Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars - Mass Effect/Fallout crossover

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Nord Ronnoc
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Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars - Mass Effect/Fallout crossover

Post by Nord Ronnoc » 2017-06-30 03:42am

Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars
Chapter One: A Stranger in a Strange Land
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

After one too many near-death experiences, Ethan Sunderland, the Courier, decided to upgrade his Transportalponder. It should increase the device’s range, allowing him to teleport to Big Mountain from anyplace, anytime. He took extra precautions—calculations, numerous trials, and multiple prototypes over the last couple years. He was a scientist and an engineer. What could go wrong?

He should have known by now. Everything could go wrong at Big Mountain, and it always did.

He set it up at X-84, the facility in Big Mountain that manufactured his Transportalponder. There was the device itself in the testing room with a robot, a Mister Handy, as the test subject, and an alarm system. Not long after the New California Republic snatched victory again at Hoover Dam, the facility had popped out of the ground like a mole rat during mating season.

Looking through the carefully cleaned window, the Courier observed as the Mister Handy used one of its claws to pick up the Transportalponder. With a press of a button at the console, the Mister Handy obeyed the command and squeezed the trigger.

The result was a complete disaster. Instead of the robot blinking out, the device shot out sparks. Ethan watched in wonder as to what looked like a tear in reality, a gray and black miasma of swirling chaos, appeared in the room and expanded quickly. He read about wormholes in science books and what they theoretically looked like. This one was it.

In a swift motion, he switched on the testing room’s force fields as the alarms blared out, hoping to contain the wormhole.

“Oh honestly!” the Mister Handy complained. The wormhole pulled it in along with the Transportalponder, almost like it vanished.

The rift broke through the field like a hot knife through butter and tore everything around it.

He dodged as a piece of debris flew over him, missing him by mere inches, and held onto a nearby desk drilled tightly on the ground. Bits of himself torn from him as the rift pulled him toward it. When he looked at it, a dark, starry abyss was glaring right back at him, the stars themselves trailed in the deep black.

“Well, shit,” he groaned. He held on the desk as much as he could, but the wormhole’s strength managed to drag him in. He slammed headfirst into the now flying furniture, and consciousness deserted him.

As he woke up, a foul smell had assailed his nostrils, reminding him of Brahmin shit mixed with gunpowder and rotten fish.

At first, he thought he was in an alleyway, somewhere in Freeside. Freeside was not known for its cleanliness. He was half-right.

He expected to find a starry night sky when he gazed up, only to see that there was a ceiling far above him. Judging by the weak illumination of neon bulbs, he concluded that he was in civilization, but where exactly? One thing for sure was that he was neither in the Sierra Madre nor somewhere in the Divide. He never liked either of those places.

He stood up steadily, kicking off whatever particular pieces of garbage were on his black boots. Dusting off his armored vault jumpsuit, the Courier took a thorough, good look at himself. He knew that rifts in the space-time continuum can tear things apart at an atomic level, so he had to be sure.

He placed his hands all over a chiseled face that went well with his tall, lean, and athletic body. His face. His brown, rectangular eyes and his olive skin tone came from a mixed heritage in Vault 15, common among citizens of the NCR. His dark-brown hair was cut and combed neatly weeks ago while his anchor beard had been trimmed.

So his body was still here. Hands, arms, legs, feet… everything was left intact. He let out a relieved sigh, taking in the comfort he was still himself, and he was still alive.

He checked his Pip-Boy 3000 strapped on his left wrist. With a whir and a beep, Ethan’s scratched face was bathed in its familiar green light. So it was intact too. The Lone Wanderer told him an old friend of hers always said you could drop a bomb on the Pip-Boy, and it would still work with nary a scratch. Even fully submerging it in water wouldn’t short-circuit it. If Ethan could get back, he would tell her to add a trip through a fucked-up wormhole to the list of disasters the Pip-Boy could withstand. These things were built to last.

The screen showed an incomplete map. It seemed he was out of the Pre-War satellites’ range. Much to his annoyance, he would have to wait for the Pip-Boy’s GPS to adjust to whatever new coordinates it would get. However, the date and time read 5:38 PM 10/19/2286. So that meant he wasn’t out for too long—unless he traveled through time, he thought with a wry laugh.

He stopped and looked around, puzzled. “Wait a minute. Where are that Mister Handy and the Transportalponder?”

Conveniently, the Transportalponder was across from where he was. He picked it up and inspected it. The plastic container that contained the energy had cracked open. The vacuum tube at the front of the pistol-like device was burnt out from using enough power to create the wormhole. Without the specific rare materials to create the Transportalponder, he would be as good as stuck here.

He hoped the wormhole had only destroyed the X-84 facility. That wouldn’t go well with his conscience if it did more than that.

“At least I could play with it,” he muttered and put the now-broken device in his bag.

He checked his surroundings and spotted a small security camera mounted on a wall, tracking his every move. The sight of a stranger randomly appearing in a dark, dank alley would be suspicious as hell. That would prompt someone to check what the hell was going on.

When he got out of the alleyway, he squinted and covered his eyes from the sudden brightness. He found himself taken by the view, his mouth half-open. The architecture was dull, brown, and monolithic as if the buildings were interconnected. It made him compare it to a scene from a dystopian science-fiction movie or a superhero comic book, like La Fantoma. Even the dimly lit storefronts and aging neon signs resembled the places he been to in the Mojave Wasteland, especially the Strip.

His eyes adjusting to the brightness, the image of people—if he could call them that—moving about became clear. Some of them were birdlike, each having a pair of mandibles over their mouths. Others were thin with large, horned heads and black, beady eyes. Some women who looked human had scalped crests instead of hair. A giant, slouching creature with thick arms and vertical slits for a mouth guarded an entrance to what appeared to be a nightclub. There were two long lines of people in front of the creature. As he stumbled by, he bumped into a large, reptilian creature with a crest on its head.

The guns the guards carried far outclassed his. Their suits of armor were sleek while their weapons looked either blocky or curvy. There was an orange, holographic light on one gunman with a pair of mandibles on his face. He wondered how they work, but he didn’t want to find out the hard way. Plus, he didn’t like how the creature looked at him, so he kept moving.

He wandered for hours. Every joint in his body ached. He couldn’t help but have this strong feeling of isolation and dizziness over him. He wanted to go back home. But how?

While he did see plenty of other folk like himself, the strange creatures that called themselves turians and asari were the most populous. Also, judging by the biggest establishment he could see, with large neon letter spelling Omega he overheard several other people discussing the owner within. There was one common refrain among them: don't fuck with Aria. Duly noted. He huffed and muttered to himself, “Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.”

Suddenly, someone dragged him to the alleyway. A thug preying on their next victim taking him away so there wouldn’t be any witnesses, he thought. Obvious and predictable. This should be easy enough to counteract.

Swaying left and right, the Courier quickly broke his would-be attacker’s hold. The Courier reached over his shoulder and grabbed the attacker by the back of their shirt. With a quick motion, the Courier slammed his enemy to the ground like a wrecking ball.

The cracking sound should’ve done the job, but the attacker quickly recovered and stood up. The Courier whipped out his Bowie knife and lunged, giving the mugger a shallow but long gash across his chest. His attacker yelped in pain and stumbled a few steps backward, clutching his chest in a frantic but futile attempt to close the wound.

The Courier inspected and was taken back. This was a four-eyed humanoid with a thin layer of brown fur all over his body. He wondered what else this universe held in store for him.

Enraged, and terrified out of his mind, the four-eyed alien got out a strange-looking pistol. But the Courier, thanks to his implants, was harder, better, faster, stronger. In the span of a few seconds, he shrugged, gave a smug grin to his attacker, and fired his M1911 pistol, in that order. The two shots hit the thug’s chest made him tumble down backward, dead before hitting the ground.

“At least it’s not like those three old ladies with rolling pins,” Ethan remarked with a sigh. He reloaded his pistol and holstered it.

He went through the alien’s pockets, finding what appeared to be an earpiece. It wouldn’t fit him, but it looked like it might be worth something. He found a thin card with a single word in many unrecognizable languages. One of them read ‘credits,' and he guessed it meant a sum of currency, so he pocketed the card and the earpiece.

He picked up the pistol. From its shape, it looked like a semi-automatic but without a hammer at the back end of the slide. Inside the pistol were cylinder-shaped blocks, thick and big as his thumb. He wanted to tamper with it, but he needed to know how this pistol worked first.

As he put the magazine back in, footsteps thumped him. Was someone else in the alleyway? What were they doing while he was looking through the dead alien’s stuff? Without missing a beat, he stood up and slipped out.

After walking around for an hour straight, the Courier found himself in a marketplace humming with activity. A red-haired man wearing coveralls crouched down and tinkered with a pile of scrap metal on a bench, welding two flat surfaces together with a ring around it. The clerk’s mask covered his face from sparks and the welder’s intense light, not to mention the smell of metal and wire.

Ethan approached the kiosk and knocked on the table, grabbing the man’s attention. The man placed his tool on the floor and turned as he lifted his mask. He was pale with green eyes and a soul patch on his thin chin. He looked like he was in his early twenties.

“Hey there. How’s it going?” The clerk looked tired as if he spent all day working.

“It’s been wonderful, really,” Ethan replied. “The sites are gorgeous, and the people here are friendly. What’s not to like?”

The clerk paused for a moment. “Well, this is the shittiest place in the galaxy. First time on Omega?”

“You could say that. I’m looking for something to buy.”

“What are you looking for?”

“A translator.”

The clerk blinked in confusion. He raised his finger before speaking. “You don’t have one? You got here without one?”

Ethan realized if he told the truth, the clerk wouldn’t believe him. “Actually, I got mugged. They took my stuff and gave me this nasty concussion.” He rubbed his forehead to give off the impression that he had a headache. “I got my stuff back, but I think I lost my memory.”

The clerk seemed to be surprised “Oh, okay. Happens to everyone on this station. Except for that ‘amnesia caused by massive head trauma’ thing. But you look like you can handle yourself.”

“Nobody’s perfect, believe me.”

“Anyways, you can use the terminal to buy what you need. Security reasons. You can see ‘em everywhere at the Citadel.” The clerk tilted his head to an orange screen at the Courier’s right.

“What’s the Citadel?” the Courier asked.

The clerk shook his head and pinched his nose. “You’re a fucking idiot.” He sighed, now realizing. “Oh, right. Concussion.”

“I had worse.”

The clerk rolled his eyes, going along. “The Citadel is the capital of galactic civilization. It’s like the opposite of this shithole. I’m sure you can figure out the rest. It had its own fair share of problems, sure. Pretty mundane, from what I hear.”

“So why can’t you leave?” Ethan asked.

“I would love to, but travel costs are high,” the clerk answered. “Plus, I’m under a contract. I hope I won’t get killed before it expired. Omega’s a pretty dangerous place.”

“Yeah. I get the picture.” The Courier gazed at the terminal and tentatively touched the screen. After discovering it responded, he browsed the selection. He found a translator of high quality and an orange light that fitted over his wrist. The same light from before.

“Hey, what’s up with that wristband?” He pointed at the picture of the object on the terminal.

The clerk turned away from the shelf. “Huh? Oh, that’s an omni-tool. They’re multipurpose handheld computers. Everyone has one these days.”

“So why would I need one?” Ethan had his Pip-Boy, so buying one of these things would be redundant to him.

“The omni-tool will also give you a kinetic barrier,” the clerk answered. “It’s weak, but it’s better than nothing. It won’t work against radiation and laser, temperature, slow-moving objects, like knives and sticks, and poison.”

“Like this pistol here?” The Courier showed the clerk his new pistol.

The clerk brought his hand up to his chin and investigated the gun. “That’s an M-3 Predator pistol. Heavy pistols like that pack a real punch against anyone with armor. They’re mass accelerators, so they use metallic slugs, not bullets. They’re accelerated by electromagnetic fields and enhanced by mass effect fields.”

“What are mass effect fields?” the Courier asked.

“They are fields used by element zero, which releases dark energy when exposed to an electrical current. It can increase or decrease the object’s mass, with a positive charge increasing mass while a negative charge decreases mass. But when a ship’s moving faster than light, these fields can create static electricity charge. If you don’t discharge that onto a planet’s surface or its magnetic field, depending on the size of a ship, it’ll go into the hull of a ship or a car instead and cause a lot of damage. Fusing bulkheads, destroying electronics, you name it.”

“So it’ll fry everything inside.”

The clerk shrugged. “Basically, yeah. Anyways, you can’t fire your gun like crazy. It’ll overheat. The new models use thermal clips instead so you won’t have to wait for the gun to vent out heat.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe I should’ve been a teacher. You follow?”

Ethan nodded, showing he listened. He turned to the terminal and picked the items he wanted. His eyes widen in shock when he found out they cost about 7,500. It would’ve greatly depleted his stolen funds from the money slip if he hadn’t sold the four-eyed alien’s earpiece. He expected something like a rare weapon or a suit of power armor to be expensive, not something like this omni-tool.

“All right, here is your stuff.” The clerk handed Ethan an eyepiece and a small, plain bracelet. “One Logic Arrest omni-tool and a Rosetta translator. Enjoy.”

The Courier took the translator and the bracelet, fitting the translator over his eyes. A holographic display appeared with shapes and lines flying when he turned it on. He looked at the bracelet now on his right wrist with a confused look on his face.

“You'll have to turn it on,” the clerk reminded him. “Button’s at the side. It’s easy to find.”

The Courier did so, and an orange light appeared, reaching up to his elbow. “Nice!” Ethan’s smile widened in elation as he messed around with the omni-tool, bringing up a paper-thin screen above the device. “I should go. Bye.” He turned it off.

“Okay, see ya. Try not to die,” the clerk called out.

The Courier left the marketplace. He remembered passing by the nightclub earlier. It would be a great place to gather word.

As he looked up information on his omni-tool, he went to a nightclub, Afterlife. Its name appeared in giant white letters above the entrance.

A hooded man shuffled by, bumping into him. He muttered a quick apology and went straight to the club. The Courier wanted to cut past the line but thought better of it when the line went nowhere.

Instead, he walked away from the bar, somewhere else from here.

“Annoyed: No, I haven’t seen anyone like that here. Nor have I been looking. Joking: Who do you think I am, the bar’s informer?”

This is going nowhere. The blue-skinned asari with freckles on her cheeks pinched the bridge of her nose. Liara T’Soni’s patience with the rather sarcastic elcor was wearing thin. All she wanted were some answers regarding Shepard’s whereabouts.

“I didn’t mean to offend,” she sighed. “I just thought—”

“Miffed: You thought because I was an elcor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be watching them dancing all day,” the elcor spoke, his voice lacking any emotion. “Pitifully: Elcors are good dancers, but nobody here gives us a chance.”

She looked at the display past the counter, amid the loud noises of the nightclub and its bright, colorful lights. The screen across the counter showed news of the repairs the Citadel took in the wake of the attack by Sovereign, a Reaper, and the geth. Last month, Shepard disappeared when the Normandy was destroyed. But it was so long ago. Deep down, she missed Shepard.

“Mockingly: More than they could afford.” The elcor was also watching the news. “Mournful: If it weren’t for that station, living on Omega would be downright depressing.”

Liara would agree with that sentiment.

“You have to love the elcor,” someone spoke nearby. “They got all the expressiveness of a tree. If they didn’t explain the nuance of what they’re saying, it’d be like talking to one.”

Liara looked away from the elcor. “Oh, I don’t know. I—” She looked at the hooded figure sitting by the elcor. Upon a closer look, she recognized he was her contact. Her one shot at finding Shepard. “Wait. You have something to tell me about the Commander—”

“No, not here.” The hooded man shook his head and looked up, his dark eyes meeting hers. Under the lighting, his scaly skin had a warm set of colors of orange and green. He was a drell, a reptilian race rescued from a dying home world by the hanar. “Outside.”

“I… of course. If it’s for the best.” Liara and the hooded man stood up and walked out of Afterlife.

The Courier leaned forward, resting his arms on a rail. Across from the balcony, down where the crates piled, there was a humongous window where distant stars blinking in and out in outer space.

The sound of gunfire snapped the Courier out of his thoughts. The noises were nearby, down a quick turn and twist of a hallway. Driven to investigate, he ran to the source. Moments later, he entered a large, circular hall. Metal slugs flew by, prompting him to duck back inside. The gunfire here was less noisy than the ones in his travels in the Mojave, meaning he wouldn’t get tinnitus. As he leaned against the wall to his right, the Courier held his pistol with both hands.

He peeked, hoping not to get shot. To one side, ahead was a large group of humans, turians, and the four-eyed batarians. They wore blue-and-white suits of armor, carrying guns like the guards’ at the nightclub. Some of them wore helmets, concealing their faces.

On the other side, behind Ethan was a hooded man in a suit of tan-green armor, taking cover behind similar crates as he fired his Predator pistol. He blinked, recognizing the man—he was the one who bumped into him at the nightclub. By the man was a young asari with freckles on her cheekbones. Her light purple armor appeared to be skin-tight, having less padding on her chest and limbs compared to her companion.

The asari stood up, frowning, and balled her hand into a fist. A dark-blue aura surrounded her as if some power welled up within her. She unclenched her hand and raised it above her head in a quick succession. A yelp brought the Courier’s attention to a batarian that floated mid-air, his four eyes wide with terror, as a blue hue appeared underneath him and pushed him up to the ceiling. His allies opened fire on the asari as she extended her arm, causing the batarian to fly backward. She ducked back behind the crate, unscathed.

Ethan blinked and stared at the asari on her ability to manipulate some strange energy. Before he could read what happened, one armored shooter saw him and turned to a helmeted woman. She carried a flamethrower, with a large tank full of gas on her back. “Take him out! We don’t anyone snitching on us!”

The Courier sighed and brought his chin up. Great. Another bunch of idiots to deal with.

The woman nodded and moved towards the Courier. Taking advantage of the tank’s exposure to gunfire, the Courier used his Pip-Boy. It activated VATS—Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. Peaking from cover, he aimed down the sight of his pistol. According to its calculations, he had a decent chance of hitting the tank. For each shot, the chances go up slightly.

Time slowed down around him. Adrenaline rushed through Ethan’s body as he fired three times at a rapid pace. Before the flamer realized what happened, it was too late for her to react as the last shot hit the tank. The tank exploded in a fiery blast, engulfing her and two of the shooters nearby.

“Holy shit!” one shooter, another woman, barked. “Someone needs to take him out! Now!”

“On it,” said a turian with white tattoos on his face and blue lights appeared on his chest and his head. He approached the Courier with a bulky shotgun. A shot rang out, taking out the Courier’s shields. He recalled from the clerk that the shields provided by his omni-tool were weak. In a fight like this, it would last for a few seconds. To survive, he had to be quick and resort to hit-and-run tactics.

He got out his Bowie knife and waited. When the turian was around the corner, Ethan threw him against the adjacent wall. A struggle ensued as he thrust his knife at the turian. The turian attempted to push the knife away from his neck and dropped his gun. Ethan dazed the turian with a head-butt and stabbed him in the neck, dropping him.

More gunshots went off behind him. He turned to the hooded man shooting back at their attackers with a pistol. “Hey!” the hooded man shouted. “Get over here unless you want to get shot!”

Ethan nodded, hearing the man loud and clear. As he looked around for another weapon, he found a rifle attached to the turian’s back. He snatched it off and found it forming in his hands, adjusting to his size. As he inspected it, he found it was blocky, its barrel triangular. He smirked, finding it convenient somehow.

Stepping out of the alleyway, the Courier turned and fired at another shooter, a batarian, in several three-round bursts. The batarian’s shields had been taken out, as seen with a blue blur surrounding him.

He slid behind a crate, next to the asari and the hooded man. As he did so, something broke like glass. His shields gave out, he realized. A sharp sting went through his right arm like someone swiped a knife at him, and it bled. The wound on his arm sealed on its own accord. Under most circumstances, the injury would be severe enough to be treated. But the Monocyte Breeder implant from Dr. Usanagi he bought years ago covered that, speeding up his healing process.

The two strangers stared at him, wondering why he showed up out of nowhere. While the asari seemed to be astonished by his regenerative abilities, he had other priorities to focus on, such as not dying.

“What are you doing here?” The man’s voice sounded digitized like he spoke through a mask. The Courier figured it was his translator’s doing. “You’re lucky your shields held up like that.”

“Lucky is what I’m good at,” Ethan smiled, nonchalant. He stood up when his shields refreshed and activated VATS again, shooting down more of the attackers in his direction. “You know, seeing the sights, killing people. The usual. You?”

The asari blinked after ducking back behind the crate. “I’ll be quick: we’re looking for a body of a friend. Feron’s my contact here.” She tilted her head to the hooded man.

The hooded man frowned. “Liara, you sure that’s a good idea? We just met him!”

“He helped us so far, so it’s a good time as any.” Liara, the asari, looked back at Ethan. “We’re looking for Commander Shepard. Feron had some information on her whereabouts.”

“Who’s Commander Shepard?” the Courier asked loudly over the sound of slugs banging against the crate. He popped out of cover and grabbed an attacker that ran up to them, tossed him and slammed him onto the ground. Ethan pulled his knife out and cut the armored man’s throat, ending his life in an instant.

When he looked back at the two, he realized he wasted his breath as the two gave him incredulous looks. “You…” Feron said.

“How did you not know who Shepard is?” Liara asked.

“You think you’d know her by her reputation since you’re a human,” said Feron.

“I’m new around here.” Ethan poked his head out and found more troopers coming in.

“Aren’t we all?” Feron had shot another attacker.

“Yeah, sure,” Ethan retorted. “We can play Q&A after this if you like.”

A metal slug flew by, missing them by inches. “A wise idea, I might add,” Feron replied.

“At least we agree on something.” Ethan put his knife away and continued firing at the shooters. No matter how many they killed, two more entered the fray. Liara gathered the blue energy and formed it into a sphere in her hands. In a second, she launched the ball at the group in question. It suspended in the air, pulling those nearby toward it and flew around the object as if they were like a string attached to a ceiling.

This gave Ethan and Feron the advantage. They focused their fire at the floating shooters as the Courier used VATS whenever he could. He ducked as one of them flew above him. He continued firing, with Liara firing her pistol at another new attacker running in on the scene.

One of the turians entered the fray with a large, bulky rifle in hand. Liara leaned out of cover and pulled off a new trick. A blue barrier appeared on the turian, preventing him from moving.

Without warning, one shooter dropped dead with a bloody hole in his head. “Sniper! Look out!" one other shooter, a dark-haired man with tanned skin, cried with fear in his eyes. Another shot pierced through his head.

Several of the attackers got shot down. Capitalizing on this, Feron ran first, dashing away. Liara came next, tossing away another attacker with her powers and grabbed Ethan’s arm, following the hooded man. None of them looked back as they ran.

“Which way?” Liara wondered.

“Anywhere safe, obviously,” Ethan answered.

As they rounded another corner, the three stopped when they stumbled upon two huge men in hulking, white armor, carrying smoothly shaped rifles. A fair-skinned, dark-haired lady, clad in a dark-sleeved white uniform, led them. It was hard for Ethan to tell if she was beautiful or uncanny.

“Or not.”

“Relax. We’re working toward the same goal: Finding Commander Shepard,” the woman stated.

“Shepard’s dead,” Liara pointed out.

“That’s what they say,” the woman scoffed. “But Shepard has beaten the odds before.”

“Who are you, anyway?” The Courier stepped toward the woman. “And what makes this Shepard so special?”

The woman and her men gave him confused looks. “I’m Miranda Lawson. Shepard’s a hero, a bloody icon. And yet you have never heard of her?”

Liara sighed. “I’ll try to explain to him. He has helped us so far.” She turned to Ethan. “I’ll explain later. Shepard…” She curled her lips. “None of us would be here if she hadn’t stopped an invasion on the Citadel and saved the Council.”

“Oh, okay.” Ethan nodded and turned to Miranda.

“I admit this wasn’t what we expected,” said Miranda.

“What do you want?” Liara asked.

“I’m here to take you to someone who’s interested. He wants to meet you. Work with us, and we might be able to resurrect Shepard.”

The Courier scoffed. He wanted to say resurrecting the dead was impossible, but he bit his tongue instead. If he can go from one universe to another, he was sure resurrection could be within the realm of possibility.

Feron glanced at Liara, frowning as he folded his arms. “I don’t trust this set-up.”

Ethan looked at Feron. Under the hood, with what little lighting they had, he had scales for skin. At least Feron doesn’t look like a Mirelurk, but they were amphibians. “What are you talking about?”

“Cerberus is pro-human,” Feron explained. “They’re only interested in Shepard because she’s human. I doubt they’d mourn her if she’s a hanar or a krogan.”

“A bunch of racists,” Ethan huffed. “Good to know. Those people who attacked us… Who are they?”

“They’re Blue Suns. They’re a mercenary group consisting of humans, turians, and batarians. I think they were hired…”

“Hate group or not, we have similar goals as Cerberus do,” the asari butted in. “Let’s meet up with them.”

“Come with me.” Miranda brushed strands of hair off her face. “And you can bring your friends, too. We're not being choosy today.”

The woman and her bodyguards headed off. Liara followed along, with Feron hanging back.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Feron commented as the Courier caught up with him and the others.

“Let’s see. I got myself into a gunfight with you guys, and now we’re working with a human supremacist group to find a dead hero.” Ethan couldn’t help but smile, holding back his laughter. “Of course you have a bad feeling about this!”

Nord Ronnoc
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Re: Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars - Mass Effect/Fallout crossover

Post by Nord Ronnoc » 2017-07-08 05:36am

Chapter Two: I Know You Are But What Am I?

Somewhere else, after a long hike, the Courier looked around at the Cerberus facility workshop. There, he got pestered by several engineers about his Transportalponder when he asked for the right materials to fix it. He thought he would never get to hear the end of it.

Ethan sat on a bench in the lobby. While it was a large room, it was also empty and quiet, save for the other occupants: Feron and Liara. A logo of an elongated hexagon and two lines traced to the bottom were plastered on the walls.

Liara sat at the Courier’s right, her legs crossed. She smiled, her right hand glowing as she opened it, a bright orb flickering in her palm. Ethan placed the rifle at his side and glanced at the asari. “You froze that turian and summoned a black hole. Did you use dark energy?” He maintained his newfound rifle with a toolkit he found in the workshop.

“Are you serious?” an incredulous Feron asked, standing in front of them.

Ethan sighed. “When I said I’m new here, I am not exaggerating.”

“Fine, if you insist.” Feron was on the verge of throwing his hands up in the air. “She’s a biotic. They can do those things you saw and create mass effect fields through electrical impulses in the brain,” Feron answered. “She can pull that off because of her bio-amps, which synchronize their nerve system to make the biotics useful.”

“My people, the asari, are naturally adept at biotics.” Liara closed her hand, and the glowing ball disappeared. “Most other species can develop biotics through exposure to element zero in the uterus and enhance them with amps.”

“I’ve heard about element zero. If they’re a chemical substance, that means they only have neutrons,” Ethan pointed out.

“Element zero, or eezo, is a nickname. They’re an exotic material,” Liara replied. “They’re made by stars going supernova, releasing dark energy. Then they latched onto nearby asteroids. That’s how Omega came to be. It started out as a mining facility.”

Feron glanced at the Courier as he took his pistol apart. The internal parts of the pistol looked rather strange to him, resembling a cross between a recharger pistol and a ballistic gun, like his M1911, along with a computer system. He assembled it back together in a matter of seconds. The drell raised an eye ridge at Ethan’s repair skills.

“By the Goddess, that was impressive!” Liara exclaimed with awe.

“Thanks. It’s nice to be complemented every once in a while,” the Courier smirked.

The drell stood off to the side, crossing his arms in front of him. “Earlier, you said you can answer some questions.”

“That I did,” the Courier replied. “Fire away.”

“So what’s your name?”

Ethan paused. He wasn’t keen on sharing his real name with two strangers. On the other hand, he helped Liara and Feron this far so he could return the trust. “Name’s Ethan Sunderland, but people called me the Courier.”

“Courier… a messenger, I take it?” Liara stared at the floor and glanced at Ethan. “People call you that?”

“Well, yeah. Your grasp of the obvious is inspiring,” Ethan rolled his eyes. “I used to be one till I got shot in the head. Twice, at point-blank range.” He pointed to a scar he bore next to his right eye. He was certain they would buy his story if he told them more about himself. Even if they did, it wouldn’t help him much. No one believed him about his time at Big Mountain, except for No-bark Noonan. No-bark believed in the craziest things, whether they happened to be real or just a figment of his imagination.

The asari gasped. “How did you survive?”

“I got better,” the Courier answered. “That guy in the checkered jacket, Benny, should’ve used a bigger caliber. Doc Mitchell patched me up afterward.”

“Mm-hmm,” Feron nodded, unconvinced. “And that device strapped to your left wrist?”

Ethan looked at his Pip-Boy. He guessed it wouldn’t hurt to tell since they were smart enough to see through his lies. “This? Glad someone finally noticed.” He showed them his Pip-Boy. “This is a Pip-Boy 3000. It came with a Geiger counter, radio, health monitor, data storage, clock, and calendar, and I can use the screen as a flashlight.” He shrugged. “Sort of like your omni-tools.”

Liara and Feron found themselves shocked. “Why do you need a Geiger counter?” the asari asked.

“There was a lot of radiation back on Earth.”

Feron gave him a confused expression. “Earth had massive levels of radiation? I heard the slums of most of its cities were bad. I’m surprised the Alliance dealt with enough radiation to provide a Geiger counter into that Pip-Boy of yours.”

“RobCo Industries made this thing,” the Courier corrected. “But that happened in another universe. RobCo, the Pip-Boy. Here, they don’t exist.”

“RobCo?” Liara frowned. “Wait. If you’re from an alternative timeline or perhaps an alternative universe, then when did humanity first develop the nuclear bomb?”

“1945, near the end of the second World War, when America developed and deployed it against the Japanese forces,” Ethan replied. “Now I know how the victims felt at the time.”

“Okay… how about the transistor?”

“I don’t see them, aside from Big Mountain and in robots.” Ethan curled his lips, thinking up of something else. “Here’s a short history lesson for you. In 2077, there was a two-hour war between two countries, the United States and China.”

Liara glanced at Feron, with the two exchanging confused looks, and back at Ethan. “There was a war between the United States of America and China little over a century ago? That… I don’t know what to…?”

After a second of thought, he pulled out his broken Transportalponder out of his backpack and showed it to Liara and Feron. He hoped it would help make them believe him. “It’s a shocker, I know, but it brought me here.” There was a wry, satisfied smirk on his face.

Liara leaned forward. “What is that? I saw it back at the workshop, but I have seen nothing like it…”

“You have now,” Ethan deadpanned. “It’s a Transportalponder, made from Big Mountain. It can transport me there to the Mojave and back. I tried to improve it, but anything can go wrong.”

Liara and Feron glanced at each other. “Goddess…” She turned to Ethan before looking back at Feron. “Feron, do you think what he said was true, let alone possible?”

“I… I don’t know,” said Feron. “He made a large assumption about himself.”

“Aside from him being mentally unstable, it’s the only explanation I can come up with.” The asari looked at Ethan. “Do you have an omni-tool?”

“Just bought it.” Ethan pulled out the omni-tool out of his pocket. His right forearm glowed an orange light momentary before putting it away.

Liara nodded. “So do you know about the Protheans?”

“No,” Ethan answered. “I don’t know much about them.”

Liara placed her fingers on her chin. “…Mass relays?”

Ethan shook his head after looking through the data on his Pip-Boy. “No, no references to the mass relays.”

“So the data in your Pip-Boy proves it.” Liara raised a finger after looking at the Pip-Boy to be sure. “I don’t know what happened, but you’re not in your own universe anymore.”

“That’s what I just said,” Ethan muttered, watching as the pair ignored him.

“I don’t know what to make of this…” Feron shook his head as he placed his hands on his hip.

“I got an idea.” The asari sat up. “I was an archaeologist, studying the Protheans’ history and their culture before I joined Shepard on her mission to stop Saren. Let me see if I could set carbon date your jumpsuit and this Pip-Boy of yours.”

“Yeah, sure. Go ahead while I sit around like furniture,” Ethan replied.

Liara scanned his armored yet tattered Vault 21 jumpsuit with her omni-tool. She lifted Ethan’s arm and studied his Pip-Boy for a moment. She entered a command, calculating the estimated age of his Pip-Boy.

Ethan looked over her shoulders to see her enter a series of algorithms and equations over an orange holographic screen. For once, he would like to find out how old his Pip-Boy was, exactly.

A perplexed expression appeared on the former archaeologist’s face when the numbers appeared. “That can’t be right… Was your Pip-Boy made in 1970? It’s amazing it still works today.”

Feron’s eye ridge narrowed as he frowned. “You still believe he came from a parallel universe? You can’t be serious, Liara!”

The light disappeared as Liara turned off her omni-tool. “It was either that, he had amnesia, or as you said, he’s insane,” the asari glared at the drell. “Think about it, Feron. He admitted ignorance about the relays and the Protheans. The Pip-Boy was made 213 years ago, which shouldn’t be possible here. He even asked how biotics work. You heard him yourself! With enough proof, if the Reapers exist, so do other universes.”

“The Reapers are one thing, Liara; we know they’re a threat.” Feron stepped forward and pointed accusingly at Liara. “You can’t prove it. Many people tried before, and it didn’t work. Besides, have you seen how humans made their movies? They sure love their ‘experiment gone wrong’ and transporter clichés.”

“You got a lot of nerve. Why don’t you stick your head in the sand?” Ethan stood up. “Want me to show you a stimpak? Maybe that would—”

“Enough!” The asari had stepped in between the two men before they got too close, her body glowing for a moment. “This is unnecessary.” She sighed as Ethan and Feron stared at her, then at each other. “The whole thing would’ve been solved already if I joined my consciousness with Ethan’s. That way, I can look at his memories and prove that he came from an alternate universe.”

Ethan arched an eyebrow curiously. “That sounds an awful lot like telepathy…”

“It’s a melding, a joining,” Liara explained. “As I connect my nervous system to yours, we can exchange thoughts and memories. Do you want to do this?”

Ethan paused. On one hand, it would make it clear to Liara and Feron that he wasn’t of this universe. But he shivered when he realized Liara would look through his memories, including the traumatizing ones; they were memories, nothing more.

“Yeah, okay. I guess there’s no harm in doing it. Will it hurt? Have you done this before?”

“Only a tingling sensation, from what Shepard has told me.” Liara rubbed her chin, glancing aside. “Though she was the only one I melded with to decipher her vision of the Protheans. That’s all the experience I had.”

The Courier gave Liara a look nothing short of serious as he dropped his shoulders. “That’s good to know.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Relax, Ethan.” Liara approached him. “Embrace eternity!”

Her eyes turned black as Ethan jolted from the electrical impulses coursing through his body. Everything around him transformed into a mess of images and noises, incomprehensible, his mind resisting the melding.

Slowly, it got easier, becoming clear images of his memories, flashing before his eyes. He saw himself shaking hands with an NCR officer at the Strip. He, alongside his companions, fought Lanius at Hoover Dam. He saw himself at the Sierra Madre vault, trapping Elijah in it. He saw himself approaching Ulysses at the ICBM facility, talking to the other Courier. He spared the Think Tank, banished the White Legs from Zion Valley with Joshua Graham’s help, and trained the Misfits.

He found himself tied up near Goodsprings. Jessup and McMurphy stood behind Benny, the man in the checkered jacket. Benny pointed his golden-plated Browning Hi-Power pistol and fired two rounds at his head.

Ethan blinked, finding himself back in the lobby. He was all right, but his head throbbed with pain as everything came back together. This melding was like his and Liara’s minds had become one, their identities crashing together, splintered, and reformed.

“Goddess, that was… disturbing, intense.” Liara sat down on the bench. She looked tired, her eyelids slowly dropping.

“You okay?” the Courier asked. She was a complete stranger so far, but he had to be sure. He would blame his conscience for that.

“Yes, I’m fine. Sometimes a melding can be intense if the participant was strong-willed, like you and Shepard.” Liara looked up to him. “It’s a lot to explain.”

Ethan looked at Feron, who stood at the corner nearby. “Satisfied?”

Feron looked down at the floor, considering what happened, then at her. “Liara?”

She nodded wearily.

“Fine, I get it,” he grunted. “I’m sorry that I’ve been antagonistic lately. It’s not like you waltzed in here out of nowhere.”

“Regardless, we must get you used to the galaxy at large,” Liara remarked.

Ethan sighed, relieved, as he sat on the bench behind him. But he had questions about this Shepard and the Reapers. “Shepard, Shepard, Shepard. Who is she, exactly? What makes her so unique? All I know she stopped this galaxy from certain doom.”

“Yes. That’s the gist of it,” said Liara. “Her name’s Madison. She was a spacer, the only child in a military family. She signed up for the Alliance at eighteen to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She went on a mission on the planet Akuze where a thresher maw killed her entire squad. The Alliance reported her as the only survivor of the attack.”

“Reported? There was someone else?”

“Yes,” Liara nodded. It looked like she didn’t have a fond memory of what she told him. “Corporal Toombs. Cerberus took him in and experimented on him. She found him when she searched for the dead scientists, but they were responsible for the thresher maw attack. Toombs wanted to kill one of the remaining scientists, Dr. Wayne, but Shepard talked him out of it.”

Ethan’s brow narrowed, suspicious. He remembered reading about the thresher maws on the Extranet. They were giant worms, borrowing from underground to attack their victims above. “If Cerberus was behind this thresher maw attack, then why did you have us turn to them in the first place?”

The asari glared at the Courier. “Right now, I don’t know who else I would turn to. The Alliance doesn’t have the resources after Shepard sacrificed much of the fleet to save the Council during the attack on the Citadel.”

“The Council?” Ethan asked, intrigued. “They’re the ones that led all of Citadel space? What happened at the Citadel?”

“A geth fleet, a race of synthetics built by the quarians, attacked the station with Sovereign, a Reaper, leading them. Before that, Shepard chased an elite soldier, a turian soldier named Saren, all over the galaxy. He led the invasion, but she put an end to his madness and saved the Citadel Council.” Her eyes watered from the tears. “I was part of her ground team. And I saw her die on the Normandy…”

“Were you… close to her?” Ethan asked.

Liara hesitated for a moment and shook her head. “No, we’re just friends.”

Ethan looked at Liara. “I know it’s hard for you, but sooner or later, the only thing you can do is to accept her death, dust yourself off, and move on.”

Liara let out a sigh and looked up to the Courier. “And I assume you want to know about the Reapers?”

“Yeah,” Ethan nodded. “What can you tell me about them?”

The former archaeologist shrugged. “Unfortunately, we don’t know much about them. All we know that they’re a race of sentient machines that arrive every 50,000 years to wipe out galactic civilization. They destroyed the Protheans and created the mass relays eons ago.”

Their conversation ended abruptly when the two-part door to their right slid open as a green circle disappeared. Miranda walked through and looked at Liara. “Our leader wants to see you now.” She turned at the Courier. “And you as well.”

“So I got attention. How delightful of you,” the Courier responded with a wry smile. “Any idea why I had your leader’s attention?”

“He’s interested in that… Transportalponder of yours.” Miranda cringed as she uttered Ethan’s transportation device. “Such a ridiculous name…”

“Whaaaat?” Ethan dropped his mouth, showing faux shock. “You have a problem with it? It’s a cool name. You’ll grow into it.”

Miranda expressed her annoyance with a sigh as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “I suppose. Just come with me.”

Feron looked at the Cerberus agent and shook his head. “No thanks. I think I’ll stay.”

“I wasn’t asking you.” Miranda turned and exited the room, with Liara and the Courier following her.

It didn’t take long to reach their destination as they took a quick right down the hallway. Because the trip was short, Ethan didn’t have the time to ask Miranda questions. Maybe her boss could give some answers instead.

As they entered the dark room, he turned and found the door sliding shut behind them. The room was small and featureless, save for a circle in the center. Liara and the Courier walked at a slow pace to the center. When they stepped into the circle, an orange, grid-like light emerged from the ground. They found themselves in another room with a window, showing a red giant star. In front of them was an old man wearing a black suit with a white collar, sulking in a chair. Smoke trailed into the air as he placed the cigarette between his lips.

Ethan stepped out of the orange light surrounding him and Liara, only to find the man had disappeared. Stepping back into the circle, he saw the cigarette-smoking man again.

“Huh, kinda cool.” Ethan smacked his lips together and looked around. “I take it this is a communication device, projecting us in two different places at the same time via particles.”

“Simply put, but yes. This is a quantum entanglement communicator or QEC for short. Difficult to produce, but well worth the price.”

With a wave of his free hand, the chair turned, revealing a pale, middle-aged man. His combed hair was a lighter shade of gray, parting at the middle of his forehead. If he had been sixty, he would look forty. His eyes glow a bright blue, probably from cybernetics. But there was something about those eyes made Ethan’s guts churn. “But let us get into the formalities, shall we? You may call me the Illusive Man.”

“Elusive?” Liara asked.

Ill-lusive. Starts with an ‘I,’” the Courier pointed out.

“He’s right, Liara T’Soni.” The Illusive Man placed his cigarette in the ashtray. “I often need to be hard to find as well.”

Ethan stepped forward. “So what do you want with Shepard?”

“Shepard is unique—one of the greatest examples of our species. A symbol of all humanity.” The Illusive Man placed his hand on his chin. “Dead or alive, we want Shepard back in human hands.”

“This Systems Alliance is also interested in finding Shepard’s body,” the Courier replied. “They’re run by humans. That should be a common goal, motivate you to work together.”

The Illusive Man shook his head, frowning. “No. You should understand that Cerberus and the Alliance are not on good terms. The Alliance condemned us as terrorists because our methods are different. They aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to preserve our race, but we do things that matter. They may as well pull toss Shepard aside, forgotten.”

Liara folded her arms in front of her. “Why would you want her if Shepard’s dead?”

The Illusive Man sat up. “As an asari, I can’t expect you to understand our traditions. But our reasons are not important. What’s important is that the Shadow Broker wants Shepard, too—and sent those mercenaries to stop you. In some ways, the Shadow Broker is my opposite in the information-gathering business, always working from afar. But now, the Broker made a deal with the devil. Or, more precisely, devils.”

With a tap from a holographic interface floating beside him, three insectoid creatures with four golden eyes and flat, elongated heads appeared, with spider-like arms twitching at their sides. “The Collectors.”

The Courier looked at these creatures, curious. “What are the Collectors?”

“Few know what the Collectors are or what they want.” The Illusive Man snapped his fingers together, like a god who controlled his world, and the images of the Collectors disappeared. “They make off with individual beings that had trivial distinctions. Volus middle siblings. Dyslexic krogan. Elcor who sings well.” His voice trailed off as he turned and sat back down on his chair. “Perverse but harmless in the grand scheme of things, or so we thought. Their interest in Shepard is alarming. We would want Shepard’s remains in any event—but it’s vital that the Collectors not have them. Whatever their reasons, it can’t be any good. That’s why we need you.”

“So why should I work with you? What’s in this for me?” the Courier asked at an angry aside, folding his arms. “You admit you’re terrorists. That’s more than enough for me not to trust you.”

“And why me?” Liara turned away from the Illusive Man. “You have all these resources, and Miranda, too.”

“It’s difficult for me to contend directly with the Shadow Broker out in the Terminus system. And while Miranda played her role…” The Illusive Man leaned forward, a stoic expression on his face. “Nothing beats having someone with a personal connection. You were very close with Commander Shepard. When I heard you were here, I knew I wanted you on my team.” He turned to the Courier. “As for you, Mr.…?”

“His name’s—”

“You may call me the Courier,” Ethan answered.

Liara turned at Ethan. “But—”

Ethan turned at the asari with a grave look on his face. From what he could tell, she understood what he intended. He had gotten so used to his title it became second nature to him. He didn’t trust this mysterious man, now knowing what he wanted. “Just roll with it.”

“I see.” The Illusive Man grabbed another cigarette and smoked. One blow and a quarter of the cigarette turned to ash. With a tap, it fell into the ashtray. “It’s hard not to understand why you were mistrustful of us. But you need to judge us not by our methods, but by our goals. I’ve been informed about your run-in with the engineers. I heard it was quite a fuss.”

The Courier scoffed. “I remembered them quite differently. What about it?”

“Miranda notified me on that device of yours, and how you came from a parallel Earth, devastated by nuclear war,” said the Illusive Man. “Perhaps this might persuade you: help us retrieve Shepard’s body, and we’ll compensate you. You’ll carry out whatever experiments you deem necessary. Or you can refuse, and we can go our separate ways. I doubt the Alliance would believe your story.”

“No strings attached? You have your word on that?” The Courier wasn’t confident he could trust the Illusive Man. Either way, would he have a choice?

The old man grinned. “No strings attached, I assure you.” With a snap of his fingers, he turned his chair around and faced the dying, red sun once more. “The drell, Feron, does seem to have a lead on Shepard. I suspect he may prove useful for an alien.” He tilted his head to his right. “Courier, Dr. T’Soni… Can we count on you two?”

Ethan looked at the asari, who closed her eyes as she weighed her decision. She sighed and opened her eyes. “No, but Shepard can.”

He scoffed. He had every reason not to trust the Illusive Man, but he couldn’t see any other option. Maybe he would cut ties with them some day. “Fine. But I’m not doing this for you. By the way, try not to die from cancer. I heard smoking’s bad for you.”

The Illusive Man chuckled. “Good. That’s what I want to hear. Find Shepard, stop the Shadow Broker from selling her body to the Collectors. Miranda will tell you more on the way.”

With a press of a button, the grid-like light descended, causing the cigarette-smoking man to disappear, leaving Ethan and Liara alone in the room. Now, they had a job to do.

Nord Ronnoc
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Re: Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars - Mass Effect/Fallout crossover

Post by Nord Ronnoc » 2017-08-18 01:12pm

Chapter Three: When Good Plans Go Wrong
Ethan sat, quiet and thoughtful, as the skycar they were in flew past the pillars in Omega. Feron and Miranda bickered about the details of their mission. Liara sat beside him, also lost in her thoughts. As he looked through the window, his thoughts turned back to his home universe.

Back in the Mojave, words spread of a stranger hunting down monsters in the Divide. It was Ulysses’ doing, no doubt. He made sure none of the Tunnelers made it to the Mojave.

While things were looking up for the NCR, people chafed at their presence in the Mojave, blaming them for taxes they had to pay.

The Followers of the Apocalypse had helped the sick and the poor while the Brotherhood of Steel patrolled I-15 and Highway 95.

Before he started on his experiment, the Think Tank remained ignorant, locked in a loop. He wasn’t sure if they knew of the incident at all.

His heart ached when it occurred to him what it meant. He wouldn’t see his friends again for a long time. After the Second Battle of Hoover Dam, many of them parted ways.

Lily left abruptly shortly after the battle and traveled west, saying she wanted to find out what happened to her grandchildren. Whatever she would find, he hoped it was for the best.

Boone re-enlisted with his old unit, 1st Recon, spending his spare time hunting down slavers.

Ethan heard reports of old equipment fixed and research notes mysteriously completed. It was likely that Veronica was responsible. After leaving the Brotherhood, she spent her days as a scavenger.

Raul took up his guns once more and soon, there were tales of a cowboy enacting justice on those who prey on the weak.

Rex had trouble adjusting his memories when Rey’s brain was transplanted into his body, but the cyberdog’s mind settled peacefully when the Courier returned him to his owner: The King.

Meanwhile, Arcade became a teacher of the Followers in NCR territory after tending to the sick and wounded in Freeside.

He hadn’t heard from Cass in years. Knowing her, he wasn’t surprised when he found out she slept with an NCR trooper and made her way out wandering in the Mojave wasteland. Whatever happened to her, he hoped she would be all right.

ED-E was the only one that stayed with him, being a loyal and vigilant companion wherever they went… until the day they got separated, when everything had gone wrong. He wondered if a trading caravan took up that beat-up old robot while he was gone.

Time changed everything and everyone, even him.

To distract himself, he looked at a datapad, which had all the basics on Commander Shepard.

Following in her family's footsteps, Shepard joined the Alliance at 18. On the planet Akuze, a thresher maw wiped out her whole squadron. Years later, she was assigned to the SSV Normandy. She wound up in a chase against Saren after an attack on Eden Prime. With the evidence against the turian, Shepard became the first human Spectre, a top agent working for the Council. She saved a space station known as the Citadel from Sovereign.

Four weeks after the battle, something destroyed the Normandy. While many of her crew had escaped, others didn’t—including Shepard. The Council pinned it as an accident, but Cerberus placed the blame on the Collectors. The Collectors had a ship advanced enough to detect the Normandy’s advanced stealth drives and strike it down.

Cerberus expected their mission to take a dangerous turn, so they provided the Courier with state-of-the-art weaponry and armor. He took advantage of this to secure for his use of the M-76 Mattock assault rifle, his Predator pistol, the M-97 Viper sniper rifle, and the M-23 Katana shotgun.

His new set of armor was plain with a dark shade of gray, having sleek paddings covering much of his body. An omni-tool had been implanted into the armor, saving him some time using it while his Pip-Boy fitted over the armor on his left arm. Compared to his old omni-tool, the armor gave him a much stronger kinetic barrier. He kept his backpack, along with the things he normally needed. Cerberus also provided him with a salve known as medi-gel.

Liara and Feron kept their previous equipment. Ethan identified Liara’s heavy, almost triangular pistol as an M-5 Phalanx. Her other weapon was the M-4 Shuriken, its shape more akin to the pistols back at the Mojave. Feron carried an M-29 Incisor sniper rifle and an M-9 Tempest submachine gun, the letters VTX inscribed on its barrel.

The skycar landed at the docking bay, near the nightclub. Liara and Feron stepped out as the doors opened.

“Courier? They’re waiting for you,” Miranda called out. “Were you listening?”

The Courier turned and nodded. “Yeah. The Shadow Broker hired these Blue Suns mercenaries to stop us. We have to find Shepard’s body and take it back.”

“And we’ll pay for your expenses,” Miranda finished.

“But where would her body be, exactly?” Liara turned to the Cerberus agent.

“If the body had left Omega, I would know,” Miranda explained. “They haven’t made the final handoff to the Shadow Broker’s agent yet, which means we got a chance.”

“Neither Liara and I are familiar with Omega,” Ethan pointed out. “Any place we could look?”

Miranda smirked as she sat back in the driver’s seat of the skycar. “Like the Illusive Man said, Courier—ask your drell friend. I’m sure he’ll have an idea or two.”

The door closed, and the skycar took off. The engines hummed loudly until it was out of earshot.

Ethan faced the drell. “So Feron. Since you’re the brains of this little operation, mind telling us where we should go first?”

Feron scoffed, pacing around. “You saw what happened the last time I tried to take Liara somewhere. What else could I give you?”

Liara frowned and glared at the Feron. “Quite a lot, I think. You work for the Shadow Broker. And they know it.”

Ethan stood there, perplexed. “Wait, how did you…?”

The asari stepped toward Feron and pointed at him accusingly. “You were the only person who knew I came to search for Shepard, but those mercs found me, anyway! Either they knew what you were up to—or you sold me out!”

“I didn’t sell you out, Liara,” Feron replied. “For a while, I took some odd jobs for the Shadow Broker. He pays for eyes and ears everywhere. He knew her friends would come for her, so I was supposed to lead you away. Money’s good, I don’t get my hands dirty, and no one gets hurt.”

“Not directly, anyway. Wouldn’t want to lose sleep over it, would you?” Ethan crossed his arms in front of him. “So why help us?”

Feron paced away from the Courier and Liara, walking past a crowd on a walkway, but they followed him anyway. “Like I said, no one gets hurt. But the Collectors are nasty customers. They’re as rare as a violent hanar.”

“So how do you know the Shadow Broker’s working with the Collectors?” Liara asked.

Feron stopped and turned to see Liara. “Rumors—nothing substantial.” He lifted his arms for a moment. “Listen, you and Ethan are better off without me. I’m becoming a liability to both you and the Shadow Broker.”

Ethan snorted and stepped forward. “And leave us at the Shadow Broker’s mercy? I’m not expecting him to give us gifts. We need your help, Feron. You know more about him than either of us combined.”

“And I watched from my escape pod as Shepard died.” Liara stepped in. “This is my chance to redeem myself. It can be your chance, too.”

The information broker puffed his cheeks and turned his back. “Okay, okay. You made your point. C’mon, we better get going. I know the perfect place to start.”

They stood at the front of the entrance to the nightclub, Afterlife. Music boomed in rhythm as the pink and purple lights shimmered in pattern behind the white letters. The elcor bodyguard was still here, keeping the crowd standing at the bottom of the stairs in line. Two mercenaries hired by the club’s owner, stood on the balcony.

“This—this is where we started!” Liara gasped.

“So that’s where we start looking?” The Courier placed his hands on his hips. “They better not have any dancing corpses, or I’m gonna be upset.”

“This is where Aria’s throne is, yes,” Feron cringed at the Courier’s joke. “And if it satisfies you, then no, the club doesn’t have any undead dancers. That would be… awkward.”

“Some palace for someone who called herself the Queen of Omega.”

The information broker chuckled as they went up the steps. “It won’t be easy meeting her. Security’s tight, and she never lets anyone get close to her. Lucky for you, that won’t be a problem.” He approached the elcor and turned on a bright orange light on his left wrist and leveled it up to his chest.

“Grateful: Thank you for your business,” the elcor bodyguard nodded. Ethan realized the elcor couldn’t efficiently express themselves to other species, so they use prefixes instead.

“Your charming wit and some bribery. Like me.” Ethan had a wry smile on his face. “I like the way you think.”

“Thanks,” said Feron.

The three entered and found themselves in a circular hallway, filled with many shady characters. Holographic images of fire covered the walls, looking hot as the deepest pit of Hell. If there was a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, this was the place. And now he thought about it, the name of this nightclub, Afterlife, was fitting.

But something made Ethan curious about Feron. “Hey, Feron, mind if I ask you something?”

The drell turned to Ethan. “What?”

“You’re well-connected and in good relations with the Shadow Broker up till now. Great name for a philanthropist. How long have you worked for him?”

Feron tensed a little. It looked like his question had struck a nerve. “A couple years. I should know a thing or two about the best information broker in the galaxy. I also know a few of his operatives. They don’t take much, but I know enough.”

“We’ll have to take Feron’s word for it.” Liara took a deep breath. “This is the best lead I’ve gotten to finding Shepard. I'm not letting this chance slip by.”

“Relax, Liara. We’re looking for closure,” Ethan replied.

The room they entered was large, colorful, and bright, filled with people dancing on many floors. At the center was a glowing cylinder, depicting an asari in little clothing dancing in a seductive manner. Techno beats of music filled the room, but it was loud for the Courier. He wasn’t used to this type of music.

“You’re not going anywhere just yet, Hando Due.”

“Hi, Greedro. What brings you here to Omega?”

They turned their attention to a green-skinned batarian and turian with no markings on his face. The Courier knew a turian with no markings on their face meant that they can’t be trusted as they had no allegiance to any of their clans. The batarian leaned towards the turian, shoving him into a wall nearby.

“It's about the money, isn't it?” the turian, Hando Due, asked. “Tell him I got it.”

“Sorry, Hando, too late for that.” The batarian, Greedro, pointed his pistol at the turian. “You should’ve paid him when you had the chance. Bet he’ll put a large price on your head. Large enough to bring every bounty hunter in the galaxy for you. But I found you first.” He shrugged. “Lucky me.”

“This time I got the money.” Hando gestured with his talons.

“Give it to me, and I might forget about you.”

Feron and Liara gave each other confused looks. The Courier pinched his mouth, keeping himself from laughing.

“Don’t have it with me.” The scoundrel’s talons hovered over his pistol. “Tell him—”

“He’s through with you!” The batarian shoved his pistol at the turian’s chest. “He has no use for anyone who screws up on the job.”

The turian’s mandibles twitched. “Even I get boarded sometimes. You think I had a choice?”

“You can tell that excuse to him,” Greedro smirked. “He may apply red sand to your eyes. Or rip out your platings.”

“How about I gorge out each one of your eyeballs?”

“You may try.” The batarian chuckled, unfazed by the turian’s threat. “Oh, I’ll savor this moment.”

As if he came out nowhere, another turian in blue armor with white paint on his face approached the two. “Hey! If you want to kill each other that bad, take it someplace else, but not on Aria’s turf!” The turian pointed at the exit. “You can leave, or you can deal with me. Your choice.”

The scoundrels reluctantly left the nightclub, much to the turian guard’s satisfaction. As they left, the turian approached the three. “Smugglers. When things go sour, they betray each other to save their hide. Bad for business.”

“Deal went south?” Ethan guessed.

“Looks like it.” The turian guard shrugged. He beamed his eyes on the Courier. “Wait a minute… you’re that human Aria wanted.”

“Everyone wants me for something,” Ethan smirked. “What for?”

“No idea. Aria sent me to find you. You just made my job easier.” The turian gestured to the three. “C’mon. You don’t want to keep her waiting.”

The turian left while the three followed behind him. Liara stared at Ethan, confused. “By the Goddess, what happened? That was… incredibly strange.”

“Be honest, Ethan. Does this happen to you a lot?” Feron asked.

“I take it in stride. I'm sure you’ll do in time.” A wry smile appeared on Ethan’s face.

Feron glanced to the side. “I see.”

Ethan scoffed. “Great, another fan.”

“Well, I have nothing else to say, aside from being granted an audience with Aria,” Liara commented.

“Yes,” the drell agreed, “that was much easier to attain.” They walked up the stairs. “Let’s see what she wants. Hope she has the coordinates for where the exchange takes place.”

At the top of the stairs, there was a purple asari slouching down on a black couch. The surrounding guards watched their every move. Underneath her white jacket, she wore a black skin-suit, showing skin around her stomach. A string of tattoos traveled across her face like eyebrows.

“Here he is, boss, like you asked.” The turian approached the purple asari.

“Good.” The asari and sat up. “I think that’s all I need from you, for now, Preitor. Go back to your post.” The turian guard, Preitor, nodded and walked down the stairs, past the batarian in brown, bulky armor.

“Your friends here are better looking than your usual company, Feron,” she said. “It isn’t often that the Shadow Broker sends his minions to me for help. Something big and juicy, I’ll bet. But…” She gestured to the batarian guard. “Anto, scan them for weapons.”

Anto, the batarian guard in brown armor, nodded and approached Ethan and the other two. “Stand still.” He activated his omni-tool and scanned them, which displayed holographic projections of a human, a drell, and an asari, skeletons and all.

“FYI, I have a gun right here.” Ethan rolled his eyes as he showed his pistol to the batarian.

“Perhaps,” the asari chuckled. “But it’s a standard procedure. Nobody gets close until they get scanned.”

Ethan put away his pistol. “If I wanted you dead, I would’ve done so in the first place.”

The asari smirked. “That’s what I thought.”

A beep sounded from the batarian’s omni-tool. “They’re clean. No funny business.”

Ethan nodded. Before he could do anything, Feron stepped forward.

“Leave this to me,” the drell whispered to Ethan and turned at the purple asari. “We’re just checking on some merchandise, Aria—the body of Commander Shepard.” Liara shivered when Feron mentioned that. Ethan assumed Liara didn’t like it when someone referred to Shepard as an object. “I know the Blue Suns are set to deliver it to the Shadow Broker. We need to know where.”

“You don’t know?” Aria T’Loak scoffed. “I knew the Shadow Broker liked secrecy, but for his own man not to know what he’s up to.” She looked at Liara. “And you. I know you. You’re one of Shepard’s crew. Were you able to speak when she was alive?”

“You’re also interested in me,” Ethan stated. “Why?”

“One thing at a time.” Aria looked at Ethan. “But yes, I’m interested in you.” She approached him. “Do you know who I am?”

Ethan bit his lower lip. Perhaps some sweet-talk would throw Aria off his back, though he wondered why she had an interest in him. He smiled, hoping to give out a good impression. “You’re Aria T’Loak, the Queen of Omega. Or boss, CEO, depending on the mood. Perhaps I could bow before you if it makes you happy.”

The ruler of Omega chuckled. “I figured you know the one rule on Omega. ‘Don’t fuck with Aria.’ But this has been complicated by a few things.”

The other guard lifted his omni-tool and broadcast what appeared to be surveillance video. In it, the alleyway was empty. A few minutes later, a flash of light overtook the screen, followed by static. The screen went back to normal after a few seconds, except with him lying against the wall, unconscious. The broadcast disappeared as the guard lowered his omni-tool.

“I contacted my tech specialist to take a look. He told me the camera was disrupted by what he would call an anomaly. This means you're dangerous. This is… rather sensitive information.” Aria frowned and crossed her arms in front of her. “And if there’s one thing I hate more than people fucking with me, it’s an anomaly appearing out of nowhere that could disrupt the balance of power.” She chuckled. “Lucky for you, we can come to an arrangement. One that would benefit both of us.”

“And that is?”

“From the way you were, I expected someone left you for dead,” Aria answered. “A beating, then someone overloaded the camera to bring you here to erase any trace. Some of my men saw you making trouble for my station. I can offer you protection on the condition that you work with me for a year.”

“Our client offered me compensation for finding Shepard’s body,” Ethan didn’t want to say his client was Cerberus. Aliens, like Aria, don’t take them well. “It’s quite a lot, I might add, but I can’t tell you about the big and juicy parts.”

Aria raised her eye ridges. “So you’re a mercenary?” She leaned in. “Whatever they’re offering you, I can offer you more.”

“I can take care of myself, but we need the location for the exchange.”

“Or I could hand over the footage to whoever wanted you dead and get rid of the problem.”

“I got enemies, but it won’t help when they’re… quite a way away to kill me.”

“I’m giving you a chance here,” Aria growled. “You can either accept the terms or be left at the mercy of Omega. It’s your choice.”

“But the exchange—!” Feron exclaimed.

“The Shadow Broker is powerful, but this is my station,” Aria asserted. “I have eyes and ears everywhere. I know about the transfer, but why is he so interested in Shepard?”

Feron stuttered, but Ethan spoke out. “That’s we’re trying to find out.”

“Of course, you are,” Aria chuckled and shook her head. “If you want to find Shepard, you would tell me.”

Liara stepped forward. “Because the Shadow Broker is working with the Collectors! They’re the ones that want her body!”

The ruler of Omega glared at Liara, her left eye twitching in anger. “The Collectors?! No one said anything about the Collectors!”

“Huh,” the Courier scoffed. “And here I thought you had eyes and ears everywhere on Omega. What would happen if people find out?”

The ruler of Omega clenched her teeth, and she sighed. “You have a point. Tell you what: I don’t like it when certain people leave out certain details for exchanges. Thanks to you, I think I can help you. The exchange is at the lower levels of Omega—the old mining processing plant. The Blue Suns took your friend there.” She keyed a command on her omni-tool. “Here are the coordinates.”

A ping sounded from their omni-tools. Ethan transferred the information to his Pip-Boy and, to his surprise, it worked. As he looked at the map tab, a marker was near the lower levels of Omega. He didn't expect his Pip-Boy to receive data from something as advanced as an omni-tool, but it did.

“Much obliged,” said the Courier, satisfied with the outcome. “Guess we’ll be on our way.”

Aria sighed and nodded. “Just get out of here.” She looked back at Ethan as they started walking down the stairs. “Hey, do you have a name?”

“You can call me the Courier,” Ethan answered after a moment of consideration. “Better name than the Sanest Man in the Galaxy, no?”

The queen of Omega chuckled. The three left, sauntering past the crowd as they left the bar.

“Ethan, are you sure making Aria angry like that was a good idea?” Feron asked. “You realize she’s ruthless, and you were pretty damn close to breaking that one rule.”

Liara, Feron, and Ethan rode in a cab to their destination with Ethan in the back seat. Liara sat at his right while Feron sat in the front seat, driving the cab.

“Mentioning the Collectors already made her angry, Feron. I happen to take advantage of that,” Ethan answered, dismissive. “I know her type.”

Feron shook his head and turned back to driving the cab. Liara turned to Ethan with a concerned look on her face. “Have you considered any alternatives if fixing your device didn’t work?”

“Yeah, I’ll obviously be trapped here.” Ethan relaxed and placed his hands behind his head. “All I need to do is gather the materials needed to fix my Transportalponder, do the experiments carefully, and I’m all set. I know what I’m doing.”

The three exited the cab as it landed, with Ethan following behind Feron and Liara. In front of them was the old mining facility. There weren't any Blue Suns outside, so they assumed the exchange was taking place inside the plant. Ethan looked at the plant, noticing a blue light glowing similarly to biotics.

“Looks like element zero,” he guessed.

“Yep,” Feron spoke. “Omega has been built and rebuilt over this eezo-rich asteroid for generations. It also had some rich metals. Looks like the workers were in a hurry to abandon this place. Wouldn’t blame them.”

Liara looked at the plant nervously. “It’s strange to think Shepard’s inside.”

“We have nothing else to go on. This is the closest we got to finding Shepard.”

Liara nodded and took a deep breath. “You’re right. We can’t turn back now. How we can get inside undetected?”

Feron stepped forward. “We can sneak through the wastewater pipes. The main entrance is likely locked. If we try to break in through there, they’ll know we’re here.”

Ethan raised an eyebrow. “Is there any other way we can get inside?”

“The pipes are irradiated. No one in their right mind would guard them without getting sick, not even a turian with their metallic exoskeletons. If we go through there, we’ll have to move fast.”

“My Pip-Boy has a Geiger counter, remember?” Ethan showed his Pip-Boy.

Feron nodded. “Good. Sooner we get inside, the better. Let’s go.”

Ethan and Liara followed the drell. The three crouched down as they approached the entrance undetected and followed the pipes on the walls. They reached a catwalk to their right and noticed some of the pipes were fashioned into a set of stairs. Feron climbed on a series of pipes until he reached the top, where he pointed out to Ethan and Liara. They followed.

They walked on until they noticed a pipe large enough for them to fit through. A yellow sign read, DANGER: high radiation area. Do not enter unless you have adequate protection. TLD and supplemental dosimeter required for entry. Below the sign was graffiti that read: Fuck like a krogan!

“Well, that’s sweet of them,” Ethan quipped.

As they approached the large pipe, the Geiger counter on his Pip-Boy ticked. He pulled out a large orange pill bottle labeled Rad-X out of his backpack, opened it, and poured out three small capsules. He handed two of them to Liara and Feron, who exchanged confused looks.

“Rad-X. It builds up resistance in your body against radiation. Here goes nothing.” The Courier tossed the pill to his mouth and swallowed it. He entered the pipe.

Liara looked at her pill and sighed. “Your world has made some strange inventions.” She swallowed hers as Feron did the same thing. The two entered the pipe, following the Courier.

Ethan’s Pip-Boy continued to tick. Outside the tube, Blue Suns mercenaries patrolled the factory. The trip was long, and they were lucky no one heard them. They exited the tube and found themselves into the plant’s control room. The room was small with a console nearby.

On the way, a female turian clad in Blue Suns armor passed by, a shotgun identical to the Courier’s own hanging on her back. She looked different, lacking the crest of horns found in male turians.

Hiding in the shadows, the female turian walked down the hall, her hand placed next to a turian’s version of an ear. Two more mercs, biped in shape and male, followed behind, their faces hidden underneath helmets.

Liara raised her hands in front of her as she prepared her biotics. Feron stopped her, reminding her they don’t want any attention. Liara nodded and watched the mercs passed by without incident.

The three made it to a window after they climbed on a catwalk. Through it, they got a good view of the hanger. It had many floors, supported by railings, with boxes and crates scattered about the platform. The other two nodded back. After a second or two, Feron found a doorway leading right there. He took a huge step over the catwalk. “Hope you can land quietly.”

The drell dropped down, landing silently despite wearing a full trench coat. Liara followed suit, her fall being a little clumsier. She landed close to a wall, and so she grabbed hold of it to steady herself.

The asari looked up at Ethan as he prepared to jump. She raised her hands up. A blue glow surrounding Ethan, she lowered him to the ground.

“Thanks,” Ethan whispered.

Right as they filed in, they hid behind the boxes. There, a huge group of Blue Suns mercs standing around a coffin-shaped box, weapons in hand. Ethan surmised that it must be where Shepard’s body was. It was too close to a Blue Suns vessel for Ethan’s comfort. Soon after they arrived, a strange ship flew and landed into the hangar.

They watched as a huge, horned man walked out of the ship. His red-and-gray armor was bulky like he was a walking tank. The weapon with a large barrel he carried supported that assumption. Everything about him was intimidating, even from their distance. The Courier thought it was unusual for a salarian of that size. They were usually weaker and more fragile than other races. The salarian carried a large gun as he walked towards the Blue Suns.

Feron tensed. His black eyes betrayed the slightest hint of fear as he breathed to settle his nerves. “Damn! I knew this wouldn’t be easy. That’s Tazzik!”

The Courier smirked. “Him?” He looked at the large salarian. “They sure grow him large in their neighborhood, do they?”

Feron shook his head, ignoring Ethan’s attempt at a joke. “This went from bad to worse.”

“What’s the matter? Who is that?” Liara asked.

Feron looked to the salarian. “Taz is the Shadow Broker’s one and only hitman for the rare times he wants something or someone took care of. The mercs are hired muscle. Taz—he calls for results. Results he usually gets.”

“Compared to the others I fought, he’s nothing,” the Courier asserted. He glanced at the crates near the ship and looked to his right to see an unmanned turret. He looked at the boxes down at the hangar, near the ship. “This could give out a nasty surprise. Liara, think you can use your biotics to haul these crates at them? You can take out large groups, given the size and weight of them.”

Liara squinted, looking at the crates. Some of them were filled with mining equipment and batteries. The other crates had processed element zero. When tossed at a high enough velocity, they can be deadly. After a second, she nodded. “Yes. I can handle the crates, but I do not like this.”

Feron nodded. “And I’ll handle the turret. It looks a little broken, but it’s easy to fix with some omni-gel.” He approached the turret in question. “I must say, Ethan, this is a dangerous business, disregarding a threat like Tazzik so casually.”

Liara also nodded. “That grenade launcher could cause a lot of damage if we don't move quickly.”

“Or he could hit those mercs or himself by accident,” Ethan replied.

Two of the mercs tried to lift the casket, only to pull their hands away from the casket in an instant when Tazzik told them not to.

The three paused, not saying a word. After a few seconds, the mercs moved along. Liara turned to her two companions. “That’s a fair point. We need to move. I’ll handle the crates, Feron will shoot at the ship, and you can help me with the mercs. Unless you had something else in mind, Ethan?”

Ethan positioned his Viper sniper rifle on the rails and looked through the scope, aiming at Tazzik. When he fired a shot at Tazzik, a blur surrounded his body. The hitman was no worse for wear. His presence attracted a Blue Suns merc’s attention as he turned in their direction. He thought luck was on his side.

“We got hostiles!” The female merc grabbed a Vindicator rifle.

“Ethan! Get back to cover!” Feron barked.

The Courier went for another shot, but the amount of gunfire focusing on him stopped him. He ducked behind the rail and switched to his Mattock. He popped back up and fire at the merc who shot him, taking a few seconds to kill the merc, no thanks to his shields.

“I like this gun!” The Courier grinned at the Mattock’s superior firepower. “Now, Liara!”

Liara stood up and turned to the crates at the side. She seized them with her biotics. Before they got up in the air, they exploded, scorching the floor and sending debris everywhere. Ethan ducked, having a stunned look on his face, and avoided a massive battery traveling inches above his head.

When the explosions died out, they saw Tazzik with his grenade launcher smoking. The huge salarian haven’t moved a muscle since the crates blew up. He looked at where Ethan and Liara were at with an annoyed expression on his face.

“My turn.” Tazzik aimed his grenade launcher at where they were at and fired several times.

“Grenade! Get down!” Ethan pushed Liara out of the way and leaped aside as the grenades landed. The wave of explosions knocked them off their feet as Feron turned the turret toward the ship. He fired a few rounds, hitting the ship’s hull.

Tazzik wasn’t deterred. He launched grenades at Feron as the Blue Suns shot on the drell's position. With a slight shift in his expression, Feron abandoned his post, leaping off the seat as a missile from a Blue Suns heavy’s weapon landed at the turret. He rolled away when the explosion knocked him off his feet. Feron fell behind cover, but the drell’s body shook as he looked over to Ethan and Liara.

Tazzik fired more grenades at Ethan, but Liara threw a biotic barrier around him and her. She turned to Feron as the drell stood up.

“Careful, Tazzik!” a turian shouted below. “You could’ve ruined that stasis pod!”

“That platform wasn’t close to Shepard, you idiot!” Tazzik replied, irritated. “Now I remember why I work alone.”

“Feron, get over here!” Liara yelled.

The drell got up as he hobbled the rest of the way in a half-crouched position.

As his shields recharged, the Courier realized he got hit by grenade shrapnel. He pulled a stimpak out of his backpack and stuck it on his right leg. The fragments fell from his body as his wounds healed. He dragged Feron toward the nearest crate and administered some medi-gel on the drell. The Courier turned and fired at the mercs, taking them out one at a time.

He realized the Blue Suns outnumbered them even if he took out many of the mercenaries. An Asian woman, carrying an M-76 Revenant assault rifle, led them. As they avoided Tazzik’s line of fire, she got all her troops behind whatever sparse cover there was. She made sure the weakest mercs got the best positions. Liara placed her into a stasis field, but the damage was already done.

The mercenaries maintained suppressive fire above the platform, going back to cover almost as soon as the trio re-emerged. The veterans shot at them in three-round bursts from their Vindicators, their special ammo eating through the three’s shields at an alarming rate. A trio of mercs with missile launchers took cover and fired. Sections of the railing collapsed and rattled the floor. It was enough to send them off their feet, sending the rain of shrapnel down on them.

Ethan was running low on stimpaks and medi-gel. They took down several mercs at that moment, and that took their combined fire, with Liara’s biotics.

“What do we do now?” a nervous Liara asked.

Ethan found himself facing a tough decision. He could stay here and hold his ground with Liara and Feron, fight the Blues Suns until they either retreated or were defeated, but he wasn’t sure they could hold them all off. If Tazzik and the others flee, they will take Shepard’s body with them.

“We need to get out of here,” Ethan answered. Retreating seemed like a good idea. But the way they came in had been cut off by the Blue Suns, so that left another way out his Stealth Boy. But it was enough for only one person; it would mean leaving the others behind.

With seconds to spare as the mercs closed in on them, he realized fighting back was futile. There was only one option now: use the Stealth Boy himself. He wouldn’t have time to tell the others how to use it. If he escaped, he could try to rescue them later. He knew that, even though Tazzik would most likely use Liara and Feron as bait, he would still try to save them. It would be the right thing to do after abandoning them.

Ethan took a slow breath and edged in closer to a shocked Liara. “I’m sorry.” He strapped his Stealth Boy on his wrist and activated it, hiding him from plain sight. The Courier leaped off the platform and landed with a roll. The adrenaline rushing through his body helped him ignore the pain.

“Get the body in the ship! Now!” the salarian ordered the soldiers.

Two of the mercs quickly taking Shepard’s pod to Tazzik’s ship. Despite the damage caused by Feron, it was intact. For a moment, he considered going inside that ship but dismissed it as too risky. There could be sensors that wouldn’t be fooled, along with all sorts of security, and not enough space to go around.

He scanned his surroundings and found another opening. He dashed in the dark and narrow hallways, finding them to be empty of Blue Suns mercs or anyone else in the vacancy. When he got out of the plant, Tazzik’s ship took off with Shepard’s body, and his companions, on board.

Liara was shocked when Ethan disappeared before her eyes. He told he was sorry, and by the look on his face and the tone of his voice, he probably meant it, but with him outright attacking the mercs rather than waiting it out, she wasn’t so sure. However, if he escaped, he might have the chance to get Shepard’s body.

A group of Blue Suns mercs burst through a door nearby, wielding Katana and Scimitar shotguns and even flamethrowers. Liara and Feron dropped their weapons and got their hands up. They would get shredded in seconds if they didn’t comply.

One of the mercs grabbed Liara from behind to prevent her from using her biotics. Another kneed her in the stomach for good measure. A wave of nausea hit her as the wind got knocked out of her. A batarian Centurion grabbed Feron afterward, holding up the already weakened drell by the arms. Liara and Feron were dragged downstairs before everyone else.

The Blue Sun commander broke free from the stasis field. Her eyes burned with hatred as she walked towards them. Tazzik emerged from the rear, his massive frame beside her. He seemed satisfied with himself in the most obnoxious way possible.

“Those were my people. Many of them are dead, thanks to you,” the commander spoke with anger. “We’ve tightened security, knowing what you are capable of. And you came, cutting through our defenses. You didn’t give us the option to surrender when you began your ambush. You don’t deserve any mercy from us.”

For a moment, Liara sympathized with her. She recalled the Blue Suns’ previous attempt on their lives and the importance of their mission. These factors made her feel less charitable toward the commander.

“You’re justified in this. What you can’t do to them, the Shadow Broker can do. They’ll suffer for hours and curse themselves for crossing paths with you. On the Shadow Broker’s behalf, I will compensate you for every soldier lost.” Tazzik’s tone of voice was warm but what those words meant terrified Liara.

The Blue Suns commander thought for a while. She looked away from the corpses on the floor to Liara and Feron and sighed. “Fine. Make sure they scream extra for my boys.”

“That I will. Gladly.” Tazzik chuckled and turned to the drell. “Have to be honest, Feron, I’m disappointed in you. I didn’t believe you would turn against us. Guess the Shadow Broker made the right call in sending the Blue Suns after you both.”

“I caught word that the Shadow Broker’s giving the body to the Collectors.” The drell faced against the hitman, but one of the mercs elbowed Feron hard in the stomach.

Tazzik shook his head. “That’s how business works, Feron.”

Feron looked at Tazzik once again and chuckled. “Can’t agree with that, Taz. It disgusted me the Shadow Broker’s willing to work with them. It was way beyond perverse, so I had to stop it, one way or another.”

“Aw, that’s cute,” Tazzik sneered. “You know what we do to traitors who let their morals compromise their jobs.”

“And you assume I don’t know what he does to them. There are risks that everyone must take, Taz. I took mine. I know the consequences.”

Liara turned to the drell with shock in her eyes. “Do you mean that—?”

“It won't be pleasant, that I could say.”

Tazzik nodded. “You’re right. It’ll be worse than what your asari friend will get. As for your human friend, I'm surprised he ran off, given his tenacity. Furthermore, he appeared on Omega with no known means of transportation. He had no form of identification, not even traces of DNA that matched with anyone.”

“What, you want to recruit him?” Feron stated. “Too bad that won’t happen.”

Liara shifted, struggling to move. “Help me understand why anyone would sell my friend’s remains. What could they offer you to be worth that?!”

“It was sound business.” Tazzik turned his attention to the asari. “Nothing personal against Shepard or any of her associates.”

“Shepard died looking for the Reapers. She killed one at the Citadel,” Liara retorted, her voice teeming with anger. “Are you even aware that the Collectors’ interest might be related to that? Do you know that they are going to do with her body once they have it?”

“And? You’re getting worked up over this corpse. What could they gain from it?”

“Closure, maybe. Don’t you know that Shepard is listed as MIA? Someone would come for her.”

“The Shadow Broker will tell the Alliance to list Shepard as KIA, and everybody will move on.” The large salarian took his attention two more mercs and nodded. Each got out a syringe and checked the dosage. Liara tensed at what they would do.

They struck the syringes at the side of Liara’s and Feron’s neck. Feron groaned as he fell to the ground, knocked out cold instantly from the potent dosage. Liara was next, feeling light-headed as her vision faded away.

“Put them in my ship. The Shadow Broker would be pleased to hear this,” Liara heard Tazzik had spoken before losing consciousness. “And find this human. He shouldn’t be far from here. I want him alive for questioning if possible. If he’s not… I’ll understand.”

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