Zeppo Effect 2: Fight for the Lost
Author: B.H. Ramsay
Disclaimer: I own nothing, and I claim nothing; which is what YOU’LL get if you sue me: nothing. Consider yourself disclaimed.
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.
Byron pinched himself for the millionth time. An Asari, and a beautiful one at that, was in his house. Plus, she seemed genuinely interested in his ideas and work.
"So, sweet thing," she cooed in his ear, as they cuddled in his room. "Tell me about this theory of yours?"
"The governments of Earth are covering up the existence of immortals, and the fact that a third world war almost destroyed the planet, almost two hundred years ago now." Byron said assuredly, adjusting his glasses.
Intrigued in spite of herself, the Asari who called herself Morinth ran a hand down Byron's face, whispering coquettishly, "How do you cover up a war?"
"You delete all records surrounding the event, and make sure to silence all those who would say otherwise," he asserted. "Essentially, recorded human history says that the Brawl-For-It-All has never happened."
"The… Brawl-for-It-All?" she managed uncertainly.
"That's what I've heard one or two people call our unofficial World War Three." Byron lectured, getting up from his bed to activate a large-screen projector.
The first image showed an image of six humans; four females, and two males. "This was a global conflict that involved some of the most powerful and most dangerous humans on the planet."
The second image centered on the older human male, who was wearing a set of primitive visual-enhancement devices perched on his nose and set over his eyes. "At the heart of the fight was a worldwide terrorist organization who called themselves the Watchers."
The third image was of the younger human male, who wore a patch over his left eye. "These people claimed that the supernatural truly existed, that they'd been fighting demonic forces since the dawn of time…" Then Byron faltered, adding, "Well, not them, exactly."
The fourth image was a split-screen, featuring two human females; the one on the left had yellow hair, while the one on the right had dark-brown hair. "According to what records that I've been able to find, their heavy-hitter was a near mythical warrior, known only as the Slayer. She's the one who did all of the actual fighting, while the Watchers…"
Byron's voice trailed off leadingly as the projector now showed a split-screen image of the two human males that she had seen before. "Well, they watched and chronicled each Slayer's achievements and failures."
"Impressive…" Morinth mused. To a point, she was impressed by this human's meticulous data-crunching. "So this so-called brawl that you're talking about... did anyone survive the fight?"
"Yeah," Byron perked up. "A couple of people, like Willow Rosenberg," and here, the projector showed an image of a human female with red hair and a slender build. "She's become this hacker folk-hero; a ghost of the machine. Some say that she might be working with, or might even BE, the Shadow Broker."
"Who else?" Morinth wondered aloud. Byron had an impressive setup, to be sure, but...
"Well, there's Buffy Anne Summers," and the projector revealed the yellow-haired human female that she had seen before. "Rumor has it that she was a highly-placed operative within the Watcher Organization, AND that she was even one of their Slayers."
"What happened to her?"
"She pops up in various places, here and there over the centuries." Byron shrugged.
Then the projector pulled up several picture files and movie clips, and this was when Morinth noticed that he was getting excited.
"The most-noticeable place was on Elysium," Byron explained. "They say that she was the one who saved the colony from that slaver attack during the Skyllian Blitz; the Angel of Elysium."
"Is she the only one?"
"No way!" Byron shook his head. "Both Rosenberg and Summers had a friend from their high school years. His name was Xander Harris." The projector showed an image of the one-eyed man, that she had seen early on in Byron's slideshow. "He was a known associate of theirs, for pretty much everything that happened in their hometown of Sunnydale."
Then he became pensive. "Funny thing is…" he paused. "…he seems to bear a strong resemblance to the Xander Harris that survived the Thresher Maw attack on Akuze, about… five years ago, now?" As if to accentuate his point, the projector then broadcast an image of Technical Sergeant Harris in rehab after Akuze.
Morinth frowned in contemplation as Byron went a step further. He’d ran a facial-recognition program against the ancient image of the one-eyed human male that she had seen earlier, and all points from both images matched perfectly. The one-eyed human male, and the Technical Sergeant, were one and the same.
"That's impossible," Morinth frowned. "Harris, Summers, and Rosenberg… they'd have to be over two hundred years old."
"Yeah, and this is the same Xander Harris who helped the first Human Spectre stop Saren's invasion of the Citadel only a few months ago." To prove his point, the projector showed an image of the Technical Sergeant stabbing a Geth drone with a hard-light blade from his omnitool. "They say that he was a big part of the reason that Commander Shepard was able to stop the Geth assault and save the Destiny Ascension while the Council was aboard."
But Byron wasn't finished. "In addition, several witnesses report seeing a girl, matching Buffy Summers' description…" the projector then displayed an image of the same blonde human female that she'd seen earlier. But now, she was decapitating a tall Geth unit with a Turian-made sword. "…saving several people from getting killed during the Geth's invasion of the Citadel. Two of them even remember seeing her on Elysium during the Blitz."
Now she was REALLY intrigued. "So… you believe that these three people; Summers, Rosenberg, and their friend Harris, are hundreds of years old and living amongst regular people? That the Alliance government has been hiding who and what they are, for some mysterious purpose?"
"Well, if it isn't the government, then it might be Cerberus," Byron shrugged. "Rumor has it that the Illusive Man himself has some fixation on these three people."
Well, Byron's ranting had been interesting, but she was growing impatient. After all, hearing theories about immortals wasn't the reason that she had decided to meet him. "That's fascinating and all, sweet thing, but that wasn't the only theory that I wanted to talk to you about. I saw your postings about the Ardat-Yakshi. You had some interesting ideas."
"Oh, that, yeah…" he sighed. "Well, I know that theory isn't as popular. You know how the Asari hate anyone even knowing about the Ardat-Yakshi, let alone thinking that they don't have total control of them. I've found proof that at least one of them have been running around the galaxy for the last four hundred years."
Now the projector began running vid-clips of various charts. Morinth frowned at the display as Byron continued talking. "I tracked her movements, cross-referenced them through a couple dozen databases, and I think that I can even figure out when this Mirala character went on the run."
"My, my…" Morinth drawled. "…you even know her name."
"I stumbled across an old hospital record," Byron explained. "Everything else had been purged by the Asari government."
"You really have done a lot of work," she purred. "You know... with that kind of knowledge, one would think that you'd know what she looks like."
"I wish," Byron snorted. "The Asari Matriarchy strictly controls any and all information about Ardat-Yakshi. You can barely find anything beyond children's stories and pop-culture references, and anything real or concrete vanishes into a huge data hole. The Justicar Order refuses to admit that Mirala even exists, let alone the fact that she's successfully evaded them for four hundred years now."
As the projector generated an image of an Asari, Morinth frowned thoughtfully.
"I've got almost nothing, except an old picture file from some Thessian hospital." Byron grunted.
A surge of relief ran through her as she realized who she was looking at. So she turned back to Byron and said coolly, "That's not her."
"She's not Mirala?" Byron asked, frowning quizzically.
"No, that's her oldest sister Falere," Morinth said airily. "See? She has a dark complexion, taking after her father. Mirala, however? She favors her mother, in physical appearance."
Byron was about to ask how she could possibly know about something that specific, but he was interrupted by Morinth kissing him. The bestial passion of her hungry mouth effectively silenced his questions and drove the blood in his body away from his brain, where it might have done him some good.
Suddenly, he didn't care to ask her any of the nagging questions that he should've asked her; such as, how she'd found him and why she was so interested in Ardat-Yakshi. He certainly didn't care about the sinister look in her eyes. All he suddenly cared about was her.
"You are a brilliant little human, and I'm glad I found you. Really… I'm glad."
"You are?" Byron panted, almost breathless. "I gotta admit, I was surprised that anyone as hot as you would read extranet conspiracy theory postings."
"Oh, sweet thing," Morinth chuckled. "Of course I read the extranet. Especially forum groups like the one that you posted to. So many naughty thoughts you have about Ardat-Yakshi, all those fantasies that you confessed to me… once I knew about you, I knew that I had to find you."
"You've been following me?" he sputtered.
Morinth placed a teasing finger against the boy's lip and whispered, "Now, hush, sweet thing. Look into my eyes… tell me that you want me, that you'd kill for me… anything that I want."
Byron's mind emptied of all thoughts; his life, his ambitions, everything that he was… they were all focused on those black, featureless depths that searched his soul.
"I want you," he repeated dully. "I'd kill for you. Anything that you want, my lady."
"Oh, you're such a flatterer," she chuckled. "You know, your writing isn't why I find you so special. No, that honor fell to your ability to track me. I'll have to be much more careful in the future. Now, tell me, sweet thing. Have you told anyone else about your project?"
"No…" Byron said flatly. "No one believes me."
"Of course they don't, sweet thing," Morinth cooed. The cruel and amused condescension in her voice would've hurt Byron's feelings, if he could've registered them in his conscious mind. "The Asari government works hard to keep the secret of the Ardat-Yakshi just that; a secret. If your work wasn't making it easier for my dear mother to find me, I might have even let you keep posting your theories."
Her lips curled into a humorless grin as the fantasy ran through her head. "The sheer scale of the humiliation they’d experience in the wake of the public backlash… the embarrassment they would've experienced… it's what they deserve."
Turning her thoughts back to the enthralled conspiracy theorist, she began to turn the mental screws. "Now, sweet thing, are the files on your console here the only copies? Be honest with your lady."
"Yes, my lady," he said dully. "Everything that I've found is right here."
"Aren't you the accommodating one?" she cooed happily. "Such an eager desire to help… that deserves a reward, don't you think?" At this point, the dull throbbing in her head suddenly began to pound. She’d kept herself from melding with anyone else during her long journey to Byron's home, if only to make the resulting sensations all the sweeter and more delicious. The addiction would be satisfied soon enough…
"So…" she concluded, clapping her hands once. "…I'm going to fulfill your most ardent wish, little man. I'm going to join with you." At the dull glimmer of delight in his glazed eyes, she couldn't stop herself from smirking. This was too easy, and so she couldn't keep herself from taunting him. "I bet you've yearned for this experience, Byron. Fantasized about it."
"Yes, my lady, I've dreamed of it," he droned tonelessly.
"Well, you'll find that the reality of the experience is… very different. The pleasure of the joining is unlike anything that you could possibly imagine," she ran her hand down his arm, appreciating the artistry of his data-crunching and obsessive need for knowledge.
"Thought and identities, they all merge and intertwine," she explained. "Everything that you are, all of your thoughts and dreams and hopes… well, they'll be laid open for me to examine at my leisure. You'll give me truly exquisite pleasure, sweet thing. Won't that be fun?"
"Yes, my lady, nothing would make me happier," he mumbled.
"I know, Byron," she smiled, now predatory. "Soon… I'll know everything that makes you happy, even the things that you don't admit to yourself. I'll know everything about you."
Morinth's eyes went jet-black, and Byron's last thoughts (assuming that he had any at all) was that he could see his face reflected in her dark orbs. “Now…” she panted. “…embrace eternity!” and the electric-blue storm of a biotic aura suddenly raged in his vision, just before everything went black.
All too soon, however, it was over. Morinth lay back on Byron's bed, panting in after-orgasmic delight and smiling as she saw the life-light fade from his eyes and watched as his body slumped to the floor as dead weight.
As the joy died away, Morinth stood up and sauntered to Byron’s computer. She slid an OSD into the boy's computer, and watched as its autoexecuete command consumed all of the data on its hard drive.
All that was left was a stylized formation of black hexagons, molded into the shape of some human letter, against the orange background of Byron's computer screen.
But everything that he'd ever stumbled across, everything that made him find her so easily... all that data had been deleted.
Along with his ridiculous theories about immortals.
That's all an immortal was.
If there were any REAL immortals running around, then there was no way that the Asari government would allow them to wander about so freely. Especially not when her people might be able to breed with an immortal and take such a unique ability for themselves.
But Fate is not without a sense of humor.
Morinth had been so eager for the kill that she’d dismissed Byron's ideas and erased all of the data on his console, as soon as she could.
In putting Byron's crazy theory out of her mind, she wouldn't recognize Xander when she would meet him two years later.
As a result, that was why events played out the way they did.
But that's a story for another time.
AN - Well here we are again, Thanks to Reikson for the beta help, thanks to the people who encouraged me to work on this and thanks to BIOWARE and Papa Joss who give us such wonderful worlds to play in.