Alex heard the step and started to turn but then pain exploded in her midsection and she gasped as she arched her back. That pain was the only thing she could think of even as Mela screamed in her ear that this wasn’t part of the sim. And when she looked down at what caused it there was a blade of some sort sticking out just below her diaphragm.
The only thing she could do was wrench herself back and roll, the blade snapping off with a crisp sound as she cried out and dug the rest of the blade deeper into her body. Then she rolled again, dodging the foot that went to kick her, deflecting it with her arm. The assassin flipped backwards away from her and cloaked, leaving Alex to wonder where they were.
A flicker was the only warning she got and she lifted her arm, blocking the fist with a shorter knife, twisting the arm and then turning towards the arm with her other arm stiffened and aimed at the elbow. The assassin yanked their arm back and dropped the knife to preserve their arm from being broken at the elbow.
Once again the cloak came into play and Alex backed up, her armor red with her own blood now. She pulled out her Punisher to spray the area and a kick sent that flying but she spun the opposite way and roundhouse kicked the assassin in the helmeted head. The white armored opponent rushed at Alex then and in a smooth shift of her body, she went left as the assassin’s arm came out to punch, grabbed the wrist from the outside and pulled the smaller opponent in the same direction of the punch.
The assassin rolled away from Alex and cloaked once more which made Alex growl and she shifted her stance, gaze going distance as she listened and felt with every ounce of her will. A shift there, she lifted her hand up in a half moon pattern to block the haymaker then counter with a shout, her elbow ramming into the helmet of the assassin and sending them reeling away backwards.
“Salta gamisu,” she hissed at the assassin and then readied herself once again.
The assassin came at her with a whirlwind of attacks, fist and foot attempting to pummel Alex. Alex managed to block the two hand attacks and one of the kicks but then the assassin flipped, kicking Alex under the chin and sending her backwards into a wall. She cried out as the blade came out further from her body and the assassin came in for the kill.
Alex rolled against the wall as the assassin’s foot thudded into it right where her head would have been. Her last effort was to throw herself and her elbow at the assassin’s chest, both reeling at the impact and Alex falling to the floor. With the last of her adrenalin she lifted her hand up with her Karpov in it and fired the full clip into the assassins’ body and head. At the same time the sim faded into the walls of the arena and the Karpov’s powerful shots echoed in the smaller space.
The team was about to move on the Krogan when things began to go tits up on them and the sim faded. But the sound of a pistol thundering in the space left had them all turning, weapons out only to see Alex laying there in a puddle of blood and her assailant falling over, little left of its head or chest considering the Karpov, at close range, had torn the assassin apart.
Tad was the first to reach her and started to pull the broken blade out but a cry from Alex had him pull his hand back. There was so much blood and he was kneeling in it. Mela ran in with an assault rifle and pointed it at the attacker. She leaned over and prodded the body with the barrel and then grunted and looked over at Alex.
“Well this is a damned mess,” she muttered and Alex coughed, laughing weakly.
“Right,” Alex said faintly. “Kraz?” She coughed again and motioned to the Krogan who moved over. “Pull it… out… slow…,” her voice failing her at the end as she panted.
Kraz came over and heard Alex, his eyes brittle at first then understanding. With his hands he started to pull the blade out a centimeter at a time, going slowly. “Damn human, only you could take a knife in the back and still kill the wielder.” It took him 5 minutes with Alex finally passing out to remove the broken blade entirely.
Mela stood with her back to them and rifle aimed at the arena door. She was angry, angry that someone had infiltrated her sanctum and tried to kill someone else for real. Now she was going to have to add more security and that had her raging. “So help me… if I find out who sent that pile of pyjak shit here I am going to rip them a new asshole.”
When Kraz yanked out the remaining bit of blade from Alex’s body he tossed it next to her and then took a drink from his flask at his hip. Smirking he tipped a little of the ryncol over Alex’s wound and watched as she yelped when she suddenly sat back up. That stung quite a bit apparently. She cursed at Kraz for a full minute before her eyes rolled back and she passed out again.
“We should take her to the hospital,” Mela said and Kraz laughed.
“Give the human a half hour and she’ll be ok,” Kraz rumbled.
The rest nodded. After seeing Alex take a bullet and be fine they knew that their boss would heal up from even this though she did look more than a bit battered and her armor was a loss. Narzun shook his head and got the newer members of their team to move out and guard the aircar. He sent Tad out after to see if anyone was waiting for them. The Salarian cloaked and went scouting the vicinity for anyone out of place.
Selah frowned, knowing that something was really wrong with the situation between Alex and her would be killer. She moved over to the body and squatted down with a grimace. A Karpov wasn’t something to mess with at close range and the fact that Alex had an AP mod on it said so. There wasn’t much left of the head but some bone and meat and the chest had a pattern of holes. She could tell by the blood that the assassin had once been human like Alex.
There was part of a symbol on the left side of the chest plate and she rubbed her thumb over the blood to get a better look. It was black and yellow and shaped somewhat like a hexagon but more than half of it was shredded by the AP rounds so she really couldn’t’ say. Selah wiped her fingers off on the armor and then took the offered towel that Mela handed her.
She stood up and turned to the rest. “I think the Boss needs to come clean. This was too organized for a random hit.”
The rest of the group lifted their heads up and Henry scowled. “Yea, its black ops alright. This is the third attempt so far. I think we will have to tie her down and get her to talk.”
Narzun pondered what Henry and Selah said then hummed low in his throat. “Blackwatch would be proud,” he said finally and then sighed. “Well we need to clean her up but there are no change of clothing for her so we’ll have to get her back to the Blue Land and someone will have to go get her a change of clothing.”
Selah nodded. “I’ll go do it after we get her back. I don’t think she’s going to wake for a while. We can put her on my couch and let her wake on her own.”
With a few towels from Mela, they wiped off most of the blood from Alex’s armor and face then cleaned up the mess left by the death of the assassin and Alex’s wound. Kraz carried Alex to the aircar and put her in while Narzun got in the driver’s seat. Once everyone was in he lifted off and headed back to the Blue Land, landing in the private parking lot and then they carried Alex into Selah’s loft and laid her down on the couch.
Selah took her own personal aircar over to Alex’s apartment only to find Liara was just getting ready for the day. She hesitated a moment before frowning and making Liara sit down. “We need to talk about Alex. She was almost killed today and yesterday someone shot her. I came over for a change of her clothing but… do you know anything that can help us understand what is going on with the human?”
Liara opened her mouth to say something but Selah dropped that bombshell on her and she blinked a few times, stunned. “Wait… did you say someone almost killed her?”
Selah nodded. “Yes, an assassin interrupted the training exercise we were doing. She’s resting right now in my apartment. I just came over to get her some clothing that wasn’t bloody or had holes in it.”
Liara shook her head slowly, still not believing it but she rose up. “If you would excuse me a moment, I will get that.” This was something normal she could do because right now if she thought about what happened she was going to freak out. She wandered back out after a minute with Alex’s clothing and then blinked down at it and shook her head. “Sorry, this isn’t right.”
Selah sat there and watched the shy Asari get up and leave then come back out and turn around again. She chuckled softly and rose up to follow Liara to Alex’s room. “Here, I’ll help.”
Between the two of them they managed to get everything Alex would need and then Liara went with Selah to see Alex. When she arrived Alex was still sleeping on the couch with Kraz watching over her with his shotgun out. He nodded to Liara and moved out of the way as the Asari moved over and settled down next to the couch.
The two watched as Liara reached out, hesitated a moment then lightly brushed her fingers over the dark hair of the human. She moved a few strands out of Alex’s face gently and Selah could see that Liara cared for Alex. That made her grin a bit because she knew Alex had no inclinations towards Asari’s but then again, Liara acted more like Alex was her family than a lover.
Selah silently excused herself and got a glass of water for Liara. She handed it to the maiden and then moved away towards the door. “Watch over them Kraz,” she said before leaving the loft to find her sister.
Morlena was sitting in her office doing orders it looked like. Selah sighed and sat down heavily in the chair across from her sister. Morlena glanced up briefly then back down before suddenly sitting up straight and looking at her sister. For a moment she stared at Selah and then set the pad down and leaned back.
“Ok, say it,” Morlena said.
Selah opened her mouth a few times then shook her head. “Alex was almost killed today. An assassin got to her. She took quite a few heavy injuries.” And there Selah wrung her hands together, worried which got Morlena’s attention even more.
“I… see,” she said slowly, trying to piece together the words Selah spoke. When they fell into place she grimaced. “The assassin?”
“Dead. Full clip from Alex’s Karpov to the head and chest at close range. Alex had an AP mod on it. It took… care of the assassin,” Selah answered carefully. “Her armor is trashed. Apparently the assassin had some sort of blade that can penetrate armor plating.”
Morlena frowned at that. What kind of bladed weapon could pierce through modern armor plating? She turned on her omni tool and shot out a message to a contact then glanced up at Selah. “And here I thought she was “fake” training you. Now I come to find out you’ve seen more death and blood in these few months than most Asari see in their first two years. Granted its only Alex’s blood.” A snort came from Morlena after that.
Selah laughed shortly at that then lowered her head. “She could have really hurt me the first time I messed with her. Instead she just hurt my pride. The second time she put a little more into her actions but I only had a wrenched shoulder for a few hours before it was fixed. That assassin took a full clip to the head and chest after Alex lost half her blood and with a blade impaled in her body. What kind of human is Alex?”
A beep made Morlena pause a moment and she glanced down at her omni tool, reading the response. “Hmm. A monomolecular blade proto-type.” She sent off another message and then looked back up at her sister. “I’ll take care of the armor,” she said calmly. “Let me know when Alex is awake.”
Selah nodded, a bit relieved that her sister was going to handle things. She wasn’t quite ready for that yet. “Ok.” She rose up from the chair. “Liara is with her right now.”
Morlena arched a brow up at that then pursed her lips in thought. “Make sure she eats. Alex would want that.”
Selah nodded and left the office, hurrying back up to find Kraz at the door and Liara still sitting next to Alex. At least the human didn’t look like she was blue-gray skinned anymore. She moved over and started to pull the ruined armor off, carefully detaching the plates from the underarmor. Once that was done she grimaced at the implied damage.
Liara gasped when she saw the slashed suit and reached out to lightly touch it then jerked her hand back. “How did she survive that?”
Now that the armor was off they could both see that the blade might have pierced her heart, the damage to the suit was that close. Selah shook her head at that. “I don’t know…,” she said softly.
Liara sat back heavily in the chair and covered her face with both her hands. Selah could tell the maiden was on the verge of tears. She reached out and rested her hand on Liara’s shoulder. “She lives, so try not to worry too much.”
Liara was comforted by Selah’s words. It was true. Liara met Alex when she was broken and the human healed quickly but Liara thought that was just a trait humans and krogan’s had. She might be wrong about that though. The maiden sat back in the chair and wrung her hands together.
Alex didn’t wake during the time they removed the damaged armor and peeled off the ripped under armor. Selah grimaced because there was no way not to get Alex’s blood on her couch without dumping her in the shower and hosing her off. She sighed and got up, coming back with a bowl and rag which Liara snatched out of her hands and started to clean the blood up. Kraz turned his back to them and glared at the door while they cleaned Alex up.
Between the two they got Alex undressed, cleaned up and clothed in no time and then Selah left to get a drink for Kraz, Liara and herself along with something to eat. She came back up with Henry following carrying the food and drinks then Kraz took his drink and downed it before heading out of the apartment while Henry took over for him.
“So how much longer do you think she will be passed out?” Henry glanced at his omni tool for the time. It had been over two hours since the incident.
Liara tensed a moment and then stared at Alex. “When I found her, she slept most of the time but I got the impression her back was hurting her greatly. It took her a week to recover fully. The weapon just barely missed her heart or might have just barely nicked it but without a scan I can not tell.”
Selah shook her head. “Anyone else would have been dead. Her? She takes it, fights her attacker and then kills them before finally giving up.”
Henry snorted in amusement. “I have to say this. She’s a survivor and knows how to fight and she’s military still. You can’t rub off the brass from her. Whatever reason she is here, I can’t say but it’s a good one.”
The door opened at that point and Henry had his shotgun already raised and pointed at Morlena. He also lowered it a moment later when he recognized her. “Sorry,” he said with a smirk.
Morlena waved that off. “Good reaction. Keep it.” She looked over the room, noted the remains of lunch on the table and Liara sitting by Alex while her sister was looming over them and Henry was obviously guarding. She smiled and turned, picking up two cases from outside the doorway and setting them down.
Selah eyed the cases and saw the Serrice icon on them and smirked at her sister. “Busy already?”
Morlena laughed. “No, just a opportune time to give Alex her bonus pay.” She settled the cases out of the way and then sat down on the other chair across from Liara. “Anyways, I did manage to dig up some information on Alex and review the vid of the attack. And I think I understand why Alex is here. Officially Alice Stevens immigrated to here. That’s part of the information I got. The other bit is who attacked her. The design on the armor is rather blunt and obvious when you watch the vids. Alex is no slouch either. She could put a group of Commandos down from what I saw.”
Liara give Morlena an inquisitive look. This was going to be more information than Alex ever gave her and she had pieced some together from her interactions with the human. “She never did tell me what happened at the embassy. Just came home with her equipment case and another case holding credits and ids.”
Morlena nodded and looked at her sister. “From what my contacts could dig up, Alex is an Alliance N7 which is must like Blackwatch and the Commandos are. She took part in the Relay 314 Incident under a paramilitary group that the Alliance hired to help them take back Shanxi. About 9 months after she joined something happened and suddenly she’s a N7. After watching that vid I can say she’s definitely N7 material even if she didn’t take the training. I assume she gave the Alliance something so valuable that they hired her on and fast tracked paperwork. From what she’s told me she also will get called out to do some wet work or to train recruits for the N7 program. She’s very specialized though so it might be a few months or a few years before they need her. She’s out here now hiding from that group that she resigned from. Cerberus is that group’s name. Their icon is a bit loud and blunt.”
Selah snorted then laughed sharply a moment. “Of course, it makes sense now.”
Liara pondered over the information that Morlena gave them and then peered at Alex. She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter why she’s here or who she really is,” she finally said and glanced at the rest. “She’s here and if there is one thing I do know is that she has made herself a home here. She’s my friend and I hope she continues to be so.”
Morlena nodded and smiled. “My impression is that she will not move on but she might take short breaks for her other job. That I can handle and she’s got a good group she’s trained here. Narzun makes a great second and the fact that she’s human and works with him with no problem says a lot about her character.”
Liara smiled slightly. “She’s never treated me as anything but a friend. I don’t think she sees any of us as separate species. That is likely why she left this Cerberus.”
Morlena paused a moment and nodded after. “True. It had to be bad enough that she would refute them. Which leads me to believe I should be keeping an eye out on this organization. I trust her enough to know what she hasn’t said is pretty horrendous.”
They all nodded and then Morlena rose up. “Well I need to get back to managing things. Keep an eye on her and let me know when she does wake up.”
“I will, ‘Lena,” Selah said and leaned back against the counter, pondering what little information they had now.
Liara rose up and brought her glass to the sink, sighing softly. She sat it down and turned to look back at the couch. Alex had wheedled her way into Liara’s life through pure accident and now the Asari was worried about what future her human friend had. And now that everyone had stopped talking she made her way to the chair she had vacated and sat back down, gathering up Alex’s hand in hers and holding it.
Selah watched as the younger Asari moved to put her glass down in the sink and then came back. She could tell that Liara was out of her element and taking comfort in Alex’s presence. So she let her be and walked to the door. “I am going down to the bar. I’ll send Narzun up in a bit to relieve you,” she said to Henry before leaving.
Liara glanced over as Selah left and then turned her attention back to Alex. The human’s coloring was more normal now than it had been when she first arrived. Less greyish and more the color Liara was familiar with. She put Alex’s hand down gently and checked her omni tool then sent a message off to excuse herself from her classes for the rest of the day before resting her head back against the chair.
The quiet and stress hit Liara at that point and she quickly faded off to sleep. She had no clue how long she had slept when something poked her knee over and over. With a sleepy grumble she brushed at her leg only to meet a warm hand and that made her open her eyes to see that Alex was finally awake. Henry was gone and Narzun was there with his mandibles widening in a Turian grin.
“Hey,” Alex said weakly with a lopsided smile.
Liara responded with a smile of her own and the squeezed Alex’s hand. “You worried me,” Liara said softly.
“Sorry about that. Not my fault,” Alex said and grinned slightly at Liara.
“No, I suppose that is true. Not everyone can get impaled and take out the one that impaled them.” Liara smiled a bit then frowned down at Alex. “You could have died,” she said, her tone wavering.
Alex could tell Liara was on the verge of crying and sighed softly. She pushed herself up with a groan and ignored the searing pain that came from the movement. Still not fully healed but close enough. Liara started to protest but Alex pulled her into her arms and hugged her tightly. Liara all but clung to her. “I am sorry Liara. Really. I wasn’t taking things seriously enough and it got me almost killed.”
Liara just turned her head and rested it on Alex’s shoulder, her eyes closing as she tightened her arms around her friend. “I never had a sister but I consider you more than just a friend Alex,” she murmured.
Alex laughed then coughed at the pain that caused. “I think I can accept that,” she said and squeezed Liara. “Now I am still alive so don’t you dare cry about this,” she said firmly to the Asari.
Liara gave a watery laugh and pulled back a little with her eyes full of tears but smiling. “I’ll try not to. I rather not lose the only one I consider family.”
Alex was surprised at that. “You never have talked about your mother and your father.” Which is to say that Alex wasn’t the only one keeping secrets.
Liara nodded sadly. “Mother doesn’t understand why I want to study ancient things. As for father, I don’t know who she was but I can understand she was Asari.”
Alex didn’t know what to make of what Liara said and she wasn’t quite sure why having both parents be Asari was a bad thing. She didn’t have enough information to understand that. “Well I don’t know about you but I could use a drink and some food.” Her stomach growled and startled Liara who almost fell out of Alex’s lap.
“Goddess.” Liara said and then moved from Alex’s embrace and sat down in the chair. About that time the door opened and Selah and Morlena entered with one of the new wait staff following with a tray of food.
“Oh thank the gods. I was about to start eating the couch!” Alex’s voice was teasing but made the wait staff pause and boggle at her and since it was a Salarian holding the tray, it was rather funny to see.
“Put the tray on the table there,” Morlena said and pointed to the squat table sitting like a coffee table would before the couch. The Salarian put the tray down on the table and then scampered out without being told.
“Gotta break him in don’t you ‘Lena?” Alex’s tone was wry with humor.
“You have no idea. Salarians are so hyper but at the same time they are childlike.” Lena grunted as she sat down, offended slightly.
Alex’s eyes lit up at the fish and chips and she grabbed a piece of the seafood and popped it into her mouth. Liara snitched a chip up and chewed on it, mischief in her eyes at Alex’s weak protest. Still she left it there in Liara’s reach as she contently filled her stomach. “So talk ‘Lena.”
“A few things. Come clean to your group. You know they have your back. Also I brought your bonus earlier. You’ve done exceptionally well with your job and carved the bouncers into a worthy group to employ. I rather have you outfitted with the best but this will do since I have no access to SPECTRE weapons and armor.” Morlena smirked at Alex, daring her to protest.
“I… what?” For once Alex was speechless. Then she thought about it, well about the first part and sighed. Yes they should know what she did even if it wasn’t that much. Her omni tool beeped at her and she glanced down, seeing a message waiting. Distractedly she looked at Morlena while opening the message and then her focus was down on the message.
Liara leaned over to read it and snorted in amusement. “Heard about your trouble. Will distract the junkyard dog for a bit.” She paused and glanced up at Alex. “What is a junkyard dog?”
Alex started to laugh and then wheezed and pressed her hand to her chest. “That still hurts,” she said with a grimace. “A junkyard dog… well to us humans, we have pets and a dog is a kind of pet, canine. A junkyard dog is a… well it’s hard to describe them come to think of it because as far as I have seen most species don’t have pets as companions.”
Liara did a quick search for what a dog was and her eyes widened. “They remind me of varrens but less unfriendly.”
Alex leaned over and snorted. “Yea a cocker is the least mean looking dog you could find. Look for a Rottweiler or a Shepard. Both are a working breed of dog that is used for security and SEC work. Use to have a Rottie,” Alex said fondly, remembering the dog.
Morlena cleared her throat and both Liara and Alex jerked their heads up, Liara giving a apologetic look and Alex a sheepish one. “Now that it is cleared up, what are you going to tell your guys?”
Alex thought over it a moment. “Everything I know. Keep in mind my memory is gone and I’ve only learned a little of my past. It hasn’t really mattered too much to me since I have a home here but it’s not a lot and there’s no real links beyond the assassin’s employer.”
Morlena chuckled. “Actually I might be able to add to that. From what I know you fought at Shanxi during the Relay 314 incident as part of a group called Cerberus. Something you learned had you flee them for the Alliance and it must have been important enough that they fast tracked you and attached you to your human N7 program.”
Alex stared at Morlena as she spoke, given that what Morlena said was a few more pieces added to the puzzle of her past. “Hmm, well that makes sense now,” she murmured to herself. When she realized everyone was looking at her she gave a hollow laugh. “I am Greek. The history of my people is long and colored. Greek mythology having more documentation than the Protheans do. Anyways Cerberus was a three headed dog that guarded the gates to Hades. Hades had basically three parts to it. The Elysian Fields, Asphodel Meadows and Tartarus. The first is where the heroes and those loved by the gods went, a paradise. The last, was a place of eternal punishment where the worst were sent once they died if they did evil things. Asphodel is the neutral area, much like purgatory where those who did neither heroic nor evil things went after they died.”
Liara was fascinated by what Alex said and made note to look up the information Alex gave. Still she wasn’t quite sure what Alex meant when she said it made sense. “Interesting. Origins myths are colorful with any species.”
“I don’t get it,” Morlena said and Alex laughed.
“Sorry, I was sidetracked. Cerberus is a three headed dog. That message said junkyard dog. A junkyard dog guards a junkyard from looters just like Cerberus guarded the gates of Hades,” Alex explained and Morlena laughed suddenly.
“You humans amuse me more and more every day.” Morlena tilted her head then rose up. “Well I wanted to see with my own eyes that you were ok and now that I have, I have business to attend to. Alex, your bonus for a job well done is in those cases,” Morlena pointed out the cases. “I took some liberties with the scheme but I think you will like it.” Then she was gone out the door and Selah dropped down into the chair her sister vacated.
“So…,” Selah said and grinned. “About that training…?”
Alex just laughed and waved her away. “Tomorrow Selah, tomorrow.”