Dossier: Engineer (3)
AN-Thanks to all of you for continued support and encouragement
Tolus’Xan led the squad deeper into the ruins, passing several more Geth bodies along the way.
Miranda looked around at the carnage they were passing. Finally, she couldn’t keep herself from asking, “Tolus, did you and Prazza do all this?”
Tolus snorted as he gazed at the scene around them. “Are you kidding? We were too busy trying to stay alive, to pick off Geth troopers like this.”
The ground shook with the roar of another far-off detonation.
“Sounds like a war’s going on,” Tolus whispered.
“Yeah, that’s Shepard for ya. We got a war zone down here.” Xander sighed.
Jack, grumpy at missing what she felt was the real action, snarled, “Shepard’s tearing shit up and I’m stuck here!”
“You’re doing what you’re being paid for, Jack,” Miranda snapped. “If Shepard needed your help, you’d be over there helping her. You’re not, so get over it.”
The bald biotic seemed ready to hurl abuse at the genetically-engineered woman, assuming she didn’t just try to go for an all-out biotic brawl.
Xander quickly pulled two energy bars out of his survival pack and shoved it at the irritated biotic anarchist.
“What’s this?” she demanded suspiciously.
“Energy bar,” he shrugged, popping his neck.
“Why are you giving me one of your energy bars?”
“Because, by my count, you’ve been hitting the biotics pretty hard today,” he shrugged. “That, and you get pissy when you’re hungry. Well, more pissy than usual.”
“That’s relative,” Kasumi snorted.
“What’s wrong with it?” Jack demanded. “Why don’t you want it?”
Xander only rolled his eyes. Jack’s well-deserved paranoia could really grind away at a saint’s patience. “Okay, Jack. The truth is that I’m secretly immortal and don’t need to eat as much as you do,” he deadpanned.
Jack blinked at him with a sour expression.
“Or maybe I’m just being nice,” Xander added dryly. “You think it’s possible that a guy could be doing something just to be nice?”
"Har-dee-fucking-har, you're real funny," The bald biotic sniped.“You know you can be a real sarcastic asshole Harris.”
The immortal Scooby grimaced.“Ah, only sometimes," he replied, "I must be losing my touch.”
“Fine; thanks,” she grumbled, snatching the energy bars. “You’d better know it takes more than a couple of energy bars to get in my pants, Xander.”
“Probably not much more,” Miranda sniped.
“Ooh, score one for the princess,” Kasumi chuckled.
Xander tried hard to maintain his silence in the face of Jack’s glare, but he couldn’t help it.
Amidst loud laughter, he managed to say, “Sorry, Jack. I like you and all, but THAT was a good burn and I know from good burns.”
Scowling at her teammate, the bald biotic tore into the energy bars and felt herself perking up somewhat as her body’s resources were filled up somewhat. An unfamiliar feeling of calm seeped into her stomach.
Lust, she could handle.
Hate, she was good with.
This feeling of warmth that she got around Xander was new and different and scary.
Jack hated scary.
Scary meant weak, and weak was bad. Weak meant bad shit for her.
Gunshots and explosions off in the distance meant that Shepard and company were obviously still tearing up the place. Now, if only the the rest of team two could make use of the distraction.
As the group finally made their way to a doorway, Miranda turned to their Quarian guest with a question. “What’s on the other side of this?”
“A communications terminal that was built into an older structure,” the hooded figure shrugged. “The door inside leads to a plaza further out. Tali’Zorah’s holed up in the observatory on the far side of that plaza.”
“Tolus, did you seal this?” Kasumi asked, trying the door.
“The Geth were following us,” the Quarian nodded. “We thought maybe it would slow them down a little.”
Kasumi fiddled with the door before it snapped open, cloaking herself instantly. The thief ventured into the room, looking around in wonder as the rest of the squad trooped in after her.
“I know that I’m not supposed to be on the job, but…” the hooded cyber-ninja whistled in admiration. “…I could get us some serious money for this Quarian architecture.”
Xander reached for his communications link. “Team Two to Normandy; Liara, you getting any visuals?”
“The visual pickups are intermittent, Xander,” Liara replied through a great deal of static and white noise that made him wince. “Dholen’s radiation is making even basic ship-to-ground communications chancy.”
“I’m setting my suit systems to record mode,” the immortal Scooby shrugged. “Kasumi says that we’re in a room that you really want to see.”
“Goddess,” Liara murmured reverently at the grainy image finally appearing on her computer monitor. “This type of Quarian script doesn’t just date back to before the Geth uprising, I’d say there was writing in that room going back thousands of years.”
“What’s that console?” Thane asked in his croaking voice.
“That’s the Communications Relay,” Tolus shrugged. “But I don’t have the training to get it working.”
“Xander, this console,” Miranda suddenly said aloud. “It must be connected to Haestrom’s com-network. If we can get it working, then maybe we can contact the observatory.”
The immortal Scooby looked over at the genetically-engineered woman before nodding grimly. “Hey, Kasumi, you want to fill in for me over here? Liara needs some visual data.”
The cyber-ninja nodded. “All right, Xander. Doc, I’ll record as much as I can before we’ve gotta move on.”
Xander went to work, rewiring the console as Tolus provided what help he could.
Meanwhile, Kasumi looked around the room with some awe and an analytical eye. “That console was definitely only about three hundred years old, but the rest of this room… I think it’s older; much older.”
“That’s entirely possible,” Miranda mused. “The Quarians might have built the console into an older and more-established structure.”
Kasumi strolled around the room before Liara spoke up again.
“Miss Goto, go back a bit. I need to look at that section again.”
Looking back in the direction that Liara was telling her to move, Kasumi could hear the former archaeologist murmuring to herself.
“Whats going on, Doc?” the thief asked.
“I’m not sure, at least… not yet,” Liara sighed. “But I think that it’s telling the story of a battle that ancient Quarians witnessed.”
“A battle?” Kasumi asked. “With who?”
“It seems like they witnessed a battle between a Reaper and… something else. The text isn’t clear. Finish the recording, I’ll go over it when you’re all back aboard.”
Nearby, Xander suddenly cackled in triumph. “Ha-HA! Xander, one! Ancient Quarian tech, zero!”
“You’ve got it working?” Miranda demanded.
“Site-to-site communications,” Xander boasted as he tapped at a few keys. “Hello? Hello out there? Tali, you there? Come back to me, over.”
There was a burst of white noise before a holographic display flared to life, revealing a familiar hooded helmet. “Xander?” Tali squawked. “Is that you?”
“How ya been, Tali?” the immortal Scooby grinned. “I’ve heard you’ve got yourself a bit of a Geth infestation problem.”
“Xander, you have no idea how good it is to hear your voice,” Tali said hurriedly. “Is Shepard with you?”
“Reegar said they were kicking huge Geth ass,” he nodded.
“Reegar’s still alive?” she sounded relieved. “Thank the Ancestors. Xander, one of my team, Myr’Jorin, he got me into the Observatory but took a bad hit. I think he’s dying.”
Xander grimaced. “Tali, listen to me. Shepard’s here, Garrus is here, I’m here… if we can get to you, we will. Hey, you know Shepard. She’d storm the gates of Hell for a friend, remember? So would I.”
“You came all this way, just to find me?” Xander could hear the emotion choking Tali’s voice.
“Of course, we came out here to find you,” the immortal Scooby grinned. “You’re the closest thing that Shepard’s got to a little sister. Besides, boss-lady’s worried that the engineering staff might revolt if I’m left in charge of engineering much longer.”
Tali made a sound somewhere between a choking sob and a laugh. “Kee’lah, Shepard has you in charge of engine maintenance? I suppose your people think that resources grow from trees.”
“Hey, I’m not that bad,” he sputtered defensively, trying to keep her mind off of her dying subordinate with all of his usual conversation tricks.
“Xander, you never fix anything that you think you can replace.”
“Why fix something seventeen million times when you can just replace it with a new one, and then not have to worry about it breaking again?” he snapped back.
“If you fix it right, it’ll work better than if it was new,” Tali insisted.
“If you two could focus!” Miranda hissed, punching his shoulder.
“Who’s she?” Tali snorted.
“She’s in charge when Shepard’s not around,” Xander waved her off. “Now, I think that we’re supposed to be recruiting you?”
“There’s this little matter of a planet full of Geth that I have to get past first,” she said dryly.
“You know, Garrus is never going to let you live this down,” he added, smirking. “Us having to rescue you from Geth, I mean.”
“You and Garrus, together? Now I know that Shepard needs my help,” Tali snorted playfully.
He didn’t mention his suspicions about his… new friend. Getting Tali to work with Cerberus would be hard enough without tossing Legion into the mix.
“In the meantime, Tali,” Xander continued, “…d’you think you can crack open this sealed door? The controls are shot and I want to get over to you sooner rather than later.”
“Give me a second… rerouting power… and here… we… go!”
There was a distinctive click and Xander saw the door swing open.
“Xander, please hurry. I don’t know how much longer Myr’Jorin is going to last and I can’t help him if I’m stuck in this damn room.” Poor girl seemed ready to cry.
“We’re on our way, Tali. Shepard won’t leave you behind. Count on it.”
“I know you will,” she sniffled as Xander cut the communications link.
“She’s a little emotional, don’t you think?” Miranda snorted.
“She’s worried about her men,” he grunted. “That and she cares about whether or not they live or die. Not a bad thing, if you’d care to remember.”
Miranda disagreed. “You have a job to do as a leader. Getting all your people out alive is an optional extra at best.”
“…and my sincere relief that Shepard’s the one in charge of this mission goes up another notch,” he replied sarcastically, changing the subject. “Anyway, there’s still plenty of Geth between us and that observatory. We’d better hurry.”
Miranda smirked. “We’ve done well enough so far, I think we can handle any Geth that come our way.”
She headed to the partially open door and shoved it open the rest of the way, only to be blasted back by a powerful siege pulse blast that lifted her body up and sent her flying back to crash against the control console.
“Colossus!” Kasumi shouted, diving for cover.
Xander knelt by Miranda’s prone figure. “What the Hell?!?” he shouted, jabbing a medigel dispenser against her burnt and seared flesh. “I thought your suit could resist damage like this!”
“It must’ve gotten a lucky hit on my bloody shield generator,” she growled, hissing in agony as his fingers brushed against badly-burned skin.
The huge siege engine fired another devastating blast at the open door while Primes and more flying drones began to swarm their position.
Jack brought up a Barrier, straining as she held it steady against the Geth’s relentless attacks that battered against her hastily-assembled shield.
Thane and Tolus joined the thief and biotic by the door. They opened up in unison, directing fire to take down several flying drones that flit through the air as their controlling Primes peppered the doorway with rapid-fire pulse blasts from a weapon that vaguely resembled a shotgun.
Drone after drone fell to the Drell Assassin’s lethal attacks, single shots that either stripped the drone’s shields and left them vulnerable to Tolus’ and Kasumi’s attacks or destroyed them altogether.
Once all of the drones had been blown away, Thane used the brief respite of Jack’s Barrier to join Xander. The Drell examined Miranda’s wounds with a critical and experienced eye before he delicately probed at the tear in her suit. “The wound is serious,” he observed.
“You sure?” Xander mused.
“I’m a very good assassin, Mister Harris. Being that good required that I… expand my skillset.”
“Point taken,” Xander nodded. “So tell me; what the hell’s wrong with the medigel, why won’t it take?”
“The gel can’t circulate though her compromised system quickly enough to counter the damage.”
“Then we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way,” Xander growled, tearing off his gloves.
He snapped another medigel dispenser in half, pouring the viscous fluid directly onto and into Miranda’s wound.
The genetically-engineered woman shrieked in pain as she felt the medigel’s coagulants and stimulants work to try and knit her flesh back together. Looking up, she caught Xander’s eyes as he concentrated on spreading the gel.
She blinked, woozy and confused. She could’ve sworn that his eyes seemed to shimmer in the weak light of the ancient room.
Off in the distance, she could hear it.
Something that sounded like music…
She could almost feel it…
She wanted to float free…
She wanted to hear the music better…
On some level, she knew that if she could just get all this annoying flesh out of the way…
This nagging life, with its betrayals and disappointments…
Then, finally, she could finally hear this perfect melody clearly.
Her mind soared higher and higher… and then she heard it.
A distant sound… was that a young girl’s voice?
She could hear it clearly now. Was that… Oriana?
Yes… yes… a violin was playing… Oriana was humming along.
Was that Nielsen’s Fifth?
Oh… the adagio. So beautiful… she played it so well…
Nielsen swelled in her ears, the strings and rolling drums building up and coiling around her to pull her back down to earth.
Her eyes flew open and she gasped.
Xander was looking down at her, looking very relieved.
Had she only imagined it? His eyes aglow with ancient power?
“Thought I’d lost you there, for a second, Lawson,” the immortal Scooby chuckled. “Boss would’ve killed me. Literally.”
“I heard…” the genetically-engineered woman groped for words, struggling to her feet with the immortal Scooby’s help. “…there was music.”
“Music?” Xander asked weakly. “What kind of music?”
“Classical, with strings, woodwinds, and drums. I think it was Carl Nielsen.”
“Uh, sorry, my idea of classical music tends to lean towards Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin…”
“You…” she began, turning to stare at him with an assessing eye. “You saved my life.”
“Yeah, well… like I said, Joan would’ve killed me if I let you get killed.”
Miranda nodded, laying a hand to her side and wincing as the tender touch caused a fresh wave of pain. “Well… then it’s a good thing that you’re so good at following orders.”
Thane, who hadn’t been privy to the miracle that had just occurred, stared across the quad that separated them from their destination, at the pair of Geth Primes, their drones destroyed they were now advancing.
Suddenly, two loud gunshots roared in quick succession, and both Primes fell.
Tolus gaped as the Prime’s heads exploded.
“That was an amazing shot,” he whispered while looking at Thane.
“Yeah, Thane, how’d you do that?” Xander asked. “I didn’t even see you raise your sniper rifle.”
“I did not; your shooter is over there,” the Drell pointed, and Xander saw it at last; a familiar chassis looking down on them.
“Is that a Geth?” Kasumi gaped. “Did we just get our asses saved by… by a Geth?”
“A dead Geth,” Jack snarled, raising her Eviscerator only to hear it click, as though the heat sink had been spent. “The Hell?” she snarled.
Xander had used one of his EM pulse charges to temporary neutralize Jack’s weapon. “Sorry, Jack,” he said. “Can’t let you destroy that one.”
“Are you shitting me?!? We just blew away a shit load of the things!” the bald biotic roared.
“THEY weren’t trying to communicate,” he said pointedly. “That one, on the other hand…”
“It must be malfunctioning or was probably hacked by one of the other Quarians,” Miranda grunted speculatively.
They watched as the Geth rose up and collapsed a huge and familiar weapon. “Operative XanderHarris,” it said blandly.
“Did that Geth just call you by name?” Kasumi asked Xander.
“Legion?” Xander gaped. “What the hell are YOU doing HERE?!?”
“We are rendering tactical assistance,” the independent Geth Trooper replied. “You are attempting to reach and extract Creator Tali’Zorah and the remainder of the Creator expeditionary force. We wish to assist.”
Xander nodded. “Legion, did you send a message to Cerberus about the Geth being here and looking for Tali?”
“We judged that contact with Cerberus listening posts would provide the most direct path to contacting Shepard-Commander.”
“How does a Geth know that Shepard is with Cerberus?” Miranda demanded, peevish.
“Unsecured extranet broadcasts and data feeds. We watch you,” the bipedal figure replied, flexing its top three “brow” plates.
Miranda gaped. “The Geth are… watching us?” she whispered.
“Yes,” Legion answered.
Xander noticed the look on Miranda’s face. She seemed to be having trouble wrapping her head around the implications of Legion’s words.
“Kind of freaked me out too, the first time I heard about it,” he said helpfully.
“How do you know Xander?” the genetically-engineered woman finally demanded.
“We rendered assistance to Operative XanderHarris by facilitating his departure from the planet Lattesh following an unscheduled deceleration and emergency landing.”
“Wait, did you crash on an uncharted world?” Kasumi deciphered the overtly-technical explanation.
“It’s complicated…” Xander grimaced.
“Operative XanderHarris was forced to land on Lattesh after sustaining damage to his shuttle during combat with members of the Blood Pack mercenary group.”
“That wasn’t nearly as complicated as I thought,” Kasumi mused, smirking.
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with Project Firewalker, would it?” Miranda asked pointedly.
"Project Firewalker?" Kasumi asked curiously,
"Cerberus operation," Xander answered, "Doc Cayce and Doc O'loy were looking for Prothean doodads."
“As I recall, one of Doctor Cayce’s last transmissions claimed that he’d encountered a talking Geth. Naturally, everyone at Cerberus High Command dismissed it as insane ramblings.”
“Yeah, Doc Cayce was as nutty as peanut brittle, all right.” Xander shrugged.
“I also can’t help but notice that its weapon bares a strong resemblance to the sniper rifle that Shepard now uses,” the genetically-engineered woman added pointedly.
He only grimaced. “Look, Miranda, it’s kind of a long story. So how’s about we get off this death trap and then I can give you the Reader’s Digest version?”