Approximately five days before the events of Omega
"So we have a deal then?"
Warden Kuril nodded. "Yes. Transfer the funds…" he trailed off as he typed some commands into his omni-tool. "Here."
"I'm afraid my client will be unable to transfer anything until we are sure that the prisoner is in good health," Kuril's customer countered.
"The prisoner is currently in cyrostasis. I can guarantee good health," Kuril pressed.
"That will not be good enough. We are sending a representative. He will pick up the prisoner and determine whether or not she will be purchased."
"Very well. Who am I expecting?" Kuril said, suppressing a sneer at the young human in the monitor, though his mandibles were moving agitatedly.
"A vessel will approach Purgatory identifying itself as the Normandy SR-2. The commanding officer will inspect the prisoner himself," the young man answered.
"Very well. Transmit these codes to him so we'll be able to identify his approach," Kuril responded. Nodding to one of his technicians, he waited for the information to be sent.
"Received. Thank you for your time, Warden Kuril," the Cerberus negotiator said before closing the link.
Typing another series of complicated commands, the negotiator for Cerberus prepped the highest level of encryption he was given and prepared himself for his next meeting.
The head of Cerberus appeared on his screen. "Is it done?" he asked once communications were confirmed secure.
The young man nodded as he answered. "Yes, sir. The Warden has finally agreed on our price along with the stipulation that Commander Shepard is to meet with Subject Zero to determine if she's fit to join his squad."
"Well done. I've sent you your next assignment. I hope to hear continued good news from you," The Illusive Man praised before closing the link.
The Cerberus negotiator smiled, glad to have completed his assignment to the Illusive Man's satisfaction. Tapping his screen, he began looking over his new orders. Mission parameters, funds, and a deadline were all listed.
Locate the assassin, Thane Krios, and attempt to recruit him for us. You have one month. The listed amount is what we're willing to pay.
Location: Normandy, En Route to Purgatory Prison
As the shuttle docked with the Normandy, various crewmen scrambled about with their assigned tasks. Some were to refuel the shuttle, others for maintenance, and a few were armed with shotguns. The latter was a relatively new role within the hanger.
The Kodiak's hatches opened and Shepard calmly walked out with Miranda and Jacob following closely behind.
"All right people! Move that tank to the port-side cargo room! And be careful!" Jacob yelled out.
Various affirmatives were returned as Mordin jumped off the shuttle and walked quickly toward the elevators, presumably to check the results of his experiments. Garrus left the shuttle at a more sedate pace and stood next to Shepard.
"Miranda, Jacob, I'll meet you in the Comm room for debrief later. I need to oversee this," Shepard said as everyone watched the crewmen bustle about.
"You sure you got this, Commander?" Jacob asked.
"I'm sure it's…" Shepard started to reassure before a shout of surprise interrupted. Turning sharply at the sound, he saw Ken flat on his ass staring at the new piece of salvage they picked up. The krogan tank was carefully being pulled out of the shuttle via crane with the occupant still locked in stasis. Though sealed, the krogan within the tank still cut an intimidating figure.
"Fine…" Shepard finished. Sighing and glaring at Garrus when he chuckled, Shepard walked over to Ken and helped him to his feet before directing the others to unload the shuttle, including Gabby, who wouldn't stop ribbing Ken for his 'courageous' shout.
"Waking this krogan is bad idea," Miranda said, placing her weapons inside her locker. Jacob and Garrus were also stowing their weapons away in armory while Shepard remained below decks. After stating her opinion, she turned to look at Jacob with an even look. "I can't believe you actually want to wake it."
Jacob just shrugged at her. "Shepard's worked with krogan before and an extra gun couldn't hurt."
Garrus turned to both humans, his tasks complete. "Wrex was a disciplined warrior. For all intents and purposes, this krogan is still a kid and according to Okeer, he's a kid that's also a genetically enhanced super soldier."
"Exactly," Miranda agreed. "We don't know anything about it. We don't know his mental health, his loyalties -- if he even has any at all."
"Well, it's still Shepard's call," Jacob reminded. "Maybe he wants to study it,"
"He wouldn't bring that thing up here if he didn't intend to open it," she pointed out.
Garrus crossed his arms. "I trust him. He knows what he's doing. I may not like it, but if there's anyone able to command a krogan, it's him. If he's able to convince Okeer's 'perfect' krogan to help us out, more power to us. If not, well…" he trailed off, shaking his head and shrugging. "We've killed plenty of krogan before," he finished. Giving a nod to both Cerberus operatives, Garrus turned around and left.
Miranda started to massage her brow to stave off the incoming headache. I knew the odds weren't favorable, but this… "I definitely have concerns about this…" she said out loud to Jacob.
After securing the tank inside the cargo bay and interfacing the controls with EDI to prevent any mishaps, Shepard swiftly made his way to Deck 2 and the Comm room, not even bothering to take off his weapons.
As he reached the door, he could hear Miranda talking Jacob. "Look, what I'm saying is that bringing the krogan aboard for study makes sense, but I still have concerns about waking it."
"Yeah, you've said that a few times now," Jacob said with a touch of exasperation.
Stepping into the room, Shepard stopped at the head of the table and leaned on it. Miranda continued her tirade. "A normal krogan is dangerous. This one is was created, and likely educated, by a madman."
"I see everyone's enjoying the new paperweight," Shepard commented. "Concerns?" he asked in all seriousness.
"We don't know anything about it, Commander," Miranda cautioned.
"I know. You don't find that interesting?" he answered with a smirk. Jacob shook his head, suppressing a smile of his own.
Turning serious again, Shepard said, "I want to give him a chance. We can't just leave him in the cargo hold. If we're willing to through all that trouble to pick up Okeer, then we should at least see if his tank-grown krogan was worth the effort and time to retrieve."
"Krogan fight well at close quarters. Perhaps awakening him in a confined space wouldn't be prudent," she warned.
"Noted," Shepard said to her. "The cargo hold is safe enough in the meantime."
Shaking her head in exasperation, Miranda left. Jacob shrugged at Shepard before turning to leave himself.
Standing alone in the Comm Room, Shepard looked at the display panel on the cherry wood table between his hands. "EDI."
EDI's display materialized before him. "Commander?"
"Tell Garrus that I'd like to see him here, if you will," Shepard requested.
"As you wish, Commander. Also, I was asked to convey the gratitude of the quarian ships within the area of operations to thank you for your warning. Logging you out."
During the next few minutes, while waiting for his friend to show up, Shepard continued to think about his newest dilemma. His thoughts drifted toward Wrex and wondered what he would think of Okeer and his tank-bred krogan army. Wonder what Wrex would do?
Garrus' voice intruded into his thoughts. "Something up?"
Turning to face the turian, he nodded. "Arm up Garrus. We're going to see if this krogan is as any good as Okeer claims."
The trip to the cargo bay was made in silence. Both men knew what their roles were. Shepard would see if the krogan would be willing to help and Garrus would shoot it if it proved itself dangerous.
"Is it true we have a pod containing a baby krogan down in the cargo hold?" Kelly had asked when Shepard and Garrus stepped into the CIC and headed for the lift.
Garrus snorted as he checked over his rifle.
"Not a baby. He's a full-grown super soldier ready for combat," Shepard corrected.
"Please be careful if you're going to… err… birth him? His personality is completely unknown," she fretted.
"Relax, Kelly. Garrus is coming with me. We have the situation under control. What could go wrong?"
Yeah… What could go wrong? Shepard sarcastically thought to himself as they descended to Deck 3. Once there, both turian and human walked down the short hallway to the entrance of the port-side cargo bay. "Just wait here until I call. I don't want to antagonize him if I have the situation under control," Shepard said.
"By call: do you mean through the radio, the door, or when that thing starts tearing off limbs and you start screaming?" Garrus said with morbid humor.
"Whichever one you feel like answering," Shepard deadpanned though his smile belied his tone. Turning serious, he looked Garrus straight in the eye. "I mean it though. Give me a chance with him first. You don't come until I say you do and if I do, don't think, just shoot."
"You gonna be alright in there alone?" Garrus said seriously.
"If it comes down to it, I still have my biotics. I can buy time if I need it," Shepard said confidently. Giving a reassuring nod to the turian, he stepped into the cargo bay.
"EDI, status," Shepard called out as the door closed behind him.
"The subject is stable, Commander. Integration with onboard systems was seamless," she dutifully reported.
Looking up into the tank, the krogan eyes were open, but eerily unblinking. "Can he see anything in there? Does he know where he is?"
"Unlikely. Current neural patterns indicate minimal cognition. Barring ship-wide power loss, the nutrients in the tank could sustain him for over a year."
"What can you tell me about this guy? Anything unusual?" Shepard asked, curious why Okeer would call this his 'perfect legacy'.
"The subject is an exceptional example of the krogan species, with fully formed primary, secondary, and tertiary organs, where applicable. No defects of any kind, aside from the genetic markers of the genophage present in all krogan. I cannot judge mental functioning," EDI listed off.
"So we have no idea how dangerous this guy is aside from the obvious?"
"He is a krogan, Commander. If you are asking whether he is actively hostile, I don't have the necessary data to answer," she informed.
"Any guesses then?" Shepard asked.
"Okeer's technology could impart data, not methods of thinking. The subject may know of his views, but would not necessarily share them."
"Very well. Stand by. I'm going to open the tank and let him out," Shepard decisively said.
"Cerberus protocol is very clear regarding untested alien technology," EDI informed.
"I'm not Cerberus, EDI," Shepard responded. "I don't care about their rules and protocols. And I won't be second guessed on my own ship, by my own ship. He's either a powerful addition to the crew or a time bomb. I'd rather deal with it now."
"Very well, Shepard," EDI complied. "The controls are online. The switch – and consequences – are yours," she warned.
Here's hoping that he'll be as pleasant as Wrex Shepard sardonically thought to himself, repeating Garrus' earlier words during the mission. He approached the console and with two taps, the nutrient fluid inside the tank began draining. Shepard took a few steps back to better see who he was about to deal with.
The moment fluid finished draining, the pod moved slightly forward to eject it's occupant as the doors opened. The krogan blinked once before falling to his knees and coughed out some of the viscous nutrient fluid right at Shepard's feet.
Taking another step back from the slimy discharge, Shepard distantly noted that the process really was like birthing a krogan. The rest of his mind processed the large, intimidating alien standing in front of him as he stood his ground.
Taking a deep breath, his eyes finally focused in the bright light of the room he was in. He had no name. He had no identity. All he had were words and memories that he didn't care about. But he was free from the tank. Anything else can come after. Looking down from the tank, he saw a human dressed in black armor standing before him. Letting out a roar, the krogan charged the human and picked him up before slamming him against the wall and pinning him. The human let out a grunt, but still turned his head to meet the krogan's unnatural blue eyes unflinchingly.
"Human. Male. Before you die, I need a name," the krogan rumbled evenly.
The human glared as he answered, "I'm Commander Shepard and I don't take threats lightly. I suggest that you relax."
"Not your name. Mine," the tank-born krogan corrected. "I am trained, I know things, but the tank… Okeer couldn't implant connection. His words are hollow." Words flashed through his mind's eye. "Warlord, legacy, grunt… grunt. 'Grunt' was among the last. It has no meaning. It'll do." Holding his arm against the human's throat, 'Grunt' tilted his head as he regarded his captive. "I am Grunt. If you are worth of your command, prove your strength and try to destroy me."
The human continued to show no apprehension with his predicament. Grunt couldn't even smell any fear emanating from him. He simply asked, "Why do you want me to kill you?"
His words sounded confident, as if that was the only outcome if they should fight. Grunt narrowed his eyes as he pondered the question. What do I want? He had no answer, only a goal. "Want? I do what I am meant to – fight and reveal the strongest. Nothing in the tank ever asked what I want. I feel nothing for Okeer's clan or his enemies. That imprint has failed. He has failed. Without a reason that's mine, one fight is as good as any other." Brining his face closer he grimly smiled. "Might as well start with you," he growled.
"Is it that easy for Okeer's perfect krogan to abandon his mission?" the human asked. There was something within his tone though. Contempt? Approval? Grunt couldn't tell. Through it all, he still didn't look bothered.
Okeer. Grunt couldn't feel anything at all for the aged warlord. He didn't care for his ideals. He didn't care for his goals. He didn't care that he's dead. He probably wouldn't care if he was alive. "Okeer is just a voice in the tank. If his imprints are true, then he created something stronger than him. So he's not worth of me. And if his hatreds aren't strong enough to compel me, they've failed, too. I feel nothing. I have no connection."
The human continued to stare directly in his eyes. Grunt couldn't help but feel a sense of unease. His glare seemed to be uncompromising, unrelenting and unafraid. "I took you and I released you. You'll either follow my command or I'll space you. You come with me and you'll find purpose or die trying."
Though he said it in a neutral tone, Grunt still felt the veiled promise and threat within. This was different. "Nothing in the tank imprints indicated humans could be so forceful. You command as though you've earned it." What was his name again…? Shepard?
"My enemies threaten galaxies. Everyone on my ship has earned their place. I'm still deciding if you're worth bringing along, if you're as strong as you claim," Shepard responded.
He challenges me. Interesting. Grunt could feel something now; the anticipation before a battle, a sudden rush of rage and the thrill of challenge. If Shepard was telling the truth, the fights ahead could prove worthwhile. "Hmph! That's… acceptable," Grunt said. "I'll fight for you."
He saw Shepard smile, but it wasn't in victory nor did it seem pleasant. It looked as vicious as any krogan.
"I'm glad you saw reason," Shepard said as he pressed the barrel of his pistol on the underside of Grunt's chin.
"Hmm?" Grunt took a step back as he felt the cold barrel under his jaw. Bastard had that on me the entire time… Another image from the tank imprint flared into his consciousness. Words of wisdom from one of the many krogan warlords used to shape him. "Ha! Offer one hand, but arm the other," Grunt said, voicing his thoughts out loud. "Wise, Shepard." Grunt almost smiled. "If I find a clan, if I find what I…" Grunt hesitated as he drew a blank. He still felt no desire beyond combat. No desires of his own. "What I want, I will be honored to eventually pit them against you," he finished.
Shepard merely nodded as he lowered his pistol. "We'll see what happens, but I'm sure it'll be interesting."
Grunt turned away and began to survey the room he was in. It's already interesting.
Shepard left the cargo bay, his mind trying to assimilate what he'd just learned.
"Well, you look like you're still in one piece," Garrus said as he gave a cursory glance at Shepard, then inside the cargo bay where Grunt was looking around.
"All my limbs are still attached. No screaming," Shepard joked. Continuing toward the lift, he waited until Garrus stepped in before heading toward deck 2.
"He's coming along for the ride then?" Garrus asked.
"Yeah. He doesn't feel anything except the desire to fight. He's definitely different," Shepard said, still thinking about their newest squad member.
"Ignoring the fact that he's less than a month old, educated by a lunatic, and a genetically enhanced killing machine. I kinda see your point," Garrus cheekily said.
Shepard laughed as they reached their destination. Stepping out, they both trekked to the armory to deposit their weapons. "I was referring to his mental differences. I really wasn't expecting him to be like Wrex, but he doesn't seem to think like a krogan. I'm not sure how to explain it."
Garrus shrugged as he handed his rifle to Jacob who took it with a nod. "Well considering that Okeer didn't think like most krogan, that's expected. As long as you can keep him in line and away from something delicate, we'll have no problems."
"Delicate. Like the engine? Or the engineers?" Jacob said as he logged in Garrus' equipment on his terminal.
"Relax. It'll be fine," Shepard assured as he stowed his weapons inside his personal locker.
Jacob shook his head. "I wish I had your confidence, Commander," he said as he ran his omni-tool over Garrus' rifle.
"Speak your mind, Jacob. I like talking with my crew," invited Shepard.
Jacob didn't look up, but he smiled. "If you want, Commander. Cerberus has ranks, but it's not the Alliance. No rules about fraternization."
"As far as I know, that rule seems to apply only to humans. No other species really cares about issues like that," Garrus observed.
Jacob shrugged. "Yeah. The Alliance can be real sticklers for that kind of thing. Here though, Shepard's boat, Shepard's call." Turning to the Commander, he nodded his head in acceptance. "You want to get friendly with everyone, that's your business."
"Relax, Jacob. I'm just interested in what makes you tick," Shepard said.
"Ha! Anyone else said that, I'd walk away. Most Cerberus people try to play like the Illusive Man, hiding bullshit behind a smile," Jacob said.
Garrus shook his head. "That's probably why I liked the first Normandy. None of the Alliance personal there were liars or manipulators. If they did or didn't like you, they didn't really hide it," he said as he crossed his arms. "Present company excluded," he amended, nodding at Jacob.
Jacob waved it off. "I know what you mean. Probably one of the few things I liked about the Alliance myself. You guys though – I like what I've seen. I'll give you two a shot. What do you want to know?"
"Anyone waiting for you back home?" Shepard asked, deciding to keep his queries simple.
"Only child and no extended family," came the prompt answer. "Never settled down. Didn't seem fair with this job. But, you can't miss what you never had."
Garrus nodded in agreement. "I've seen relationships fall apart pretty badly with some of the officers in C-Sec. Some of them were lucky enough to make it work though. Others…" Garrus trailed off with a shrug. "You've never had a relationship though? Not even when you were Alliance?"
"I've had a couple. Nothing lasting or worthwhile," Jacob modestly said. "You?"
"A few. No rules about fraternization in the turian military, so most of my relationships happened there. In C-Sec, not so much," Garrus answered.
"You seem okay taking a risk with us. Can I ask why?" Shepard asked before they could get on the topic of his love life. Thinking about Ashley constricted his heart and it was topic he wanted to avoid until he could get in touch with her again.
"Soldiers like us know how trust is to the crew," Jacob said matter-of-factly. Garrus and Shepard both agreed easily since it was one of those things that didn't need saying. "I'm not used to seeing it on a Cerberus ship. Definitely not from the people they put in command," Jacob explained.
Garrus snorted in contempt at Cerberus military doctrine, but didn't say anything else.
Jacob smiled, showing that he didn't take any offense. Looking at Shepard, he continued, "But you focus on more than the job. A threat this big, you can't just throw people at it blind. They need inspiration."
"Yeah, well, there's a lot riding on this, but we can't give up everything," Shepard said, his thoughts drifting back to Ashley.
"Not always a choice we get to make. Good to try, though," Jacob agreed. "I gave it my best back in the Alliance. Got labeled a troublemaker. They were always on the lookout for disruptive types."
Shepard suppressed a smile as he gave Garrus a pointed look. Garrus just shrugged as he looked unrepentant about his actions.
Jacob noticed. "You too?" he asked the turian.
"All the damn time," Garrus answered. "Not really that bad in the military…" he said ignoring Shepard's snort. "But in C-Sec? I'm surprised that I wasn't ever suspended or reprimanded. I'm sure I came close a few times though and my file will show that I'm not the model C-Sec officer. Too much politics involved, it kept pissing me off."
"I know the feeling," Jacob said. "Cerberus isn't really any better. They just put more effort into hiding how much they spy on you."
"They'll have something to see by the time we're done," Shepard confidently declared.
"No doubt. We'll be right in the middle of whatever goes down," Jacob agreed.
"Probably because we're going to be the ones that'll cause whatever happens," Garrus added.
All three soldiers shared a laugh. Garrus straightened up. "I'm getting some food from the mess hall. It was good talking to you Taylor."
"Likewise Garrus. You too Shepard. Let's do it again sometime."
Shepard smiled and nodded before following Garrus out the door. As Garrus stepped up to the lift, he asked, "Going down?"
Shepard shook his head. "I need a shower first. You go ahead."
Garrus just shrugged before boarding the lift, stepping around Hawthorne, who was just entering the CIC to assume his shift.
"Commander," Hawthorne acknowledged with a salute before heading down the bridge.
Kelly gave a friendly nod to Hawthorne before stepping up to Shepard. "Are you all right?"
"We talked Kelly. It was more civil than I thought. He's agreed to help us."
"I don't know what to feel about our newest crew member. My psych reports were for Okeer. We have no guarantees that he's mentally stable," she fretted.
"His name is Grunt and it's actually something interesting Kelly. I get the feeling he's a cross between an adult and a child. He hasn't learned to care about anything yet, but he's more intelligent than most would give him credit for," Shepard explained, tying to convey his thoughts about his short meeting with the krogan. "He doesn't have any passions, or personal goals. He hasn't really grown or lived long enough to have anything regarding personal feelings. All he really feels right now is the urge to fight… or maybe just kill. Thankfully, that means he's interested in our mission. On the other hand…"
"It could mean he's a danger to the ship and crew," Kelly finished.
Shepard shrugged. "I'll keep an eye on him. For now, we should be okay. Who knows? Maybe he'll grow to like us."
Joker limped up to them at that exact moment. "You collect cats as a kid?" he asked rhetorically. "Because we really needed a mega-krogan, so thanks for dragging him home," he jibed, shattering Shepard's assurances.
"How long to Purgatory?" Shepard asked, ignoring the joke.
"Our ETA toward Purgatory Prison is approximately 2 hours, 9 minutes," EDI answered from the nearby display panel.
"A hop, skip, and two mass relays away, with a short burst of FTL," Joker said. "Hawthorne can handle that. It's pretty much letting the computer do 98% of the work while he presses a color light once in a while." He hobbled to the elevator. "Me? I want food."
Shepard shook his head at Joker's antics while Kelly giggled. "Well, Commander, I need to create a new psych profile on Grunt then."
Shepard nodded and dismissed her as he waited for the elevator to return so he could finally get to his cabin and take a long hot shower.
Location: Shadow Sea, Iera System, Horizon
An unladylike string of curses continued to follow from a decidedly feminine voice. Pounding the console in frustration, Operations Chief Ashley Williams looked over the diagnostics report, trying to decipher the gibberish to find out why the GARDIAN laser turrets weren't functioning.
"Still not working?" a colonist asked sympathetically as she approached.
"Not yet, Lilith. Looks like the targeting software wasn't calibrated correctly. It's gonna take me a while. Guess I'm staying for a few more days," Ashley responded while glaring at the holomonitor in front of her.
"Sorry to hear that," Lilith said as she gave the Alliance marine a friendly pat on the shoulder. "I know everyone isn't comfortable with you here, but I'm glad you're making the best of it."
Ashley turned her head to give Lilith a wry smile. "I'm a marine. Out in the Terminus, I'm usually not welcome anywhere."
Lilith laughed a bit. "Would you like something to eat? Maybe you just need a bit of time," she offered.
"I'd like that, yeah. Thanks."
"We have Shepard's location. Set your course to the human colony of Horizon."
There was a flurry of activity before another order was perceived throughout the minds of the crew.
"Preserve Shepard's body if possible."
Shorter than most, but considering that they're speeding their way to the next mission, no rest for the weary and little time for characterization.
I played and finished the new DLC, Kasumi's Stolen Memories. Great mission, great character, and great addition. Unfortunately, I will not be able to enter her into my fic. First, it came too late. Second, while her dialogue integrates her with the crew a lot more than Zaeed, I can only get a bit at a time and this fic is already proving to be rather long. Third, I'd be really, really tempted to write a Jacob/Kasumi pairing. While some may wonder why that's a bad thing, bear in mind that I've never written any fic before. I am unsure how my ability to portray romance with Shepard/Miranda, my favorite characters, much less other characters that I like (a step down from favorite).
Still, I don't wanna be tyrannical with my work and several people have either asked in their reviews if I'm adding DLC characters or have PMed me about the subject. So, I'll be posting a poll on my profile. Zaeed, while awesome, is still out. Nothing is changing my mind about that. Kasumi, also awesome, may still have a chance to enter my fic. Having checked my outline, there is a point where I can enter her realistically without everything coming apart. And yes, I have an outline that reaches the end of ME2.
Here's the rub though. If only 10 people vote, it's not really enough incentive for me to push hard on the subject. The minimum vote is 100. From there, I'll look at the majority and go along with your decision. Less than a 100 and I'll assume people don't care one way or another.
Finally, I'm inviting you all to read Ronnie James Dio's work: Immortality
Unlike my work, he's focusing on key moments of the game. Some of the things he's writing are better than mine, which is actually helping me improve my own novice talents just to match.
In particular, I really love the way he portrays any Jack/Miranda interactions and the characters themselves, specifically Jack, Garrus, and Grunt. Go ahead and give his work a try and be sure to review!
Thanks for reading!