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Zeppo Effect: Fight for the Lost

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Zeppo Effect". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The Galaxy's Greatest Hero is back from the dead with a small army of the deadliest operatives in the galaxy to take on all comers. They say it's a suicide mission, that it’s certain death. THEY keep forgetting that Shepard has a Zeppo in her corner.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Sci-Fi > Mass Effect Trilogy(Recent Donor)BHRamsayFR1864310,83930385133,45216 Jan 1226 Sep 13No

Dossier: Engineer (2)

AN--‭ ‬much thanks to Reikson and Drakependragon for their invaluable assistance and support


‭“‬Well,‭ ‬Mister Harris,‭ ‬what do‭ ‬YOU think‭?‬”

Xander could hear the implied challenge in Miranda Lawson‭’‬s haughty voice.‭ ‬Times like these,‭ ‬she reminded him‭ ‬way too much of Cordelia Chase‭; ‬both as Sunnydale‭’‬s Queen Bitch and as his first-ever girlfriend.

‭“‬…that we‭’‬re screwed with a capital S‭?‬” he replied urbanely.‭

“Shepard‭’‬s field reports during your hunt for Saren suggest you have quite the‭ ‬eye for tactics and logistical thinking.‭”

Miranda Lawson was smart,‭ ‬almost supernaturally smart.‭ ‬Xander doubted Harper would‭’‬ve given her Cerberus‭’‬ credit card and carte-blanche to save the damn galaxy if she wasn‭’‬t carting some serious brains and skills around underneath the fitted catsuits‭ ‬that‭ ‬she favored over any other type of clothing.‭

And yet,‭ ‬despite the genetically-engineered woman‭’‬s genius or maybe‭ ‬BECAUSE of it,‭ ‬the ongoing mystery of Xander Harris clearly annoyed her.

“The‭ ‬boss and I spilled a lot of blood in the same mud,‭”‬ he said neutrally.‭ ‬ “She likes that I can think on my feet.‭”

He could tell Miranda wasn‭’‬t buying his evasiveness.‭

Lawson was reading him,‭ ‬or trying to,‭ ‬at any rate.‭ ‬ “The Illusive Man thinks highly of your abilities as well,‭”‬ she said.‭ ‬ “He doesn‭’‬t talk about anyone else the way he does about you.‭”‬

“…and you want to know why,‭ ‬don‭’‬t you‭?‬” he sighed.‭

“Did you know that there‭’‬s virtually no record of your activities prior to Akuze‭?”‬ the genetically-engineered woman challenged.‭ ‬ “There‭’‬s a cursory notation of you being reactivated.‭ ‬ There‭’‬s no mention of your training,‭ ‬or the officers who taught you.‭”‬

Xander smirked slightly.‭ ‬ “I spent some time on a construction crew run by General Williams after he left the military.‭”‬

“Yes,‭ ‬his glowing recommendation is one of the few concrete things in your file.‭ ‬ There‭’‬s a mention of your birthplace‭…”

“I grew up near Lake Sunnydale.‭”

“I‭’‬ve seen photographs of a small off-the-grid community near there.‭ ‬ The fact‭ ‬that they don‭’‬t keep records that can be accessed via the extranet is rather convenient.‭”

“…and,‭ ‬they don‭’‬t trust outsiders,‭”‬ Xander added.‭

“Your educational test scores are exceptional,‭ ‬but I can‭’‬t find a single teacher who even remembers having you in their class.‭”‬

“I studied from home,‭ ‬just like Shepard did,‭”‬ he shrugged.‭ ‬ “Took all my tests and filed assignments over the extranet.‭”‬

“I know.‭ ‬ All‭ ‬of‭ ‬the documentation‭’‬s online.‭ ‬ Nice,‭ ‬neat,‭ ‬polished‭;‬ the kind of exacting detail‭ ‬that‭ ‬I insist on when Cerberus is creating an identity for me.‭”‬

“So you think I‭’‬m more then I seem to be‭?‬” Xander‭’‬s tone was deliberately neutral.‭

“I‭ ‬KNOW‭ ‬that there‭’‬s much more to you than‭ ‬meets the eye,‭ ‬Mister Harris.‭ ‬ You and Shepard are‭…‬ hiding something.‭ ‬Whatever it is,‭ ‬the Illusive Man knows about it as well.‭”‬

“Well,‭ ‬if TIMMY knows about it,‭ ‬then‭ ‬why worry‭?‬” he shrugged.

‭“‬Because this mission‭’‬s success,‭ ‬or failure,‭ ‬rides on me,‭”‬ she snapped,‭ ‬getting in‭ ‬his‭ ‬face.‭ ‬ “I won‭’‬t allow anything or anyone to‭ ‬distract Shepard from her task.‭”‬

Xander had talked enough with Shepard and Jacob that he‭’‬d heard the story of their escape from Lazarus Base.‭ ‬More importantly,‭ ‬he‭’‬d heard about how Miranda had dealt with‭ ‬a traitor,‭ ‬one Doctor Wilson,‭ ‬after the Project Lazarus security mechs killed almost everyone there.‭ ‬He had no illusions that if‭ ‬she‭’‬d do something‭ ‬similar‭ ‬if she ever got it into her head that‭ ‬HE was some kind of threat.

Their mission was too important for its tactical specialist to get sidetracked by trying to solve the problem of how to kill someone who couldn‭’‬t die,‭ ‬especially since he had every reason to think she just might find a way to‭ ‬accomplish that goal.

So‭ ‬the immortal Scooby tried to ignore her searching and analytical stare while focusing on the Geth troops ahead.

“Let‭’‬s see,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve got Primes with those little flying drone-things,‭ ‬a bunch of troopers with a couple of new models that I‭’‬ve never seen before,‭ ‬though it looks like they carry a really cool shotgun.‭”

Turning back to her,‭ ‬he deadpanned,‭ ‬“Why,‭ ‬what do you see‭?‬”

Lawson smirked triumphantly as she tapped the side of her yellow-colored headset.

Xander knew for a fact that,‭ ‬while‭ ‬her headgear looked like simple sunglasses,‭ ‬her eyewear‭ ‬was an augmented-reality rig that‭ ‬cost a small fortune and came with vision-enhancement features that allowed its‭ ‬wearer a wide range of advanced heads-up display options.

“Not bad,‭ ‬Mister Harris,‭”‬ she nodded.‭ ‬“…but the new models,‭ ‬that you couldn‭’‬t identify,‭ ‬are outfitted with cloaking tech.‭ ‬Very cutting edge‭;‬ we‭’‬ll have to be alert for any kind of flanking maneuvers from them.‭”

Miranda paused and Xander could sense she was waiting for him to say something.

Explosions could be heard off in the distance.‭

Xander watched as a Geth Dropship soared overhead heading toward where Shepard‭’‬s team was cutting a swath of destruction through the Geth‭’‬s lines.

Apparently,‭ ‬the Geth were taking the tempting bait‭ ‬being‭ ‬offered and were responding in force.‭

The Geth units ahead of them even reacted,‭ ‬moving towards the battle apparently in progress and leaving what seemed to be only a token force behind.‭

“It would appear that Shepard‭’‬s team has drawn the Geth‭’‬s attention,‭”‬ Thane observed.‭

“Boss does like to make an impression wherever she goes,‭”‬ Xander grinned.

‭“‬Then it‭’‬s up to us to take advantage of the situation,‭”‬ Miranda nodded.‭ ‬ “Now how do we take those Geth down‭?‬”

He already had an idea on how to deal with the units,‭ ‬but reminded once again of his acid-tongued ex-girlfriend and how insanely competitive she could be‭; ‬Xander decided a favorite Cordy tactic might prove useful.‭

Deferring to Lawson might go a long way towards reassuring her that she was still the smartest person in the room.

‭“‬Well,‭ ‬I‭’‬m up for any plan that‭’‬s a good one,‭”‬ he‭ ‬shrugged.‭ ‬ “How do we play this,‭ ‬Lawson‭?‬”

Miranda smiled,‭ ‬obviously pleased‭ ‬that‭ ‬he was letting her take the lead.‭

“We have experts in tech and biotics.‭ ‬ Between us,‭ ‬we should be able to make short work of those units ahead of us‭?‬”

“Still too many for a simple sabotage or overload charge,‭ ‬but if Kasumi and I cut their shields,‭ ‬then‭ ‬you,‭ ‬Jack and Thane can lay some biotic beatdown,‭”‬ he mused,‭ ‬turning to Kasumi.‭ ‬“Hey,‭ ‬Kasumi,‭ ‬you got any of those cool flashbangs‭?‬”

“Not enough for all those troops.‭ ‬ What about that heavy weapon you used on Omega‭?‬” Kasumi whispered.‭

“The Arc Projector‭?‬” he grimaced.‭ ‬“I gave that to Shepard.‭”

Miranda frowned.‭ ‬“Someday,‭ ‬I trust that you‭’‬ll tell me how you managed to get your hands on a prototype Cerberus weapon.‭”

“Well,‭ ‬you know how it is,‭ ‬Lawson,‭”‬ Xander smiled slightly.‭ ‬“Sometimes‭…‬ you‭’‬re just wandering around and you stumble across the oddest of things.‭”

“Mm-hmm,‭”‬ Kasumi nodded.‭ ‬“I can‭’‬t tell you how many times I‭’‬ve just stumbled into a secured and closed Cerberus facility.‭ ‬The things those guys just leave lying around.‭ ‬Data logs,‭ ‬cutting-edge technology‭…‬ credits.‭”

“I‭’‬ve had‭…‬ similar experiences,‭”‬ Thane smiled wryly.‭ ‬“I find it oddly cheering to be amongst those who understand the strange paths that life can take.‭”

“All right,‭ ‬enough‭!‬” Miranda sighed.‭ ‬“I guess I‭’‬m probably lucky‭; ‬most of this team wouldn‭’‬t even be‭ ‬ON Cerberus‭’‬ radar for this mission if it weren‭’‬t for your‭…‬ many actions against us.‭”

Jack snorted,‭ ‬crossing her arms and pouting.‭

“Well,‭ ‬Jack‭’‬s getting bored,‭”‬ Xander popped his neck.‭ ‬“Up and at‭ ‬‘em,‭ ‬Kasumi.‭ ‬The badass biotic‭’‬s ready to rock and roll.‭”

Kasumi and Xander directed their omni-tools toward the Geth squadron below them,‭ ‬each of them firing off a massive electrical charge that made the platforms below convulse.‭

The Geth reacted to their kinetic barriers dropping by opening fire at them,‭ ‬even before the whole charge finally grounded itself.‭

Miranda opened fire with her Tempest,‭ ‬its loud rattle almost‭ ‬deafening.

Kasumi also let loose with her much-quieter Locust.‭

Between the two of them,‭ ‬they managed to turn a single platform into a chunk of scrap.

A Geth with a large tank its back opened fire with its own weapon.‭ ‬A thick stream of flame vomited forth and seared the air scattering the squad as the Geth Destroyer sought to roast them alive.‭

“Take cover‭!‬” Miranda yelled,‭ ‬diving for shelter as‭ ‬the Destroyer spun to unleash a blast of flame in her direction.‭ ‬ Xander heard her kinetic barriers crackle and spark,‭ ‬defenses withering under the Destroyer‭’‬s attack.‭

The unit began advancing quickly as its weapon continued belching fire.

‭“‬A flamethrower‭?!?‬” Xander yelled,‭ ‬from where he was crouched behind a wall.‭ ‬“Whose bright idea was it to start giving the Geth some goddamn flamethrowers‭?!?‬”

A long time ago,‭ ‬Xander had assembled a fairly comprehensive list of unpleasant ways to die.‭ ‬Death by fire,‭ ‬regardless of the particulars,‭ ‬sat pretty damn near the top of that list.

‭“‬I‭’‬m starting to think that I need to ask for a damn raise‭!‬” Kasumi shouted as she crouched behind a nearby crane.‭

“The tank on its back‭!‬” Thane shouted,‭ ‬drawing the Destroyer‭’‬s fire with several pot-shots from his M-29‭ ‬Incisor.

The Geth turned quickly,‭ ‬blasting away at the Drell assassin as he dived for cover.‭

The mobile platform relentlessly closed the distance,‭ ‬flames licking at and around the small wall that Thane was using for shelter.

Xander popped out from behind his cover,‭ ‬aiming for the tank as his pulse rifle continued to chew away at the Destroyer‭’‬s shields.‭ ‬But it seemed to realize its greatest weakness,‭ ‬and quickly turned on the immortal Scooby,‭ ‬firing streams of flame at‭ ‬HIM while letting its heavy chassis soak up the phasic slugs that were exploding against its armored form.

Harris winced as the heat of the flames made his hardsuit‭’‬s kinetic barriers spark violently.

Just as his shields went completely,‭ ‬a flare of electric-blue energy saw Jack suddenly standing between him and the Destroyer.‭ ‬A biotic barrier was shimmering in place around her body,‭ ‬but Xander could see that the field was failing quickly.‭ ‬Grimacing,‭ ‬he reached out and managed to grab her by the back of her jacket,‭ ‬yanking her out of the fiery stream.‭

He‭’‬d pulled a little too hard however,‭ ‬and‭ ‬the two of them ended up rolling off the platform upon which he‭’‬d taken cover,‭ ‬away from the destroyer.‭ ‬The massive drone advanced on them,‭ ‬issuing an electronic gurgle that might have been laughter,‭ ‬as its weapon continued belching fire.

As Xander beat‭ ‬out the few flames that had caught on Jack‭’‬s clothing,‭ ‬they tumbled to a stop beneath a small balcony.‭ ‬Wincing,‭ ‬the immortal Scooby hid his blistering hands from the bald biotic anarchist who was busy cursing out the Geth,‭ ‬and everything else in general,‭ ‬for ruining her brand-new jacket.‭

Apparently,‭ ‬Jack was significantly less concerned about death-by-immolation then Xander.‭

Kasumi popped out from behind cover,‭ ‬firing a lengthy burst from her Locust at the distracted Destroyer.‭ ‬Shots from her weapon skidded off the Destroyer‭’‬s tank,‭ ‬causing it to spark ominously.‭

Thane reached out,‭ ‬the flare of his biotic field picked up the heavy Geth platform and sent it skyward,‭ ‬where it exploded.‭

The Geth were advancing as a group now.‭ ‬Xander could see Lawson dealing with the Geth attacking her with deadly efficiency.‭ ‬Suddenly Miranda seemed distracted,‭ ‬looking at something that only she could see.‭

“Harris,‭ ‬right flank‭!‬” Lawson yelled.‭

He followed her gaze and saw an odd shimmering in the air,‭ ‬like a desert mirage.‭ ‬ A desert mirage shaped like a Geth trooper.‭

Cursing as he realized what he was looking at,‭ ‬Xander brought up his omni-tool,‭ ‬firing‭ ‬a pulse charge at the seemingly-empty space‭ ‬and saw the shimmering effect recede as the Geth‭ ‬Infiltrator‭ ‬was‭ ‬forcibly‭ ‬revealed.‭

The immortal Scooby brought up the pulse rifle,‭ ‬hammering the trooper with phasic rounds that ripped through its chassis.

‭“‬Kasumi‭!‬” he yelled,‭ ‬“Cloaked Geth trying to flank us‭!‬”

“On it‭!‬” the‭ ‬cyborg ninja-thief‭ ‬shouted back.

Xander saw her hand make a throwing gesture and the confined space lit up with a nova of light as her‭ ‬flashbang overloaded‭ ‬another Geth Infiltrator‭’‬s cloak.‭

As the field collapsed,‭ ‬the Geth appeared seemingly out of nowhere.‭ ‬ The petite‭ ‬thief kicked out at the Geth‭’‬s body,‭ ‬sending it stumbling back as‭ ‬she followed‭ ‬up with a vicious‭ ‬punch,‭ ‬her omnitool suddenly active.‭ ‬ The attacking‭ ‬Infiltrator took the full discharge from her attack,‭ ‬convulsing as it fell to the ground as she‭ ‬followed up her‭ ‬attack with several shots from her Locust that killed it.

Thane apparently needed no goggles or mechanical enhancements.‭ ‬ In fact,‭ ‬he actually seemed to‭ ‬be‭ ‬closing his eyes before turning and firing,‭ ‬seemingly at random.‭ ‬ But‭ ‬his shots‭ ‬actually‭ ‬hit several cloaked troopers dead center,‭ ‬shattering their cloaking fields.

Kasumi backed up his attack with another pulse charge‭ ‬that made the few‭ ‬remaining‭ ‬cloaked Geth explode.‭

Several‭ ‬standard Geth‭ ‬Troopers tried to close‭ ‬in‭ ‬on them,‭ ‬but Jack‭ ‬was quick to confront them.‭ ‬Dropping her‭ ‬Barrier,‭ ‬she channeled her biotics into firing a massive Shockwave that scattered most of them at considerable velocities.

Xander thought he‭’‬d even heard the sound of scattered bowling pins,‭ ‬but nearly found himself face-to-face with a single Geth Prime unit that roared at them and charged,‭ ‬firing a charged energy blast that he only barely managed to dodge.‭

Miranda hurled a‭ ‬Warp charge at the armored figure,‭ ‬but didn‭’‬t even slow it down.‭

Jack scowled,‭ ‬roaring in defiance as dark energy swirled and flared around her.‭ ‬Xander gaped as the woman seemed to blur in place.‭ ‬Suddenly,‭ ‬she was several yards away and driving a biotic-enhanced fist‭ ‬THROUGH the Prime‭’‬s chest.‭

The massive Geth unit screeched electronically,‭ ‬even as Jack rammed the barrel of her shotgun against the Prime‭’‬s‭ ‬“head‭”‬ and fired a point-blank shot.‭ ‬The bald biotic howled in triumph as the head exploded and the Prime‭’‬s body dropped to the irradiated ground.

A few remaining Geth rose from where Jack‭’‬s assault had left them broken on the ground,‭ ‬but Miranda and Kasumi hit them with directed‭ ‬Overload charges and caused them to spasm in place before exploding.

Xander and Thane spun around,‭ ‬pumping weapons fire at more damaged Geth.‭ ‬Now effectively eviscerated,‭ ‬the synthetics were now little more than smoking ruins.‭

“I think that‭’‬s all of them for now,‭”‬ Kasumi huffed.‭

“Okay,‭ ‬that was‭…‬ intense,‭”‬ Xander huffed.‭ ‬“Hey,‭ ‬Kasumi,‭ ‬thanks for stepping in when you did.‭ ‬Deep-fried Xander is not on today‭’‬s menu.‭”‬

“Good catch on the cloaked Geth,‭”‬ Goto replied.‭ ‬ “You‭’‬d think‭ ‬that‭ ‬I‭’‬d be ready for‭ ‬cloak tech‭ ‬when it gets used‭ ‬on‭ ‬me.‭”‬

“Don‭’‬t look at me,‭ ‬Lawson‭’‬s the one that saw them,‭”‬ he shrugged.

‭“‬Well,‭ ‬that‭’‬s‭…‬ impressive,‭”‬ Kasumi‭ ‬nodded,‭ ‬looking at Miranda as if‭ ‬she was‭ ‬seeing her anew.

‭“‬Yeah,‭ ‬who‭’‬s the bitch now‭?‬” Jack shouted at the dead Geth at her feet.‭

“That girl‭’‬s power is‭…‬ impressive.‭ ‬Well beyond some Asari Matriarchs,‭”‬ Thane paused to watch Jack firing another two rounds from her Eviscerator into the destroyed Prime.‭ ‬“Her self-control,‭ ‬however‭…‬ that‭’‬s another matter entirely.‭”

“Yeah,‭ ‬Jackie-boy does have a tiny impulse control problem,‭”‬ Xander deadpanned,‭ ‬watching the bald biotic repeatedly kicking at the Geth‭’‬s destroyed chassis.

‭“‬As long as she stays solid under fire,‭ ‬it doesn‭’‬t matter,‭”‬ Miranda snapped.‭ ‬“Let‭’‬s move.‭”‬ With that curt observation made,‭ ‬Lawson headed up a flight of stairs.‭

Jack was still amusing herself with her fallen foe.‭ ‬Xander shouted over to her,‭ ‬“Hey,‭ ‬Jack‭! ‬If you‭’‬re done curbstomping that damn thing,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve got ground to cover‭!‬”

The bald biotic rolled her eyes before acquiescing,‭ ‬giving one last kick as a parting‭ ‬gift.

As she joined them,‭ ‬she grumbled something barely audible.‭

“What was that‭?‬” Xander asked innocently.

‭“‬I said‭…‬ thanks for‭…‬ you know,‭ ‬the whole saving my ass thing.‭”

“Yeah,‭ ‬well,‭”‬ he shrugged.‭ ‬“Your ass looks a lot better when it isn‭’‬t charbroiled.‭”

Jack smirked at him and Xander grimaced as the full weight of his words suddenly dawned on him.

‭“‬Not that I‭’‬m staring at your ass or anything,‭”‬ he muttered weakly.

Jack was still looking at him.

‭“‬Okay,‭ ‬maybe I‭’‬ve looked,‭”‬ he groaned.‭ ‬“But,‭ ‬you know‭…‬ in more of an art appreciation kind of way then like some sleazy mouth-breather.‭”

Jack continued to smirk at him.‭

Xander finally sighed and threw up his hands.‭ ‬Two hundred years and he still occasionally had trouble speaking the mysterious language‭ ‬of the female.‭

“I‭’‬m going to stop talking now,‭”‬ he muttered.‭

“Jack and Xander,‭ ‬sittin‭’‬ in a tree‭…‬” Kasumi sang happily.

‭“‬Don‭’‬t you start‭!‬” Xander hissed.


Seven years spent fighting some of the most dangerous and deadly threats that came in search of the Hellmouth‭’‬s power had taught Xander to be alert to trouble in its many and varied forms.‭

‬Thus,‭ ‬when Thane tensed up,‭ ‬his every sense obviously detecting trouble ahead,‭ ‬Xander was the first to respond in kind.‭

‬He readied his pulse rifle and looked to the assassin,‭ ‬who only nodded.‭ ‬They were about to try a more cautious approach but heard shouting up ahead.‭ ‬Whoever was being shot at was Quarian and they were in trouble.‭

‬Xander broke into a fast jog.‭ ‬Miranda was about to tell him to slow down,‭ ‬but then Thane darted ahead with his own Locust at the ready.‭ ‬ Rounding a corner,‭ ‬they nearly ran into two Quarians who were falling back and firing outdated Avenger models at their pursuers.‭

‬Miranda was readying her weapon when Jack snarled,‭ ‬“Jesus,‭ ‬cheerleader,‭ ‬d‭’‬you want to bring every damn synth down on our heads‭?‬”

“They already know we‭’‬re here,‭ ‬Jack,‭”‬ the genetically-engineered woman scoffed.‭

‬Xander winced.‭ ‬“I do think that it pays sometimes to speak softly and carry an even-quieter weapon.‭”‬

The Geth caught sight of them and opened fire‭; ‬or,‭ ‬at least,‭ ‬they tried.‭ ‬Their weapons fell silent,‭ ‬a result of the EMP tech-bomb that Xander had deployed seconds before they could bring their weapons to bear.‭

‬Tali had been a very good teacher when it‭ ‬came to fighting Geth.‭

‬“Guess who brought overheated weapons to a gunfight,‭”‬ Xander cackled unnecessarily.‭

‬Miranda and Kasumi fired similar EM charges,‭ ‬watching with some satisfaction as each Geth‭’‬s defenses shimmered and died.‭

‬Thane hurled a Throw at the Geth squad,‭ ‬canceling their personal gravity and causing them to float free of the ground.‭

‬Jack reached out with her biotics,‭ ‬snatching the floating Geth troopers out of the sky before clenching her fists.‭ ‬Xander watched with some astonishment as the‭ ‬synthetics were literally crushed before she slammed them against a wall‭…‬ repeatedly.‭

‬Miranda approached the two Quarians,‭ ‬their exhausted gasps betraying the fact that they‭’‬d been on their last legs before they‭’‬d arrived.‭

‬“Are you two with the Migrant Fleet Marines‭?‬” Lawson demanded curtly.‭

‬“We got separated from our unit,‭”‬ one of them reported,‭ ‬nodding.‭ ‬“We saw a shuttle landing,‭ ‬was that you‭?‬”

“Yes,‭ ‬we‭’‬re here to try and get to Tali‭’‬Zorah vas Neema,‭ ‬can you help us‭?‬”

The other Quarian now sneered,‭ ‬“Why would we help Cerberus‭?‬”

“Shut up,‭ ‬Prazza,‭”‬ his companion snapped.‭ ‬“I‭’‬m Tolus‭’‬Xan,‭”‬ he said,‭ ‬turning back to the squad.‭ ‬“Don‭’‬t pay any attention to this‭ ‬bosh‭’‬tet,‭ ‬we‭’‬ll take all the help we can get.‭”‬

That other name sounded familiar,‭ ‬and Miranda quickly remembered where she‭’‬d seen that other Quarian before.‭ ‬Through Shepard‭’‬s helmet-cam,‭ ‬the only time she‭’‬d been willing to wear one.‭

‬“Prazza‭?‬” Miranda mused aloud.‭ ‬“Weren‭’‬t you at Freedom‭’‬s Progress‭?‬”

“I don‭’‬t remember you,‭”‬ Prazza sneered archly.‭

‬“Not surprising,‭”‬ she sneered back.‭ ‬ “Last time I saw you,‭ ‬you were unconscious after getting half your squadmates killed.‭”‬

“That wasn‭’‬t my fault,‭”‬ Prazza snapped.‭ ‬ “Veetor messed with those mechs,‭ ‬they were much more dangerous than they should have been.‭”‬

“Funny,‭”‬ Miranda sneered.‭ ‬ “Commander Shepard didn‭’‬t seem to have a problem with them‭;‬ as I recall,‭ ‬she destroyed one of them with a shovel.‭”‬

“Prazza,‭ ‬you said Tali‭’‬Zorah was lying about that,‭”‬ Tolus‭ ‬snarled.‭ ‬ “You mean that story was true‭? ‬ A human really had to rescue a squad of Quarian Marines from‭ ‬simple mechs‭?‬”

“I‭’‬d say it‭’‬s what he deserves for trying to betray Commander Shepard after she voluntarily offered to work with you to save Veetor.‭”‬

“I was just worried for Veetor,‭”‬ Prazza huffed.‭ ‬ “You Cerberus bastards might‭’‬ve hurt him or taken him away somewhere.‭”‬

Xander saw a flash of discomfort on Lawson‭’‬s face,‭ ‬but it vanished as quickly as it‭’‬d appeared.‭

Miranda shrugged.‭ ‬“I‭’‬m with Commander Shepard.‭ ‬ She‭’‬s here trying to rescue Tali.‭”‬

“That‭ ‬bosh‭’‬tet Shepard is here‭?‬” Prazza groaned.‭ ‬“Ancestors,‭ ‬that‭’‬s all we needed.‭”

That‭ ‬bosh‭’‬tet‭…‬” Xander snarled,‭ ‬“…might be your only hope of getting off this planet alive.‭”‬

“Quarians know more about the Geth than any other species alive,‭”‬ Prazza boasted.‭

‬“Oh,‭ ‬yeah,‭ ‬your‭ ‬‘expertise‭’‬ was really shining through when you were running for your life like your ass was on fire,‭”‬ Xander sneered.‭

‬“Xander,‭ ‬it doesn‭’‬t matter,‭”‬ Miranda snapped,‭ ‬turning back to Prazza‭’‬s companion.‭ ‬“The Commander‭’‬s looking for Tali‭’‬Zorah.‭ ‬Do you‭ ‬know where she is‭?‬”

“The Admiral‭’‬s daughter is on the other side of the colony,‭”‬ Tolus shrugged.‭ ‬“Reegar‭’‬s team was trying to get her into the Observatory before we lost contact.‭”‬

Prazza‭’‬s communicator went off,‭ ‬and a harsh voice came out of the link.‭

‬“Prazza,‭ ‬Tolus,‭ ‬where the hell are you two‭?‬” a male voice bellowed.‭

‬“We‭’‬re here,‭ ‬Commander,‭ ‬we‭’‬re still alive,‭”‬ Tolus answered.‭

‬“Thank the Ancestors,‭”‬ the voice grunted.‭

‬“Who‭’‬s that‭?‬” Xander asked.‭

‬The com-link picked up his voice and the Commander responded.‭ ‬“Squad Leader‭ ‬Kal‭’‬Reegar,‭ ‬Migrant Fleet Marines.‭ ‬Who is this‭?‬”

“I‭’‬m Xander Harris,‭ ‬one of Tali‭’‬s friends,‭”‬ Xander shrugged,‭ ‬absently using his omnitool to patch the rest of the team into the radio channel.‭ ‬“You okay out there,‭ ‬Reegar‭? ‬We‭’‬re trying to reach you‭ ‬AND Tali.‭”‬

“Harris‭? ‬The same Harris who took the credit for helping Tali‭’‬Zorah stop the Geth fleet attacking the Citadel‭?‬” Reegar asked.‭

‬Xander snorted.‭ ‬“Been talking to Tali‭’‬s Aunt Rann,‭ ‬haven‭’‬t you‭?‬”

“I thought Admiral Raan might‭ ‬be exaggerating,‭ ‬but Tali‭’‬Zorah‭’‬s told me all about‭ ‬the‭ ‬Normandy.‭ ‬To hear her talk,‭ ‬Shepard‭’‬s the deadliest soldier in the galaxy.‭”‬

Xander snorted.‭ ‬“Don‭’‬t believe it,‭ ‬huh‭?‬”

“Look,‭ ‬I‭’‬ve been a marine too long to not know battlefield tall tales when I hear them,‭ ‬but right now my people are scattered.‭”‬ He sounded harried,‭ ‬to say the least.‭ ‬“My squad leader‭’‬s trapped in that damn observatory,‭ ‬and this place is crawling with Geth that want to kill us all.‭ ‬If your Shepard can get Tali‭’‬Zorah out of here alive,‭ ‬then I‭’‬ll go to my grave saying that she was sent by the Ancestors themselves.‭”‬

“If we do our jobs,‭ ‬you won‭’‬t go to your grave at all,‭”‬ Xander replied.‭ ‬“Have you heard from Shepard‭’‬s team‭?‬”

“Not a peep,‭ ‬but a dropship bugged out of here not too long ago like it was on a mission,‭”‬ Reegar reported.‭ ‬“After that,‭ ‬I heard some big explosions,‭ ‬like someone was fighting the damn Geth Uprising all over again‭! ‬Whatever your Shepard‭’‬s doing,‭ ‬it‭’‬s got those‭ ‬zaelos running scared‭!‬”

“That‭’‬ll be Shepard,‭ ‬she must be hip deep in Geth,‭”‬ Miranda mused.‭

‬Xander snorted.‭ ‬ “It‭’‬ll take more‭ ‬than an army of Geth to take Shepard out,‭”‬ he said dismissively.‭ ‬ “Trust me on this.‭ ‬ She‭’‬ll be fine,‭”‬

Miranda stared at him for a moment.‭ ‬ “Commander Reegar,‭ ‬Shepard‭’‬s orders were clear‭; ‬our job is to reach Tali‭’‬Zorah,‭”‬ she said curtly.‭

‬“Observatory‭’‬s a few clicks from your current location,‭”‬ Reegar shrugged.‭

‬“What about the Geth army‭?‬”

“They‭’‬re still trying to reach Tali‭’‬Zorah‭…‬” here,‭ ‬the unique sound of an ML-77‭ ‬being fired could be heard,‭ ‬followed by Avenger fire,‭ ‬before he came back on the radio.‭ ‬“I‭’‬m cut off from her,‭ ‬but I‭’‬m doing what I can to keep‭ ‬‘em distracted.‭”‬

“Speed is our ally now,‭”‬ Thane murmured,‭ ‬checking his weapons.‭ ‬“We‭’‬d best hurry if we‭’‬re to reach your Quarian friend in time.‭”‬

“We‭’‬re on our way,‭”‬ Lawson snapped,‭ ‬shutting off the communicator.‭ ‬“We‭’‬re wasting time‭; ‬let‭’‬s get over there.‭”‬

Prazza laughed bitterly.‭ ‬ “Are you joking‭?‬ We barely escaped that plaza‭ ‬with our lives‭! ‬ I‭’‬m not going back there on the‭ ‬beck-and-call of Tali‭’‬Zorah‭’‬s human terrorist friends.‭”‬

Miranda just shrugged.‭ ‬“Tolus,‭ ‬what about you‭?‬”

“I‭’‬ll come with you,‭”‬ he nodded.‭ ‬“Tali‭’‬Zorah‭’‬s done right by me.‭ ‬I won‭’‬t leave her to these damn synthetics.‭”‬

“Fine,‭”‬ the genetically-engineered woman nodded.‭ ‬“Prazza,‭ ‬you can hide here if you hate Cerberus so much.‭”‬

“Sounds like a plan.‭ ‬Less chance of him accidentally doing something useful,‭”‬ Xander snorted,‭ ‬tossing another hastily-modified Geth pulse rifle into Tolus‭’‬ arms.‭

‬Tolus chuckled,‭ ‬an odd sound given the mechanically-assisted sibilance that all Quarians shared nowadays.‭

‬With the Quarian Marine in tow,‭ ‬Miranda‭’‬s squad continued further into the ruins.‭

‬As Xander took point,‭ ‬he noticed several downed Geth.‭ ‬Each of them had been killed with perfectly centered shots.‭

‬No one else had noticed it yet,‭ ‬but Xander was sure of it now.‭ ‬Someone was clearing a path for them‭; ‬whoever was responsible was also a very good sniper.‭

‬“Ah,‭ ‬jeez,‭ ‬Legion‭…‬” Xander sighed.‭ ‬“Be careful,‭ ‬will ya‭?‬ You,‭ ‬Tali,‭ ‬an assload of hostile Geth,‭ ‬this could all go tits-up in a hurry.‭”‬
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