaxy map and reached over his shoulder to grab the Excalibur rifle. He tightly grabbed at the twin grips and tried to pull the weapon back apart, but he was having no luck. Several tugs and impatient grunts later, Dr. Rikers wondered over with her daughter and reached out a gentle finger. She pressed down on a tiny release switch and the weapon clicked. The barrel of the back-mounted pistol once again became distinguishable and detached itself from its forward twin. The holographic sighting reticules faded, and another series of high-pitched beeps sounded off.

A smile spread across the woman's lips as she folded her arms; but Titus simply stared back, unamused from the hole in his pride. "Reynolds!" he barked, and the mother and daughter before him turned to see the teenage boy rushing across the CIC. When he snapped to a hesitant position of attention in front of the commander, Titus said, "Please escort Dr. Rikers to see Veronica down in medical. She's got a bump on her head that needs to be checked out."

Braden nodded and gestured for them to follow him to the lift.

"You're welcome!" Rikers teased when she boarded the elevator.

Titus brushed off the sarcastic comment and as he holstered the pistols to their magnetic clips and marched toward the front of the CIC. He crossed the slightly raised catwalk far below the glass arch of the Vindicator's helm and quickly came up behind Darcy, seated in fronted of his blue haptic interface. EDI's holographic orb sat to his left, patiently doing whatever it was that she did.

"EDI," John started, "can you get a lock on Vala?"

The brighter blue, vertical "mouth" of the A.I.'s hologram flashed open and closed as she spoke. "I do. I'm already plotting way points on her HUD that will safely and quickly lead her back to the Vindicator. I will also attempt to completely deactivate all of the station's security measures for a short time; however, the Collector's own viral programs will only allow me to do this once. It will be up to Miss Buchan whenever she wants me to activate this hack."


Last edited by The Ghost Writer on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Digital Muse on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:55 am

Dismissed by Horn, Tia waited till she'd rounded the corner before letting her grin fall. Cursing through clenched teeth, she tried to just keep moving. She hadn't taken that much damage in a very long time and it was clear her biotic shield interference was going to need more work. The feedback had nearly killed her. Worse it had fried some of the more delicate circuitry in her synthetic arm.

While Horn had ordered her to see Dr. Grass first, her own inclination was to have her arm looked at first. It was simply ingrained in her as an engineer. In the end, though the pain convinced her to head to the med bay. A few raised eyebrows and shakes of his head later, Tia was released with orders to take it easy and a few small injectable vials of pain medications. Walking down the hallway toward the armory, Tia tucked the vials into a pocket in the torso of her armor.

Stepping inside the very orderly and clean armory made Tia smile. But, she didn't see the behemoth with a foul temper everyone had warned her of. She admired the sensible use of space and called out, "Operative? Commander Horn sent me down. Said you could help me out."

The curtains parted to reveal a woman so tall and muscled, that Tia actually back up momentarily. T.J. just glared. "What do you want?"

Brought back to the reason for the visit, she shrugged painfully out of her armor which revealed the burned and torn synthetic skin beneath. Under the ruined skin, the fine motors, cables and mechanics of her arm. "Had a run in with a Biotic shield. I'm working on an interrruptor field of my own." She looked up at the huge woman. "It sort of worked, sort of didn't."
T.J. grunted. "Yeah. I can see that part."

A few hours of far more delicate work than Tia would have given her credit for, she was headed back to her cabin to shower and to go face first into a pillow for a time.
________________________________________________________________________

Far too soon, Tia was back into her armor which felt damned heavy and sharing an elevator with Vala and Horn along with two other crew. Given their mission objective, she and Vala went left, Horn and his group went right. Vala lead them through hallway after hallway with no resistance. Tia resolved to get herself a cloak one day. She watched Vala bringing up data files in an empty room, slowing them down. But, Vala wouldn't be rushed. It was only when Serah came over the comm pinpointing possible survivors. Vala's sarcastic comment about being heroes set Tia's teeth on edge, but she kept moving.

They came on a small group of drones and Tia could only stare when Vala simply walked into their midst. They had been planting a charge against a door that was their goal.

“You think a knife will work on these, Saint?” Vala speculated.

“Just shoot it.” Tia said. She saw no reason to experiment today. As soon as Vala pied the head of one drone, she let fly with her own M-8 and they took the drones handily. But, they both knew they'd have no time. And they were right. only by hurling the heavy charge into a rapidly advancing group of collectors and obliterating them. She didn't explain, just hacked the door with little trouble and they rounded up the few survivors. It was obvious they weren't combatants, Tia could smell their fear and honestly wondered how one older man remained on his feet. Trying to get the survivors rounded up and moving out was going to be a real challenge. Once again, Vala got distracted. She spent time asking about some new armor and was silenced for it. She nearly left her post at the doorway to hasten the young guy's encrypting process so they could move.

Finally, Vala headed out of the room and with Tia in the rear, they kept the scientists between them. Gunfire and explosions brought them into contact with Titus' team and Tia pulled up short at the sight of a Turian alongside the Vindicator's commander. She didn't have warm and fuzzy thoughts about Turians. At the moment, though, she zipped it. The people here were more important and she said so when Vala decided that she intended to go alone after the armor she'd asked about earlier.

Vala was adamant, however and pushed her way through the group of them. "God damn it!" Tia swore and then called to Vala over the comm. "There's 4 of us sure, but only 1 of you. We can't break off to come get your ass." She warned. She knew Vala would ignore her. She looked back to Titus, "I'm with you, I guess, Sir. I've been left at the dance, it seems." She offered a smile and a shrug. She fell in with his team, taking it upon herself to ensure the terrified scientists didn't start stringing them out too far. They had to keep or they'd all die. The elderly man's knees kept buckling in his fear. By the time they rushed into the airlock and the door hissed closed, Tia was nearly holding up upright.
____________________________________________________________________
Tia paced back and forth near the airlock, working herself up into a monstrous level of pissed off. Vala had risked the mission and their lives in this wild goose-chase of hers. If the teenager ever made it back, Tia was going to take her apart. And then! Then! A Turian! What the hell was a Turian doing aboard a Cerebrus vessel? Anything but a Turian and she might deal. But god-damned Turians had killed everyone she knew. Tried to bomb the human race back to the stone age all because they were 'taking the bad thing from the baby'.

Severely worked up, Tia swung a mighty left hook into the bulkhead and left an impressive fist-sized dent. It didn't help. Sighing, she realized she was being stupid and needed to deal. She'd take it out on Vala when and if she made it back.

Over the comm, EDI spoke to her, "Are you well, Miss St. Jean? Shall I call for a medical team?"

"No. No thanks...uh...Just a little frustrated."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:07 am

After hearing the status of the other team from Vala, Horn simply gave a small nod, and motioned for his team to move forward. There was a lot of ground to cover, and if Serah's scans were accurate, there were still a small number of scientists to recover. A drop in the pool considering just how many people must have lived here. They rounded the corner to more carnage, moving slowly down the corridor. Another turn, more carnage. Another turn, yet even more carnage. "You would think they would change the decor in this place, gets a little repetitive, don't you think?" Horn asked, his tone almost light in the face of the deaths of many. Neither Carly or Nerita said anything, simply deciding to keep at the ready and not stare too long at the bodies. Horn gave a shrug. Stuff like this didn't bother him, and it made him wonder why it affected others so strongly. These two he could understand since this was their first major combat mission, but even fellow soldiers who had been through a lifetime of war would always grimace at the bloody bits of what used to be living souls.

"Commander, there is a confirmed three scientists in the room ahead and to your right. Collectors are on the outside currently trying to gain access. Door is locked with standard Cerberus protection protocols. The collectors will be through in seconds." Serah cut through to the team, which doubled their progress as they jogged to the end of the hall. True to her word, three collectors stood outside the door trying to get in. Two of them immediately turned and opened fire while the third continued to ignore them and hack through the door. Horn turned sideways as a beam of light shot past him and he raised his rifle with one arm, firing wildly at the collector. A few shots connected, but all they accomplished was to throw it off balance. Carly and Nerita turned the corner, and added their fire to Horns. Carly took a blast to the chest, and it let up just as her shields fell and she dropped to one knee. Horn stepped in front of her, firing at the closest. Eventually it's shield's failed and it shuddered underneath the unwavering hail that Horn continued to poor into it.

The other two focused their beams on Jason, but Nerita was right there. She lifted one of them biotically, and repeatedly slammed it into the ground while the other one fired on Horn. The beam hit his shield like a hammer, but Horn stood there gritting his teeth trading fire with the collector. He refused to step aside, knowing that Carly was still behind him recovering. He glanced as his shields got lower and lower, until finally they flashed red. At the same time, the Collector's shields gave out as well, and a well placed head shot from one of Nerita's pistols put an end to that threat. Horn stood there for a moment, smoke rising from where the beam had hit. It hadn't cut too deeply though, mainly a visual scar than an operational one. Jason turned back towards Carly, who was back on her feet. There was a black scorch mark right in the middle of her chest, and some sparks let Jason know that it had cut pretty deep. "You alright babe?" Jason asked, mere curiosity in his voice than sympathy.

"Just a scratch." She replied, and moved on from the conversation. Good enough for me. Jason thought as he turned towards the door. With a little help from Serah, Jason input the code for the door, and it flew open as a couple of the scientists screamed and ducked behind tables.

"You know something is wrong when grown men scream like little girls." Jason said as the first of the three men poked his head up from behind the table. His immediate look reminded Jason of Dr. Grass, and he had to stifle a laugh.

"They dead? Are they all dead?" The man asked as he stepped forward. Horn and his team entered the room, their weapons lowered as they looked around.

"Not all of them yet, I still have some hunting to do." Jason looked over as the other two scientists had yet to come out. Jason let his arms hang limp as he looked over at them. "If I wanted to shoot you, do you think that little dinky metal table would stop a fucking vindicator rifle round? Come on out you bunch of lab coat school girls!" They looked at each other, and slowly rose. The first one was taken back by Horn's tone, and it showed in his face.

"I'm sorry, but you are?" His tone almost accusing. Horn looked over at him, and smiled underneath his mask.

"The name is Jason Horn, Commander of the SIC Titan, bane of Collectors and women alike, and am known to have a bit of a temper when faced with cowardly scientists." The man looked like he at least had a backbone, as he didn't back down immediately. "You would be?" Horn asked as Nerita and Carly wandered around the room looking at the equipment.

"Professor Nicholas Erranger, I head the research for space and re-entry gear." Nick said as he watched the other two members of Horns team poke and prod at stuff. "Could you please be careful! Most of this equipment is worth more than what you make in an Asari life time." Nerita gave him a stern look, and he backed down slightly. "Oh...ummm...sorry."

"Listen doc, we don't have time for you to give us the 'don't touch' rules alright? We are here to get you out, and that's ju...what is that?" Horn asked, pointing to a huge set of armour held in a container behind Nick. Nicholas turned around, and adjusted his glasses slightly as he wandered over.

"That is our state of the art "Apocalypse" armour. Made specifically for atmospheric re-entry."

"Come again?" Horn stated as he wandered closer. "Nerita, secure the door. Carly, get those two ready to move." He stated without looking. Nick ran a hand over his thinning black hair, and cleared his throat.

"The suit uses a glass filled epoxy novalac system that is radioactively cooled. X-33 RCC allows the suit to remain light enough for combat tactical advantages, and enhanced kinetic barrier systems with back up generators to assist with the lack of heavy armour protection. The suit is painted white to reduce heat build up with solar reflectance. Basically, what this piece of technology allows you to do, is to fall to the planet like a drop pod simply in the armour alone."

"Uh huh..." Horn stated, touching the surface of the container that held the suit. "Has it been tested?" He asked, his voice sort of drifting off as he envisioned something yet to be.

"Ummm...I'm afraid not." Professor Erranger said as he looked at it. "In order to fully test it...well...someone would need to do an atmospheric re-entry with it. 'Hell Jump' as the other scientists have started calling it." Horn looked down at the container, and noticed the anti-gravity harnesses that were attached to it.

"You have it ready to move?" Horn asked as he slowly looked around it for a way to safely bring it down.

"Yes, we were just preparing to move it to D wing when the attack happened. Needless to say, it didn't get there." Horn gave another smile that couldn't be seen and looked back at Nerita and Carly.

"Look what I'm confiscating! My own personal drop pod armour!" Nerita gave a smirk, and Carly remained emotionless behind the black visor of her armour.

"It's not like I have much of a choice but to give it to you, do I Commander?" Professor Erranger stated as he walked over to the rest of the scientists. It was about then that Serah had to cut the enjoyment short.

"Commander. There is still one scientist a level below you." Horn's shoulders sagged as he looked at the armour, then back to the group.

"Alright, I'm taking this armour no matter what." Horn turned to face all of them. "Carly, Nerita, help the egg heads secure this armour for transport, then escort them back to the Titan. I'm going downstairs to see what the doc below thinks they're doing during an invasion. Get to it."

"Yes sir." Carly stated for both of them as Horn made his way out of the door.

"Serah, give me a path." Horn stated as a blue arrow on his HUD pointed him in the right direction. He took off in a fast jog, following the arrow to the letter and only stopping slightly to eliminate a few collector drones. About halfway there, Serah decided that she needed to drop more bad news.

"Commander, I have been monitoring Tandem Two's communications, and it appears that Vala has gone off on her own objectives which have yet to be clarified. If the conversation between her and Tia is to be believed, it is suspected that she is going for a piece of equipment." Horn gritted his teeth as he ran, shooting a collector with half a clip from the end of the hall while running.

"So she's not only disobeying my orders, but putting innocent lives at risk by doing so?" Anger was starting to seep into Horn's tone, but he couldn't help it.

"The only scientist left alive is the one you are currently after Commander. If you would like to state the infractions, I believe that disobeying a direct order is as far as you can go, as the scientists that she and Tia found were handed over to Commander Titus."

"Fine!" Horn yelled into his comm. "But so help me, if she gets on my ship again, she is getting off so damn quick you won't even be able to pressurize the airlock."

"Also be warned, it appears the Element Zero Core is being set to overload. Someone is trying to destroy the station Commander."

"Have the other teams fall back to the Titan than, we're almost done here." Horn stated.

"I already have Commander, although it appears Vala is ignoring communications and Tia has been cut off and is currently on board the Vindicator. The core will overload soon, although the power fluctuations are making it hard to calculate. I recommend extreme haste." Serah said, cutting the comm. between them.

"'I recommend extreme haste'" Horn mocked Serah for a moment. "Easy for you to say when think faster than most starships...and DON'T HAVE LEGS!"




Horn came running down the ramp and heard voices around the corner as he approached. There appeared to be two, but that should have been impossible. This was the only scientist alive, so unless he was speaking to himself in a deeper tone, someone or something was with him. Horn crept to the wall, and listened for a moment.

"We don't have time to gather your belongings. We need to move if we plan on getting you and your co-workers out of alive." The deeper voice said.

"As I already stated, I am not going anywhere without my notes! I have lived through too much, given too much to have it all destroyed by some flying bipeds!" Hey! Horn thought to himself as thought of his jetpack.

"Understandable, and also completely irrelevant. Your work will be nothing if you die, now let's move." The deeper voice said, and Horn had the feeling the man was now grabbing him by the arm. Jason whipped around the corner, gun at the ready.

"I don't think so." Horn said as he stared at the scientist and a man wearing standard Cerberus combat armour with a reflective visor. They both stopped dead in their tracks as they looked back at him.

"Who are you?" The scientist asked first. The man stared down at him, looking almost ready to shake him, but did nothing.

"Name's Commander Jason Horn, part of the rescue team sent to pick up your sorry asses from this space station."

"Oh, so you two are working together then?" The scientist pointed to the man, who said nothing.

"I have no fucking idea who that is." Horn stated as he inched closer. "State your name soldier." The man didn't reply, staring off to the side slightly with his chest rising and falling with each breath.

"He told me Commander. His name i-" The scientist started, but was cut short as the Commando drew his pistol and fired a round into the scientist's skull.


Horn opened fired, but the man was quick, ducking behind the limp body of the now dead scientist and firing several heavy calibre pistol towards Horn. A couple hit his shields as he rolled backwards and ducked behind the corner. He heard the body drop, and looked around to see the man running towards the other end of the hall. Horn rounded the corner, and took after him.

As Horn rounded the corner, he saw the Commando at the far end take a quick right, followed by a few shots. Jason quickly caught up to the corner, and turned to see a few dead collectors. Again Jason saw him at the end of the hall, and doubled his speed in order to gain ground. Damn this asshole is fast Jason thought to himself as he watched the Commando approach the door at the far end. He watched with a little anger as it turned out to be an elevator. He stepped in, and the doors closed. Jason reached the doors, and slammed his fist on them. "Serah! Can you get these elevator doors open?" Horn asked, pacing impatiently as he waited for her answer.

"One moment Commander...initializing command..." Serah answered, and shortly the doors opened to an open chute with the elevator at the bottom.

"Serah, is the Eezo core on the level that the elevator stopped on?" Horn asked.

"Yes Commander." Serah replied, and Horn breathed a sigh for a second. He jumped into the chute rifle still in hands, and gave a controlled burst from his jetpack once he got near the bottom. He quickly opened the top hatch, and climbed down. Opening the doors, he was once again greeted with a few dead collectors. He stalked cautiously down the hall as the blue glow at the opened doors at the end of the corridor marked where the core was. The pulsating light creating a stark contrast to the blood littering the floor.

As he passed through the doors, two men stood at the controls of the massive core. Above was a catwalk that would have provided a decent firing position if he had known about it earlier. The two men had their back to him for the moment, one was rapidly typing on the console while the other was on another console watching the readings. Both were wearing the same armour, and it was impossible to tell which was which. So, in that split second, he made a choice and went for the one sabotaging the core.

Firing burst after burst into the man's back was met with a satisfying grunt as the man's shield's failed and he slumped over the controls with bullets riddling his back. The other one turned, saw Horn, and raised his already unholstered pistol. Fuck 50/50 choices! Horn thought to himself as he rolled to his side to avoid being peppered by heavy pistol rounds. He took cover behind on of the metal girders supporting the catwalk as the rounds pinged off the metal covering. Horn blind fired a few rounds back to suppress the man before rounding the cover to see where he was. His position was the exact opposite of Horn's, a few feet away. Rather than go behind cover, Horn did what he was best known for and charged straight in.

The Commander aimed around the corner, and fired a few well placed shots, but some quick manoeuvring from Horn prevented himself from being slowed as he batted the pistol away from the man's hand. The Commando proved his worth by grabbing Horn's assault rifle, and bashing it against Jason's head before wrenching it free and tossing it away. Quickly, combat blades were drawn as the two of them slashed and stabbed at each other. Glancing blows from each sparked as they connected with the armour, and blows were also made from both as they continued to fight.

Horn punched the man full blown in the face plate, and slashed with his knife towards the neck, only to have the man lean backwards and headbutt him after the knife had past. A lunge with the knife had Horn sidestepping as he slammed his palm into the man's elbow. A quick twist by the Commando prevented any breakage as he kicked Horn away, landing a couple feet away from the blow. Horn rolled on his back, and was quickly back on his feet. Jason switched his blade to a reverse grip, and the Commando did the same. They circled each other for a moment, Horn in a boxer-esque stance with both his hands raised to protect his face. The Commando held one hand in front of the other, more reminiscent of a martial art style as he prepared to unleash a flurry of attacks. Finally, they both got tired of waiting for the other to move in, and rushed towards each other.

Horn swung his blade high, and the Commando stopped it with his blade as he punched Horn in the face, staggering him slightly. A downward slash marked itself into Horn's armour as he was recovering, and a second slash was incoming when Horn grabbed the wrist, and forced it back into the man's face, following up with a knee to the stomach. The Commando retaliated with a flurry of hits towards Jason's chest, which eventually ended up with an uppercut that missed as Horn dodged left and spun an elbow at the back of the man's head. The Commando stumbled forward, but quickly turned around once more. Again, they went back to circling each other. Horn switched up his style as he traded his boxer stance for a similar stance to the Commando, one hand held in front of the other.

"You know, you're a pretty good fighter. I will give you that." Horn started talking, trying to get underneath the man's skin. "I mean, it must take a lot of skill to shoot a unarmed scientist in the back of the head huh? Jeez, what a feat. Wish I could do that...oh wait, any child with a finger on the trigger could do that!" The man showed no signs of being bothered by any of this, and Horn stopped circling for a moment.

"Wow, you are cold brother. Winter called, and wants it's ice back from your veins." Still the man said nothing, and stood waiting for an opening. Horn sighed.

"Fine, have it your way. Talking or no, I'm still going to kick your fucking ass!" Horn yelled as he rushed at the man and launched at his neck once more.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:09 pm

The drone collapsed as she leapt the falling corpse, not even bothering to insure the shots had been fatal. Her feet hit the ground running, never faltering as she raced past lab after lab. The brief images of carnage flickered past, but she felt nothing for the unfortunate souls within. They were dead, she rationalized, beyond her means to help. If they had been faster…no, they were lost the moment the station fell. It was a miracle they got as many as they did.

Every stride brought her closer to the small waypoint that marked the Nyx, her heart thundering in her chest as she willed herself to move faster. If the collectors had managed to reach it before she did, this whole mad sprint would be worthless. Tia was already pissed enough, Vala didn’t want to give the woman even more ammunition to use against her, assuming Horn didn’t get to her first. Objective complete or not, he wanted orders followed, and this seemed to fly, however slightly, in the face of his orders.

Fuck it. Being a drone hasn’t gotten me anywhere. A pair of collectors paused in their patrol, turning back slightly to see what the source of the sound was, only for the infiltrator to sprint through the gap between them, roughly tagging one with a grenade as she passed. The detonation a few seconds later brought a smile to her face. There’s your fire, Buchan! Hostile situations, no one to count on but yourself. No support, no back up. Solo.

The lab came into view, door still smoking from a recent detonation, and she slowed her sprint by the slightest of margins. The HUD quickly identified the drones inside, four in total. Gritting her teeth, Vala cleared the door with Tempest and Phalanx drawn. The first drone took the full fury of both weapons, jerking violently as the assault threw it backwards into the table behind it. The remaining turned to face the threat, only for the operative to roughly throw her Tempest into the closest drone’s face, jerking it’s head awkwardly from the unexpected hit. Her shields flared as the first blasts from the other drones connected, pushing them dangerously low. The staggered drone didn’t have time to recover, the infiltrator sliding in behind it and letting the unprotected alien take the hits for her.

Firing blind with her Phalanx from the makeshift cover, she noticed the other drones didn’t seem to care about the friendly fire, pouring fire towards her even as their fellow withered under their salvo. Kicking the drone forward roughly, she pumped a full sink into one of the remaining drones, whilst the last managed to drop her shields. A burn mark scorched her shoulder armour, and the infiltrator shifted quickly to avoid another hit, sprinting towards the collector. Another round clipped her mask, skin stinging from the heat even as the armour took the brunt of the blow. The drone didn’t managed to fire again, the distance between them vanishing as Vala delivered an uppercut to the bug’s ‘chin’. It staggered, and she unleashed a barrage of hits on the unprotected eyes, feeling the bulbous orbs break beneath her assault. Now blind, it swiped wildly with it’s arms, trying to fend her off, unaware of her retreat to a safe distance.

The gunshots echoed in the mostly silent station, and the final drone dropped to the floor without a sound. Holstering both her guns, Vala surveyed her handy work for a second, smiling at the ease she’d achieved victory with. “Please be advised, Vala, that the Element Zero core of the station is being set to overload. Detonation will likely occur soon, although an exact estimate is impossible due to the fluctuations. Commander Horn is ordering all teams to fall back to the Titan.”

She swore, darting quickly over to the room’s sole console and quickly tapping a few commands in. “Where is Horn now, Serah?” If the Commander was already back on his ship, she’d have to make this even faster than she had been originally.

“Commander Horn is currently headed to retrieve the final scientist aboard the Hephaestus.” Good, she still had time.

“Keep me updated.” A storage unit in the center of the room hissed, opening slowly to reveal the reason for this whole fiasco. She approached cautiously, gazing into the unit with curiosity. The Nyx stood silent in its unit, the blackened surface seemingly swallowing the light around it. The armour was thick, noticeably more than her own, leaving little if anything unprotected completely. Thin strips of white weaved along the creases of the armour, highlighting all the recesses against the black of the main armour. The helmet was a more traditional sealed one, in comparison to the breather mask which she currently wore, although it bore a design on the front of the visor, reminiscent of the head of one Earth’s infamous big cats, although she wouldn’t be sure until she did a search later. Assuming she got the damn suit out of here in the first place.

Pulling it free of it’s container, she quickly set about removing her armour, setting it aside on one of the spare lab tables without delay. A quiet moment of consideration later, and she opted to keep the ‘squish skin’ of her old suit, not wanting to waste any more time. The Nyx came only easily enough, slightly big for her, likely intended for a more male frame. No matter, it could easily be resized once aboard a ship. A quick shakedown of her body assured her that nothing would come loose during her retreat or hinder her too much should she find herself in a combat situation. The helmet was the final piece, and she quickly slipped it on, stuffing her hair uncomfortably inside before attaching it to the rest of the armour. If I’m gonna use this thing, then I’m gonna need a haircut.

Now connected, the Nyx started it’s boot up, shields and monitoring systems coming online quickly, the familiar flicker of blue signalling the shields status as full. The HUD came online shortly after, syncing quickly with her omni-tool and uploading all the data from her previous armour into the Nyx’s CPU. A blinking alert drew her gaze, asking to engage the link process. “Engage.” The suit was quiet for a moment, before it blinked an affirmative. Dozens of tiny, frigid pin pricks raced up her spine, sending shivers uncomfortably through the rest of her body. A sharper, more acute pain towards the base of her neck made her stiffen, as the Nyx found her biotic amp. The connection was sudden and more painful than she had dared imagine, but the suit had locked itself rigid, preventing her from collapsing.

“Detection Pulse Systems are unable to function with L3 biotics. Pulse will remain offline.” The mechanical voice of the suit’s VI was sudden, but the news it brought caused her to swear. Of fucking course! Nothing can go bloody right today, can it?! Taking her weapons from her old armour, Vala quickly fastened the Tempest and Phalanx to her hips, before retrieving her knife from it’s hidden sheath. The Nyx had no such place, but on the breast plate, an empty sheath sat ready for a knife, easily retrieved, if not concealed.

“Vala, Commander Horn has engaged an unknown enemy in the Core Chamber.”

She didn’t even pause to think. “Map me a course there, as fast as you can, Serah.” The waypoint blinked once on her HUD, and Vala left the room without a moment’s hesitation. She’d hoped to bring her old armour out with her, but the Commander’s life was worth more than some easily replaced suit. The station groaned and creaked around her, signs of the core’s overload already spreading through the massive station. Pressing on, the operative grit her teeth. Looks like she’d be giving the armour a field test a little sooner than she’d anticipated.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The dead scientist was an unwelcome sight, head blown apart by what she could only guess was something akin to her Phalanx. Corner after corner, she found mound after mound of dead drones, dropped expertly with but a few shots between them all. Either Horn had been busy, or the mysterious enemy was a hell of a shot. Coming to a stop at the elevator shaft, Vala gazed down curiously to see it a few floors below and giving no indications of moving anytime soon. A few moments later, and she found herself scaling down the wall cautiously, muttering a few curses under her breath about her rotten luck. She dropped the final distance, landing in a half crouch on the top of the elevator. Wincing slightly, she clutched her ribs, and slipped inside, finding the welcome sight of even more collector corpses.

“Kill enough Horn?” She murmured, creeping forward as the Commander’s icon appeared on her HUD. Curiously, no other signals came up and for a moment she briefly wondered if he had taken care of the threat all by himself. Horn swept passed the entrance, followed quickly by a figure in Cerberus Commando armour, the two trading hits and blocking with the same speed, and the operative found it difficult for her eyes to keep up. The two disappeared further into the core room, and she hurried to the entrance.

Blades sparked as the two men fought tirelessly, each seeming to gain the upper hand briefly before the roles would reverse and stalemate once again. Drawing her Phalanx, Vala narrowed her eyes on the Commando, trying to get a clear shot without Horn in the way. Both seemed oblivious to her presence, and for a moment, she considered join the fray proper. It’d be a folly with her injuries though, and the operative cleared her throat before switching her comms over to the external speakers of the helmet. “Horn! Down!”

The two men turned instantly to see her, and Horn ducked back as she opened fire on the Commando. Two rounds found the man’s shields, before he rolled to the side and recovered to his feet, holding his recovered pistol at the ready, aimed at Horn instead of her. She moved forward to shield the commander, only for a blast from the core to throw her off her feet and crashing painfully into the wall. Horn fared little better, and the Commando glanced quickly to the core. Energy rippled along the massive core, arcing violently as it grew more and more unstable.

The Commando turned quickly towards the door, moving with purpose to leave the chamber. “Don’t move!” The voice caused him to freeze, and he looked back to find Vala’s Phalanx aimed once more on him, Horn moving quickly to recover his assault rifle. “You’ve got one chance. Surrender. Now.”

The threat hung in the air for a moment, before the Commando turned fully and looked to the woman. His external speakers crackled. “I thought I recognized that voice.” She stiffened, eyes widening as the familiar sound greeted her. “Vala…I didn’t expect to run into you here.”

“Benjamin..?”

“You know this asshole?!” A hail of fire peppered the Commando, and he staggered back under the assault, shields flaring briefly before failing. Vala rushed forward, discarding her gun as she sprinted for the man. Horn followed closely, only for another blast from the core to throw him off his feet. Benjamin stepped backwards through the door, quickly tapping a command on his omni-tool which brought the blast door sliding shut, inches before Vala could reach him. She struck at the door violently, fist slamming against the metal again and again.

“No! NO! Not again!” The weakness in her voice made her sick, as she tried in vain to break the door down with nothing but her armoured fists. “Ben! Open the door! DAMMIT!” A thousand questions burned on her tongue, as she fought back all the emotion she felt surging from the depths of her mind.

Her comm flared to life briefly, and his voice flooded her senses. “If I could have just one wish…” Tears stung at her eyes, and she slumped to her knees, hand splayed against the metal. The words echoed in her mind, even though she knew he was already gone by now. Something lingered, the way he spoke…was it remorse? She hoped.

“God dammit…”

“Vala! Get the hell up!” A rough jerk ripped her backwards, Horn dragging her backwards the way they came. “It’s time to fucking move!” She struggled at first, pushing her feet to get them underneath her body, and half running, half-dragged, she tailed Horn towards the elevator. As they entered, he tightened his grip, and a boost of his jetpack sent them both sailing upwards. He lobbed her upwards, and she managed to grip the edge, hoisting herself up as he landed beside her. Before the two could exchange any words, an explosion rocked the station, tossing Vala forward as Horn staggered down one of the side hallways, both narrowly avoiding the blast that emerged from the elevator shaft.

“Commander!”

“Go! I’ve got another route! Just get the hell off this station!” She back-pedalled a few steps, as if unsure, before another powerful blast shook the station.

“Copy that!” She turned and ran, pushing herself to go faster and faster with every step. Her lungs burned, and her heart hammered, adrenaline dumping into her body and pushing her beyond any limits she thought she had. The station rocked and shook with every detonation, but she didn’t dare look back and see if it was gaining on her. EDI’s voice chimed into her ear piece, barely audible over the sound of the dying station behind her.

“Miss Buchan, I am hacking into the defensive systems now, but please be advised, they will not remain hacked for long. The Vindicator is close by, please make haste.” She didn’t bother responding, rounding a corner to watch the turrets shut down quickly. The AI was a god send. The waypoints painted her the fastest route to the ship, and she followed without hesitation. Finally, the stretch to the airlock came into view, and Vala pushed hard for the final stretch, throwing herself into the airlock and watching the door seal quickly behind her. The Vindicator wasted no time departing the station, clearing the blast quickly, although she still felt the shockwaves of the massive detonation as if they had happened right beside her.

The soft spray of the decontamination sounded, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Well, that had been a little close for comfort. Rising slowly to her feet, she ignored the pain in her ribs as the doors opened to reveal the familiar deck of the Vindicator. Before she could even clear the doors, Tia was in her face, and Vala caught the dark glare of the engineer zeroing in on her face. “Fuck off, Saint.”

The engineer shook her head, blocking Vala‘s path from the airlock. “No. Not until you tell me what was so damned important about that god-damned armour.”

Vala scowled, topaz eyes narrowing behind the helmet. “Potential, Saint. It’s got the potential to be incredibly useful, I’ve just got to get someone capable of using it! Happy?!” Tia took her by the throat, slamming her hard against the wall as she leaned in dangerously close.

“No! You went against direct orders, risked the lives of those scientists and future Cerberus projects and your team mates.” Tia dropped her unceremoniously. "That is completely unacceptable, no matter how you slice it!"

Vala was quiet for a moment, staring up at the older woman darkly. “Just…” The words died on her lips, and she released a shaky breath. “…yeah. Should have stayed focused. Mission first.”

The engineer seemed satisfied, nodding once. “One chance, Vala. You don’t get second chances. You’ll be dead.” She turned on her heel and left without a word, and Vala was left to brood with her thoughts. She didn’t even bother moving, leaning against the wall of the airlock and staring at the ceiling.

“One chance…”
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:12 pm

John's gripped Darcy's shoulder and gave the man a firm, approving squeeze, saying, "Good job, helmsman!" The pilot's swift detachment from the Hephaestus, as soon as Vala dived into the airlock, saved them from sustaining critical damage when the docking ring itself began to collapse. The eezo core's meltdown had created a contraction, like a singularity from a biotic. The entire station was now collapsing in on itself, and it was only a matter of time before all of that contracted mass would begin to rapidly expand.

"Titus," EDI announced as her blue orb appeared on the console next to Darcy, "the SIC Titan has successfully detached from it's own dock. Like Miss Buchan, Commander Horn made it aboard at the last second. His route, however, was a little more... interesting."

When the orb disappeared, John rolled his eyes at what she had said. He could only imagine what kind of insane "route" the man had taken. The vision of Horn jet packing through a womens shower room with a smile on his face raced into his thoughts. The Titan's commander had guts, audacity, and fearless bravado. John briefly wondered where it all came from, but was distracted when his yeoman, Lisa Brown, stepped up beside him at the helm.

"Uhm, sir?" she inquired.

"What is it, Miss Brown?"

"You might want to check in on Operatives Buchan and St. Jean. The new girl had Vala by the throat a minute ago before saying a few murmured words of disdain and storming off."

John glanced back to the airlock just beyond the catwalk of the helm, before looking back at Lisa. The look of genuine concern on her face convinced him that this was definitely something he would have to look into. Besides, what she reported in and of itself was disturbing enough. Someone actually pinned up Vala and won? Commander Titus gave his Yeoman a firm nod of his head before directing his attention back to Darcy.

"The Hephaestus will eventually expand faster than we can blink our eyes, Darcy," he warned. "Get us back through that storm, now."

"Aye-aye, sir." Darcy tapped a button on his interface to open the intercom across the entirety of the Vindicator as he accelerated the frigate towards edge of the ion storm's safe zone. "Attention all hands! Attention all hands!" he announced. "This is your helmsman speaking. We'll be experiencing some rough turbulence in the next few minutes. Please fasten your seat belts and hang onto your asses!"



"Shields at thirty percent and holding," EDI informed at the helm. "Regeneration will begin in thirty seconds."

The ride through the storm had been disorienting, to say the least. Without the cover of the Titan they risked being nearly torn apart, but the Vindicator's barriers held true and spared them from any critical damage. Now that the rough traverse was over with and they had departed the storm entirely, it was time for Darcy to kick them back into FTL speeds again. As John felt and heard the familiar hum of core's magic throughout the ship, he made his way back down the helm and towards the airlock. But when he rounded the corner, he didn't find Vala.

He thought for a moment where she would have disappeared to before heading towards the lift. When he arrived inside, he punched in the command to visit the crew deck on the interface and looked up to glance at the CIC at the last second before the door closed down tightly. When the elevator stopped at his destination, he stepped out and into the familiar halls of the offices and private quarters of his higher ranking shipmates. He could hear the faint clatter of plates, howls of celebrating laughter, and the hissing of steaming pots and pans from the mess hall several corridors over. The majority of the Vindicator's crew were rejoicing in their escape from the Hephaestus and lone survival of their trip back through the storm. The melody brought a smile to his face, and he made a note to join them later.

As he walked, he rounded a corner to the officers' corridor and passed by several of the port-side dorms. First was Serena's, then Lisa's, Darcy's, and Erik's. Finally, he stopped at the office that Vala had occupied during her brief stay aboard his ship. Braden's, Tony's, Veronica's, and Lance's were could be found on the starboard side of the ship. The access panel for Vala's quarters was still orange. John swiftly swiped his hand in front of the panel and it flashed green for a brief second before the blast door wooshed open. He stepped inside the large quarters, offering the woman before him a kind smile.

"I thought I'd find you here," he said. "Welcome back."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:53 pm

The battle with the Commando had lasted way to long for someone who was used to dominating when it came to hand to hand combat. When Vala entered the fray, and Horn wanted to chew her out for disobeying his orders, he realized he didn't have time. The core was exploding, the Commando was getting away, and Vala was crying at the door. They knew each other, and as much as he wanted answers, now was not the time. With a little bit of effort and some obviously reassuring words, he boosted her up out of the core, only to be cut off from a resulting explosion.

Ordering her on her way, Horn took off down the corridor. He didn't know why he said he had a route, when in reality, he had no idea in hell on how to get back to his ship. "Serah, get me a path off of this giant grenade!" Horn yelled as he sprinted as fast as his body would allow him.

"Aye Commander." The AI responded, showing blue waypoints to guide him towards his final objective. Jason didn't bother responded as the resulting shockwaves from the core tried to throw him off his feet. Each time he slammed into a wall to avoid falling over, and continued forward. He still had to go up a deck and then who knows how far to the actual ship. Besides that, there was an unknown number of collectors between him and his haven, which only added to his irritation. He knew he should have gotten off when he could, but the presence of a saboteur was something that needed to be investigated. He cursed himself for not being able to kill the Commando, but quickly refocused his efforts on simply getting the hell off the ship.

Running up a ramp, he turned the corner to be met with three more collectors. He primed a grenade from his belt, threw it, and drew his pistol. All three collectors turned to fire on him, apparently oblivious to the exploding station, but were quickly rocked as the grenade took care of their shields. A quick shot to their heads later, and Horn had managed to pass them without even slowing down. Everything almost seemed to be going alright as he saw the distance count down on his HUD, but then something weird began to happen.

Another explosion rocked Horn as he was suddenly flying through the air uncontrollably. He tried to regain his balance, but another explosion knocked him sideways into an adjoining room where another two collectors were having the same gravity problems that Horn was having. His comm. came to life as Serah decided to pipe in at that exact moment. "Sir, be warned, the gravity gen-"

"Serah, sweetheart, stop stating the obvious and let me focus!" Horn yelled as he grappled with one of the collectors, managing to kick it into it's friend and send them both careening out of the room.

"Acknowledged sir." Serah replied before the comm. went dead again. Horn managed to regain some composure, and latched himself to the bulkhead with his magnetic seals. This would slow him down, and he couldn't afford to waste any time. So, as he managed to get to the hallway, he disengaged his clamps, and let his pack do the work for him. Setting it up for quick fire bursts, he quickly flew through the hallways, smashing collectors out of the way as they tried to fire from their weakened positions floating aboard the station.

"Commander, collectors are at our airlock, and are attempting to breach." Serah, the bringer of good news, told Horn as he looked ahead to see himself on the final stretch. "Along with this, the dock is currently collapsing. Orders?"

"Disengage the clamps but leave the airlock open! Start leaving!" Horn shouted as he took pot shots at them.

"Sir, the odds of you surviving through the Ion storm ar-"

"Serah, I'm about to use words that a female voiced computer program designed for cybernetic warfare should never have to hear...I said leave!"

"Yes sir." Jack stated this time over the comm., replacing Serah. He could see the Titan start to pull away, sucking the collectors out through the unprotected breach. Horn used the extra momentum to propel himself like a rocket through the breach after his ship into the Ion storm. He knew he would likely die from doing this...but all that was on his mind was how pretty everything looked from the outside. Silence once overcame him as he stared into the storm, and for that split second that he was outside in space, he felt two things.

One was how the universe looked so beautiful from this point of view. The colours that defied logic and reality to provide to him a wonderful splendour as he rocketed through it. He couldn't help but think of how he was going to save the recording from his helmet from this, and how it would look on a loop in his quarters.

The second was how his entire body seemed to be on fire.

His shields drained faster than he could possibly imagine, but just as soon as he felt the sensation, he crashed into the open airlock of the Titan which closed almost before his feet breach the threshold. The gravity took him and he crashed to the floor. He lay there for a moment, unmoving as smoke rose from his entire body. The second set of airlock doors opened and a medical team was rushing to his side. They quickly checked his vitals and made to move him, but a sudden jerk from Horn caused them to back off. "What, you never seen anybody dive through space before?" Horn asked as he ripped his mask off and crawled onto the CIC.

"I've never seen anyone go through an Ion Storm and live Commander, even if it was only for the fraction of a second that you went through." Dr. Grass stood there, flashing his omni-tool over Horn's body. Horn grabbed the man's arm and pushed it downwards. Lincoln quickly put his arm again, pushing Horn back.

"I don't know if you've contracted any ill effects from the storm that could have lingering issues on your combat efficiency." Lincoln stated as Horn looked at him in disbelief.

"Doc, my shields held until I was in the airlock. Admittedly, they did quit almost the moment I got in, but they held. As far as I know, the shields for personal armour and ship shields work in similar ways." Horn grabbed his arm once again, and held it down at the man's side. "Ergo, I'm good to go and got a job to do." The man obviously didn't like it, but when Jason let go, he didn't attempt again. Horn walked to the galactic map, and stared at everyone. "Somebody! Status!" As he said that, the ship rocked underneath the shockwave of the station exploding. "Nevermind. Jack, why are we still in range of the station's explosive radius?!"

"It's creating a singularity like event sir. The core is literally trying to drag us in." Jack tried to remain calm, but the fear edging into his voice was unmistakeable. Horn opened a link to Engineering.

"Kevin! Get us more juice! I don't care how you do it, or what sort of damage it does short of blowing up this whole ship! Get us out of this gravity well!" Horn switched quickly to ship wide. "Attention crew, this is your Commander speaking. All hands brace for some...turbulence." Jason then quickly shifted his attention back to Dr. Grass. "Did everyone make it back ok? Are they strapped down for the ride?"

"Yes sir, they're all currently in the med-lab."

"Good, make sure nothing happens to them. Kelly, status on the Vindicator." Horn switched people as Lincoln moved to join the scientists in the med-lab.

"They are further out than us, and are nearly out of the storm sir." She stated, Horn gave a nod. His comm. flared to life.

"Kevin here...spare you the details, but if we don't get out on this, we won't get out at all sir."

"Done. Jack, punch it!" Horn yelled as a sudden acceleration made everyone brace as Jack brought the ship out of the gravity well being made by the station's core imploding. Just as Horn thought they were out of the worst, Serah spoke up.

"Mass effect core of the Hephaestus has reached critical mass."

"You know what, I ban you from speaking! Forever! For all of time!" Horn yelled as the ship began to buckle and shake.

"Hold on...Riding the shockwave..." Jack stated, although Horn could have sworn he heard him say 'on a broken surfboard.'. Everyone was holding on to something or someone as the shaking got worse and they all wondered if they were going to get out or not, but no sooner had it gotten to the point of upsetting their stomachs did everything just cease. Everything became smooth once more, and the only sound was the strain on the shields due to the Ion Storm. Everyone stood there for a moment, wondering if they were actually alive, or if they had died and this was some sort of pre-death hallucination.

Jason looked over at everyone gathered, and gave a smile. "Hey look, we ain't dead!" He switched to engineering quickly. "Good work there Kevin." There was no response, but that was typical of Kevin. He only spoke when he needed to. Horn looked up to see everyone still standing around slightly, looking to each other and celebrating. Horn clapped his hands loudly.

"Hey! Unless none of you have noticed, we ain't out of the storm yet! So, hold the celebration until you have done your jobs and deserve one!" They quickly dispersed to do their separate duties. Ms. Invaru stepped forward, standing next to Horn who was rubbing his eyes with the tips of his fingers. A few moments of silence between the two before Kelly spoke up.

"So what is our destination sir?" Kelly asked, all prim and proper with her hands behind her back. Horn gave a grin and put an arm around her shoulders as he guided her around the galactic map.

"To the edge of space, the final frontier, the great unknown..." Horn paused for a second. "Fuck that actually, we're going to someplace with a bar." Kelly gave a smile.

"Ah, good. For a second there, I thought that Ion Storm had switched your priorities."

"Nah my good looking lass, alcohol is everyone's saviour..." Horn's comm. beeped for a second, and he answered. "What's up?"

"Commander? Commander Horn? I'm one of the scientists from the Hephaestus and I demand to know where we are going! I've had enough of surprises for one day, and would like to have no more! Further more, where were you whe...what? No, you can't have it! I'm having a dis...no...stop! Giv...not..." Horn listened for a second, before another voice came back on, this one belonging to Dr. Grass.

"Sorry about that Commander...you know how bookworms get when they lose their work to dive into."

"Lincoln...you have no idea how ironic that is coming from you." Horn stated.

"You know what...here's that scientist back." Lincoln stated, and soon the other voice came back on.

"Furthermore, I demand a location in order to continue my research, and along with this..." The man continued to speak and Horn tapped his comm. link, severing the connection.

"Yep...alcohol. Need a freaken pint of it right now." Horn stated as he pinched his nose and continued walking with Kelly through the ship.


Last edited by quakernuts on Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Digital Muse on Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:26 pm

Striding down the hallway after bracing that fool, Vala, Tia found she didn't feel any satisfaction from the confrontation. Her nerves were jangled from the near escaped from not only the Collectors, but the imploding station. She had too many questions and not a single answer. She hurt everywhere from new stresses on her body and old ones from their mission on the Blue Suns derelict. Her armor was battered and bloodied. Perhaps a shower then a drink...or both. At the same time. "Serah? Where am I quartered? I need to get familiar with a bed."

"I am called EDI by Commander Titus. You have been assigned to the room next to Dr. Porter on deck 3 for the time being, Miss St. Jean."

"Oh. OK. EDI." She nodded out of habit, not thinking about the fact that the AI wasn't capable of seeing the gesture. "Figures." Finding her room, Tia flashed her hand in front of the lock and the door hissed open to reveal a fairly plush cabin. Tia's eyebrows lifted at the sight of the soft coverlet and oh-so inviting pillows. "Lights at half." She requested. The lights dimmed from the full glare of task lighting to a more relaxing golden hue. Tia managed to shuck her armor, though the muscles of her chest and back that supported her synthetic arm protested.

In the duration of her shower, Tia found some rather alarming black and blue areas over major portions of her body, but luckily none of them were dangerous, just irritating. Changing into a uniform provided by a crewmen, she braided her light brown hair again and made to head out. She glanced toward the bed longingly, but thought it best to report the Commander to see if Horn and the Titan had made it away from the station in time. She hadn't known the man longer than a few days, but she kind of liked the lunatic.

Heading for the CIC, Tia looked around, noting the singular lack of the Commander Titus. The Helmsman, however turned in his seat to look her over as did a young yeoman also in the room. The helmsman smiled, "You our orphan?" He asked. The yeoman looked her over, as if waiting for her to grow another head.

Tia wondered what the young woman's issue was, but turned her attention back to the helmsman, with a grin. "I guess so. My name's Tia. Tia St. Jean. Good to meet you." The simple greeting seemed to take the tension out of the air for some odd reason that Tia couldn't fathom. "Did the Titan get out alright? " She asked.

"I'm Darcy Mansfield and that's Lisa Brown. Welcome aboard." Lisa and Darcy shared a look and then Darcy grinned again. "Our last 'guest' didn't mind her manners so much." He explained with a twinkle in his eye. "And yeah. Horn in his usual cowboy style. But they made it."

Tia nodded, "The Turian I saw on the station?" She guessed. She still couldn't fathom what he was doing aboard a Cerebrus ship.

"Oh? No. You already met the guest I meant." His smile quirked up the corner of one side of his lips. "Vala Buchan."

Tia pursed her lips at that revelation. Was the woman incapable of doing anything the simple way? Was she determined to self-destruct? It seemed to be so. "I...see." Tia mused, slightly disturbed. After a second or two, she remembered the reason she'd come to the CIC in the first place. "Oh...Commander Titus? I thought I should introduce myself soonest....then sleep for at least a week."

Lisa laughed this time. "He actually went to check on Operative Buchan. Your little chat with her didn't go unnoticed." The Yeoman's tone was very self-satisfied.

Tia could have groaned. Great. She thought to herself. Great first impression. She smiled briefly, "Uh. Thanks. I'll just...take some time on the observation deck." She headed for the door then turned back to Darcy, "Hell of a job getting us out of there, by the way." She smiled, "I'm rather fond of living."

Darcy winked broadly, "Cake walk. I coulda done it in my sleep. Or in your sleep, even"
___________________________________________________________________________

Frowning as she left the CIC, Tia headed to the Observation deck. She guessed most of the crew would be on duty or in the mess filling the air with gossip, so she could get some time alone. She had to think through what to do about Vala. Or, should she do anything at all? What she'd seen on this mission showed Vala to be a hot head and a risk. According to the crew of the Titan, she was under direct orders from the Illusive Man himself. What right did Tia have to intercede? None, really. There were times she didn't envy Commanders their positions. This was definitely one of them.

The door hissed open letting her into the observation deck. It was darkened to allow for an uninterrupted view of the stars. Tia strode across the room unerringly avoiding the small tables and chairs set about the room so that she could stand before the windows. The thrum of the deck below her feet as the Vindicator flew through space was calming, almost soporific. It wasn't long before her mind was cleared of worries for the time being. They were safe. They managed to get a good number of people off the station. Not all, but you never do. They'd scored a win. It was the best she could expect.

A voice behind her startled Tia. "You don't celebrate successful missions with good cheer or alcohol like your crewmates?"

Villayn's definitive flanging voice cut through Tia's calm like a sword shattering a wooden shield. His eyes peered at her from a dark corner of the room, the faint starlight glinting off his hardened carapace.

Tia tensed instinctively. "I don't celebrate people dieing." She gritted out. Sun of a bitch She thought to herself. Of all the people on this ship to run into. Tia found herself looking almost anywhere but at the Turian. She couldn't believe that she could still be affected so viscerally after all these years by the mere presence of a Turian. Forcing her eyes to meet Villayn's finally, she murmured, "You'll excuse me? I have other things to do." She began to edge around the tables toward the exit when Villayn spoke again.

"You are uncomfortable around different races? Or Turians in particular?" His voice, while insightful, was grating to her.

Tia paused, "Look. I'm not going to be your pal. Alright? I was at Shanxi and lost good friends and crew mates because your people decided we were too ignorant know anything." As was her habit, the angrier Tia got, the softer her voice became. "I don't know why you're here or what Titus is planning, that's his gig. I'm not part of his crew, so how about we just stay on opposite ends of the ship till I can get back aboard the Titan." She almost, in the deepest recesses of her heart wished the Turian would say something, anything that she could take offense at. But, he didn't. He also didn't seem to be put off by her warning.

"I am here as part of Commander Titus' crew." Villayn advised. "Myself and my officers were the only survivors of my ship. A ship, I might add, that he destroyed." Villayn moved to the window to stare out into the void of space. "Does that assuage your hatred?"

Tia shook her head, even though Villayn couldn't see it. "No. It will never be enough." Came her dark reply. With that, Tia swept out into the hallway, leaving the Turian alone with his thoughts. She returned directly to her cabin. She'd been rattled by the confrontation, anti-climactic as it was, with the Turian and her hands shook slightly when she unbraided her hair. Making her way to the small bar provided, she poured herself a tumbler of some amber fluid. It really mattered little what it was and took a healthy swig before sitting down. "What have you gotten me into this time, Jack?" She muttered to no one in particular.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:33 pm

The music quieted as the Commander entered, as if anticipating the conversation about to take place. Vala sat in the chair behind her desk, leaning back as she tossed her knife back and forth between her hands, pausing as her gaze shifted to Titus. "Commander." She nodded briskly in greeting, turning the chair to fully face him. Placing the knife beside the dormant work terminal, the operative laced her hands before her face, topaz eyes locking on his face. "What do you need?"

Titus' genuine smile quickly faded into a disappointed frown and his hands dived into his pockets, slightly lifting up and wrinkling the Cerberus uniform blouse. As her eyes glared into his own, he raised a brow and wondered to himself what in the galaxy her issue was. Operative Buchan rarely smiled, never laughed, and hardly ever returned a cheerful "hello".

John stepped around, only slightly facing away from where Vala sat behind her desk. He nodded his head toward the door and said, "Come on. I'm getting you a drink. That's an order."

She was quiet for a moment, before a low growl escaped her. “Don‘t you have a report to file with the Illusive Man?” She rose and rounded the desk, stopping for a brief moment at the armour rack, which now held the Nyx prototype, to slip her knife back into it’s sheath. She looked at him, and the two seemed to have a momentary battle of wills with their eyes alone. Surprisingly, Vala broke it first. “Fine, Commander. Let’s get this over with.”

The two left the quarters and made their way quietly through the white and chrome corridors of the Vindicator's crew deck. The laughter coming from the lounge, which was conveniently situation behind the main living quarters of the rest of the crew, could be heard echoing faintly throughout the deck. Titus walked on with both hands still buried in his pockets, and shoulders slightly perked up. The long, silent walk to the lounge with Vala was awkward, to say the least, and he could feel her brilliant eyes burning a hole in the back of his head.

"Look," he finally said to break the silence, "I know that you and Operative St. Jean had a moment back up in the airlock. I have a feeling that had something to do with you running off on a solo mission aboard the Hephaestus. Now, I don't know what that was all about entirely, but frankly... I don't care. You were under Horn's command at that time, not mine. Besides," he slowed his pace abruptly to even himself with her, shoulder to shoulder, "... I'm just glad to see you still in one piece."

There was another minute of silence up until they entered and passed through the main crew quarters. The area was made up of several large rooms with multiple bunks. On a standard Alliance frigate, living space was condensed in favor of more combat-oriented needs; but the Cerberus-designed Vindicator allowed a healthy dosing of both. The women's quarters was directly opposite of the men's, and each of the large rooms had double set of blast doors to maintain privacy while entering and exiting. The ship's lounge, which was at far end of the corridor, provided a bar with cool and warm neon lighting, comfortable ultra-modern sofas and recliners, royal blue carpeting, and glass surfaces. There was always an enjoyable melody of the latest human pop music, rap, or electronica. It was all designed to simulate the modern bars back on Earth, and provide the crew members with an enjoyable escape during their off-duty time.

As John walked up to the bar with Vala he hoisted himself up on a stool and swung around to face the volunteering bartender on duty; a female crew member by the name of Lilly Harkins. She was a tall, fair brunette with green eyes. A silver bracelet on her wrist (a trinket from a family member back home, no doubt) reflected the pink neon from the bar lighting above.

"Commander," she said, nodding her respect, "here to celebrate the recent accomplishment? Nice job, by the way. So, what'll it be tonight?"

"Miss Harkins," John replied with a courteous nod of his own. "Thank you. Tell me, though... what do you recommend with a solemn woman with a bit of a hurt pride issue?"

Lilly let out slight giggle and replied, "Cerberus women with pride issues? Get outta here!" She picked up a few glasses from below the counter and clacked them on the polished surface. "How about a Cape Cod? Cranberry juice and vodka, topped with a squeeze of lime. Always does the trick."

"Whip up that for Miss Buchan, here," John said with approvingly, "and I'll take a dry martini."

"Comin' right up, Commander."

Titus turned his head to Vala as soon as Lilly got to work on mixing the drinks. "Just relax, Vala," he said. "You've worked hard for God knows how long. It's time you sit back and just enjoy life. Maybe you can tell me what's been on your mind recently." He saw that the strong operative next to him really didn't want to go into her inner thoughts, so he leaned in slightly and, in almost of a whisper, said, "Hey, we're human beings. We talk to each other."

“I’ll relax when I’m in the ground, if I managed to make it that far.” The music was grating her already frayed nerves, and she shot the man a look as he leaned in. The drink slid up in front of her, and she stared for a moment at the beverage as if it was poison. “Cheers.” She raised it in mock salute, before draining it in one go. “I‘m tired, I‘m sore, I‘ve just finished a mission that was fucked up by most standards, and I‘d prefer to spend my time alone instead of having a heart to heart with you.” She rose fluidly, looking quickly at the bartender and muttering a half hearted thanks to the woman. “I’m going to go back to my quarters. When you’re ready to contact the Illusive Man, let me know. He needs to be made aware of things.”

Without waiting for a response, she left the bar, slipping her way through the slightly crowded lounge, hoping to simply vanish back to the welcoming tranquility of her room.

Titus glared at the empty glass, not even a drop left at the bottom. He knew the woman was on the edge of an emotional break down, and he wondered just how far he should continue to push her to open up. He was stunned that the Illusive Man had chosen Vala Buchan for the role of united the commanders when she had so many issues of her own. The operative did an astounding job of keeping her composure, but at what cost? He didn't have the qualifications of someone like Miss Brown, but the signs were obvious to everyone.

John spun around in the stool to face Vala's back as she made her way to the lounge's exit. "What is it with you, operative?" he said loud enough so she could hear him over the steady beats of the music and chatter of other crewmen. "If I were you, I'd take a trip down to the med-bay. I'm pretty sure your PMS and biotic tendencies are colliding."

It was then that he realized he had pushed the wrong way. He wanted to withdraw the harsh words, but they were already out. Several heads turned in his direction, and he felt Lilly's presence slowly creep to the other end of the bar behind him. All that could be heard in the room now was the music, but even that had quieted. Yet, he was still a commanding officer and the rule book said that someone in his position should never admit to being wrong. No matter how much he wanted to apologize or even look guilty, he had to hold his ground. Titus simply sat there atop his bar stool and stared at the broken, tired woman before him.

Something snapped. Slowly, she turned, eyes narrowing into slits of rage as her fists balled into fists so tight they threatened to split her knuckles. Dark energy rippled up her frame, and some of the furniture shook as she struggled with the sheer output her fury was generating. “You want to know?! YOU WANT TO FUCKING KNOW?!” She parted the crowd with her mere approach, eyes never wavering from the man in front of her, every inch of control barely holding herself back from trying to rip him apart with her bare hands.

“Then listen, and listen fucking good, you righteous moral asshole!” She was in his face, leaning in dangerously close as her topaz gaze blazed like a miniature sun. Without thinking, she ripped the necklace off it’s chain, dangling it in front of the Commander. “Do you see this?! It was my engagement ring! I relaxed back then! I enjoyed my life! And you know what fucking happened?! It was ripped from underneath my feet!” She slammed the ring down on the bar, cracking the glass from the force as her breaths came in sharp and harsh. “And to make everything better, I saw him today. Commander Benjamin Slatton. My fiancée. He was the one about to blow up the entire station! He almost killed you, Horn, both of these ships AND me.” She slowed, as if becoming aware of her surroundings once more.

“…and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop him. I probably saved him from Horn by accident! Because I’m not strong like you, or Horn. I can barely lift a knife with my biotics, Commander. A fourteen year old boy is better than I am.” She shook, shoulders shivering as she struggled to get everything back inside. It was impossible, really. She’d cracked the flood gates. No. Blown them clean off. “I can’t introduce myself to a crew member without breaking their nose.” The room was eerily silent, and Vala could feel the eyes of every crew member staring at her.

John slid down off the stool and brought himself level with woman's tear-filled eyes. His last choice of words was, admittedly, poor; but this time he was going to make things right. He allowed her sobs and gasps for air to calm as he pondered what to say very carefully. Finally, when he was sure of what to say, he reached over to the cracked counter glass and gently plucked the ring from the surface. He then returned to focus on those beautiful eyes of Vala's.

"Stop it, Vala," he said very calmly, in a voice that was inaudible to everyone else in the room as they slowly crept out of the lounge. "Who gave you permission to carry burdens like that on your own? I sure as hell didn't, and I'm sure Commander Horn didn't either. You've gone this entire time, living with memories of a life that no longer exists - of a man that has clearly betrayed you. You struggled to be so strong against impossible odds when you didn't have to be.

"Don't you get it? Infiltrator or not, you're still a member of Cerberus. Last time I checked, Cerberus is humanity, and if humans were meant to help each other - to show each other compassion, humility, and generosity - then why do you insist on forcing yourself in the opposite direction?"

Titus placed gently clasped Vala's hand in his own, turning her palm upward. Carefully, he placed the ring in her palm and closed her fingers around it. "You have a choice, Vala. You always have a choice. We can help you overcome whatever your are burdened with: be it biotics, memories, guilt... pride. But you have to let us help you."

The ring was heavy in her hand, as she stared down at the fist that enclosed it. “You don’t know him, Commander. You don’t know Ben.” The words were quiet, barely a whisper, but the empty lounge made it crystal clear all the same. Her shoulders sagged, all the energy that had burned so hotly in her veins having vanished with the anger, replaced by the exhaustion, and humiliation.

She looked solemnly to the empty lounge, remembering the fun the crew had been having before…this. “You should get the crew back to their festivities. They did good today.” Tucking the ring inside her pocket, Vala glanced back at the man, eyes puffed slightly but she still managed to summon up some of her composure. “We all have burdens we need to carry ourselves, Commander…but thank you for the offer, and the drink.” She quieted for a moment, eyes drifting to the counter in thought. “Maybe we’ll have another some time. If you’ll excuse me, I…I need some rest.”
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:27 am

Tia sat in her room for a good half hour getting her head back on straight. She still felt she had to introduce herself to Commander Titus as soon as possible. By now, he should have had time to talk to Vala and Tia might as well take her lumps sooner rather than later.

She stood, but didn't bother re-braiding her hair. She probably wouldn't need to put on a helmet again this soon. At least, she hoped not. Stepping out into the hallway, she decided to head to the mess. She figured most people would be there or in the recreational area with the bar. She didn't need the overly loud atmosphere of the bar.

It was clear upon entering that the cooks had decided to pull out all the stops. It smelled like heaven. Which meant it smelled like bacon. And Coffee.

Across the mess hall, John had entered completely recomposed from the emotional moment he had so foolishly forced on Vala. Any of the mission success cheer on his face before was almost gone, but he still held his head high as he walked amongst the men and women of his crew. Speaking of women, he saw Tia St. Jean in the small crowd as well. He wasn't sure why, but she simply stood out from the rest. The composure, the body language... it was different: more bold, more disciplined.

The commander weaved around a small group of shipmates talking amongst themselves and headed towards Tia. The operative had, by now, made her way up to the serving line. Her eyes were focused on the fine, sizzling strips of bacon. Without drawing attention to himself, John plucked a tray from the end of the line and stepped in next to Tia.

"That's real pig, too," he said with a grin.

Tia inhaled deeply, not aware yet who had just addressed her. "Yeah, I know. I'm going to ask the cook to marry me." She joked. Looking up, she started slightly. "Oh. Commander!" She looked slightly sheepish, then saluted. "I've been looking for you, actually." She didn't fuss with the slightly too large uniform like some younger Operatives might have. Instead, she offered her right hand, "Thanks for giving me a ride. I appreciate it."

John took Tia's hand with a gentleman's grace, shaking only twice before allowing her to have it back. He noted that the Tia had a strong grip, and that told him that she was a very strong woman. "It's my pleasure," he replied to her thanks. "Oh, and, you don't have to salute aboard the Vindicator. While I'll gladly return one, the gesture is optional." Having said that, he stuck to his words and gave a firm salute back.

Tia worked her way down the line, having a plate made up for her as she picked favorites she hadn't seen in a long time. "I didn't actually die, did I?" She asked comically. Glancing up at the taller Commander, she shrugged. "Been a while since I had it this nice. Can I stay?"

John thought for a moment about the question. Technically she was a member of Commander Horn's crew, and he didn't know a single thing about the woman. If she was like Vala, then it really didn't matter, but if she was simply an officer of the Titan, then her orders were there, not on the Vindicator. "We'll see, Miss St. Jean. That decision will be up to Commander Horn, unless there are... other parameters concerning your rank and mission with Cerberus. For instance, Operative Buchan can freely transition from vessel to vessel as she pleases because she had a specific duty requiring her to do so. Are you an operative for Commander Horn? Or an operative for the Illusive Man? And, if I may ask...what did you mean when you said 'I didn't actually die...'?"

Tia laughed softly at Titus' inquiry. "Sorry. I was just trying for a joke. If the Vindicator always serves this kind of food, then this isn't heaven after all." She lead the way to a table that recently opened up and sat down before answering his other questions, "Actually? I was assigned to Commander Horn by The Illusive Man directly. Although, for the life of me, I don't know what his plan was. I'm damned good at what I do, and I've been around a good long time, but obviously I'm not in the loop completely at this point. My guess is something will come up later that Horn will need me for."

Tia sipped gratefully on her coffee. "God....that's good. Frankly? I figure I just have to survive long enough for Horn to need me."

Titus took a sip of his coffee and then asked, "And what is it exactly that you can do, Miss St. Jean?"

"Well, to hear me talk about it, I'm the best damned Tech Operative around." She offered a chuckle, "And usually to hear other people tell the story, it's far more interesting. I improvise well, play well with others and so far, I'm immortal."

She had noted Titus' apparent lack of recognition of her name. "I'm the St. Jean that survived Shanxi and came out of it with a synthetic left arm, Commander," she explained. "Commander Horn found out the hard way." She sobered after that, "They made it out OK, I heard?"

"Uhm... yes, they did," John replied, still taken aback that the young-looking woman in front of him had been at the Battle of Shanxi nearly thirty years ago. Advancements in medical and nutritional science brought about an era of increased longevity in humans. Many women in their late sixties can still retain the appearance they had in their thirties or early forties. But for a soldier, the retention of youthful appearances wasn't as strong. Tia St. Jean appeared to have seen very little combat, even with the commander sitting direction across from her.

Then the name clicked. He had remembered Veronica going on and on about a particular Tia whoever one day. She had stumbled across a medical report in the Cerberus databases that had told of a survivor from the Shanxi occupation that had been in cryo-stasis for years. Veronica had found it so fascinating that she had talked John's ear off for nearly an hour about most fall into unbreakable comas for being in cryo-stasis for any longer than six months.

Commander Titus pushed the thoughts from his mind, not wanting to seem rude in front of his guest. He changed the topic back to her original question, concerning her stay about the Vindicator. "Well... if you answer to the Illusive Man directly, then I suppose it's up to you on which Omni ship you want to transfer your orders to. In theory, the commanders of this cell are supposed to be working together as a team. Thus, in the long run, I honestly don't think it matters where you choose to sleep. Horn and I are bound to cross paths sometime again very soon."

John stood up from the table and took his half-empty tray in both hands. He nodded a fair adieu to Tia, saying, "Ma'am," and turned around to leave. His next stop would be to check in on the survivors they had rescued from the Hephaestus. Dr. Rikers would be the first in line for that particular task. If Veronica was already finished checking her vitals, she would more than likely be on the very deck John was already on. It was just a matter of finding her now.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:34 am

“Contact with Chekan has been made, sir.”

“And?” The Illusive Man released a breath of smoke, before snuffing the remains of his cigarette in the ashtray on his chair’s arm.

“He’s agreed. We simply need to contact him once all the other arrangements have been made.” The hologram was of a well dressed man, with short auburn hair buzzed close to his head for comfort and ease of grooming. His eyes were a simple brown, but sparked with mischief as he smiled the kind of smile only a businessman could. Taking a moment to fix one of the cufflinks on his suit, the caller spoke again. “Tracked him down on Daratar. Somehow he’d managed to land a civilian shuttle in the middle of a sandstorm. I’ll be shaking sand out of my suit for months to come.”

“Excellent work, Keagan.” The man bowed low to his employer, although it was slightly difficult to tell if it was out of respect or a mocking salute. “The Trafford twins are next.”

Keagan rose from his bow, raising a perfectly groomed eyebrow at the Illusive Man. “Trafford? As in Damien Trafford? Isn’t that the one in C-Sec custody, if memory serves? I didn’t know he had a brother.” A lone agent entered the room, quickly pouring the Illusive Man a drink before departing back into the shadows.

“He doesn’t. His sister works as a mercenary out in the Terminus Systems. She has a partner, Martin Grien. Get them both.” The enigmatic Cerberus boss took a slow sip of his drink, before continuing. “As for Damien, simply…inform the proper channels that we’re willing to pay quite well should he…vanish during a routine transfer.”

The hologram chuckled. “As elegant and effective as always, sir. If a bit risky.” The shadowed man said nothing, and Keagan continued. “Forgive me for saying so, but you are making quite the high risk bet. What if it doesn’t pan out?”

The Illusive Man smiled, finishing off the last of his drink. “Salvation comes with a cost.” Setting the glass aside, he rose and crossed the darkened room, until he was standing just before the sharp dressed figure. “I’m confident.”

“I’d expect nothing less, sir. Just being cautious is all.” They were silent for a moment, simple gauging each other from looks alone. As always, Keagan buckled first. “You win. I’ll get all three.”

“I’d expect nothing less.” He reached inside his pocket, retrieving the lighter within. “I’ll wire some credits to your accounts. Do what you need to.” Lighting a fresh cigarette, he took a slow drag, before blowing a cloud straight through the hologram. “And treat yourself to a new suit, on me.”

“My pleasure, sir.” The hologram vanished, and the Illusive Man turned to return to his seat, only for the quantum entanglement to start up again, another call coming in. Before long, the holographic form of Vala Buchan appeared, and she stared quietly at his back.

“Vala.”

“Titus will report soon, sir.”

“You’re back aboard the Vindicator then.” He took a breath of his cigarette, still not facing the woman. “You only call when necessary, Vala.” It was an invitation to speak her mind, but she didn’t take it, not yet. He turned calmly, the ever perfect look of neutrality on his face. “What is it?”

“The Hephaestus was destroyed, sir.”

“An expected consequence of the Collector attack.”

“They didn’t destroy it.” She was beating around the bush, and they both knew it. He didn’t respond, instead forcing his operative to answer. “It was Commander Slatton, sir.”

“So, he’s taken the offensive. Not entirely unexpected.”

Vala was quiet for a moment. “So why weren’t we informed?” The air ‘between’ them was thick with silence, as the Illusive Man calmly took a breath from cigarette. “You knew he was out there. You knew and you left us in the dark?” Her voice shook, barely containing the anger inside. “We almost died in there!”

“Is that what you’re truly worried about, Vala?” The pointed question cut deep, and she flinched as if struck. “You’ve know as long as I have that Slatton is hostile to Cerberus. His appearance, while unexpected, shouldn’t be a surprise.”

“How did he even know about Hephaestus?”

“Commander Slatton was a skilled operative. I trusted him with a great deal of information.” He looked to her, and his gaze cut through the weak charade of control. “What’s the real reason you contacted me?” She diverted her eyes, unable to meet her employer’s all knowing gaze. It didn’t stop him, and he crossed the floor to retake his seat. “You’ve operated alone for almost two years, Vala. I’d be a fool if I didn’t expect there to be chafing under new command.”

“Sir…”

He held up a hand for silence, flicking the ash from his cigarette. “You are to remain with Omni Cell. Give them a chance, Vala, and you might find you can learn from them as well.” She nodded slowly, clearly not pleased, but willing to listen. “As for Benjamin…now that he’s taken action against us, we can’t afford to be idle any longer. He needs to be found and dealt with.”

“Of course.”

The haptic interface appeared on his chair, and his finger hovered over the key for a moment. “I want you to be ready when the time comes, Vala. You’re his protégé. No one else is more equipped to face him than you.” The Illusive Man seemed to smile for the briefest of moments. “You possess a rare determination, Vala. Every limit you’ve ever known, you’ve tried to surpass. Dig deep enough, and you may just surprise yourself.”

He cut the call.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The silence of the lift left her to stew in her thoughts, at the Illusive Man’s enigmatic parting words, and his promise of what was to come. Face to face with Ben. Shaking her head quietly, the operative focused on making it to her room awake. Last thing she needed was passing out on the lift and being stumbled upon by someone. Especially Tia.

The lift opened, and she quickly crossed to her room, pausing when she caught a soft flash of colour by the foot of it. Stooping low, she picked up the small flower and cradled the petals gently in her palm. “An orchid…” Looking about the hall, it was as deserted as a derelict. Sighing softly, the door opened with a hiss, and she stepped inside. The previous bouquet was still alive, although she doubted it had much left to it. Tucking the fragile bloom into the center, Vala smiled at the display. It still didn’t answer who was leaving her the presents.

“Might have to talk with Braden…” A pain from her ribs shut the thought right out. “Sleep first.” Climbing into the bed, she lay quietly, before slowly slipping into a dreamless, but peaceful sleep.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:29 pm

Lizzy sat with her hands clasped together and her head bowed in solemn silence. Sitting only two feet away on the same sofa in his quarters, Braden couldn't take his curious eyes off of the girl. After her mother, Dr. Rikers, had been checked and cleared by Veronica in the medical bay, Braden offered to show Lizzy around the ship. After visiting the mess hall to grab dinner and chat with some of the other crew members of the Vindicator, he had the risky idea to show her his room. She was... cute; but he felt himself blushing every time her adolescent beauty came to mind. They had the same auburn hair, and same hazel eyes. Though they were common traits to have in this era, it just seemed too much of a coincidence to him.

Or maybe it was the rush of being thrown into a military operation, and nearly killing someone several days ago that had knocked his common sense loose. To his knowledge, he and Lizzy barely had a thing in common. She was raised as a spacer, he was a colonist. She had a mother, and more family back home on Earth. He was an orphan whose parents were slaughtered by geth, and then raised in captivity for a year.

"What's wrong?" he finally asked her, breaking the awkward silence that had gripped the room.

Without lifting her head, or even opening her eyes, she quietly said, "I'm praying."

Braden raised a brow. He knew what "praying" was on an intellectual level - being the solemn communication between one individual and his or her deity - but it was also his understanding that the religions of humanity had been watered down to nothing but the persistent ramblings of fanatics. He never remembered being raised in a religious family. Most of the colonies had no such establishments; in fact, after Admiral Jon Grissom lead humanity into interstellar travel, the first colonists were those in search of an escape from religious persecution, or even the evidence to prove that gods and goddesses were nothing but pure superstition.

After first contact was made with the turians and the rest of the galactic community, Earth's religious leaders quickly began adjusting their belief systems in a desperate attempt to fit the very idea of aliens into their agendas. Others tried to deny that Grissom ever accomplished such a feat and that the entire First Contact War was just a conspiracy, like the first lunar landing. Even since the discovery of the Prothean ruins on Mars, Earth's religious community had run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to explain (or deny) the existence of extraterrestrial life.

"What are you praying about?" he asked, instinctively keeping his voice to just above a whisper so as to not disturb her unnecessarily.

She actually glanced up at him this time, but instead of a scornful glare for his interruptions, she surprised him with a genuine smile. "What do you want me to pray about?"

The question had blindsided him. "Uhm... what?"

"Here," she said and grabbed both of his hands with her own. Her warm, gentle fingers placed his palms together and she held them there. Her body moved closer to his on the sofa until the strands of her banes brushed against the mess of his own hair.




"I thought we were going to hold off on something like this until after we accomplish the mission," Veronica said as she lay on the mattress, cuddled up against John. They were both relaxing in the captain's quarters on the first deck, gazing up through the ceiling's massive view port.

John's fingers danced through her fine hair as his eyes fluttered against his body's demand for sleep and his desire to stay awake just a bit longer to savor every second he had with Veronica. He drew in a deep, tired breath, fighting back a yawn, and said, "I changed my mind."

Veronica turned over on the bed to face him with a small, cute smile. Her hand reached up between their tightly closed bodies and her index finger bopped the end of his nose only slightly to tease him. "And I'm glad you did."

Sleep beckoned him once more from the lack of movement and the comfort of the pillow beneath his head. John turned his eyes toward up toward the view port against to gaze out at the vastness of space and the dancing waves of the refracted cerulean light against the window. The effect cast several shadows in the darkened room, further complimented by the glow of the aquarium that made up most of the floor. In the dark, the captain's cabin had to be the most enchanting of all the chambers aboard the Vindicator, giving one an almost astral impression upon walking from one end to the other.

When all hope seemed lost and John thought he was surely going into give in to the demands of his exhaustion, a shadow covered across his view of the ceiling’s light show. He recognized Veronica’s hair dangling down around the figure, and felt her hands across his chest.

“Wake up sleepyhead,” she teased.

John smiled in the darkness and replied, “Oh, I’m awake now…”




The scene behind the Illusive Man this time was nothing like Titus had ever scene before, though he had heard of such anomalies from his encounters with other spacers. Two bright, white stars sat in the background, one slightly smaller than it's larger twin. The smaller star seemed to trapped in the orbit of the larger, and it was a mystery how the two could remain so stable despite the near physical improbability of such an oddity. The white light cast a new feel across the still dark room of his employer's office. Though, as always, everything else around him (if there even was anything else to begin with) was completely shrouded in shadow, save for the spot at which he sat.

"Get tired of the last view?" Titus asked, opening the conversation with small talk.

No cigarette rested in the Man's hand this time, rather a glass of scotch or whiskey - John was unable to tell the exact concoction at his distance through the communicator. His boss replied after taking a quick swig of the glass' contents. "I've pondered all I had to ponder if front of the last one. I believe two stars will present me with more enticing moments. How are you feeling?"

John briefly thought of the precious hours he had shared with Veronica two nights ago, and the continued down-time after that with the rest of his ship's crew. Since debriefing the Illusive Man on the last mission, he had not been needed in the Vindicator's briefing room, but this time he had been summoned once again to answer the call of the galaxy. How was he feeling? Rested, excited, and ready to get back in the fight to protect humanity. But those were words for the Sunday school Cerberus operative; not Commander Titus.

"Ecstatic," John replied with a faint smirk parsing his lips.

"Good," the Man said placing his glass down on the arm of his chair, "because you're going to need stay motivated for this next mission."

"I'm listening."

"I hate to do this to you again, Commander, but we've received another distress beacon. This time, on the very far rim of the galaxy; far out past the Artemus Tau systems."

"You're kidding me," John said, crossing his arms over his chest. "First Eden Prime, then Hephaestus, and now this?"

The Illusive Man didn't share the same opinion as Titus. He stood up from his seat and walked half way across the room over to the projection of his communicator. "I know you think this all is very far-fetched, Titus. But this one is more serious than the last two. One of our ships came into direct conflict with a Collector vessel. We believe it to be the same vessel that directed the attack on the Hephaestus station. Both ships are in critical condition, and I've got precious Cerberus cargo just floating out in deep space. This is a timed-response, Commander, and the seconds are counting away... fast. Are we clear?"

"Send the coordinates to EDI," Titus said with a much more disciplined tone this time. "I'll have Darcy plot the quickest course possible. What kind of cargo are we talking about?"

The Illusive Man, in all his billionaire swagger, made his way back to his seat and plucked his glass from the arm. He brought the rim to his lips, but before taking a sip, said, "Human cargo."




The surge rippling throughout the bulk of the Vindicator was felt beneath John's feat at the helm as he stood immediately behind Darcy, suited in full armor with his helmet at his side. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust after the dazzling effect of the warped light waves against the helm's glass arch, but the image before him was completely unmistakable.

"What the... fuck?" was all he could manage to asked aloud as the rest of the crewmen behind him fell silent.

A battered, heavily damaged and powerless SIC Titan floated before him in a debris field caused by an intense ship-to-ship battle. Even more disturbing, though, was the massive hive-like Collector vessel floating on the other side. Both ships were cruiser-class war machines, but the Titan had still been clearly outmatched. Regardless, if anyone of Commander Jason Horn's crew was still alive - including the ballsy idiot, himself - it would be up to the Vindicator team to pull their asses out of the frying pan.

Titus spun around on heel, silently cursing the Illusive Man for being too vague in his explanation of the "human cargo" he was stressing about. "EDI," he said aloud, "please give me some good news."

The AI's synthetic female voice responded without delay. "I am detecting a multitude of human signatures in the Titan's combat information center on the second deck. It appears the survivor's of Commander Horn's crew have barricade themselves there. Few other human signatures have been detected elsewhere. I am not reading Commander Horn's personal signature anywhere aboard the Titan, however... dead or alive. A kodiak shuttle is missing from the Titan's shuttle bay."

John stopped mid way through his own CIC. "You're telling me the son of a bitch took the fight to them?"

"Judging by Commander Horn's track record, sir, it comes at no surprise. ... That is a joke."

"Thank you, Miss Seinfeld. I want Operatives Buchan, St. Jean, and Taylor up here immediately - full battle rattle and ready to go. Darcy...."

"Yeah, Commander?" his helmsman's voice chimed in over the intercom.

"Take us in through the debris field. Dock with the Titan."

"No can do, sir. There's too much shit in the area. Docking with the SIC Titan is impossible. Only the Kodiak can navigate through all that mess."

John stood there where he was for a moment in complete silence. The revelation that Darcy had just offered was not one he had wanted to hear, but he never doubted his helmsman... not once. If Darcy said it couldn't be done, it couldn't be done. That meant the several survivor's aboard the Titan wouldn't be able to walk aboard the Vindicator so easily. This rescue mission just became a lot more complicated...
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Digital Muse on Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:38 pm

The morning after leaving the Hephaestus Station, Tia slept late. She'd lain awake for hours pouring over the problem of her personal little tweak to handle Biotics. The work she'd done on her own over the past few months had been highly successful, but perhaps she needed a bit of an expert's touch. She'd nearly fried herself the first time she'd tried using it after all. She'd nodded off, still toying with ideas well into the early morning hours. She stumbled into the shower and let the water wash away the grogginess before heading to a late breakfast.

Tia worked her way through the chow line rewarding the cook with a brilliantly white smile when he gave her an extra few pieces of bacon. Heading to a table in the half empty mess, she sat down and had a life-giving sip form her coffee. So engrossed in her breakfast was she, that Tia didn't hear the ship's Doctor, Veronica Porter sit across from her. When Tia opened her eyes again, the woman was simply there, grinning at her. A quick glance identified the woman across from her as the Medical Officer, so Tia grinned back, "Hi."

Veronica chuckled, sipping her own coffee, "Hi. I'm Dr. Porter. Veronica." She offered her hand. "Tia St. Jean, if my records are correct?"

"Guilty as charged." Tia acknowledged. "Is everyone alright from the station? They had a hell of a ride."

Veronica nodded, "Bumps bruises, a broken collar bone and a bit of angina, but not bad, considering. Amazingly lucky, in all honestly." Veronica paused and leaned her elbows onto the table between them. "But, let's talk about you for a minute. I happen to know a bit about you, Miss St. Jean. I studied cryo-sickness in my internships and naturally your case was part of my curriculum."

"Saint." Tia corrected the Doctor automatically. "I have a feeling you want me to play lab rat, don't you?"

"Actually? No. Well, yes. But not the way you think." Veronica pulled up a file on her omni tool. "The Titan's EDI traded files per protocols with our own when in proximity at the station. Because of that, I have the details of your synthetic arm and the experimental Biotic shield interrupter you're working on."

Tia's brows rose slightly as Veronica spoke. She was surprised news had traveled so quickly. "Oh...yeah. It's still pretty shaky, I'm afraid. Why?" She was curious why the woman had approached her with this. It certainly wasn't medical related.

"You see, we happen to have a very gifted Biotic aboard the Vindicator named Braden. I wondered if you might be willing to work with him to see if your interrupter can't be refined." Veronica offered the file on Braden along with the a basic introduction to the ship's Engineer and his assistant.

Tia glanced at the file briefly and started when she saw Braden's age. "Dear god! He's just a kid!" Her eyes catch the Doctor's gaze, "What on Earth is that boy doing out here?"

Veronica held up her hands to forestall Tia's outrage. "He was rescued and asked to come with us. Given his immense potential, the Commander agreed." She stood, taking her cup with her. "Talk to Tony or Dianna down in Engineering to get the kinks worked out and maybe Braden will help you test it out. He could use something to feel like he's contributing more."
_______________________________________________________________________________

Still disturbed from her talk with the ship's doctor, Tia headed to Engineering. Stepping into the space, she immediately spotted Tony Sullivan. He looked up curiously when someone he didn't recognize entered his domain.

His calm, slightly accented voice queried, "Hello? Is there something I can help you with?"

Tia was charmed at Tony's faint British accent. She'd never heard a human with any sort of accent before. Smiling, she nodded, "I hope so. I have an idea. I've got most of it worked out but my particular biology and synthetic interfaces have got me a bit stuck."

The look of intrigue was all Tia needed to know that she had the Engineer hooked. "Really? Well, that is an interesting puzzle, isn't it? Let's see what you have thus far, shall we?"

Tia grinned, explaining how she'd worked out that since a biotic barrier ran on electrical currents and a brain also ran on electrical currents, if one could interrupt, or overload the electrical currents in the brain that is controlling a biotic barrier, it could, theoretically, interfere their biotics. She explained that the current, if calibrated correctly, might disrupt the eezo nodes.

The engineer considered it, slowly thinking it through. "Slow-moving attacks can get through the biotic shield. But, you have to be within hand to hand distance to do this."
Tia nodded her head, "Yeah. I know. I've tried it once and it worked. Sort of. The problem that I have is that when you start messing with electrical currents, you can possibly just fry everything. Including me. I almost lost my arm all over again."

Sullivan's brows raised in curiosity while she explained her synthetic arm and how she used it with her far from standard-issue omni tool aboard the Blue Suns ship to interrupt the Biotic shield of one of the captives. And he immediately was engrossed in the problem.

The passage of the remainder of the day and nearly the entire next night were lost on both Tia and Sullivan because they were so caught up in the complexities of the shield interrupter she'd been working on. Veronica wandered in twice to share her knowledge and to chide them into eating and resting, but mostly, she was ignored.

It was only through the direct intervention of EDI and Dianna that forced the two nearly punch-drunk engineers back to their own quarters after working almost 18 hours straight. Tia literally fell onto her bed, fully clothed and was asleep before she hit the pillow.
_____________________________________________________________________________

Even though Tia had crashed hard the previous night, or early morning as the case might be, she was still up early filled with the energy that only a new project can give one. She rushed through breakfast, looking for the young boy to come into the mess at some point to save her having to track him down. But, he evidently wasn't an early riser. Filling a pair of coffee cups and building an enormous plate of food on a tray, Tia headed out to find Braden's room. A quick query from EDI pointed her in the right direction and soon she found herself in front of his door. Buzzing him several times to allow the kid to wake up and dress.

It took several long minutes before she heard anything coming from the other side of the smooth door. But, suddenly, the door hissed open smartly and a boy with messy light brown hair stepped out quickly, his t-shirt on inside out and the door hiss shut once more. "We just fell aslee...!" He stopped in mid-sentence. He looked startled and out of breath when he found a complete stranger outside his door.

The corner of Tia's lips quirked up at Braden's obvious embarrassment. "Hi. Braden? My name's Tia. Sorry to have woken you." She paused and looked him over, "Should I come back in a few minutes?" She could barely hide her amusement. "Dr. Porter thought you could give me a hand on a project I'm working on."

Braden's eyes were everywhere but on Tia. Mostly they flit from the breakfast tray to the door to his room, down the hall and back to the door again. His cheeks looked as if they were on fire. "Uh...maybe...I need to clean up." He murmured softly.

Tia took pity on the kids. "Fair enough." She handed him the tray then added, "Half hour. And your friend should probably head back too."

Braden's eyes shot open wide and somehow, his cheeks flamed an even deeper crimson. "But nothing happened! I swear."

Tia just grinned, "Doesn't matter to me." She headed back to the mess for a cup of her own. "Half hour." She reminded him.
______________________________________________________________________________

While in the mess, Tia felt the all-too-familiar thrum of the ship's engines taking the Vindicator to FTL. That meant another mission. Her guess was confirmed when EDI called her, Vala and the ship's SiC to join the Commander if full battle gear. She left the mess immediately, her mind already cataloging what she'd take and precisely where it was in her new accommodations. Less than 15 minutes later, she was staring out the view screen at the battered Titan and Collector cruiser. "Holy..."

"Shit" Vala finished for her.


Last edited by Digital Muse on Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Guilty Carrion on Fri Dec 09, 2011 3:47 am

For once, she’d managed to sleep in. Slowly sitting up, Vala glanced at the small holographic clock on the nightstand, surprised to see she’d managed eight hours. Fumbling lazily for the bottle of painkillers, she groaned as her ribs ached and the blessed meds continued to defy her. Tipping the small bottle into her hands, the operative swallowed one of the pills, before lifting herself from the bed.

Her body ached, as she wearily crossed the room and sank into the oh so comfortable chair. For a moment, she leaned back, considering what to do with her day. It had been a while since there had been any down time, and the urge to work was quietly subdued today. Tapping gently against the numerous bruises on her toned body, Vala was pleased to find most of them were beginning to dull away.

“I’ll pass on the med-bay then, but…” She paused, glancing over at the armour stand that held the Nyx, eyes familiarizing themselves with every detail of the pristine armour. Learning about her new suit was high priority, and as far as she was aware, the scientists that had worked on its development where still on board. She tapped into the comms. “Darcy, I need a favour.”

“I’m sorry, Darcy is unable to come to the chair right now, how may I help you?” She blinked once in surprise.

“Williams, why are you on the Helmsman’s channel?”

There was a snicker, before he responded. “He had to go to the can, and you can’t very well leave the helm unattended, so I’m keeping his chair warm.” She sighed, and a sound of mock offence came over the comm. “Hey, I’m just as capable as Darcy. What can I do for you, Miss Buchan?”

“Right…” She didn’t really have many options. “We haven’t dropped off the scientists from the Hephaestus yet, have we? I was hoping to speak with one of them about the Nyx armour.”

“Nope. I’ll round up one of the eggheads and bring him down.”

“Thank you, Williams.” She cut the channel, still watching the prototype out of the corner of her eye. Idly, she pondered putting her hair up but decided against it. Her terminal flashed to life on command, and a silent alert told her about its last usage. Someone had been snooping it seemed.

“Miss Buchan, Officer Williams is at the door.” EDI stated, and the operative lazily waved her hand. Moments later, the door hissed open, and the Battery Officer entered with a grin.

“I brought coffee!” Vala glanced up from the terminal, and offered a humourless smile. “Wasn’t sure how you liked it, so I brought it plain.” He held it out, and the operative took it with a murmured thanks. They were quiet for a moment, before Lance leaned lightly on the wall, and sipped at his coffee. “So, trying out a new look, Miss Buchan?”

Vala took a long drink, before setting the cup down on the desk. “Just don’t feel like putting my hair up today, Williams.” She raised a brow, half frowning at him. “You complaining or something?”

“Of course not! Just curious is all.”

“Curiosity killed the cat, Williams.”

“Satisfaction brought him back.” Vala chuckled. “Call me Lance, Ma’am. Sounds too formal if you keep calling me Williams.” The door hissed open, revealing the younger scientist from the Hephaestus. “Looks good, by the way.” Vala stiffened at the whispered compliment, but gave little outward sign she’d even heard it.

“Operative Buchan.” The scientist nodded his head quickly in greeting. “I’m glad to see you made it safely off the station. Did you…” She motioned to the armour stand, and the man’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas. “The Nyx prototype! Marvellous!” He hurried to the suit, examining every inch with an almost parental affection. Lance snickered beneath his breath, whilst Vala stuck to a simple look of disbelief. “Miss Buchan, I cannot truly thank you enough for this!”

“It was nothing.” Aside from incredibly damaging to her relationship with both Commander Horn and Tia. “If it can do what you described, then it was more than worth the risks.” She laced her fingers in front of her, and a grim look settled across her features. “Assuming it can of course live up to it’s billing.”

The scientist turned quickly, his face a mixture of disbelief and wounded pride. “Ma’am, I will have you know I have the utmost confidence in my creation. It simply needs field testing. Does this ship have any biotics?”

“I’m a biotic.” Lance remained quiet throughout the exchange, casually sipping his coffee as the two exchanged words. “I wore the Nyx off the station.”

“You didn’t have a chance to test it?”

“I couldn’t. I’m an L3. The suit was kind enough to inform me of that once it was done digging around the back of my head.”

“The suit opened your head up?!” Lance straightened, but the scientist silenced any further protest with a rough scoff.

“It doesn’t open the head. It simply links itself to the amp of any biotics who use the armour, along with most of the spine column to ensure proper usage of the dark energy. We brought in several brilliant doctors to ensure there would be no harmful effects, and that the suit could interface harmlessly with its user.”

“A wise safety precaution.” Vala shot Lance a look, and slowly, the Battery Officer returned to his leaning position, although he didn’t look as comfortable as he did before. “Why is the Nyx limited to in the amps it links to? Wouldn’t versatility be more useful to Cerberus?”

“In a normal circumstance, I’d agree with you, Operative Buchan. The Nyx, however, is a special case. The pulse system it utilizes has an incredibly taxing effect on the user. According to all of the initial readings, anything under an L5x will simply overload from the stress, which can, in more severe cases, lead to fatality.” The scientist looked back to the armour, quietly staring at the curious design on the helmet.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” So the Nyx was useless to her. Dammit! “Well, if that’s the situation, the Nyx is free to leave with you. With luck, you’ll find someone capable of field testing it at the new facility.”

Lance coughed, drawing both their gazes. “If it needs an L5x, but you don’t have one…” He paused, weighing his own words for a moment. “You could always upgrade, Vala.”

The scientist snorted. “Are you mad? Those surgeries have a higher death toll than success rate. Besides, where would she even go to get such a procedure performed, hm?” Lance scowled, clearly not fond of the egghead.

“To the tech lab. We’ve got Professor Terrance Sinclair in there. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? You know the one who worked for the Jon Grissam Academy? I hear he’s a pretty big deal.”

“Professor Sinclair? On this very ship?” The scientist wasted no time, climbing to his feet and hurrying to the front of the desk, flicking his eyes between the two. “If he’s speaking the truth, Miss Buchan, then your odds of surviving the operation just astronomically increased!”

Vala was mostly quiet, but she managed to find her voice. “To what?”

“A 50/50 chance! Those odds are almost unheard of!” He clasped her hands, practically shaking with excitement. “This is perfect! You’re a field operative and an infiltrator as well, judging by your build! With the L5x installed, you’d be the perfect candidate to test the Nyx!” She wasn’t given a chance to protest, as the man quickly crossed to the threshold. “I’ll go speak with Professor Sinclair about the arrangements immediately! Make sure the Nyx gets to the armoury so it can be re-sized!” The door hissed shut behind him, leaving a stunned Vala and Lance alone in the room.

“He’s…excitable.” Lance rubbed his neck awkwardly, pushing off the wall and turning to face the silent blonde fully. “You know you don’t have to go through with it, right? I was just pitching out ideas. It’s just a suit, right? Why risk your life for it?” When she didn’t respond, he sighed, moving towards the door. “Look, I’ll go grab him. It was a stupid idea in the first place.”

“That won’t be necessary, Lance.” Raising the coffee to her lips, she gave it a slow sip, before setting it aside once again. “The odds are excellent, and the payoff is the Nyx. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.” She tucked her hands beneath the table, hiding the shaking limbs from his concerned gaze.

“Are you sure, Ma’am?”

She nodded, offering a brilliant smile to set him at ease. “I’m positive, Lance. Thank you for bringing him to me, and for the coffee.” She raised the cup he had set down on the desk up, motioning for him to come get it. Once the Officer took it, she clinked her glass against his, and took another swig. “I prefer my coffee black, for future reference.”

He chuckled, taking a slow sip of his own. “I’m a creamer man myself, if you ever get the urge to bring me a cup.” They finished their drinks in companionable silence, and Lance took the cup from her once she was done. “I best get back to my duties. Titus will have my hide if I don’t get my work done.”

Vala smiled, although it was likely the first true one she’d ever given him. “We can’t have that, now can we?”

“I can take Titus, no sweat! I’d just rather not deal with the fallout or Dr. Porter once she gets her hands on me.”

“Then next time you step out of line, I’ll discipline you myself.”

“Looking forward to it, Ma’am.” The cocky grin made her blush, but she found herself fighting back a snicker at the Battery Officer’s joke. She failed to notice his grin stretching wider at the success of the joke.

“Get to your duties, Lance.” He mock saluted, before heading towards the door. She cleared her throat. “And I suppose you can call me Vala.”

Lance froze in his tracks, looking back at her as if she’d grown a second head. “Ma’am?” Vala hid her blush by diverting her gaze to the Nyx.

“The ma’am makes me feel old, Lance. Don’t make me regret it.” Before he could respond, EDI shut the door promptly in his face, leaving the Battery Officer alone with his whirlwind of thoughts.

On the other side, Vala sighed. “Thanks, EDI.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Buchan.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rest of the down time had been spent quietly resting, reviewing mission logs, and doing everything she could to keep herself occupied and not thinking about the events of the days past. A brief visit to the med-bay had confirmed her ribs were healing well, despite the constant stress. A few more days of painkillers, and the fractures would have begun healing enough for her to be back at full speed. The Nyx was in the armoury being resized; although Keown assured her it wouldn’t take him long at all to make the proper adjustments. The scientist, whom she’d learnt was named Rhodes (Professor Rhodes, he often insisted) had been hunched over Keown’s back the entire time, so she doubted it was going smoothly.

Sitting at her desk, Vala spun the knife on its tip, ignoring the scratches and marks it left on her once unblemished workspace. It had become her favourite past time in the rare moments of peace she gave herself, just watching the blade dance and glitter in the light. She’d call it therapeutic, but playing with knives didn’t strike her as the healthiest thing to relax.

EDI’s page cut through the ship, and Vala looked at the viewport beside her curiously. She’d know soon enough, she supposed. Wasting no extra time, she board the lift, knife clutched tightly in her hand. The armoury door hissed open, and Keown looked to her with a knowing smile. “Just in time, ma’am. No time for the small adjustments. They’ll just have to wait till you get back.” The armour sat ready, and Vala pulled it on without hesitation, ignoring the pinpricks of pain as it once again linked with her body and amp. It fit much better, snug enough to avoid jostling, but not tight enough to restrict her movement. Keown grinned. “I did a quick check on the visor decal, Ma’am. It’s a jaguar. Perfect animal for an infiltrator.”

“I’ll take your word on it, Operative.” Vala turned to leave as the armour finished its last few powering cycles, but Keown stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “What?”

“No offence, Ma’am, but I think you’re gonna need a little more bite than your standard today.” He nodded towards one of the racks, and pulled down a rather blocky, brown rifle. “M-96 Mattock. All the fun of an assault rifle with the punch of a sniper rifle. I figured it’d be right up your alley. It’s semi-auto, so don’t try to spray and pray.”

She took the Mattock, taking a moment to get accustomed to the rifle’s weight, before attaching it to the magnetic clip on her back. “Thanks.” The armourer nodded, and Vala stepped out into the CIC. She approached Commander Titus and Tia, only to catch a glimpse of the scene before them.

She heard Tia mutter “Holy…”

“Shit.” Her external speakers crackled slightly, and she turned away from the image of the battered Titan. “I left all my things on the Titan, and he drags it into a pissing match with the Collectors.”
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:53 pm

"There won't be any field trips this time, Vala," Titus commented as he approached the three from behind, fastening his helmet and flicking down the slate-black visor to cover his face. "Listen up: Horn is more than likely aboard the Collector vessel on the far side. The Titan is in peril, probably far from salvageable at this point. Collectors and Husks have been detected by EDI throughout every deck of the ship, save for the CIC where the remaining members of his crew are held up and pinned down. As of right now, our priority is get aboard and evacuate as many as possible over to the Vindicator, but there's a slight problem..."

Titus turned to walk and motioned for the three follow him to the lift. Once aboard, he punched in the command to take them down to the Vindicator's shuttle bay and continued his briefing. "...There is too much debris between us and the Titan's boarding airlocks to move the Vindicator in. Therefore, we'll be forced use the Kodiak as our only means of transport for both us and the evacuees. Keep in mind, though, that until EDI can synchronize with the Titan's own AI, we're going in blind. This means that the mission parameters can change at any moment and we'll have to adapt and overcome. Am I clear?"

He received a choral "Yes, sir." from each of them at once and he waited a moment longer as the lift continued its descent into the hull of the ship. "Once more thing," he said, turning around to face all three of them. It was unclear of who exactly he was looking at, but the motion of his head suggested the persons of interest were both Vala and Tia. "No cat fights. No grudges. We're all in this together, and that means I want full cooperation amongst everyone."

The lift dinged and the blast door open to reveal the expansive shuttle bay. The Vindicator was able to hold a total of four Kodiak shuttles. Several of load masters and shuttle crew teams were sprinting around the deck, ensuring final preparations for the Kodiaks. Titus' plan was to keep a chain going as long as possible. The first Kodiak would drop them on board the Titan to secure the airlock and surrounding area, ensuring the safe boarding of survivors. As soon as the first Kodiak departed back toward the Vindicator, the second would take its place at the dock. The Titan may be beyond saving, but that doesn't mean the crew should just be left to die.

As far as Commander Horn... Titus would act as the idiot's personal escort and ass-kicker off the Collector ship. The Illusive Man once told him that he chose each of Omni's commanders because of the unique qualities they possessed. This cell has already lost two. Prado is still recovering, and Poitvin has gone off the grid. There's no way in hell John was going to win this war on his own. He needed Jason at his side.

Titus lead the group over to their Kodiak where a crew chief was waiting by the loading door. The man snapped to the position of attention gave the Commander a stiff salute. John returned the formality. "Everything ready, chief?"

"Aye-aye, Commander. Just one problem." The man nodded to the inside of the craft and Titus looked over to see Villayn poking his head out to greet him.

"I hardly foresee myself lending a hand as a 'problem', Chief Decker," the turian said in a low, but lightly humorous tone. He then looked back to Titus and explained, "You're about to boarding a cruiser overrun by Collectors and Husks. Dark corners, overwhelming numbers, and impossible odds... and you're leaving the turian behind?"

Titus smiled underneath his visor and replied, "Alright, I suppose we could use battle-hardened warrior on this one." Villayn offered his three-fingered hand and Titus grabbed it to hoist himself up and into the Kodiak.

Once all were aboard the loading door closed down and secured itself to the bulk of the transport. Already the air was being pressurized and the mass effect fields were powering up. The transport carefully lifted off the staging platform and the pilot expertly maneuvered it through the shuttle bay. Once past the atmospheric mass effect field, the stars of space whirled around as the pilot adjusted the Kodiak's pitch and yaw to face the ever-approaching Titan in the distance.

"Three kilometers to target," she said over the intercom in the small passenger compartment.

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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:45 pm

"How many is that now?"

Kelly looked over Yeoman Teesar. Her small frame only seeming to have gotten smaller in the time that they had spent defending what was left of the Titan. TJ simply gave a scoff as she tossed a hunchback down the elevator shaft and watched it drop. "Who cares, there's a lot more, and I'm not done venting yet." Kelly continued to look around at what was left of the crew. Almost all of the separate crew heads had made it up, along with a few marines including Lieutenant Nicola, who was trying his best to coordinate what little of a defence they had going.

The CIC was a complete wreck, with bodies of both collector and Cerberus alike laying dead on the floor. The galaxy map was destroyed, and sparks flew from every direction as broken equipment was seen in every corner. The only thing that was slightly working was the cockpit, which would have been fantastic if their engines and their navigational controls hadn't been crippled. In fact, there was very little about this ship that wasn't, at the moment, completely useless to the crew.

Kelly herself was wearing standard Cerberus combat armour, minus the helmet which had taken damage from it's previous wearer. She had been forced to salvage the armour from one of the dead marines that had made it to the CIC only for his head to be busted open a couple waves later. She hadn't wanted to take it of course, partially because she wanted someone else to have it, and partially because she didn't want to wear it fresh off a corpse. She used to be a field operative, but she had never really participated in a real battle short of the Citadel.

Dr. Grass was attending to the injured, which was already spiralling out of his control. TJ was on damage control and cleanup. Lara Teesar was trying her best to not freak out at the situation. Jack Nathan was calmly laying prone on the floor, his gun trained at the elevator shaft as if he expect the entire area to suddenly rise up and try to kill him. Kevin was trying his best to repair what he could of the CIC, and Jessie McKrain was making sure all the weapons were operational and fully loaded.

Other members of the Titan wandered around doing things ranging from helping set up the dead bodies of collectors and Cerberus personnel as a barrier, to crying in a corner. Kelly pulled her hair back, and held it there for a second as she looked over everyone yet again. She was in charge while Horn went out and did what he did best. She felt like she was in over her head, but knew that she couldn't possibly think about death while everyone was looking at her for support. Brandon Nicola wandered up to her, his helmet in the crutch under his arm, revealing his black cropped hair and scarred face. "Ma'am." He started. Kelly technically outranked him as Horn's 2iC, but she had deferred authority over to him seeing as this was more his area of expertise. Still, he demanded on coming over and discussing everything with her before he did anything.

"What is it Nicola." Kelly said, giving him his full attention.

"Well, just thought you should know, we managed to get some secondary sensors up. Internal only, and they fluctuate so we can't be certain of enemy numbers."

"Estimation?" Kelly asked, glad to hear some good news for once.

"Well, if we take into account doubles and eliminate them, we're looking at over eighty collectors and husks throughout this ship. Apparently they're reinforcing them through breaches in the ship." Kelly gave a deep sigh, and placed a hand over her mouth as she turned to stare at the elevator shaft. "We still have a superior position ma'am. They have to come to us, and we're well entrenched." Nicola tried to reassure her.

"I'm not worried about defending this position Brandon. I'm worried about how long we have until either the Titan fails completely, or Horn fails and the collectors power up their weapons again." Kelly had her voice lowered, but Brandon looked around anyways, before turning her back towards the cockpit and slowly walking away from everyone.

"Look Ma'am, I understand this is a situation is stressful for you, and I understand it's not suited to your skill set, but you can't go around saying things like. It's demoralizing, and right now, that is our greatest enemy." Kelly nodded slowly, wiping her hands on her face.

"You're right...you're right. I'm sorry. Staying focused now." Nicola gave a small comforting smile.

"Good, that's what I like to hear. Besides, we both know Horn has done the impossible before." Kelly gave a smile, but as soon as Nicola had replaced his helmet and turned his back on her, the frown was back on. She knew Horn was usually the man who could pull off ridiculous odds, mainly to his condition, but this was different. This wasn't impossible sized odds, this was suicide odds. He could succeed, yes. Could he make it off that ship as well? That's where the odds came against him in an innumerable way. She gave another sigh, and wandered over to where everyone else was. TJ was being her loveable self as usual, but this time it was with the battery officer, Jessie McKrain.

"Look tall dark and fugly, if you don't think staying here is the best idea, then hop down that elevator shaft and see how long you last down there!" Jessie yelled at the oversized armoury officer. TJ took a couple menacing steps forward.

"I'm sorry you drunken whore, are you a little more fragile than you would like to admit? I've been tossing these bodies down the shaft for hours now, how about I add yours to the pile?"

"Try it you fucking Ogre!" They took a couple steps towards each other before a blue glow came over them and they were forcibly pushed away from each other. Kelly let her hands drop, letting go of a breath as she recovered from her slight use of her biotics.

"Tensions are high, that I can see." Kelly started. "But getting angry and threatening to kill each other is not the way to go out. If we have to die, I would prefer it be with our faces to our enemies, not our friends." No one said anything, and only then did she realize she said the D word. She had caught herself too late, but didn't let it show as she walked past everyone. "Continue what you are doing. Horn will buy us the time we need."

"Bullshit." TJ stated as she stared at Kelly's back as she walked past her. "The Commander's long dead by now. A few hours aboard a ship filled with thousands of collectors? He probably made it to the battery, set off a charge, and died how he lived. Like a fucking idiot." Kelly stopped, and had to take a moment to stop herself from ripping out the Armoury Officer's throat with her mind. Kelly turned back, a slight smile on her face.

"So, you think he set off a charge. That's possible. However, if he set off a charge, let's say a couple hours ago. Do you not think that they would have fixed it by now? An explosion can only do so much, and we both know that those collector ships have some of the most advanced technology known to space. We'd be dead right now if he was gone." TJ just gave a snort, but walked away from the conversation. That was as close to a resignation that you could get from Keller. If it wasn't for the fact that she was half the reason they weren't dead right now, Kelly would have done something that she would have regretted.

"Contact!" One of the marines yelled as a collector came flying up the elevator shaft. Immediately weapons were unloaded on the creature as more of it's kin followed it up. Kelly, along with TJ and Jessie, flew to the ground and opened fire with their assault rifles. The collectors were mown down by the combined fire of everyone in the CIC, until husks started climbing up. They added to the numbers, but the bodies that were piling up were actually proving cover for them to fully climb out. Eventually, it ended just as it started, suddenly. The movement stopped, and everyone was quiet and still, waiting for another to hop up the shaft.

"Did we beat them?" Lara asked as she held her pistol with shaking hands.

"Just a probe, checking us to see if we've grown sloppy in the time they've given us." Nicola piped up, standing up to kick a few of the bodies.

"Why don't they just send everything up here? They have to have the manpower?" Kevin Jaconis stated as he holstered his shotgun and went back to work on the systems.

"They probably do, but I think this is more to keep us in one place rather than eliminate us like this. They know that they would lose a lot of soldiers if they were to keep sending them up this shaft. They're probably searching the ship for information, weapons, who knows." Kelly stated as held her assault rifle with one hand off to the side.

Suddenly a bang at the airlock caused every gun in the place to turn towards it. The hiss of something connecting and pressurizing was enough to drive anyone insane as they quickly shifted to allow for maximum coverage over the airlock. There were a few clicks, one final hiss, and the second airlock door opened. Kelly peered down the sights of her rifle, and was ready to fire at anything that came through that door. What she wasn't expecting was Commander Titus and his crew to show up.

They stepped through the threshold, stopping only when they realized that every gun was trained on them. "And I thought Turians were paranoid." The Turian stated as he looked around, Titus looked back at him slightly.

"You forget, they work for Horn. They're all a little crazy by now." Crew members were relaxing their posture by now, and Kelly walked over to Commander Titus.

"Welcome aboard the SIC Titan sir. I'm Operative Kelly Invaru, Horn's second in Command." Kelly stated without adding any sarcasm to her words at all. A feat she wasn't even aware she was capable of.

"Happy to be here Operative. Love what you've done with the place." There was no laughter from anyone inside the Titan.

"Tough crowd." One of the women said from inside the airlock. Kelly motioned them inside while everyone else rearranged themselves to be facing the elevator shaft once more.

"Give me the layout Operative. What's the situation?" Titus asked as Kelly took them halfway to the bridge to gain some space from the rest of the crew.

"It's not good." Kelly stated bluntly, looking at the elevator shaft. "Anyone that isn't in here is probably dead, and we've been blocked up here for a few hours now. They send raiding parties up through the shaft every so often, but it feels like they're just trying to keep us here. We managed to get secondary sensors for internal readings up slightly, the information is skewed. However, we believe there are over eighty collectors and husks aboard." Titus gave a slight nod as he looked over the crew.

"What of Commander Horn? We didn't read his signal on the ship." Titus asked.

"That's because he isn't on the ship Commander. He and his team of Demons went over to the Collector ship to buy us time by delaying them from repairing their main batteries."

"Have you been in contact with him?" Titus asked as he returned his attention back to Invaru. Kelly simply shook her head.

"No. Ever since he dropped down that shaft, we haven't heard a word from him. The only reason I think he's still alive is because the Collector ship hasn't killed us yet."

"Alright." Titus said, thinking over the details. "So not only do we need to get you and the crew of the Titan off the station, but we have to drag his ass out of the fire too, huh?" Then Titus cocked his head to the side suddenly, and held up a finger to Kelly. "One sec. Go ahead EDI."

Kelly waited for a moment, rechecking to make sure her hair was still in a pony tail and that it stayed out of her eyes. Titus turned back towards her soon enough. "Well, this just got a little more interesting" he stated.

"What's the problem?" Kelly asked, not really wanting yet another situation on top of this one.

"Well, it appears that the collectors are indeed doing something else to get rid of everyone on this ship. According to EDI who managed a weak connection to Serah, they're planting a bomb in the mass effect core." Kelly's eyes went wide for half a second, but other than that, showed no other signs of the news bothering her.

"Well...I assume you have a plan to get us off this ship then?" Kelly asked, and that's when Lieutenant Nicola finally joined the group.

"Sorry ma'am and sir, but I couldn't help but overhear the conversation. I'm Lieutenant Nicola by the way." Brandon held out an arm towards the Commander, which he took in a hearty shake. "If you need someone to buy you time from that bomb sir, I volunteer." Kelly shook her head.

"Now who's the one facing impossible odds Lieutenant? There's no guarantee that you will be able to stop the bomb, and then you'd have to try to make your way back up here in order to evacuate." Kelly then looked to Titus. "And with all due respect sir, there is still the matter of Commander Horn. Right now, I believe he's the only reason that the collector ship is still sitting there. If we take too long here, they could manage to get their weapons online, and the bomb won't matter."

"Well we need to make a choice now rather than argue." Nicola stated. "What will it be Commander? Stay and evacuate, or go assist Horn, if he's still alive, with the weapons systems aboard the Collector ship?"
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by Digital Muse on Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:14 pm

Titus' little speech about zero tolerance of cat-fights or grudges set Tia's teeth on edge. She admitted that she'd over-reacted a little when Vala had abandoned her post. But, she wasn't going to carry that with her on this mission. Being distracted only got you dead. She filed out of the lift, following Titus to head toward the Kodiaks as they were being prepped.

Her vow to not get distracted on this mission went right out the window when Villayn poked his head out of the first Kodiak. "Aw fuck." She whispered under her breath. The only point she could give a Turian was that they were undoubtedly good soldiers. But...there would be no chance she'd trust one. Not ever. And this one seemed to have an ego the size of a small star system. She had to make sure he wasn't watching her back if worse comes to worst. Damn it. Why is it never easy? She asks herself.

Tia lifted a finger to lower the shield of her helmet unnecessarily and strapped into a seat as far as was feasible from Villayn, which was still too close for her. The short jump from the Vindicator to the listless Titan was spent in deep thought. This time, she'd brought her tactical cloak. Naturally it was tweaked beyond what the designers had intended giving her a boost to her defensive shields. She thought over possible scenarios, planning what she might be called on to do and ensuring her weapons were all ready to go out of habit.

Once they docked with the Titan and the door hissed open, Tia stopped short to see the besieged crew aiming all their weapons at them. Villayn's comment about Turian's being paranoid earned a scowl from Tia, though he couldn't see it. While Kelly brought Titus up to date on the situation, Tia brought up her own Omni tool to try to access Serah, but the EDI unit was weakened and the Vindicator's EDI unit was in communication with it. Instead, she looked about the CIC. The barricade of Collector and crew bodies caught her eyes immediately. As before, she still wasn't as affected as she felt she should be. It was sad, but necessary. A part of the job, wasn't it? Why was it that her disconnect bothered her more their actual deaths?

Apprised of the bomb at the core, Tia knew that there would be no way to get there through all the Collectors and Husks, disarm it and then get back again without heavy losses. Or even at all. Looking at Nicola, she shook her head at him, "No way to get it done, Lieutenant. Even if just 2 or 3 of us tried it, we wouldn't get through. And we'd lose Horn as well. We gotta pick our battles. And getting Horn has just a tiny bit better odds. Which is next to none, but doable." She glanced back to Titus, suddenly aware that it wasn't her call to make. She added, "In my opinion, Commander."

T.J. bulled her way closer to Kelly, Titus and the rest to put her two cents in, "I say we just get the hell out of here. Horn's dead. No one's willing to admit it." Her chin jutted out, daring anyone to defy her.

Kelly turned to regard the giant woman slowly, the look in her eyes was a dark warning. "T.J." Invaru stated carefully. "Maybe you can make yourself useful back at the elevator shaft and not interrupt the grown ups. We'll call you when we need you." The SiC then returned to her conversation with Titus, turning her back completely on the huge woman.

The Titan's armorer looked like she would challenge Invaru for just a moment, but something in the SiC's face made her think better of the idea and she backed off looking mutinous.

Villayn watched the face off with some interest. The interaction between Human ship's crews were very different than on a Turian ship. There would have been almost no insubordination aboard a Turian vessel. But, then, he reasoned, this was a Cerebrus ship as opposed to an Alliance vessel. He remained out of the conversation. He was a part of the crew at Titus' indulgence and he knew if the crew of the Titan didn't have more pressing matters to deal with, they might not take kindly to his presence well.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:38 am

Titus took a look around the half-destroyed, and battle-stained deck, contemplating the choices he had. If they went after Horn, the Titan would be destroyed by the bomb, but if they went after the bomb, then Horn and his team would surely die aboard the ship. There was also no guarantee that the bomb could be defused in time to save the ship. Even if they did defuse it, the Titan was completely inoperable, and if Horn failed to sabotage the Collector weapons systems, they would still be blown to bits. Therefore, the choice was obvious.

"We'll continue with the Kodiak plan for as long as possible," he said, turning to face Operative Invaru. "Get your injured and incapacitated onto the Kodiak we have docked now. After it leaves, select the next group to go. The Kodiaks will keep docking and leaving until everyone in the Titan's CIC has been saved. Barricade all avenues of approach to hold the Collectors back as long as possible.

When he was sure that Kelly understand the directive, he turned to Lieutenant Nicola and said, "Open a frequency on your comm to ECC-152. That's the channel I'm using now. Stay in contact with me while I'm hunting down Horn. I want a status update every five mike."

"Understood, sir," the man said and began to reprogram his comm.

John turned back to Serena. "Taylor," he said, "there's a field kit back on the Kodiak. Go grab it. There's a chance that Horn could be injured, as well as his 'Demons'. They'll need the spare medi-gel and hard suit patches."

"You're expecting no atmosphere, sir?"

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst." He looked again to Invaru and asked, "How did Horn get over to the Collector ship?"

"Believe it or not," she started, "he down to the shuttle bay. There was only one Kodiak left that was flyable."

John found it to be a miracle that Horn had not simply ejected himself out of a torpedo bay directly at the Collector ship. He had expected something more... brilliant, than simply infiltrating the opponent's vessel via a Kodiak. Though what he did was probably the smartest, it could not attempted now. The Titan was overflowing with enemy combatants, and he didn't know the layout of the ship by memory; only by schematics on his HUD. Taking his own Kodiak wasn't an option. He couldn't afford to delay the evacuation process any longer, but he also couldn't just stand by and wait for the deboarding to finish. Not even EDI knew how much time they, or Horn, had left.

It was time to pull of a stunt that would put a smile on the Titan commander's face. "Double-check the seals on your hard suits," he told his team. "We're going to float right up to their door step."




A minute later, the Vindicator team was standing at the edge of an escape pod hatch. The pod itself had been jettisoned in order for them to use the open cradle as a platform for which to jump off of. At first, Titus has considered actually using the pod itself as an insertion method into the Collector cruiser, but rethought the idea whenever he was struck with the realization that they could all die upon impact. Getting past the locked blast door after the jettison of the pod was no easy task either. The escape pod belonged to the Titan's forward helm. They had to relocate Jack Nathan back to main section of the CIC and seal off the helm itself in order to maintain atmospheric pressure throughout the deck. Once the mass effect field was in place and the helm was clear of anyone not wearing a hard suit, Titus had EDI hack into the blast door's locking codes and override them to allow the team passage into the empty cradle.

They were now standing in a cramped hole in the side of the Titan's helm, looking out past the endless abyss of space at the massive Collector cruiser far ahead of them. The jump distance was approximately 476 meters, according to the beacon that EDI had placed on his hood. The small orange diamond had been placed over the safest entrance that the AI could find in the cruiser's hull: a blast hole that had been torn into the cruiser from the Titan's own weapon systems during the battle.

John walked over to the edge, and peered "down" and over to see the expanse of stars and blackness. This was absolutely insane, but what other choice did they have? Besides, as long as they kept a straight path, there was little chance of them missing such an enormous target. The commander grabbed a hold of each side of the cradle's mouth, leaned back, and deactivated his magnetic boots. When he felt his body slowly lift up off of the paneling, he pulled himself forward with as much strength as he could muster, and propelled himself forward into space.

As he glided like a bullet in slow-motion, he glanced back only once to ensure his team was following suit, and then returned his focus on the orange beacon. At first, back in the escape pod's cradle, he wasn't able to make out the details of the blast hole, but as he quickly approached he could make out the carnage that the Titan's starboard-side torpedoes had done. There was loose-hanging metal from the ceiling and exposed upper decks, and chunks of scrap and other debris floating in and around the gap. A spike of debris had formed in the zero-gravity vacuum, jutting out and away from the hole, caused by the sudden depressurization as soon as the torpedo had struck and ripped the hull of the exposed decks open.

When Titus had gotten close enough to the gap, he reached out his hands and latched onto a large piece of split metal. His momentum drug his body out further around him and he watched as his legs ended up in front of him rather than behind. Before he lost all momentum entirely, he released his grip and allowed himself to continue to float inside the exposure of the hull. As he glided closer to a far wall, he reactivated the magnets on his boots and braced himself as they collided with a loud thud against the alloy. He slowly walked down until he was able to stand up straight on an undamaged platform below. An atmospherically sealed blast door was nearby, blocking access to the rest of the ship.

"EDI," he said into his helmet's comm, "are you in range to unlock this door?"

"I am," she replied, allowing Titus to let out a sigh of relief. "However, the extent of my access to the Collector's security systems is limited. I will only be able to open and close passage ways; I cannot, for instance, spam their sensor arrays to conceal your presence. My guess is that they already know you're there, and will begin to reroute onboard halt your advance."

"How much pressure can we expect to come out of this door once you open it?"

"Oxygen levels on Collector ships must all be relatively low, as I am not detecting much pressure build-up at all. Still, I recommend you brace yourselves against either side of the door, and stay out of the way of the vacuum's pull once the door is opened."

Titus waited for the others to meet with him on the platform outside the door before giving EDI the go-ahead. Serena braced herself directly next to Titus and prepared her assault rifle when the door's access panel changed from red to green. The door hissed at first, and then rapidly split open from side-to-side. A gush of wild wind shot out past them and into space. It continued to push for nearly a minute before they were clear to proceed inside without being carried back out with the rest of the air. Once inside, EDI resealed the door and Titus could hear the ventilation systems starting up to resupply the deck with atmosphere once more.

"EDI," he began again, "have you been able to get a lock on Horn's location and status?"

"I have, but Commander Horn's vital signs are weak. He is still at the Collector equivalent of a ship's main battery controls; once deck above you."

John unhosltered the twin Excalibur pistols and saw his HUD register their status and other tactical readings. Dr. Rikers had programmed his suit to recognize the new weapon system the day before during the 48-hour down time the Vindicator had. It was time to put the Excalibur to a real test and see the guns (or gun) could really do. "Come on," he said to his team, "let's go find us a die-hard idiot."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:23 am

Stalking ever deeper into the ship, it was difficult to keep reign on one’s paranoia. The jutting edges and layered walls seemed custom built for opportune ambushes, and Vala followed uneasily at the rear of the group, eyes scanning for any sign of hostiles. HUD or no, she didn’t want to get caught off guard, and the bugs had proven themselves to be rather resourceful. The silence unnerved her the most, though. No echoing alarms, pounding footsteps or even distance hum of life support. The ship for all intents and purposes seemed very…dead. A husk of a vessel, manned by the unrelenting butchers of thousands, no millions of innocents.

It sounded like something out of a bad horror film. Vala made a note not to wander off, and quickened her pace to catch up with the others. The feint droning of wings echoed behind the operative for a moment, and she snapped around, Mattock ready as she swept the massive corridor for any sign of the bugs, only to be met once again by the deafening silence. Something wasn’t right here…

“Buchan.” The 2IC’s voice called to her, and Vala spared the briefest glance back. “We can’t jump at every sound. C’mon.” Serena tugged on her shoulder and started forward again. Vala looked to the rear again, taking a step backwards before a flicker of movement on one of the strange lattices caught her eye.

“Contacts!” The squad turned quickly, as a yellow beam erupted from the vantage point, zeroing in on the still turning Serena. Vala threw herself forward, tackling the 2IC to the ground, the beam missing the two women by mere inches and burning harmlessly into the crusted floor. A trio of drones hovered up from the ledge, peppering the unprotected group as they descended.

Titus and Villayn focused their fire, cutting two of the drones down in mid-flight, while the last met a brutal end at the barrel of Tia’s shotgun moments after touch down. Righting herself quickly, Vala took quick aim for the hidden heavy weapon, zeroing in on the ledge that the drone used for it’s deadly ambush. The creature rose again, firing the particle beam as Vala feathered the trigger rapidly. The drone crumpled under the fire, but the beam clipped Vala’s shields and they dipped low dangerously.

The area temporarily cleared, the squad took a quick moment to gather themselves. Serena offered a hand to Vala, and the operative glanced up at her. “Thanks for the save.” The gratitude wasn’t forced, and Vala let the 2IC pull her up.

“Don’t mention it.” They pressed on, weary for more ambushes from the collectors, but hurrying to reach Horn and his team in time. Entering a massive chamber, they wearily checked their corners, although it was difficult to miss the countless collector and husk bodies strewn about the area. It was difficult to tell what exactly had killed each individual bug, although for the most part, it seemed to be a combination of bullets, being crushed or thrown into things, and lit on fire.

“I’m not familiar with human legends, but I assume they’re living up to the concept of demons?” Villayn’s question earned a few chuckles, but as they moved towards the lone exit, any humour they had vanished.

“Shit.”

A lone body, clearly human, lay amidst the carnage, a small spot cleared for the fallen. A sniper rifle jutted out of the ground just by the head, a makeshift marking all too familiar. Kneeling next to the body, Vala sighed quietly. “Confirmed KIA. If I’m remembering right, it’s Linda Goran.” Her hands were placed neatly over her heart, a basic rite her comrades had seen to. Two punctures to her suit spoke of the soldier’s fate, and a quick check of the neck revealed the small slit slashed into the weave. “Her tags are gone. As good a sign we’re gonna get.”

Titus took his team deeper into the menacing hive-like cruiser. The architecture, if the random assembly of metal and crust could be called such, was unsettling to the commander's mind. The expansive passages were absent of color and design. No culture, no art. Everywhere they looked, there were only dark shades of browns and grays. Yellow lights offered the only luminescence, yet they were dim and ominous. Even though the Collectors possessed advanced technology, John noticed a distinct absence of terminals and equipment. And those that they eventually passed by were placed in such random locations that their purpose was beyond him.

Another security response, this time less surprising, showed up about fifty meters ahead of them. Six Collectors had formed in a line to halt their advance into a large chamber behind them. They seemed adamant to stop the Ceberus commander and his companions from getting into that room.

Titus flashed a quick hand sign for his team to dive into cover; and they did so, using the rise of the large platform leading into the chamber ahead. The lower position allowed them to remain protected from the hail storm of the Collector fire.

"Wait till they need to exchange thermal clips!" Titus commanded over the sound of pelleting rounds above their position. Once they all recognized the distinct hiss of ejecting clips, the team raised their weapons over and took advantage of the lull in the fire fight. The response of the four of them eliminated the Collector drones in merely seconds, as the hideous bugs had taken no cover to protect themselves.

"Clear!" Taylor called out upon surveying the bodies.

"Status report," John said.

"Taylor. Green."

"Saint. Green."

"Buchan. Green."

"Villayn. Green."

The group vaulted onto the platform, which was now observed to be a hexagon, and headed into the large chamber with their weapons still drawn. Each of them continued to survey their sectors of fire until they approached the edge of the platform. Looking around, Titus saw that three incredibly vast channels met at a T-intersection, where they were standing now. Another channel ran upward into the ceiling (which was a mass of thick tubes).

"EDI said that Horn was on the deck above us; which must be up there. These platforms must act as transport pads and are used by the Collectors to traverse to the different major areas of the ship."

He looked over to the single podium-like object protruding from the center of the hexagon. A small green haptic interface was projecting off the top. Titus approached it and tried to decipher the alien language and symbols that made up the controls.

"Saint," he said suddenly, "can you work your magic?"

The woman walked over with an eager skip in her step and knelt down to examine the controls. She pulled up her specialized Omni-tool and began to peck away at a series of commands. "I'll need a minute," she soon said. "It'd be easy to decrypt and bypass if it weren't for the fact that I don't speak Collector." Despite her words, Tia’s tone indicated a certain child-like glee to be able to test her skills against those of the Collectors. “But I can get it, yeah.”

"Titus!" Villayn called out, causing the commander to glance up and back the way they came. A small horde of husks were running their way, crying out in their twisted moans and screeching. The Turin switched from his Avenger rifle the M-29 Incisor sniper rifle on his back. The targets were still a good distance away, allowing him to line up more power and accurate shots to deter the mutated avatars.

"You've got half a minute," Titus said to Saint as he brought the Excalibur pistols together into their rifle configuration. He swiftly joined alongside Villayn and started to wreak havoc on the still approaching husks. Serena and Vala joined in when the mindless drones came too close for Titus and the turian to continue sniping.

Tia didn’t even look up from what she was doing at the sound of the renewed fire-fight. “Twenty-five seconds. You got it. Just keep 'em busy.” She acknowledged.

Several seconds later, when the husks were merely feet away from reaching the edge of the platform, the four of them felt a heavy jut and the hexagon slowly separated from the bulk of the deck. The husks that were too close to where the platform had been fell forward and down to the bottom of the channel several hundred meters below.

"I got it!" Tia called out.

The platform slowly rose up high, gaining speed as it aimed toward the upward leading channel into the higher decks of the cruiser. Just when everyone thought they were in the clear, however, a Collector met them in mid air, using a set of four buzzing wings attached to its backside. The creature attempted to land on the hovering platform, but Vala skillfully shot it down with her Mattock.

"We've got company!" she exclaimed, pointing her weapon toward a squad of more flying Collectors.

"We need to keep these insects off of the platform until we can reach the breach in the channel above us," Villayn said. The breach he was referring to was a matching hexagonal portal that the platform was destined to rise up into and stop at. Once they docked, they would be clear of their pursuers.

The flying Collectors threw themselves at the small group on the platform with the complete disregard for their own survival the race was known for. Tia remained on her feet, letting the others pick off most of the bugs at longer ranges while she and her HMW were devastating at closer quarters. Despite her previous issues with Vala, in such tight proximity, there was no hint of their emnity. Villayn's presence, however was something different. Tia found herself checking Villayn's location at every lull out of an ingrained habit.
Once, that inattention nearly proved deadly. One of the collectors crashed off the side of a tube after taking fire and got close enough to swipe at Tia with a claw. It was Villayn that blasted its head into a spray of mustard-yellow mist after pushing her aside. Even so, it's claw penetrated her enhanced shield causing a minor score across her chest. Her Squish skin sealed nearly immediately, but the stinging wound still made her hiss in pain. Looking up, Tia's eyes narrowed to see that it had been Villayn that had come to her aid.

He helped her up quickly and immediately turned his attention back to the rest of the bugs headed their way.

The assault team continued to lay down the fire, transitioning from ranged to close-quarters weapons whenever the Collector's came too close for comfort. Finally the platform was only feet away from fully rising into the portal, but one lone Collector managed to climb aboard right before the hexagon sealed into the dock of the upper deck. Vala was the closest and threw herself into the creature before it could recover to its legs. She unsheathed her blade and dug the cold steel into the top of its cranium. Its four yellow eyes faded into black oblivion and yellow ooze flowed from the wound.

The infiltrator removed the blade and wiped it clean of the foreign inards. "That was fun. What next?"

The hatch split, and before they could even glimpse the situation inside, everything went to hell. Fire pounded on them from all directions, and Vala half sprinted half threw herself across the gap into the meagre cover of a jutting terminal. Her shields flickered rapidly, forcing her tight against the terminal to try and avoid the vicious onslaught. The lulls in fire were brief, but she had to capitalize, popping out to trade shots with a few drones before slipping back into cover. In the brief exchanges, she could see two human shapes firing tirelessly into the unending tide of drones and husks, although one was slumped dangerously against his cover, barely managing to blind fire into the enemy. Really, when the numbers were this thick, it made no difference. He was hitting something regardless.

Her shields vanished, and the operative winced as several rounds sliced across her slightly exposed arm, although the Nyx took the hits well. She glanced towards Titus, and he quickly motioned towards the superior cover by their besieged comrades. “Everyone, move up! Go, go, go!”

A single harmonious burst sounded from the entire fire team, before the five made their mad dash across the dangerously exposed ground. Any shields remaining quickly vanished, torn apart by the seemingly endless barrage. Hopping into the makeshift perimeter, Vala rolled into position beside the standing man, who briefly glanced towards her. “Welcome to the party!” Daniel’s familiar voice made her grin, although she suspected the pure adrenaline racing through her veins helped ease the tension.

“Good to be here!” She rose fluidly, firing a trio of shots into the drones before ducking back down to avoid a blast from a particle beam. “How long has this been going on?!”

“Personally? Way too fucking long!” The Demon hopped up, firing a prolonged burst even as his shields buckled under the assault. “I’m low on thermal clips, though. This won’t be doing me much good.” Vala tapped the man’s shoulder, and offered the Mattock as he turned.

“I’ve got my pistol. Just keep shooting.” The two rose in unison, firing back with everything they had, but still the drones came. “Anyone know where exactly they get all these things from?!” A missile rocketed past, connecting with an unfortunate Collector’s forehead and sending a small group of the bugs flying. The operative glanced back, the battered form of Horn casually tossing his missile launcher aside as he hoisted his rifle again. “You are one tough son of a bitch, you know that?”

“Oh fuck! HULK!” She felt a rough hand grip her collar and throw her to the ground. Scrambling back with her head down, she peer quizzically over the barricade and paled at the massive floating creature hovering towards them. A small army of husks surged forward beneath it, dashing across the open ground over the mounds of their fallen brethren. “Don’t let it get close! That thing will rip us apart!”

Titus stepped up, his voice booming over the comm channels. “Serena! Vala! Both of you, hit it with a warp!” The two biotics spared each other a glance, before a simultaneous blue glow shrouded their bodies, although the Nyx quickly swallowed Vala’s into the black of it’s armour. A moment later, and they both unleashed the strongest warp they could muster, and the massive construct’s barriers flickered under the assault. “Tia! Daniel! Hit it with an Incinerate!” The tech experts wasted no time, firing the super-heated plasma round at the Hulk, watching with some delight as it began to burn away. No more orders came, as Titus and Villayn both unleashed two full clips into the struggling beast.

As the clips ejected, the Hulk crashed lifelessly into the ground, crushing several husks as it did. The tide didn’t hesitate, and there was no time to celebrate as the former humans threatened to over run their defences. “Titus! Grab Horn! We’ve gotta get out of here, now!”

John rushed to the man’s side. Tia used her Omni-tool to scan for any punctures in his hard suit and double-check his vitals. “Multiple breaches in his atmospheric liner. Several bone fractures. Tissue damage up and down his entire body. Internal bleeding. With the exception of a missing limb, he’s probably in worst shape than I’ve been in, sir.”

“Horn?” John asked aloud, trying to bring the man to his senses. “Jason. Can you hear me? Stay with me, Commander. We’re getting you out of here.”

John and Taylor bent down on either side of Horn and braced his arms around their shoulders. Carefully, but with haste, they brought him to his feet. However, Horn was so out of it that he was practically dead weight and the two of them nearly stumbled trying to stabilize him. “We’ll need to drag his ass out of here,” Serena commented.

As soon as the group began to move, with Villayn and Tia taking point, and Vala and Daniel providing rear security, Jason’s head started to roll and he began to mumble barely audible words. John leaned in to listen. “But I have explody thing...hooked up to...the thing...that's not supposed to be explody...”

John looked at Serena with a quizzical, and also comical, expression beneath his visor. “...what's he trying to say?”

“I think ’boom’, sir.”



Together, the six of them rushed as fast as they could, only stopping once so Daniel could switch places with Serena when Horn’s armored weight became too much for her, to a beacon marker on their HUDs, graciously provided by EDI.

“I’ve taken the liberty of designating a nearby blast hole in the cruiser’s hull that you can use for evac, Titus,” the AI informed. “There is still too much debris for the Vindicator to move in close, not to mention the threat of now two bombs going off. The Kodiaks have finished their evacuations, but it will still be some time before one can provide a safe exfil.”

“Won’t need it to, EDI,” John said. “We’re going out the way we came in.”

“You’re fucking kidding me,” Vala said abruptly, bringing an ever slight grin to Titus’ lips. “With all this space jumping, you’re starting to turn into Horn.”

Once again, Jason let out muttered sounds from his incapacitated state. Only one word was audible to them all this time, drug out by the delirium. “Spaaaaaacccce”

The team approached the atmospherically sealed door EDI had designated, where just beyond the blast hole she had mentioned would provide their way out. “Serena,” Titus said, “get that medical kit from the Kodiak ready. Horn’s going to need a shot of medigel and as many patches as he has hard suit breaches.” His 2IC immediately got to work on preparing the necessary first-aid supplies, with both Tia and Vala assisting to apply the patches to his hard suit. Villayn and Titus established a rough 360 in case any more Collectors or husks arrived to prevent their escape.

“Ready, sir,” Taylor said.

“EDI, now!”

The AI unleashed her waiting hack and the door immediately shot open. The ladies kept a firm grasp on Horn’s limp body as the vacuum of space sucked all seven of them into the vast abyss outside the crater in the ship’s hull. Villayn and Titus, although greatly unstable after being propelled at high speed through space, kept watch on the Collector cruiser, still expecting company to follow. When the coast was clear, all of them glanced down below at the top of SIC Titan. The massive Cerberus cruiser was dark and dead, completely disabled and helpless. Titus wondered if its commander, in the state he was in now, could recognize his ship below and even be able to comprehend what was about to happen to it.

Before John could finish any other thoughts swirling through his head, the first explosion went off. To their fortune, it wasn’t the bomb at the Titan’s core, which would have obliterated them at this short range. It was the sabotage that Horn himself had set up at the Collector’s battery controls. Whatever he had done had worked. A massive fireball erupted from the hole they had escaped from, adding to their propulsion and sending the group forward at an even faster rate. The Vindicator, which had once seemed impossibly far off, grew comfortingly closer. Even more pleasing to the Commander’s eye was the fast approaching Kodiak, heading in to intercept the group.

As the tiny vessel came into view, Titus saw the hatch was fully raised, ready to catch them. Two figures, wearing hard suits to survive the vacuum of space, stood in the passenger chamber. The first he recognized to be Keown, and the second, much smaller than him, had to be Braden. Although it was greatly unexpected, he knew why the teenager was there. Vala and Serena may have biotic potential of their own, but it would require someone with gifted talent to be able to slow them down enough for them to safely land in the Kodiak without being rocketed into the wall on the other side.

Just as he had thought, an electrifying blue hue enveloped the young man’s body and he saw a field of biotic energy form ahead of them. The group gently collided into the produced net of dark energy, bracing their speed and slowing them down to a gentle glide into the Kodiak’s hull. The group landed gracefully, and the pilot punched in the command to seal the hatch and redirect the Kodiak back to the Vindicator.



As soon as the Kodiak passed through the mass effect barrier of the Vindicator’s shuttle bay, Titus opened his comm to the helm. “Darcy! The Titan’s going to blow any second! I want us outta here ASAP!”

“Sure. I can play the whole ‘escape from big boom game’ again,” his helmsman replied with eager confirmation.
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by quakernuts on Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:15 pm

"We have a few more coming up the lift! Suppressing fire!"

Lieutenant Nicola ordered the remaining marines to fire on the lift as several collectors and husks tried tossing their bodies over the lip of the empty shaft. Most were cut down, and all were killed before they managed to reach the group, but ammo was running low. They still had at least another two kodiaks to go before they were fully evacuated, and Nicola was starting to feel the wear and tear of command starting to get to him. He turned off the reflective effect of his visor so that people could see his face once more, and walked slowly over to Kelly.

Her hair was a mess now, with a few bangs coming down in front of her eyes, her face was grimy and a loose ponytail kept her hair from flying all of the place. She looked visibly tired, as did everyone else, but she had to keep it under control more than anyone else here. As the 2iC to Horn, she always had to portray an image of professionalism and leadership that was simply becoming too much for her. "Ma'am." Nicola stated as he walked closer. Kelly stood from her prone position, reloading her rifle as she did so.

"Brandon." She said, walking back towards the cockpit for a moment.

"How are you holding up Kelly?" Brandon asked, taking a quick glance at everyone else. Most had already been shuttled to the Vindicator, but it was a slow process, and they could explode at any moment.

"Like you would expect I guess. I honestly don't know how Horn handles it sometimes." She stated, running a hand over her head to get the bangs out of her eyes.

"Years of understanding the punishment of command I'd say." Nicola returned. "Listen, Titus will get him out of there, and we're almost all off. We're going to be fine. No need to worry."

"Yeah...yeah...I just hope that shuttle gets here soon. That last crawl up the shaft came a little close." Nicola nodded, and just as he turned to leave, the familiar buckle of the kodiak shuttle attaching to the airlock notified them of another evacuation.

"See, here we go. Going to be fine." Brandon said as he made his way over and opened the airlock. A few Vindicator Cerberus marines stepped out, giving Nicola a brief salute before they started loading everyone up once more. As the second last kodiak was getting loaded up, Kelly returned to the group, but something felt wrong. A slow clank could be heard from the shaft, and Kelly inched ever closer unsure if it was another group or something within the shaft itself.

Before she could get to the lip, a blue arm reached up from inside the shaft, and pulled itself over. "Hunchback!" Kelly yelled as she went to raise her rifle. Everyone started pouring fire into the modified husk, but it quickly put its weapon to the ground and sent out a shockwave. Anyone who was standing was thrown from their feet, and those already laying down were left with a giant headache. Kelly had been thrown behind the main line and looked up to see the hunchback grab a screaming Lara Teesar. Everyone was trying to fire, but were afraid of hitting their own team member. Then, with an almost effortless movement, it swung her by the leg and connected her head with the wall behind it. There was an audible crack as the Yeoman's body went limp, and the hunchback tossed her down the shaft.

Everyone resumed fire once more, but it continued its onslaught as another couple marines were killed under its barrage. It wasn't until their armourer, TJ, decided to do something that things started changing back. The brute of a woman tackled the hunchback, forcing it back several paces and forcing it's gun upwards. Nicola came up behind her, shoving his rifle between them and pointing it at the Scion's head. A sustained burst saw that the cranial area was destroyed and TJ gave a grunt as she threw the massive husk down back the lift. Everything was quiet for a moment as everyone looked around at what had just happened. They lost a few more, including one of their main officers, Lara Teesar. She was dead, nothing was going to change that now, but it still hit them hard.

"We can't keep holding them back like this." Nicola stated to the Vindicator marines. "Can't you take us all back right now?"

"Negative Lieutenant. Too much weight and too much debris should we start getting sluggish in our exfil. It would be riskier to take all at once."

"Fine! Understood. Go, get them out of here." The marines nodded and gave another salute. Soon the hatch closed and the second last batch was gone.

"Should be another five minutes before the second Kodiak gets back." Jack said from his still prone position on the floor. "Round house trips, standard procedure, easiest manoeuvre in the book. Rookie Kodiak pilots." A little bit of bitterness seeping into Jack's voice, not liking to have to rely on another pilot to save his life.

"Hey, it's only five minutes right?" Kelly said, looking at those remaining. "All we have to do is stay ready for those five minutes. Not get surprised again."

"Yeah, but we're running low on thermal clips." Carly said, the hidden recruit among the marines due to her wearing the exact same armour, Nerita and Cecil had already been transferred over. "Five minutes may be four minutes too long if they hit us again."

"Listen people!" Nicola stated in a harsh tone. "Stop thinking as if this is a last stand. We have an evacuation going on, and we're the last ones. Once we're out of here, we're all safe. We lost people yes, but you knew that would happen when you signed up for this mission. We will survive, you hear me? We will live to see another day. Now prep those guns and keep them trained on that shaft."

"Yes Sir!" The marines responded with a slightly bolstered enthusiasm. Jack didn't say anything, TJ shrugged, and Kelly just smiled.

The next five minutes seemed to drag as everyone was completely tensed up from the last attack. There was only a few of them now, and when the last Kodiak finally docked, everyone jumped. "Hah, look at that, they're on time." Jack said as he started to stand. "C'mon, let's get out of he-" A beam cut out his last statement as a hole appeared in his chest. He looked down for a split second, placing a shaking hand up to it before simply falling over dead before he hit the ground.

"NO!" Kelly and Nicola yelled in unison as they looked to where the fire came from. One of the Collector assassins had found it's way through the vents, and opened the doors from the armoury. It went back into cover as everyone poured fire onto it. The airlock opened to reveal the marines who stepped out to provide cover.

"Everyone, onto the shuttle! Move!" The marines got up as one, Carly being in their ranks as well, and bolted to the Kodiak. As they did, another group of husks rose from the shaft. Kelly made it inside, and quickly turned back to see Nicola struggling with one of the husks from the lift. She fired and nailed it in the face, but another quickly jumped on his back as he struggled to get it off. She didn't have a clear shot, and then another grabbed him from the front and dug its claws deep into his armour. It's hand came out bloody.

"Brandon! C'mon!" Kelly yelled after him as she stepped out to help him. He fell to his knees as another husk stabbed him in the throat. Crimson liquid poured from the wound even as he still fired off his rifle. Kelly was about to run out there when a gruff hand grabbed her by the neck, and tossed her inside.

"Pilot! Leave!" TJ said, closing the airlock door. Everyone else was on the transport, and the sound of them disengaging and moving away from the Titan was almost too much to bear for Invaru.

"Go back! We need to go back!" She stated, trying to run towards the door. TJ grabbed her by the shoulders, and jerked her around violently.

"Get a hold of yourself cheerleader! He's dead! Jack's dead! Lara's dead! They are all dead! The only thing you accomplish by going back there is yet another death!" Kelly stared her down, a glare so dangerous it almost seemed like she was going to murder the armoury officer right there at the spot. Carly came by, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry ma'am. He did what he could, and he saved us in the process." Kelly looked away from TJ, and threw the arms off of her. Her body glowed dangerously blue as her biotics started to flare to life, but as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared. Her rational side knew there was nothing left of him back there. She took a deep breath, and kept her face hidden from the others. Calm, focus, and reliability. That's what she needed to convey right now. After taking several deep breaths, she returned her face back to the rest of them, void of any emotion.

"Of course, you're right. They did what they could in order to save the rest of us." Kelly stated, although her words rung hollow to herself. She looked out of the window and the destruction that had been cost. All she could see was the fellow soldiers and personnel that she had been serving along for almost two years now. War is Hell, she reminded her self. She needed to keep a level head, and as the approaching sight of the Vindicator started to reassure her, she knew that something like this would never rock her so hard ever again.




Kelly had only been on the Vindicator for a few minutes, Grass running back and forth from the airlock to the med deck helping the wounded. Normally he would have insisted on fully inspecting Kelly for any hidden wounds, but he had his hands full with confirmed injuries within the crew. She stood impatiently on the CIC, not entirely sure what to do with herself. She usually helped Horn plan missions, organize information, and generally made sure he didn't get himself killed. Seeing as she didn't have to do that at this moment, she was lost. She watched as people ran to and fro, a couple stopping to ask if she needed anything or if she was injured, to which she always answered no. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Titus's team came back on one of the Kodiaks. Grass stood there along with Dr. Veronica Porter. Both seemed to be a little on edge, having to share the same med deck, but both were brilliant doctors in their own right. Seeing as the common goal was to save lives, they were getting over that little bridge easily and fulfilling their jobs.

The airlock opened, and Titus stepped out first, ignoring everyone else and heading to the bridge. Kelly could feel the ship starting to accelerate but her attention was captured by the completely battered form of her Commander.

Horn was all but lifeless as they dragged his body out of the Kodiak. Daniel limped in slightly, recognizing Kelly and walking to join her. Grass and Dr. Porter both set Horn up on a stretcher, and quickly took him away while trying to perform several minor miracles along the way. Kelly and Daniel both followed, catching the next elevator down to the med deck. When they reached the floor however, they were turned away at the door by Dr. Porter herself. "I realize he's your commander." She started, talking while readying several pieces of equipment. "But if you want him to live, you will step out of this bay and allow us to let him." Kelly nodded, and both she and Daniel took up a position just outside the main window to the med bay.

Neither of them said a word, even though a whole conversation was being held with their thoughts alone. They both felt useless in this situation as the man who had not only led them through some of the toughest fights they had ever seen, but saved their lives numerous times, lay on a metal table with his life hanging in the balance. Kelly's eyes kept darting to the heart monitor, which was fluctuating wildly. A couple times the monitor flat lined, and she found herself suddenly winded as the two doctors fought to bring him back each time. They had cut open his armour, and his body was looking worse than his actual apparel. His armour, now totally useless, lay in a pile in the corner of the room. Blood was seeping from just about everywhere on the man as they fought to replace it as quickly as it was flowing out of his body. A shockwave rocked the ship slightly, and Kelly found herself falling into Daniel slightly. He gave a grunt, but returned her to her standing position. The doctors inside seemed more angry at the inconvenience rather than the threat to their lives.

Finally, after what must have been a couple of hours, Dr. Grass came out first, followed by Dr. Porter. Kelly walked up to them both, Daniel limping slightly behind her. She did her best to stay as professional as possible. "Dr. Grass." She stated, her tone as neutral as ever. "I'm almost afraid to ask." She stated, not bothering to hide that fact. Dr. Grass simply shook his head and looked to Dr. Porter who said nothing.

"It's not looking good Ms. Invaru." Grass took off his glasses for a second, and gave a sigh. "We've been forced to put him into a medically induced coma to recover from his injuries."

"Come again Doc?" Daniel spoke up, pushing past Kelly slightly. "Did you say you put him in a coma? Cause that's exactly what it sounded like!" Kelly put a hand on his shoulder, and pulled him back behind her. Lincoln folded his arms and frowned slightly.

"Trust me when I say we exhausted every other possibly option. There were so many fractures, lacerations, bullet wounds, damaged organs...it was simply impossible to say if he would even live through the next few hours, let alone get to a point where we could even induce him into a coma and even be half sure he'd live through that."

"If he was that fucked up Doc, how do we know he's even going to wake up?!" Daniel was yelling now, angry at having gone so far only to get so little in return.

"We don't." Dr. Porter stated, interrupting the conversation. "The risk was always there, and it was a last ditch option for us. We were able to get him stable, but if he were to wake up at any time before his body was ready for it, one of two things would happen. He would either immediately go into shock, as the wounds have yet to heal and it would feel like they just happened as soon as his eyes snapped open. Or he would attempt to start working before he is physically capable, ruining whatever work me and your Dr. Grass here have been able to accomplish."

"Yes." Grass stated, replacing his glasses on his face. "So while we have no idea if Commander Horn will fight again, this was the only way to ensure even the smallest possibility of him surviving through this." There was an awkward silence as Daniel glared down at Grass, and Kelly looked between them. Grass finally gave another sigh. "Daniel, my job is to save lives, like yours, and like Horn's. I wouldn't do anything that jeopardized my patient's well being without being forced into the option. You can hate me all you want, but it won't change the fact that I'm doing everything in my power to save his life."

"We should go inform Titus." Veronica stated to Grass, who looked back and gave a nod.

"Of course. Daniel, when I get back, I'll be having a look at you and those injuries of yours." Daniel just stood there, glaring through his mask as the doctors walked away. Eventually he walked back to the window, and looked in on his Commander. Kelly stood there for a moment, still trying to comprehend the fact that Horn might indeed never get up from that metal table. She resumed her position beside Daniel,

"Break into a collector ship, lose Linda, hold off against hundreds of collectors, get our asses saved...only for him to semi-die on an operating table." Daniel stated as he punched the glass out of frustration.

"He's not dead yet Daniel." Kelly stated, her voice as cool as liquid nitrogen despite the fact that she was being destroyed on the inside from all the loss that happened in the last few hours.

"Maybe...but is this any better?" He asked rhetorically as he pushed away from the window and made for the elevator. Kelly remained there, watching the equipment monitoring Horn's life essence as she heard the elevator door open and close. She hung her head for a moment, before whispering to herself.

"I honestly don't know."
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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

Post by The Ghost Writer on Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:36 am

"Core discharge complete," Darcy informed Titus over the Vindicator's intercom. "New course set. We'll be entering Earth's atmosphere in T-minus three minutes."

The Vindicator disengaged its locks from the discharge station above the human home planet in the Sol System. It had been nearly a year since John had last set foot on Earth's precious soil, but he wasn't here for a vacation this time. He was going to visit the Illusive Man personally, and give him a piece of his self-righteous mind. Surprisingly, the Man had agreed to their meeting, and it would take place in less than an hour from now inside of his personal office at the top of Cord-Hislop Aerospace's headquarters in Houston. Very few Cerberus agents have ever had the privilege of meeting the Illusive Man face-to-face, and the infamous Paul Grayson was the last of them to do so. It wasn't until after Operative Grayson's betrayal that the Man stopped holding these types of risky meetings.

Commander Titus dawned his best and most pressed officer’s uniform and proceeded to join with Operative Taylor in the CIC. She would accompany him on the trip, but only to the point where Titus would have to break off to speak with their boss alone. Honestly, Titus had no idea what to expect once he set foot in that office - the office that has become just as ellusive as its owner. The Man knew that Titus only wanted to have this meeting so he could yell in his face, vent his anger and frustration. And they both knew that Titus would have to decide in less than an hour whether or not he was going to continue to commit his life to The Cause, or abandon it entirely. If the latter, he won't be walking out of that building alive. But if that was the cost for strangling the old bastard, he'd gladly pay it. The Illusive Man would have to pull a pretty fancy card trick to change John's mind this time.

The Vindicator was able to easily maneuver into Earth's atmosphere without too much difficulty. Most large frigates, such as the Vindicator, cannot land on the surfaces of high-gravity planets, but Earth wasn't one of those giants. Illium and the Citadel were other such examples of locations where frigates can get in and out without much gravity-induced trouble. As Houston quickly came closer below them, Darcy expertly piloted the ship into a docking station on the city's south side. Today, the metropolis was home to some twenty-million residents. Sprawling skyscrapers all massed toward the center of the downtown districts, beckoning columns of traffic and snaking monorail lines.

It was a fitting city for CHA to base their headquarters in: the home of the age-old NASA command center, where mankind had the pleasure of taking a front row seat at the monitors and headsets when the historic Neil Armstrong brought mankind into the space age. In this era, Houston had become an economic powerhouse fueled by the interstellar economy of many worlds (most of which were human colonies). Despite how popular and fascinating Earth and its pleasures had become to the rest of the galactic community, alien populations remained low and scattered across the city. There was no doubt in Titus' mind that Cerberus had something to do with that. The skies may no longer be the limit for any race, but that was simply because the limits had reversed themselves. Tariffs and immigration policies were strict and almost impossible avoid. Travel was a nightmare for any species visiting a foreign planet.

A company car had been waiting as John and Serena deboarded the Vindicator from the main airlock. Both of them looked to the black-suited man waiting for them at the open door of the vehicle, who had rendered no salute. They were far from the prying eyes of on-lookers, so Titus wasn't afraid to flash the Cerberus emblem - and few still knew about it, anyway - but if the man were to render a respectful salute, attention would surely be granted.

As they comfortably seated themselves inside, and their pilot walked around to place himself behind the controls, Titus couldn't help but notice that there was a distinct absence of Alliance MPs in the area. Usually, these docks had some of the tightest security measures that the Alliance could provide, being a public terminal; but he also knew that Cerberus was, no doubt, involved in that as well. Where the galaxy was the Illusive Man's chess board, Earth was his doll house.

The trip over to the front entrance of CHA's headquarters building took only a short five minutes. The Cerberus pilot had taken the lesser traveled routes, avoiding most of the rush-hour traffic and notorious Alliance checkpoints. When the car arrived, it gently levitated down to the pavement below and the pilot cut the small mass effect engine, and walked around to the side to open the door for his two passengers. He nodded his head over to the large, glass entrance ahead of them.

"Take the third elevator on your right after you cross the atrium," he instructed in a low, stern voice. "It will take you straight to the top. Once you step out, proceed immediately to the doors ahead of you. Stop and wait to be scanned by two men in dark suits. You will not say one word them; no questions, no comments. You will not look at them, nor will you look at anything else but the two doors in front of you. Do you understand?"

"We do," Titus said; but the pilot looked to Taylor regardless of her superior’s voucher. His stare demanded a direct answer.

"I do," she finally said, holding back any signs of insult.

The atrium inside the lobby of CHA was practically a small park. Tiny hills covered in real grass, perfectly cut and green, rolled over in the center with several small trees blossoming with exotic flowers of all kind. A tiny pond had been dug into the very front of the atrium, welcoming all arriving visitors and employees through the main entrance with a glimmer of their reflection. It was a delicate reminder to them about who (and what) they are. All around the grand room of chrome, glass, and art deco architecture (which, Titus had to admit, was a nice change of scenery from the Vindicator's utilitarian feel) there were no Cerberus logos. Though this was their domain, it still had to be the front that it acted as. Instead, every room, interface desktop, company-supplied appliance, and piece of paper had been adorned with the CHA trinity. The two organizations, though different, had one significant symbolism. Cerberus was a three-headed dog; and the trinity logo of Cord-Hislop Aerospace had three points. It was simple, but the same.

Titus and Taylor found the elevator that their chauffeur had mentioned, the third elevator on the right side of the lobby. The commander swiped his hand over the access panel and they both heard an audible ding before the doors slid open. Four walls, all a dark shade of blue, and chrome floor and ceiling. No guards, no surprising auto-turret, not even a noticeable camera or some other security measure had greeted them when they stepped inside. It all seemed too easy to Titus. He expected that a face-to-face meeting with someone like the Illusive Man would take place deep within some kind of impenetrable fortress of doom; not the penthouse of a skyscraper in one of the most busiest cities on Earth, where one can just waltz on through the front door with an ice cream cone a few guns. Then again, CHA was meant to be a front organization. The security measures couldn't be too obvious.

It took a minute or two for the elevator to reach the top of the one-hundred and thirty story skyscraper. It wasn't the tallest building in the city, but it didn't have to be either. Subtlety with elegance; or so John mused. When the two of them stepped out, they saw only a long hallway, with the double doors at the very end that the pilot had also mentioned. Standing at either side were the two men in dark suits. Each were standing rigidly, awaiting the approach of their guests, with hands cupped in front of their waists. John and Serena wasted to time, as was also instructed, with getting down the hall; though they were careful not to make it look they were in a rush to save their lives. When they approached, they kept their eyes glued to the doors in front of them while the guards examined them each with a scanner and even frisked through their uniforms. John had taken the time to actually admire the oak doors and matched them with the glimpses of the hallway he managed to write to memory during their brisk walk through. The top floor was decorated with an old-fashioned feel to it; different from the modern art deco of the lobby at ground level. Finely polished, wood paneling made up the walls and the two doors, and brass picture frames encased valuable human art work. The floor was a plush carpet of greens and maroons; some kind of a tapestry design, but John wasn't able to make out the finer details.

"Clear," one of the guards said to no one in particular. He turned down the brass handle on the door directly in front of Titus. "You can go in. She waits here."

Without hesitation, the commander entered through the threshold, glancing back only once he past the view of the guards on the outside to the fearless gaze of Operative Taylor. He had no doubt in his mind that she could handle herself. The two guards were large brutes, but her biotics would turn them into such fine pulp, their insides would be smoother than freshly pressed orange juice.

Turning his head back, he found himself in a large circular office. The far half of the office was nothing but glass windows, providing a spectacular view of the Houston skyline and the horizon beyond. The man of the hour sat behind a long wooden desk in a large executive chair. His legs were crossed and he sat relaxed against the back of his seat. Two empty glasses were the only articles that sat atop the desk.

"Commander Titus," the Illusive Man said by way of greeting. "Please, sit down." He extended an open hand towards the only seat before the desk; a matching black leather chair centered in the middle of the circular room. John walked around and carefully sat down, but he remained on edge. The Man smiled and asked, "Would you like a glass of scotch?"

"No, thank you," Titus said, conveying no emotion in his voice, though he was sure that his face revealed nothing but frustration and annoyance.

Regardless of the refusal, the Illusive Man bent down and opened what sounded like the door of a small refrigerator or freezer underneath the desk. His hand reached up above the desk a second later to plop several large cubes of ice into each glass. On the other side, he bent over to pick up a hidden glass of scotch and popped the top. As he began to pour the liquid in their glasses, Titus spoke again.

"I'm sure you know why I wanted to meet you face-to-face."

The Man's smile dimmed, but did not fade. "Yes. I believe you wish to convey how angry you are with me for not telling you about Horn's peril."

"The Titan's peril," John corrected. "A lot of fine marines died on that ship, sir. Why on earth did you send Horn after the Collectors without any backup?"

"Commander Horn's missions are his affairs, Titus. I have not revealed the details about Commander Poitvin's to you, have I? Why should I reveal anyone else's? If you want to know so badly, why don't you ask him yourself?"

"Because he's in a fucking coma!"

"Yes, and EDI - who, in case you forgot, is an asset to us both - has informed me that he will make a full recovery. You will have your answers soon enough... if Jason is willing to talking about it." The Illusive Man brought one of the glasses to his lips and took a small sip of the scotch through the large ice cubes. He then brought it to rest on the arm of his chair. The man was absolutely impossible to Titus. He had come all this way to have a face-to-face meeting, but even without the veil of a hologram, the enigmatic leader was still as ellusive and teasing as ever.

"I suppose I can't reach across that desk and knock your lights out, now can I?"

The Illusive Man actually let out a slight chuckle this time and replied, "You can try. But enough games, John. I know you're upset, and I don't blame you. I've been in your position before... with someone else wearing the mask and pulling the strings. I wanted revenge, just like you do. The strange thing is... I never killed him. Someone else did it for me; but I don't regret it. What I do regret is the life of a friend that I wasn't able to save because I let my emotions get ahead of me."

John reached forward across the desk, but not at the Illusive Man. The fist that he wanted to slam into the old bastard's face so badly only stopped and opened to pry the second glass from its resting place and bring it back to where he was sitting. The commander took a long sip of the scotch and drowned whatever cynical comment there was that had been sitting on his tongue, ready to lash out at a moment's notice.

"You wouldn't have agreed to this meeting if there wasn't something in it for you," John said after a satisfying gulp.

"You're right." The Illusive Man took another sip from his own glass and set it back down on the desk before saying, "It has come to my attention that there is a turian on your crew. Three to be exact."

But you've known that for a while. "And? Captain Villayn is a good ally. He's had plenty of opportunities to betray my trust and shoot us in the back."

The Man raised his hand and said, "Relax John, I'm not going to take any members of your crew away from you. I'm actually just going to inform you that Miss St. Jean, who is now a full time member of the Vindicator, has had run-ins with the turians before. I am concerned for her well-being as long as there is one of them on your ship."

“Battle of Shanxi,” Titus replied, nodding his head. “Yes, I know of her history… to some extent. But why are you so interested in her well-being? Horn’s in a coma, but you so easily dismiss that fact based on pre-examination medical screening. Have you even seen the man’s body yet?”

This time there was no smile on his employer’s face; just a cold, stern frown that conveyed his disapproval towards the commander’s tone of voice. John had finally pushed a button that had long-needed to be pressed. Meeting after meeting, Titus always had the suspicion that naiveté was the one thing that annoyed the Illusive Man the most, but he could never be as sure as he was now, sitting right there in front of the man himself. The expression was crystal clear, the eyes no longer hidden in shadows.

“Don’t test me, Commander,” he replied. “We are done talking about Commander Horn’s condition, and we are done with discussing the fate of the SIC Titan. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal… sir.”

The Illusive Man reached into his inner jacket pocket to reveal a tiny silver cigarette book. He flipped open the cover and plucked one of the many fine specimens, placing it between his lips as he replaced the artifact in his jacket pocket. From the opposite pocket he revealed his switch lighter and lit the cigarette, taking a long and steady drag. “Good,” he said as he removed the stick with the use of his right index and middle finger.

“So you want me to send you frequent reports on Villayn’s behavior?” Titus asked, pressing on with the conversation, now ready to leave the past in the past.

The Man nodded and replied, “You can have EDI monitor the bugs in his – and his officers’ quarters – and send the reports to me directly. If Tia and one of the turians are to have an… altercation, I want them off of the Vindicator.”

“Alright, consider it done. Was there anything else?”

“One more thing,” the Illusive Man said, reached below his desk again with his free hand. A second later, he revealed a datapad and slid it across the desk to Titus. The commander picked it up to and his eyes quickly scanned the contents that had already been pulled up for him to see well-ahead of time.

“These are implantation procedures for L5x implants. But what about them?”

The Illusive Man took another quick drag of his cigarette before explaining. “I believe it’s time for Miss Buchan to receive an upgrade. I’ve had some of Cerberus’ R&R teams begin the construction of a skill-set system, classifying each of our ranking military members in Omni and… another project according to their talents and abilities. We currently have Mr. Reynolds as our most powerful ‘Adept’ – someone who is superbly gifted in biotics. If Cerberus is to see to it that biotics are the pinnacle of human evolution, however, we will need more like him. Vala has always struggled with her abilities as one of his kind, and I’d like to see how well we do with forging a weapon using this new technology.”

“Do you think she’d be up for being a guinea pig?”

“I won’t make her go through with this,” he said, to Titus’ genuine surprise. “We already have enough subjects for the time being to test this new technology on. This is, instead, an opportunity for her to increase her potential. I know how Vala feels like she needs to push herself to the maximum limit humanly possible. This technology will give her that ability to even farther than she can now.”

John glanced back down at the datapad and then brought up his Omni-tool, tapping several commands to open up a wireless link to the pad’s hard drive. “I’ll talk to her,” he said after the data transfer had completed.




“Well?” Serena suddenly said in the car ride back to the Vindicator. The entire time since leaving the Illusive Man’s office, John had been awkwardly silent, focused completely on going over and over the meeting in his head.

“Well, what?” he asked, playing dumb. He knew she wanted to know how it went, but Titus only wanted to stall her long enough for him to construct his defense for failing in his crusade to knock their employer on his ass.

“Aren’t you going to tell me how it went? Or are you going to stare out the window until we reach the damn ship?”

John took a deep breath and finally said with an amusing grin, “I told him that the next time he decided to send one of his commanders off on a solo mission against impossible odds, that he could go fuck himself all the way to Palaven.”

Serena simply stared at him for several seconds, and all the while Titus had kept up his cheesy smile. “You’re a horrible liar,” she eventually said.

“I know.”

“So where are we going next?” she asked, laughing at the hilarity of his failure.

Titus took another moment to think the question over his head. Technically, their boss had not actually given him any assignments other than to begin monitoring Villayn and his two lieutenants more closely around The Saint. Since they were currently on Earth, Commander Horn would be able to receive better medical attention and the Vindicator could restock on any needed supplies as well – being an all-human vessel with the exception of the three turians and the one asari that had been evacuated with Horn’s crew from the Titan.

There was also the simple fact that they were in a big city with plenty of attractions and pleasures to ease the minds of the battered and troubled crew. Fresh air, a night out on the town, and some time to stretch their legs would help boost the shredded morale. There was also no doubt in John’s mind that the survivors of the Titan needed to get away for several hours to mourn, scream at the heavens, and kick a few stones.

“Once we get back to the ship,” he stated, “get on the intercom and let everyone know they’re on a forty-eight hour CTO, to begin immediately. Any hotels, drinks, and other accommodations or pleasantries will be paid for by CHA.”

Serena gave him a slightly shocked look. “Commander? CHA’s credits?”

Titus turned to his 2IC and gave Serena a truly genuine grin. “If the Illusive Man wants to blue ball me, he can pay for my men’s drinks.”



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Re: Mass Effect: On the Edge

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