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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 9 (c.2)- Awakening


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Tweet of the Day: Photography: Vivid

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Huerta Memorial Hospital, Presidium, Citadel, Widow, Serpent Nebula, October 12, 2196

Consciousness came by way of a hummed tune and the sharp smell of antiseptic. My body followed. First were the eyelids. They slowly opened to the bright light that flooded the room. The sting from the light woke the skin to the touch of the linens covering it.  Then came the toes that wiggled into life. Then a lingering pain from the stomach. Finally the brain caught up.

“Miranda?” I asked.

Ace’s honey brown ponytail whipped about as she turned, “Commander?”

My attempt to change position was rewarded with a sharper pain from my stomach and back, “Where am I?”

Ace adjusted the bed,”Huerta Memorial, sir. Don’t you remember what happened?”

The canopy shatters. The shuttle nosedives.

“I got shot, I think,” I said.

“Yeah, you were lucky that-”

The door slid opened. Miranda stood in the doorway flanked by a pair of C-Sec guards guarding the room. The two women eyed each other.

“Lieutenant,” said Miranda.

“Miss Lawson,” said Ace.  As they walked pass each other Ace stared down at Miranda’s behind and mouthed, “That can’t be real.”

My laughed turned into a coughing fit. Miranda gave me a glass of water and pulled a chair beside the bed.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

The cool water soothed my parched throat.

“I’m alive, that’s gotta count for something, right? So how long have I been out?” I asked.

She ran her fingers through my hair,”Four days.”

“That long.”

“I took the doctors nine hours to dig out all the bullet fragments.”

“Shredder round,” I said. She nodded. “And when did you get here?”

Her voice broke, “Yesterday morning. I came as soon as I heard.”

“You dropped everything just to be my nurse. You left Oriana hanging like that,” I said.

“She practically packed my bags and booked my ticket before giving me the news.”

“And here you are. I should get shot more often,” I said.

“Don’t you dare.”

I reached for her hand, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Vega came into the room along side a tiny woman with a long black ponytail. She wore a sleeveless leather jacket. Tattoos covered every milliliter of her exposed arms in intricate overlapping patterns of black, blue and red.

Miranda met her half way, “Jack.”

“How you’re holding up, princess?” asked Jack.

I couldn’t help myself, “Oh she is fine, you know, for someone who didn’t get shot, had their guts scrambled, crashed a shuttle and nearly drowned in the middle of the Presidium.”

Jack look down on me, “You’re dating this asshole,” her left eyebrow rose,”really?”

“Let’s get some coffee,” said Miranda.

Vega took Miranda’s chair, “So, how are you holding up?”

“Fine, for not dead,” I said. “So…girlfriend?”

Vega pointed at the gold band on his ring finger, “Married. Our seventh anniversary is in January. We first met in Grissom Academy. Cerberus was after her biotic students.”

“She’s a teacher?”

“Yeah, one the Accession Project’s best. Her students absolutely love her,” he said with a wide grin.

“What about that princess business?” I asked.

“They were in Shepard’s crew while hunting down the Collectors,” said Vega.

“Merc, ex-Cerberus?”

Vega frowned, “Ex-Cerberus, sort of, it’s complicated. Talking of which, you think they are behind this? Could be pay back for us ruining their plans on Rannoch.”

“Maybe. The fact that I was put in charge of….”

“In charge of what?” asked Vega.

My mind went back to the events of the last week. Analysis confirmed that the virus used by the quarian terrorist used Cerberus and Reaper code. Both of them had tried to control the geth in the past with various degrees of success. If Cerberus knew that I helped stopped the takeover of the geth this time around, that might be good enough reason to take me out.

No, that’s not enough. Unless…shit!

Cerberus thrived in the shadows. They were masters of intelligence gathering and covert ops.  They had four days to activate a contingency plan or put into motion a new one to get to me before I left the Citadel. If they had spy programs inside the Councilor’s systems or a spy in her office and then they knew she put me in charge of hunting them down.

“Councilor Wei-Len put me in charge of putting a stop to Cerberus. Somehow they found out and decided that I had to go,” I said.

“Makes sense,” said Vega.

It does and if Miranda finds out….

“James I need you to keep your mouth shut about this. Not a word to anyone, specially to Miranda.”

“Jefe?”

“She ex-Cerberus. If she finds out she’ll want to hunt them down. I can’t afford the…distraction,” I said.

“If we figured it out, I’m sure she already did. Besides, she was the Illusive Man second in command. If anyone knows how Cerberus operates, it’s her,” he said.

“I know, and…I just can’t…just keep damn mouth shut, okay, Vega. Can you do that?” I pleaded.

“I seen what those bastards are capable off, kidnapping biotics kids, experimenting on refugees and selling out humanity to the Reapers. You saw the tats on Jack body, right?”, I nodded. “Well, that’s her life written on her skin. They cover the scars of what Cerberus did to her. If you’re going after them, I want in,” he said in a low grim tone.

“I’ll sign the orders myself.”

“Good.”

Jack and Miranda returned from their extended coffee break.

Jack draped her arms around Vega’s neck, “The cheerleader says you’re alright.”

“I have my moments,” I said with a glance at Miranda who sat at the edge of the bed.

“Come on big guy, I have homework to grade,” she said.

I waited until the two of them left the room, then pulled Miranda to my side.

“The bed too small,” said Miranda.

“Doesn’t matter. Just,” I buried my nose in her hair,”just stay.”

We laid together until I fell asleep.

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