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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

Interlude: So much for subtlety (1)


AN‭ ‬--‭ ‬Thanks to Drakependragon and Reikson‭

8
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‭“‬David,‭ ‬you busy‭?‬” Buffy whispered.

David Anderson looked up from the email he‭’‬d just received from Admiral Rael‭’‬Zorah of the Quarian Migrant Fleet.

‭“‬Just trying to find the right diplomatic language to deal with our Quarian friend,‭”‬ he explained.

Buffy snorted.‭ ‬“What‭’‬s the diplomatic equivalent of‭ ‬‘here‭’‬s a quarter,‭ ‬call someone who cares‭’‬ and stuff‭?‬”

Anderson chuckled bitterly.‭ ‬“He‭’‬s a father whose‭ ‬daughter just hooked back up with one of the most infamous people alive today.‭”

“Yeah,‭ ‬I got a real sense of how much he loves his daughter during the awards ceremony for the‭ ‬Normandy team,‭”‬ she scoffed.

‭“‬What do you mean‭?‬”

“He couldn‭’‬t be bothered to show up to see his daughter being honored by the whole freakin‭’‬ galaxy in person.‭”

“Some people don‭’‬t know how they‭’‬re supposed to show how much they care.‭ ‬That doesn‭’‬t mean they don‭’‬t.‭”

“David,‭ ‬take it from someone who‭’‬s had to listen to more than her fair share of‭ ‬apologies for missed birthdays and holidays.‭ ‬Almost anything is better than nothing.‭”

Anderson regarded her with sympathy.‭ ‬“I‭’‬m sure‭…”‬ he didn‭’‬t know how to bring up something like this.‭ ‬“…I‭’‬m sure that if he could‭’‬ve found a way to show that he cared,‭ ‬he would‭’‬ve done so.‭”

Buffy grimaced remembering how the forces of darkness had ultimately warped her estranged father's feelings of guilt and love‭ ‬and‭ ‬turned him into a puppet‭ ‬of their will.‭ ‬The truth about the part‭ ‬that‭ ‬he‭’‬d played in the Brawl-for-It-All,‭ ‬and his warped reasoning for it,‭ ‬still haunted her to this day.

‭“‬Oh,‭ ‬he found a way,‭ ‬all right,‭”‬ she‭ ‬sighed.‭ ‬ “His way almost cost me everything and everyone‭ ‬that‭ ‬I ever cared about,‭ ‬but‭…‬ yeah,‭ ‬he found a way to show me that he still cared in the end.‭ ‬ I kinda wish he hadn‭’‬t.‭”

Anderson sighed.‭ ‬He‭’‬d come to regard Buffy as a capable and competent woman who‭’‬d endured a lot for her convictions‭; ‬the kind of person that the galaxy needed.

“So‭…”‬ he asked,‭ ‬only half-kidding,‭ ‬“…what‭’‬s the diplomatic equivalent of‭ ‬‘get your head out of your Quarian ass and talk to your daughter before it‭’‬s too late‭’‬ called‭?‬”

“Maybe you should just try telling him that.‭ ‬ Some people are really stupid.‭”‬ Buffy shrugged.

Anderson chuckled.‭ ‬ “What did you want to see me about‭?‬”

“We‭’‬ve got guests.‭ ‬ Tevos wants a word,‭ ‬and she brought backup.‭ ‬ They don‭’‬t look happy.‭”

Anderson rolled his eyes.‭ ‬ “How many did she bring with her this time‭?‬”

“I counted only three.‭ ‬ I‭’‬m insulted.‭ ‬ I guess they aren‭’‬t as intimidated by me as they used to be.‭”

“Please don‭’‬t take that as encouragement to rile them up,‭”‬ David pleaded.

‭“‬What would it say about Humanity‭’‬s representative if his office staff couldn‭’‬t kick a little ass when needed‭?‬”

David sighed,‭ ‬pinching the bridge of his nose.‭ ‬ For some reason she never explained,‭ ‬Buffy seemed to love when he did that.‭ ‬ He suspected that half the things she did was just to get him to pull off that display of resigned exasperation.

‭“‬Well,‭ ‬let‭’‬s go see what she wants,‭”‬ he‭ ‬sighed,‭ ‬noticing that Tevos was wearing a typical full-length Asari dress that had a business-casual cut to it.

As Buffy had mentioned,‭ ‬she had three Asari Commandos as bodyguards,‭ ‬each of them looking a tad nervous.

Word had obviously gotten around the‭ ‬station.

Mess with David Anderson and you dealt with Buffy Summers.

‭“‬What can I do for you,‭ ‬Tevos‭?‬” Anderson asked brightly.

‭“‬David,‭ ‬I know we‭’‬ve had our differences in the past‭…”‬ Tevos began carefully.‭ ‬“…especially when dealing with your‭…‬ protégé.‭”

“I wouldn‭’‬t call it a difference of opinion,‭”‬ he grunted,‭ ‬rolling his eyes as he turned his gaze towards the Presidium.‭ ‬“You joined Sparatus and Valern in denouncing her as a delusional paranoiac who‭’‬s obsessed with conspiracy theories and possibly under‭ ‬criminal influence.‭”

Tevos sighed,‭ ‬wringing her hands nervously.‭ ‬ “Yes,‭ ‬well‭…‬ that‭’‬s the past.‭ ‬ Right now,‭ ‬we have to discuss the future.‭ ‬ Specifically,‭ ‬I need to know if you know where she is.‭”

“Last I heard,‭ ‬she was on Haestrom,‭ ‬and I only know that because I just got a very formal letter from the Quarian Admiralty Board that managed to be equal parts condescending,‭ ‬threatening,‭ ‬and narrow-minded.‭”‬

Buffy snorted.‭ ‬ “At least the grunts said thank you,‭”‬ she pointed out.

‭“‬Why would the Quarian Admiralty Board care about Shepard‭?‬”

“She just extracted one of their marine squads from a hot zone swarming with Geth that had overrun some science expedition,‭”‬ he shrugged.‭ ‬ “Do you remember the Quarian that was with her,‭ ‬Tali‭? ‬She was in that group and joined Shepard‭’‬s crew.‭ ‬That communique I just read was from‭ ‬HER father.‭ ‬ Apparently,‭ ‬he thinks that we might be inappropriately meddling in Quarian matters.‭”

“Has Shepard said anything about what happened on Ilium‭?‬”

“I only know‭ ‬that‭ ‬you sent a Specter out there.‭ ‬ What‭’‬s‭ ‬this about,‭ ‬Tevos‭?‬”

“Tela Vasir has gone missing,‭ ‬and there are conflicting reports surrounding her.‭ ‬ Some say‭ ‬that‭ ‬she died on Illium,‭ ‬but there are‭ ‬other reports‭ ‬claiming that‭ ‬she departed the planet in the company of an unknown human.‭ ‬ It doesn't help matters that the‭ ‬Normandy has been sighted at over a dozen different locations,‭ ‬including‭ ‬a docking port‭ ‬ON Illium.‭”

“…and how are they supposed to be on Illium while still pulling Quarian Marines out of Geth-infested shooting galleries‭?‬” Buffy asked.

‭“‬That would be MY problem as well.‭”

“I‭’‬m not sure I follow.‭”‬ Anderson interjected.

‭“‬Vasir had orders to locate and monitor Doctor Liara T‭’‬Soni.‭”‬ Tevos looked agitated.‭ ‬ “If Shepard made contact with her,‭ ‬Vasir was to make contact with Shepard.‭”

“I‭’‬m guessing that there was a hitch in that plan.‭”‬ Anderson sighed.

‭“‬We were aware that Vasir occasionally used the Shadow Broker as an information resource,‭ ‬but I‭’‬ve recently learned that their relationship went quite a bit‭…‬ deeper then we suspected.‭”

“Who‭’‬s we‭?‬”

“The Matriarchs of Thessia,‭”‬ Tevos‭ ‬sighed.‭ ‬“They‭’‬ve been‭…‬ concerned about this whole situation.‭ ‬ David,‭ ‬please,‭ ‬if Shepard‭’‬s dealt with Vasir,‭ ‬I can deal with that,‭ ‬but for her to vanish so completely‭…”

“Shepard would have no reason to take out your Spectre,‭ ‬Tevos,‭ ‬at least no reason‭ ‬that‭ ‬I‭’‬m aware of.‭”

Buffy cleared her throat.‭ ‬ “Unless Vasir made a move on Liara,‭ ‬they seemed pretty tight.‭”

“I already told you Vasir had orders.‭”

“The question is,‭ ‬whose orders was she following‭?‬” Anderson mused.‭ ‬ “Yours or the Shadow Broker‭?‬”

Tevos paled,‭ ‬an impressive feat given her bluish-purple complexion.‭ ‬“But if she‭’‬s gone rogue‭…‬ David,‭ ‬Vasir was one of our most-trusted agents,‭ ‬she had top level access.‭ ‬For someone like the Shadow Broker to compromise one of our elite operatives‭…”

“I can get a message to Shepard,‭ ‬I‭’‬ll find out what I can and pass anything relevant on to you.‭ ‬In the meantime,‭ ‬do me a favor and let me know if Vasir turns up.‭”

Tevos nodded,‭ ‬and left the two of them alone,‭ ‬her Commando bodyguards in tow.

‭“‬Buffy,‭ ‬I‭’‬ll need a few moments alone.‭”

“You‭’‬re gonna talk to Hackett,‭ ‬aren‭’‬t you‭?‬”

Anderson nodded.‭ ‬ “I‭’‬m not sure how much longer we can maintain this wait-and-see approach to Shepard.‭ ‬ It might be time to be a little more proactive.‭”‬

“What about Ashley‭? ‬You gonna tell her‭?‬”

“I‭’‬m starting to think that Operations Chief Williams is taking this situation with Shepard too personally,‭”‬ Anderson sighed.‭ ‬ “She seems far too invested.‭”

“Xander didn‭’‬t say anything to me.‭ ‬ Then again,‭ ‬last time I talked him was when Shepard was here.‭”

“I‭’‬ll talk to Hackett.‭ ‬ In the meantime,‭ ‬see if any of your new friends in the consular assistance staff have heard anything Tevos didn‭’‬t mention.‭”

“You want me to work the Secretarial Pool‭?‬”

David flushed at Buffy‭’‬s politically-incorrect summary of his request.‭ ‬ “It sounds bad when‭ ‬YOU say it,‭ ‬but‭…‬ well,‭ ‬you are my executive assistant.‭”‬

“In other words,‭ ‬a secretary.‭”

“An ass-kicking secretary,‭”‬ he pointed out.

‭“‬The supreme ass-kicking secretary,‭”‬ Buffy grumbled.‭ ‬ In the end,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬she relented and let‭ ‬Anderson seal himself in his office for a while.

Once the door was closed,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬she went to her terminal and brought up a display.

‭“‬VI,‭ ‬connect to the Illium surveillance database.‭ ‬ Authorization:‭ ‬Slaygal‭;‬ this is a Priority-One Torchwood Protocol initiation.‭”

“Clearing‭…‬ connection established.‭”

Buffy tapped at her omnitool.‭ ‬ “Collate to Nos Astra timestamp‭ ‬1852‭ ‬hours,‭ ‬identify and focus on‭ ‬subjects of uploaded program.‭ ‬ Run facial recognition‭ ‬through search parameters,‭ ‬then‭ ‬compile and play‭ ‬back in vid-clip.‭”

The ageless Slayer watched Shepard‭’‬s confrontation with Vasir,‭ ‬and their subsequent chase and brawl,‭ ‬playing out across Nos Astra‭’‬s citywide surveillance network.‭ ‬ Not for the first time was she thankful that the Torchwood Protocols allowed for this kind of search.

‭“‬God bless you,‭ ‬Willow,‭ ‬wherever you are,‭”‬ she murmured.

The chase finally ended in some kind of resort.‭ ‬ Buffy watched as Shepard gunned down Vasir,‭ ‬before the Asari with her did‭…‬ something to her.‭ ‬ The‭ ‬ageless Slayer‭ ‬wasn't sure what‭ ‬exactly‭ ‬Shepard's Asari teammate was doing,‭ ‬but it looked like she really enjoyed it.‭

Vasir looked pretty dead by the time it was over.‭

She fast-forwarded a few minutes before seeing something that shocked her.‭ ‬ Vasir‭’‬s body had been loaded on an ambulance,‭ ‬before the body‭ ‬suddenly‭ ‬sat upright and‭ ‬had‭ ‬a telltale seething glow in‭ ‬the supposedly-dead Spectre‭’‬s eyes.‭

“A‭ ‬wraith‭?‬” she whispered,‭ ‬confused.‭ ‬ “But that's impossible.‭ ‬ They all went away,‭ ‬along with everyone else connected with‭ ‬the Evil Lawyers.‭”

She continued running the scene and gasped‭ ‬when she saw who was‭ ‬getting into the driver‭’‬s seat of the emergency vehicle.‭

“Warren Mears‭? ‬Ohh,‭ ‬this is bad,‭”‬ she cursed as she took in every detail of the flayed man‭’‬s exposed musculature.‭ ‬“V.I.,‭ ‬has there been any response to my contact queries with Red-Witch-One‭?‬”

“Red-Witch-One remains offline.‭ ‬ Would you like to resend contact request‭?‬”

“No,‭”‬ Buffy sighed.‭ ‬ “Open an extranet connection.‭ ‬ Send burst message to Galactic Poetry Slam Social Forums,‭ ‬search for username SunnyD-Boi.‭"

“User is‭ ‬currently‭ ‬offline,‭”‬ the V.I.‭ ‬intoned monotonously.‭ ‬ “Last‭ ‬logged‭ ‬access‭ ‬timestamp was six hours‭ ‬and‭ ‬thirty-one minutes ago,‭ ‬Citadel time.‭ ‬ Would you like to PM user‭?‬”

“Yes,‭”‬ she answered.‭ ‬ “The‭ ‬message reads as follows‭; ‬the storm is gathering.‭”

Buffy sat back in her chair,‭ ‬sighing heavily as she looked out the window.

Warren was back,‭ ‬Willow was AWOL somewhere,‭ ‬Xander was stuck on the front lines,‭ ‬and here she was in the‭ ‬bleachers.

Maybe it was time to reach out to other avenues.

‭“‬V.I.,‭ ‬contact Horizon.‭ ‬Send message to Ashley Williams.‭”

“Communications blackout in place,‭”‬ it reported.‭ ‬ “No message possible at this time.‭”

“What do you mean,‭ ‬a communications blackout is in place‭?‬ How do you blackout an entire sector‭?‬”

“Unknown.‭ ‬ Would you like to record message‭?‬ It will be delivered when communications are back online.‭”

Buffy sighed.‭ ‬ No doubt there was another ion storm mucking up the com-buoys,‭ ‬but‭…‬

“Okay,‭ ‬set message record,‭”‬ the ageless Slayer sighed.‭ ‬ “Ashley,‭ ‬this is Buffy.‭ ‬ We haven‭’‬t talked in a while,‭ ‬and we both know why,‭ ‬but this is important.‭ ‬I'm sending a surveillance vid of Shepard on Illium.‭ ‬ I think they might be in more trouble then they realize,‭ ‬and if‭ ‬it‭’‬s what‭ ‬I think it is,‭ ‬then you could be in danger,‭ ‬too.‭ ‬ Just‭…‬ just watch your back,‭ ‬okay‭?‬”

Buffy dispatched her message and severed her link to her V.I.,‭ ‬leaning back in her chair again as she pinched the bridge of her nose.‭ ‬“Now I‭’‬m officially worried,‭”‬ she groaned.

8
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8

Halfway across the Citadel,‭ ‬a Salarian named Jondum Bau sat frozen at a terminal.‭ ‬The implications of what he‭’‬d seen,‭ ‬though the digital monitoring device‭ ‬that he‭’‬d planted in the human Councilor‭’‬s office were‭ ‬staggering.‭

Bau grabbed‭ ‬a‭ ‬copy of Buffy's message off the Citadel‭’‬s servers and reviewed the video footage that she‭’‬d compiled.‭ ‬ He wasn't sure what a wraith was,‭ ‬or who this Warren Mears‭ ‬character‭ ‬was supposed to be,‭ ‬but his‭ ‬old‭ ‬STG‭ ‬contacts‭ ‬could take care of that.‭

What was far more important,‭ ‬and‭ ‬far more‭ ‬troubling,‭ ‬was the fact that Summers‭’‬ message had been sent to‭ ‬someone who was‭ ‬being seriously considered for induction into Special Tactics and Reconnaissance.‭

“Computer,‭ ‬give me all database information on‭ ‬human Systems Alliance Operations Chief‭ ‬Ashley Williams,‭ ‬especially anything connecting her to Joan Shepard,‭”‬ he said curtly.

As data flew across his screen and scrolled down at a rapid pace,‭ ‬Bau found himself‭ ‬pondering on the mystery of Councilor Anderson‭’‬s secretary and her long-time association with the equally enigmatic Xander Harris.
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