Sunday, 27 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 3

The next thing Keating remembered was waking up inside her ruined skycar. There was a ringing noise behind her ears and she could feel pain from cuts due to the broken glass on her face. She grimaced and rubbed her forehead. She had a pounding headache and she was fairly sure she had cracked a few ribs, if not broken them. Neither could she feel her left arm.
Her hands came away covered in blood. She reached for her radio - and realised it had smashed into pieces.
Sophia cursed and groaned in pain. All she could see out of the cockpit was fire, and the same went for the back window.
She tried to open the skycar's cockpit to be able to get out, but it was stuck. There was only the sound of metallic grinding.
Keating drew her M-8 Avenger pistol and used it like a club to smash the remaining shards of glass on the edges of the cockpit window and tried pulling herself out. However, even before her head had escaped from the skycar, her muscles gave way and she fell back into her seat.
Instead, she shot the lock. Normally when, in the enclosed space of the skycar, the sound of the gunshot would have been nearly deafening, there was only a muffled sound as her ears still rang with a high pitched noise. She holstered her gun.
She pushed as hard as she could against the cockpit to try and get the skycar open. Fire started dripping like liquid from the exterior of the vehicle down on to the passenger's seat - on to Henry's body.
She positioned her feet so they were perpendicular to the locking mechanism, then lashed out with all her remaining strength. The cockpit opened and she rolled out on to the ground, feeling several sharp pains in her back as shards of metal and glass cut through her damaged light armour. Her hearing was beginning to return to normality.
Keating crawled using her remaining arm and her legs to try and get a better view of the crash scene. She didn't get very far, but she noticed the gunship, alike to the skycar, was on fire. She wasn't even sure where the crash had happened, only that it had been a matter of metres away from a wide river.
The door of the gunship opened, and an armoured figure stumbled out.
"My, my," the figure said, in a distinctly female voice, "That was quite a crash. You're lucky to survive, Detective. However, I think your luck is about to run out..."
The armoured woman had a shotgun pointed at her.
"... Please..." Keating groaned, "... Why?"
"We can't have you trying to get the Alliance to make our organisation an outlaw. Isn't it obvious? I have direct orders from the Illusive Man to take you out. You've notified the Alliance of our presence and we don't need you anymore. Goodbye, Detective Keating."
Keating threw herself forward as the shotgun fired. She struck the Cerberus operative with her wounded arm, hissing in pain as pain shot up her shoulder. The shotgun blast went wide, and the woman stumbled and fell.
Now she had the advantage. She used her knees to pin the woman's legs down and used her right hand to throw the shotgun away. She then drew her pistol, pointing it point blank into her helmet.
"... Whatever your name is... I'm arresting you for firing upon a police officer and for conspiracy to commit murder, espionage, and everything else Cerberus does. You... fuck this..."
The woman started struggling. Keating moved accordingly to keep pinning her down, but the woman's arm still managed to get free.
A fist hit Keating's cheek and she was thrown off, and accidently bit her own tongue in the process. When Keating recovered, the woman had drawn a sword, and was advancing towards her.
Keating scrambled away, grabbing her gun in the process and pointing it in the woman's direction.
"Stop," she ordered, "For god's sake just stop..."
The Cerberus operative stopped moving. There was the quiet sound of sirens in the distance, probably ambulances coming in response to the crash.
The woman took off her helmet, revealing a face surrounded by long blonde hair which had shaped itself into the curve of the helmet.
"... I said stop!" Keating said, her hand shaking.
"You won't shoot me," said the woman, "The gun is missing a thermal clip. You can't fire."
Keating looked down at her gun quickly, and then cursed.
The sirens were getting closer.
She threw her gun away, and switched to using her biotics. Her arms began glowing with blue energy. The Cerberus operative slowed her pace.
Sophia pushed with her biotics, causing the sword to spin out of the woman's hand, but failed to do anything else other than making her stagger. It was the strongest shockwave she could manage.
The woman growled and launched herself at Keating. She threw another shockwave, but all it did was manage to slow her down, so they collided once again.
When the sirens drew near, the woman looked up. An ambulance skycar and a police shuttle were coming.
The woman climbed off Keating, hitting her in the temple in the process. Keating's vision faded to black once again, and the last thing she saw was the Cerberus operative jumping into the river and vanishing from view.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 2

Sophia and Henry went to the Alliance Defence Council - it was the only thing they could do when it came to Cerberus.
However, there was a three hour wait for being able to see them. They had told the receptionist it was urgent. All they had got as a reply was, "Yes, I'm sure it is. Now sit down."
So they waited for three hours. During most of that time, Keating was practicing her biotics - lifting a polystyrene cup off the coffee table the Alliance had been so kind to place in the middle of the waiting room, before moving it back down.
Henry was amazed at this, but Keating was more glad about the fact that no one gave her any funny looks - the people who were coming to see the Alliance were actually better educated than most of the world's population when it came to biotics, so didn't assume she was some kind of mind reader.
When their turn came, Keating breathed a sigh of relief and stood up, muscles hurting from being sat down for too long. She followed the person who had been sent to collect her and Henry. The journey to the Alliance Defence Council took around a minute of walking through corridors full of politicians and military commanders. Stepping into the heart of the Alliance was the only time you saw them actually doing something since, in comparison to the rest of the galaxy, the Alliance just was sitting there doing nothing. Even some humans thought that it was pointless.
The guide stopped walking at a door with a green, rotating, holographic circle in the centre.
"They will see you now," the guide said, raising her arm in a gesture for them to enter.
Keating pushed the hologram and the door hissed open. They both stepped inside as the guide went back to the waiting room. The room they found themselves in was fairly large with a curved window at the rear. In front of the glass, there was a long desk with the six Alliance Defence Council members sat at it.
"Welcome Detective Keating and Sergeant Gardner," said Gerald Hodgson - the head of the council, "The receptionist told us that your appointment was urgent. Why is this?"
"I'm just going to get to the point. We've found evidence to suggest it was Cerberus who killed al Aladin."
"That's impossible. We have Cerberus banned under Alliance law. There is no way they could have even entered the Sol System without us knowing," said another of the council.
"Nevertheless, it was them. We analysed the bullet - yes, bullet - that he had been killed with. It bore the Cerberus logo, almost like they wanted to be found."
"Why would they do this?" asked Hodgson, frowning, "It makes no sense."
"Aladin was the one responsible for their organisation being banned. Without him they could get themselves in a position of power."
"But they've convicted themselves of murder. They must know that we would never allow it."
"I do. They must have something planned. I can't investigate it myself because, let's face it, it's by far out of my jurisdiction. This is why I came to tell you. Because I figured that you would be able to do something about Cerberus."
"We can't confront them directly because we have no idea they're even in the system. We will keep a look out for them, however. Good work Detective."

As she suspected, the Defence Council refused to help. She and Henry went back to the skycar to go back to the police station.
Keating drove. She generally didn't drive skycars since she found the controls rather unstable. However, recently she had got used to the sense of being weightless you got when you decided to fly down. For the past few days she had driven the skycar around, much to Henry's distaste.
"We spent all that time waiting for them to talk to us," growled Henry, "And then they do nothing. Absolutely nothing."
"I know, Henry. It's bad. But we've done all we can do."
The skycar crossed on to the motorway. Despite roads not being used since the 2050s, skycars still followed the lanes. It was an easy organisational structure, with holographic barriers separating the two directions. It only required fabricators and hologram generators to be built into the existing roads to project the lane dividers.
"Bloody Cer-"
There was a chatter of gunfire from behind them as rounds tore through the unprotected shell of the skycar, shredding Henry's seat and putting holes in his chest. Blood splashed on to the cockpit window and Keating shrieked as Henry slumped forward.
"Henry!" she cried, pushing the controls to make the skycar go into a barrel role to avoid another burst of fire. She looked in her mirrors, seeing a A-61 Mantis Gunship join the motorway behind her, with the machine guns still spinning.
Horns flared out from the skycars and shuttles around her as a rocket screamed from the wing of the gunship and flew towards her.
Her skycar had no weapons. None at all. Neither could she rely on speed, since the gunship, in almost every way, outclassed her small skycar.
Instinctively, she flicked a switch and blue lights began flashing on her skycar. The other drivers moved out of her way.
She twisted the wheel quickly. The skycar roared as it twisted over itself, causing the missile to go by as she made it go upside down and turned it back around as she moved beneath the raised motorway. The rocket hit one of the pillars and her skycar shook as the concrete crumbled.
The gunship still followed her. She turned and looked out of her window as the Mantis drew level. It bore the orange Cerberus logo.
However, that was the least of her worries as a small door on its tail opened and a figure was visible from within, who appeared to be holding a large weapon.
Before she could wrench the wheel, more rounds tore up her skycar. There was an explosion from behind Keating as one of the engines took damage and set on fire.
She pulled the wheel towards her to increase her altitude over the city. She left a trail of black smoke behind her.
Keating scrambled for her radio, "Alpha 1- Fuck! This is Keating there's a gunship after me I need backup!"
Another rocket flew at her. She steered the skycar so it narrowly avoided a building, causing the missile to crash into that instead. More gunshots ripped apart her vehicle and there was a second explosion as the remaining engine was destroyed.
She began to fall.
Keating started screaming as the gunship flew level with her and the glass of the cockpit shattered from more rounds from the figure with the weapon. The skycar hit the corner of a block of flats as it descended, ricocheting off the concrete. She and the gunship collided, throwing her forward. Blood from Henry's corpse splashed into her face and she couldn't help but squealing. She blinked the blood out of her eyes, then saw the ground rushing up to meet her.
She had just enough time to brace for the impact.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Monsters - Part 5

"So you realised it was Cerberus who killed the man on the Defence Council?" Mia questioned, "Why would they do that? To kill a human, I mean. And especially with a bullet. I don't know anyone who uses bullets anymore."
"That was something... that had us stumped," Keating said, "But then we... realised... they would have wanted to send a... symbol. And that they killed him... in an attempt to make their organisation... legal again. Take out the... person who is fighting them the... most, and the argument to make it banned will... disappear."
"Right. So when are we going to get on about your boyfriend?"

When Thomson and Emi reached the CIC, all the systems were turned off.
"They have just shut down," said Revenge from the corner, "I am detecting signs of their signals inside the ship network."
"Can you fight them?" Thomson asked.
Revenge shook his metal head, "I am afraid not."
The hologram that was usually above the table which made up the majority of the CIC flared into life. Whereas normally it would show statistics about the ship, there was nothing but blue.
Two white eyes came on to the screen.
"As you are aware..." said a dark, almost synthetic voice, "We have taken your... your friend. Unless you bring the Quarian to us within twenty four of the time measurements you call hours, he will die. Followed by the rest of you. We are watching."
"Oh shit," said Thomson, feeling Emi cower behind him.
"Please disperse from this network," said Revenge, "Otherwise you will die."
"You have no chance against us, Reaper," said the voice, "You tried to wipe us out once, and you failed. Now we will destroy you. Your power is limited in that body. We will have the Quarian. We will learn. And then you will die.
Ploba, twenty four hours. Exchange the Quarian for your friend."
The CIC went dead, before lighting up as normal with the holographic view of the ship.

Stealth awoke with a pounding headache. He hadn't even realised he had been knocked unconscious or fallen asleep. He was in what appeared to be a small chamber which had a polygonal shaped room, almost like the inside of a bee's hive. There was a door in one of the corners which appeared to lead to another room.
"This is not real," said a voice, "We have induced you into a dream-like state which we can control. However, we have linked your neurological pathway into the network. If you die here, you will die in reality."
Then there was only silence.
Stealth drew his sword.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Betrayal - Part 1

Sophia Keating had always shown signs of biotic potential, ever since she was small. Her mother and father must have exposed her to dust form element zero before she was born. Most human biotics weren't noteworthy, most couldn't lift more than a mug or a plate. Hers, however, had shown promise. She was no biotic prodigy, but neither was she bad.
Her main issue, she was told, was the strength she put in to her mass effect fields. Her control was unparalleled in the Alliance training programme, able to hit the smallest of targets with biotic energy, but the fact she didn't hit the targets with enough power was her biggest downfall. And no matter how much she tried, no matter whether she had damage-boosting amps installed or not, she couldn't muster up the necessary power required to have biotics which could actually be effective. She lacked something.
The Alliance training programme she was involved in was a small group of humans with biotic potential trying to better themselves. It wasn't anything to do with the military, though exceptional students would be offered a place in a new section of the Alliance that was forming for biotics.
Keating knew she'd never get a place. Because of the fact that she would be no use in combat - she could barely throw someone back, because she simply was not strong enough. Yes, she could create an unstable mass effect field which could tear an enemy apart - but it was too weak. In the long term, it could probably take the paint off their armour, but not more. She could hurl them at one every second or so, but that meant nothing if they weren't powerful enough.
She did have a friend in the programme, however. Well, slightly more than a friend...
Sophia had met Brian Richards on her first day in the programme. He was slightly older than her, four grades above her in training, and they had started "going out" within the first week. His style of biotics completely differed from hers - he could kill someone by throwing them back, but had trouble hitting targets. Brian once joked that their child would be the perfect human biotic.
When they weren't being trained to help further their biotic skills, they were in their apartment they had bought together. Of course, they hadn't bought that straight away - they had been involved in the programme for about a year before they had considered living together. And when they weren't in their apartment, Keating and Brian had jobs. Completely different jobs.
Sophia was a detective, and was rather lucky that the biotic training programme had been set up in Vancouver so it was relatively close by. Brian was an architect working for the government of Vancouver, and he was working on building a skyscraper capable of surviving a direct strike from an Everest-Class Dreadnought. Which was no easy feat.
In her spare time, Sophia was building a ship. She had finished part of the hull, using designs Brian had found from a prototype frigate schematic from a ship called the SF-2 Falcon.
Just as she was about to leave the building where the training programme was being held, she got a call on her Omni-tool.
"Hello?" she said, "This is Detective Keating."
"Keating," said her partner, Henry, "There's been a murder of a government official. We've been sent to investigate."
"Ok, send me the address. I'm on my way."

Keating stepped into the room, past the holographic police barrier which beeped as she moved through.
"What do we have?" she asked Henry, "What happened here?"
"One victim, no signs of a struggle, dispatched by a shot to the front of the head."
"Who is the victim?"
"He's one of the Alliance Defence Council. Was in charge of the Biotic research part, along with anti-terrorism. His name was Mit al Aladin."
"It could be a terrorist attack?" she questioned.
"It doesn't seem like conventional terrorists. It's too clean of a kill. No collateral damage, not a window smashed or an object out of place. It took one round from a pistol, not one more, to get the perfect headshot."
"In which case, the round from the gun will still be there, if there's no sign of any damage. Get CSI down here and lock this place down. No unauthorised personnel get in or out. I want a full forensic exam of everything in this apartment."
"Yes ma'am," said Henry, and began making the appropriate calls.

Keating waited for a little while at the crime scene whilst the CSI and the forensics did their job. However, it was clear that she could do nothing more - with no current DNA findings, and next to no evidence, it was likely to be an assassin who had killed him. But it was just a question of finding out why.
She went to the police station and started looking through the databases about Mit al Aladin. It seemed that he was in charge of the biotic programme she was attending but wanted to cut down on the amount of money they were spending on it, since training biotics was expensive at the best of times.
Sophia also found out his acts against Cerberus - the pro-human terrorist organisation had come under fire from the Alliance Defence Council as they dubbed their work "unlawful" and "extreme".
So there were two possible reasons why he could have been killed - possibly more. If a biotic didn't want him to cut money from the programme they could have a motive, and it could have been an act of sabotage from Cerberus to try and get their actions legal again.
Or it could have just been neither of those reasons and just a plain old murder. She'd have to see if the forensics came up with anything, but until then she could do nothing. She went home.

Brian was waiting for her in their apartment.
"I saw you leave the programme. Was everything ok?" he asked her.
She shrugged, "Someone on the Defence Council was killed. We have no evidence for who yet, but I think I've figured out a few reasons for why. It's just a case of waiting now for them to run fingerprint and blood tests."
"Are you ok? You don't like dead bodies."
She nodded, "I'm fine. It's kind of part of my job and it happens only rarely, so I can deal with it... Do you know they moved me down another level in training?"
Brian nodded, "Yep. It's bullshit. You match and Asari for your control and yet you're being moved down grades. Did they test you?"
"Yes. I was supposed to knock a statue over. I made it sway but nothing more. I just can't do it. They keep telling me I'm 'not bad', but yet I overhear them saying I have the level of a child. Being a biotic is a load of crap."
Human society tended not to accept biotics very well. Ever since they had discovered human biotics were possible, lots of myths had been made up - about how they could control minds, which stemmed from the Asari's melding. It didn't help, either, that some biotics used their abilities to cheat in gambling games. Keating had to deal with several situations in the past where biotics who had annoyed too many people had a mob after them. And, to her, the risk of accidentally upsetting someone and causing them to react violently because of misconceptions about her abilities was not worth being able to control dark energy. Especially not with her extent.
"Yes, but it's worth it," Brian replied.
"But you're the one who is in the running for getting the place in the biotic division of the Alliance. I am nowhere near."
"You said you didn't want the place."
"I don't! But I want to be recognised instead of people telling me I'm shit. My boss tells me I'm a shit detective, the Alliance tells me I'm a shit biotic..."
"You're not shit," Brian said, "You just need practice. You've only been in this job for a few months and you've only started biotic training in the last few weeks. You can't expect to be brilliant at something right away."
"True..." she sighed, "But everyone has overtaken me in the training. I might quit."
"No. Don't quit," he told her, "Quitting will get you nowhere."
Her Omni-tool buzzed.

"This is what I don't understand," said Henry, "The killer didn't use a mass accelerator firearm like we first thought. It was an antique pistol. I took the bullet fragments to a dealer and it seems the gun is from around 2002, so it's old."
"But why would anyone use an antique pistol to kill someone? It's almost like they want to be found."
Henry nodded, "I think that was the idea. We found a small engraving on the side of one of the bullet fragments. It was Cerberus. The bullet had their logo."
"Why would they want to be caught?" she questioned, "It doesn't make any sense."
"Whether it makes sense or not, we should probably tell the Alliance," Henry shrugged.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Monsters - Part 4

A piece of debris ruptured the seal between her suit and helmet. Gas started escaping and she was suddenly unable to breathe. She gasped and choked, trying to force the remaining air down her throat - but there was no air left. Her armour was the only thing protecting her from freezing to death instantly, but she could feel the icy coldness of space. A sensation which was slowly dying away as she struggled to fix the seal.
Her vision was fading. There were no sounds, not any more. Just silence. Deathly silence. Her muscles were refusing to function and her lungs, no matter how hard she tried, weren't inflating.
I'mgoingtodie, I'mgoingtodie, I'mgoingtodie, she thought.
At the last moment, just as she thought all seemed lost, hands grasped her from nowhere and pulled her towards the airlock of the SF-2. Then she lost consciousness altogether.

"Will Keating be okay?" Mia asked as Thomson exited the medical bay with Emi at his side.
Thomson nodded, "She will. The doctors had to replicate some skin of her neck because it was frosted up, and her lungs will be bad for a while but she'll make a full recovery."
"... I don't like Keating, but I'm glad she'll live..." Emi said, "... Suffocating like that and being lost forever would be a bad way to die..."
"Can I go and see her?" Mia questioned, "Is she up to it?"
"She's awake but she's not in a good mood," Thomson pointed out, "The loss of the Naseby has kind of hit her hard. You might be able to help her."
Mia nodded, then moved towards the door to the medical bay and opened it, whilst Thomson and Emi went to the CIC.

"Are you okay?" Mia asked Keating. It was the first time Mia had seen the Commander without a helmet. She had shoulder-length black hair and hazel coloured eyes. Her cheek had a large cut down the side, which appeared to be a scar. She would have been quite pretty by both human and Quarian standards if it wasn't for the tear on her skin, which made her look fierce and battle-hardened. She looked about twenty five.
However, now there was a tear on her cheek.
"No, Mia. I'm not... bloody okay," Keating responded, gasping and breathing heavily, "All my life has just... been ruined in a matter of... minutes."
"Why? You're still alive, aren't you?"
"I spent every... day since my eighteenth birthday building... that ship. The SSV Naseby was my baby... I built it with my own two hands with... no help from no one else. I've spent... so long on it. How would... you feel if something you had spent... so much of your life building was just destroyed? ... I worked and worked and worked for... ten hours a day trying to build it..."
Mia shrugged slightly, "I'm not sure how I'd react... but you're still alive. That has to be something, right?"
Keating shook her head and grimaced, "No. I have nothing... nothing left. That ship was all I've ever had..."
"So there's never been anyone special in your life?"
She grimaced, but it wasn't because she moved her neck, "There was... one guy. But..."
Keating began to talk.