Mass Effect Slipstream Book I: The Streamer's Edge

Hard Time

Finn sat with his back to the rear wall of the cell. It had been three days since his attempt to warn the Council and his subsequent arrest. He wondered about his friends; if they had followed the plan, they'd be long gone by now. Finn may have thrown his life away, but that was his choice; the last thing he wanted was to ruin their lives as well.

Thinking of Kyra hurt; he knew there was a real chance he'd never see her again. He may never see any of them again, if Cerberus had their way.

Time passed by at an agonizingly slow pace until the guard approached his force-field, "You've got a visitor."

Raising an eyebrow, Finn asked, "Who?"

He walked away, only to be replaced moments later by a very apologetic-looking Admiral Alenko.

"Hey." She said, trying to sound cheerful. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty damn rotten." He told her. "Just thinking about how I threw away my life to warn a bunch of jackass politicians. How about you? Get any fishing in?"

She bowed her head, her face flushed. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry it turned out this way."

"Not as sorry as I am." Finn sighed and said, "What happened to my crew?"

"The Ulasomorf has mysteriously vanished." She said, a hint of a smile at her lips. "The crew they sent to turn her inside out only found a note that read 'J-27 or bust'.

Finn couldn't help but smile. "Well, at least something worked out all right."

"I also have a surprise for you; I had to put Breven in an arm lock, but he eventually okayed it."

A very familiar face walked by Admiral Alenko.

Finn's smile broadened. "Jake."

The field deactivated for a moment, allowing Jake to hop into the cell and bound into Finn's waiting arms.

"Hey, bro!" Jake said cheerily. "How you holding up?"

"Better now." Finn told him. "You coming along to prison?"

"About that." Alenko interrupted. "Given what you tried to do, I've had a word with some of the Alliance up-and-ups. I'm afraid there's no escaping the court-martial, but your recent actions are being taken into account. As I said before, we are taking your warning seriously. Frankly, anyone who has shown as much bravery and resourcefulness as you is exactly the sort of person I’d like investigating this possible threat.”

“I don’t understand.” "You're re-enlisting me?"

"We need able-bodied people, especially those who can think outside of the box. I’m still finalizing a few things, but I think I can get you out of that cell and on the investigating team. I’m not sure how much flying you’ll be doing, but you’ll be of far more use out there than in a cell, right?”

Finn was silent for a long moment before giving the Admiral a salute. "Thank you, Admiral. I appreciate your help."

She smiled and leaned closer to the energy field that separated them, motioning him forward. When Finn moved closer, she whispered, “Take care of yourself, Finn … and good luck.”

Admiral Alenko turned and walked away before Finn could ask what she meant by that.

Finn and Jake spent the rest of the day (insomuch Finn could tell day and night in the station) talking about what had happened. It had apparently been quite the narrow escape; Eri's guard had practically sent the station into lockdown when he woke up. Fortunately, the group managed to get to the ship and escape before security had a firm handle on what had happened.

Jake fell asleep in Finn's lap as the hours waned on. Finn tried to drift off, but the bed wasn't particularly comfortable. He couldn't sleep anyway. There was a strange feeling he just couldn't shake; Alenko's last words seemed … odd. If she succeeded in getting him reinstated, surely he’d see her again … right?

Just as he started to drift off, the force-field died with a loud crackling sound.

Finn sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Huh?"

"Finn."

Finn glanced down at the source of the strangely familiar feminine voice, only to find it coming from the still-sleeping form of Jake.

"Did you say something?" Finn asked.

"Yes I did. I don't have much time, so I need you to listen to me carefully; you need to pick up Jake and head down the cell block to cell thirteen-A. Do you understand?"

"Thirteen-A." Finn repeated, growing a little suspicious.

"Good. Just remember, it's the one at the end of the corridor, right up against the wall. Now hurry; it won't take security long to realize I've hacked your cell."

Finn lifted Jake and slung him over his shoulder before heading out of the cell. He had been sitting for so long that he had to shake one of his legs awake as he stumbled down the cellblock.

"Hold on!" Said Finn's mysterious benefactor. "There's a guard headed your way. Duck into the next cell on your right; it should be empty."

The appropriate field deactivated. Finn quickly hurried inside and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.

The guard slowly walked by, barely sparing Finn a glance, much to Finn's relief. A few moments later, Finn's new friend said, "Okay; it should be clear from this point on. Keep moving!"

Finn hurried down the hall, scanning all the doors until he found 13-A.

"Okay." He whispered, looking around for any signs of pursuit. "I'm here. Now what?"

"Get into the cell."

He started to comply when a deep suspicion ran through him. "How do I know this isn't some Cerberus ploy?"

"Simple. If I was Cerberus, I'd be chasing your ship around, not the idiot who got himself arrested. The Council doesn’t believe you, and you’re essentially contained.”

"Yeah, good point." Finn conceded before walking into the cell.

When the field reactivated, Finn asked, "Hey, what gives?"

"You might want to take cover."

"What?" Finn looked around the cell for something he could hide behind.

He was still looking when something slammed into the wall outside the cell with enough force to send masonry and metal flying in all directions. Fortunately, the Force field managed to deflect all the dangerous bits.

As the dust settled, Finn realized that it was a small reinforced shuttle. He waited as the door opened to reveal the last person he expected to save his bacon.

"Jan’Ce?"

She smiled at him. In the light, he could tell that her mandibles were actually fake, and yet she still had a very turian look about her. Slightly more feminine, perhaps, but then again, he hadn't seen many female turians before. Her face was practically human in comparison, though her eyes were much the same as Eri’s. She had the typical turian crest, but to his surprise, a mass of long red hair seemed to flow out from behind it.

"Finn Cresste." She said, shaking her head. "You are a difficult man to find. Still, you were on the run from Cerberus and the Blue Suns, so I won't hold it against you."

Finn had a dozen questions he wanted to ask. Unfortunately, a loud alarm began to sound.

"Damn." Jan’Ce muttered. "I thought I'd have more time. Well, come on then."

Feeling a bit numb, Finn sat down beside her in the shuttle. Bits of wall fell as the shuttle freed itself from the prison wall and flew into the sky.

"Who are you?" Finn asked as they flew towards the presidium.

"I told you; Jan’Ce. Technically, Jan’Ce Vakarian, but … well, it's a long story."

"Vakarian? As in Garrus Vakarian?"

"The same. Well, I'm really more based off of his DNA, but like I said; it's a long story."

"I bet."

It didn't take long for a few cars with flashing lights to start heading their way. Jan’Ce didn't seem to mind. If anything, it seemed to make her more excited.

"You wanna know who I work for, right?" She asked casually as she swerved around an oncoming frigate seconds before she would've plowed into it.

"Among other things." Finn said, impressed by her piloting skills.

"Well, lucky for you, she wants to meet you. Your little speech left quite an impression."

"Oh lord." Finn muttered. "Don't tell me I was on the news."

"Oh, you were everywhere. Half the galaxy's going to be talking about the man who risked prison to warn the Council. Mind you, they'll be talking about your escape, but publicity's publicity, right?"

"I can't imagine my escape will be that-" Finn stopped. He had just realized where they were going.

"No way." He murmured.

She grinned at him, showing an array of neat, pointed teeth. "You can fly a frigate, right?"

The shuttle pulled away from the traffic, several C-Sec cars following a good minute behind them as Jan’Ce aimed straight at the Normandy SR-2.

As they drew near, the shuttle hatch beneath the ship opened to receive them.

"This is gonna be a bit rough." She warned him.

Finn hugged Jake as the shuttle hit the ramp and scraped across the Normandy's shuttle bay.

After a few moments, Jan’Ce said, "Woo! Now that was fun!"

She kicked the shuttle door open and hopped out. She poked her head back in a moment later. "You coming? You're kinda a big part of our big escape plan."

"Uh, yeah." Finn said, shuffling over to the door.

He was aboard the Normandy SR-2. Finn had dreamed of walking through the legendary ship since he first started at the Academy. Jeff 'The Joker' Moreau was one of his personal heroes. He stared around the shuttle bay, taking in the old Kodiak shuttles and the completely rebuilt Hammerhead. Just looking at the Hammerhead made his fingers itch to hop in and give it a try.

Fortunately, Jan’Ce was there to put him back on track. "Oh, no; we've got a much better ship for you."

As they rode the lift up to the Combat Information Center.

"The CIC." Finn murmured, drawing a grin from Jan’Ce.

"Yup. Oh, that reminds me." She tapped her earpiece and said, "Hey, guys! I got 'em both. Yeah, we're heading up now."

"Who was that?" Finn asked curiously.

"Oh, just a few partners in crime." She said, tapping the side of her button of a nose.

As the doors opened, the first thing Finn saw was the star chart. It was like a miniature version of the galaxy floating in the middle of the deck. As amazing as it was, it was ultimately the two people standing at the consoles on either side that shocked him the most.

"Katt?" He asked, "Sergeant Rico?"

"Hey, Slipstream." Katt told him as she and her husband continued working at the controls.

A chair at one of the stations on either side of the deck swung around, revealing another face Finn had not expected to see.

Mannon smiled at his shock. "Ready to get us outta here, Finn?"

Finn stared down the deck to the pilot's chair. With Rico and Katt and Mannon there, the whole situation felt beyond unreal.

"I've never flown anything as big as this before." He murmured.

Rico let out a short laugh. "Like that's ever stopped you."

One of the consoles started beeping. Jan’Ce hurried over and glanced at the console for a moment before saying something that sounded vaguely like a swear. "They're on to us. Finn, we need to get moving, or we're going to have a lot of explaining to do."

Finn nodded, his heart resolved. "I'm on it."

He dropped Jake to the floor, who awoke with a start. "What the … hey, Finn! Where are we?”

"Normandy SR-2. It’s a long story, now come on!" Finn shouted as he ran to the front of the ship. "I'm gonna need your help!"

He hit the chair in mid-run, his momentum spinning him around until he was facing the controls. They were old, but no older than the old Tyrael fighters. In a matter of minutes, he managed to familiarize himself with the basics.

"I can't imagine they don't have some security on this thing." Finn commented as he warmed up the engines.

"Not much reason to." Answered Katt from his headpiece. "Sure, it's a relic, but it's also four-hundred years old. As far as they know, it's just full out outdated junk."

"As far as they know?"

Jan’Ce replied, "It's been getting a few upgrades lately, thanks to my employer. We've been planning this for a while; you and your friend are just a timely bonus."

"Glad to hear it." Finn said. "Are we clear to leave?"

"Almost." The ship shook for a moment. "There; the gravity tether's off-line. We're good to go."

"Okay then." Finn said, steeling himself, "Let's give 'em a story they won't forget!"

The Normandy rose away from the docking ring surrounding it, tearing a few lighting fixtures out as it did so. The arms of the station were already beginning to close, but Finn was just a little faster. He slipped through two of the arms and sped them away as fast as the Normandy would take them.

His sensor panel started beeping; several Alliance ships were following them.

"Yo, Captain!" Jan’Ce called out. "Now would be a good time for us to get lost!"

"Got it. Everyone hold on to something!" He shouted back as he brought the engine back online.

The Normandy entered FTL. Predictably, some of the ships following them did likewise.

Finn forced his eyes to remain open as he had done so many times before. It was hard at first, not blinking, but as the seconds passed, he wasn't even aware of the discomfort anymore. As the edges of the stream began to swim into his vision, he forced everything else from his mind and let the stream sweep him away.

When describing what happened later, the crew of the pursuing ships all said the same thing; it was as though the Normandy simply vanished.


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