Mass Effect Slipstream Book I: The Streamer's Edge

Sneaks and Thieves

Finn and Jake crawled through the vent ducts as quietly as they could manage. Finn had wrapped Jake's feet in bits of cloth from a particularly repugnant T-shirt they had bought on the way (Omega; it's better than being Spaced!) to muffle his footsteps, and he was careful to keep his tool bag tightly closed as he moved very slowly forward.

His omni-tool remained active, displaying the schematics of the place so Finn could see his way. The vents ran through the building like a maze; while a warehouse, there were several additional floors above the main room, all of which needed air-conditioning apparently. Those grates were too small to crawl through, but they did offer a window into the rooms.

Most of the warehouse seemed to be weapon storage. Rooms and rooms were filled with assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, submachine guns, rocket and grenade launchers, flamethrowers and more; pretty much anything a person would like to aim at someone he or she wanted to remove from the realm of the living was stored in the warehouse.

"All this, and they're still scared of Aria." He murmured. "Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?"

Jake chuckled softly. "Yeah. Shame she doesn't just kick them out."

"Can you blame her? They bring money into the station. No one would come to Omega if you took away all the vices." He checked the map on his omni-tool. "Turn left here."

"What about Ilium? Ilium has the same vices, and it's legal."

"Ilium wasn't built in a gutted out asteroid. Besides, the asari built Ilium, and you know they can't make anything without adding a certain level of beauty."

"So you're saying Omega is bad because it's ugly? That sets a rather questionable precedent, doesn’t it?"

Finn glared at Jake. "Look, if we keep talking, someone's going to hear us."

After a long and cold trek through the vents, they finally reached a spot where several vents converged. A door had been installed in the vent for maintenance purposes.

Jake sniffed at the door for a few moments before holding up a paw and waving it once. Nodding, Finn took up a position beside the door and purposefully dropped a screwdriver.

"Huh? What was that?" The door opened, revealing a masked guard. As he stuck his head into the vent, Finn brought the wrench down on his head. The man fell to the ground in a heap without so much as a word.

"Getting a lot of use out of this lately." Finn commented, tossing the wrench in the air and catching it deftly.

He started to leave the vent, but Jake caught the edge of his jeans. "Hang on; this guy's about your size."

"So?" Finn shrugged. "A lot of people are my size."

"Yeah, but he's wearing a Blue Suns uniform."

A few minutes later, Finn climbed out of the vent in the soldier's armor. Jake had reconfigured his body to look sort of like an Epson series plasma cannon and was mounted on Finn's back like a standard heavy weapon.

"Figures you'd find a way to sit this out." Finn muttered.

"Hey, it's not my fault I'm a rare model."

"That's strange; I didn't think guns talked."

“What about the Elicor Mark Seven, it-”



“Shut up.”

Shaking his head, Finn checked his map again and started walking. He hadn't worn combat armor since his time with the Alliance; it added some protection, but it also left his legs feel unusually stiff; he sincerely hoped he didn't have to run while wearing it.

A few of the other Blue Suns soldiers passed by Finn as he walked the halls. Most gave him a curt nod as they passed, though some just ignored him altogether. All in all, the deception seemed to be going well, right up to the moment he heard someone shout, "Hey, you!"

Finn didn't stop; flinching would've given him away easily. He slowed his pace as he heard someone approaching him quickly.

"Hey, I'm talking to you!" A three-fingered hand clamped onto his shoulder and spun him around to face its owner, a turian with red clan markings. The turian shoved a large box into Finn's hands. "Bring this to heavy room 5-B. You've got your clearance card, right?"

"Umm … no, sir."

The turian let out an exasperated sigh. He pulled a small blue card from his pocket and slapped it on top of the box, saying, "It's a wonder you humans don't put your boots on backwards. I'll get another keycard from Frank; you just make sure you don't lose that one, okay? Now get moving!"

"Yes sir!"

"And don't call me sir!" The turian snapped. Walking away, Finn heard him grumbling under his breath.

After a few moments, Jake whispered, "Is he gone?"

"Yeah." Finn told him. "Don't worry; we're not too far off from the signal."

"About that; isn't it likely that they took your gun from her?"

"Probably. Still, it's as good a place as any to start. Besides, I want my pistol back."

The lift was being worked on by a harassed-looking salarian, so Finn opted for the stairwell instead. It occurred to him as he started down the stairs that he was still holding the box. It didn't feel that heavy to him, despite the turian telling him to take it to heavy weapon storage. He cracked the lid and immediately let out a whistle. "Wow. I didn’t think any of these still existed."

"What?" Jake asked, "What haven't you seen before?"

"It's a surprise. Now stop talking; we're almost there."

The fifth floor was a bit more crowded; there were guards at almost every door. Unfortunately, that included the room where the signal originated. Fortunately, Finn had a plan.

He approached the door. "Got some more phalanx pistols here."

"Pistols are down the hall." The guard said, gesturing to his right.

Finn paused for a moment to adjust his strategy. "Really? The guy on three said it went here. Room 5-G, right?"

The man let out the kind of sigh given by the sort of worker asked questions of the caliber of 'do you work here'. "That is what it says above the door."

"Well, that's where he said he wanted them."

"Where who wanted them?" The guard asked suspiciously.

"I dunno. I was heading out when some turian on three threw this at me and demanded I bring it up here."

"Oh, Reyl?" the guard relaxed. "Yeah, he's been on edge since we started stocking up. Clearance card?"

Finn held up the card the turian had gave him. The guard ran it over the door scanner and handed it back when the panel gave an affirmative-sounding chirp.

"Go on in." He said, stepping aside.

The room was not, as Finn suspected, the pistol room. Rather, it seemed to be some kind of machine shop for weapon maintenance and repair.

Finn found his pistol rather quickly, lying in a pile of unused parts and miscellaneous garbage. He holstered the gun, saying, "I guess expecting her to still be armed after being kidnapped was a bit silly."

Jake didn't reply; he was busy sniffing around the room. He claimed to have a dog's sense of smell, but Finn thought it more likely that the sniffing was just his way of masking his scanning techniques.

Shaking his head, Finn glanced around the room for anything else of use. After all, it wasn't like he was going to get in any more trouble if they caught him.

"Ooh." Finn said, setting the box on a workbench so he could pick up a screwdriver-like device with a strange emitter instead of a tip. "This looks handy."

His thumb quickly found a small button. As soon as he pressed it, however, half of the power tools started activating by themselves.

"Gah!" Finn fumbled with the device for a moment longer and quickly hit the button again, stopping the devices.

Jake, glanced over at him, asking, "What is it?"

"I have no idea." Finn carefully placed the device back on the workbench and turned back to the box. "This, on the other hand, I recognize perfectly.”

He pulled out a gleaming black weapon and ran a finger along the barrel. "An M-490 Blackstorm Singularity Projector."

Jake hopped up on the workbench and stared at the device with just as much awe as Finn. "Now that is a thing of beauty."

"I can't believe they found one of these damn things." Finn took aim and grinned when the three support arms running along the barrel swiftly slid into place. "And it still works, too."

"Let's take it with us!"

Finn glanced at Jake. "You're kidding, right? These things are outlawed in Alliance space."

"Of course I'm not kidding! That monster could level this building if you amped up the power. Consider it a plan B in case things don't work out."

"But what about you? I can't go around carrying two heavy weapons; it'll look suspicious."

Jake glanced around the room for a few moments before spotting something that made him grin. "Hey, there's a vent on the ceiling. I bet you could squeeze me in there."

Finn gave him an odd look. "You want to go back in the vents?"

"Why not? Look, we need to find Mannon, right? Well, I'll take the vents and you stick with the corridors, and we'll double our chances!"

"That's-" Finn slowly nodded, continuing, "-not a bad idea, actually. Okay; let's go."

Finn stacked a few boxes next to the vent. With Jake in hand, he climbed up and started to unscrew the vent cover. Once he finished, he tried to slip Jake into the opening, only to find that he couldn't quite fit.

"Ugh." Finn muttered, trying to force Jake through the hole. "You need to get thinner."

"Hey, I don't comment on the way you look."

With a final shove, Finn managed to slide Jake into the vent. Unfortunately, the stack of boxes wasn't as stable as he had hoped, all the shuffling around had twisted one of the boxes to the point where it collapsed under the weight. Finn fell back, smashing through the other supporting box with a loud crash.

The door opened, revealing a concerned looking guard. "What in the hell are you doing in here?"

Finn slowly rose, trying to ignore the pain in his back. "It's fine. Stack of boxes fell on me, that's all."

"Well, be more careful. You know much Hal gets pissed when someone messes around in his workshop." After a momentary pause, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'll live." Finn replied, wincing as he walked past the guard, hoping he wouldn't notice that he had a different weapon strapped to his back now.

"No reason to play the tough guy when we've got a perfectly good doc. Get down to three and have Stetson take a look at you."

"Yeah." Finn agreed. "Good idea."

Finn took the long way through the floor, making a point to scan each room for human life signs. Unfortunately, the only humans he detected were members of the Blue Suns.

As he walked down the stairs to the fourth floor, he spotted pair of guards heading up, too busy talking to pay him any notice. He didn't think anything of them until he heard the word 'prisoner'.

Slowing his descent, he listened intently as they passed him on the way to the fifth floor.

"…gonna come out on top. We've got her down on two, and from what I hear, we'll have the others soon enough."

"They're going to help us with the Blood Pack too, I hope. Taking the station's fine, but who wants to face an angry pack of krogan to get it?"

Once they were out of range, Finn asked quietly, "Did you hear that?"

"Loud and clear." Jake's voice replied in his ear. "I'll meet ya on two."

The walkway of the second floor was essentially a balcony that ran around the top of the warehouse. The warehouse itself was filled with mechs, gunships, speeder bikes, and even a few Kodiak shuttles.

Several of the outlying rooms were each guarded by a pair of Blue Sun guards. Finn casually walked by, pretending to be scanning with his omni-tool and giving the guards a friendly nod which was generally returned.

As he neared a room on the far side of the floor, he finally got a blip on his scanner. Switching to heat scanning, he could see that the person inside the room was sitting on a chair, looking extremely bored.

"Bingo." He whispered.

He approached nearest of the two guards, "I'm here to-"

"Oh, thank the maker." Said the guard on the right. "What, did you get lost or something? You're an hour late!"

"My apolo-"

"Ugh. At least you managed to convince Reyl to give you a new helmet." He stomped off, leaving Finn alone with the other guard.

"Glad you came." The guard said gruffly. "I was getting tired of hearing him whine."

"Should we check on the-" Finn began.

"Not if we want to keep breathing, kid. Fuego says it's off limits."

"Fair enough." Finn took up the previous guard's position.

His mind raced for a plausible way to get into the room without suspicion, but there wasn't much in the way of options; the open nature of the floor made it impossible to take out the other guard without being noticed, and now he couldn't even sneak away.

He was still trying to think of something when he heard Jake's voice say from his earpiece, "Don't worry, bro; I've got this."

Almost immediately, half of the vehicles on the first floor began to move about on their own. One gunship smashed into part of the floor, destroying the balcony and part of what looked to be a server room. Speeder bikes started flying everywhere, sending most of the guards running for cover, including the guard next to Finn.

Jake fell out of a nearby vent and landed easily on his feet in a dramatic pose. "Who's the man? I'm the man! Oh, yeah!"

"You're a dog, but I get what you mean." Finn opened the door and said, "Now if you're finished spreading chaos, shall we go inside and get to the rescuing part of the plan?"

"My pleasure!" Jake sauntered through the door.

Finn took a final look around; several guards had leapt onto a Kodiak shuttle and were trying without success to get inside as its door flapped like the wing of a bird. Shaking his head, Finn followed Jake inside the cell, swiftly closing the door behind him.

The room was your typical holding cell; small, austere and boring. The Blue suns had opted for traditional iron bars instead of energy fields, probably because when the chips are down, nothing is better at keeping a sapient being confined than metal bars and solid walls, with the possible exception of particularly sneaky hanar.

Ensign Mannon was sitting on a grey bench nursing her right arm and sporting an impressive black eye. She glared up at Finn as he approached, warning, "You stick a hand through those bars and I promise you won't get it back."

"Really? And after I came all this way to rescue you?" Finn pulled off his helmet.

Mannon's eyes went wide. "Finn!" She rushed forward and slid her arms through the bars so that she could grab Finn's hands. "Thank God! I was sure they had gotten you too!"

"I got lucky." Finn told her. Glancing at the bars, he commented, "Now, to get you out."

Before he could reach for his plasma torch, the room suddenly shuddered.

"… the hell?" He said, looking around as a strange vertigo passed over him.

Hearing the sliding of metal, Finn glanced up and saw the bars were slowly lowering as the room slowly rose to the floor above them. Once they were down far enough, Mannon took a running jump and managed to climb over them. As she landed beside Finn, he handed her the assault rifle he had taken from the same guard who had supplied his armor.

"I've got a bad feeling about this." Jake said, backing up until he was against Finn's legs.

The walls of the room abruptly began to slide into the floor, revealing that they were in a large office. Whoever owned it certainly had a thing for books; there were bookshelves everywhere.

A desk had been set up at the far end of the room. Seated at the desk was a human with short blonde hair. He was wearing plain clothes, and was currently reading a hardcover book with great interest, resolutely ignoring the three people who had just arrived in his office.

Finn took a step forward, only for a force field to knock him back.

"One moment." Very deliberately, the man placed a red ribbon in the book he was reading and set it down on the desk. As he looked up at Finn, an unpleasant smile slid across his face.

"Ah, the illustrious Finn and Jake. I was hoping our paths would cross again someday."

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