Posts Tagged ‘Mass Effect’

Today’s prompt: Garrus, James, “you probably shouldn’t eat that”

James stabbed the lizard with his field knife. He skinned the little beast. It still twitched. James jumped the first time and ignored it after that.

“You probably shouldn’t eat that,” Garrus said.

James impaled the lizard on a stick and stuck it over their camp fire. “I probably shouldn’t have lit a camp fire, either, with those elcor after us. But without smoke we’re going to attract rippers. You think angry elcor are bad?”

“My friend, if I was worried about the elcor, I wouldn’t have let you light the fire. The rippers don’t scare me either.”

“What does scare you?”

“You eating an ikki lizard without removing the glands behind its head first.”

James stared at Garrus. Was he pranking him? James sighed. Damned turians all looked alike. He hadn’t yet learned to read when they were happy, sad, or messing with you, other than general body language, and Garrus kept his cool poker face better than anyone. He took the lizard back out of the fire. It had a flat, spade-shaped head, like a snake, with two bumps on the top. James poked at them with an armored glove.

“That’s them,” Garrus said.

“What are they?”

“Notice how they don’t have eyes?” Garrus said. James nodded. “They’re a metallic solution that keeps them oriented against the magnetosphere so they can find their way.”

“Cool. So what?”

Garrus chuckled. “You’re good with a gun, but you really need to learn some chemistry. When that metal hits the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, your belly will go boom like you just swallowed a bomb.”

James snorted. When Garrus’ expression didn’t change, he asked, “You’re kidding, right?”

“If you eat the whole thing, let me hold your med kits. Then don’t worry—I won’t say ‘I told you so.’”

James cut the glands off and resumed cooking the lizard. Garrus leaned back against his backpack and gazed up at the stars. “Much better. Now we can enjoy our evening.”

James shook his head. After they weren’t being chased by land tanks and rippers he’d have to look that one up.

Krogan Justice

Posted: June 14, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #10 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: any Cerberus, Wrex, “haunted;” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

I need you to fix this. You’re the only one who can, Shepard had said.

“I’ll get it done,” Miranda whispered to herself. Yeah, right. All she had to do was convince almost two meters of angry krogan. Miranda channeled every particle of calm she could muster. She’d killed krogan before. She’d faced them alone and en masse. She trembled as she approached Wrex, leader of clan Urdnot. The behemoth was covered with scars from wounds that would have cut her in half, raked into his hide centuries before she was born.

James and Tali stood behind her as she approached his stone chair. Wrex’s rage felt like sweltering heat in the dusty stink of Tuchanka. Miranda had a greeting prepared, but Wrex stood as she opened her mouth, and grunted, “Shepard couldn’t come himself? He sent me you?”

“Shepard is trying to save Thessia. I’m his second in command. If he could be here, he would.”

“He sent me some Cerberus bitch? Do you know what this is about?”

Miranda felt the words like a slow smear of black paint across her face. She would be haunted by her association with them forever. “I’m not Cerberus any more. This is about an experiment called X1.”

Wrex lunged toward her. “This is about a krogan named Urdnot Britak who you people turned into a weapon! Just like the Reapers!”

“Cerberus did this! Not us! Not humanity! Scum that we will hunt down and kill for their crimes!” She didn’t fight this far to break now. She’d fought worse terrors than this. And she meant every word. Wrex’s garnet eyes measured her. Miranda knew this moment could make or break her mission. “There is no time for courts or mercy. The stakes are too high—”

“This isn’t about stakes!” Wrex whipped his hand before her face so fast before her face the wind burn made her eyes tear. “This is about an atrocity! Krogan treated as meat. You want us as allies? You want us to bleed and fight and save your sorry asses? We should leave you people to hang and let the varren pick at your bones.” Wrex’s breath smelled like the sulfurous exhalation of a hell mouth.

He didn’t strike her. He could have taken off her head. This wasn’t over.

James stepped forward. Tali followed him. Miranda held up her hand for both of them to stop.

Miranda replied, “You should. I wouldn’t blame you if you did. But you know it’s death for us all if we stand alone. And you know Shepard.” Miranda stepped eye to eye with him. Wrex was the meanest, toughest krogan in the galaxy. Time to channel her inner Jack. “Let’s make this right. Tell us where you want us to hang the fuckers and we’ll bury the hooks ourselves.”

The corner of Wrex’s mouth turned up. Miranda heard the howl of a varren pack on the hunt in the distance. She saw the sharp edges of fresh scars in Wrex’s face. The swelling of fresh bullet wounds. She thought of the blood and smoke and fire they’d all endured. How much was still to come. She hated the people who’d brought them to this.

Wrex said, “You won’t plant this hooks. We will. You’ll bring them to us. Alive.”

“Alive,” Miranda repeated. She nodded to him, the slow, cold expression of an executioner. She thought of Ezno and Renata. They’d wrap the prisoners in Christmas bows and deliver them with a smile if she gave them the chance.

Wrex sensed it. He nodded, too. He sat back down on his throne. “Looks like Shepard sent the right one to me after all.”

Miranda mirrored his smirk. “Until then, Urdnot Wrex.”

No wave of dismissal, no wishes of farewell. Miranda turned and the team headed back to the shuttle.

James let out a nervous breath. “I think like you exorcised a ghost, boss,” he said.

“Just one,” Miranda replied. She still had plenty left to go.

Post #9 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Ashley, Jack, “on the floor,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

This story takes place in my alternate universe where the Mass Effect 2 team was on the Normandy in Mass Effect 3.

Scorched and pitted, the Kodiak slammed into the Normandy’s shuttle bay chased by massed Ravager fire. Restraining bolts locked it in. Shepard yelled, “We’re in. Go, Joker!”

“Don’t gotta tell me twice, boss,” Joker said. “They’re scratching my girl’s paint!”

Shepard threw open the shuttle’s hatch. He held on as the frigate flew into high orbit over Tuchanka. He had blood on his face, fragments in his armor, and his left leg felt numb from too much medigel. The exhaust from his rifle’s heat sink blew the sweet stench of hot steel and antifreeze into his face. “Mission accomplished,” he hissed.

Grunt, Liara, Jack and Ashley piled out behind him. Grunt started to make a wisecrack but shut up when he saw Shepard’s face. Liara shuddered and moved away. Jack said nothing. Ashley punched the Kodiak as she stepped out. “What the hell were you thinking, Jack?” she snarled.

Jack spun and pointed at her. “Don’t mess with me, Ashtray. I got the fucking job done.”

“You nearly got me killed.”

“I had to warp that Brute’s ass to save your whiny one. You got too close!”

“ENOUGH!” Shepard roared. “Jack! Ashley! On the floor! Now!”

“Get your popcorn,” Grunt whispered to Liara.

Shepard glowered at him. He turned his rage back to the two rowdiest members of his team. “You’ve been at each other’s throats for a week and I’m sick of it.”

“I don’t answer to you, Boy Scout—”

“Don’t pull that civilian crap with me, Jack. You’re here, you’re on the team, you act like it.” Ashley snorted. Shepard wheeled on her. “And she saved your life. Get the hell over it.”

“Bullshit!”

“I SAID ENOUGH!” Shepard glared from Ashley, to Jack. “Both of you. Fight it out. No biotics, no guns, no other rules.”

“Shepard, they need medical attention—” Liara said.

Shepard shook his head. “A few more punches won’t kill them.”

“Suits me fine,” Ashley said.

“Ashtray, fighting that Brute is gonna feel like a massage after I’m done with you.”

The she-wolves of the Normandy circled each other. Shepard felt the rage like alligator teeth dragged over naked skin. Their breath sounded like slowly drawn knives.

Liara whispered, “Shepard, this is not a good idea!”

Jack and Ashley raised their fists. Grunt gave his trademark chuckle.

Shepard said, “I know.”

Karaoke Night

Posted: June 2, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #8 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge — I never said they’d all be one day after another, now, did I 😉 ?. Today’s prompt: Kolyat Krios, Kal’Reegar, “serenade,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

Special thanks to Lynn for drawing the prompt, Vorcha Girl for encouraging me to write it, and MizDirected, whose twisted mind brought us the vision for tonight’s post.

challenge accepted

Joker took the stage with the mike in one hand and a beer in the other.

“We saw you already!” Grunt yelled.

“Shut up, Godzilla! The only one who gets to talk around here is me! Everyone else has to sing!”

The crew of the Normandy cheered. Shepard choked on her beer as she laughed. Kaidan jumped as she sprayed him with some of it. Shepard laughed even harder. “I’m sorry!”

“Shepard, do we have to cut you off?” Joker asked.

“Do it and I’ll have you brushing the cargo bay with your toothbrush!” Shepard replied.

The crowd cheered again. Shepard brushed the beer off Kaidan. “Sorry, K.”

“It’s all right. If you didn’t spill it on me I would have spilled it on myself. That Godzilla line had me in stitches.”

Shepard had saved the galaxy three times but she still thought karaoke night was her best idea ever. Once a month, if they had a long run to make through standard FTL, EDI and a skeleton crew handled the ship while the rest of the crew crowded into the mess hall. EDI still had more than enough CPU capacity to handle music changes and even sing herself.

Shepard and Kaidan sat in the back. She beamed over the crowd. One year ago to the day, they had defeated the Reapers. The entire team had come back together. Half of them had insisted that karaoke night go on, and the other half had threatened not to come because of it. That half was drunk now and had sung just as many songs as the rest, including the next two that Shepard saw warming up at the edge of the stage.

Joker said, “All right, next up is…” He peered at the card. “EDI, is this right?”

“Correct, Jeff. In my own surprise, I also chose to verify the next performers.”

Joker chuckled. “All right, I’ve got a special treat for you guys. Our two guests, Kal’Reegar and Kolyat, are doing a special rendition of… well, you’ll see.”

Everyone applauded as Joker shuffled off stage. Kolyat took Joker’s mic and Kal picked up another from near the song books, where James and Kasumi were whispering about which song they were going to do. Kolyat tried not to smile. You couldn’t see Kal’s expression, but his body language looked regal.

Soft piano music moved into violins. Shepard sprayed beer on Kaidan again. Joker nearly fell over laughing. “All right! She’s done!” he said, laughing so hard he couldn’t stand up straight. “I can’t laugh like this! I’ll break something!”

“Do I need to put up a barrier, Shepard?” Kaidan asked.

“Oh my God! Is this what I think it is?” Shepard cried. Everyone shushed her. Shepard covered her hand over her mouth to let Kolyat and Kal sing. Was it… did they…

(sung to the tune of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand)

Kal

We’re not fighting Reapers
We’re not fighting rachni

Kolyat

We hardly fight anyone anymore
When we go out and explore through some mass relay…

Kal

I remember when
We and the geth were fighting
Ships o’er Rannoch were frying
Now the galaxy’s at peeeeace

Kolyat

I haven’t shot anyone in months
That used to bring me sweet relief

Kal

When your greatest fear is breaking up a brawl of krogan teens…
We’re not fighting Reapers anymore

Kolyat

It used to be so scary

Kal

Used to be…

Kolyat

To talk about the end

Kal

Mmm…

Kolyat

Now we’ve got all the time in the world
We just give things a whirl
’Til they sweep us away

Kal

Man, I remember all the things you taught me

Kolyat

I learned how to shoot. I learned my masquerades.

Kal

I learned how to kill. I learned to fling grenades.

Kolyat

So you’d think I could learn how to sing serenades…

Kal

So you’d think I could learn how to sing serenades…
We’re not fighting Reapers anymore…

Both

So you’d think I could learn how to sing serenades…

Kolyat

’Cause we don’t need to shoot things…

Kal

We don’t need to kill stuff…

Both

We’re not fighting Reapers anymore…

Kal and Kolyat looked deeply into each others’ eyes, then both looked at the audience and dropped their microphones. The crowd went insane. EDI held up Joker to keep him from falling out of his chair. Kasumi and James dropped to the floor and began waving, We’re not worthy. Shepard and Kaidan were holding lighters in the air using their omni-tools.

Shepard hugged Kaidan around the neck with her free arm. She laughed so hard she had tears in her eyes. “Now that’s what I fought for!”

Post #7 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Liara, Benezia, “snuggle pile,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

“Where did my daughter go? Has anyone seen my daughter?”

Liara giggled from beneath a pile of blankets in the middle of their family room. They played this game every time they planned a sleepover with her friends from school. Liara could see her mother’s feet as she walked, turned, and pretended not to see the lump that watched her, sparkling blue eyes over a smile that almost burst off her face.

“I hope she isn’t lost. Oh, dear. Should I eat all her cake and sweets myself?”

“No!” This was when she always ran out and stopped her mother from doing just that, which little Liara did again. As always, her mother scooped her up, hugged her and they fell into a pile in the middle of the pillows and blankets.

“I’m so relieved!” her mother said.

“Don’t worry. I wouldn’t go far.”

“I know you wouldn’t, dearest. So. Do you want to read a book before your friends arrive? Play a game?”

“I want to dig in the mountains.” Liara yanked at the blankets. She turned them into peaks and valleys surrounding them. “There’s buried treasure everywhere!”

Her mother laughed. “All right, my little archaeologist.”

“What’s an arkie-awlo-gist?”

Her mother’s expression became dreamy. “Someone who finds old, old knowledge, from the people who came before us.”

Liara drew a breath filled with wonder. Her hushed voice whispered, “That’s what I want to do.”

Her mother brushed her fingers over Liara’s face. “Just like your mother. Remember to value today as well, little wing.” She hopped onto a pillow bunched up behind her. “Where’s our first treasure?”

“Over here!” Liara squealed and dove into a pile of blankets and pillows behind her. Her mother laughed and joined in. Liara hoped they had enough time to find a few ancient treasures before her friends arrived.

Officer Verner

Posted: May 30, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #6 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Udina, Conrad Verner, “touching something you shouldn’t”

“Officer Verner, sky car accident in Zakera ward… Conrad, are you there?”

“Sorry, dispatch. I’m on my way.”

Conrad hitched up the armband he wore: black, with white and red piping on the edge, reminiscent of the N7 colors worn by Commander Shepard. The late Commander Shepard. He’d taken the news of the Normandy’s destruction hard. This was his first day back on the job, and he could barely keep his head on straight.

“C-Sec. Let me through. Excuse me, C-Sec.” A crowd gathered around the car port at the edge of the ward near Sirta Foundation. Conrad nudged past an elcor and a pair of hanar, almost getting tangled in their tentacles, and finally reached the scene. A human stood arguing with another C-Sec officer while another kept the crowd back and a third attended to a woman sitting on the ground. A sky car wedged crookedly between two others, one which was crumpled in the front end. “What’s going on?”

“This is an outrage! I’ve shown you my credentials. Now let me go! I have urgent business at the Citadel tower!”

“Sir, please try to calm down,” Conrad said. He remembered how patient Shepard had been when he’d pressed him for an autograph. Then a picture. Such an idiot…

“I won’t calm down. I don’t answer to you. I said I wanted to speak to someone in charge.”

“I’m the watch officer, sir. If you’ll just cooperate—”

“I have a meeting with the turian ambassador!”

“I’ll go with you, then. I can take your statement on the way.”

“Ridiculous!”

Shepard would focus. “Sir. Even diplomats are accountable to the law.”

“Diplomat!” The man slapped his fingers disdainfully across Conrad’s badge. “You’re talking to—”

Conrad had his arm behind his back in the blink of an eye. Then the other. Then the cuffs. “A suspect. I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to miss your meeting. You might want to use your vid call to let him know.”

The other officers goggled at him. Some of the aliens in the crowd applauded. It felt right to Conrad. Shepard would have done the same.

Turning Away

Posted: May 29, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #5 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Anderson, Chakwas, “close enough to hurt,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

Captain Anderson met personally with every member of the Normandy crew who survived the ship’s destruction over Alchera. All except one.

He found Dr. Chakwas in the emergency room at Huerta Memorial Hospital tending to victims with radiation burns. She wouldn’t come out, and the hospital staff wouldn’t let him in. He had to wait two hours before she met him in an empty room at the hospital. A guard stood outside.

She looked as shaken as the rest of them. The ‘mother bear’ of the Normandy had her arm in a sling and bandages on her face. By the shadows under her eyes, she hadn’t slept. “Captain. What can I do for you?” she asked.

“You should be getting treatment yourself.”

“I’ve suffered no radiation and I can still walk. I performed battlefield surgery during the Blitz with my arm in a sling, so don’t tell me how to take care of my crew.”

“That’s fine, doctor. Now I’m giving you a direct order: sit down. Give me five minutes of your time to save other people’s lives.”

Dr. Chakwas sat. She submitted to his questions like a patient submitting to a hated physical exam. Cooly. Emotionlessly. Like all the others, she had little to say. The Normandy had been attacked by forces unknown. She didn’t know what happened to Commander Shepard.

Anderson stood to leave. “All right, then. Thank you, doctor. Try to get some rest.” He stood to leave.

“When are you mounting a rescue mission?”

She didn’t understand, unfortunately. “Doctor, your recovery was the rescue mission.”

Chakwas jumped to her feet. “What?”

“We don’t know what’s out there. After what happened to the Normandy, we’re not going back there without a cruiser flotilla. We can’t spare those kinds of assets for another week.”

“People could still be alive. Shepard could still be out there!”

“Doctor, you’re too close to this.”

She grabbed the stripes on his shoulders. “And you’re too far away! They were your crew before they were Shepard’s!”

The guard came into the room. Anderson held up his hand. “No! It’s all right. Doctor, this hurts me as much as you. Shepard wouldn’t want us to risk more lives.”

“He would risk his own. You know that he would.”

Anderson sighed. “I do.”

Dr. Chakwas trembled. Anderson thought she might strike him. Instead she simply turned away, and stormed out of the room.

Come Back to Us

Posted: May 27, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #4 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Kal’Reegar, Tali, “wish you all the best,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

As she finished packing, Tali heard a knock at her door. “Come in,” she said. The door slid open.

Kal’Reegar leaned in, not so much out of politeness as her quarters were too small to comfortably hold two anyway. “Hi, Tali. I was afraid I wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye.”

“It isn’t goodbye. Not forever, at least. Transfer isn’t the same as exile.”

“I’ll do what I can to keep this space ready for you when you come back.”

Tali snorted. She saw a stack of spare parts crates in the corridor that were moving in after she left. “Try to find me something bigger. With a window.”

“Do you want a balcony and a swimming pool too?” They both laughed. Kal leaned on the doorway. “Vas Normandy. It doesn’t have the same ring as Vas Neema.”

“No. But I have good memories from the last one. They’re not all strangers.”

“Fucking Cerberus. I hope Shepard knows what she’s doing.”

“I’ll have her back.”

Kal paused. “Who’ll have yours?”

Tali’s heart pounded. Kal sounded wistful, and he stood like an awkward teenager. She’d never heard him sound like anything other than the rattle of a well-oiled rifle. She blushed.

Tali was about to say that Garrus and Kaidan were there, too. Instead she lifted her bag of personal effects—a few photos and souvenirs from life on the fleet—and she said, “Home will be with me.”

Kal squeezed her shoulder. “You’re damned right. I’ll be thinking of you. All the best, Tali.” The way he gazed at her said everything that he didn’t say. Then he embraced her.

Tali surprised herself when she pulled him close, too. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked.

Kal shook his head. “I thought you’d always be here.”

“Well, this just got a lot harder.”

“Be careful. Come back to us.”

The Cold, Hard Truth

Posted: May 26, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #3 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: MShep, The Council, “the cold, hard truth,” courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

The turian Councilor brought up a map of the batarian home world. Shepard frowned as he watched the Reaper and friendly troop numbers filling the screen. The Councilor said, “Your efforts rallying the batarians have borne fruit, Shepard. We estimate there are a hundred thousand civilians who have formed a resistance against the Reapers.”

“On Khar’shan? It’s a lost cause. The Reapers flattened the whole sector in the first month of the war.”

“The batarians are proud. Many of them would rather die fighting for their home world than live as exiles elsewhere.”

Shepard had a headache. They dodged Reaper forces for four days finding the batarian Pillars of Strength in the Khar’shan cluster, an artifact to help rally survivors on the Citadel. They had felt like mice trying to stay in the shadows while ebon giants sought to crush them. “Can we evacuate them?”

“Even if we could, we doubt many would. They’re asking for weapons. Supplies. More troops to help liberate their world.”

“Liberate…” Shepard tried to think it through. His tactical mind threw it back in his face. The batarians had no backup, no numbers, no troops, and no time. Earth was barely holding on. The krogans had finally evened the odds on Palaven. “No. We can’t open another front.”

“We can’t simply leave them,” the salarian Councilor protested.

“It’s hard enough to fight when we’re doing everything right. It’s impossible to fight when people are throwing their lives away.”

“What do you propose we do?” the turian Councilor asked.

Shepard closed his hands into fists. “Spell it out for them. We evacuate them, or we arm them, but we don’t have any help to send to a sector crawling with Reapers. Every day they hold on is one more day someone else can survive. If they stay, they’re buying the rest of the galaxy time with their lives.”

“You’re willing to sacrifice the batarian people?”

“It’s their choice. Not mine.”

Aria’s Guest

Posted: May 25, 2015 by writingsprint in Science fiction
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Post #2 of the 30-day Mass Effect drabble challenge. Today’s prompt: Tali, Aria, bound wrists, courtesy of the Mass Effect Random Prompt Generator.

“Give her the counter-agent,” Aria said. A batarian injected Tali’Zorah using a hypodermic gun meant for cattle. They didn’t have anything else powerful enough to penetrate the layers of self-sealing protection in the quarian’s suit.

Tali’Zorah stirred. Aria saw her eyes blinking slowly through her face mask. “Keelah. My head. What did I… What?” Aria smiled as those bleary bright eyes focused on her.

Tali tried to get up, but Aria had tied her hands and wrists herself. The batarian caught her as fell. Tali continued to struggle. “Get away from me! Get the hell away from me!”

“It’s a good thing quarians wear suits. I think this one bites,” Aria said. The batarian chuckled on cue. Aria didn’t like him. He laughed at all her jokes, like a puppet. He stepped away. Tali managed to stay upright as she slid to the floor. Aria filed that away. Good balance. Don’t underestimate her.

“Tali’Zorah, I’m Aria T’Loak. Your headache will pass in a moment. I have an offer for you.”

“I know who you are,” Tali said. Aria smiled again. The little thing reminded her of an angry lap dog. Tali continued, “You drugged me and I’m tied up. Shove your offer.”

“A week ago my largest mining drill struck a deposit of element zero like nothing we’ve never seen before. It blunted the drill head and burned out a motor the size of a drive core.”

“Get another drill.” Tali continued to work her restraints.

Aria lifted one hand. Tali flew into the ceiling head-first and floated slowly back down. Tali cried out. A stream of quarian swear words flowed out of her vocal filter. It couldn’t be flattering, but it all sounded like flowers to Aria. She liked Tali’s voice.

“Do I have your attention?” Aria asked.

Tali breathed slow, harsh breaths. Aria could sense her fear. Her breathing slowed down more. She was thinking. Good.

“What do you want from me?”

Aria nodded. Good. “I can replace a drill head, and a drive motor. I’ve mined enough eezo out of this rock to know when I’ve hit a wall. I need a mechanical genius. You’re going to modify my drill to cut through that vein of whatever it is.”

“And then I’m free to go?”

“Be a good girl and you’ll get a parting gift. I want us to be friends.”

Tali snorted. “More like you don’t want to be Shepard’s enemy.”

“Either way. Do we have a deal?”

Tali sighed. She nodded tightly. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Good.” Aria got up to leave the room. The batarian followed her.

“Hey. Wait!” Tali twisted around. She lost balance and hit the deck in a clang that made Aria’s ears ring. From the floor, Tali yelled, “Untie me!”

The door closed behind them. Aria almost wished she’d stayed to watch the little suit rat struggle.


Tali waited a full minute after that cold-hearted bitch and her friend left, to make sure they were gone. “I thought they’d never leave,” she said.

Her nimble fingers undid the restraints around her hands in seconds. One thing about creatures with five-fingered hands: they always underestimated the strength and dexterity of those with three.