Fight for the Lost

The Ardat Yakshi

Location: Location: Normandy SR-2 / En Route to Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik / Omega

After two days of hard travel, the Normandy was only a few hours away from Omega.

Deciding to talk to Jack in an effort to ensure there won't be any trouble while he was ashore, Shepard found her in the gym. She was working over the punching bag, though her technique was rough and ungraceful. She carried herself more as a brawler than a fighter, but it suited her enough; even as small as she was.

Shepard walked around and gripped the bag for her as she kept on striking against it with hooks and jabs. She didn't stop or even acknowledge his presence.

"Shift your back foot a bit to put more weight into your punches," he advised. "You keep better balance too."

She paused only to glance at him before resuming. He noted that she defiantly ignored his advice. Shaking his head at her stubbornness, he waited until he spotted his opening and pushed the bag.

It struck her and she stumbled. She cursed loudly as she struggled to stay on her feet. Once stable, she turned and glared at him. "What the fuck?"

"I did tell you," Shepard said, trying to keep the smugness out of his voice.

She rolled her eyes and started unwrapping the tape around her hands. "What do you want?"

"I wanted to know if you'll be causing trouble while I'm gone."

"Who, me?" Jack asked, her voice a mix of innocence and sarcasm.

Shepard leaned against the bag and continued to stare her down.

"Don't worry. She's not worth my time," Jack said haughtily.

Shepard refrained from commenting and just nodded. He noticed the letters: D-E-A-T-H inscribed on her fingers, just below her knuckles, as she finished unwrapping the tape.

Jack reached down and took a sip from the water bottle at her feet, before turning back toward Shepard. "What're you staring at?"

"Your tattoos. Do they actually mean anything?" Shepard asked curiously.

"Asking about the obvious shit first, huh?" Jack said. "Most people do, except they usually ask sooner. You got a reason?"

"None at all," he bluntly admitted. "Just curious."

She scoffed and grabbed a towel. "I'm here to fight for you. Nothing says we have to be friends, but whatever."

Shepard noted that she hadn't said that they weren't friends either.

"You're not really interested," she continued. "Not unless it affects you. I've been through all this shit before."

"You know, you're a hard person to like, Jack," he dryly said.

"Really?" she drawled out, pretending like it was a surprise to her. "I had no idea. What other amazing insights do you have that I'm too stupid to see?"

Shepard pushed away from the punching bag and crossed his arms. "Does this mean you're not going to tell me about the tats?"

Jack scoffed, but relented. "Some are for prisons I've been in. Some are for kills—"

Shepard shot her a skeptical look. "There isn't nearly enough flesh to cover that one."

"—the good ones," she amended while shooting a dirty look at him. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Some are things I've lost. Those aren't your business. They're nobody's business."

Shepard nodded.

"And some are because, hey, why the fuck not?" she finished.

"I believe you," he said. "Something else I wanted to know though. I'll admit you're tough, but there's no way you survived alone all these years."

She gave him a sideways glance before leaning against the bulkhead. "When I was starting out, I ran with this girl Manara and her boyfriend. They knew their way around. I thought they'd help me. Right," she scoffed. "They helped me into their bed. And when we finally did take down something big, they helped themselves to my share of the take."

"I think I see where this is going," Shepard commented.

"I knew where it was heading and I got them first. Never bothered with friends or boyfriends or even girlfriends or any shit like that. Waste of fucking time."

"You really think they were going to kill you?" Shepard probed.

"I get feelings. I don't need proof. I did the smart thing," Jack shot back. "I always do the smart thing if people fuck with me. That's probably something you should remember."

"Noted," Shepard said dryly.

"You let someone get close, it just means they need a shorter knife. Lonely and alive works just fine."

"If it suits you."

"What does that mean?" Jack asked harshly.

"Nothing. Just thinking out loud," he answered with a shrug.

"That's how the galaxy works," she said. "Come on, you've been around."

"Captain? We're almost at Omega. ETA: 1 hour," Joker called.

"I have to go, but we should do this again," Shepard said. He meant it too. Turning around he made his way to the stairs when Jack called out to him.

"Wait."

He stopped turned his head slightly.

"My turn with the questions. People usually walk by now. Why are you asking all these things?" she asked suspiciously. "You eyeing me up? Because if this is just about sex, maybe you should just fucking say so."

"I'm trying figure out what makes you tick," he honestly said.

"You don't need to know someone to sleep with them. You just have to know where to put it," she said.

"That's not what I'm looking for." He turned around and faced her with an unreadable look. "You had a tough life. Most do, but yours is worse than most."

"Aren't you observant?" Jack sarcastically said.

"Do you think I'm going to screw you over?" Shepard bluntly asked.

"Everybody is out for themselves. The smart thing is to get them first before they get you," Jack said, almost automatically.

"You didn't answer my question."

Jack turned away and fell silent.

"If that's how you feel, why are you here?" Shepard asked. He leaned against railing of the stairs and crossed his arms.

"What do you mean 'why am I here'?" Jack repeated in annoyance. "I'm here because of our deal."

"You think everyone is out to either screw each other or over. You said you would do the smart thing and make the first move. So why are you still here? Why did you save me back aboard the Collector ship? Or why didn't you ditch us at Illium?" he asked, pressing the issue. "You could've taken a taxi and go anywhere you wanted. Or stolen some money from somebody and buy a ticket off-world." Standing straight, he stared at her with a penetrating gaze. "I've never lied to you. I told you from the beginning what our chances are."

Jack raised her head and met his eyes challengingly.

"So back to my original question: So why are you still here? Why not steal the shuttle and run? Look out for yourself like you always do?" he continued to ask rhetorically. Not expecting an answer, he shook his head and turned for the stairs again. "Look, believe it or not, I really am trying to be a friend." He looked over his shoulder and shrugged at her suspicious expression. "I'm actually a bit surprised myself, really. But since you went out of your way to save my life…" He trailed off with a shrug. "Look, after this mission, if we're both still alive, I owe you. Wherever you go, if you ever run into trouble, give me a call and I'll help you out to the best of my abilities." With his piece said, he started for the stairs again.

"How do you I know you're not trying to fuck me over?" Jack shouted at his retreating back.

"You don't," Shepard called back. "That's why you either trust me already, or you haven't."

~o~O~o~

Location: Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik / Omega

Samara looked at her environs with a dispassionate eye. She lived a long life, filled with conflict. She often saw the best, and worst, life had to offer. She had met unique individuals whose honor and integrity would leave their mark on her for centuries to come. Then she would see acts of depravity that would further harden her belief in the Code.

Looking around, Omega reminded her of the village Mirala had 'destroyed'. So many innocent lives gone because of her greed.

It was a bold move, relocating to Omega. Samara knew that she would have followed her code immediately upon setting foot on the seedy space station. "Liara suggested that we meet with—"

"—Aria T'Loak," Shepard finished as he led the way out of the docks and toward the main hub of Omega. "I agree. She should know something about Morinth."

"You've met this Aria?" Samara inquired.

"I picked up Mordin and Garrus here on Omega. Aria pointed me in their direction."

"Will she help us?"

Shepard shrugged. "She owes me a favor. Whether or not she'll hold to her word is another thing altogether."

Samara fell silent and kept vigil for anything amiss. Besides the obvious criminal elements, there were also the downtrodden and the oppressed. "Many people come here seeking a better life. Instead, they find… this. Vibrant people forced into destitution on a station filled with criminals. They deserve protection. If I survive your mission, I may return here." She paused as she considered the relative size of the station and the possible volume of inhabitants. "I will need many bullets."

Shepard glanced at her with an unreadable look on his face. He opened his mouth to say something before shaking his head and continued to push through the crowds.

Samara followed serenely in his wake. In the distance, she spotted a club, Afterlife. Seeing Shepard make his way over to it, she reached out and grabbed his arm. "Wait."

He stopped and turned to her curiously. "What?"

"Morinth's preferred hunting grounds have always been clubs," Samara said.

"She won't be in that one. Aria runs her empire from there. If Morinth is smart, she'd hunt elsewhere."

"And if she's hiding right under Aria's nose? She appreciates the thrill in danger," Samara argued worriedly.

"Aria's very formidable and not likely to make a mistake like that," he assured. "We can see her without worry."

Deciding to trust his judgment, Samara nodded and followed closely.

"Come on! Let me in!" an annoyed human shouted.

Pushing past the long line into the Afterlife, Shepard moved past the elcor bouncer and stopped in front of a batarian. Several people complained loudly and pointed fingers.

The two upper eyes looked up, while the lower eyes perused the list in his hands. "Name?"

"Shepard."

"Shepard… Shepard… Shepard… Nope. Not on the list. Back off, human."

An elcor bouncer made to force them away.

Shepard growled in annoyance before drawing his pistol on the elcor and grabbing the batarian with his free hand. The elcor stopped moving at the sight of the weapon pointed at him and the batarian cried out in surprise when he suddenly got dragged closer.

Samara let her biotics flare briefly as a deterrent and a warning to the other guards posted around them. She prepared for what might be an inevitable conflict.

Shepard narrowed his eyes when he finally got the batarian's full attention. All four eyes were looking at him in disbelief, as if he was crazy enough to try and force his way in with armed guards posted all around the entrance.

"Try: Spectre. Agent. Shepard," he said slowly, as if the batarian was either hard of hearing or slow in the head.

All of the batarian's eyes widened. "Oh… right. You're the one Aria's expecting. Go on in. Sorry about that," he apologized. He craned his neck to look at the other guards over Shepard's shoulder. "VIP for Aria. My fault."

All of the guards lowered their weapons and grumbled at his idiocy.

Shepard glared one last time before letting the batarian go. Holstering his pistol, he walked inside without looking back.

Samara raised an eyebrow at the sudden resolution. The guards had turned away to face the crowds again and the batarian picked up the datapad he dropped and got back to work as if nothing happened.

Interesting.

She hurriedly walked inside and shadowed Shepard, a plan formulating in her mind.

~o~O~o~

"Well, well, well…" Aria said in greeting. "And what do I owe the pleasure of having the formally deceased Spectre Agent Shepard back to my club?"

"You owe me a favor. I'm calling it in," Shepard said. He walked up the short stairs and stood on the dais Aria lounged in.

She gestured that he take a seat. "Oh? Something you need?"

"How's your information network? Working better now?" he asked as he sat down adjacent from her.

Aria narrowed her eyes. "We all have a moment of weakness."

"Not anymore?"

"The three merc groups sent a formal apology and… assurances that they won't try anything that stupid again."

Shepard leaned forward. "Of course, it helps that I killed all three merc leaders stationed here."

"And I killed their replacements," Aria said negligently. "Needless to say, they learned their lesson and now they lack the manpower to be a threat on Omega. For now anyway." A lazy smile donned her face, as if she knew something interesting. "Speaking of threats, how's Archangel by the way?"

"Haven't you heard? He's dead," Shepard answered.

"And so were you if the stories are to be believed," Aria replied. She smirked knowingly. "Funny how that works, isn't it?"

"I'm sure you'd know all about that."

"Perhaps," she allowed. She didn't elaborate further however.

"I need information," he said, getting the conversation on track. "You know what's what on Omega."

"Everything that's worth knowing. I don't usually give it out freely either. Information is power," she said. "Mundane things, you can find yourself. Take a walk in a back alley or buy one of the mercs a drink." She smirked again. "Better yet, talk to the entertainers. They give great tours."

"What I'm looking for isn't mundane," Shepard assured.

"Then you might not be wasting your time," she quipped before crossing her arms and looking down at him. "And more importantly, mine."

"An asari fugitive is hiding out here," he said. "An Ardat-Yakshi."

Aria frowned. "I knew it. Nothing leaves a body quite so… empty… as an Ardat-Yakshi does," she hissed.

Samara stepped forward. "You haven't taken steps to kill her?"

Aria glanced at her from the corner of her eye. "And why would I? She hasn't tried to seduce me."

"Empty… so she's killed someone?" Shepard asked in a low tone.

"A young girl. Pretty thing too."

"Where can I find her?"

"The victim or the murderer?"

"Both."

Aria shrugged. "With regards to your target: Don't know. Don't care. Yet anyway. The Ardat-Yakshi hasn't made any moves against me or my people, so I haven't dedicated any resources to finding her any more than I need."

"So you know nothing?" Shepard asked skeptically.

"I know a little about the victim. She was a sculptor. Not really my thing, but I understand that she had talent," Aria said.

"That's it?"

Aria crossed her legs elegantly. "There's a woman here that can provide you with the details. She's a former crime lord. Powerful too, once upon a time, but she has long since fallen from grace and started working as a social worker instead, if you'll believe it. She knew the victim very well. Her name's Helena."

"A social worker? Here?" Shepard asked.

"Do you want to talk to her or not?" Aria countered with a hint of impatience.

"Where can I find her?"

"Garka," Aria called.

A nearby batarian snapped to attention.

"He'll take you to her," Aria said to Shepard. "And thanks for taking care of this. One less problem for me to deal with."

"You too. Thanks for the help," Shepard said as he stood up.

"Good luck finding her. Better luck catching her," Aria said dismissively.

Garka led them away and to the lower portions of the club.

"Is there something wrong?" Samara asked when her companion lapsed into silence. He looked thoughtful about something.

"Helena… that name rings a bell…" he muttered.

"There she is," Garka said. He pointed at an older human woman in the distance. "You're on your own from here."

After he left, Samara and Shepard walked up to her. "Helena?" Samara inquired.

Helena turned around when her name was called and nodded. "Yes? Is there someth—" Her voice trailed off when her eyes turned toward Shepard. "Commander Shepard? Is that you? I'd heard you were dead!"

"Helena Blake," he said in realization. "I remember you now."

"So you do know her," Samara commented.

"He removed two criminal warlords from power. My former business partners and professional rivals, as it were," Helena explained. "He also… persuaded me to retire. I'll never forget it."

"And what brings you to Omega?" Shepard asked. His fingers were drumming on the butt of his pistol.

"What brings anyone to Omega? Opportunity? Success? Failure? All of the above?" Helena rhetorically asked. "I find this place suits me. I can bring it a certain… air of civility, I suppose."

"Suits you, huh? I certainly hope that means you're still retired," Shepard said evenly. "Not much on Omega is civil."

"I know better than to go back on my word with you, Commander," Helena calmly said. "After all, you eliminated my partners and the entirety of their forces. That goes to show how much standing against you might cost. I managed to leave with my life. While I no longer have the power I once had, I'm not in prison. Unlike most, I'm not about to squander that chance."

"I understand that you're a… social worker. On Omega," Shepard said. The disbelief in his voice was unmistakable.

"I am," Helena confirmed.

"That seems like a hopeless job in a place like this."

"Quite the opposite, actually. This place needs it more than most," Helena argued. "But the ability to do the good work requires that one understands how things truly work. Which makes me uniquely qualified."

"That's quite noble of you," Samara praised.

"More than I expected," Shepard said. He still seemed a little suspicious.

"Noble? No," Helena disagreed with a small smile. "It's just that someone came along a few years ago and made me see the error of my ways."

Once again, Samara found herself glad that she had made Shepard's acquaintance as she did.

"You convinced me that I could use my contacts and skills for things other than smuggling and exploitation. I thank you for that," Helena sincerely said. "This is all to your credit, Commander."

Shepard nodded. "Well, I'm glad to hear you're keeping out of trouble. I admit, meeting you was unexpected. Actually, we're looking for a killer. Aria T'Loak told me that you might know the victim."

Helena raised an eyebrow. "Of course, Commander, I'll help in any way I can."

"The victim was a young woman. A sculptor," Samara revealed.

Helena sucked in a breath and sighed. "Ah yes. Nef."

"So you did know her?" Samara asked intently.

"She had talent," Helena said. "I used a few of my contacts to see if they were interested in her work. They were. With the proper instruction, that poor young woman would've have gone far." Her head snapped up all of a sudden. "Wait. You said, 'killer'?"

Both Samara and Shepard nodded.

Helena cursed under her breath. "Damnation. I can't believe it. I had saved her too. She was different, certainly worth helping. She could've done so much better for herself and her mother. I had thought that she would be able to leave this station and go on to bigger and better things."

"Will you help us?" Shepard asked.

"You don't even have to ask, Commander. If she was murdered, I would do what it takes to bring the killer to justice," Helena staunchly said. "All my work… gone." She turned and led them away from Afterlife. "This way. I'll take you to her apartment. Her mother is still there. She might offer more insight."

"So you didn't even know it was a murder?" Shepard asked as they left the booming music and fires behind.

"No, not at all. The doctor's here said that it was a hemorrhage. It was a tragic waste of life, but nothing else. Certainly nothing suggesting foul play," Helena answered. "Diana, Nef's mother, was convinced that Nef was murdered, but there was no evidence suggesting so. Considering my… background, I'd know that much at least. I'd just assumed that Diana was trying to deal with her grief by finding an outlet; find someone or something to blame, that's all."

"Are the doctors here skilled?" Samara asked.

"Oh yes. They were trained by a brilliant salarian doctor that was here some time ago. The salarian left, but not before leaving his clinic behind to some surprisingly capable hands."

Helena completely missed the knowing looks Samara and Shepard shared.

The tenants were just past the marketplace. Helena stopped at a dirty, dingy door and tapped on the holographic interface. Soon after, a muffled, "Come in," was heard.

The rusty door opened and Helena peaked inside slowly. "Diana? It's Helena."

A human woman, younger than Helena, but older than Shepard, looked up from her seat on an old, lumpy couch. "Oh… Helena. What brings you here?"

"I brought some friends to see you," Helena said quietly, as if she didn't want to disturb mournful atmosphere within the tiny room.

"Who?"

"Some people that can help you. And Nef."

At the mention of her daughter's name, Diana stood up and greeted her guests. "Are you here about my daughter? My Nef died a week ago and no one but Helena, seems to care."

"We are," Shepard said respectfully.

"The doctors said it was a brain hemorrhage, but that's not true. It was murder." Her voice was steady in the beginning, but now it was starting the waver as she tried to hold back her tears. "Someone killed my Nef, my baby…"

"We believe she was murdered too," Shepard said. "And we're here looking for her killer."

Diana choked out a sob, but stifled it as quickly as she could. Standing up, she reached out and grasped one of Shepard's hands with her own. "Oh, thank you! Thank you! It's so hard when no one believes you. I'm all alone now."

"I'm so sorry, Diana," Helena apologized. "Had I known…"

Diana shook her head. "You were the only one that cared about Nef's future. You were the only one that could've given her one…" She hiccupped and faced Shepard, though she took a quick glance at Samara as well. "Are you… one of Aria's people?" She obviously thought that with Samara being an asari, they would be acquainted with Aria.

"We're here to help," Shepard said softly. "Does it matter who sent us?"

Diana shook her head. "No one else on this hell-hole station gives a damn that my Nef is dead. If you can do something about it, I'll help you however I can."

"Tell us a little about your daughter," Shepard requested.

"My Nef had a fire inside of her. She was shy, but she was creative and driven, and…" she stated proudly before trailing off and swallowing. "… the best daughter a mother could hope for."

"I understand that she was an artist, a sculptor," Samara said quietly.

"Yes. Thanks to Helena," Diana said with a small nod to the former criminal lord, "several galleries were interested in her, said her work was fresh."

"This is one of her pieces," Helena said. She pointed at a statuette on a table nearby.

"A man from some gallery offered me four years' salary for it," Diana said softly. "But I'd never part with it now."

"Did your daughter have a lot of friends?" Shepard asked gently.

She shook her head. "Not a lot, no. She was shy. Spent most of her time off making her sculptures, not hanging out with friends." Her face scrunched up as a thought came to her. "Something did change in the last few weeks, though. She started talking about an asari. Morinth."

Samara's face remained impassive. "I see."

"I didn't like her," Diana revealed. "She kept dragging Nef out to clubs and I'm pretty sure she gave my daughter drugs."

Shepard shot Samara a look. She nodded in confirmation. He turned back to Diana. "What kind of person was this Morinth?"

"I never met her," Diana said bitterly. "But Nef talked about her like she was a queen. You'd swear there was no one else alive when she talked about Morinth."

"That sounds familiar," Samara whispered to Shepard.

Diana heard her exchange though. "So this Morinth did hurt my daughter? Is she the one that… that…?"

"I will bring justice to the one that did this," Samara assured.

"We swear to you: Nef will rest easy soon," Shepard said.

"I hope so. I hope so. Oh, my baby," Diana whispered tearfully.

"Did Nef hang out anywhere in particular?" Shepard asked.

"She was always quiet, working here at home. Then, a few weeks ago, she started going out all the time, to the VIP area of that club down the street. I think you need a password or something to get in there…"

"I know that area of Afterlife. Drop the name: Jaruut, and you can get in," Helena supplied.

"Jaruut," Shepard repeated before giving her a grateful look.

"The change was so sudden," Diana said, lost in her despair. "She just seemed… tired and distracted when she wasn't around Morinth."

"May we examine Nef's room?" Shepard asked delicately.

She looked uncertain. "I didn't want to disturb anything. Her clothes, her art, her sculptures." Tears began building in her eyes and her lips quivered. "Everything is the way she left it. The way it will always be. My baby is gone. She's gone…"

"There, there," Helena soothed. She wrapped arms around Diana and led her back to the couch. Settling her in, she gave her a hug and whispered comforting words in her ear.

Diana shook her head and took a shuddering breath. "Thank you, Helena. I'm sorry. I just miss her so much…"

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Helena whispered. She produced a handkerchief. "Here."

"Thank you."

"We've all suffered loss," Shepard said quietly.

"I know what it means to lose a daughter," Samara said. Though her voice was steady, her heart was anything but. "I will avenge yours."

"I know these people. They can help," Helena assured.

Diana nodded and dabbed at her eyes. "Thank you. Please, if it helps you to find her killer, look through her things."

"We will be respectful," Samara promised.

Diana stood up and unlocked the nearby door. "Please. Do what you can."

"Let's let them work. Come, I'll put on some tea," Helena suggested. "Hopefully, we can ease some of the sting." She gave Shepard a smile and led Diana away.

"Samara, does Morinth control her victims with drugs?" Shepard asked as he looked around Nef's room.

She shook her head, though Shepard didn't see it since he was poking around the shelves. "She controls them through sheer will. The drugs are just a lifestyle. She loves the club, the bass. She's a hedonist."

Shepard said nothing as he started typing away at a diary.

"Something?" Samara asked.

"There's a bit security on it. Give me a moment," he replied distractedly.

Letting him work, she spotted a datapad just poking out from underneath the bed. Reaching down, she picked it up and scanned the contents.

-Nef,

I'm sending you this hologram by the elcor artist Forta. His work is sublime – but don't stare at it too long, or you may go mad. I don't want anything bad to happen to you, love. Can't wait to hear what you think of Forta.

Despite the fact that it wasn't signed, it was painfully obvious who it from. Filing the information away for later, she turned back to see that Shepard had finally accessed Nef's diary and was playing one of her logs.

"Hey, diary. Cycle 34, orbit 671. There's a lot to talk about! I managed to get into the VIP room at Afterlife. I was sure everyone was staring at me. Then, the most beautiful asari starts dancing near me. She moves like water; form and volume but shifting, changing. I'm in a trance. Then I'm dancing with her. Later, we went for skewers and I'm supposed to see her again tomorrow."

Aria was right, she was pretty.

The image displayed a young woman, around her 20's. She looked euphoric, as if stuck within a waking dream. It was a look Samara had seen far too often.

Shepard tapped the console again.

"Cycle 36, orbit 671. Am I a freak? Morinth is a girl like me, and she's definitely not human. Just… when we dance, and the Hallex is flowing through me… The way she looks at me – with a hunger, a longing… No one's ever looked at me like that. We kissed tonight."

She was happy and it saddened and sickened Samara to see her as such. It wasn't enough to dominate her victims, but Mirala had to make them suffer too. It was the worst kind: Letting themselves give in to her desires, her whims, and her wants.

Nef looked exhausted, but still smiling; not knowing any better. It was almost to the point where she began losing all sense of self.

Samara knew the bitter truth though; before that happened, Mirala would join and seal Nef's fate.

Almost as if he was reading her mind, Shepard played the next log.

"Cycle 42, orbit 67. She's going to take me to her apartment tonight. Whatever happens, I want to be with her forever. She can sell my pieces. We can live somewhere glamorous, like the women in Vaenia, that vid Morinth likes. How did this happen to me? I'm just dumb trash from Omega…"

Her face was drawn now. The lack of sleep was taking its toll. Her dreams were plagued with Mirala's face. It was occupying her every waking thought. Her end was coming. That was the last and final log.

"Is this Morinth's modus operandi?"

Samara blinked back to awareness and turned to Shepard questioningly.

"Her mode of operating; her traits or habits when she commits a crime. Things that are consistent no matter the victim," he elaborated. "Is any of this familiar?"

She nodded. "This is Morinth's work. She is attracted to artists and creators. Someone with a spark, slightly isolated from their peers. She impresses with sophistication and sex appeal. Then she strikes. The hunt interests her as much as the conquest."

"Yeah, I got that," he said with a glance at the terminal. "Can you explain what was happening to Nef?"

"Morinth speaks to you on many levels. Her body tells yours that she'll bring unimaginable ecstasy. Her scent evokes emotions long hidden. Her eyes promise you things you were always scared to ask another. Her voice whispers to you after she is done speaking," Samara said, recounting every victim she ever found that her daughter had killed. She remembered every one of their faces, their names, and the loved ones that grieved.

Shepard had a dark, contemplative look. "What's the next step? How do we catch her?"

After 400 years, Samara finally felt her goal was in reach. A deft hand was required now. For four centuries, Mirala used every bit of her cunning and wit to evade and elude capture. Samara was confident of success now, but the price for failure lingered on her mind.

Everything came down to this moment. Shepard, Omega, her oath to the Code and to the human at her side…

With the Third Oath of Summation, she could stop thinking like a justicar and more like a huntress. This time, she would outmaneuver her daughter. "Storming her den would be a mistake – she will have a hundred escape routes planned," Samara surmised.

"Probably for Aria too," Shepard added.

"She will go to ground and disappear for fifty years or more. This is the closest I've ever been," Samara warned, almost pleaded. For some reason though, she trusted Shepard with this, and the thought calmed her.

"So we have to lure her out," Shepard said.

She almost smiled. "Exactly! Shepard, you read my mind."

"You said she likes clubs, bass, and drugs. Chances are likely that she's still working the VIP section at Afterlife. It's far enough from Aria that she could still be there and still indulge in her vices."

"Her preferred hunting ground," Samara agreed.

"So how do we draw out a predator?"

"You must go there alone and unarmed," she said.

Shepard raised an eyebrow. "Me?"

"You can draw Morinth out," Samara said confidently. "She'll certainly flee if she catches sight of me. But she won't be able to resist you."

"I don't exactly fit Nef's profile, Samara," Shepard reminded.

"Morinth's tastes run more than that. Remember, she is a hedonist. The thought of conquest, to bring down someone so strong will be a challenge of her own strength. Your power will draw her in just as much as she'll try to use hers to draw you in. It will be a matter of dominance, a contest that she'll strive to meet." Samara looked at Shepard from head-to-toe. The more she thought about it, the surer she became. "You are an artist in your own right. Your abilities on the battlefield, the talents you displayed when we have squared off – you have the vital spark that attracts her."

If he was flattered by her words, he didn't show it. His face remained grim and resolute, solidifying Samara's confidence that Mirala could not resist him.

"So I'm walking into her 'hunting ground' with no gun and no backup?" Shepard asked.

"I will be in the shadows watching. I'm sure EDI will track your omni-tool. You will never be alone – this I swear," Samara stated resolutely. "But you cannot barge in with guns and allies. Morinth is far too cagey – she'd simply disappear. This is a subtle, delicate act. Trust me."

Shepard sighed. "Fine. We should get back to the Normandy. Going into a club in full armor is hardly blending in."

Samara nodded and followed Shepard out. She took a deep breath and quelled the sudden maelstrom of feelings within her. Anticipation and caution, the constant reminders of the virtues of patience to the bouts of impatience, nervous energy against calm discipline, and worry over Shepard's safety contrasting with his cool confidence, all blended together into indescribable feelings. Despite her vast experience, this was her moment and she needed to prepare for it.

And Goddess willing, I will succeed tonight.

~o~O~o~

Location: Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik / Omega / Normandy SR-2

The moment they stepped through the airlock, EDI called out to Shepard.

"Captain, Executive Lawson would like a word with you in her office at your earliest convenience."

Shepard frowned. "Is it important?"

EDI was silent for a few moments. Samara and Shepard took the time to drop their weapons off at the armory.

"It is," EDI finally said.

"Alright, I'm on the way."

They descended to the Crew Deck and parted ways. Samara walked to her room without saying anything more.

Shepard turned portside and toward Miranda's office. He announced himself and entered.

Inside, Miranda was typing furiously at her terminal. She'd been like this for the last few days ever since their talk. She kept on typing even after Shepard stopped in front of her desk and waited with a hint of impatience in his mannerisms.

She finally stopped working and smiled to herself. "Eureka," she said.

"I hope this is important as you said it was," Shepard said, sounding a little waspish.

She dropped her smile and finally looked up with a frown. "Something wrong?"

He grimaced. "Sorry. I just talked to a victim's mother. I didn't mean to take it out on you."

She nodded in understanding. "Sorry for making you wait, but I wanted you to know that Drs. Chakwas and Solus, and I managed to do it. I think we might have the cure for you."

He sucked in a breath. "Really?"

"We've been working hard since we've discovered the vital clue to our efforts. Now it's a matter of applying it. Mordin's finishing the last of the implants now, with Tali's help. We need to go and get a few more supplies though."

"On Omega."

She shrugged. "I'd like a more developed world, but we'll take what we can get."

"Fine. Get whatever you need and take whoever you need with you. Except Garrus. He's confined to the ship," Shepard said. He was trying not to sound too impatient, but it crept back into his voice anyway.

Miranda nodded uncertainly. "Of course. It doesn't matter anyway. According to EDI, Garrus is putting the finishing touches to the repairs of the Thanix Cannon. He should be finished by tomorrow."

"Good. I'm hoping to be off Omega by then. Is that all?"

"Yes…"

"Good," Shepard said before turning around and leaving.

Miranda fell in step next to him. "Wait. What's going on? And why were you meeting a grieving mother?"

"It's… personal. To Samara," Shepard whispered. He entered the elevator and hit the button for his cabin.

Miranda entered as well. "Does this involve that Ardat-Yakshi?"

"I can't say," Shepard said.

"She killed someone, didn't she?" Miranda probed.

He shot her a look that clearly told her not to ask any more questions. She met his stare evenly with a defiant glare of her own.

Heaving a sigh, he gave her a tight nod and said nothing more.

"Is something about this bothering you?" she asked.

"The victim was killed while we were at Pragia," he confided.

The elevator reached the top deck. Miranda hit the button to freeze the elevator in place and looked at him. "You feel responsible."

"I feel angry!" he retorted heatedly, before catching himself. "Sorry."

"It was for the mission. Jack's loyalty is still a question for me, but you seemed to be of the opinion that helping her on her venture would help. Plus, we discovered the PergNim drug. And…" She trailed off and for a moment, an angry look crossed her face before vanished, making Shepard wonder if he imagined it. Miranda put a hand on his cheek and softly said, "You couldn't have known."

Shepard sighed. "I know."

"But that doesn't make you feel any better."

He cracked a small smile. "Coming from you? I feel a little bit better."

She smiled back and motioned for him to leave the elevator. When he did, she unlocked it and pressed a button.

Before the doors could close, Shepard opened it again. Reaching around, he locked the elevator next and leaned against the doorway. "I need to run something by you."

She raised an eyebrow and nodded.

"Have you… have you ever seduced a man and killed him?"

Now she looked surprised. "Why do you ask?"

"I'll tell you if you answer me."

She stared into his face, trying to gauge his reasons, but he let nothing show. Eventually, she answered, "Yes."

"You ever fail?"

"No."

"Damn it," Shepard swore.

"John, what's going on?"

"It's about Samara's fugitive," he muttered.

Miranda leaned against the other side of the door. "She told me a bit about Ardat-Yakshis. They kill through—"

"Sex. Or the asari version of it anyway," Shepard finished. "She told me too."

"What's going on?" Miranda repeated more forcefully.

"I'm helping Samara out now. I'm going to bait Morinth."

Understanding dawned on her and her countenance took on a more worried look. "You?"

He nodded.

"You're going to be the bait? Seduce her?"

"Or she'll seduce me."

"Are you sure about this?"

"No," he admitted. "She's been doing this for 400 years. According to Samara, every time she mates—"

"—she grows stronger," Miranda finished.

Shepard glanced at her. "When did she tell you this, anyway?"

"Not too long after our infiltration into the Collector ship."

"She just told you?"

"I just asked. She needed to call Liara for help tracking Morinth down," Miranda explained.

Shepard swallowed the lump in his throat and asked, "So what do I do?"

Miranda fell quiet and looked like she was thinking hard about his question. Finally, she looked up. "Always remember what will happen in the end. Her goal is to kill you. Seduction is about distraction. You lull the mind and have your target thinking only what you want them to think. It doesn't necessarily have to mean sex either. It could be greed, domination, or temptation. Always keep in mind what the endgame is and don't be led astray."

"Anything else?" Shepard asked.

She nodded and gripped his face. Pulling him down into a soft kiss, she whispered, "Be careful."

~o~O~o~

"Are you alright?" Samara asked.

Shepard said nothing as he changed out of his armor and into more nondescript civilian clothing. He appeared uncaring of Samara's presence or his state of undress, so she decided to stay.

"Are you doubting your earlier decision? About not chasing after Morinth sooner?" she probed.

"Yes. And no," he answered shortly. His jaw clenched angrily. "I know I made the right decision. Even if we did come here before going to Pragia, we'd still have no idea where to look. We could've spent the entire time here and Nef would still be dead all the same. Or we'd spook Morinth and she'd run and she'd kill someone else later. I made the right decision," he said. "The mission came first and I owe Jack that much for helping me."

"I do not question those possibilities," Samara agreed. "The death of that young woman, tragic as it was, provided the clues necessary."

"I made the right decision, but I still don't like it," he muttered.

"Because the possibility of the opposite can be true, yes? We might have found out Morinth's location and stopped her before Nef was killed." Samara stood patiently as he started putting on his clothes. "What's done is done. All we can do now is stop her from committing any more atrocities."

"I'll do my part," Shepard said.

"I'm sure Morinth will be watching. You may not notice her presence, but she will be watching. She will need a fresh victim after her union with Nef."

"Unlucky me." He buttoned up his shirt.

"Like any predator, she is cautious and patient. You must pique her interest enough that she will approach you."

"To see if I'm worth her time." He started putting on a pair of black slacks.

"When you are face-to-face, subtly encourage her to invite you to her apartment. I'll follow discreetly and when you are alone, I'll spring the trap," Samara briefed.

"Great. So this whole plan hinges on me flirting with a serial sex murderer and getting her to leave a club because she wants to sleep with me," he muttered. He sat down on the bed and started putting on his shoes.

Samara allowed a ghost of a smile to touch her lips before she smothered it. She had learned that some humans often looked at situation with a kind of dark humor to mentally prep themselves before a conflict. "This will be difficult. I do not claim to know the full extent of your abilities, but this may push your limits. Until I arrive, you will be in great peril. She will be planning to inflict horrors on you. If you are not careful, you will want her to."

"I'll be careful," he promised. Finished changing, he stood up and donned a dark jacket.

"Know this: This will not be a contest of martial skill, but of mental discipline, a battle of minds and wills. You must hold out until I arrive."

"So what else attracts her? I can understand Nef. If we're looking at Morinth like she's a predator, then Nef was relatively easy prey. That's not a role I think I can fulfill here. Not believably anyway," Shepard said.

"Fights would attract her on a primal level. Proof of your strength would show that you would be an interesting challenge. Predator and prey all in one," Samara said. "Violence excites her. You've killed, Shepard – she'll like that."

"Clubs don't often allow fights, even on Omega," Shepard reminded.

"Charisma will work as well. If you can woo the nightclub crowd, she will be intrigued."

"That sounds only marginally easier."

"She will want you the moment she sees you," Samara assured. "She has long since become an excellent judge of talent, strength, and character. All you must do is overpower her caution."

"And how do I convince her to take me home? She strung Nef along for days," Shepard said.

"As I said, it is a battle of dominance. If you prove yourself the stronger, then Morinth will rise to meet that challenge. Her pride won't allow her to exercise patience this time," Samara said. "Be direct, yet resistant to her efforts at seduction. You must draw her to you, not the other way around."

He gave a tight nod in understanding.

"Also, remember what we learned: according to Nef's journal, Morinth likes dancing while on a drug called Hallex. She also mentioned a vid called Vaenia. It seemed something to do with glamorous women."

"I remember."

"Also, I found a datapad, a letter addressed to Nef. Morinth mentioned how much she likes the elcor artist Forta."

"None of those things are really in the scope of my interests, but I'll see if I can't use them anyway. Lying to pick up women is a time-honored tradition in the male species," he joked before taking a breath. "Let's go."

They left the Normandy and started making their way toward the entrance to the VIP section of Afterlife. Unlike the main club downstairs, there was no line or anyone else in the vicinity. A lone turian stood guard at the door.

Perhaps it was the inherent danger of letting him into her world. Or the incredible jeopardy his life would be in if, when, Mirala chose him as her next mate. Regardless of the reason, Samara reached out and lightly gripped Shepard's shoulder, prompting him to turn around. "Shepard? Thank you. I do not share this burden easily and you have become the only soul I can imagine sharing it with. I will always be near and I will come for you," she swore. The depth of her oath reverberated within her, almost as much as her earlier oath as a justicar. "Trust me as I have come to trust and honor you."

He flashed her a quick smile before his expression hardened. He turned away and walked down the hall, his steps sure and confident.

For the first time in 400 years, Samara actually felt a small shiver run down her spine and it had nothing to do with Mirala.

Goddess watch over the both of us.

~o~O~o~

Location: Omega Nebula / Sahrabarik / Omega / Afterlife VIP Section

Within the darkest booth of the club, Morinth watched the various people around with a sense of boredom.

She finally beat back the intoxicating feeling of her last union and was settling into her role once again. She hated the feeling sometimes. It was a weakness she despised and embraced all in once. Once she regained control of herself, she flirted a bit with a few patrons last night in the hope that one of them would get tickets and take her to see Expel 10. Men and women were practically falling over themselves trying to secure tickets after that.

It was pitiful, really. Omega was a place that was meant to kill off the weak and breed the strong. She thought she'd have several lovers lined up by now. Afterlife was where only the best were supposed to be able to gain entry to, with the VIP area serving the top echelons.

Right.

So far, coming to Omega was almost wasted trip. Hiding from Justicars and stalking for prey… unfortunately, only the former was accomplished. The problem she had now was that the latter was lacking.

I can't believe I'm in a dry spell.

Something like that only happened when she knew she couldn't mate. And that only happened when she needed to relocate, change her identity, and keep on the move. It never happened when she settled in one place and started seeking out targets of interest.

It's like the galaxy just dried up of all the interesting people.

She had hoped that a change in venue would help. If the clubs lacked anyone, perhaps a concert might yield more delicious results.

Considering my recent run of luck, maybe not.

She sighed and scanned the club once again. When her eyes roamed near the entrance, she caught sight of a human male that just walked in.

She quickly amended her earlier thoughts as she watched him. There was something about him…

Well, well, well… what do we have here?

He was tall, good-looking, and more importantly, had an aura of danger around him. On Omega, to have something like that stand out amongst all the others was worth noting.

She took a casual sip of her drink and watched him closely from the shadows of her seat.

Her suspicions were confirmed when one of the men she recalled seeing last night walked up and started chatting with the mysterious man.

He turned and faced the patron with a bored look. Eventually, his patience had run out because he took a small, but menacing step toward the guy and glared. The little man scurried away.

Morinth watched with great interest as she studied her possible target. He carried himself differently than most. Animals instinctively sensed a threat and a true predator knows whether they're the hunter or the prey.

How interesting…

He sauntered through the club, looking around with mild interest. Something caught his fancy at the dance floor though.

A drunk turian was harassing one of the dancers.

Morinth's mystery man watched their interaction a bit before walking up to the turian. They exchanged words, but the music made it impossible to hear. Evidently, the human pissed the turian off, because the latter angrily stalked up to the former, no doubt looking to mete out retribution.

Morinth's eyebrow raised just a touch. The human flowed, not moved. It was eerily reminiscent of how an Asari Commando would fight. A few hits in and he reverted to his roots, using a bit of human martial arts to toss the turian to the side.

The show of chivalry was boring, but the way the man fought, how easily he trounced the turian, even though his opponent was drunk…

Mmm… the possibilities.

The dancer said something, probably offering her gratitude if her relieved look was anything to go by. The human nodded, but his gaze lingered as the asari walked off.

Perhaps not so chivalrous after all.

Revising her earlier opinion, she conceded that there wasn't anything wrong with rescue sex.

He's looking for some fun. Perfect.

The human started making his way to the bar, going in-between a couple of krogan that picked up and dragged the unconscious turian out of the club. Morinth slid out of her booth and stalked him through the shadows, her eyes drinking in everything about him. She judged that he was probably ex-military, probably a merc. Given the cut of his clothes though, he was educated, sophisticated, or rich; any of which made him a stand above the usual rabble.

Settling in at the bar, he ordered a drink and casually leaned on the counter top.

A couple of turians were sitting nearby. She could make out a bit of their conversation. Simple muggers if she wasn't mistaken. How they got into the VIP section of Afterlife, she had no idea.

"Bad idea," the human commented suddenly to them.

One of the turians turned toward him. "What?"

"Bad idea," he repeated. "You really think Aria's people are the only threats you have to worry about? Place like this, you're bound to make enemies you shouldn't mess with."

The other turian scoffed. "Yeah? Like who?"

The human stood up and faced them fully. "Like me."

The bartender put down a drink.

"Look at this, Vertin. Human thinks he's a tough guy."

Vertin snorted. "Dressed like that, he might have some creds on him, Huck."

The human smirked and spread his arms out. "You wanna find out?"

Vertin looked at his partner and shrugged before lashing out with a jab.

The human caught the punch and twisted sharply, causing the turian to cry out in pain. Gripping the back Vertin's head, the human slammed him down face first into the counter.

Huck jumped in and tried to attack, but the human had already moved. He gripped Huck's arm and flung him around until he tossed him, back first, into the side of the bar. Huck slid down the horizontal surface, his legs unable to hold him up. He was sitting on the ground, dazed at what had just happened.

The human jerked his leg up, slamming his knee into Huck's face, causing the head to impact hard against the counter and knocking him out like a light.

The fight over, the human picked up his drink and downed it in one gulp.

The bartender, Edwin, Morinth recalled, looked incensed and walked around to inspect the damage. "What the hell? Look what you did! There's a freakin' hole in my bar!"

"Why are you complaining? If anyone has to complain, it's your customers," the man replied.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

The man gestured to the crowd around them. "These are good people, but they looked bored. I just provided a little entertainment."

A few of the patrons laughed and clapped.

"You know, bored people don't spend much," the man continued conversationally. "How about a round of drinks? Show you appreciate their business. Your rep will improve and you'll make more money in the long run."

A few more people shouted out some encouragements.

"Come on, Edwin!"

"Go ahead and try it!"

"How about it you stingy bastard? !"

Edwin looked flustered as people started chanting for free drinks. "Maybe worth a try… once. You better be right!" He turned to the mob. "All right! We love having you here, so a round of drinks on the house!"

"All right!"

"I'm first!"

"Shove off! I'm first!"

The man bent down and fished out some creds from the insentient turians at his feet. "And the next round too! Courtesy of my new friends, sleeping on the floor!"

A round of laughter rippled through the club-goers.

The human tossed the creds on the countertop and ordered another drink.

Morinth smiled and sauntered up to the bar. Settling next to the mystery man, she leaned on the bar with her arm, presenting herself to him. "Hey there."

He gave her a side-long glance and nodded.

"I'm Morinth."

"Good evening, Morinth. Here for your drink?"

"Is it on you?"

He shrugged. "In the manner of speaking."

There was sudden lull in the conversation. Once again, Morinth found herself frustrated. He hadn't even turned to look at her or even give his full attention. Another first for her.

"Aren't you going to tell me your name?"

Edwin dropped a drink in front of him. "How badly do you want to know it?" he asked before taking a sip.

She reached out and ran a finger down his arm. "That depends on you."

The physical contact was enough to turn his head to look her in the eyes. "Solomon Gunn."

"You're the most interesting person in the place, Mr. Gunn."

Gunn made a show of looking around the club. "Is that supposed to be compliment?"

The quip was almost enough to put Morinth off balance. She never had trouble flirting before, but Gunn certainly began proving that he was full of surprises.

She smirked at him. "A fair point. You know, I've got a booth over in the shadows. Why don't you come sit with me?"

Gunn donned a lazy smile. "And why would I do that?"

The fact that he didn't jump at the chance to sit with her meant that Gunn wasn't a muscle head. Morinth switched tactics quickly. "Well, if you don't want to…"

"I'm just not seeing the benefit beyond the obvious," Gunn said. "I mean, here, I got friends," He lightly kicked one of the turians on the ground, "and entertainment. Can you do the same?"

Deciding on a more aggressive route, she closed the distance between them until her breasts lightly brushed against his chest. "That and more," she whispered, letting her breath flow against his cheek.

Gunn held his ground and his self-control; two things that frustrated and excited her. Prey that fought back, prey that resisted. She had missed the thrill of the hunt.

Gunn turned his head so he could look her in the eyes. She almost shivered at his hard cobalt gaze.

"Prove it."

~o~O~o~

Samara adjusted the rags she wore once more and kept an eye out for either Mirala or Shepard.

It felt strange, yet familiar, returning to her roots as a Huntress. No longer did she have to announce herself or aggressively pursue the unjust on sight. Instead, she had taken the time and opportunity to disguise herself and keep her focus over her chosen target. The dirty rags she bought covered her from head-to-toe and allowed her to blend in with the people shuffling around. Unfortunately, the downside meant that she could not use her usual Inferno Armor. Instead, she came dressed in the blood-red garb of the Justicar underneath her cloak.

She knew that her patience would be tested, but the uncertainly of Shepard's fate continued to generate unnecessary worry. She knew he'd be fine, but on the chance that he wasn't…

There!

Her eyes tracked the both of them the moment the door opened. Mirala… they looked so much alike now. There was no mistaking it.

She was leading Shepard away from the club, thankfully on foot. There were no automated taxis or other such public transportation on Omega. The only way Samara would be able to procure a vehicle was to probably steal one.

Although, perhaps given the elements that make Omega their home, I doubt it will be anyone I would feel compassion for.

She kept her distance. Walking slowly and keeping her presence at a minimum. Their moment would come soon enough.

~o~O~o~

"Nice place. I thought Aria would be the only one that could keep a place as nice as this on Omega," Gunn commented approvingly.

"It took some work, but I'm glad you like it," Morinth purred.

She walked over to the couch and settled herself in. Gunn was still appraising her apartment and some of the valuables she collected over the years. The only things she could take quickly anyway, whenever she had to relocate.

She took the time to drink in his appearance unabashedly. Just when she was about to write off everyone on Omega, one of the most beautiful and distinctive sapient individuals just walked into her life. After besting a few turians, he proved he was sharp-tongued as well, verbally sparring with her and dancing around her attempts to seduce him. He almost made it seem effortless. It proved that it had been awhile since she had to work for her prey. Instead of using the gifts she'd been cursed with, she played his game, offering teasing touches and sultry smiles, giving him looks that dared to test his imagination.

He drank in moderation, keeping his wits sharp and focused. She declined drinks of her own in response and resorted to more traditional methods to entice her soon-to-be lover.

It was worth it.

Gunn walked over to the sword hanging on the wall and ran his fingers gently over the blade.

"I was into dueling for a while. I love the moment you see it in your opponent's eyes: he knows you're better and he's going to die," Morinth said darkly.

Gunn tilted his head and shot a half-smile at her. "It's a dying art, no pun intended."

"I know. Shame, isn't it?" She shot him a come-hither look.

Obliging, he walked over to the couch and sat down, just adjacent from her seat, rather than next to her. He leaned back and made himself comfortable, spreading his arms over the top and looked at her expectantly.

She almost frowned, but held back the urge. Even now, he was playing hard-to-get, as if he wanted everything to happen on his terms, not hers, despite being in her apartment. However, running alongside her mounting frustration was a proportional thrill that tingled down her spine; it was a delicious feeling. Much better than just having another thrall under her command.

Deciding to test his self-control, Morinth crossed her legs seductively and smiled. "I love clubs – people, movement, heat. I can still hear the bass, like the drums of a great hunt, out for your blood. But here, it's muted – and you're safe. Is that what you want, Gunn?"

"Not really in business of safety," Gunn commented thoughtfully. "I'm more of a man of action. Always take control of a situation."

She smile became feral. She knew that feeling intimately. "Better to take control of your fate?"

"Exactly."

For some reason, she almost opened up to him at that moment, like he had some sort of mystical power of his own that slithered into her mind. She knew what would happen when she sealed their union, so it mattered little on what she revealed. "I've never understood the fascination with safety," she said softly. Her mind went back to her two older sisters, Rila and Falere, still imprisoned in some fortress, all because of what they were. "Some of us choose differently."

Gunn's relaxed posture hadn't changed, but there was something telling in his eyes now, as if he understood everything she was saying.

Abandoning the game, she stood up and approached him instead. It was a first, but she couldn't contain herself any longer. Settling down in his lap, he shifted his arms to hold her in place.

"Independence over submission," she whispered in his ear. "I think we share that, you and I."

"We do," he whispered back. "Someone once said something similar to me. He said: 'Isn't submission preferable to'…" he abruptly stopped and looked at her, though his face had become unreadable again.

"What?"

He shook his head. "Nothing. Doesn't matter anyway."

"So what happened to him?" she asked.

A cold look entered his eyes. "I killed him."

"So strong," she hissed in anticipation. She reached up and held his head in her hands. "I need this."

"Do you now?"

Closing her eyes, she felt her body sing in readiness. She could feel the dampness at her thighs, her breasts strain against her leathers. First, she'd dominate him, have his will serve her own. Then, she'd make love to him and exercise every use and self-gratification she could possibly glean from his body. Only after, when she was truly satisfied, when Gunn had nothing left to offer her, she would meld with him.

When her eyes opened, steel-cold blue were gone, replaced with bottomless black depths. "Look into my eyes and tell me you want me. Tell me you'd kill for me. Anything I want."

"I don't think so."

The strength of his mind was surprising. He easily batted aside her first attempt. Probing deeper revealed that he'd undergone a meld with another asari before, two of them. And a meld with… something else, something ancient; something alien. His mind had become attuned to outside intrusions. Just then, an image of another asari appeared, one she hoped she'd never see. The entirety of their plan unfolded before her mind. She pushed away from him and stood up. "But you… who are you? Oh, no – I see what's going on. The bitch herself found a little helper."

At that moment, the door burst open.

~o~O~o~

Samara quickly ran through the halls of the apartment complex. She cursed herself for losing them as she did, but the endless rooms, hallways, and levels allowed them to break line of sight. When she entered the building, they were already gone.

Quickly tapping her omni-tool, she requested instructions from EDI. The AI promptly responded and told her Shepard's current location.

Wasting no time, she dispensed with the elevator and climbed the stairs. Reaching the right floor, she dashed down to the door and blew it open.

She entered carefully, dark energy pulsing around her.

Mirala and Shepard were sitting together on the couch. Upon seeing her, Shepard leapt over the couch and away from the impending battle between mother and daughter.

Relieved that he was alright, her gaze locked onto her prey. "Mirala!" She thrust out and arm and forcefully threw her across the room.

Mirala impacted against the glass with a grunt. Though the glass was hardened, it still cracked from the hit.

She turned her head and glared. "Mother," she spat out, venom in her voice. Her arms and legs were spread eagled against the surface.

Samara pushed out again, slamming Mirala against the glass once more, increasing the web of cracks. "Do not call me that!"

"I can't choose to stop being your daughter. Mother!" The word came out like a curse.

"You made your choice long ago," Samara hissed.

Suddenly, a pulse of dark energy radiated from Mirala, pushing everything back and breaking Samara's hold on her.

"What choice? !" Mirala screamed back.

Samara had staggered back from the unexpected power and suddenly found herself levitated. Mirala had her left arm pointed at her and her right holding up one of the chairs. The strength of her daughter's biotics was incredible.

"My only crime was being born with the gifts you gave me!" She threw the chair at her.

Reacting quickly, she blasted the chair away and unleashed a pulse of her own, freeing herself from Mirala's Pull. She struck back with Throw, blasting her daughter to the ground. "Enough Mirala!"

Both combatants quickly got back to their feet and met each other's biotic attacks head on. A sphere of dark energy burst into existence between them as they vied for dominance. Loose objects began levitating and swirling around them in a chaotic orbit.

"I am the genetic destiny of the asari! But they are not ready to reveal this, so I must die!" Mirala screamed.

"You are a disease to be purged, nothing more!" Samara cried out.

A flicker of motion, something different than the objects revolving around them caught the edge of her perception. Shepard was standing nearby, watching the battle closely.

Mirala had caught sight of him too. "I'm as strong as she is! Let me join you!"

Samara's eyes widened, but she dare not allow herself to break away. For Mirala to know that Shepard was on a mission, she must've exerted some of her influence on him before her arrival.

Was I too late?

"I am already sworn to help you, Shepard! Let us finish this!" she implored.

For a moment, Samara had doubts. Shepard had yet to act as he looked between the both of them.

Even under her spell, he can't be considering…!

Suddenly, his own biotics flared and he launched an attack against Mirala.

She seemed to anticipate it and disengaged from Samara to contend with the new threat. She pulled a chair into the path of dark energy before tossing it straight at the Justicar.

Samara leapt to the side and avoided the projectile neatly. She shot Shepard a look and saw his right fist clench and unclench, as if he was trying to ward away a sudden pain. She remembered what it might cost him to use his biotics now, but he appeared adamant in his choice. Catching his eye, he nodded to her and faced their opponent.

Samara and Shepard both approached cautiously. Mirala kept darting her eyes at them, her demeanor suggesting that she knew she was trapped. It was a precarious position for all because no predator was ever more dangerous than when backed into a corner.

Samara was prepared to lead the attack when the world exploded into chaos.

~o~O~o~

Shepard used his biotics to lift up the couch and used it as a physical barrier to protect himself.

He had no idea how, but Morinth, or rather, Mirala, suddenly caused the nearby windows to shatter and threw all of the semi-transparent and lethal projectiles at them.

Samara erected a Barrier and protected herself neatly, but was ill-prepared when her daughter used the remains of the metal front door and used it to slam into her back, staggering her. Warp tore down her Barrier and the door flew right back at her, lifting her off her feet and against the wall. She barely had time to grunt when she was struck and blew right through the wall into the next apartment over.

Shepard threw the couch at Mirala and closed the distance.

She caught the couch long before it struck her, but he reach out and tore the furniture in half, giving him a straight shot to land an elbow strike against her face. He didn't know if his biotics would be enough to fight her head-on, so he decided the go to the traditional methods instead.

Dropping the remains of the couch, she fell back and raised her hands in preparation for his next strike.

They exchanged a few blows, but then, a sudden flare of pain rippled through his left leg, causing him to stumble.

Mirala exploited the weakness without hesitation.

A straight jab to his face broke his nose, a kick to his stomach pushed the air out of his lungs.

Rolling back to get some breathing room, he played up his injury and let her come close.

Just like he remembered her saying, she stalked forward, no doubt wanting to see the look in his eyes just before the kill. She tensed for just a moment, before pouncing.

Pushing off his right leg, he lurched forward at the same time, twisting sideways at just the last moment to avoid her attack and rammed his elbow into her throat. She fell back, clutching her neck and choking. Her eyes held a wild look of surprise. He grabbed her hands and pulled them away from her throat, reared back and slammed his head into her nose. The gargled scream signaled that he returned the favor.

He thrust his hand forward, using Throw at point blank and blasted her back.

Her counter-attack came immediately, causing him flip head over ass and land painfully on his back.

They both struggled to their feet. Mirala was up just a bit quicker, even as she massaged her bruised throat, and tried crushing him with a mass-raising field. He set up his own Barrier to protect himself. The conflict of energies crackled brightly between them.

"And they would call me a monster," Mirala hissed as she started putting more pressure down on him.

"I'm sure Nef would agree," Shepard snarled. His focus started to waver as the pain in his leg and arm grew.

Far from looking hurt, distracted, or even apologetic, Mirala's face twisted into something uglier as she redoubled her efforts to kill him with more conventional methods. "I'm well aware of my sins, can you say the same?" she rasped out.

Shepard grunted from the effort of reinforcing his mass effect fields before wryly smirking. "Ah, hell. I'm a fan of all seven," he said before he detonated the dark energy on purpose.

Both combatants flew back once again and crashed painfully into the various objects now littering the apartment.

Shepard forced Adrenaline into body, pushing the pain away as he struggled to his feet. He clenched his teeth against the sudden flare of phantom and actual pains in his left leg and right arm.

Mirala lacked the same synthetic adrenal implants and suffered for it. She tried to get back to her feet, but the injuries she sustained hindered her progress.

Shepard thrust out his arm, growling as the nodules flared in response, burning his nerves and causing his limb to tremble violently. Despite this, his biotics grew stronger from his condition.

Mirala was lifted into the air and slammed into the wall. She cried out as the mass effect fields pressed down on her.

Shepard staggered forward, his hand up and pointed at her, keeping her aloft through sheer will alone. "But right now, I'm going to have to go with wrath."

Mirala gasped as he pressed down harder, seeking to crush her chest. She lifted her head and snarled at him. "As am I."

Her right hand twitched. The sword that was once on display, but was now lying on the ground, suddenly spun toward him.

He dropped the mass effect fields around her in favor of erecting another Barrier. The sword collided into his hastily constructed shield in a shower of sparks.

Using Warp, she tore apart his Barrier and launched another biotic attack in quick succession, tossing him across the room.

Sliding painfully along the ground he caught a glimpse of something that caused him to smile, even as Mirala prepared to finish him off.

~o~O~o~

Mirala screamed when she was struck in the back with Warp.

Samara walked into the room, gingerly clutching her bruised, but thankfully unbroken ribs. She took a chance to see that Shepard was still alright, more or less. He was struggling to stand up, but his leg wasn't cooperating. She returned her focus back to her target.

Panting, Mirala reached out for any shards of glass she could see and cast them all at Samara.

This time, she simply waved her arm and redirected them away. She darted forward, and like Shepard, engaged Mirala in hand-to-hand. Unlike Shepard though, there was no weakness to exploit.

Mirala tried valiantly to withstand the onslaught, but soon fell back against centuries of experience. A vicious snap kick to the chest brought her down to the ground, wheezing.

Rolling over onto her chest, she saw that she collapsed on her sword and grasped it tightly. She spun around, slicing it in a deadly arc.

Samara's reflexes were just quick enough to avoid disembowelment, but not enough to avoid receiving a deep bloody gash. Putting pressure on the wound, she saw as a vicious and sadistic look enter Mirala's eyes at the sight of blood.

She stood up slowly, brandishing her weapon expertly in one hand, while her other hand pulsed faintly with dark energy. She swung the blade in two quick slashes.

Dodging both swings, Samara darted in and wrapped her left arm around Mirala's sword arm. Dark energy encased her right fist as she tried to call on her biotics, but Mirala grappled with her. They lurched and reeled across the room, struggling to overpower the other.

Samara twisted Mirala's sword arm sharply, causing her cry out, but still able to hold on to her weapon. Taking advantage of the distraction, Samara rammed her knee into Mirala's stomach to double her over before striking again into her already broken nose.

Mirala coughed once from the attack before spitting blood straight into Samara's eyes.

Samara turned her head away, but refused to relinquish her grip on Mirala's sword arm. She instinctively wiped at her eyes frantically with her free hand to regain her vision.

Mirala took the opportunity to savagely punch the gash she created earlier.

Grunting in pain, Samara unleashed another pulse of dark energy to push Mirala away and disengage. Getting some distance away, she wiped the last of the blood and covered her wound tightly.

Mirala had fallen, but rolled back to her feet in preparation for her next maneuver. She wielded her blade menacingly.

Suddenly, to Samara and Mirala's surprise, a Singularity burst into existence, followed by a deafening bellow.

Samara turned her head to see Shepard's arms outstretched. His right arm was shaking horribly. He was on ground, leaning heavily on his right side. A quick look revealed that his left leg was spasming uncontrollably. His teeth were clenched together in obvious pain, and he was still screaming deep within his throat. Despite all this, his biotic aura flared even more as the power of his Singularity increased.

Mirala dropped her weapon and grabbed at the nearby hook that had once held it, trying desperately to keep from getting crushed by the awesome force that Shepard conjured. Loose debris, furniture, and other objects were pulled in and crushed mercilessly. The sword she had was nothing more than a useless lump of compressed metal now.

Samara took several steps back and watched as her daughter flailed, doing what she could to avoid being pulled in. Even from her distance, Samara could still feel the influence of Shepard's Singularity.

Mirala howled in denial when the power continued to grow. The floor beneath the Singularity began to warp and tear as it was ripped up and into the gravitational anomaly. Another surge and Mirala was parallel the floor, gripping the display hook with all her strength. Her eyes widened frantically when she saw that the hook was losing its tenuous grip with the wall.

Utilizing one last act of desperation, she thrust out her left arm and launched Warp at the Singularity.

The explosion at that range blew her against the wall. She remained pressed against the surface until pressure finally washed over her before falling bonelessly to the ground.

Samara rose up from her cover and saw that Mirala was still alive.

Moaning weakly, Mirala rolled over until she was on her back. She struggled to get back to her feet.

Samara darted forward and mounted her. Mirala would not get the chance.

She planted her knee into Mirala's abdomen and gripped her throat with her right hand.

Mirala choked and looked up, a mixture of fear and defiance dancing in her eyes.

Samara looked down at her mournfully. She intoned her daughter's last rites, the words possessing more emotion than she had ever conveyed before. "Find peace in the embrace of the Goddess." Raising her bloody hand, she called upon her biotics and struck down with one final blow.

And may you forgive me. For everything.

The sound of the impact made her heart wrench. Standing up slowly, she turned to her companion to see that he was lying flat on his back, completely unmoving.

Fearing the worst, she clumsily picked her way past the rubble and knelt down next to him. Raising her omni-tool, she ran a quick scan and sighed in relief.

Letting him rest, she tended to her own injuries quickly before calling the Normandy for assistance.

As she sat in the middle of the devastated room, she reached out and gently wiped away the blood on Shepard's face. There were no words to describe the feelings she was experiencing now. The only words left were words of gratitude for the enormous strength and honor her companion displayed.

"Thank you."

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

Again, I find myself searching for the right flavor to write out each character. Some are easy: Garrus (Justice/Vengeance), Jacob (Truth), Mordin (Redemption). Other's required a bit more like Grunt (Belonging) and Thane (Life outside assassinations).

As everyone probably noticed, Samara's LM came off like a hunt in an urban jungle. Who's the predator and who's the prey, the moment to strike, how to draw someone out, the trap and bait… Fun stuff.

BioWare did it well with ME 2, but for some reason, DA II lacked the same feel. I liked the game and the characters, but… *shrugs* Weird.

Anyway, I think everyone knew what choice I would make and what the outcome would be. I understand that there are Morinth fans, but seriously: Samara joins your crew, helps you out, risks her life and promises to aid you. Morinth on the other hand, you know she killed Nef. You eventually learned that she wiped out a whole village. She's pretty much killed her entire adult life. She claims she's as strong as Samara, but if she is, why is she always running away from her? Picking her over Samara isn't so much as renegade as it is more like it was wrong. Not that I haven't made a playthrough with Morinth on my team. I still felt supremely bad about killing off Samara during that game.

Anyway, I wanted it to be like there would still be a reason why Shepard might still have chosen Morinth.

I also want to give a shout to reviewer Ddangerdan. I know he's been looking forward to this for some time. I hope I did it some credit.

Also, I took a line from Serenity. Possible my favorite line in the whole movie.

Edit: Credit to phoenixblade2 for some inspiration on how to improve my story.

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