The old Urdnot camp lies in ruins, untouched since the Reaper Invasion, the buildings reduced to scorched earth. The Aegis lands silently, barely stirring the dust around it. Kaycee stands in the cargo bay looking at the strange vehicle in front of her, her eyes scanning over the sleek contours and the formidable weaponry. Five large wheels support the silver and black frame, two on each side and one in front, a trio of mounted guns on top. She hears the elevator doors open and turns to Ayrene, "What the hell is this?"
Ayrene gives her a sly smile, "Some experimental tech from the Alliance, they call it the M-49 Silverback. You like it?"
"Reminds me of the Mako."
"Oh this is so much better than that bulky antique. Just wait until you see how it handles."
A slight cough from Gabriel, draws Kaycee's attention, "Our illustrious leader had....um......difficulties with our last vehicle."
"I did not!"
Hillary's voice sounds over the comm, "Ayrene, you collided with a storefront.....twice, if I recall."
"You keep out of this Hillary!"
Gabriel calls out from the cockpit of the Silverback, "We're not arguing this point right now, I'm driving. Get in if you're coming."
Aya stands there for a moment, her bottom lip extended in a pout. Kaycee nudges her in the arm, "Don't pout, it comes with being a Shepard. Gabe's come a long way huh?"
"Yeah, he really has. He keeps a cooler head than the rest of us put together....well....besides Hillary."
A quiet, timid voice sounds from behind them, "Dad?"
Kaycee turns to face her youngest, "What's wrong Syren?"
"I.......I'm coming with you."
"I don't think that's such........."
Syren holds up a hand, her gaze firmly locked on the floor, "Dad, I've been crying my eyes out for the past three hours.......I can't stay on this ship. I would go crazy worrying that I would never see you or Aya again. So I'm going with you."
She raises her eyes to lock with her father, a fire behind those bright blue eyes, something Kaycee had never seen before. She looks at her daughter, a strange sense of loss rising inside her, my little girl has finally grown up.
A few minutes later, the Silverback roars out the cargo bay into the ruins of the Urdnot camp. Kaycee marvels at how smooth the ride is as they roll over the uneven, rubble-strewn area. She turns to Gabriel, "So, where we headed?"
"You and Aya keep saying that. But what is Valhalla?"
Aya clears her throat, "Ash got with Uncle Wrex and had them build a special safe-house here. For operatives who need a place to lay low, only five people know about this outside of the Krogans who helped build it. Couldn't ask for a better place to hide than on the one planet that people are still afraid to go to."
"Aya? The sensors show that a pair of Tomkahs are idling outside the entrance."
"Good, that means Uncle Wrex managed to get away from his responsibilities as High Chief to meet us in person. Take us in Gabe."
-Meanwhile, back on the Aegis, Engineering-
"Come on you....little.....Bosh'tet! Work!"
Cassie slams the console with her hand, eliciting a beep of protest from it. Sparks fly from the open panel causing her to leap back in surprise. "Why aren't you working properly? I just fixed you last week."
A glint catches her eye, kneeling at the panel she spies a tiny silver disc attached to the main power supply for the computer. "What in the name of........"
"Hey there cutie."
She spins to face a beautiful Asari, clad in dark crimson armor, a wicked smile playing about on her lips. Before Cassie can call for help, the Asari delivers a fierce punch to her stomach, knocking the wind out of her. The intruder's voice rings in her ears, "Wouldn't be too stealthy of me to let you alert the others, now would it?"
She slams the back of Cassie's head into the console, rendering her unconscious. The asari lifts her over her shoulder, then hits a button on her waist, causing both her and Cassie to vanish beneath the cloaking tech.
-The Cockpit of the Aegis-
Hillary sits in the pilot's chair, her dark blond hair pulled back into a ponytail, her crystal blue eyes scanning over the sensors, keeping a close eye for any unwanted visitors. Aethyta plops down in the co-pilot's chair, a bottle of Asari whiskey in hand, a somber expression on her visage. She turns to Hillary, her eyes still slightly red from crying, "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, Aethyta. Just trying to do everything I can to keep my friends and family safe. How are you holding up?"
"Did my best to comfort Syren on the trip here. Didn't go really well, I don't handle grieving well. I'm just.....tired.....tired of all the fighting, the death, the loss.....all of it. I feel so powerless, my biotics aren't what they once were, I doubt I'd be able to save anyone."
Hillary swivels to face Aethyta, "Just because you can't fight, doesn't make you powerless. You were there for Syren, helped to comfort her. She would've had to face her grandmother's passing alone without you. Don't you ever think that you aren't able to make a difference."
Aethyta looks into those cold eyes, before chuckling to herself, "Thanks Hillary."
She rises from her seat, "I'm gonna go take a quick rest. It's been a long day."
"Could you swing by the cargo bay first? Been trying to raise Cassie on the comm, but there's some sort of interference. Sensors say she's down there."
"Sure, not a problem kiddo."
-Moments later.....the cargo bay of the Aegis-
"Cassie? You down here?"
Her eyes rest on Cassandra, bound to a chair, in the middle of the cargo bay. "Goddess, Cassie!"
A voice sounds in her ear, "Hey Theta......been awhile."
A girlish laugh echoes around the cargo bay. After a few seconds, the asari materializes behind Cassandra, a gun pointed at the back of her head. Aethyta's eyes widen in surprise, "Lyra?"
"Aww you remember me, I'm touched. Been what.....twenty years?"
"Oh yeah that's right, you were still working that crap job as a bartender because you couldn't keep your fat mouth shut to the other Matriarchs.
"So, they sent you after us."
"Yep, got it in one."
"You're being mislead, Kaycee....the girls......they're not terrorists."
"I'd like to believe you Theta, but unlike you....I follow my orders.....and those orders are to bring you all in....by any means necessary."
"Now? Now I'm gonna have little Zorah here place a call to Shepard to return ASAP. Then we're all gonna take a little ride back to the Citadel for processing. After that, gonna go drinking at Purgatory with my bondmate."
"Not at all. Just deeply motivated to get the job done."
She cocks her gun at Cassie, "Place the call."
Cassie begins a quiet giggle, Lyra grabs her helmet and pulls her head back so their eyes lock, "What are you laughing about?"
"Already placed the call."
"Impossible. You're bound, there's no way you could have placed the call without my knowledge."
"I have really good equipment."
Both her hands glow as her omni-tools activate, "You were so busy gloating to Aethyta that you never bothered to check to see what I was capable of."
"So what? No one here can stop me."
Cassie nods her head towards the elevators, "She can."
Hillary Moreau steps gracefully out of the elevators, her eyes awash with cold fury, Lyra raises her gun at the newcomer, "What? You really think a human can fight me?"
She fires a round at Hillary, which ricochets harmlessly off her, rebounding off the walls before striking the floor next to Lyra. "What the hell?"
As Hillary continues her slow walk towards the Spectre, Lyra notices a change in the girl, her hair becomes a solid metallic mass. Her skin fades to a silver and greenish tint, her eyes glowing with a bright blue light. "You're not human.....you're like the Normandy's pet project, that broken AI."
"It would be wise to not insult my mother."
Lyra throws back her head with a roaring laugh, "Your mother? Oh this is too good. Not only will I capture the Shepards, but an illegal AI as well. My pay just doubled with this."
"You will not touch my family."
"How do you plan to stop me."
Suddenly, Hillary speeds up and crashes into Lyra, knocking her to the floor, sending them both skidding along the cargo bay. Lyra hurls a biotic wave at her, throwing her off. Hillary flips in mid-air, landing with a slight pirouette, turning to face the stunned Spectre. Lyra grimaces, as her biotics engulf her arms, "Well then.....what are you waiting for 'toaster'? Come and get me."
-To Be Continued-