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Operation: Warden


"No...that one is right, that one is no longer chief and in forty eight hours time this one would have been in a different unit anyway" though that wasn't going to happen now, 3rd Recon may have been a little loose when it came to regulations but they wouldn't take on somebody that had been discharged "As for getting back at those that betrayed us... this one will see to that" Jacquen said with a hiss, running his tongue across the wound on his hand his voice and manner making it perfectly clear how he intended to do just that.
When the shuttle came to a halt outside of the Void Warden's airlock Jacquen disembarked with the others snarling at the guards as he passed them. Entering his quarters Jacquen strips out of his uniform and into the clothes he worn the day he had signed up trousers, waistcoat and bracers all made from animal skins unknown to humans and tight fitting so as not to snag on anything, across his chest he hung a bandolier though the majority of the items that had once resided within its pouches were now long gone.
Collecting his knives he strides out of the room leaving the door open as he went knowing that Frankenstein was more than capable of fending for himself, knowing that as much as it pained him to leave the cat behind that he couldn't bring him with him where he was bound.
Returning to the shuttle Jacquen once again sits down and waits for the others to return eager to get his plans for this evening underway.


Sitting in the hard seat of the shuttle with an expression of sullen resignation, Jack barely listened to the plans of his comrades -- the disgraced former ODS 3. As they continued, Jack sat forward in his seat and rested his elbows upon his knees, staring down at the small FSD that appeared upon his arm. A pit began to form in his stomach, as he opened up one of the files.

"You're talking as if your life is continuing after this discharge. I don't understand that. You have to kill yourself in order to have any sort of honor left, now that you've been dishonorably discharged...so what is this talk of revenge? You won't be alive long enough to do it."

Those words echoed through Jack's head, as the FSD began to move, the memory replaying with perfect clarity.

A much younger, much happier Jack strode down one of the boulevards on Habitable Ring 18. This Ring was a business district mostly, humans, vortags, quarians and all manner of species milled about, going to and fro, stepping into shops and chatting with each other. Dressed in his full dress uniform, Jack walked with a spring in his step, his chest puffed out to display the emblem emblazoned upon his heart. Ahead of him, a couple humans piled into a vehicle parked and Jack had to stop. He used the time to kneel down and retie his left boot - the lace was beginning to loosen.

He knew not why he had to glance to his right at that very moment - through the window of a nearby store - but he did and his breath caught in his throat, a ragged gasp gurgling through. A Quarian stood behind the counter, a screwdriver in her hand, fiddling absently with some miscellaneous tech sitting on the counter before her. Jack did not control his feet as they moved him to the window, bumping into a woman talking excitedly at another woman who leaned against the side of the building, she scornfully told him to watch where he was going, but Jack didn't even reply or acknowledge her existence. Pressing his hands to the window and peering through them - to reduce the glare from the overhead track lighting - Jack stared at the Quarian as she began rifling through a box of parts sitting on the counter next to her.

The showroom was a very hard place to understand, everything was labeled, but in language so cryptic that it would take a legion of code breakers and a farmer's almanac to decipher even the most simple parts. Shining bits of tech sat in bins and out on surfaces, waiting for someone to come by and claim them. Plastered to the wall behind the counter the Quarian worked at was a poster of a fire breathing dinosaur of some kind, rearing up on its hind legs and waving its smallish arms in front of it.

As the newly oathed soldier watched her through the window - something she was too intent upon her tinkering to notice - the Quarian began to assemble the parts she required. Jack squinted his eyes to read the FSD that hovered in front of her heart, finally making out the word - printed in English - her name was Natasha. With a rapturous look upon his face, Jack watched her as she worked. With the store completely empty and all of her duties completed, Jack guessed there was nothing better to do while she waited. The bit of metal in front of her began to take shape, almost magically, as Natasha played with it.

The bustle on the sidewalk began to die down, but Jack didn't notice as slowly an hour passed.

Finally, the Quarian picked it up and took a small chip from the counter beside her, sliding it inside and placing it on the counter. A small, mechanical version of the fiery dinosaur adorning the poster now crawled across the counter in front of her. Bobbing up and down and clapping her hands in victory, she watched her creation make its way to the edge of the counter and then turn around to walk back to her.

Jack had to meet her.

The jostling of the shuttle bumping up against the airlock of the Void's Warden woke Jack from his stupor. Bracing himself against the arms of the chair, Jack levered himself upright and walked out the airlock with the rest of his crew. He went down to his birthing compartment and retrieved his meager possessions.

Returning to the shuttle, Jack sat down as they others slowly made their way back.

Once all were back in the shuttle, their few belongings arrayed about their persons, the shuttle left the Void's Warden, the humming sound of the engine almost drowning out all thought. Jack sat in his seat, and looked at the faces of his once-comrades. They all seemed to have their own plans, their own ways to maintain what little honor remained to them. Jack clutched at the black rucksack issued to him to dump his few things into, feeling a pair of socks through the thin fabric.

This was it. There was no more reason to fight, Jack thought as he sat the bag under his seat and looked at his hands. All he had wanted was a death in battle and once more the Collective had denied him. The numb returned to him, the numb feeling he had cloaked himself in for so long draping him in a cape of indifference.

But, suddenly, as Jack relaxed in his seat and awaited the shuttle to land, the engines suddenly died. The shuttle now floated suspended in space, slowly orbiting Eroes Prime. Jack looked out the dark window, looking for some reason for their abrupt stop, but none was apparent - as if he'd be able to see something wrong with the craft anyway. He was about to call to the others, when the hiss of the door to the pilot's cabin opening momentarily silenced all those in the shuttle.

Standing before them, wearing the uniform of a human councilor, a man stood. A tall man, standing well over six feet high in his designer shoes, he walked into the main compartment, looking around with gentle brown eyes that made you want to trust him. Large, muscular hands reached out for Lieutenant Rolf's hand and shook it intensely as the man introduced himself "I am Councilor Hayes - formerly Captain Hayes, Collective - and it is a wonderful pleasure to meet you men."

Councilor Bryant Hayes - the second of the two human councilors in the Collective - elected Councilor in years passed as an honest and upright individual, an old war horse so to speak. His coffee colored skin and kind dark eyes were likable, almost endearing, but the muscles that stood out upon his arms as he shook Rolf's hand made it apparent that he had not become soft due to his high lifestyle.

"First of all, I wish to extend to you my deepest and most sincere apologies for such humiliation." Hayes stood in the center of the compartment and addressed all members of ODS 3 "Kevin Fowler is a snake in the grass, the only reason he ever made it this far was because humanity needs a good politician, and that is one thing he is very good at.

"Secondly, I have a proposition for all of you. One that you will all find compelling."
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Rolf smiled warmly at the support he was getting. He felt that together, they would be able to get their names cleared, their records reinstated, and Adaris, Wentworth, the Council, and all others involved in this conspiracy exposed and dismissed from duty. “I’m glad to hear this. You’re all fine soldiers, and I feel honoured to have led all of you. Whatever is said about multiple species not being able to work together is wrong. We were the first step, and if it weren’t for this farce, we would have won the hearts and minds of the Collective, and proven that racist thoughts against any species being able to work with any other species are wrong. We would have ended prejudice throughout the ‘verse.

“As such, I’m very glad to hear that you’ll help me clear our names and honours.” After Rolf had finished speaking, he returned the salutes of the men, and noticed they had arrived at the airlock to the Void Warden. Rolf called up Lieutenant Sobel again. “Change of plans. Oh, you already have them gathered up? Alright. I’ll meet your delivery boy at airlock 4. Of course we’re still on for tomorrow. I won’t forget my UV goggles. Yes I remember what happened last time I was there. Bis später, James.” After his call was over, Trace walked up to him, and commended Rolf on the work he did.

“Thank you, Trace. I’m proud to have worked with you. You are an excellent soldier.” He then asked a question that surprised Rolf, until he remembered his readings of Kriken culture. “Well Trace, my life does continue after discharge. If this were a legitimate dishonourable discharge, then possibly not. But this was no fault of ours. Politics took our military careers away from us, not any wrong we did. We are guilty of nothing, and I must prove that. I know you feel as if you must commit suicide. In ancient Earth’s history, a group of warriors called Samurai felt the same way. But if they were dishonoured, as we were, they would take revenge, as I plan to do. I hope you will help me win our honour back.”

A few minutes after the talk, Rolf was greeting Private Daniel Oliver of ODS 2. He was carrying a sea bag, a rifle case, and 2 sheathed swords, all of Rolf’s possessions from the Warden in these three containers. “Danke, Private Oliver. Remain safe, and watch for scheming officers, especially Wentworth.” The private nodded. “Of course, Lieutenant. I’ll remain watchful.” Rolf gave the man a sad smile. “I’m not a lieutenant anymore, Private. But, thank you.” As Rolf turned to leave, Private Oliver gave Rolf a salute. “I believe you’ll return, Lieutenant.” Rolf nodded and returned the salute, then stepped onto the shuttle.

As the shuttle took off again, Rolf slipped on a black leather jacket and a pair of headphones. Some old Bowie began to issue forth from them. After a few songs, and wondering what Ilsa would do, the shuttle stopped, and seemed to hang in the air above Eroes Prime. Rolf took off his headphones, and reached for his groβe Messer, holding the sheath, ready to draw the weapon. The pilot door hissed open, and one of the least likely people stepped out. Councilor Hayes, a legend amongst the Collective soldiers, sailors, and airmen stood there, the real man, not a hologram. He reached out to Rolf, and shook his hand. Rolf noticed he still had a very firm handshake. Still a soldier at heart, that was good.

He wasn’t in on the conspiracy, it seemed, and he wanted to help the disgraced NI. “Of course, Councilor Hayes. It would be an honour and a privilege to receive any help you can give us. Now please, tell us of this plan you have. I believe you will be able to help us greatly, and may be our best chance at getting our honour back.”

Lord Regal

Well-Known Member
Trace had been deep in thought as to if these "Samurai", as Lieutenant Rolf had called them, were similar to the Kriken military. He called up knowledge of them on his EC, and found that in matters of honor, they were really quite similar. They weren't as good as the Krikens, but as far as humans could go, they were the closest a military had come to matching them.

His thoughts were interrupted by one of the human Collective men jumping on board the ship and saying he had a way for them to regain their honor. Lieutenant Rolf showed interest in the idea, and Trace came to a decision. He stood, and in his best military manner, he stated, "Unless my Planetary Commander in the Kriken Military requires me to return to his service, I shall follow Lieutenant Rolf. He...cleared matters for me, and has earned my respect for his skill at leading. I'll work with him to regain my honor." With that he sat down, resuming his former position and looking at the same spot on the floor, as though it was no big deal what he said.

Jacquen, across the way, looked at Trace. "This one requires more convincing that that one deserves this one's help. Continue, Councilor."


Smiling warmly, Councilor Hayes nodded at Rolf "Instead of telling you, what if I showed you?"

Before any could object, Hayes turned around and went back to the pilot's seat -- leaving the door wide open this time. In his long and illustrious career in the Collective Armed Services, Bryant Hayes had piloted, commanded and - at times - commandeered every kind of ship known to man. From small Mining Ships whose only weapons were the scoop used to dig the precious minerals from the ground and the pilots own fists, to hulking Man-Of-Wars with crews of thousands and Mass Accelerator Cannons capable of annihilating small moons.

The lightweight shuttle craft was nothing for the experienced flyer to handle. Working the controls like he was born with them attached, Hayes brought the shuttle's engines back online and the ship shot forward, pressing a few of its occupants back into their seats. As he flew the craft, Hayes spoke to the crew over the loudspeaker in the main compartment "Kevin Fowler is a damn fool. He thinks the scandal of a rogue Vanguard is worse than what would come if any of this were to get out, but he's never seen the kind of storm something like this can make. He's so soft he's transparent."

If any of the occupants were to look out of the window - towards Eroes Prime - they would have seen a pair of massive Freighters sluggishly come to rest in their respective bays - docking crews fitted in lightweight spacesuits scurrying about to make the bays ready for gravity to be restored. Hayes gently tipped the shuttle to allow a better view to the crew "The horrendous thing that no one thinks to ask is where all the cargo on those ships comes from. Most of it was assembled in sweat shops on uninhabited and unexplored worlds and then sold to giant corporations by front companies. That's right, most everything used here on Prime was made with slave labor."

The aircraft tipped away from the sight of the freighters once more and zipped between a few more of the giant ships laden down with goods, making for a small docking cradle that was now in view through the front window. The dock got larger and larger as Hayes sped toward it, just as those in the cabin thought Hayes was going to fly them right into the dock that poked out of Prime, like some blunt tipped spear, Hayes pulled upon the controls and the shuttle instantly decelerated, the rear of the ship carried forward by its momentum gently nudging the airlock. "I love doing that." Hayes said as he hit the button on his harness and the belt securing him in his seat retracted.

Hayes went to stand before the cabin's bay doors and waited until the airlock hissed open. He began to stride up the bare hallway nestled inside the airlock, to another set of doors, which he pushed open "This is my private docking bay, warehouse and - when my darling wife is angry with me - man cave." he said, pointing a thumb at a rather uncomfortable looking cot sitting in a corner.

The hallway opened up on a huge open space. Locked crates, boxes and containers lined every wall and stood high in tremendous overhead compartments. There were a few guards here and there, but none of them wore Collective insignia "My private guards" Hayes explained, as the group passed a pair of them sitting next to the airlock "They may not look like much, but I only hire the best, most of these men were Drop Troops, like you men. Others I found in Recon positions, still others I recruited from Private Military Companies back on Earth. Ah, here we are." Hayes swept his hand forward, like a man unveiling an artist unveiling a beautiful sculpture towards a nearby armor stand.

There were seven suits, standing up straight, their backs to them. Emblazoned in black across the shoulders of each suit were the words 'Warden' followed by the suit's respective owner; Helmfrid, Jefferson, Carlyle, Walker, Vortag, Trace and Vhassa. They were lightweight suits, not nearly as armored as their old ODS ones, the shoulder, knee, elbow and ankle joints were only wrapped in a thick black material that felt like some form of plastic to the touch. The armor plating itself was across the chest, legs and arms, fire red in color with black accents to all the muscle groups of their respective wearers. Hanging around the neck of each suit was a headset that was meant to go into the right ear, a microphone hanging down low to the throat and a visor coming across and over the right eye. Sitting at the feet of each suit was a large to small metal box, also with their owner's name on them. They looked formidable just standing there in the middle of the room, even without anyone wearing them, imagine how impressive the unit would look with all members suited.

"These" Hayes said, as he went to the closest one - Rolf's - "are the latest tech from the company who made your old battle armor. The armor is thick enough to withstand a triple burst from a heavy machine gun, but that is a last resort, as each suit also comes equipped with an invisible energy shield that will bend conventional rounds away from you, though any beam weapons are still a threat." Reach down, he lifted the leg of Rolf's suit and held the material that coated the joints up for their inspection "The material that holds it all together is flame ant, able to withstand heat upwards of four thousand degrees, though it will only offer the protection of an old Kevlar vest as far as damage protection goes."

Hayes knelt beside the relatively small case in front of Rolf's suit and flipped the latch that held it closed. "And inside these are the exact copies of anything you could not take from the Void's Warden. I used my Council status to take it the moment you left the ship to meet The Assembly. Not to mention this." Hayes opened a foam panel and took a small computer chip out of it "This is a small computer, it will plug into either the headset attached to your armor, or my technician can hard wire it directly to your EC from the flap behind your heads. It is the latest technology and will upgrade your standard military ECs, you will have instant extranet access to any website, database or system in the known universe, but it will also allow you to hack into security network and you each will be able to integrate seamlessly to the ship I have for you.

"Also on this chip is my express permission - Councillor permission - to perform any act you deem necessary to the advancement and eventual completion of your mission. If you chose to take this chip from the case you will be the first members of a group of warriors to be called Wardens. Do you accept this calling?" Hayes held the chip in his hand out to Rolf.


Frank sat a watched as the Councillor explained, some parts about the slavery Frank already knew, but the still shocked him how big the damage was. Frank followed Hayes into the hanger and listened to his explanation and at the end said "I'm in Sir, I would be honoured to be a Warden." Frank finished with a salute, "Rolf, I say you should accept this, it would be great if ODS 3 could end up finishing their original mission, to finish of the slavery in the realms of the Collective."


Tom stood there in awe as Hayes showed them the latest high-tech kit.
The stuff about slavery Tom partly knew about, Thropol III's main industry came from sweatshops.
Frank recommended that Rolf take up the assignment.
Tom stepped forwards and also saluted. "I agree with Frank, this is a most appealing opportunity."

Lord Regal

Well-Known Member
Behind his reflective visor, Trace made the Kriken's approximation of a smile. This was an excellent opportunity for him...not only would this elevate him past his previous status amongst The Collective, he could use the technology on the upgraded EC as a way to keep his Kriken military status, alleviating the need to kill himself to maintain his honor. This was perfect. However, he had agreed to follow Rolf, so he couldn't do anything until the Lieutenant accepted. He couldn't wait until he did so, as he now knew this was the way out for him...he needed this.


A few steps brought Jack around the armor with his name on it, to the large crate that sat before it. Kneeling, the disgraced trooper pressed his thumb to the rectangular screen on the side of the box, the computer reading his thumbprint and allowing the crate to open with a hiss. He knelt there, before the armor, and looked into the container. Inside were his weapons, the Rampart and the sidearm assigned him when he was issued his armor. With trembling fingers, Jack flipped the small foam compartment open and looked down at the chip nestled inside -- an upgrade to his EC.

Reaching inside, he picked up the tiny computer in his hand and held it in his palm. As the others watched, Jack stared at the device like an oracle searching for meaning in tea leaves. Behind his eyes, one could almost see the overwhelming despair that slumped his shoulders. After a minute had turned into five, Jack gingerly placed the chip back inside the crate, closing it inside quietly. He stood and shook his head no "I can't. I'm sorry."

A dumbfounded look crossed Councilor Hayes' face, as the man he'd given a chance at redemption went around the armor on offer. Finally, the slack-jawed look of complete amazement snapped and Hayes looked at Jack "Of course, son. The elevator that we passed will take you down to the habitable rings."

"Thank you, sir." Carlyle disappeared quickly from sight, slipping behind the nearest row of overhead compartments and going to the elevator. The doors opened automatically, without Jack even having to press the display hovering next to the double doors. As the doors closed behind him, Jack specified the ring he wanted - the ring where the apartment he hadn't been to since that horrible day - and, as the elevator saved the data, he leaned against the wall, shaking his head back and forth sorrowfully.

When Carlyle was out of sight, Hayes looked back at Rolf, a question in his eyes "What's the matter with him?"
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Frank replied to Hayes question having watched the proceedings with interest. "I don't know sir." He replied "but in the field of battle he threw himself into the fray with a savegery. It was almost as if he wanted to die. Maybe the stress of the day has been too much and he has reached a mental breaking point and is in shell shock. I've seen it happen to the toughest of soldiers before." Frank finished and sighed as he remembered when one of his mates had come back from a mission where everyone else had died and he had completed the mission alone. The man had tried to take his life two weeks later and had been honourably discharged to a shell-shock hospital to recover from his psychological condition.


Having resisted the urge to attack the councillor upon first seeing him back in the shuttle Jacquen could help but smile as he slowly walked around the armour stand, caressing its surface with his fingertips. It may not be the Talon company but Jacquen reckoned this would suit his purposes just nicely "This one will accept, this one is looking for vengeance" he stated simply.
However with Jacks sudden refusal and subsequent flight from the room Jacquen felt as confused as the councillor obviously did as Frank spoke of PTSD though Jacquen knew better. Without speaking to the others Jacquen went in pursuit of Jack, stopping at the single elevator long enough to discover Jacks destination before pulling open a maintenance hatch and climbing inside, with his contacts removed Jacquen found himself in a subterranean world of steel pipes and cables as he navigated himself through the maze of ducting before finally coming out several floors below.
With the room thankfully empty Jacquen was able to slip from out of the maintenance hatch and straight into another lift punching in the numbers in order to arrive upon the same floor as Jack where with any luck Jacquen would be able to catch up with his friend and talk him out of doing anything foolish.


For the first time ever, Jack prepared himself to let down the numb feeling he'd hidden in for so long. Standing in the elevator, watching the readout count down the Habitable Rings, Jack felt a lump rising in his throat the closer he got to Habitable Ring 18 -- the business district he found the apartment they lived in for those few happy years. On the way down, the readout briefly flashed the 55th Habitable Ring and Jack couldn't help but remember the day the ceremony had been performed, in the Garden Ring, almost smiling when he thought of how broke he'd been after the reception had been paid for, despite the dry feeling in his mouth and the unstoppable churning he felt in his stomach.

His elevator suddenly jolted to a stop on Ring 33 and the doors opened. A couple humans stood there waiting for the elevator and they stepped inside with him, chatting as if he didn't exist. They specified their destination and the elevator sped downward again. So the people wouldn't see the state he was in, Jack turned to the clear walls of the elevator tubes and looked out at each ring that passed. One ring was nothing but industry, huge refineries pumping and giant vehicles transferring goods from docked ships to waiting warehouses. Another ring was filled with some form of Alien life that looked vaguely like Jellyfish, and used their tentacles to control small ground cars that they got around in. Jack focused on these odd sights to keep himself from breaking down in front of the elevator's other inhabitants.

Finally the tube stopped and the people got off, walking off into the distance, still talking and laughing -- they probably never even realized he was there with them. Jack entered 18 again and returned to his journey, his journey home.

The churning - like an ocean being lashed by a hurricane - in his stomach only got stronger the closer he got to HR18. He wanted to throw up. Soon enough the elevator arrived on the 18th habitable ring. Habitable Ring 18 was a business district comprised mainly of aliens, Quarians, Vortags and any other race capable of calculus had some form of enterprise there. Street vendors sold knick knacks, touristy stuff, the kind of thing an overweight rural father back on Earth would wear around the house and drink beer in, Tshirts and hats. The buildings houses everything from Weapons Dealers to Supermarkets.

Jack exited the tube and leaned against a nearby wall. The sights and sound were so familiar to him that for a minute he could forget all that had happened, he could forget that horrible day that he knelt next to her for the final time, his hand briefly resting upon her cold cheek as the casket slowly closed and waited for the Quarian ship to take her back, back to her people -- to her mother and father, who blamed Jack for everything that happened. And maybe they're right.

He walked then, his feet remembering exactly how many steps it was from the tube to the sidewalk, then they took him to the window where it all had begun. Standing there before the window, vehicles whipping past ruffling the hair atop his head. Jack went to the window and put his hands to the glass, peering through them to cancel the glare of the street lights. His heart jumped before falling again, sitting behind the counter was another Quarian, she fiddled with a pad in her hand, and paid no attention to the few people in the store. Jack shook his head mournfully, the store had lost too, they had lost the most talented Tech they would ever see.

Turning away from the Quarian in the garish red bodysuit, Jack continued the walk.

After thirty minutes of walking, Jack finally arrived at the apartment he had shared with Tasha. Kneeling, Jack ran his hands across the grass that grew in the yard outside and thought about the times they would sit there, eat and talk. He stood and walked inside the complex. It was small, only about four apartments, each of them large enough to house a single family, the lobby was dotted with green growing plants.

A look of absolute astonishment crossed the face of the attendant who sat behind the service counter, the cigarette he held in the corner of his mouth fell to his lap and he had to brush it away quickly before it burnt him. He hadn't seen Jack in months, he suspected that the man would never return, and after what happened, he couldn't blame him if he didn't. He tried to call a welcome to him, but Jack didn't answer, he just mounted the flight of stairs that lead to the apartment, each step he took rang hollow and seemed to echo in the empty space.

Standing before the white sliding door to the apartment, Jack's hands shook uncontrollably at his side as he took the card that would slide into the door to make it open, written across the top were the names 'Jack and Natasha Carlyle'. He had to try three times before he fit the entry key into the slot and the door slid open. Jack just dropped the card to the ground and it tumbled end over end down the stairs before coming to rest on the floor of the lobby. His first step inside was shaky, as if just stepping over the threshold was the final nail on the proverbial coffin.

Just inside the door was a small decontamination chamber that stretched across the length of the doorway, Jack stepped inside and the sound of the door closing behind him was one of dreadful finality. As the decontamination process began, Jack knew that it was all over. He was dishonored, the family he had wanted so badly to build with her having died before even beginning. All that was left now, was the final member to fall. And as Jack stepped from the chamber and into his apartment, he knew what was to happen.

Letting his gaze run over their home one last time, Jack went through the living room. To the left of the door sat a pile a Quarian Bubble, a device that would allow an unsuited Quarian child to leave the house, though he would look rather like a hamster as he rolled down the street inside it. Natasha had taken such care in selecting the perfect one for the child they were to adopt, Jack's eyes filled with tears at the thought that it would never be used, that Tasha would never be able to pick the baby up to put him inside. On the mantle sitting against the far wall, were a bunch of real pictures, sitting inside frames. Pictures of them. Sitting central to all of them was a framed picture of her, this was one of the only pictures he had - that weren't saved for all time on his EC - where she wore no face mask, she beamed in the picture, her deep dark eyes proving the smile's authenticity her light hair pushed back from her forehead.

Jack went to their bedroom and sat down on the bed, staring at the mirrored closet for a long moment, before he slid the door open. The closet was full of baby supplies - as was the open room Jack had to pass to get to their bedroom - but for a shoe box that sat in the far corner. Jack unearthed the dented container, it made a rattling sound as he did so and lifted the top off. Inside was a conventional, projectile pistol, one he'd bought for Natasha, just in case she was ever home alone when someone broke in. Jack reverently picked the weapon up with the thumb and forefinger of each hand, laying out in his palms and admiring the perfect craftsmanship and the spiraling 'Tasha'Carlyle vas Eroes' that was engraved down the barrel. Jack thumbed the magazine down and checked it, just as he thought, the top round of the magazine was missing - Natasha always had been extra cautious. Jack replaced the magazine, and accessed his EC.

As Jack took the pistol in his right hand, letting his finger sliding gently across the trigger guard, he ordered his EC to begin cycling the memories he had never reopened, opening each and playing it again. The memory of their day was the first to open, Jack's eyes filled with tears and he let them fall, for the first time in the year since she had gone, Jack cried. Tears rolled down his cheeks in streams too large to stop, as he heard every word of the personal vows they wrote each other loud in his ear, the image being displayed, hovering in front of him. His shoulders bucked as he reached his thumb up and pulled back on the pistol's hammer, the sound almost drowning in the volume of the memory. The barrel pressed into the side of Jack's temple and almost painfully pushed into the sensitive skin there. Breathing heavily, Jack pulled the trigger. The hammer fell on the empty chamber and the magazine cycled in the first round of the magazine. He thumbed the hammer back again and readied himself to join her, just as the words 'I do' rang loud in his ears, pressing the gun to the side of his head for the second, and final time.
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Leaning against the wall of the elevator Jacquen silently urged it to move quicker as his eyes alternately flicked between the luminous numbers counting down the floors and the small speaker in the top corner; glaring irritably as it played canned muzak on a perpetual loop. Music as a rule didn't figure into Sicariun society in fact anything that could attract sixty tons of scaly death upon you and your clan was generally seen as a bad thing in Sicariun society where living to see the next moon cycle was the very epitome of life itself. Although some Sicariun's had developed a taste for the various songs and melodies introduced to them by the various races and cultures they had encountered whilst living in amongst the collective Jacquen still found nearly all forms of music highly unnecessary and deeply irritating amply demonstrated by his desire to tear the tiny speaker from its mounting and repeatedly stamp on it, only the CCTV camera in the opposite corner preventing him from doing so.
Feeling the lift come to a sudden stop he looks up at the numbers thinking that he had finally arrived only give out an irritated groan as the doors opened to admit a pair of officers the two young men giving the lone Sicariun a look of distaste as if he was some form of wild animal that could turn feral at any moment.
As the two of them began to mutter amongst themselves, Jacquen picking up the odd comment about his presence despite their best efforts to blank him out by keeping their voices low he began to ask himself why he was doing this.
Why was he risking his own position amongst the Wardens and his desire for vengeance by chasing after a human hell bent on taking his own life?, something that broke every law and taboo within Sicariun culture, the very thought of suicide causing a disgusted rage to bubble up within him. Why? Because Jack was the only being that Jacquen considered a friend that hadn’t gone to join the nightmother and that if he left him then he would once again be completely all alone without even the meagre companionship offered by a cat. Sure there were the others, colleagues and drinking buddies people he was...well not happy… but...content to spend his time with but Jack...Jack had been the only person within his entire time he'd spent within the collective that had treated him like a person and not a tool, a killing machine, an instrument of death to point and command to destroy what his masters deemed fit to join the nightmother no more a person than the knives hanging from his belt.
The lift stopped once again and the officers got off throwing him one last derisory look before the doors closed and continued there descent.

When the lift finally came to a stop Jacquen found himself in some kind of business district, his difference in appearance less noticeably as he moved in amongst the crowds of different species many of whom seemingly intent on selling him one thing or another as he made his way past them.
Forcing his way through the heaving mass of life forms he had almost given up all hope of locating Jack when he spots him walking through the doorway of an apartment block only a hundred metres or so away.
With his quarry in sight he picks up the pace no longer caring if he jostled the other beings around him or stepped on their toes in his haste to catch up with the human before he disappeared completely within the building.
Reaching the buildings entrance lobby he takes one look at the slightly confused security guard sat behind his desk and continues around the back of the building knowing full well that he wouldn’t be admitted inside, opting instead to take the fire escape.
Effortlessly leaping the distance between the ladder and the ground he hauls himself up the narrow steel ladder using his EC’s squad locater software to track Jack position within the building, he assumed that the fact that the military software on his EC still functioned was down to Hayes and his desire to recruit the disgraced drop crew.
Reaching the top of the ladder Jacquen shoves open the door only to be greeted by the shrill call of an alarm, cursing loudly in Sicariun he races down the hallway knowing that he only had a small amount of time before somebody came to investigate the noise.
Finding the door with Jacks name upon it he barges through it only to find himself trapped within some kind of airlock the door refusing to budge until some kind of decontamination program was complete. But he didn’t have time to wait, he could already see his friend through the single view port with the gun pressed against his head No you can’t do this! I am so close now! His mind screamed as he frantically pounded his fists against the accursed door stopping him from reaching his friend and the gun in his hand.
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It was right there. Jack could feel the tension on the pistol's trigger. One more slight pull of his index finger and it would all be over. One more action and the numb feeling would finally go away, the despair that he kept shoved into that dusty closet in his mind would be cleansed. One shot, one last bullet was all it would take and he could join her.

Jack began to pull the trigger back, though his hands shook with grief - not fear - and his heart raced. He could hear the metal of the gun rattling in his grasp, the wooden grips softly clattering against it. Sweat formed on his brow and ran down to mingle with the tears that fell in a waterfall from his face and soaked the front of the grey Collective undershirt.

Taking a deep breath - his last breath - into his lungs, Jack shoved the pistol hard into the side of his head and watched the memory fade, to be replaced by another, floating mote of despair in front of him. He was about to add the last ounce of pressure needed to slam the hammer down into the waiting cartridge and put his brains all over the far wall. Jack could see purple and crimson bits of him coating the bare wall, running together until it hit the floor and amassed into an unrecognizable lump there.

And suddenly, the alarms throughout the complex began to blare loud over every speaker and port. The sudden wailing that accompanied the opening of an unauthorized window and the screaming of the other inhabitants of the complex forced his reflexes to kick in and he unconsciously safed his finger on the trigger guard, pointing the gun towards his front door. Carlyle's breath caught in his throat, as he saw Jacquen in the view port of the decontamination chamber, slamming his hands against the glass, as if to bust the entire thing down.

In that moment, Jack looked down at the pistol in his hands, then up to the mantle in the living room, where Tasha's picture looked down at him -- he could almost feel disapproval beaming from it. "Not today." Jack mournfully sighed, as he stood from the bed, which made a creaking sound as he did so and went to the chamber's door. He still held the pistol at his side, as he went and looked at the decontamination chamber. There was a handle he could use in an emergency to unlock the thing and Jack almost put his hand on it, but then pulled it away -- as if someone entering without going through would sully this place he held so sacred.

As the door to the decontamination chamber opened, Jack reached over and closed his front door with a few swipes on a display against the wall "Come in, Jacquen, before the guard sees you and loses his mind."


Seeing his friend pull the gun away from his head and come over to let him in Jacquen felt a flood of emotions as a mixture of relief, anger and elation washed around inside of him.
Stumbling into Jacks front room he pays little attention to what his friend says as he stands panting just inside of the doorway; the effects of the chase and his fear of being too late having exhausted him though not enough to act on Sicariun custom and his desire to keep his friend safe. The knife flashing out from its scabbard to inflict a narrow cut across the back of Jack's gun hand, his friends fingers opening through reflex to drop the heavy weapon onto the floor with a loud thud the knife returning to its scabbard almost as quickly as it had appeared "That’s for the insult friend" Jacquen panted in response to Jacks shocked reply to the knife wound the Sicariun’s foot kicking the gun under the bed as he passed to sit upon the floor, his breath coming in deep ragged sighs "You promised this one that you wouldn't anger the Night Mother with this...foolishness" the word didn't seem anywhere near adequate enough but he'd just had a rather stressful experience so the subtleties of linguistics wasn't really high on his list of priorities at this point in time.
Looking about the room in order to take in his surroundings Jacquen spots the picture of a female alien and takes little time to add it all up "That one...she was your mate?" just as quickly as he had worked out that the picture was that of Tasha the girl Jack had mentioned back in the armoury, although Jacquen had never seen a Quarian without a suit before so was mainly working on assumptions, that he hit upon another thought.
Slowly looking from the photo to Jack, Jacquen slowly tried to work out how best to phrase his question before slowly beginning to speak "How did she come to join the Night mother Jack?"


"Ahh!" Jack reeled away from Jacquen as the rapier sharp blade traced across the back of his hand, fingers refusing to hold onto the pistol as blood welled up. He clamped a hand over the cut to try and keep the bleeding to a minimum before putting it to his mouth, as a man who had just hit his hand with a hammer would. Initial anger washed over Jack, as his Sicariun friend kicked Tasha's pistol away, the expensive weapon skidding across the floor, through the hall and under the bed in his room.

As the initial shock of the gash across his hand dulled, and Jacquen admonished him "You promised this one that you wouldn't anger the Night Mother with this...foolishness" Jack took the back of his hand from his mouth and let it fall limply to his side. "That was before we were dishonorable discharges, before Hayes offered an EC upgrade that would create an even bigger problem than I already have." It was as Jack turned towards the room that he realized the memories he'd been shuffling were still playing loud from inside. He called up his EC and ordered it to shut off, which it did, though painfully slowly to Jack, who couldn't believe the memory his friend had just heard. Shaking his head, Jack walked the few paces to his room and got on hands and knees beside the bed, fishing the pistol out from underneath.

Before Jacquen could get angry again, Jack turned about quickly and thumbed the magazine release, the huge bullets that went into the gun tumbled from the well, still attached to the mag. Jack, having made the pistol completely safe, slid the mag across the floor towards Jacquen. Then he reached onto the bed and took the shoe box that contained the three other magazines. He put the lid over the box and shoved it under his arm, before returning to the front room, where he dropped the other magazines next to his friend before sitting down in a chair beside the desk.

Jack felt completely and utterly defeated. He had come back to his apartment, through thousands of other aliens, to get the pistol he now held in his palms again. He had been so close, actually having dry fired the pistol at his head once before. And just when it all looked as though he would get his wish, Jacquen stopped him. Silently, Jack resigned himself to the total despair and loneliness he felt inside himself, even in the company of his only friend.

"That one...she was your mate?"

Snapping upward at the question, Jack followed the line of Jacquen's gaze and realized that he'd forgotten to put Tasha's picture face down before opening the door. He kicked himself inwardly, as he reached up for it. Having sat the pistol upon the desk beside him, Jack took Tasha's photograph in his hands and looked down at it.

Quarians were, physically, very close to human in appearance but for a few differences that made it abundantly clear that they weren't. In the picture, Jack and Natasha stood next to each other, one of the first things one would notice about the differences between Humans and Quarians in this picture was the way their hands differed; they held each other's hand out in front of them, their fingers intertwining, but for every five fingers Jack had, Tasha only had two and a thumb. Their heads were each titled slightly, resting against the other, though Jack was a few inches taller than she. Making a triple line across her forehead, Tasha had three black lines, each ending in a very small circle, staggering from each other until they stopped, halfway across her forehead, stopping just below her hairline. Her hair was light in color, too dull to be considered blonde, bobbed off in a pixie cut that accentuated her delicate face -- at least that's what Carlyle believed. Their eyes were another difference obvious at first glance, while Jack's eyes were a light blue in color, the irises of her eyes were almost beige, the pupils jet black, and encircling the irises was a bluish color, that's why you could always see the outlines of a Quarian's eyes in their suit -- their eyes outlined themselves. Jack wore basically what he did now, a pair of navy blue cargo pants dark enough to be considered black and a grey tank top that showed off the musculature one gains from years in a Drop Crew. Flowing around her feet - which only had two digits - of a light purple color, Natasha Carlyle was clad in a dress that hid the way Quarian's legs bowed backwards slightly at the knees.

"No one is supposed to see her like this." Jack placed a hand on the glass and traced his finger around the curve of her chin "They spend so long in their suits, not even taking them off around family that when they finally do take their mask off for someone, it's a very intimate thing." Jack couldn't help a few more tears coming from his eyes as he thought of the first time he had reached to the back of Tasha's helmet and pressed the small, hidden button that would allow the mask to come free. "Neither of us had ever had anyone else."

"How did she come to join the Night mother Jack?"

Where as before, Jack spoke of her life, their love, now he was being questioned about those last painful weeks, as he watched her slowly slip away from him. He'd never even spoken of it to himself -- in his own head. But maybe that was the problem, he'd never sought help aside from downloading an ebook to his EC that he promptly deleted as the words inside were too painful for him to read. His hands began to shake again, and he flipped Tasha's picture over and sat it face down on the table, next to her pistol "The Collective killed her." Jack managed to let slip from his mouth, before putting his head in his hands "Quarians have terrible immune systems, that's why they live their entire lives in self-contained suit environments. One day The Collective Bio Engineers assigned to this HR decided to change the air composition, they put some basically harmless - to the human engineers - germs into the air, that would hopefully reduce the more harmful airborne bacteria that thrive in business districts."

Turning away from the Sicariun, like he had aboard the Void's Warden, Jack looked at the top of the desk he sat at as he continued "The next day she had a cough, day after that her nose was stuffy, next day nausea, and then came the fever. That's how Quarian immune systems react to foreign bacteria, they run fevers until the alien bacteria is no longer harmful." Jack remembered the first time they had kissed, Tasha had been sick for three days, she was sick for an entire week the first time they spent a night together. Reaching out, Jack caressed his fingers across the engraved pistol "But she didn't get better. The Bio Engineers just kept pumping into the air throughout the entire ring new germs, new bacteria for her to fight.

And because we were not legally allowed to be married, the medical insurance afforded servicemen's families did not apply and when I finally managed to get Tasha to the hospitals for servicemen and their families up in the Military Rings, they refused to treat a Quarian." The words spit from Jack's mouth, his hatred for his own species evident in every spat syllable and every jagged word "They only gave her a room and monitored her condition, though the treatment for a Quarian fever was available and would have saved her life if they would have, but they didn't. The Collective insurance that would have been afforded to any other family didn't apply to us. And she suffered another entire week before she died."

Turning to Jacquen, he stared into the Sicariun's eyes "That's why I hate humans. That's why I don't give a damn that they're being enslaved by Adaris. They murdered her slowly, painfully. Made her spend her final hours puking her guts out, when she wasn't caught in fever nightmares. I hate them, Jacquen." There was a churning deep in his stomach, where rage, grief, love and hatred bubbled together. Jack hated humans, with everything in his own human body, he hated them.


Jacquen sat cross legged upon the floor of Jacks apartment listening as his friend talked of his mates death at the hands of the collective, it wasn't the first tale he'd heard of how the collectives actions and negligence had caused the death of one of their so called alien allies; he knew of the medications that the Selune’s had to take because the collective refused to provide their habitation blocks with salted water, hell even his own repeated requests to have the lights removed from his quarters had gone ignored and it had only been rectified when he'd threatened the engineer in charge.
"I know what the collective thinks of my species...that we're violent killers with a culture that comprises solely on blood debts, honour killings and vendetta's...something I didn't exactly dispel with my earlier outburst" Jacquen said looking down at the dried blood upon his hand "However it is starting to look like that we are on the wrong side Jack" he said the words quietly knowing full well the implications of what he was saying, his eyes meeting those of his friends wondering, despite his friends outspoken hatred of the collective and the human race in general how exactly he would react to what he had just said
"However for either of us to get our revenge on those that have wronged us, we need arms and armour and Hayes is our best option" if it meant him taking down Adaris first then so be it but to Jacquen the Wardens were a means to an end.


As Councilor Hayes said the last words, ‘what if I showed you?’, a strange thought went through Rolf’s head. It was an old video from a concert, in a long ago time, preserved for eternity on the various successors to fabled YouTube. Guitar chords started playing in his head, as a man stepped out onto the stage. He put a mask over his mouth, and the guitar sounded like it was talking. The video stopped, Rolf having lost the rest of it. But he knew what to say to Hayes. “Show me the way, Councilor.” Hayes walked back to the pilot’s seat, seemingly not hearing Rolf’s answer, and in almost no time, refired the engines, and sent the transport vessel rocketing forward. Before artificial gravity could compensate, Rolf was shot back toward the rear of the ship. Before he could be rocketed back again, Rolf sat down in a nearby vacant seat, watching out the window as Councilor Hayes spoke to the former ODS 3.

According to him, most of Eroes Prime and its contents were made from slave labour, something that was unknown to Rolf. As they passed the freighters, Rolf noticed the blue sun painted on them. Even the supposedly very moral companies weren’t so moral after all, it seemed. Looking out the front window to see where they were headed, Rolf noticed the vessel racing toward a landing dock. For a moment, Rolf’s eyes went wide with terror, and his heart started to beat to the pulse of an F1 engine. A moment later, the back of the vessel was docked with the landing bay, and Rolf’s stomach found its proper place. Rolf had forgotten that old trick that Councilor Hayes was famous for, now called the Hayes Special Docking Procedure.

As Hayes got out of the vessel, the crew of ODS 3 recovered their various body parts, and followed Hayes into a hallway. Through the door at the end of the hallway was a huge warehouse looking place, with guards spread out here and there. It was explained that this was Councilor Hayes’s personal warehouse, and occasional sanctuary from an angry wife. Rolf smiled at this; girlfriends could have the same effect occasionally. They strolled over to an armour rack in the middle of the room, while the guards were explained.

The armour rack contained seven suits, in a similar style to their old NI armour, though appearing to be less armoured, and with a slightly more emphasis toward black ops than overt warfare. The explanation given by Councilor Hayes illuminated the features of the armour. It turned out that they were more capable of stopping incoming fire, especially from chemical projectile weapons. They also had the added benefit of being heat shields. The boxes contained copies of their Collective owned possessions, as well as skeleton key chips for their ECs.

Many of the members of ODS 3, Frank, Tom, Trace, and Jacquen accepted. Jack, after a few minutes of admiring the armour and the contents of the box, declined. This made Councilor Hayes exhibit a perfect dumbfounded look for a few moments, before simply pointing him to the elevator. The look Councilor Hayes gave Rolf asked what was wrong with Jack. Frank answered for Rolf, about as well as anybody could answer. Jacquen went after Jack, without a word said. “I tried to figure out if there was anything wrong. I couldn’t break through. I think I almost did, but the wall was too high, I guess. Perhaps Jacquen can help Jack better.”

Rolf walked over to his suit, and looked it over. After considering the options for a few moments, Rolf looked to Commander Hayes, and nodded. “I think this is a very interesting thing, and I’m not entirely sure of the legality. But, I believe you are offering us a very good chance to expose those coward members of the Council, their accomplices, and Vanguard Adaris. If you don’t mind, though, I need to take care of some business first. I will be done by tomorrow evening, if that’s alright.”


Looking Rolf up and down - as if to assess his truthfulness - Hayes nodded once "That is fine by me, Lieutenant. Your ship will not be refitted until tomorrow afternoon anyways."

Hayes then looked at the others - the others that were still there - and addressed them all ''The ship I have secured for you was due to be finished today, but some of the-" Hayes let his voice trail off, to underscore the hidden meaning "some of the more exotic parts required did not ship immediately. And they were total hell getting through customs.

"As a result I have cleared enough rooms for you all to stay the night at my estate. I know not if any of you have family here that you could stay with, but it seemed prudent to have your accommodations assured. I will have some of my men pack your suits and you can bring them to the estate with you -- those that wish to come."


Head in his hands, Jack was trying hard to keep hold of Jacquen's words in his mind, but the swirling of memories was making it hard for him to concentrate. The door to that hallway closet in that whitewashed apartment in his mind was bucking on its hinges, bowing against its frame, the memories securely locked inside banging upon the door to allow themselves free range of his heart. Jack could not go to that door and open it just yet -- not in the presence of Jacquen, even if the Sicariun was his only friend.

"However for either of us to get our revenge on those that have wronged us, we need arms and armour and Hayes is our best option"

Looking from the palm of his hands and into Jacquen's eyes, Carlyle tried to form words that were coherent "What is the point?" Jack stood from the chair, taking Tasha's picture from the desk as he did so. He flipped the picture over in his hands and stared at her for a long moment, he remembered everything; every word spoken in passion, every light but insistent touch, every day and every night they shared. His mind raced over them so quickly that his EC cycled the memories without even running them as it did so.

Finally, he put the picture back down on the desk "No, Jacquen." Jack turned from his friend, and went to the hallway, bracing himself against the wall with a hand "Hayes can't even be trusted. He's human."


Frank smiled bitterly and said "If you give me the address sir I just have to go tell a few friends I've been dishonourably discharged before I head to your house. Thank you for this wonderful offer sir." He wondered what he would tell his best mates. He couldn't tell them about all this, he'd say that he was going to take a break or something. That way they wouldn't come looking. He realised he still had his chaingun and asked "Can this be sent on ahead sir?" he indicated the chaingun.