Selah frowned as she entered the office her sister sat in. She settled down in the chair and leaned back, relaxing. Morlena had called her in for some reason and she didn't know why. She hoped her sister was not going to send her off somewhere. She finally found a place for herself and felt very happy to stay where she was. So while she tried to appear relaxed, instead her sister could tell at a glance that Selah was uncomfortable.
Morlena frowned a little herself but at the datapad in her hand. Some of the numbers were not working right and she sighed, tossing the pad down then peering over at her nervous sister. That made her inwardly smile. She leaned forwards and then gave that slow smile that foreshadowed trouble. Just not the kind of trouble either of them expected.
"So with Alex gone for a week, you've been diligent in your work over at the Isle. I am thinking o-, " and Morlena's voice was cut off as a piercing buzz cut through the office. She jerked her head up and then swore as she snatched a box off the shelf behind her.
Selah jumped at the sound, eyes wide and growing wider as her sister used words that would have burned the ears off any commando. She jumped up and rubbed her arm then dropped her hands to her sides. "What is that?"
Morlena continued to cuss as she synched her omni tool to the box and read the display. She ignored Selah as she hit a few buttons and then bit her lip. "Go get Narzun please," she said in a deadly voice.
Selah jumped to the task, running out of the office and grabbing Narzun, literally dragging him back to the office. "Morlena, you, now," she all but stuttered and the way she said it had Narzun's protest dying quickly.
The Turian entered the office just ahead of the Asari and he gave a questioning look to Morlena. The Asari in question motioned for him to sit in the chair to his left then stabbed a finger at the other chair. "Sit," she told her sister, voice still holding that edge.
Narzun settled gingerly in the seat, now concerned because of the way Morlena spoke. She never spoke like that unless something bad had happened and that had his imagination spinning like a child's toy. Still he waited for her to speak to them instead of demanding answers. She would give them when she was ready.
Morlena shot of a message to 3 different rooms and then looked up at the both of them. "We have a huge problem and that's about all I know of what is going on. Remember the necklace I gave Alex right before she left?"
Narzun nodded. "Yes, a cheap, tawdry thing," he said, his undertone humming with concern and not hiding it.
"It just went off. I am having a ship prepped right now. Pick your team Narzun. Someone will be coming in 10 minutes to bring you equipment which includes armor and weapons," Morlena stated.
Narzun made a leap in thought and understood that Morlena thought of Alex as a close friend otherwise she wouldn't have thought about the 'gift' she had given the human. "I'm taking Tad, Henry, Kraz and Selah here." Those 4 he truly trusted.
Morlena hesitated a moment when her sister's name was spoken but then nodded. "That's fine." A beep came from her omni tool and she smiled slightly. "And Mela is here. Get ready. A car will be waiting for you once you are all done suiting up." Then Morlena rose up, her face drooping a bit. "Bring Alex back, Narzun," she said softly and he understood that too that they all hoped Alex was still alive.
Narzun snapped a salute to Morlena then jerked his clawed hand to Selah to follow. The younger Asari leapt up and followed closely behind the Turian. "Relax Selah, the trip will take at least 3 days total to get to where we are going."
Selah nodded and then slumped. "What happened to her?"
Narzun shrugged. "It had to be bad, otherwise she wouldn't have set off the beacon. We will not know till we get there. Let's hope it was an accident and nothing malicious."
Mela was there and directing some of the bouncers to haul in the cases where she surveyed and moved them around till she was happy with the placement. "These are things 'Lena wanted to keep secret but circumstances say now is the time to crack them open. This is yours Narzun," she pointed at the striped case. "And that is yours Selah," her finger stopped on the red case.
Tad and Henry were just entering in about to ask what was going on but both went silent at the look on Narzun's and Selah's faces. Henry stiffened, knowing that look and then moved over when Mela nodded and pointed at a blue case. "I assume we are going to go see what happened to Alex?" He opened the case to a nice medium armor suit that reminded him of his old job. It was painted blue and gray.
"The beacon went off so yes," Narzun said shortly.
Henry shot a message to Kraz's tool to make sure the Krogan got to the Blue Land. "Kraz should be here shortly," he said after receiving a message in return.
"Good. Get suited up everyone. Tad you are our medic so pack anything you think we might need for injured personnel. Selah, you and Henry will be back up to Kraz when he gets here. I'll be behind with Tad covering your six with my sniper rifle. Alex's in trouble," he said as Kraz entered and heard those words.
"Shit, the human picked the worst time to be in trouble," the Krogan grumbled but his tone said he wasn't mad about it, more concerned for his krant than anything. Mela nodded to the yellow and black case for Kraz and he went over to it.
About a half hour later everyone was suited up in their armor and Narzun cradled a Mantis in his arm and slapped a Pinnacle on his belt. He looked around as he collapsed the rifle and set it in place at his back within reach on the mag strip. Kraz had an Executioner shotgun at his back and was holding a Breaker assault rifle in his paws. Henry collapsed a Lancer and settled it on his back then slapped two Karpovs on his belt. The last weapon was a Katana shotgun which he settled against his other shoulder. Selah went with an Edge pistol, carefully setting it against the mag strip at her side. Tad was the last, the Salarian carrying an Arc pistol instead of one of the provided weapons. Narzun lifted a brow up at that then smirked at the Salarian.
Morlena came out of her office and the 5 turned towards her. "I have supplied a ship to use. The pilot is a bit of a loose cannon but he can hold himself with the best of you. Mr. Moreau will meet you at dock a348 at the space port. May the goddess protect you all."
Narzun nodded curtly and then holstered the sniper rifle at his back. The rest silent followed him out and into the cars waiting for them. Forty-five minutes later they were standing at dock a348 where a human with a dark, scraggly beard greeted them.
"Name's Gustave," he said and offered his hand to Narzun who understood the ritual gesture and clasped the human's hand, shaking it.
"You know where we are going?" Narzun dropped his hand to his side and the human nodded as he motioned for them to follow him onto the ship.
"Aye, shouldn't take but three days to get there. The Vengeance is fast and agile." He waited till they had all boarded before slapping the button to close the port door.
A corridor traversed the center of the ship, linking the cockpit with engineering and both having doors to keep out things. Moreau turned away from the controls and headed down towards the back of the ship.
"This is the rec room," he said and slapped the button to open the door. It was a small room but had a few comfortable seats with a viewing screen set against the inside of the hull.
Narzun barely glanced at it as the rest peered in as he followed the pilot. "This is the crew quarters," Moreau said and smirked. "Settle yourself in. The last door before engineering is the washroom. And don't bother Kelea'Breizh, she doesn't like her space invaded." And he pointed at the door to the engineering section. "Strap in because we are leaving as soon as I can get clearance. The rec room has a small kitchen in it if you are hungry."
Narzun watched as the human male walked away, whistling a tune. Then he looked at the rest and gave what passed as a smile. "Settle in and when you are done meet in the rec room. We need to make plans for when we land."
The Turian took the first bed he came across and placed his stuff in the footlocker then headed to the rec room to browse through what rations they had. It didn't take long for the rest to wander in and just as Tad made his entrance Moreau let them know they were departing.
Narzun poked through the rations, satisfied to see that along with dextro rations were levo rations. And the standard dextro paste Quarians ate. He made a face at that and then turned to the rest who had settled down in whatever seat met their fancy.
"This is what we do know. About 4 hours ago Alex's beacon went off. What we do not know is if she is hurt or in danger. I can assume the danger part. We will have to prepare for the worse and hope for the best, as the human's say. Tad I want you to double check and make sure you have medi-gel for Alex and make sure you have anything else you need to handle a severe injury. Kraz, you are point when we land. Henry and Selah will cover you. I want you to go in hard and make sure nothing is moving. I'll be behind you all and make sure you do not take a direct approach in case I have to snipe."
Narzun then hit a button on his omni tool and a holo rose up from it, showing the area where the students were. "This is the basic setup. Clear each prefab and if you find anything, shout it out. I know this is not much to go on, but this is the best I can think of for now. Once we land, plans might change so I want each of you to think of what changes could happen and plan accordingly. Otherwise, relax and rest up for when we hit landfall."
When Narzun stopped talking the rest settled in, quietly talking to each other to stave off nerves and try and figure out what could happen verse what did happen. Narzun let them, it was better than thinking the worst could happen. He prayed that they didn't find Alex dead but wasn't sure because the woman was a soldier and a fighter. It would have to be something terrible to take her out to the point she used the beacon.
It took most of the rest of the day for the rest of them to settle down. Moreau was good to his word and they hit the relay only after a few hours, shooting out towards where they knew Alex to be. Once he had the autopilot running he came back and joined in with the rest. Narzun found the human always had a ready joke and not at the expense of any species but his own. He had Kraz howling with laughter quickly.
It was easy to see what Morlena meant about Moreau. He didn't honestly care what he said and if someone disagreed with him, they better back up their words or he rolled his eyes. He caught Tad a few times like that before the Salarian caught on, then the two started to quietly argue most of the time. Still the smile on Gustave's face said he enjoyed the verbal sparring.
Finally they got to meet the Quarian who ran the ship's engineering. She was quiet but if provoked she had a sharp tongue and cut down Kraz a few times when he lumbered into the wrong words. That amused Narzun to no end to see the tiny Quarian take on the huge Krogan without batting a figurative eye. Predictably, Kelea and Henry got along the best since he showed a huge interest in the ship and its engines.
When they were hours out of landing Narzun had everyone suit up and make sure they had everything set up right. Being prepared was the best they could do not knowing the situation. All of them were eager to get off the ship and out in the open with Kraz shifting his heavy bulk impatiently. It was just a surprise the Krogan hadn't started a real fight with Gustave or Kelea.
"We will be down in thirty," Moreau said and walked back to the main corridor, typing into a panel. "There's a drop ramp here allowing you quick access to the outside. I will dump the power to it when I've landed so you can take whatever actions you need to after."
Narzun nodded and turned back to the rest. "Ok, this is what we will do. Kraz will take point with Henry and Selah behind him and Tad you follow after but stay close to me once we are on the ground."
"Five minutes out," Moreau called out to them after a bit. Kraz moved into position on the ramp, gripping his shotgun tightly and growling low in his throat. The ship bucked a little and they knew they had hit the atmosphere then it smoothed out as the ship punched through.
"One minute. Approaching the campsite now. I will take her down behind the ridge so you have some cover on approach." Narzun just waved at Moreau's words.
Gustave started to count down from ten to zero, slaping the panel that released the drop ramp. The only thing he heard was the growl of the Krogan as it released its pent up irritation and charged out. He heard a muttered curse after and then shut down the engines. Kelea ventured out and came up to the cockpit to watch the tactical screen Gustave pulled up.
They watched the 5 dots move, one farther ahead than the others. Two followed, splitting up to come around the backside of the prefabs. The last two lagged behind and stopped moving on the ridge. Gus could only imagine that the Turian was there peering through the scope of his sniper rifle. The coms came alive at that point and he unabashedly listened in.
Kraz snarled as he hit the ground, charging off with a guttural growl which had Selah cursing as she nudged Henry's arm. They both took off after Kraz, hitting the ridge then going down. Selah pointed to the backside of the prefabs and Henry nodded, both making their way over. Henry almost tripped over the corpse of the merc, his neck snapped and he smirked at Alex's work.
Nudging Selah he caught her attention and motioned for her to follow as the headed to the far end of the last prefab. Selah found two other corpses waiting there on the far end, both with holes in their helmets. She kicked one over to its back and made a face.
"Found 3 down and dead. Looks like Blue Suns from the armor. Newbies at that," Henry said.
"Rodger," Narzun's voice came over the suit radio. "No movement beyond Kraz and you two. Clear the prefabs."
"You heard him," Henry said and they came around the end of the prefab while Kraz stared down at something behind some of the storage boxes between the prefabs. "Kraz clear the prefab near you," Henry said, catching the Krogan's attention.
"Yea, doing so. We need Tad down here immediately. I found Alex," Kraz said, his voice not betraying anything yet which gave the rest hope.
Selah and Henry found the prefab empty, belongings still waiting for their owners. "All clear here. Looks like they left in a hurry or were dragged out. Unsure," Henry reported.
"Same here, packs and bags left like they had just been put down. All clear, Narzun." Kraz's voice was a bit puzzled over the way things had been left.
"We are coming in now, stand by." Narzun's voice came over the radio to them and Selah and Henry made their way over to where Kraz stood. Then they understood why the Krogan wasn't quite sure what to say or think.
Alex laid there, half buried in the dirt. There was a washed out section of the dirt like someone had sprayed water over the area yet the dirt didn't show anything other than being dry. A small pile of dirt rose from Alex's chest right center over it and her body was half sunk in the loam. One of the supply boxes next to her hand was half eaten away as if acid had done it yet there was no discoloration that herald even that.
Henry stripped off his glove and reached out to check Alex's pulse. It was weak and he noticed when he touched her dry, cool skin, that a shimmering was triggered and pulsed once. "She's alive, pulse is weak though and something is really stranger than normal with her," Henry said as Tad and Narzun arrived.
Tad came over and knelt down, running his omni tool over Alex a moment then frowning at the readings it gave him. He scanned again and then shut off the omni tool. "Need new omni tool it seems. Not working correctly." So he reached out and did it the old fashioned way, checking her arms and legs first and finding nothing wrong. He then brushed off the pile of dirt and suddenly stood, reeling back away. Henry caught the Salarian before he fell over, wondering what caused that reaction.
Selah leaned over to watch what Tad was doing so when the Salarian brushed away the dirt her eyes widened at what they had both seen. There was no doubt it was a hole in Alex's chest but dirt filled it perfectly with the gleam of metallic substance peppered in it. They all leaned closer then and saw what had startled Tad. The dirt pushed up suddenly and underneath was a plate of some kind filling the hole.
About that time Alex suddenly sat up gasping for air and then coughing, dirt coming out of her nose and mouth. Selah dropped to her knees and held Alex while the human coughed up dirt. It was about two minutes later when Alex finally went limp against Selah and mumbled. "-iara…?"
Selah caught on fast. "No, we found no one here but you and 3 corpses. Are you saying the Blue Suns kidnapped the students?"
Alex coughed once more and then gave a weak nod. "Came during the night," she said weakly and then closed her eyes.
Narzun's mandibles moved in what some recognized as anger and the dual hum he gave only brought that fact home. Henry shifted, walking up to Alex and giving her a bottle of water he had. "They are gone now though."
"We need to get Liara back," Alex said, the stubborn tone telling everyone that this was not stopping the human. This is why they willingly followed her. She guzzled down half the bottle of water before capping it and setting it down then with a snarl she got up, swaying enough that Kraz reached out and rested his hand on her shoulder to steady her.
Henry walked away at that point and knelt down, looking at the prints. He traced one print then got up and looked around, his eyes glued to the ground. The rest eyed him a moment but then turned back to Alex, concerned. After Henry circled the camp he came back with his brows furrowed up. "I can see that there was at least eleven there that night. It was a mix of races which included at least 2 humans and their leader who has to be wearing some sort of power armor. It was heavier than normal heavy armor."
Alex nodded, it sounded about right. "And the sniper," she said quietly, her tone sharp. "My armor and weapons are in a case under the far prefab," she said and pointed. Selah moved without being told to get them and Alex said nothing more on it. "I… you got her by ship yes?"
Narzun nodded. "Yes, speaking of. Gustave, bring the ship in closer, there is nothing here but us." He waited as the pilot replied and they all heard the ship power up and then Alex could see it for the first time, a gleam in her eyes.
"I feel like I have a hundred pounds of dirt on me so I am going to take a shower. We need to dismantle everything and load it. The students and the teacher are most likely no longer on planet. How long ago did the beacon go off?" Alex had a puzzled frown on her face and Tad glanced up from the crate he started to pack.
"Three days. We were enroute within 2 hours of the beacon's signal. Pilot is very fast and good. Ship is good." He spoke, a little slower than normal for the hyper Salarian and Alex nodded.
"Narzun have someone find the Sun's landing zone and search for clues there. I am going to get that shower now," she said and the Turian nodded.
Selah had just returned and Alex dived into the prefab to grab her pack before appearing again and heading to the ship where Selah showed her where the shower was, still carrying the armor case though once Alex was in the shower and cleaning off the dirt, she opened the case, laid the undersuit out and then organized the pieces of armor for Alex. She then left and figured Alex could use something to eat. Kelea was there in the lounge eating some of that paste that her people ate and Selah rummaged around till she found some nutribars and what called itself chicken parm. She wasn't sure what chicken parm was but Alex would appreciate it.
Narzun turned to Tad when Alex walked away. "Follow the trail back to the base camp for the Suns. Keep cloaked while doing this and let me know what you find. I don't expect them to still be on planet but any information could help us." Tad nodded and turned away, activating his cloak as he started to track the mercs.
Alex heard Selah doing something but the water was too distracting to her as she thrust her head under the warm stream. Dirt was everywhere and she scrubbed and scrubbed till she felt clean. Her finger ran over the hole in her chest and she frowned a little. The water had run off her as brown as mud at first and then cleaner once she got it off.
When she was done she shut the water off and dried off before putting on some clothing. She found her armor laid out and smiled at the thoughtfulness Selah had then started to put it on. It was a dark gray with a pattern of feathers and she appreciated that. Morlena had gone all out on the Phantom armor for her. When she was suited up Selah came back and handed her the nutribars and MRE which she tore into and demolished while sitting there.
When they left the ship from the cargo hold she was surprised to see the camp more than halfway taken down. Narzun was packaging the last piece of prefab in its box when he looked up to see her coming towards him. He stood and saluted her which Alex shook her head to.
"I see you guys made quick headway," she said and looked around, noticing Tad wasn't there and assumed that he had been sent. "Tad find anything yet?"
Narzun shook his head then paused. "Tad find anything yet?"
"The landing zone is abandoned as suggested. They left in a hurry and I am still looking around. From the blood I assume someone fought back. It is Asari blood," he responded with and that made both Alex and Narzun frown.
"Keep us posted and once you have finished with the landing zone, return back. We are leaving as soon as everything is loaded. I want to get in touch with Morlena and see if she can find information," Alex said to the Salarian.
"Affirmed. There is nothing here so I am returning now," Tad answered.
Alex nodded then looked around, rubbing her armor over the place where she had been shot. There was this tingly feeling and she was barely holding up. It wasn't quite painful but it was a weird feeling for the human. She sighed, catching Narzun's attention.
Narzun saw the look on Alex's face and nudged her. "Go sit down. We are almost done here anyways and don't need your help for a few boxes," he teased.
He got a "no shit" look from Alex but she did sit down and then Henry gave her another bottle of water with a smirk. She uncapped it and gave him a salute with the bottle before taking a swallow. It really helped her.
About the time Tad returned Selah set the last box down in the hold and then came back down the ramp. Gustave was there by Alex and they were talking softly. Selah walked over to them. "That's the last of the equipment Alex. And Tad's back," she said, nodding towards the Salarian.
"Good. Ok everyone, get back on board. We are leaving," Alex said loud enough for the rest to hear her. Then all headed back on to the ship and Gustave and Alex walked up the ramp, the pilot closing the ramp once everyone was in and sealed it. Then he and Alex went to the cockpit while the rest went to the lounge to get something to eat and drink.
"I assume you know we are going to hunt these mercs down," Alex said as Gustave did his pre-flight check and then powered the ship up, starting to rise from the ground.
"Aye, that was a given lass," he said with a slight Scottish accent. "Don't blame you either. Bad lot this. Students are not worth much except as slaves. And I would not be surprised that the Suns would resort to slavery to fund themselves." He hit a switch and the ship shuddered slightly before smoothing out, breaking out of the atmosphere.
"Let me know when we are close enough to get a relay to Morlena. I am going to take a nap," Alex said and to make her point, she snuggled down into the co-pilot seat and closed her eyes.
Gustave snorted softly at her but said no more as he guided the ship out of the system and towards the Relay. He turned to his omni tool and typed out a quick message to Kelea about needing top speed and she said she would make sure the engines could take it. Satisfied, the pilot checked his nav data and made a minor correction. They would make the Relay within 3 hours at this rate. Kelea was a wizard with engines, producing almost 400% more power from them. It still amazed the human.
A few hours later Alex contacted Morlena and the Asari was relieved her favorite human was ok. "Thank the goddess you are alive Alex," she said.
"Barely. I got a hole in my chest that is slowly closing. It has to be something that my previous employer did," the woman responded with. "Look 'Lena I want to know where this group of morons are so I can end them and get the students back. And I have a bone to pick with their so called leader, the fucker. Still had me shot even when I gave up. Someone like that needs to be taken out of the gene pool permanently."
"Ok, give me till tomorrow. I will send out feelers to see what info I can get. Liara is a friend too. But it's the students… I hope to the goddess that they are not sold as slaves."
"Not if I can help it," was Alex sharp, angry reply and Morlena smirked.
"Ah. Well let me see what I can find out and I will contact you in the morning with what I could find," the Asari said.
"Sounds good. From what the pilot says, we should be back within a day and half," Alex responded with. "Talk to you tomorrow. Out."
Morlena turned to her omni tool after Alex cut off the communication and started to type out the message she needed then shot it out to three of her contacts. She then started back on the paperwork the bar generated. It didn't take long before the first of three responded, leaving a one word message that made her frown deeply. "Hostage."
A half an hour later she was interrupted again and sighed. "Yes?" Her voice was loud enough to be heard through the door.
"Ma'am, there is an Asari here wanting to talk to you," his muffled voice came through the door, identifying him as one of the new human bouncers.
She got up and walked to the door, opening it. "Thank you. You can go back to your post now," she said and stepped back to let the Asari through. The human nodded and turned, not questioning anything as he went back to his duty.
"Tela send hers greetings. I am Genla. She thought it would be best to hand deliver you the information you requested. It is of a… sensitive nature." Genla sat down in one of the chairs and pulled out a small OSD from her jacket, offering it to Morlena. "Basically this is the series of correspondences between one of the Blue Sun leaders and the Hegemony. It isn't a pretty sight. There is also mention of a particular Asari and her daughter within it. I assume the Batarians might want to use her to get some concessions from the Council or with the Matriarch. "
Morlena frowned and sat down, taking the OSD. "This doesn't sound very good. I need a location of the group that took Liara or Alex is going to hunt down everyone that wears Blue Sun armor and kill them."
"Ah yes, the human. She is different from most of her species. We have watched her and like what we see. She is only one example of her species sadly. Most are not like her," Genla said and relaxed.
"I think that this is beyond what I asked for. Thank you. Here is the payment and a bonus for you taking the time to come to me," Morlena said as she typed on the omni tool a moment.
A beep came from Genla's and she smiled at the bonus. "We appreciate doing business with you when you are prompt. The Suns are not anything to fool around with and we got recent word that there will be a takeover of the leadership. If the correspondences between the Hegemony and this Vido are anything to be concerned over."
Morlena nodded. "Thank you again. If I need any more information I will let Tela know," she said and stood up, Genla rising and smiling.
"Have a good day then." The Asari let herself out and walked out of the bar, lifting her omni tool up. "It is done," were the only words she said before walking down the street.
Morlena looked at the time and sighed, her last contact had not yet responded so she would wait till at least tomorrow before letting Alex know. It was late already and she got Hinema to bring her something to eat while she looked at the OSD. There was a lot of concerning data about the deal between the Suns and the Hegemony and the fact that Liara was mentioned a few times made this all not a random happening.
Morlena leaned back and pondered the data. She knew Alex was going to be mad about this. She knew the human would also retaliate with great force on the group that actually took Liara. This meant she was going to have to do without the top team of bouncers. Then again, Alex had made sure even the new ones were trained well before letting them go off on their own.
It seemed to her that perhaps the bouncers should maybe be more than just bouncers. She nodded to herself and would bring this up to Alex next time they talked. There were fewer reasons to form a merc group than Alex had and she already had her core with the rest that were out there with her now. She set her omni tool to mine data about Alex's home region and then finished her almost forgotten meal. It was late now and she was tired.Morlena locked up the OSD in her office safe and then tidied up before locking the door behind her. She set the plate down in the kitchen and then left to her loft apartment, finding that much needed sleep that her body craved. She laid down and was quickly asleep, mind still full of half formed plans.