Fight for the Lost

Interlude III

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

"Commander, Professor Solus has just arrived. Yeoman Chambers has escorted him to the briefing room where he is currently waiting. I've taken the liberty of informing Executive Lawson and Operative Taylor as well."

"Thanks EDI," Shepard called out.

Stepping out of his cabin after a shower and a clean change of clothes, Shepard finally felt the tension of the last mission wash away. Stepping briskly to the lift, he descended to the CIC where he spotted Miranda next to the galaxy map looking over a holopad. The sound of the doors opening prompted her to turn around. "Commander," she greeted. Nodding back at her, he walked around through the armory and into the Comm/Briefing Room, Miranda in step next to him.

Inside, Shepard saw Mordin pacing around looking excited while Jacob stood to the side, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed.

Miranda crossed the room and stepped up to the salarian. "Welcome to the Normandy, Professor. It's an honor to have you aboard."

"Yes. Very exciting," Mordin replied, still pacing the room and glancing about. "Cerberus working with aliens. Unexpected. Illusive Man branching out, maybe? Not so human-centric?"

Shepard raised his eyebrow. "You're very well informed."

"Salarian government well connected. Espionage experts," he explained, stopping his pacing to focus on Shepard. "Had top level clearance once. Retired now. Still hear things." Shaking his head in thought and taking a breath, he admitted, "Informed of name only. No knowledge of man behind it. Anti-alien reputation listed as problematic."

Well, there's no point in deception then… "Cerberus' goals haven't changed Professor, at least as much as I'm privy to anyway. As far as I know, humans still come first in the Illusive Man's eyes. But this mission is too big for them to handle alone."

"The Collectors are abducting human colonists out on the fringes of Terminus Space," Jacob explained from the other side of the table.

"Not simple abductions. Wouldn't need me for simple," Mordin deduced as he began pacing again.

Jacob began pacing as well as he explained. "Entire colonies disappear without a trace. No distress signals are sent out. There are no signs of any kinds of attack. There's virtually no evidence that anything unusual happened at all… except that every man, woman, and child is gone," he said, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. Shepard could still hear the bitter undercurrent in his tone though.

Turning his gaze toward Mordin, Shepard could easily visualize the gears in the professor's head spinning.

Miranda had to step out of the way as Mordin's pacing moved around the table. He started speculating theories out loud to himself, "Gas, maybe? No. Spreads too slow. Airborne virus? No. Slower than gas. Drugged water supply? No. Effects not simultaneous…"

"Cerberus has already conducted several investigations as to how the Collectors attack the colonies, Professor," Miranda interrupted. "I've had all the samples forwarded to us from some of the colonies that were attacked once we became aware of the Collector threat."

Shepard turned to Miranda in surprise. "Another colony was attacked?"

"Ferris Fields. I was only just received the reports when we returned to the Normandy," Miranda confirmed. "Now that we know whom we're up against, Cerberus investigators managed to procure a few samples just hours after the attack. They're en route as we speak. We should receive them in about two hours or so."

Nodding at her, Shepard turned his gaze to Mordin. "We'd like you to analyze them and figure out how counter the attack," he requested.

"Yes. Of course. Analyze the samples," Mordin quickly agreed. He turned toward the door before turning on his heel to face everyone. "Going to need a lab."

"There is a fully-equipped lab on the combat deck, Professor Solus," EDI informed.

Mordin began glancing around quickly, seeking the source of the voice as EDI continued. "If you find anything lacking, please place a requisition order."

"Who's that? Pilot? No. Synthesized voice. VI? No. Simulated emotional inflections. Could it be… no. Have to ask." Mordin stopped his pacing and started tapping his chin. "Is that an AI?" he slowly inquired as he stopped looking around and looked directly at Shepard.

Shepard nodded. "This ship is equipped with an artificial intelligence. Her name is EDI."

Still tapping his chin in thought, Mordin's eyes narrowed as he continued his habit of speaking his thoughts out loud. "An AI on board? Non-human crew members? Cerberus more desperate than I thought."

"The Collectors have taken tens of thousands of colonists. We'll do whatever we have to do to find and stop them," Jacob said with conviction.

"Yes. Of course," Mordin agreed, nodding his head before shaking his head right after. "Can't risk being captured like colonists. Need to identify, neutralize technology. Need samples." He turned around and took a step toward the door before turning around again. "Which way to the lab?" he asked.

Shepard glanced at Jacob.

Nodding his head, Jacob walked toward the exit while gesturing to Mordin to come with him. "Follow me, Professor."

After they both left, Miranda turned her head toward Shepard. "Well, he's certainly interesting," she commented, getting his attention. "I'll grant him officer's security clearance. He'll be noted as the science officer, if that's all right with you?" At Shepard's agreement, she smiled and continued. "Well, I also have to send a report to the Illusive Man. Jacob will give your biotics lesson later this evening." Giving the commander a nod of her own, Miranda left.

~o~O~o~

Leaving through the armory and noting that Jacob wasn't there yet, probably still with Mordin in the lab, he thought. "EDI, ask Jacob to begin modifications on Garrus' weapons when he gets back."

"As you wish Shepard. Logging you out."

That said, he left the armory and to the CIC and bridge to talk to Joker.

"Hello Kelly," Shepard greeted as he left the armory. The yeoman looked up from the holopad the she was typing from. "Oh! Commander, I'm sorry. I didn't see you come in…"

"It's fine," Shepard casually said.

"I was just revising the psych profile on Professor Mordin Solus," she explained. Looking a little dazed as she recalled the short tour with the salarian, she said, "His profile warned of hyper behavior, but he is like a hamster on coffee." Shaking her head and smiling, she couldn't help but comment, "He's going to be a very productive member of the team."

Easily remembering his few encounters with Mordin, Shepard privately agreed.

"Is there anything else I can do for you Commander?"

Pulling away from his thoughts, Shepard shook his head. "No, as you were, Kelly."

Continuing his trek up the bridge, Joker spun his chair around to face Shepard.

He must really love that chair.

"So are we finally leaving, Commander?" Joker asked. "It's not that I don't like Omega or anything, but sleeping with my pistol in my hand every night kinda makes me a bit jumpy."

"I'm here to let you know that we'll be leaving the moment our resupply is complete. I need to send someone to resupply our armaments and supplies. Considering the last two dossiers, we might not be docking at civilization for awhile," Shepard informed him.

"Saying that implies that we're at civilization. That was the Citadel. Here: dirty, smelly, and bullet-ridden usually means demilitarized war zone," Joker retorted. "The only thing that makes it different is the fact that you can go clubbing here too."

Before Shepard could offer a rebuttal, EDI made her presence known from her pedestal on the starboard side of the cockpit. "Commander, Aria T'Loak wishes to speak with you. I have her on standby at the Comm room."

Turning his attention from Joker to the glowing blue orb on his left, Shepard nodded. "Got it EDI."

"Alright, see ya Commander," Joker said as his chair rotated again.

~o~O~o~

"Well, I did say you were interesting. Now I mean it. Seems like I have to do a little cleaning in my organization."

Shepard said nothing as he looked at Aria's holographic projection coming from the center of the room.

The oblong table was placed in the room for briefings. It appeared wooden, the lengths of the table were slightly curved, with the center hollowed out and set with glass. Underneath the table was a holographic projector that usually portrayed the Normandy just above the glass setting. Once communications had been established, the table descended into the floor to allow life sized projections similar to Shepard's previous meetings with the council.

Aria crossed her arms. "While I appreciate the heads-up, no one on Omega would do this for free. What do you want?"

Shepard shrugged. "Nothing." At Aria's disbelieving look, he elaborated, "For now. Since you're 'Omega', I figured if you owe me a favor, I can collect if I need it."

Aria glared at Shepard a little while longer before nodding her head. "Fine. Just don't push your luck."

"Then that's it for now. Don't worry, we'll be leaving soon," Shepard responded.

Aria smiled at him, though it didn't reach her eyes. "I appreciate that you kept this private. Now do yourself a favor and get a nice girl to keep you warm. You look like you could use it." With those parting words, she shut down the link.

~o~O~o~

Leaving the Comm room, Shepard entered the Normandy's lab to speak with Mordin. However, the lab itself appeared completely empty. Confused, Shepard looked around a little more for any sign of him before leaving the room. Maybe Jacob is giving him a tour?

Deciding to get dinner, he entered the crew deck to find Jacob eating at the tables and the Medical Bay door open, with Mordin inside. Now curious, Shepard walked in to find Dr. Chakwas engaged in conversation with Dr. Solus.

"Evening," Shepard said, announcing his presence.

"Oh. Good evening Commander," greeted Chakwas from her chair. "I was just speaking to our newest crew member."

"Was looking for supplies. Needed to properly prepare for experiments," Mordin explained from his seat across from her. "Dr. Chakwas had what I needed. Decided to engage in professional conversation." He paused to take a breath. "Found her very knowledgeable."

"She's one of the best I've served with," Shepard agreed.

"You're too kind Commander," Chakwas graciously said. "But the Professor is quite skilled himself. He was kind enough to help me with my hangover. After his treatment, I feel much better. It's nice to have an extra set of experienced medical hands around here."

Shepard smiled at her before turning toward Mordin. "Jacob giving you a tour then?"

"No, no. Left me at the lab. Said he was getting dinner. Informed me of the location. Wanted to get started right away," Mordin answered.

"Is the lab sufficient enough for your purposes?"

"Quite satisfactory. Found a few surveillance bugs. Destroyed most of them. Returned expensive one to Miranda before coming here," he cheerfully said with a small laugh. "Nothing unexpected."

Shepard couldn't help but feel a pang of annoyance and jealousy at Mordin's quick discovery of the surveillance bugs while it took him an hour to remember and locate them himself.

"Also did inventory of lab supplies. Which is why I'm here. And to talk with my new colleague," Mordin continued, giving a nod and a smile to Chakwas. "Now just need more samples. More Collector data, tissue sample. Anything you get, I can use. Find new tech." Mordin stopped to take a breath as he looked around the Med Bay. "Impressive medical bay. Impressive laboratory setup. Missed working for operations with a budget. AI in particular very helpful. Best setup since work with Special Tasks Group."

"Was it ever frustrating?" Chakwas inquired. When Mordin turned to face her, she clarified, "Working on Omega I mean, especially with limited facilities and resources."

Mordin offered her a grin. "No! Loved it! Limited facility presents challenge. Save greatest number of people using limited resources," he said with obvious gusto. "Security threats, gangs, mercenary groups add additional difficulty. Quite enjoyable. Plague stretched abilities to limit. Couldn't have asked for more," Mordin finished with relish.

Chakwas' face had a cross between surprised and incredulous as she listened to the difficulties Mordin seemed to enjoy tackling. "Well," she finally managed to say, "That's certainly much more excitement than anything I've encountered." She shook her head ruefully as she looked at Shepard. "And here I thought I'd been through much as a starship doctor. It appears that I've met my superior."

"Superior?" Mordin asked. He shook his head and waved his hand empathically. "No, no, no. Simply another doctor."

"No need to be modest Professor," Chakwas replied with a smile. "It's obvious that you're no mere doctor considering your wide range of talents in other fields. I, on the other hand, am only well-versed in saving lives. Past that, I can't say that I have such an interesting… variety… of skills."

Mordin offered a small smile of his own. "Well, also enjoy saving people. Helping the helpless, greater good. All that, too. Nice retirement after STG work complete," he said softly.

Chakwas gave Shepard a side glance. "Well then. It appears that we all have something in common."

"What kind of work did you do for the Special Tasks Group?" Shepard asked curiously as he walked over to the nearest bed to sit down.

"Many things. Research. Several recon missions. Covert, high-risk. Served under young captain named Kirrahe. Studied krogan genophage. Took water, tissue samples from krogan colonies," explained Mordin.

"Kirrahe… that name sounds familiar," Chakwas said as she furrowed her brow in thought.

"Virmire," Shepard reminded her. "We worked with an STG captain named Kirrahe. His team and mine worked together to destroy Saren's cloning facility there."

Mordin sat up straighter in his chair. "Heard he was part of that! Jury-rigged explosive?" Leaning back in his chair, Mordin look up as he recalled his experiences with Kirrahe. "Hmph. Always got job done with limited resources. Good captain." Then Mordin frowned a bit. He sat up in his chair again as he began his habit of speaking his thoughts out loud. "Bit of a cloaca, though. Loved his speeches. Hold the line!" Mordin imitated, shaking his hand like Kirrahe. "Personally prefer to get job done and go home. Probably military bravado. Jargon, chest-pounding," he said, just before he remembered his audience. "Uh… no offense," he apologized while holding his hands up in supplication.

"Why would the STG need to study the genophage?" Chakwas asked curiously.

Mordin bowed his head. "Krogan Rebellions bloody, dangerous. Nearly as bad as rachni attacks." Looking at the two humans, he explained, "All species evolve, adapt, mutate. If genophage weakens, need to be prepared."

"What was the STG preparing to do?" Shepard asked.

"Military schematics for likely krogan population growth. Political scenarios for attack points," Mordin answered neutrally. "Genophage reduced krogan numbers. Species aggression unchecked. Population explosion would be disastrous. STG helped check Krogan Rebellions. Needed to be ready to do the same. Simple recon. Nothing to worry about."

Something about Mordin's statement seemed off to Shepard, though Chakwas appeared satisfied with his answer.

"Not simple abductions. Wouldn't need me for simple."

They wouldn't need a scientist of Mordin's caliber to 'study' the genophage. Not unless they found some sort of evidence that STG needed Mordin's help… Shepard thought.

"What can you tell me genophage?" Shepard casually asked.

"Bio-weapon designed by salarian science team. Deployed by turians against krogans to end Krogan Rebellions more than a thousand years ago. Affects every cell of krogan body. Commonly and incorrectly considered a sterility plague," Mordin responded in a lecturing tone. "Actually adjusts viable fertility rates to compensate for high krogan birthrate. Stabilizes to pre-industrial population growth levels."

"In other words, the genophage is meant to manage the krogan population to more acceptable numbers," Chakwas translated. "If the plague was intended to kill the krogan, it would have been done the first time."

Mordin nodded. "Salarians wished to help galaxy. Help krogan. Ultimately and unfortunately, genophage was only option." Bowing his head, he said, "Would argue against using it if I could." Shaking his head, Mordin grabbed several boxes on the table next to him and stood up. "Should get back to work. Need to study. So much to do," he said, his fast-paced speech sounding even more rushed. "Be in the lab if you need me. Wonderful to meet you Dr. Chakwas."

"Yes, of course Dr. Solus. And I'm sure Daniel will handle things just fine," Chakwas said from her chair.

Remembering saving Mordin's assistant, Shepard asked, "Will he alright?

Mordin turned back from the door. "Quite well. Safe and secure. Neighborhood mostly quiet with plague and mercenaries gone. Left him the security mechs, just in case. Can't be too careful. Also tired of mechs. Noisy. Never used them in STG."

"Judging by the latest quarantine reports, the plague has been completely eradicated, Dr. Solus," EDI suddenly informed. "Your assistant has been helping any patients with complications."

Mordin grinned. "Excellent. Knew he could do it," he proudly said.

Letting the matter drop, Shepard looked out of the Med Bay's windows to see Garrus eating with Jacob now. "You don't want to get dinner first?"

"Already ate before arriving. Anxious to get to work," Mordin said before turning around and leaving, but in better spirits it seemed.

"Well, I must admit, I'm much more optimistic about this mission now, Shepard," Chakwas commented. "And it'll be nice to have someone to talk to."

Turning to the doctor, Shepard smiled. "I'm glad to see that you're looking okay. I thought hangover would still have you down a bit."

Remembering last night, Chakwas looked abashed as she looked Shepard in the eye. "Commander, I very much enjoyed sharing that ice brandy with you, but I hope I wasn't too unprofessional," she said before shaking her head. "Brandy goes straight to my head."

"Don't worry about it Doc. It's nice to see you let your hair down," Shepard easily said.

Chakwas sighed in relief. "Guess I hadn't realized how much those feelings needed airing. But I didn't give you much of a chance to vent." Leaning forward, she asked, "So tell me now – what do you think?"

Though Shepard shrugged, his face was serious. "Everyone is depending on us. We won't let them down," he simply said.

"They just don't make them like you anymore, Shepard," Chakwas said, smiling. "Well, promise me we'll share a bottle every year. The next on is on me."

"Deal."

~o~O~o~

After receiving his meal from Rupert, Shepard sat down next to Garrus and across from Jacob at the Common Area.

"We leaving Omega Shepard?" Garrus asked.

"First things first. I need you get some more grenades, thermal clips and other supplies we'll need. We're not going to be docking for a while," Shepard said. "If you need help, I'll get some crewmen to go with you."

"Got it," Garrus answered as he ate out his MRE.

"We leave as soon as you come back, so if you want out quickly, shop quickly," Shepard said as he began eating.

Polishing off his dinner, Jacob stood up. "I'm going ahead downstairs. Get a light workout. I'll see you there, Commander."

After Jacob left, Shepard looked down the hall of the Crew Deck and toward the Main Batteries. "Have you had a chance to acclimate to the Normandy's armaments?"

"Oh yeah," Garrus suddenly said. "I wanted to talk you about that. It looks like Cerberus upgraded what the ship carried before. Should have a bit more kick." Turning serious, he turned in his seat to face Shepard. "I still don't like our chances against a Collector ship though. Not unless we upgrade the guns."

"Sounds like you have some ideas for those upgrades," Shepard noted.

"A few, yeah," Garrus answered before hesitating. "I'll talk to you about that later. After you're finished with your business with Taylor and I'm done shopping, alright?"

Shepard raised his eyebrow at that. Garrus wasn't one to beat around the bush. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"

Garrus could only shrug in response. Finishing his meal, he stood up. "I'll see you later, Commander," he said before leaving.

Turning to his meal, Shepard listened to the conversations around him. Several crewmen were sitting or standing at the table next to his. They appeared to be comforting Crewman Hadley.

Seeing Shepard's gaze, the other helmsman, Hawthorne, explained. "Hadley has a brother at Ferris Fields."

Shepard furrowed his brow at the news. Looking at Hadley, Shepard also saw Miranda step out of her office.

Upon hearing his name, Hadley looked up to see Shepard looking at him. Just then, Matthews came into the Common Area. "Damn, Hadley. I just heard the news. Any news on your brother?"

Hadley didn't answer immediately, opting to look down at the tabletop. Gabby answered for him. "Everyone's gone," she said gently.

"Gone. They're all gone…" Hadley repeated, as if trying to wrap his head around that fact.

"Damn it. Don't worry Hadley, we'll get them back," Matthews assured, patting his friend on the back. "Shepard and Lawson are on it. We'll get your brother back and make sure the Collectors pay for taking him," continued Matthews, unaware that Miranda was behind him and Shepard sitting at the next table over.

Ken jumped in, also unaware of the commanding officers nearby, "That's right! We're going to make those dirty buggers pay!"

Deciding to remain quiet, Shepard turned back to his meal.

Miranda took the opportunity to retrieve some dinner of her own and sit across from Shepard. However, her movements caught the attention of Rolston.

"Ma'am! Director Lawson!" Rolston called out, getting her attention. Moving around his table, he approached Miranda as she looked up from her seat. "Um… New Canton… It's not far from Ferris Fields… my wife and daughter…" he trailed off, running his hand through his hair. "My mother-in-law is giving us grief. She's pretty stubborn. I mean… is my family going to be okay? Will they get to the transport?" he asked in a rush.

"Calm down, Crewman," Miranda firmly, but gently said. "I understand what you're going through. I truly do. Rest assured, if I have to order the transport team to physically drag them away, I will. Your family will be safe. You have my word on that."

Rolston sagged with relief. "Thank you, ma'am. I didn't want to bother you, but…"

"It's fine Crewman," Miranda said. She looked around and noticed that the others were openly staring at both Shepard and herself, finally aware that they were talking about their commander officers, right in front of them. "Don't worry," Miranda said to the crew at large. "We're doing everything we can to stop this threat, right Commander?" Miranda asked, bringing Shepard into the limelight.

Shepard looked at the various assembled crew. "We're all going to do what we can to stop them. All of us. Make no mistake about it. These attacks will be answered. We're not going to let them continue as if they have free reign to do whatever the hell they want. Just do what you're trained to do and show them why they made their last mistake."

The crewmen all cheered in response and looked much better than they did a few minutes ago. Rupert even broke out a bit of brandy to pass along to Hadley.

"Are you going to be okay?" Shepard asked the stricken crewman.

Hadley managed to look him in the eyes. "Yes, sir. I'll do my job. You can count on it. We're the only ones that can stop these bastards."

Nodding in acceptance, Shepard left it to Hadley's friends to keep his morale up. Turning his gaze to Miranda, he caught her observing him.

"I must say, I'm impressed, Shepard. So far things have gone exceptionally well," she praised. "As Cerberus operations go, this is one of the best I've been a part of."

Shepard gave her a small smirk. "Maybe that's because this isn't a Cerberus operation."

Miranda shrugged in response. "Not to you maybe. But I report directly to the Illusive Man. And I'm here because he wants me to be." Looking directly into Shepard's eyes, she advised, "Cerberus gave you a second chance, Commander. Maybe you should do the same for us."

Shepard hummed indifferently. "Hmm… Cerberus gave me a second chance because they had a use for me, not because they were being nice," he pointed out. "I'm here right now and I'm going along with this mission to the end. That's more than enough. Especially since everyone is aware of our odds. I'm not about to join Cerberus and I'm not about to compromise myself or my beliefs for them."

Miranda studied Shepard for a few more moments before nodding. "Fair enough," she acquiesced before returning to her dinner.

They ate in companionable silence, letting the various conversations wash over them. Shepard chanced a glance at Miranda near the end of his meal, trying to understand the enigmatic woman in front of him.

"Something you wanted to ask?" Miranda queried without looking up. Evidently, she picked up on his body language.

"What you said to Rolston," he began, watching her body language now. Miranda brought her head up to focus on him. "You said that you understood what he was going though. 'Truly' I believed you said. Did you mean it?"

She nodded. "Of course."

Shepard tilted his head to the side in thought. "You talked about your father. You weren't close to him." Miranda merely raised an eyebrow at his statement, obviously wondering where he was going. "If you understood what Rolston was going through, does that mean you have other family?" Shepard asked quietly, getting to his point.

Miranda's eyes widened just a bit, almost imperceptible, but Shepard was looking for it.

"I believe I already told you about what my father did, Commander," Miranda said evenly and calmly. Too calmly.

Sounds really personal. Interesting.

"Sorry Miranda. Forget I said anything then. I don't want to pry into your personal affairs," apologized Shepard.

Another subtle shift in her body. Guilt perhaps?

"It's fine. I understand that I can be a bit… distant. I supposed you were just curious why I would put so much effort for Rolston," Miranda evasively said.

"Contrary to what you believe, I think that there's definitely something different about you. You're much more than what you let me see so far, something interesting, maybe something intriguing," Shepard said. Smiling he added, "Feminine mystique perhaps? You've certainly nailed the femme fatale attitude."

She offered him a smile. Placing her utensils on her tray, she crossed her arms on the table and leaned forward, locking gazes with him. "Try as you might, Commander, I'll –never- tell." Sitting up and picking up her fork and knife, she continued to eat, but not before adding, "Not unless I feel like it."

Definitely something interesting about her. Wonder who she's hiding?

~o~O~o~

Emerging into the docking bay, Shepard walked down the stairs quietly. Moving around the various boxes stacked around, he spotted Jacob glowing with the familiar sight of dark energy. Unlike his or Shepard's usual displays though, where it seemed to extend out like an aura, this appeared more concentrated. It looked as if Jacob was trying to wrap the dark energy around him.

Standing as still and as quiet as possible to avoid disrupting Jacob's concentration, Shepard observed as Jacob grit his teeth and scrunched his face in concentration. However, after a few more minutes, Jacob gasped and the energy dissipated.

"Damn it!" Jacob cursed.

"That was Barrier, wasn't it?" Shepard asked, announcing his presence. He'd seen Kaiden use it enough to identify what Jacob was attempting to do.

Jacob whirled around in surprise. Seeing Shepard, he looked embarrassed. Coughing lightly in an effort to hide it, he nodded. "Yeah. I've been at it for a while. I still can't get the hang of it." He looked up at Shepard. "You know it?"

Shepard shook his head. "No, but I recognize it. Mass-raising, right?"

Crossing his arms, Jacob nodded. "Yeah. Opposite discipline from Pull. I'm having a hard time manifesting the ability to be lasting and sustaining." Seeing Shepard confused look, he explained. "You create a Barrier; you essentially create a temporary high-gravity mass effect field around yourself. The trick is to do it so that it sustains itself. You make it, but you don't have to focus or keep your concentration or attention on it. It's self-sustaining." At Shepard's nod, he continued, "Next you have to have it sustain itself for a reasonable amount time. As a rule, anything less than 10 seconds is a waste of time and effort to try." Jacob's face took on a dark look. "I can't even make five seconds so far."

Shepard said nothing; He merely waited for his 'teacher' to come to terms with his failed attempt.

After getting himself under control, Jacob turned toward the commander. "Right, let's work on Pull some more. You were doing good back on Omega, but you don't have any fine control yet. I figure we should work on that. Start by lifting small things, heavy things, and finally, objects of different sizes. You'll notice that you'll need to change how much power you have to put into different objects of size and mass."

And so Shepard training continued. For the next few hours, Jacob ran him through his paces, using his biotics on objects close by and far away. They started with pillows and weights, before moving to miscellaneous objects, such as wrenches and hammers. Then into more obscure or fragile items, the weight bench, holopads, and finally, a glass cup.

"Looking good there Commander," Jacob commended as he stood near the cup. Shepard stood 20 feet away, holding the cup level at Jacob's shoulder height and trying to keep it steady without it wobbling or shaking.

Jacob threw up his arms. "Still learning as fast as usual. Damn, you got a real knack for this." Walking back toward Shepard, Jacob said, "Alright, let's do something a little different now."

"Different?" Shepard repeated as he continued breathing slow and steady, keeping his focus on the glassware ahead of him and determined to ignore his own biotic glow.

Standing next to Shepard, Jacob crossed his arms. "Combat is tough. Gotta learn to keep focused through the distractions," he said with a shrug.

"You're going to distract me?" Shepard tersely asked, still holding the cup in the air.

"Yep." Jacob stood silent for a few moments, before he starting speaking again. "You ever see a naked krogan?" he asked in a casual tone.

Shepard's eyes widened and his biotic glow wavered as he tried to hold back his laugh. The cup fell a bit before rising back to its original height.

"I mean, four testicles? Damn, it has to be crowded or something down there, huh?" Jacob continued with a straight face. "And I don't even wanna know what the females look like. Probably more harrier than the males. Definitely more scary."

Shepard resolutely ignored his comments, maintaining the cups height, though it began shaking a bit.

"And you have to wonder how the asari do it. How flexible are they? Do you know?"

The cup flipped upside down as Shepard lost motor control, but he still managed to keep it in place in midair.

Jacob stayed quiet as he watched to cup flip upside down, but remained in the air. As Shepard slowly turned the cup right-side up, Jacob spoke up again. "You going to see that new extranet film, the one with Blasto, the hanar Spectre?"

Shepard finally choked out a laugh as he lost focus causing the cup to fall, but managed to arrest its descent half an inch from the floor.

As Shepard set the glass slowly to the ground, Jacob burst out laughing. "Oh, man. You should have seen your face."

Shepard laughed as well, easily shrugging off the tension he felt earlier. Calming down, he couldn't help but ask, "Blasto?"

Jacob laughed again. "Yeah. I can't remember the title off-hand. I do remember that the hanar are pissed off about it. Well, as pissed off as they get. Some of the lines are hilarious though."

Shepard gave Jacob an incredulous look. "You're serious?"

"It's all over the extranet if you want to find out, Commander," Jacob answered. He moved toward the mess they'd created around the hanger and began to clean up. Shepard hastily moved to help.

"Commander," Joker called in from the intercom. "Garrus just reported in. He and his team are coming back soon."

Putting the weights back in the corner, Shepard habitually put his hand to his ear to use his radio. "Got it Joker. If I'm not in still in the hanger when they arrive, let me know."

"You got it."

Jacob cleaned up the last remnants of their exercises. "We're clear Commander. They shouldn't have any trouble off loading the supplies here." Looking around the hanger one last time to see if he missed anything, he turned back to Shepard. "You know, I have to say, you run this ship tight and we're getting things done," he conversationally said. "We keep on track and maybe we'll figure this out, cause I'm not looking forward to the debrief if it all goes to hell."

Finished with his own inspection, Shepard turned toward the Cerberus operative. "Tell me a little about yourself."

"Is there something specific you wanted to know?"

"I like to know my crew. Forget procedure," Shepard answered.

"Informal, huh?" Jacob nodded. "I'm Ex-Alliance, like you. No Reapers or anything, but I got swept under the rug, too. The good you do, the less they want to admit that something needed doing."

"What led you to Cerberus?" Shepard asked.

Jacob crossed his arms and shrugged. "The Alliance sidelined me after Eden Prime. Ended up on job with Miranda that Cerberus treated like an audition and here I am."

Surprised, Shepard asked, "You were at Eden Prime too?"

"Yeah, with the 242. Got a good look at Sovereign. Suppose I should thank you for saving my life. If you hadn't disarmed those bombs…" Jacob said before shrugging again.

"You don't seem like a 'results at all costs' kind of guy," Shepard commented. "Cerberus' history doesn't bother you?"

"The Alliance is all politics. Somebody has to take down the bad people. Cerberus keeps that line, I'm on their side," he answered.

"So what was your proudest career moment?" Shepard asked as he leaned against the bulkhead.

"The job I'm proudest of wasn't for the Alliance or Cerberus. I was actually a civilian. Nobody really knows about it…" Jacob began before seeing the look on Shepard's face. He elaborated, "It happened after I left the Alliance and before I joined Cerberus."

"That audition you were talking about," Shepard guessed.

"Yeah. A batarian group was plotting to release a weaponized virus and kill the Council. Miranda and I stopped it. Took us out to the Nemean Abyss and back," Jacob explained.

Shepard racked his mind for any information, but couldn't ever remember any reports of any attacks on the Council. "Strange that it wasn't bigger news," he speculated out loud.

"The real work doesn't get publicized. You know that," Jacob answered. "They say its better that people don't know how fragile the system is or how close the bad guys can get. So it never happened. Like you and the Reaper. And that's why I'm here."

"How'd you get involved in the attack if you were a civilian?"

"My old C.O. looked me up on the Citadel. Said he needed someone who isn't restricted by Alliance protocol," Jacob answered.

"You mean someone the Alliance can disavow if you screw up or get caught," Shepard translated.

Jacob just shrugged again. "Probably, but no different when I was a Corsair."

"What was Cerberus' stake in it though? Why save the Council?" Shepard probed.

"No idea. Miranda never told me, much less the Illusive Man," he answered.

Shepard leaned against the bulkhead more, thinking about what he heard. Shelving his thoughts for another time he turned his attention back to Jacob. "You make no apologies for doing what you had to do. I admire that," Shepard praised.

"I couldn't go back to the Alliance, not after the cover-up. The whole thing was hushed, like they're good at doing, but I know what I did and I'm proud of it. They did the same to you. General public never knew you were dead or heard the real story of the Citadel," Jacob explained. He started pacing slowly in front of Shepard. "Did you know they used you on recruitment ads?" Jacob snorted. "You were the human ideal for like six months. Then they replaced you with a composite image they invented." Stopping in front of Shepard, he couldn't help but add, "Guess you didn't focus test right. You were actually the Alliance poster boy, and they still dumped you."

Shepard merely shrugged it off. "We'll rub it in their faces when we save their hides again."

Jacob smiled. "Sounds good. Add that to the list of reasons to make it out alive. Besides not wanted to die."

"Again," Shepard candidly added.

"Heh, fair enough," Jacob agreed.

Any further conversation was halted as Joker reported over the intercom that Garrus' team is docking with the Normandy. Minutes later, the hanger door opened, allowing the Kodiak Drop Shuttle to enter. Both men stood to the side as Hawthorne docked the ship and shut down the engines.

The hatch opened and Garrus stepped out with two others. "Alright! Let's get this stuff squared away!" One crewman yelled out.

Garrus turned and saw Shepard and Jacob nearby. Both men walked up to help. "Commander. All finished?" Garrus asked.

Remembering about Garrus' idea for the Normandy, Shepard turned to Jacob. "Can you handle things here? I have to talk with Garrus."

"No worries Commander. I got this," Jacob answered.

Nodding to him before gesturing Garrus to follow, they left the hanger.

Entering the Comm/Briefing Room, Shepard turned toward his friend. "I'm really not going to like this, am I?"

Garrus shrugged. "Maybe. If it means anything, I think it's a good idea."

"I trust you Garrus," Shepard easily responded. "What's up?"

"Okay, it's like this. After the Battle of the Citadel, there was a huge clean-up effort, right?" After seeing Shepard nod, he continued. "Well, some of the turian 'volunteers' were from the Office of Technological Reconnaissance. They sent in recovery specialists looking to get Sovereign's main weapon and its eezo core if they could."

"You're right. I wouldn't like this," Shepard answered bluntly. "You're telling me that they have Sovereign's main cannon? That same cannon that destroyed eight Alliance cruisers? And they didn't tell anyone they have it?"

"Yeah. The weapon wasn't working of course, but they managed to create something like it after a year or so of development," Garrus said.

Shepard sighed. "A weapon built from Reaper tech. If something like that falls into the wrong hands…"

"I know. Believe me, I know," Garrus sympathetically said. "But in our hands, we could hold the advantage over the Collectors for sure."

Shepard raised an eyebrow at that. "Tell more about this cannon."

"I won't bore you with the technical specs. To put it simply, it supposed use an electromagnetic field to suspend, shape, and fire a slug of liquid iron-uranium-tungsten alloy at an incredible velocity. Something like a fraction of the speed of light," Garrus explained. "They've called it the Thanix Magnetic-Hydrodynamic Weapon or the shorter version, the Thanix Cannon."

"And you can get us one of these?" Shepard skeptically asked.

Garrus nodded confidently. "I know someone pretty high up in the Office of Technological Reconnaissance. I've worked with her a few times. With your permission, I'd like to call her and see if we can't set something up."

Shepard couldn't help himself. "She?" he asked with a smirk.

Garrus cleared his throat. "Well, let's just say I have ways of extracting information that doesn't require bullets," he evasively answered.

"I'm sure," Shepard agreed. Looking serious again, he asked, "Will it work for us? It sounds pretty high grade."

Garrus crossed his arms and sighed. "In proof-of-concept testing, it works. They've fired it a few times and it does the job. In real life, they're encountering problems. The weapon works fine in lab settings and the prototypes they've created do very well, but they can't seem to find a way to install them on current models of turian ships."

"Why not?"

"Because it uses a lot of power," Garrus bluntly answered. "One test evidently reported that the core almost overloaded. Another said that life-support system failed, forcing the crew to evac."

"And you want to put this thing on a frigate?" Shepard asked.

"Well, it's designed for frigates," Garrus responded. "There's something wrong proportionally. As the cannon gets bigger, the draw becomes exponentially larger. It's why they can't outfit it on a cruiser. No eezo core big enough. Not just turian ships either, pretty much all models out there."

"And dreadnoughts?"

Garrus shook his head. "Unbelievable power draw. While no one doubts the power a dreadnought could create using the Thanix, there was no way we could make an eezo core big enough to handle it. Considering the power of the main cannon on a dreadnought anyway, no one thinks the payoff is worth it." Pacing, he continued, "Analysts believed that frigates were the best balance between firepower and power needed to use it." Stopping in front of Shepard, Garrus shrugged, "Except that it's still too much for frigates to handle." Leaning against the table, he said, "I was thinking that the Tantalus Core of Normandy might do the job, though."

Shepard could see what Garrus was thinking. "The Tantalus Core is proportionally twice the size of any ship's core… How powerful did they make it?"

"We should rival a cruiser's firepower. I understand that the cannon itself can reliably fire every five seconds, more or less," came the answer.

Shepard nodded. "Make the call," he ordered, before smirking again. "Would you need to take some leave?"

Coughing lightly, Garrus glared at him. "Very funny, Shepard."

"Let me know when you get an answer," Shepard said. Still smiling, he turned around and left.

Moving quickly to the CIC, Shepard stepped up to the Galaxy Map to select their next destination. Eagle Nebula, Imir System, Korlus.

"Aye, aye, Commander. Destination locked. We're finally leaving Omega."

~o~O~o~

That voice was speaking again.

More pictures. Battlefields. Wars. Enemies.

More words. Perfection. Soldier. Legacy.

Now they're repeating this again.

I hate this tank…

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

Still here and still moving along, in spite of the fact that I'm completely absorbed in Resonance of Fate. Great game…

Right, generally, I don't think that answering reviewer's questions belong here since it adds so much unnecessary space. However, since many have noted it, I suppose I owe an explanation or two. Be aware this will be the longest AN I've written so far.

First off is Shepard's personality. Especially in regards to chapter six, Archangel. Some people say he's too ruthless or too unbelievable. My response? I respectfully disagree.

To answer the ruthless naysayers, it's Omega. EDI mentions that there's a huge death toll there. Daily. It's dangerous, violent, and only the strong survive/thrive. Doing things nicely to the wrong kinds of people there sounds like a fine way to get shot and robbed from some random thug. On the other hand, if you prove you're tough or strong enough, then people will respect and fear you. This would allow Shepard to move around Omega relatively unhindered. With regards to Aria's man and the grenade, it had many layers there. It was a show of force, a show of nerve, or a show to prove that Shepard wasn't going to be pushed around by her. A standing of peers or equals. Not some lowlife looking up at the "queen" of Omega. Also, I think it followed Sun Tzu's Art of War, considering that Aria's people were pointing guns, I wanted to establish that any victory they might get is a victory not worth having. Y'know, shooting someone only to get blown up doesn't seem like it's worth it.

To those that believe he's unbelievable, I actually have an explanation for that. Warning: Psychological explanation ahead. Be prepared for psycho babble talk. This is also a generality, as in the majority of the populace as dictated by statistics. It does not mean a personal attack against anyone. If you think you're different, live it up. It's absolutely great to be different.

Most, I say again, MOST, not all, but most will live static lives. Static meaning relatively unchanging. What I mean is that people personalities really won't change or deviate significantly. Again, by significantly, I mean living heterosexual all your life and then suddenly becoming homosexual without rhyme or reason and vice versa. This is usually dictated by genetics (Still under debate) or environment. For the sake of simplicity, we'll just work with environment and keep genetics off the table. The simple argument is that you live in one place for years. You learn the technology as needed; either you live in a city in which means you have to become well versed or the country, meaning not so much. You learn the social cues and contracts. You'll develop a personality that best reflects you as well as the ability to work within this environment. So long as the environment remains static, your personality remains static, because there is no reason to change. If the environment changes, say by natural disasters, then it's the people who have a hard time changing will have it the worst. Others will show a more dynamic personality and do things they would never able to do. Some will be heroes, going above and beyond what they generally do. Others… they might change for the worse. Looting or other despicable acts, all because the environment changed forcing change on people.

This goes on to my point. While most have static personalities, some people require a dynamic one. That is to say, an ever-changing personality. A quick and dirty example people would know is the show Burn Notice. As a spy, Michael Westen assumes a lot ofidentities. One moment, he's a rich business man; next, he's acting like a junkie. He's able to change the way he needs to because his environment is always changing.

Shepard has it pretty rough. He could be a soldier one moment, a mediator the next, only to play politics after. I believe a man (Or woman) like him could only have survived by adapting very well to his ever-changing and dynamic environment. I'm not saying his personality is a lie, just very complicated.

Thanks to "THE reader" for his kind review regarding this.

Next, my use of the game script. What can I say? This is my first story and I'm a new author. ME2's script acts like my skeleton, supporting this story, keeping the pace and allowing all of you to know where I'm going. It also helps that it was well-written and I'm sure many will agree, makes it difficult to improve on. I'm adding my own flavor as I become more confident, so bear with me.

To the reviewer "Jemma": If you think you can do better, you're more than welcome to try. New and creative is extremely difficult and if I had that kind of skill, I'd apply to be a writer at BioWare and get started on ME3.

Finally! On to the story explanations. In ME1, barrier started out lasting only 10 secs. So I gave it that. In ME2 though, Barrier can last up to a minute at level 1.

And last, but not least, I offer fellow ME author, "Stradivarium" his due credit. He kindly gave me permission to use a bit of his work Moments in my fic. Thanks again!

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