The moment James awoke from his sleep, a knocking came to his door amidst the soft oscillating hum of a spaceship in flight. He had almost forgotten where he was until he saw the bare pale ceiling above him, the sheets of his bed remaining surprisingly comfortable, having wrapped himself up within the blue covers and the calmest state of mind. The knocking however persisted, until Leiah sounded from behind the door.
"James? You up?"
"Mmmmyeah! Come on in."
"I can't get in unless you let me."
Climbing out of the bed almost made him forget that he had taken off his pants before he went to bed, seeing his naked body and chuckling as he redressed himself before opening the door. Leiah seemed to look quite shifty for some reason, asking:
"I heard the guys about to talk to their boss soon...wanna eavesdrop?"
"We're gonna be here for a while, I wanna know what's up with this boss of theirs, they seemed real scared about him."
"I dunno, you woke me up just for this?"
"You can go back to bed after if you want."
"...wait, what time is it?"
"Oh, okay that's...3pm, I-wait, when did I go to sleep?"
"I dunno, come on quick before we miss all the juicy stuff!"
Dragged down the hall unwillingly, the raptor stumbled behind Leiah who desperately had him follow towards the central area of the ship. Nobody was around, and none of their rooms were apparently occupied due to the locked doors. But they did hear conversations coming from the front of the ship itself near the cockpit. James was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and he now had a whole new dilemma facing him which he asked to the quarian:
"I forget, how do you guys measure time in this galaxy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're flying around all the time on spaceships and different planets, how do you not get like, intergalactic jet lag between different suns and shit?"
"Oh keelah, you don't even know about the standardised time?! How did you even find work back on the Citadel?!"
"I didn't even have a home to leave, I pretty much just hung out in the area, god!"
"I'm gonna have to set a clock on your omni-tool, then you'll be set with everybody else...shhh, listen!"
The two snuck down and hid within a corridor as they found a new room that they hadn't seen before. A centralised meeting room combined with the cockpit, which laid beyond its own boundary via a forcefield that showed the front windows of the ship, as well as an array of holographic orange buttons and screens over several interfaces. The meeting room itself was a circular dome, the four group members seated in well-sculpted comfortably spongy chairs while staring uncomfortably towards a large ominous-looking holographic screen.
The band members themselves were now dressed in their downtime clothes, having removed their armour to wear some darker-shaded clothing except Areh who kept his environment suit on. Lirem sported an amber jacket, resisting the urge to prop an arm casually against the back of his seat. Norem hunched forwards sternly towards the monitor while in a dark jade outfit. Jax simply sat in his chair like a scolded child, pulling back against the seat while wearing a rather spartan set of black leather-like plates that resembled some shoddy gladiator armour.
A dark bulbous silhouette spoke to them grimly from the monitor, its voice wavering with an eternal echo as if singing across the universe.
"And what of your instruments? Must they be replaced again?"
"No sir," said Lirem, "we kept them safe this time."
"Good. At the very least, this one would expect you to look after your things even if you cannot look after your reputation. Already the entertainment outlets scream of chaos at your concert. What...happened?"
"We don't know, honestly just, the Blood Pack showed up, they-they just stormed through backstage and went in guns blazing, I-"
"Don't. Lie. Security footage is not hard to find, especially when it shows you firing back at this group whilst fleeing towards the shuttle."
"What!? N-no, hold up, you don't know the full story tha-"
"What full story, your inability to hold a crowd hostage?! To think that you almost forfeited your chance of earning any profit from this, by some foolish escapade such as that, after the great pains this one took to even set up a concert for you!"
"W-we're sorry! Boss, please, we got the money, nobody got killed, no one innocent anyway and-"
"This is NOT about the money you inferior scrape of thulium, this is about your reputation! The one thing that will even get you anywhere beyond your current status. As the leader of this group, this one is holding you responsible for any and all transgressions, that cost you any further chances for whatever impulsive vendetta you pursue, during a performance!"
"It wasn't their fault!"
James stood up in full view of the monitor, stepping into the room boldly as the band all turned with fearful looks. Lirem desperately signalled him to scoot back into the shadows, but the boss' deep voice came rolling through.
"...who is that?"
"U-uh just a passenger sir," said Lirem, "we're just, doing a job on the side, we woulda cleared it with you but-"
"Lirem Hallaher...you are a terrible liar."
"These guys saved my life," said James, "because I was the one that brought those assholes to your concert."
"...so, you are to blame for disrupting the first...gig...that these reprobates have managed to obtain in months."
"Listen, I'm real sorry, I didn't know where I was going and I just stumbled backstage, I was just trying to get away!"
"Ignorance and a lack of direction is not an excuse. Today's youth all suffer that problem."
"HEY, I'm thirty fucking years old, don't you tell me what's not an excuse!"
"Be quiet...why did you interrupt their concert so brusquely?"
"Because me and my friend here, we were trying to get away from the uh...Blood Pack guys right? They wanted to kill me and I just-we got lost and ended up backstage. I swear I didn't mean to mess up the place."
"So many people in this galaxy do not mean to do things. But once an act is committed, it is irreversible...and the damage shall remain to one's reputation when the Sole Calibrators cannot obtain another clean reasonable opportunity within the next year...if they are lucky."
"...what the fuck is your deal?"
"What?" said the boss.
"No, you know what, first you jump to conclusions, then you get pissy over nothing when you still got the money from this concert, so what if their reputation's a li'l tarnished, if anything I bet kids'll love them for how they managed to get out of a firefight without a scra-"
Everyone in the room balked from the sudden fury in the monitor's voice. James could see some strange appendages slithering in the darkness, before the monitor slowly began to glow with a light from the boss' room. James smirked with bemusement at who the band's employer was, despite the band turning away with cringing fear at seeing his true form. A hanar. A deep indigo jellyfish taller than a human being, not even able to speak but who everyone understood, due to the galactic translator somehow decoding bioluminescent signals. Even the krogan was curling up in his seat at the sour voice.
"You...are not in any position to argue with this one."
"Are you serious?"
"Because this one knows plenty about you-"
"What are you babbling about?"
"The guy that you're scared of is a fucking-"
Areh screamed out in panic to stop James from saying the word.
"Just...don't make him angry...please."
"What, no, how is this guy your boss?! How?! Is he psychic?! Can he just exploooode your head with a single STARE?! It doesn't matter because either way, you are way too worried about this band's reputation pal!"
"That is the least of your worries," said the hanar. "You are not privy to this conversation, you are a rude and petulant little whelp of whom this one shall not bother wasting time with, now-"
"Hey, these guys saved my life, how about THAT for reputation?"
"DO NOT. INTERRUPT. ME."
The hanar roared with a violent intense black, throbbing from within its luminescence as the purest fury vibrated the very air around the monitor. James was taken aback by such a powerful voice, or whatever passed for one as the hanar continued:
"I know what you are."
"You are not the easiest to lose in a crowd, especially when noted as one most unusual dissident within Citadel Security logs, of which this one has kept a steady watch on. A vagrant such as you will not go amiss in this galaxy...but can just as easily disappear."
"Hmph, so you some kind of hacker are ya? Lookin' round all the little security cameras that others see, well fine, whatever, that doesn't make you have any power over me."
"Did you know that C-Sec hold a record of archives involving all missing persons that have ever passed through their gates? Over the entire history of their recorded origins, they have kept note of each and every newcomer that pass into the Citadel, but whom were never able to leave through...unfortunate circumstances. Do you know how many of those missing people there are?"
"I don't...know, what?"
"Precisely. You don't."
Somehow the hanar managed to stare directly towards him, despite having no actual face and its front only indicated by a probing end of its amorphous body. Yet it stared with such vitriol into a glowering blood-red, that it thickened through his very body as his voice turned bitter, like a river of ash.
"And if you dare interrupt me again, then you shall join those lost souls for the rest of your short, miserable life as nothing more than a footnote, which is more than you will ever be. Do I make myself clear...James Robert Campbell?"
"Good. Now, sit over there, outside of the monitor's view."
His words got through to him at last, the raptor backing out and sitting shakily into a chair the hanar pointed out to before the meeting resumed once more.
"Y-yeah?" replied both turians.
"You may have a chance yet to redeem yourselves after your...unprofessional exit. This one has heard news of a possible hostage situation about to occur, somewhere in the Antaeus system within the Hades Gamma cluster. This will be your next mission, the facts of which has been sent to your terminal."
"As for your stowaways, find some use for them. This ship does not run on lethargy as fuel, and any parts of it that do not work...should be seen as defective. Do I make myself clear?"
"Good. This one shall report back to you after hearing news of your mission."
The monitor faded out, as the crew sighed with immense relief at having dealt with him at last before turning over towards James, the raptor shivering to himself before also sighing with relief.
"Not the best first impression I admit," said Norem. "But he's had worse to deal with."
"Wh-who the fuck was that guy?! H-how did he know my name, my FULL name even!?"
"That was our boss, Arutulelan. He's the one keeping us alive with finances and gigs and...jobs of some sort. And he probably knew who you were because he's the kind of guy that can somehow find his way into C-Sec databases and look up the most recent on archives. Don't ask."
"What kind of jobs?" asked Leiah nervously from outside the room. "And what was he saying about a hostage situation?!"
"Haven't you had enough eavesdropping?" asked Areh sarcastically.
"Well, yeah, but now I'm just asking stuff I already know, right?"
"...ugh, Jaaaax, you coulda told them to stay in their rooms."
"My bad," said the krogan with hands up, "kinda slipped my mind, didn't think we'd have a buncha sneaks on our ship."
"Okay look," said Leiah, "I know that was really bad of me especially after all you've done for us, but you guys were all nervous about your boss I just thought maybe we could help explain the situation! That and...we were really curious."
"YOU were curious," said FG, "I was sleeping."
"But, you-don't give me that! You weren't threatened to be erased from existence by a fucking blooper!"
"WHATEVER, jellyfish...thing that just made me nearly shit myself and I don't know why!"
"Yeah he does that," said Lirem. "Kinda why he's good at this, nobody wants to fuck with him. Which means...that if you're gonna be on this ship, that means you're gonna have to do some work. Now don't worry, we're not gonna make you slave away at things, just enough for us to say that you did your part. Plus a little help around the place wouldn't hurt to pay your way."
"Uhhh okay," replied Leiah, "sure, we can help out, it's the least we can do."
"I guess I wouldn't mind," added James, "not got a lot to do right now so might as well help out. Actually...I saw you guys had a bar back there, maybe I can help out on that."
"And I can fix things! Cuz, you know, quarian."
"Thanks but that job's taken," said Areh waving to her, "though I wouldn't mind a pair of hands that knows what they're doing if I have to repair something."
"Sure! Areh right?"
"Yeah, um...Leiah was it? Sorry about before, I was just...stressed out."
"Hehe, it's okay, no worries."
The two quarians shook hands smiling to each other, the others around them smirking at such an encounter as Jax said teasingly:
"Awwww you made a friend."
"Shut up," said Areh. "We better get on with this mission the boss wants us to do."
"Sure, put it up on the screen."
"...uh...should we have these two in the room with us, it IS confidential info."
"Oh yeah, hold on. Hey, you two."
Jax turned towards both Leiah and James who stood deeply within his shadow.
"Either of you two breathe a word about anything we do, I'll punch you out the airlock, got it?"
"I can see you're the negotiator," said FG snarkily, "you're a real poet aren't you?"
"Heh...actions...speak louder than words."
"Oh...I know they do. But don't worry, we won't breathe a word to anyone, promise."
"...are you twelve?"
"No, I'm four-hundred-and-fifty, whut's yer point?"
"Just...wait, seriously? Fine, pinkie promise, I don't wanna get kicked off or be a dick so I'll do what you guys want."
The krogan simply turned back towards Areh, leaving James to hold up his third claw in the air, looking rather confused and uncertain before putting it back down as Areh put up their mission orders. Scrolling amber print read thusly upon the large screen, which each of them was able to read in their own language by some sort of malleable omni-tool link that translated to them directly. James even got to read it on his own omni-tool in English, reading:
Quarian Renegade Reports
A small group of renegade quarians have been reported around the Hades Gamma cluster, harassing ships in transit. A few days ago, a delivery ship that was en route to Benning had its tracking signal disappear around this area, carrying various parts and materials used normally in ship building.
It is presumed with great certainty from various traffic reports, that this quarian renegade group have taken it hostage, and will levy some sort of ransom or bargain towards the right buyer.
A delegate of the Migrant Fleet will be notified should this mission be successful, and it is imperative that this mission be treated as a non-lethal assault. The more of this group that are taken alive, the more grateful the Migrant Fleet shall be for the opportunity to exercise their justice upon them, in an appropriate manner.[/b]
"Quarian renegades huh?" said Lirem. "That's a toughie."
"Whysat?" asked FG.
"Well they said non-lethal, I uh...normally a good shot in the leg or two'll incapacitate anyone, but quarians...well, one tear in that suit and they're dead within the hour or so if that ain't properly treated."
"We're not THAT weak," said Leiah flippantly, "we just...can't handle open wounds very well, they get so easily infected but you do know these suits of ours can seal off infected areas right?"
"Oh yeah course, but yanno, have to be way more careful about where you shoot if you wanna incapacitate a quarian."
"God," said FG, "bathrooms must be a nightmare for you."
Leiah turned her head slowly towards him.
"...why was that the FIRST thing that came to your mind?"
"I dunno! Just, sanitising and shit, I was thinking about handwash I swear!"
"Suuuure you were...anyways, um, this is all you guys sooooo, you don't need us right?"
"Nope," said Lirem, "not at all. These missions are ours."
"Actually hold up," said James, "you guys are a rock band, aren't you? What the hell you doing taking on hostage situations?!"
"Thought it'd be obvious by now but well...basically we do on-the-side jobs that involve a little...sneaking around outside the law's boundaries, if you catch my drift, mainly to pay our way through the galaxy."
"But...this isn't stealing a ship or killing a guy, this is taking out a hostage situation, how's that a bad thing?"
"Yeah but we're not the authorities, and we don't quite have the rights to do it. But no one else will, and we got the experience for it, we're a good team together, what more you want? Nobody bothers asking so long as they get what they want."
"Don't ask don't tell," said Areh. "...I think that's a human saying but it kinda fits here."
"But why are you doing this?" asked Leiah. "This all sounds really dangerous for...well, a rock band, is this just for money?"
"Pretty much," said Norem. "We got a lot of debts to pay off, both to the boss and a buncha loan sharks all over the galaxy. Good thing the boss always picks the good kind of missions."
"And what missions are those?"
"The kind where you get to be a hero."
The turians fistbumped each other with a small grin as James just smirked with a chuckle. Immediately he understood saying:
"Alright, no problem I guess, you guys do your own thing and uh, maybe we can help you out around the ship. I'm still kinda curious about that bar over there."
"Yeah?" asked the krogan. "Whysat?"
"Because I used to be a bartender. Worked in one place for about eight years, then there was a coffee bar for about a year, then there was a gay bar for like four years-"
"Wait, gay bar?"
"Hey a job's a job, right?"
"Depends on if ya suck or blow."
Areh failed to stifle a giggling fit for a few seconds before composing himself, the raptor rolling his eyes before adding:
"Point is I've been working bars most of my life, so I'm pretty good at mixing drinks."
Lirem rubbed his chin thoughtfully, his three-fingered hand stroking along the red vertical marks seemingly painted on both his and his brother's cheeks to match.
"Having our own bartender WOULD be pretty rad...how about you show off what you can do before we hire you on though? Don't wanna end up with a dud I mean."
"Sure, show me the bar and I'll make you something good."
"Alright, let's set coordinates to Antaeus and uh, get a li'l drink on the way huh?"
Norem headed over to the cockpit with Areh'Narohl, the two sitting into seats as both pilot and copilot respectively as they plotted their course with a few taps upon the terminals. The screen faded away from its projection to be replaced by a wide-spanning map of the galaxy. A swirling myriad of stars and planets, tiny sparks of light flickering to catch their attention as spiralling blue arms unveiled to span the length of half the room. James could even see the individual clusters all spinning with each other, waltzing across the celestial floor of the stars above as they circled around a giant central whitened mass.
"Holy shiiiiit," murmured James, "that...that's our galaxy?"
"Yep," said Lirem. "Hah, you sound like you never been up in space before."
"Only once...and not in my own galaxy."
"Uh, never mind I'll explain this shit later, you uh...just do your thing."
"Whatever, let's see...Hades Gamma."
Lirem placed his hands upon the holograph galaxy and softly spun it like a sewing wheel, spindling out a small spool of stars that the map went into before focusing upon one particular cluster now highlighted. The Hades Gamma cluster was a transcendent ocean of bluish-white, with turquoise edges as if someone had melted a perfect crystal. James was fascinated by the interactive map, gasping with wonder in his eyes.
"You can find any planet in this?"
"If we've mapped it sure," said the turian, "lessee, Antaeus...there."
Touching on the southern quadrant of the starlight sea, the system known as Antaeus suddenly expanded into view. A lone glowing sun not unlike the one James knew from Earth, had six plants rotating around it as they made their course. Soon the ship suddenly throbbed with life, smooth yet filled with power as they launched off to their destination. Norem and Areh kept in their seats to guide their course, the window now covered in a fraying blue streak of light from the force of their movement.
"This is one smooth ship," said Leiah. "For a privately-owned family home anyway."
"What can I say," said Lirem, "guy who had it had good taste. Shame he didn't have good sense but hey, dibs on the sweet ride am I right? Now you two just sit back and uh...watch us work like real professionals."
"You don't need any help?" asked FG. "I mean me and Leiah are pretty good with guns."
"No offence but, this is a delicate hostage situation plus you don't have any armour."
"Aw come on, me and Leiah could help you out in your missions, we'd be useful!"
"No way, maybe I might need Leiah sometime if say, Areh was unavailable or something, but you are way too much a liability. I mean you got one in your shoulder from when we escaped."
"Yeah but, slap some medi-gel on there and it's fine, I didn't even realise until you told me."
"Still, if you actually wanna help us out in future for something like this, you better have some armour on ya."
"You don't got any I can borrow?"
"...no offence, again, but...you really think any of us have armour that fit you? I mean come on, that tail, what's up with that?"
The raptor waved his tail behind him self-consciously, feeling rather nervous all of a sudden.
"It's...my tail, what's your problem?"
"Nobody else in the galaxy has a tail like that, you need to get some customised armour, and there's plenty of those out in the galaxy who'll make one for ya. Tell ya what, if you really wanna help out with a few easy run-and-gun missions we might get, then you get some armour and we might work something out...alright?"
"I guess that's fair, sure. Now how about some drinks? They're on me."
"Sounds good! Nor, Areh, you need anything?"
"We're good thanks," said Norem. "Try not to choke when he serves you the wrong drink."
"Don't worry, I left my stuff to you in my will."
"Oh good...more useless stuff, thanks bro."
"Shut up...come on uh...what was yer name again?"
"Right, James, let's see how good you can handle a shot glass."
"Oh he can handle it all right," said Leiah teasingly, "just don't show the back of your head."
James simply facepalmed and said nothing, heading towards the bar with Leiah, Lirem and Jax who decided to tag along out of curiosity.
In the span of an entire week, James and Leiah made themselves useful onboard the Centurion Eagle while on their way to Antaeus. James was fascinated by the speed that they were heading, hearing from Norem that most ships travelled a dozen light years per day on average, depending on the size of the FTL drive that a ship contained. Being not very knowledgeable on the sciences, he was given some help in understanding through Leiah who thankfully managed to summarise things easily.
He did make himself at home however within the ship's bar, running around with various drinks the crew asked of him, and somehow managing to please them always with near-perfect blends. Even with the biochemical barrier known as dextro-amino acids that were prevalent within turians and quarians, he still had his highly tuned sense of smell where alcohol was concerned. The drinks in the bar were well spaced so as not to confuse them, and as a result were incredibly easy to access, mix and serve. The results among the crew were unanimous with approval.
In return James explained where he was from, or rather that he was not of this galaxy and was looking for a way home, explaining his personal quest in wanting to find someone capable of inter-dimensional space travel. The crew took it surprisingly well, with Leiah supporting his words in case of any doubt among them which was strangely not existent.
"If you said that a few months ago," said Areh'Narohl, "I wouldn't believe you. But after the reapers and everything, yeah...I can believe anything now."
"Wait, reapers?" asked FG. "The hell are those?"
"How...do you not even-oh, right, not from this galaxy, wow you MUST be telling the truth to not know that."
"Or be on the council," said Lirem snarkily. "Oh, hold up, we just entered Antaeus."
Soon they reached Antaeus, a resplendent system of six planets of which they easily managed to scan out the offending rogue ship they had been searching for. While not of quarian design, the signatures matched up in the reports of it, especially when it was sitting right next to another ship of a human designation. Lirem gathered the crew in the briefing room at the cockpit, after the ship got as close as possible without being detected.
"Alright, we're here. Now we have to do this nice and easy, no kills if possible so we can get a bigger reward from the Migrant Fleet. Norem, that means you gotta use a lot of concussives."
"No prob," said Norem.
"Areh, how you wanna play this?"
"I'm thinking a ghost shuttle ploy," said the quarian, "glide in, hide, use an EMP blast covering the dock area to disable any security while you two head on in and...yanno, do your thing."
"Sounds good," said Lirem. "You hang back on the ship and uh, why don't we show our friends here with a little first-person shooting?"
"Wait what?" asked James.
"Consider it our way of saying thanks for the martinis you made...seriously those things are amazing, how did you even make those?"
"Welllll I dunno the drinks exactly but I do know them enough by smell to handle anything, I kinda give them my own names so..."
"Hah, you must have the nose of an elcor cuz you're a real master with drinks."
The raptor grinned smugly at the compliment, as the turians went to suit up their armour and weapons fully with Areh following them. Despite having the same colours as the clothes they wore during their concert, they had a much more solid set of armour for their apparent mercenary jobs on the side. Lirem in orange and black wielding a fine-steeled assault rifle, Norem in dark green and black with a beautifully steel-blue sniper rifle. They headed down through one corridor that James had not been shown through, deciding not to follow them as Jax motioned him over.
"Cummere you two. Take a look at this."
He pointed over towards two monitors on the panel of various other consoles, showing a first-person view from both Lirem and Norem's perspective. James saw the corridor of the ship they were on expand deeper into the downward reaches through a small elevator that lead out into a surprisingly large hangar area, too large from their perspective.
"Holy shit you guys have a hangar?!"
"Yep!" said Jax proudly. "Not much in it though, just two shuttles and a tank, nothing much."
"Oh right right-wait, tank?! You have a TANK!?"
Pointing towards Lirem's monitor, a large multi-wheeled grey armoured carrier stood waiting and ready at one side of the bay, the boxy rectangular wide area giving plenty of space for each vehicle. Various toolkits and desktops for fixing small parts were around the area, a surprisingly professional-looking setup for a ship such as this. The shuttles themselves were familiar, both being the same design that rescued them from the auditorium. Lirem and Norem hopped in, with Norem taking up the driver's seat while his brother argued:
"Hey it's my turn to drive."
"It's never your turn to drive," said Norem, "and you know why."
"It wasn't my fault, the buttons were sticky!"
"Sure they were, come on let's go."
Flying their shuttle out with a flick of a few switches, the turians readied themselves for flight as Areh stayed behind, activating the airlock for them through a timer in a sealed section of the hangar once they were ready. He had also given them a few items which James briefly caught a glimpse of being passed between hands as the shuttle veered into space, heading towards the two docked ships. The larger vessels loomed into view, the human one being a boxy cargo transport while the quarian renegades' ship had a mangled yet oddly sleek design.
Lirem checked his rifle one more time to make sure it was prepped, having already examined it seven times back on the ship as Areh's voice and face soon came over on their intercom, hailing to their omni-tools.
"Okay, you're approaching the connecting dock between ships. I've managed to weaken the mass effect field enough on your shuttle once you approach it so you can just slip right on in without resistance. Once you're in, you need to set off the EMP blast in the hangar bay to knock out all security that might be there. It'll only work for a few seconds, so that's your chance to run in and scope out."
"No worries," said Lirem, "this mission'll be like...like-"
"Taking candy from a brother?"
"...that's not how the saying goes, Nor."
"Who said it was a saying?"
"Look for the last time I said I was sorry, I didn't know that it was yours!"
"Who else had a damn candy bar from Taetrus BUT you and me?"
"I thought I just forgot about it, I bought you another one! Two even!"
"I forgive you...but I never forget."
"What are you, Areh?"
"I heard that," said Areh flatly. "Seriously Norem, it's one candy bar, what's your deal?"
"When you have brothers," replied Norem, "then you'll understand. You getting any readings on how many on each ship?"
"No, not yet. Seems like only two people are on the quarians' ship, probably the pilot and copilot. I can't tell how many are on the human ship though, this scanner on the shuttle can't read species apart."
"Good thing you're not flying a racist vehicle then," said FG over intercom.
"Hah," said Lirem, "nice. Alright, we're landing in three...two...one."
As soon as the shuttle landed within the hangar bay, which was opened with a bridge connecting from between both ships, the brothers immediately threw out the EMP blast like it were a grenade. A disturbingly small puck-shaped thing that suddenly exploded with a blinding white light, shattering a few lighting fixtures that overloaded and showered sparks upon the steel-blue floor.
One of the quarian renegades higher up on the ship, guarding the security station that gave him a full view of the entire ship's passages, saw one of the monitors start fizzing out into static. The large console, while only showing six monitors for such a small ship, was of silver and orange design, keeping tabs on the major areas of the ship. He called on his omnitool:
"Jeek, something's up in the hangar bay! Some kinda shuttle landed and the monitor got screwed up, send some guys down there!"
A few minutes later, two quarians in red and yellow slowly made their way into the hangar bay. The very source of their bargaining was piled up around them, welded crates filled with important parts for ship design and repair that almost closed in around them, leading out like a hallway towards the bay door. A blue shuttle sleekly sat before them, the quarians holding shotguns out in front as they made their way towards it, reporting to their superior.
"Lar here, security was right, shuttle just landed here."
"Recognise its designation?" asked his comm.
"Uh...not...really, definitely not a military vehicle. Looks like a civilian's, we expecting anybody?"
"Nope. The camera's back on now, not sure what happened but anyone in it?"
"...nope, it's open and everything though, like it just landed here."
"Keep watch then...definitely suspicious, report back to me in five minutes."
The moment the comms were off, two shadows flitted across the crates, skirting round the two quarians standing guard in front of the shuttle. Were they more attentive in looking upwards, they would have noticed a tiny orange light flickering beside the security camera that gave a clearer view of the hangar, tenderly upon the hand of a turian that was deciphering its origin signal. Once he obtained it, he snuck away and off towards the entrance of the hangar bay, a small muted explosion sounding off behind the shuttle out of sight to frighten the two guards.
"WH-what was that?!"
"S-sounded like...did that shuttle just blow a panel or something?!"
"Wh-what if it's a bomb, what if somebody rigged it to blow?!"
"Y-y-stop that, you're making me nervous!"
"BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!"
"I-i-i dunno, I-"
"Call the boss, do it!"
"NO, we're gonna check this cuz if we make a bomb scare and it doesn't turn out to be one, he's gonna get pissed!"
In the time they argued with each other, they never noticed the doors opening from beyond the crates as two lean shadowy figures snuck in through to the hallway. Lirem and Norem hid in the doorway, out of sight from anyone before making sure the coast was clear. From the first-person view of their headcam, situated upon a visor that only covered one eye like a targeting reticule, it was disorienting to say the least to see two monitors with the same room, occasionally seeing the face behind the other at a glance to each other.
"We're in," murmured Lirem, "Norem got the signal and we're heading up to security."
"Got it," said Areh, "your scanners working?"
"Yeah, but they only cover the room ahead of us so we gotta work fast. Norem, you take out any stragglers I can't get, I'll handle the up-close and personal."
His brother nodded as they made their way into the first room, a maintenance area of sorts for handling all repairs around the ship with several workbenches lined along the walls. No one was inside, but it did give them access towards a ventilation shaft high up that the two made use of. Piling up several boxes, they quickly undid the vent covering with some omnitool tech before sneaking in, crawling in the general direction towards the camera's origin signal.
"We're up in the vents," said Lirem, "heading towards security now."
"That's good," said Areh, "your scanner should pick up any guys below you so you can get a good idea of how many there are."
"...that was also totally planned yes."
"You never plan anything," said Norem, "that's why you make a good leader."
"Pfft, thanks bro."
After what felt like 15 minutes of traipsing through painstakingly long vents that twisted and turned into other sectors of the ship, they found the security room. Only one quarian was in it, whom Lirem readily landed on hard in a clattering of noise before butting the back of his head with his rifle. Knocking the quarian out cold, he bundled him into a corner and waited for any approaching enemies to investigate the noise. Eventually one hapless guard wandered in, receiving a hefty blow to the back of his head in turn from Norem, who hid beside the door ready to strike.
"Alright we're at the monitor," said Lirem, "how do we shut it off?"
"First download a code sample from the monitor."
The turian swiftly downloaded a fragment from the security console, a basic analysis of the coding language that it used which Areh soon received. The quarian back on the ship snorted with derision, as both turians looked over the monitors to try and see where their prime target was. A group of humans were sat down on the cargo ship's bridge, forcefully restrained by their captors as Areh said:
"Pfft wow...that's...seriously, that's what you set your system up with?! That's like basic coding 101!"
"It is?" asked Lirem. "Looks like a buncha numbers to me."
"It's all about how they're structured, these guys are not professional at all. I recognise this pattern, just...keelah how STUPID are these people...there, done."
"Wow, that was your fastest yet."
"Maybe if they actually used something that WASN'T the coding equivalent of a square peg into a square hole, that might have taken me a bit. Just upload my transmission into the monitor and the security'll shut down fast."
"Wait, what about door lockdown codes, we'll need them."
"Trust me, I've seen what they use for coding and even I can make a better lock-code than them. I mean, I could write a PAMPHLET more complex than this shit!"
Ignoring the sniggering from the three others back on the cockpit, Lirem did as he was told by placing his omni-tool once again on the console, uploading the new code transmission which caused a sudden forced shutdown. The security went down hard, the monitors flickering out of existence to leave nothing but a dark empty panel station. With their greatest eyes now blinded, they had no problems left in navigating from room to room towards the bridge.
Scoping out each new room which never had more than two guards, using a combination of stealthy cover, brute-forced punches and the odd concussive snipe from long-range, they managed to kill not a single quarian out of the seventeen they faced. The bridge was soon found on the upper level of the main area, a diamond-shaped layout of hallways spiralling up towards the bridge in a series of three level walkways. Lirem noted the five quarians that were oblivious within, amongst the fifteen humans who sat shivering.
Crouching against one side of the door, he said to Norem:
"Okay, both of us overload on the main guy and we find some cover, I saw two panels we can use on either side of this door."
"Good, hostages not in the way?"
"They're all at the far end of the bridge next to the quarians, so we have to be careful. No piercing shots."
"Areh, you got that door coding for us?"
"Sure do," said Areh. "Patching it through now."
"Good. Alright, ready bro?"
In one movement, they charged in together as they opened the door, both of them firing out a blast of blue sparks from their hands straight towards the quarian leader. In a few seconds chaos reigned briefly, as the head of the group suddenly spasmed in agony from a double-shot of overloading power surge, screaming as he fell to the floor. The other four quarians suddenly turned and fired at the door, while the turians ducked behind the two console panels on either side of the room's exit.
The bridge was rather open in its design, blastproof windows lining the wall ahead with a giant row of consoles all correlating to navigation, with two seats designated for pilot and copilot in the centre of the room. It was oddly spacious for a bridge, at least to the turians who saw a large unused space to their left in the form of a blank wall, the right wall being filled with various panels showing the ship's general stability. The human hostages panicked at the gunfire, cowering to the floor as the head quarian stood up once again.
He was the only quarian so far to actually be wearing proper armour, a dark amethyst colour while wielding an unusual-looking silver rifle that shimmered with a blue light. Clutching his chest heavily, he rode out the last of the surging spasms shouting:
"WHO'S THERE?! COME OUT NOW, UNLESS YOU WANT THESE HOSTAGES DEAD!"
"Try it!" said Lirem. "Then you lose your only bargaining chip for when the REAL forces arrive!"
"Wha-...wh-who are you?!"
"The scouting party, that's who! There's only two of us and five of you, you wanna chance risking your hostage card on something small like us?"
"Whoever you are, you've got no right to be here!"
"Look who's talking!" said Norem. "I think those humans would say the same!"
"...SHOOT 'EM! CALL FOR BACKUP!"
"Oh no ya don't!"
Norem readily sent out Areh's door code which locked down the door to the bridge, completely sealing them in with a red light upon the interface.
"Just you and us here, no backup! Why don't you show us how you suit rats really fight?!"
"KILL 'EM! DON'T HURT THE HOSTAGES, THEY'RE NOT WORTH IT!"
With that insult setting alight, the quarians readily fired upon the two panels with two shotguns, two pistols and one assault rifle all bearing down upon them. The turians were thankful that ship consoles were built so sturdily, as they waited for a lull in the gunfire before popping out to shoot back. At this point they were less concerned with no casualties if the situation demanded otherwise. Lirem however assisted with suppressing fire, not shooting directly at the quarians but shooting close enough in order to make them panic or dodge the other way.
He was herding them, guiding them with his firing spread but never actually wounding them. Now and again he would overload them from afar, sparking out a remote power surge that made them halt in their tracks briefly with nerve-deadening numbness. Just enough to make them stop before a wall or column for Norem to fire, the concussive shot blasting them against the solid surface hard enough to knock them out, through the use of the mostly non-lethal high-powered round that aimed to stun rather than wound.
In the midst of shots firing across both sides of the room, none of which managed to hit any of the hostages thankfully, James watched from the turians' first-person feed that gave them full view of the action. Leiah was amazed by the precision of the two brothers, the way one lead the other before being taken down with a hard concussion to the head. It wasn't long until only three remained fighting back.
"How the hell are they so good at this?" asked FG. "They're like fucking military!"
"Um, they are," said Areh.
"You know, turians?"
"Oh, right, okay most if not all turians are trained in the military, they're like signed on at the age of fifteen and have to work for the state in some way."
"Wait, seriously, they got like national service?"
"I'm pretty sure all turians are trained in how to protect their homes, you don't mess with those guys, they DO have like the largest military fleet in the galaxy."
"Right...still this shit's impressive, they haven't killed a guy yet."
"Ugh I hate these missions," said Jax. "Ruins my immersion."
The krogan looked rather sheepish before chuckling nervously.
"...sometimes I like to hold something an' pretend I'm playing a videogame shootin' bad guys."
"Pfft that's nothing," said Areh, "remember Operation Pluto?"
"THAT WAS THE BEST DAY EVER!"
"It SO was!"
"When Lirem like, totally pumped an entire clip right into that guy's chest! MAN that was sick!"
"Oh yeah yeah, the graphics are totally realistic now, it's amazing what they can produce."
Leiah looked at the two with a slow cock to one side of her head, asking:
"...what is wrong with you two?"
"...we're desensitised to violence since birth?" said Areh unconvincingly.
"Wait birth?!" replied Jax. "HAH, you wish, that shit's natural for a krogan!"
"Suuuure is...OH, hey there's one left now!"
They all turned their attention back towards the monitor, a showdown between the turians and the well-armoured quarian leader now standing on his own. His assault rifle was certainly lethal, firing down on Lirem who ducked behind a metal column, trying to draw the enemy's fire while his brother snuck around behind him. But this quarian was much smarter, or more paranoid as he turned and fired a violent spread across the walls, almost catching Norem in both arms had he not forced himself down onto the floor, laying on his side with sniper rifle pointed practically blank-range.
Lirem however blasted an overload shock into the quarian's back, making him shriek and turn with a furious volley. His back was perfectly exposed as Norem whispered something to himself.
"Ready the bassline."
With his eye suddenly focused, he clicked a new setting on his sniper rifle and aimed without scope. The moment he fired, his round was covered in a deep humming warp-like effect that surrounded it thickly, the concussive reverberations shuddering the deepest vibrations through space. One shot was all it took to crack through the quarian's armour, and send him flying hard down onto the floor. Right in front of Lirem's feet, who aimed his rifle straight down upon the leader's head.
"So much for the five of you. Now...what say we give your folks back home a call and tell them what you've been up to hmm?"