Mass Effect: Exodus

Chapter Two

“We’ve entered the Sahrabarik system, Commander,” Valerius reported, “just a few hours away from Omega proper.”

“Thank you, Flight Lieutenant,” Mali responded, “steady as we go. Just cruise for a while. By now Flynn’s already detected the ship in the system, so there’s no need to rush. Cortus: assemble two away teams, and have them meet me in debriefing.”

“Aye, sir,” Cortus acknowledged.

Mali nodded her approval then opened a direct link to the captain’s quarters.

“Bridge to Captain,” she said.

“Koverick here,” Knives answered, “go ahead, Commander.”

“We’re a couple hours out from our destination. Cortus is assembling the ground teams for debriefing.”

“I’ll be there shortly.”

“Aye, sir.”

The link disconnected as Mali marched to meet her teams. Cortus was already there waiting with the chosen: Tavian Octus, Tertia Dorma, Bacchus and Drusus Heratin, and Nero Atris. This was a good team; Cortus had put a lot of thought into it. Knives joined them shortly and gestured for Mali to begin. The human pulled up Flynn’s dossier, which had been provided by Admiral Hackett.

“Adrian Flynn,” Mali read off, “Human male, aged twenty-eight standard years. He’s six feet even in height and in the neighborhood of about 170 pounds, so don’t expect him to throw any punches.” The group laughed amusedly at the stats. Mali held her hands up to quiet them down. “Yes, laugh it up. Those numbers are inconsequential to, say, a turian or a krogan—hell there may be a salarian out there that can match him pound-for-pound. However, considering most humans in his profession are obese, middle-aged men living out of their parents’ basements, I’d say he’s doing pretty good for himself. So do not underestimate him.

“He was born blind in Kithoi Ward on the Citadel on August 5, 2167. At age twelve, Flynn received eye implants, effectively curing his blindness. His father is the prestigious Doctor Michael James Flynn, of ExoGeni Corp; his mother was killed during the geth attack on the Citadel twelve years ago, and he has one sister: Isabelle. He is the heir-apparent of a multi-billion-credit family, but for reasons unknown—and frankly irrelevant—he turned his back on that life. He ran from home at age sixteen, and has been a thorn in the Alliance’s side ever since. He has never been caught despite their best efforts, and he has been estranged from his family for over a decade.

“Flynn was a favored suspect in the investigation into the Cerberus coup in 2186. According to evidence, he was instrumental to Udina’s side of the incident, having allegedly hacked into C-Sec’s network and shut down all safety protocols, proximity sensors, and select life support systems all across the station. This alone was attributed to seventy-two percent of the deaths that occurred in Bachjaret and Teyseri Wards and the Presidium. Three teams of five specially-selected individuals were sent out to catch him, but he managed to evade capture.

“A year later, Flynn simply vanished under the radar. The investigating teams were disbanded, and all evidence against Flynn was filed with an Alliance cold case unit. Once the statute of limitations for his crimes was up, all charges were dismissed. That is, until a recent rash of disappearances began plaguing Council Space. Alliance brass found distinct hacker codes at the homes of each victim that matched those used during the coup by Flynn. This has led them to believe he is involved, and they want him brought in before anyone else goes missing.

“According to Alliance Intel, Flynn was spotted on the fringes of Council Space a few weeks ago. Before contacting us, the Alliance made three attempts to apprehend Flynn, however, his knowledge of human military protocols gave him the upper hand. The SSV Lexington, SSV Hong Kong-2, and the SSV Israel returned to Alliance space with significant technical damage. The landing parties suffered severe burns from overloaded shields and sabotaged weapons, but otherwise, alive.”

“Clever,” Cortus complimented, “sounds like he was playing a game rather than fending off a platoon of soldiers.”

“Not surprising. He considers himself something of a ‘professional gamer’ and most likely used strategies from one of many games. That won’t mean much after we’ve made our play. Anyone other questions?”

“Why are we taking an Alliance job?” Drusus asked, “I mean no disrespect, Commander, but you seem exceptionally eager to take this mission.”

“Curiosity is not this same thing as disrespect, Dru,” Mali assured, “I was a part of the original investigation team that was charged with tracking Flynn down ten years ago. At the time, it was a highly classified assignment performed by joint militaries. It was not strictly Alliance, as it has been assumed, but they did have the lead on the case. Me personally, I am a little more than curious to learn why after all this time he’s resurfaced, and why a sudden interest in tech experts. Anyone else?”

“What is your plan, Commander?” Knives inquired. The rest of the team looked at their captain with surprise as she added: “You all know the rules: ‘Your mission, your lead.’ This is officially Ramar’s mission; she has command. Malikeh? A plan?”

“As a matter of fact, Captain, I do,” Mali responded with a mischievous grin, “and it is being implemented as we speak.”

Mali pulled up a holo-image of the Sahrabarik System. It showed the Phoenix as it came out of the relay.

“By now,” she went on, “Flynn has no doubt detected the ship as we entered the system and is preparing for the imminent attack—by the Alliance. I had our transponder disguised to register as the SSV Little Big Horn, the frigate currently escorting the Nostradamus to Palaven. Flynn will be none the wiser until he is in custody. Magnify on Omega.”

The hologram zoomed in on the asteroid. There were several hubs tethered to the asteroid and labeled as supply depots, all but one being active. Mali magnified the image again to show the single defunct supply hub, which was little more than a mined-out rock; Omega on a smaller scale. Aside from the umbilical to the main asteroid it showed two primary docking ports and several maintenance hatches and ventilation shafts.

“This is our destination,” Mali pointed out.

Before she could continue, Bacchus interrupted. “Commander?” he said, “How do we know that? The Alliance Intel didn’t say anything about him being at a supply depot…just that he was on Omega. I highly doubt Aria would have willingly given us Flynn’s location.”

“I’ll get to that at a later time, Corporal. At the moment, it is not crucial to the mission.

“Valerius won’t be able to dock, but he will be able to get us close enough to launch the shuttles. Two away teams will land on opposite sides of the facility here at the middle level. Team Alpha will consist of Lt. Cortus, Lt. D. Heratin, Corporal B. Heratin, and myself. Knives will lead Beta with Sgt. Dorma, Sgt. Octus, and Lt. Atris.

“Alpha will be a diversion using actual Alliance maneuvers to keep the target from noticing Beta. Alpha is to go in and engage the mech guards in combat and feign being overwhelmed while Beta hacks into the system. Now, the step-by-step:

“Alpha, the Alliance has the tendency to keep their squads in tight-nit groups, which under normal circumstances—and particularly against synthetic enemies—is a fairly decent formation. Against a single man who quite possibly spent months memorizing the attack pattern? Not so much, but that is what Alpha is going to do. Flynn will most likely have the mech units flank us once we’ve gotten a few feet from the control room. Alpha will then turn off their transponders to make it look as though we have been defeated. This is where Beta comes in.

“Knives and Nero will cover Tavian and Tertia while they shut down Flynn’s defense system. Your entrance is here, opposite Alpha, through the maintenance hatch; maintain radio silence. Make absolute certain you’ve shut down security in that area before rendezvousing with us as Flynn has been known to hack life-sign transponders to confuse the opposition.”

“Wait a second, Commander,” Drusus spoke up again, “transponders are registered with the issuing militaries. If he can hack that information, won’t it be obvious Alpha isn’t Alliance? We’d lose that element of surprise.”

Mali nodded towards Tavian Octus who was already tapping away at his omni-tool. A secondary haptic display lit up showing a diagram of the room they were in with eight blue dots, one for each marine present. He selected one of the dots, and Knives’ biological profile and current vital readings appeared off to the side of the screen. It was everything one would expect to see until Tavian waved his omni-tool in front of the captain. Instantly, Knives’ profile on the screen went blank, and in place of her image was a nondescript silhouette. There were nods of approval coupled with curiosity around the room.

“It’s a temporary virus,” Tavian explained, “it blank-slates transponders for a short period so that they’ll register life signs, but they won’t identify the individual by name, faction, or species. We’re hoping he’ll just assume we’re Alliance by strategy. Risky, but we’re confident Flynn won’t even notice.”

“Thank you, Tavi. Now, once Beta deactivates the security mechs, they will rendezvous with Alpha here at the rear entrance of the control room. We’re assuming he has more mechs inside with him, so the moment we regroup we initiate Infiltration Form Theta. Any other questions?”

“I’ve got one,” Cortus said as he shouldered his rifle, “Are we there yet?”

Adrian watched his monitors as the Alliance shuttle docked at the main port of his hub. The alarm klaxons were blaring, warning him of the intruders. He was not worried, however, as he observed the four red dots enter in a familiar formation and fan out.

He sighed, slumping his shoulders in a mix of disappointment and relief. His guests assumed what he came to know as Attack Pattern Delta. It was predictable and insultingly dull, but it let him rest on the idea that those who were after him were no more threatening than the average C-Sec officer.

All four haptic keyboards flickered to life awaiting his command input. Adrian hesitated, and then exhaled. “Fuck it” traveled on his breath as he made his first move. It was nothing too dramatic—more of a show of force to see if he could spook the intruders off. A deployment of LOKI mechs, one for every head, made for his first wave and was defeated almost as quickly as he had activated them. It was amusing, but also a waste.

He found a morbid thrill in the realization that he had been mistaken in assuming this would all be easy. He typed his next set of commands in excitement. “Round two, Alliance”, he muttered, imitating the inflections of a game announcer. “And…go.”

The second wave of mechs outnumbered the soldiers five-to-one. They were not exactly overwhelming odds, but Adrian had no intention of waiting for round three to send more troops their way. He had seen enough vids and played enough games to know when it was time to shut down a fight. Hesitation was right up there with giving away your master plan while your nemesis was hovering over that ill-conceived self-destruct button. He waited no more than thirty seconds before sending out the last wave and watched triumphantly as the Alliance, overrun thirty-to-one, was forced into the center of the horde. One-by-one, the red dots flickered off. Within seconds, Adrian’s display had nothing but the blue blips that represented his security.

“Done and done,” he breathed.

Adrian had begun shutting down his scanners when a patch of blue blips systematically vanished from his security screen. This was instantly followed by a cascading blackout of his mech troops.

He jumped on the nearest console to try to reactivate his mechs and send reinforcements, taking some comfort when the blue dots began reappearing on the radar. However, his relief faded quickly. His mechs were being shut down the moment they activated!

That instant, the red blips reappeared on the screen, and then multiplied before surrounding him. Two soldiers were posted at the rear entrance of the control room, one at the east entrance, one at the west, and the remaining four formed a semicircle in front of the north door. Adrian was trapped. These were not the average grunts.

“I don’t know who sent you or what you’re running,” he shouted into the intercom system, “But you should know I’m better at this than you are!”

Four YMIR mechs dropped from their rigs and posted on each door at Adrian’s command and prepped their rockets. Three of the four mechs exploded after triggering proximity mines as they passed through their respective doors. Three-fourths of the control room collapsed, showering Adrian with sparks and shattered glass.

He ducked under the desk in a panic to shield himself and ordered his last mech to advance forward. As the mech obliged, Adrian linked his visor into its optical feed. Through the camera he could see a lone soldier in full armor just standing there with a pistol aimed at the YMIR. Adrian wanted to laugh—a pistol against a ten-foot-tall mechanical monster was quite the joke. However, he did not laugh. This group had already out-smarted him twice; he was not about to chance a third time. He drew his old Carnifex and waited. If the Alliance made it past his last mech, this gun would be his only option of keeping his freedom. He had never had to fire it before. Then again, no one had ever gotten this close.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he mumbled, “fire already!”

The YMIR fired a rocket at the soldier. Adrian sighed in relief, but it was, once again, premature. To his amazed horror, the soldier became engulfed in a familiar hazy-blue aura.

“A fucking biotic…”

He watched helplessly as the rocket was hit by a biotic warp field and veered off-course of its intended target. At the same time, an enemy rocket came flying back at the mech. The explosion was glorious. All that remained when the smoke cleared was a heap of charred and twisted metal and the lone human soldier, still smoldering in their biotic flare. There was a long silence, then a voice.

“Adrian Flynn,” the feminine melody rang out, “by order of the Human Systems Alliance, you are under arrest. Come out with your hands up.”

Adrian could almost hear the sarcastic glee in the woman’s voice. He slowly rose from his hiding spot and aimed the Carnifex towards the voice. His visor read that the woman was roughly twenty feet away, but it was difficult to gauge through the smoke. He was not picking up any of the other soldiers that had been there. Because that’s not suspicious or anything, he thought as he carefully glanced around the security mech.

“I’d advise you to put your weapon down,” the woman ordered, “we’ve already got you marked.”

Adrian looked down to see two little red dots aimed steadily at his chest. His defeat was complete. His gun clattered to the floor as he raised his hands above his head and carefully walked towards the soldiers.

“All right,” he conceded, “All right, you got me…what are you, anyway? Some sort of Black-Ops or something? N7, maybe? Biotics division?”

“Actually,” the woman said as she removed her helmet, “we’re not Alliance at all. We’re just returning a favor.”

The face beneath the mask was that of a human woman, but she had intricate tribal tattoos on her skin that reminded him of that one group of turians he once knew. Different, but not to terrible to look at, he had to admit.

“So, you’re mercenaries, then?” he asked as levelheaded as he could, “That’s great! Look, whatever you were told about me is a lie, and whatever Hackett’s paying you, I can triple it! Just say the word, and I can get Aria to—ow! Hey, easy!”

Another soldier had come up behind him and secured his hands behind his back.

“We’re not mercenaries,” the woman corrected, “Rest assured we are military…just not the one you were expecting.”

“I’ll figure it out eventually…hopefully after I’ve convinced you to forget I was here. You see, I really don’t wanna go into Alliance custody, and I’m sure you guys have better things to do with your time. After all, you still have sixty hours to—”

“By the Spirits, Commander,” the soldier behind him complained, “Make it stop talking!”

The human was more than accommodating. “Adrian Flynn,” she said,“you are under arrest for the abductions of several military and government personnel and civilians in Council Space. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and wi--”

“Abductions?!” Adrian protested,“I am not involved in any abductions! Least of all in Council Space!”

“She said you had the right to remain silent,” the other soldier said, “I wish you’d exercise it.”

Adrian took careful note of the flanging effect in that voice. Turians, he thought in embarrassment, lead by a human operative. That’s how they did it. Clever bastards. His thoughts were interrupted as the turian forcibly turned him around to face the port side of the facility. The commander then walked to the front of the group and proceeded to lead them back towards their shuttle. Adrian shamelessly let his gaze wander downwards as she passed by him. That seemed to offend his turian guard who responded by shoving Adrian forward roughly with his forearm.

“If you want to keep those eyes in your skull,” the turian spoke his threat with disturbing calm, “then you’d better keep them up and forward.”

Adrian grinned in spite of the threat but obeyed the turian nonetheless.

The commander came to a halt at the docking port. She turned and waited at attention as one of the other turians made their way forward from the back of the group. Adrian watched with mild confusion as the commander greeted the turian with a brisk salute.

“Mission accomplished, Captain,” the woman said, “I relinquish command back to you.”

“You are relieved, Commander,” Koverick responded, returning the salute, “Fall in.”

“Aye, sir.”

Adrian shifted uncomfortably as his eyes darted back and forth between the two officers. “T-turian military?” he whispered to the commander as she took a position to his right.

“What gave us away?” the commander asked sarcastically, “The fact that you’re surrounded by turians?”

“I think it was your tattoos, Ramar,” another soldier spoke up, making the rest of the quad snicker.

Adrian ignored them and focused on Ramar. “But you’re human…aren’t you Alliance? That’s why you’re here, right? Right?”

No one answered him as he was ushered into the shuttle. The silence did not stop him from protesting, however.

“You guys are making a huge mistake,” he pleaded as the shuttle disembarked, “I didn’t do any of the things I’m being accused of! I haven’t left Omega in years!”

By this time, the captain had had enough. In a flash, she was in Adrian’s face and pinning the man’s shoulder against the back of his seat. Her mandibles were quivering angrily.

“If you continue refusing your right to remain silent, human,” she hissed, “then I will have no other choice but to cut your tongue out. Do I make myself clear?”

Adrian nodded slowly. “Crystal, ma’am,” he whispered, his eyes betraying his fear.

“That hardly seemed necessary, Captain,” Ramar observed respectfully.

“When I want your opinion, Malikeh, I’ll ask for it. Get us back to the ship.”

“Aye, sir.”

Malikeh Ramar, Adrian noted mentally, seems like the safest place to start. He began discreetly looking up any and all military personnel by that name. Hopefully he could get enough to barter with before one of these guys took his gear. Still, there was something else that was bothering him.

“Am I allowed to ask one question?” he inquired carefully, “Just out of curiosity?”

He observed as the captain and commander exchanged glances. They did not speak, but the communication was painfully clear. The captain genuinely wanted to cut Adrian’s tongue out while Ramar was willing to hear—and answer—the question. Eventually, the commander won the silent argument.

“You only get one,” she said smoothly, “use it wisely.”

“Okay…how did you locate me so quickly?” he asked, “Aria may have given you permission to hunt for me, but she wouldn’t have outright told you where I was. It goes against her own rule.”

“Surely it’s not that hard to figure out,” Ramar answered, “When one holds such high favor with what is effectively the monarch of an entire colony, he tends to collect a handful of resentful enemies. In your case, most of your enemies owed the Alliance several favors, and they were only too eager to cash in just to see you gone from Omega.”

“Like who?”

“Afraid I couldn’t tell you that,” Ramar’s attitude shifted to a more somber state; she did not seem to approve of the how of this mission, “we just simply followed the Intel. However, scuttlebutt says the Alliance employed the aid of the Shadow Broker who found a very willing informant. I’m speculating, of course, but if you’re as good as they say, I’m sure you’ll find all the answers…some day.”

One Day Earlier…

It had been rumored that Commander Shepard had gotten on the good side of the Shadow Broker just before he died. It only made sense that they returned the favor by assisting the Alliance in locating one Adrian Flynn.

“Pleased greeting,” the elcor merchant answered the vid-call, “thank you for calling Harrot’s Emporium, Best Salvage on Omega. How may I be of service?”

“Greetings, Harrot,” the drell woman on the screen responded, “I am calling you on behalf of the Shadow Broker and the Human Systems Alliance to collect a debt for services rendered.”

“Fearlessly: I am under no such obligations.”

“So, you’re not the one who returned Aria T’Loak’s ‘favorite couch’?”

“Hesitantly: Oh, yes. I am.”

“With Alliance aid, correct?”

“With restrained honesty: a human commander assisted in locating the couch during the Cerberus occupation. Proudly: I gained significant favor with Aria for that. With great annoyance: then some two-bit hacker showed up, and Aria placed him above everyone else except Bray and the Patriarch. Seething: he’d barely been here a week. Nine years later, no one’s be able to get Aria’s attention like that again. Vengefully: I’d really like to put that punk Adrian Flynn in his place.”

“Interesting you should say that, Mr. Harrot. The Shadow Broker’s client just so happens to be hunting for a certain Adrian Flynn. If you should ‘accidentally overhear’ where Aria has sent him, not only would you be paid handsomely, but there will be a new vacancy in Aria’s favor circle within the week.”

Harrot pondered this briefly. He had a chance to get back in Aria’s good graces, but not if she ever discovered who sold out her “favorite hacker.”

“With cautious suspicion: what assurances do I have that my actions won’t reach Aria’s ears?”

“You have none,” the drell answered without hesitation, “We are merely agents for the Shadow Broker and deal in valuable information. Protection is your own responsibility. As a sign of goodwill, I’ll give you this for free: Aria is willingly ignoring any military presence for the next several days, so it won’t matter who squeaks. If you’re resourceful, then you’ll find that there are more than enough saps on that rock for you to sift the blame on should it come to that. So…are you in?”

“Approvingly: are all Shadow Broker agents as devious as you?”

“Only the pretty ones.”

The screen went blank momentarily then flickered onto his personal banking account. Harrot watched as his credit balance rose rapidly. “Deviously,” he said to himself, “now I can get rid of my business competitor and Flynn. Curiously: what is that human saying? Ah: two birds with one stone…”

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