Game: Mass Effect 2
Characters: Kaidan Alenko, Kasumi Goto, Female Shepard
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Bioware.
"So this is the Normandy? I've got to admit, it's one of the more impressive vessels I've boarded."
I turned to the newest member of my crew, Kasumi Goto, a thief so legendary that few know of her. We needed her on our side, according to Cerberus at least. Before she could give me her undivided loyalty, she had a favor to ask of me. How could I refuse? I was anxious to see her skills put to the test, so I had agreed to help her. But the first step was getting her settled on board her temporary home.
Kasumi stepped off of the Citadel platform and onto the Normandy's bridge. Joker, hearing her voice, turned his seat around to greet the new arrival.
"Welcome aboard! Don't ever touch anything up here or I'll have to kill you. I have my ways. Fair warning." Joker saluted and turned back to face the controls.
"Pleasant, that one," Kasumi chided.
"That would be Joker, and in addition to his endless wit, he also happens to be the best pilot in the galaxy. He'll grow on you," I said with a smile. "You'll get to know all of the crew in time. Let me show you to your quarters."
"I can take care of that, Commander." I turned to see our on board Yeoman approaching us. "I'm Kelly Chambers, Commander Shepard's assistant."
I nodded appreciatively. I had more work to do on pending missions, and I had already taken precious time to return to the Citadel for our new asset. "Thank you, Kelly. Kasumi, take your time getting settled. You can debrief me on your situation in the morning."
She grabbed my arm to stop me, urgency showing in her features. "I can debrief you on the way to our destination. Tell your pilot to head to Bekenstein in the Serpent Nebula cluster. It's not a long journey from here. In the meantime, put this on. Meet me in your shuttle bay in 2 hours. There's a window of opportunity we can't miss."
I seethed inwardly. Everything's always mission critical. I didn't need another crew member telling me where our priorities lie. But by the small crack in her voice, I knew this was her only focus. Until it was removed, I couldn't depend on her services. "Joker, you heard our new guest. Get us to Bekenstein, double time."
Taking the small package from her, I headed for my quarters. Upon opening it, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"A leather dress? She can't be serious." I laughed to myself. The last time I had worn something like this was for a private dinner date back on Earth with Kaidan. After we had defeated Saren, we were given much needed shore leave. He had wanted me to meet his parents in Vancouver, and he couldn't wait to take me to his favorite sushi restaurant. I had changed into a tight black dress for the occasion, revealing a side of me he'd never seen before. The sushi was good, but the dessert back at his parent's private beach house was better.
I looked at the dress again. "Well, why not. You only live twice."
The dress fit, although it was a tight squeeze in places. I glanced at myself in the mirror. I felt ridiculous. This was far outside the realm of my comfort zone, but I convinced myself it was must be necessary for the mission.
Joker's voice came over the intercom. "ETA in 10 minutes, Commander."
"Thanks, Joker. I'm on my way to the shuttle bay."
The shuttle bay. I had to walk through the crew's quarters to get there. I could imagine the comments this outfit would generate. Well, there's no help for it. I looked at myself again in the mirror. I felt like I was missing something. Then I remembered a silver necklace that Kaidan had given me. That would be the perfect addition. I hadn't worn it since I had been, well, revived. I don't even know how the Illusive man was able to get it. Kaidan had found it at a little jewelry kiosk in the Citadel. He had been so nervous to give it to me. I'm sure he didn't know how I'd react to such a gift. Much to his visible relief, I loved it. Even more so, at that moment, I knew I loved him.
I quickly opened my bedside dresser drawer, put on the necklace, and left my quarters.
I exited the elevator, quickly jogging to my destination. The less time I spent out in the open, the better. I turned a corner and slammed right into the arms of Thane.
"Shepard! Commander. My apologies."
"Thane!" I struggled to regain composure. "No need to apologize. I'm in a hurry. Trying to avoid too much attention actually. You understand. I know this outfit isn't standard issue. It's for a mission." I could feel myself blushing. "I can explain later."
Thane's eyes were hard to read, but I could imagine they were memorizing every detail of this moment. "Don't feel the need to explain yourself to me, Commander. I know that whatever you do, you have good reasons
This could not be more awkward.
"Commander?" I saw Garrus walking quickly toward us.
Okay, now this couldn't be more awkward.
"Garrus, what do you need? I'm in a hurry."
He eyed Thane with
was that suspicion? Then he looked back at me. "I overheard briefly that you're headed down to Bekenstein to procure an item from Donovan Hock. I have personal business to settle with him. I'm going with you."
Before I could respond, a voice broke in from behind me. "That's not necessary."
I jumped. How long had Kasumi been standing there? I made a mental note to always check my back aboard the Normandy from now on.
Garrus had a look of surprise. "I think that's the Commander's call, Goto. There's a chain of command here, and you'd better learn to respect it."
Wonderful, Kasumi's already making rifts in the crew, I thought to myself. "Garrus, as much as I would appreciate another hand, I think that the fewer people we have on this mission, the less suspicion we'll raise with Hock."
He sighed. "All right, Commander. But Hock is ruthless. Don't take any big risks down there. We can't afford to lose you to a damn merc."
I smiled and nodded. He was always over-protective, but secretly, I appreciated it. "Understood. Kasumi, let's head out."
"You clean up well, Allison Gunn."
"Allison Gunn? I'm assuming that's my cover."
"Yes, and I've taken the time to make you quite infamous. You'll fit right in."
"Fit right in where? Why am I wearing this ridiculous dress?"
"You look great, Commander. You should wear things like that more often."
Wear things like this more often. That would really garner the respect of my crew.
"We're heading to a get-together Donovan Hock is throwing for his colleagues, some of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy. It would look a little odd attending the party in your armor, don't you think?"
"Speaking of armor
" I started.
Kasumi interrupted me. "I have that covered. You've given Hock a gift. A beautiful gold statue of Saren, your nemesis you defeated two years ago. The statue will be moved to the vault, which is where the grey box will be. Enclosed in the statue is armor and weapons, everything you'll need. Don't worry, you can carry a pistol into the party. They won't begrudge a small side-arm."
We sat in silence for a few moments as we neared Hock's mansion.
"Are you all right, Commander?"
"Something you mentioned is bothering me. You said that this grey box contains information that would be harmful to humanity and the Alliance. What do you plan on doing with it once you have it?"
Kasumi looked straight ahead, determination on her face. "Hock took everything from me. My love
his memories are stored on that grey box. That's all I want. I don't care about anything else. Shepard, you have my word that I won't use the information to harm anyone. I just want any sliver of Keiji back that I can get. And I want Hock to pay for what he's done." She turned to look at me. "You understand that, don't you Shepard? When you lose someone, you'll do anything to have a part of them back."
I felt the weight of the necklace pressing on my chest. "Yes, Kasumi, I can understand that."
We landed the shuttle outside of Hock's mansion. It was enormous and elaborate; I have to admit that it surprised me. I wondered how many people must have suffered to create all of this luxury. I thought back to the orphans on the Citadel, the honest families on Omega barely getting by while men like Hock took what little they had away from them. I was beginning to relish the thought of taking something away from him. I hoped I'd get to see the look on his face when he realized he'd been played.
I walked toward the entrance and, I noted, several Eclipse mercs. A well-dressed man in a white suit approached us.
"I'm Donovan Hock. And you are?"
"Allison Gunn. A pleasure." I reached out to shake his hand, but he didn't reciprocate. Hock, you're an easy man to hate, I thought. That will make all of this a lot easier.
Beside me, the statue of Saren was being inspected. Where in the world did Kasumi get such a thing? It was absolutely gaudy. My mind wandered - I wondered what the official story was on Saren's death. I'm sure no one knew the truth, that he shot himself in the final moments. I'll have to ask Agent Bailey the next time I'm by the Citadel.
The guard was eying the statue warily. "I'm not picking up anything, Mr. Hock."
"I'm sure our guests wouldn't have traveled all this way to cause trouble," Hock remarked with a smirk. "Take it to the vault." I inwardly sighed in relief. The first hurdle was crossed.
As Kasumi and I headed toward the entrance, Hock blocked our path. "I'm sorry, Ms. Gunn, but your friend will need to stay outside."
The second hurdle.
"May I ask why my colleague can't accompany me?"
"She's not on the list. You understand. It's standard procedure. She can wait outside."
I tried to look indifferent. "All right, I understand. She'll wait outside, then."
Wonderful. I pulled Kasumi aside. "What's the plan?" I asked.
"Don't worry, I'll be following as closely as I can. We'll have to figure it out as we go. First things first; head to the vault so we know what we're up against. Oh, and one more thing. Hock's paranoid; there are cameras and bugs everywhere. Watch what you say and do. Try to look natural at all times."
What does she mean when she said she'll be following me? I remembered the encounter in the hallway of the Normandy. Well, I wanted to see her skills put to the test, I thought, so let's just view this as an opportunity to see what she can really do. Cameras and bugs will be a challenge. Asking a soldier to act natural in a black leather dress is a bit of a tall order. Let's see how long we can go before trouble shows up.
I entered the mansion and tried to get my bearings. A sweeping staircase dominated my view, with a stunning panorama of the ocean behind it. Galleries flanked either side of the entryway, and soft music mixed with the hum of conversation filled my ears.
Act natural. It was my mantra. I looked at other women, trying to mimic their tall postures. I was already getting glances as I walked further into the lion's den. Surely no one here would recognize me. They all think I'm dead, anyway. Even if they knew my face, they could never picture me in this get-up. Is that asari staring at me? Act natural!
I walked through the main hall, scanning the area for any signs of a vault. I looked over the crowd, trying to count how many Eclipse mercs I'd probably be fighting through later. There were so many people here: turians, salarians, asari, humans...wait, is that?
My heart jumped into my throat. I felt like my feet froze to the floor. Spots began to float in front of my eyes. My mind started racing as fast as my pulse. It can't be. That would be crazy.
A man was standing in the corner of the gallery, drink in hand. Black slacks, black button down shirt with the top button undone, piercing brown eyes, full black hair
My gaze had obviously lingered too long. Before I could get my legs to move, his head turned and
his eyes met mine.
Move, Shepard, move! I was screaming to myself internally. Finally, I managed to pull myself together. Turning around, I made a swift retreat to the nearest guard.
"Excuse me, where's the restroom?"
"Down this hall and to your left, ma'am."
I didn't bother to thank him. I needed to get away, time to think. I felt naked without my armor. What was Kaidan doing here? He's got to be undercover for the Alliance. I groaned. Please, Kaidan, don't be after that box. Unfortunately, it was the only thing that made sense. The grey box had damning information about the Alliance, and I'm sure Admiral Hackett would do anything necessary for damage control. But why send Kaidan? There are a million other Alliance officers that would have been up for the task. How in the world does he plan on breaking into the vault? Is he alone? He can't be; that would be suicide.
Finally, the bathroom. As the doors slid open, I darted inside and watched them close behind me, the glaring orange "Occupied" signal blinking. I walked over to the sink, looking at myself in the mirror.
"First he sees me with Cerberus. Now he sees me with murderers and thieves! This just keeps getting better."
I jumped, quickly drawing my pistol. Letting down my guard, I breathed a sigh of relief. "Kasumi. Have you been following me the entire time?"
"Of course. You underestimate me. I saved up for years to obtain my cloaking technology on Illium. It's not on the normal bills of sale, but I pulled in a few favors."
She came and stood beside me, looking at my reflection. "I've downloaded a schematic of the mansion, along with where each security camera and bug is located."
I glanced around the ornate bathroom. "Speaking of which
"Don't worry, Shepard. Even Hock has the decency to let his guests use the facilities in peace. There aren't too many other places with that luxury, however."
She paused. "So, who is he?"
I chewed my lower lip. So she saw me freeze out there and heard my earlier comment in here. My options are to play dumb or tell her the truth. I figured there wasn't much chance of successfully lying my way out of this, especially if Kaidan were to confront me during the mission. I turned to face her.
"His name is Kaidan Alenko. He's a former crewmate. We served on the first Normandy together with the Alliance, and he was beside me when we defeated Saren. I know that he still serves the Alliance, and the only reason he could be here is the same reason we're also here. He must be after the information on that box."
"How close are you? By that, I mean, what are our options? I could incapacitate him easily if you get him alone. We have to get to that box first."
I shook my head. "Kasumi, you can't hurt him. He's a friend
was a friend. It's complicated. I suppose I should tell you. You'd find out sooner or later after being on the Normandy." I tried to think of how to put this in perspective. "The easiest way for you to understand is, well
he was my 'Keiji'."
Kasumi took a deep breath, then nodded. "That makes this more complicated."
"You've got that right," I said flatly.
"Now I ask you, Shepard, what do you plan to do? If he is your former love, would you choose him over me? Who are you willing to assist?"
Honestly, I hadn't thought about it until that moment. If I had the box, who would I give it to? On one hand, it belongs to Kasumi by right, and I have her word she won't use the information for harm. Even though I just met her, I believe her. On the other hand, if the information is critical for the Alliance to contain, and if giving the box to Kasumi means hurting Kaidan's mission and any chance of repairing our relationship
I rubbed my temples, trying to sort everything out. I knew we had precious little time. I tried to avoid answering her question directly. If he got to the box first, there wouldn't be much we could do about it. I found myself almost hoping that we'd get to the vault and find it was already taken. "I would prefer to stick to our original plan, as if he wasn't here. Hopefully, I can avoid him and we can get to the box first. Maybe that's not even why he's here. It's just an assumption on my part. If he is here for the box and gets to it first
I guess we'll deal with that if it happens."
"And if he finds you and confronts you? Begins asking you questions? With the cameras and bugs, he would blow your cover. And his."
"Kaidan knows better than that. If we can't avoid each other, maybe I could somehow discretely find out what he's really up to."
Kasumi opened her omni-tool, scanning the layout of the mansion. "If you want to hold a conversation with no eyes or ears, there's only one other place you could go."
She looked up from the results of her scan. "Hock's private quarters. His bedroom."
I raised an eyebrow. "His bedroom?" Something didn't feel right about it, but I shrugged it off. If I couldn't trust Kasumi in this mission, how could I expect her to trust me in return? "I guess that makes sense. I'm sure Hock wants to make sure what happens in there stays that way."
She resumed analyzing the schematics. "The entrance is to the right of the main staircase, but it's guarded. I'd say forget it, unless you can find another way in. It's not our primary focus. The vault is. I need a good look at it before I can figure out how to crack it. Your
is probably already two steps ahead of us. We need to get moving."
"Right." This seemed to be getting more and more complicated. What in the world happened to the plan of walking in, getting the box, and sneaking back out? "Kasumi, after we're through with this, you can keep your cloak and dagger missions. I'm realizing I'm more the 'shoot mercs, save hostages' type."
She smiled. "I'm sure we'll get to the 'shoot mercs' part eventually."
Let's hope no one plays the role of the hostage in this one, I thought grimly.
Kasumi showed me a quick diagram of the first floor. "The vault is down a stairwell behind the grand staircase in the main hall. Head there. In the meantime, I'll be picking the lock on security. I need to hack into their system to gain control of the cameras. Once I break in, I'll disable the one for the vault. Then I'll meet you down there. Watch out for the guards. They make the rounds at random intervals."
She reactivated her cloak. I took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom. I was half expecting Kaidan to be waiting outside. He wasn't.
The stairwell behind the grand staircase. I walked slowly into the main hall; I glanced over at the corner of the gallery, but as I expected, Kaidan was gone. Taking time to let my eyes sweep over my surroundings, I couldn't see him anywhere. I didn't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed.
Donovan was standing in front of the staircase, busy entertaining a salarian and his asari consort. I spotted a set of stairs leading underneath the main hall. That must be it. Making a wide circle around Hock, I looked left, then right. No one was watching. I quickly ducked down the stairwell to the vault.
With each step I took, I couldn't help but wonder at the seeming coincidence of Kaidan's presence. The more I thought about it, the more confused I became. This can't be chance. But then, what is it? Who else knew that Kasumi and I would be here? There's the crew on the Normandy, but none of them have ties with the Alliance. Would Kasumi have told anyone else of this mission? No, it's too important to her to be that careless. Then it dawned on me.
The Illusive Man. He's the only one that knew we'd be here specifically for the grey box. He's also the only one that would have the connections to leak information to the Alliance. If the data on that box is a threat to humanity, the Illusive Man would want to see it suppressed. That double-crossing bastard. But why Kaidan?
Before I realized it, I was standing in front of that garish statue of Saren. To my left was the entrance to the vault. I began to scan it with my omni-tool, feeding information to Kasumi. I heard movement behind me. The guards. Quickly, I pulled my pistol and spun around, leveling it at
Instinctively, his biotics began to glow blue. "Shepard, stop."
Seeing him standing right in front of me, memories came flooding back unhindered - our talks in engineering, the night before Ilos and all the days after, then watching him walk away on Horizon. I shut my eyes tightly, fighting to regain control. "Kaidan, what the hell are you doing here?" I let my pistol drop to my side.
His biotics went dark. "That's my line," he said, a hint of anger in his voice.
I wasn't in the mood to back down. I jammed my pistol back in its holster. "We have two options. Either we try to drag information out of each other, or stay out of each other's way."
Before he could reply, we both heard heavy footfalls. They were getting louder by the moment. Definitely the guards this time.
Kaidan started moving toward me. "We can argue later. Right now, we've got to hide." Grabbing my arm, he hastily pulled me toward the statue. He placed himself behind it and pulled me between him and the wall. It was a tight fit. He was forced to position his arms around my waist to the small of my back. I wrapped mine around his shoulders, trying to take up as little space as possible.
"Did I hurt you?" he whispered, his lips brushing my ear.
I managed to whisper back. "I'm fine, you?"
I wasn't sure how to interpret that.
The louder the footsteps grew, the less I cared. My mind was overwhelmed by the feeling of his chest pressing against mine. His breath on my neck, the beating of his heart, and the warmth of his body were some marvelous kind of torture. I could only imagine what he must be thinking.
The footsteps stopped. Muffled sounds, then a thud followed by silence. "You can come out now, Shepard."