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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)BHRamsayFR1864310,83929385131,22616 Jan 1226 Sep 13No

Interlude: An Offer You Can't Refuse (5)

 Thanks to Reikson and Drakependragon ...


Interlude: An Offer You Can’t Refuse (5)


8
9
8



Xander opened the medbay door. He took another look at Chakwas in her sleeper pod before stepping into the room and sealing the door behind him.


“EDI, initiate maintenance check of the medical bay,” he said finally. “Use the onboard security systems to run a full diagnostic.”


“You have engaged the medbay’s exterior locks.” EDI warned him. “A full diagnostic will prevent anyone from entering the medbay until the entire checklist has been completed.”


He smiled grimly. “…and I wish I could say that wasn’t a part of my plan, but I’d be lying.”


Walking up to Morinth, he noticed that she was still screaming as she thrashed on the table.


“Okay, Morrie, Doc says your biotics are raging out of control. I’m hoping that means you’re capable of doing that freaky black-eyed thing by accident.”


The writhing Ardat-Yakshi only screamed, her eyes clouding over at random intervals as she tried to focus her gaze on him.


“I’m not gonna to lie to you, Morinth,” he grimaced. “What we’re doing here is very, very dangerous, more so for you than for me.”


Popping his neck, he added, “I’ll come back from having my brains fried, but you’re gonna be in serious danger.”


Escaping her flailing arms, he managed to put his hands on both sides of her head.


“OK Xander,” He whispered to himself, “Like that mystic in India taught you. strong focus on what you want … a connection with Morrie.”


Almost immediately, tendrils of gold energy blossomed from his fingertips and began wafting into the air between the two of them. “Willow knew that somehow, somebody would come looking for the secret to what’s keeping my clock ticking someday,” he said grimly.


As she thrashed under his grip, he scowled. The golden energy in the air suddenly washed over her body on its own volition, and somehow froze her body in place. He couldn’t help but grimace in dismay. “Aria almost triggered it,” he observed. “Liara got a free pass because she was invited, and your first taste will be free.”


The renegade Ardat-Yakshi couldn’t respond but he kept on talking. “But if you binge… and I know you will, you’ll hate what happens to you as a result. So, in advance, I apologize for what’s going to happen to you.”


“Okay…” he grimaced. “I’m ready, Morrie.”


Morinth’s eyes darkened to pitch-black as she actually screamed. It was a primal howl, high and loud, seeming to slice into his soul in a way that he couldn’t remember ever hearing before in his life.


Then he was falling.


So far…


So fast…


…and then suddenly he found himself standing at a very familiar place.


“Kingman’s Bluff, really?” he groaned.


“This is where we said goodbye.” Willow murmured from behind him. “Well, the part of me that you really like, anyway.”

He perked up as he turned around. Maybe Willow had changed her mind. But once he’d turned to look at her, and really looked, he noticed a strange ice in her eyes that was so alien… and yet so familiar to him. That cold gaze that he liked to pretend he hadn’t found just a little bit attractive… a little sexy… just a little-


“No,” he shook his head. “I love Willow. the real Willow. You’re nothing but the centerfold of a dirty mag that I tossed in the garbage a long time ago.”


The dark-haired, black-eyed version of his oldest and bestest friend smiled slightly. “Xander, they call it a guilty pleasure because you only feel the pleasure when you feel the guilt,” she whispered darkly.


“Oh, I see,” he nodded, his lip curling. “So this is the part where you tell me I’ve been secretly lusting after Darth Willow for all these years?”


“You barely knew I was alive until I had power,” she sneered, cocking her head to one side like he’d seen Illyria do. “You wanted Buffy because she had power, and you wanted Faith because she had power.”


“Uh-huh, and Cordelia and Anya were… what, exactly?”


“Cordelia had the only real power that matters to a high school boy,” the black-eyed aspect sneered. “As for Anya… I noticed that your passion for her withered somewhat after she let you out of bed long enough for the blood to rush to the head that’s supposed to do your thinking.”


“Well, somebody hasn’t had their Midol today,” he grunted.


“I am what you make of me,” she shot back. “How else do you think I can pull off tight leather and binding corsets so well?”


“Incidentally, you’re wrong. Dawn was… Dawn, and I loved her. I still love her to this day.”


“You’ve always had a power fetish, Xander, and you always will,” she whispered poisonously, leaning her head in enough that she could talk directly into his ear. “The only girl that you’ve ever been able to get it up for is one who could kick your ass physically or mentally.”


Her lips curled back into a triumphant smirk at his angry scowl. “Dawn only proved that you matured enough to let a woman dominate you emotionally. But considering that your most-recent choices are a self-righteous soldier with granddaddy issues, an Asari stripper so scared of her past she conquered the criminal underworld to escape it, and a biotic criminal so traumatized that dumping her after you inevitably sleep with her would be the merciful thing to do? I’d say that you’ve relapsed, big time.”


“I don’t need your recriminations,” he snapped irritably. “Just tell me how to save Morinth.”


She huffed in irritation. “Why do you want to help her?”


“Because Shepard cares, that’s why.”


“…and that’s another thing. Shepard, another healthy soul…” She trailed off and scoffed to herself. “I’d ask where you find them, but that’d imply that you actually have the balls to make the choice to find them.”


Shrugging expansively, she popped her neck. “The truth is; they seek you out, because they know that you and you alone will accept them in this world that hates and fears power.”


“Thank you for that impromptu psychoanalysis, Doctor Lecter,” he rolled his eyes. “Now could we get on with this already?”


She scowled, realizing that she couldn’t convince him to reconsider. “Mate with her,” she said finally. “Morinth can draw all the power she needs to purge the Reaper infection from your connection to the primal energies that’s sustaining you. Of course, once she gets a taste of it, she’ll start to gorge herself.”


“Then you work your mojo and kick her out.” He shrugged.


“Oh, totally, Xander. I’ll just kick Morinth out.”


There was something in her voice that set off his danger sense. “What’s the problem? You scared off Aria T’Loak easily enough.”


“I keep uninvited guests out, but you invited Aria in when you started *****ing her. She knew exactly what she wanted and took it,” the black-eyed fragment shook her head in exasperation. “You invited Liara in during that three-way meld, and she knew what she wanted and took it as well. See my point yet?”


He nodded, but she kept on talking. “If this is to work, you have to let her in and let her feed on you. At some point, you’ll somehow know that you have to kick her out.”


“She won’t want to go, but you have to maintain focus. Just concentrate on pushing her out, that’s your part. I can do the rest.”


“You can stop her without hurting her, though, right?”


“Xander, there will be consequences for her. Maintain focus like Liara and Aria did. Hold on to what you want; don’t flinch and don’t let go.”


He nodded. “Where is she?”


She pointed. “Xander, I’m not kidding about this. If you lose focus, she’ll gain enough power to become a threat to everything you claim to care about.”


“How do I do this?”


“Morinth’s a predator. She thinks that she’s Queen of the jungle. That’s your way in.”


He nodded, and started walking. At the top of the bluffs, he saw Morinth slung upon a giant wooden cross that had metallic tendrils writhing across its length and flailing in random directions. Sometimes, one of them would hit the ground and set off a shower of sparks.


As he got closer, Xander could see the Ardat-Yakshi writhing upon the giant cross as metallic tendrils twisted and coiled across her body, trying to pin her down flat.


Almost impossibly, she wasn’t in pain.


At least, she didn’t seem to be in pain when she had that beatific smile on her face and shuddering in the throes of what had to be a powerful orgasm of some kind. He could feel one of his eyebrows rising at the spectacle.


“Hey, Morrie,” he greeted her casually, as if the scene before him was nothing particularly new to him. In all honesty, though, he hadn’t expected the sight. “I came to get you out.”


“Alexander…” she purred. “Why would I leave? It’s good here… I’m finally at peace.”


“Morinth, you’ve got to keep fighting,” he shook his head. “I can help you.”


“They want to help me, Alexander.” Morinth’s eyes rolled aimlessly in their sockets, seeing nothing significant. “They want to make me better.”


He smiled thinly as he walked up to her. The metallic tendrils lashed out, slapping futilely against a gold field that protected him from its whipping reach. “Didn’t you want to hear the music, Morinth?” he asked. “I mean, really hear it?”


“They give me all the music I could want…” she purred breathlessly, writhing sensuously against her bonds. “Soon, everyone will hear the music… even you.”


“I’ve got other music,” he shrugged as the corner of his lips tugging in the barest facsimile of a smile that he could muster given his situation. “It’s the music you’ve been hearing for a while now. I can help you hear it better.”


He reached up and tapped a finger against her breastbone; a rhythm of four that she’d been hearing ever since she came aboard the Normandy… the same drums she’d only really started hearing when he’d kept her from draining that Toombs human.


“Don’t you want to hear it again?” his voice was layered, almost like the syrups in the honey wine that her sisters made every day at Lesuss. “Not even one more time?”


Morinth blinked as she really looked at him. Her eyes, usually pale blue, were now shifting between pitch-black and a brightly-luminescent biotic-blue as she tried to focus amidst the strange pleasures of her bonds.


“You want it, don’t you?” the Boy asked her. The irises of his eyes were now burning with gold fire, the sheer power of his life-force leaking through. “Shepard sent me. She wants you to really hear the music.”


“Shepard… sent you…” she slurred, perking up slightly as she struggled to concentrate past the delicious sensations running up and down her body.


“That’s right.” Xander nodded. “She wants you to hear it.”


He extended a hand to her. “C’mon…” his whispers promised poison, but she can’t resist it any more than a pyjak could resist something shiny. “You know you want to hear it.”


Her eyes filled with longing, and her fingers twitched.


“That’s it, Morrie,” he smiled. She could see death in every fiber of his being, and she suddenly wants to know what he tastes like. “You know what to do, don’t you?” he asks her.


“Tell me you love me,” she said suddenly, her voice stronger.


“I love you, Morinth.” She knows he doesn’t mean it, but she can’t find it in herself to care as her heart seems to leap for joy at his declaration.


She plays the same old game with him, dominating the flow of the conversation, and finds a glimmer of respect for him in that he knows what she’s doing but plays along anyway. “Tell me you’d kill for me.” Xander saw her hand tear itself free of the cross to caress his cheek.


Part of him wonders if he’d do more than just kill to save her life. “I’d kill for you, Morinth.”


Suddenly, as quick as a striking cobra, Morinth’s free hand softly caresses Xander’s cheek as she pulls him in for a kiss. Her voice was vitriol, sending a glissando of ice down his spine and a staccato of fire through his veins, as she hissed against his mouth. “Embrace eternity!”


He screams even though he didn’t want to scream.


Intense pain side-by-side incredible pleasure threatens to ruin him.


In spite of himself, he remembers something that he focuses on; Shepard wanted Morinth alive, so Morinth had to survive.


“Fine, if you say so.” The cold voice he heard was at once familiar and totally alien, laced with a furious frustration promising much pain and suffering.


8
9
8


Aethyta opened her eyes. The familiar sight of her apartment swam into coherence around her. Off in the distance, she could hear the sounds of Nos Astra at night.


Sitting up on her bed, she looked around. When she saw Benezia, she rolled her eyes in spite of herself. “Back again, Nezzy?” she observed scornfully.


“I brought you dinner.” Benezia said quietly, gesturing at a wheeled tray filled with food on small dishes. “All of your favorites.”


“You’ve barely let me go anywhere except to my job at the bar ever since you ambushed me.”


“I need the Matriarchs to think that you’re maintaining your schedule,” the rogue Matriarch said absently, peeking out a window that had its blinds drawn. “You know, fulfilling your dubious task of spying on Liara?”


“Why are you still here, Nezzy?”


“You used to be much more appreciative of my comings and goings, Theta.”


“Well, what put the kibosh on that? Could it have been the fact that you ran out on me while carrying a belly full of our daughter?”


Mydaughter.” Benezia snapped, turning to her. “Liara’s mine.”


“Oh, I’m sorry, did you cheat on me or is Liara a blessed birth?” Aethyta sniped back, scorn masking old wounds. “I ask because I, for one, clearly recall the night we made her.”


“Yes, it was epic.” Benezia sneered. “We argued again, then we got drunk again, then we started fighting again, and finally we got completely plastered before we-”


“Oh, who are you kidding, Nezzy? Even the humans know that the only thing better than angry-hate sex is make-up sex.”


“You don’t get it, do you, Theta? Even after a hundred years, you still don’t understand. I wanted more than endless debates and arguments and fighting-”


“Did you ever really love me?”


“Did you?”


“Let’s see; I whored myself to The Matriarchs that I despise, just so I could watch over our daughter.” Aethyta snarled. “Additionally, I had to hear from Shepard and her special friend that me keeping an eye on her is more than anything you’ve done for her in these last fifty years of her life.”


“There it is.” Benezia remarked, her lips curling into a poisonous smile. “There’s that tedious and unreasoning hatred of the Matriarchs that I remember all too well. I’m betting you still know the words to your favorite song. Everybody repeat after Theta…”


“Those dusty old *****es ruined us/lead us down this road/we’re a joke across the galaxy/A race of strippers and good-time girls.” Aethyta tried to ignore Benezia miming her words.


Taking a sudden, deep breath, Benezia suddenly said, “You know… in light of the current situation, I think it’s time I told you why the Matriarchs need to be hated.”


“I already hate the Matriarchs.”


“No, you don’t.” Benezia shook her head. “You hate what they’ve done. I need you more focused than that; I need you to hate them for what they’ve become.”


“What are you talking about?”


“About thirty years ago, a certain bunch of primates entered the galactic stage. Predictably, the first species they have a fight with are the Turians.”


“…the Relay 314 incident.”


“A war’s being waged and armies on both sides are being brought to bear.” Benezia’s eyes seem to glitter. Aethyta couldn’t tell if it was obsession or madness or something else. “For the first time in centuries, there’s someone out there who might give the Turians a moment of pause. Then, suddenly, it stops. The war stops, at our behest, and we all march into history as one big happy family.”


“The Matriarchs stopped the war on purpose.” Aethyta realized.


“Exactly, Theta. The Matriarchs stopped the war.” Benezia nodded. Her voice was little more than a whisper, promising to disclose the secrets of the universe. “You see; those dusty old *****es have known all along that humanity’s been hiding more than just a few cards in the hole. None of us know why they’ve forgotten about these aces, but they’re there waiting.”


Aethyta could feel her stomach seemingly sinking as she slowly came to realize the import of her former lover’s revelations. “For example, there’s self-resurrection from death; immortality by any other definition. Strength and speed well beyond what’s normal for a human being, or even some species that evolved to be better and stronger than human beings.”


“Why?” Aethyta asked, mystified as she stood up. “Why go to all this trouble?”


“Because the Matriarchs think that humanity’s part of the next stage in a little game that the Protheans were playing with us.” Benezia hissed, pinning her former lover up against a nearby wall. “Call it ‘let’s play goddess’ if you want, but our biotics… our culture… our history… I could show you things, Theta.”


For a moment, Aethyta nearly entertained her old fancies, but Benezia suddenly pulled back; not finished. “But, in short, the Protheans were looking for a means to power and used our primitive ancestors to achieve their goals.”


“This is about all those little secret meetings you were having at the temple of Athame.”


Benezia nodded. “The Temple holds the proof that the Protheans were trying to make us, the Asari, into something else. Over the years, we’ve tried to replicate their experiments with only limited success. Reverse-engineering and trial-and-error can only get you so far.”


“…and the Matriarchs think the Protheans were experimenting on the Humans as well.”


“At the very least, they were observing them.” Benezia shrugged. “We know that much from our limited access to the Prothean archives on that planet of theirs, Mars. They saw what the primitive primates could somehow do and tried to replicate those feats for themselves with biotics. Our people’s biotics are just one aspect of that success.”


“…and the Matriarchs want to know about… what, exactly?”


“The humans call it magic.” Benezia shook her head grimly. Even now, she couldn’t quite reconcile the idea of feats that could defy everything that she thought she knew about the laws of physics. “In ancient times, the humans were enslaved by something so powerful the Protheans and even Sovereign’s true masters hated and feared it. At some point the humans became strong enough to oppose the creatures on their own terms. The stories still exist, some of them were even true, although distorted by the passage of time and the nature of oral tradition.”


Aethyta remained unconvinced. “So some humans can do this magic stuff, so what?”


“Our people, the Asari, are the oldest and most advanced race in the galaxy, but humans have a familiarity with… magic, that we don’t have.” Benezia insisted. “The Matriarchs saw that magic helped Shepard’s comrade Harris gain self-resurrection; immortality by any other words. They started to wonder what would happen if they could find a way to do the same thing for themselves. Imagine; the forces of the universe bending to your will with little more than a gesture. Who wouldn’t want that kind of power?”


Her eyes seemed to gleam, obsession toying with her mind. Aethyta felt something tugging, realizing that Benezia was unconsciously trying to dominate her. Shaking her head, she managed to shake off its effects before snapping scornfully, “Are you asking me to hate them or join them?”


Benezia shook her head. “Once the Matriarchs confirmed that such abilities were possible, they initiated a series of bureaucratic changes that drastically extended the accommodative bureaucracy that we’ve put in place for Asari relationships outside our own species. Do you remember how the social networking sites blew up after our Maidens and Matrons caught sight of human females?”


“Don’t remind me.” Aethyta grunted. “For weeks on afterwards, I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing our people talk about nothing else butthe humans. I even heard a few commandos talking about getting laid their next shore leave with a human.”


Benezia sighed wearily. “As I was saying, the Matriarchs exploited our people’s human-lust in order to initiate a new type of breeding campaign. Once they discovered that our people could somehow instinctively find humans with magic in their family history, the Matriarchs went and quietly encouraged Asari to mate with humans as they saw fit.”


“Does this have anything to do with that biotic-acceptance movement that Mirani’s been heading up on Earth?” Aethyta demanded.


“Somewhat.” Benezia shrugged. Matriarch Mirani was the power behind humanity’s biggest biotic-acceptance movement Universal Force, and was known to be a free spirit.


“Interesting…” Aethyta growled. “So the Matriarchs are using Human/Asari relationships to try and breed a quote-unquote magic gene into our own genome.”


Benezia nodded. “I don’t know why they’re suddenly doing so… overt. This sort of blatant maneuvering is unheard of for the Matriarchate, and I can’t help but think that it won’t end up well for anyone if this information gets out.”


Aethyta snorted in spite of herself. “Liara’s little endgame with the Shadow Broker will have ended by now. If our daughter’s won, then you can bet your ass and rack that Shepard will find out sooner or later. Ten minutes, and the two of them could start a war.”


“They won’t.” Benezia shrugged. “Between Shepard and Liara trying to rally the other races into preparing for the Reapers, never mind that immortal and his two friends running about with their own agenda, all of them have far greater fish to fry.”


“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t we?” Aethyta grunted snidely.


8
9
8


Morinth looked around. All she could see was a room that circled itself around her. The furniture and decorations had a luxurious and tasteful quality to them, except for the hundreds and hundreds of primitive vid-monitors embedded in the walls.


In the center of this whole arrangement was a young human woman with red hair, wearing a form-fitting dark outfit complete with corset. She was examining Morinth from the comfort of a leather swivel chair.


“Hello, Morinth,” the redhead intoned.


“Who are you?” Morinth managed, caught off-guard.


“My name’s Willow. This is the Construct,” she gestured all around, at the vid-screens. “No doubt you’ve got questions, and desires.”


“What is this place?” the bemused Ardat-Yakshi asked, in spite of herself.


“A place of refuge for Xander’s mind while his body resets and repairs itself,” the redhead shrugged, gesturing carelessly. “Sometimes, he’s recovering from damage so severe that the act of recovery itself would be too traumatic for him to endure. When that happens, he comes here.”


“Why does his mind look like this?”


“Why?” Willow parroted, looking extremely amused. “That’s a very boring question when compared against all the other questions for which you want answers.”


She leaned forward in her seat, a thin smile on her face. “Can’t you hear it? All the answers that you want; they’re all around you.”


Morinth looked around, trying to listen. Then she heard it.


A strange song, with music unlike anything she had ever heard before.


Looking all around her, she noticed that the music was somehow coming from the vid-monitors around her.


Willow waved a control wand at the monitors, causing their images to change. As they did, she saw countless scenes of war, violence, death, and general chaos.


Then the music changed to an aggressive rhythm, a drumming rhythm of four that repeated itself endlessly. But she could still hear it; the whispers promising power and knowledge.


No… more than just knowledge… freedom.


“What is that?” Morinth hissed. “That rhythm… what is it?!?”


“It’s exactly what you think it is.” Willow shrugged, leaning back in her chair. “A base code of Creation; you see, I called upon primal forces of the universe in order to fix Xander and save his life.”


She pressed a control and the monitors changed to show Xander lying upon the ground. A massive spear was rammed through his gut, and Morinth noticed that his face was locked in a rictus of pain. He was also surrounded by three women, one of whom was now sitting before her and staring at the vid footage.


“I didn’t really understand what I was doing back then,” the redhead said sadly. “Primal energy is like binary code. Ones and zeros, on and off, life or death … if I’d known then…”


“Still…” she shrugged. “We’re talking about Xander here. The universe is a better place with him in it, than it would be if he wasn’t. Don’t you agree… Mirala?”


Morinth turned her head back to the seated redhead, startled. She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted. “I cursed Xander with immortality.” Willow said casually, steepling her fingers. “Did you really think that something as inane as your real name would be out of my reach?”


“I suppose not,” the Ardat-Yakshi shrugged. “Still, I think you’d be better off helping me like you helped him.”


“Now why would I do that?” the redheaded woman sneered.


“Don’t you want to save your friend? From what I’m seeing, his immortality probably won’t be able to save him from me.”


“You Asari…” the über-witch grimaced in disgust. “Every time one of you melds with someone like Xander, you’re trying to achieve unity with something so far beyond you that you can’t even begin to conceive the scope of its power.”


Popping her neck, she glared imperiously at the Ardat-Yakshi. “Have you any idea what your species have sacrificed throughout their history, just to reach your current evolutionary point?” she demanded. “Do you know what you’d have to give up so that you can reach the point of transcendence that all of you seem to aspire towards?”


“I don’t care about any of that!” Morinth snapped. “I just want the power! Give it to me!”


“No.” Willow growled. “Because I think you do care, Morinth; you care about a lot of things in life. Like her, for instance.” The monitors changed to show a certain older Asari running down some Blue Suns mook.
“Justicars are the symbol of everything you despise most about your people, and yet this one is in your thoughts.”
The vid revealed the Justicar using her awesome biotic abilities to catch the skycar that the merc had just stolen in her attempt to flee from the inexorable Justicar.


“…and, of course, your sisters.” A wave of the control wand and the monitors showed Falere and Rila. Morinth absently touched one of the screens and it expanded to show her that her older siblings were sitting in a room.


Rila’s dress was stained with the yellowed juices left over from the honey wine that they’d been making that day. She never had cared about appearances.


Falere was reading. One of her historical novels, no doubt. Morinth tried to see the cover, but noticed that the author had a human name. The book, called The Handmaid’s Tale, was unfamiliar to her. Because she’d never read it, Morinth wondered what kind of human story could fascinate her sister so much.


An attendant wandered by, and Falere casually slid the book out of view.


So… it was contraband. No doubt some fanciful human drama.


Morinth wondered what human author would rate being banned by the monastery.


Then she was snapped out of her thoughts by the placid voice of the redhaired human woman. “Or… maybe it’s them in your thoughts?” The monitors then changed, showing her the faces of her victims.


The Krogan who’d taken her virginity.


Her first Salarian, his mind so brilliant and curious. She recalled, with some amusement, that he’d even been curious about the legends of the mysterious Ardat-Yakshi. Well, she hoped that their encounter had satisfied his curiosity as much as it’d filled Morinth’s endless and aching need.


…and so many others, including a young bespectacled boy.


“Guess you’re starting to wish that you’d paid more attention to Byron’s theories now, huh?”


“I barely remember him.” Morinth scoffed. “I barely remember any of them.”


“Perhaps they’d be more familiar if you saw them like… this.” Willow hissed speculatively, as the monitors now showed her the faces of her many victims dying with the same mix of pain and pleasure on their faces.


Fascinated in spite of herself, Morinth caressed the screens as she came face-to-face with her former lovers.


“How did you know?”


Willow just shrugged. “In here, you’re operating on a whole other level, Morinth. Seeing what you’ve gotten away with is the least of my abilities.”


“Then it’s you that I want.” Morinth purred, her voice thick with lust.


“The power that you seek isn’t genetic in nature,” the redhaired woman explained calmly, shaking her head. “Your natural abilities may let you perceive the power, but you’re nowhere near ready to possess it. The chaos that someone like you could unleash across the galaxy would be horrifying.”


“Give it to me and I’ll leave the boy alone.” Morinth offered. “You care for him, don’t you?”


“Morinth, you’ve been killing for four hundred years.” Willow chided, her lips parting into the slightest glimmer of a poisonous grin. “After all that time, you’ve finally found someone who can not only come back for more, and also gives you an infinitesimal piece of a gargantuan puzzle that promises power after every time you kill him. Do you really think that someone like you could really stop, even if you wanted to?”


“But I’d protect him,” the rogue Ardat-Yakshi offered, her greed and lust making her desperate. “No one would ever harm him again.”


Willow laughed briefly, and Morinth was unnerved by the cruel condescension that she could detect in the human’s voice.


“No one would harm him,” the redhead parroted, amused. “That is, except for you, of course. You’d just kill him, from time to time.”


“He has so many lives. All I’d ask is for a few of them, is that so much to ask?”


“So your deal is that I let you kill Xander repeatedly over the next thousand years? I’d run the risk of letting you learn about certain things concerning the actual nature of Creation that you’re clearly not ready to know.”


“What gives you the right to judge who does and who doesn’t get this power?” she demanded.


“What gave you the right to kill thousands of people for four hundred years?” the redhead shot back.


Old resentments surged to the fore. “Survival! I have the right to survive!” she roared, her body wreathed in dark energy.


“I have the right to live beyond the pitiable existence of that damn monastery!” Morinth shouted, pacing back and forth in her agitation as the redhead’s gaze followed her every move. “Rotting away in some monastery and making the rest of my people rich while I have nothing for me but the promise of death!”


“What about Xander?” Willow pointed out. “Doesn’t he deserve more than to be your sex-toy for the next six hundred years?”


Morinth stopped in her tracks, turning to face Willow. “I offer companionship,” she groped for an incentive. “I can feel his loneliness, his isolation… I can be the balm to that. We would march through the centuries together.”


“Hmm…” the redhead hummed, tapping a finger against her chin. “Hot Asari sex versus occasional death, how DOES one choose such things?” her sarcasm was palpable.


Morinth snorted in disdain. “Like most, you assume that the Joining is all about sex.”


“For any other Asari, you’d be right,” Willow’s eyes glittered, lightning dancing across her fingers. “But that’s not the case with you. You get off on the Joining itself. The seduction, the power… you’ve gained the ability to dominate your victims’ minds, warping their thoughts to your whims.”


She popped her neck, groaning in relief as she turned to look at Morinth again. “Your victims become so psychologically dependent on you that you could tell them exactly what’s going to happen to them and they’d still let you fry their brains.”


The rogue Ardat-Yakshi twitched as Willow seemed to vivisect her train of thought, as the redhead finally frowned. “Now you want to do THAT to Xander for the next five hundred years, and beyond.” The solemnity of that conclusion gave Morinth goosebumps.


…and yet, that last sentence caught her attention. “Beyond?” Morinth parroted. “You mean, I could become immortal like he is?”


“It’s in the base code, Morinth.” Willow shrugged. “Given enough time and effort… and, you know, killing Xander… you might work out the basic principles.”


“How?” Morinth pleaded.


The redhead shrugged. “Aria T’Loak was disciplined and focused. She wanted one thing and one thing only, so she got it and left.”


Morinth blinked. She hadn’t put any stock in the recent rumors about the Queen of Omega save that she’d suddenly started displaying abilities that biotics couldn’t explain. Now, here she was being told that the Boy was responsible for giving her such power?


But Willow wasn’t finished. “The other Asari, T’Soni? She knew exactly what she wanted, so she took it and left. Xander allowed them in, so I only had limited power over them.” A nasty grin suddenly parted her lips. “But you…” she hissed. “You… are an entirely different matter.”


“Then… you’d let me have him?” she could feel that excitement rising in her at the idea.


The redhead just closed her eyes, leaning back in her chair. “Xander’s a gift. There’s not many people out there who deserve to have that gift,” she said loftily. Turning a critical and speculative gaze at Morinth, she added, “You certainly don’t. But maybe… maybe, with a little shift in your priorities… you could become worthy.”


“Excuse me?” the Ardat-Yakshi demanded. “Who are you to judge my worth?”


“It won’t be for me to judge you.” Willow shook her head. “No… Xander will be doing all the hard work. Someone once called him the-one-who-sees, I… just have to make it worth his while; I have to give him a reason to look past the monster that you are, so that he can see the little girl that you used to be. Then he can make others see it too.”


“Enough games.” Morinth snarled, losing her patience. “Give me what I want.” A quick biotic Charge, and she was right in front of Willow, a biotic-wreathed fist chambered and prepared to punch the human female hard enough to break bone.


Willow only sneered up at her would-be attacker, her eyes and hair bleeding away to become pitch-black.


In spite of herself, the fugitive Ardat-Yakshi took a few steps back. She could feel it; that growing unease, a sense of alien perception and reality that made her want to run or fight, and she couldn’t decide which of them would let her live.


“Do you know what your problem is, Morinth?” Willow snarled.


She answered her own question. “You’ve let your condition define you. It’s not just the rest of the galaxy; you see yourself first and foremost as an Ardat-Yakshi, which isn’t exactly conducive for your health.”


She stood up from her chair, but didn’t move. “People keep trying to help you for a long time,” the redhead shrugged. “But you? You never listen. You have your tragic curse and think that it gives you an excuse to give up and indulge your darkest impulses.”


Morinth scowled, readying herself for a fight as Willow turned an unnerving glare on her. “I think it’s time that we fixed that. Don’t you?”


Then the human woman lashed out and grabbed Morinth’s face, spacing her fingers just enough so that the Ardat-Yakshi could still see some of the monitors featuring the faces of her many victims in their last moments.


Suddenly, the faces started talking.


Screaming.


Crying, yelling, railing at her, cursing her…


The sounds quickly blurred into a single incoherent stream of deafening noise.


Somehow, through all of that noise, Morinth could still hear Willow talk. “You’re like Liam and William. They were killers, like you. Unrepentant in many ways, just like you.”


She sighed. “In the end, they helped us and gave their lives to save the world. But first, they had to be unmade before they could be remade. Liam was cursed with a soul, and William-”


Then Willow suddenly trailed off, an idea apparently coming to mind. “Actually, you know what? I think that’s an excellent idea.” There was a dark smile in her voice.


“Shut it off! Make it stop!” Morinth shrieked. It’d only been a few seconds, and her victims’ screaming was already threatening to overwhelm her.


“Why?” There was sadistic amusement in the human female’s voice. “This is what you wanted, wasn’t it?” Willow taunted.


“You want Shepard’s respect, her love, right?” the redhead cooed. “Well, if there’s one thing that Xander and Shepard share, it’s that they love a good underdog story.”


Morinth blinked, trying to focus past the voices. “Someone who’s lost everything and is struggling onwards to find new meaning in life? Oh, but Shepard will love it.” Willow mused aloud, enjoying the sight of such a hardened killer being rendered so vulnerable.


“Now… what does an Asari value most?” Morinth started struggling at Willow’s words, knowing exactly what her captor was talking about. “What defines her; makes her what she is? What’s the one thing an Asari would rather die than be without?”


No! Not her biotics! This, this… kral’sta, couldn’t possibly have the power to do that!


She’d die before she’d let that happen! She struggled in Willow’s strong grip, to no avail.


“Why are you doing this to me?!?” Morinth screamed, at her wits’ end.


“The same reason that you’ve done what you do, Morinth,” the redhead shrugged, pulling her hand away and letting her fall to the ground. “Because I can, and because it’s fun.”


The room of monitors suddenly cracked, shattering like broken glass falling from a mirror’s housing. The shards of glass fell to the ground yet unbelievably the faces upon them remained The faces of her victims tore free of the shattered glass, mere wisps. But they were still shouting, still screaming, still cursing, as they swirled around each other to gather themselves up into a single mass. The thing that called itself Willow swirled the mass around and around as it gradually picked up speed.


“Now this is going to hurt a lot; but I know you Mirala, I know how much you enjoy the pain.”


Willow’s hand knifed downward and the mass, guided by her powerful hand followed with an unearthly howl. She couldn’t dodge it even if she wanted to.


“You burned them Mirala,” Willow hissed, “You burned their hearts and their minds .. wel now its your turn to burn. Payback is a bitch Mirala and so am I.”


Morinth felt the fire tear through her skull Suddenly the screaming that had been surrounding her and deafening her was suddenly inside her, inside her brain … The pain somehow she knew that she would never ever feel anything as intense as the agony that filled her now.


Then she knew nothing at all.
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