The Face of Evil: Chapter three
It was only a few seconds after the Kodiak shuttle had boarded the Polaris before Veya, Sirun and Catherine were called to a debriefing. Wearily the squad drifted out from the shuttle to tend to their wounds and get some much needed rest after such a hectic scene of death and dismay.
Veya was not in the least bit surprised at the promptness of which the meeting was called. The information she obtained was more than enough to cause Armstrong to delve into the filth of Omega to find her, let alone fight tooth and nail to get her out alive. She let her eyes scan the ship as she followed Jonathan and Catherine through the rather large craft to the communication room, Sirun trailing her as he placed a hand on one of his wounds, the blood crusting on his armor as the bleeding had stopped in the journey over. She remained silent, walking with urgency even as her body revolted against her with shocks of pain with every movement.
Jonathan was the first into the room, Armour still complete with scorch marks and with the entire right shoulder, along with a bit of the right arm, blown away. If this had been an Alliance ship, he may have cleaned up before speaking to his superiors, but the likes of Armstrong would hardly care, if anything, it had proven that they were doing their jobs.
"Eira, Send out a call to Armstrong, target was retrieved, he may want to be present for the debrief," He spoke to the ship's VI, characteristically placing his hands upon the central raised interface in the chamber, awaiting the familiar holographic image of Armstrong, should he recieve the call.
In the head lab within Inner Haven, Armstrong carefully reviewed a datapad in hand as a thin grey skinned salarian, a Dr. Potrick. Droned on across a small table, littered with various gadgets, as he explained one of their most recent breakthroughs in personal shield technology.
"With any luck." He continued. "We should be able to develop a more sophisticated Kinetic barrier system back by a basic VI to switch between primary and secondary shields."
Armstrong nodded as he listened, generally intrigued at the amount of headway the research and development teams had made. This new breakthrough was still in it's prototype phases, but given enough time it could prove beneficial to Aurora as a whole.
"And of the Nano transmitters for the new Aurora Network?" He asked.
The salarian offered a knowing smile. "The project now passed it's testing phase. There are still a few tweaks he need to collaborate for the increased quantum flux, but it should be ready for field use within a weeks time."
"Good, once it's reached completion let me know I-" Then came a flash of his Omni-tool. He quickly answered and the familiar voice of Kazuhira Miller sounded over the comm.
"Boss, we just received a hail from the Polaris team, looks like the bastard pulled it off. Patching it through to your office now."
"Understood, i'll head there now." He gave a curt nod to Dr. Potirck. "We'll discuss this later, keep up the good work Professor."
Within the time frame of a minute Donald had reached his office. He reclined in his seat with a thoughtful look on his brow, then keyed in a quick command. The connection with the Polaris was established in moments, and the faded holographic image of Armstrong appeared on a view screen above the Comm set.
Armstrong took a second to absorbed the sight before him. His eyes settled on Jonathan before addressing him. "Captain Jonathan, glad to see you and the team made it back in one piece, and you found Little Angel I see, excellent, did you manage to recovered the data?" He began in a simple and business like manner, such was his nature, forward and always to the point. The standards of military life were not often easy break from.
"I have the data." Veya spoke up, taking a step forward and holding up her omni-tool as it materialized in a orange hue around her right wrist and forearm. "Council Spectre Veya Shi'ra, better known as "Little Angel". Though we have communicated it is great to finally get to see the face behind the voice." She said, with the slight flourish a weak smile curling the ends of her mouth.
"Like wise." Armstrong holographic image gave a slight nod, keen eyes clearly saw how tired each individual in the room was. Clearly the mission had been a grueling one, Donald could only hope the data was worth the risk.
She began to transfer the data to the center console in the room so she could present her findings to the small group, and Armstrong himself.
It was no secret to Armstrong that Little Angel's true appearance was that of a Asari Specter, and as she looked at the aged human's glowing form as he was projected in front of the small group she couldn't help but noticing how much Armstrong reminded her of the great Hatchett, whom she had only witnessed once shortly after the Fehl Blood Incident. She wondered for a split second if all "men of action" aged the same, scars and frown lines, hardened from being tossed into never ending combat.
She broke her thoughts as a light flashed on her wrist, signaling that the data had been uploaded successfully. She dropped her arm, typing something into the interface with deft fingers, that easily navigated the small keyboard, a few seconds passed before a hazy image was projected infront of the group. A insect like being, large eyes glowing with an eerie glow as the shot was frozen as it's bulky body hunched over a cowering human dressed in standard colony garb as she looked up with a fear stricken face.
"This image was taken at the human colony Zetafar just moments before the planet went dark." She tapped at her omnitool as the image zoomed in on the face, its mouthless face looking more like a helmet than the head of any living creature. "I believe they are Collectors, and they are seeming to target human colonies, though I am not sure why." Her voice trailed off, rhythmic tones fading to silence as she started tapping again at her omni-tool until the clip started playing, showing human forms frozen in their steps, as their stiff bodies were being loaded into pods by the monstrous creatures, beastly in their own right as they walked in small pairs, completely at ease as the security cameras continued to capture footage. Then it abruptly ended and turned to static. She returned to the image of the creatures once more as she balled her fist and set it on her hip. "I am sure you are curious as to how I came across this footage." She didn't pause for an answer as she continued, her omni-tool fading at her hip as she continued her story.
"I was in the Terminus systems, Specter business, apparently strange incidents had been occurring in small human colonies far off in the outer borders of the Terminus. Seeing as Sirun and I helped the Alliance and human colonists during the Fehl Blood Incident we have been on good terms with the Alliance, and when time and other duties permit we usually aid them when the council will not. This was one of those cases." She brought her other hand up to her neck, massaging its length with trembling fingers, no doubt from the tiring battle they had just returned from. "I was in the right place, right time." She huffed a laugh, it was a dark chuckle that barely touched her features, shaking her head wearily as she thought back to the incident. "In any case my ship received a distress signal from Zetafar colony and we made a B-line for fear they too would pull the disappearing act. As it turned out by the time we got there it was a ghost town. Not a single human left, all other species killed on the spot, and not neatly either." She started to pace, brow furrowing as the memories washed up in her mind. "We searched for almost five hours, no survivors were found, everything was still, quiet, all homes were untouched nothing had been gone through. They didn't care about anything other than the humans." She stopped, bringing her eyes to Armstrong's image, her piercing lilac gaze holding steady with his own. "Unfortunately the footage does not depict the way they were put into that state of," she paused searching for the right word, "prolonged stasis, but this is still better than nothing. I sincerely hope this will help you out."
Armstrong's face was unreadable as he watched the image, his brow darkened as the footage played out. For a moment he was silent as if in that, then shook his head as he looked back up at the image. "Then the news is worse then I had feared. We expected it might be the collectors for some time, few groups with the tech and interest..." He said sitting back in his chair with a sigh. "But... now we have the evidence," He finished rubbing the sides of his chin in thought. Now he knew the answer to a question that had been plaguing him for almost two years now. The only questioned that remained was...what was the next step? This was hardly an enemy one could easily strike against. No they needed more Intel, the Collector's had traded their technology with with countless buyers over the years. Some one was bound to know more that could put them that much more closer to putting an end to this Collector threat.
Sirun remained quiet, wounds aching as he managed to lean on the wall, hoping his wounds wouldn't leave a mess as he stood quietly and let his avian eyes drift between the two figures. He chose to speak up, after a second of silence "I have heard reports of the Omega black market buzzing with rumors of Collector rewards for human specimens. Particularly biotic variants, twins, first born, earth born, all paying hefty sums." His flanged voice was gruff and deep, holding a ragged quality that was no doubt a sign of pain.
Veya nodded grimly, "Aria also spoke of this lightly when I asked her. She said it was just fools being fools, and didn't think anything of it. Unfortunately it all points to the mystery race from beyond the Omega 4 relay. And the incidents are so small and so sudden that no one outside of the Alliance really knows anything about it. It is a big mystery." She sighed wearily her features softening as she crossed her arms under her chest.
Catherine couldn't help but wonder aloud "What do the Collectors want with just humans? Why just humans?". She wondered what made humans so special in a galaxy of scum and saints of species. The wretched lot like that sweltering puss of a species, the batarians, and the rather philosophical nature as well, as one rather dim witted Alliance soldier said when she was relaxing after some... problems she had, "Their smooth bods..."
He was right but could of put it less like a snorting pervert and more like a poet. Kinda like a lot of Greeks would. The playwrights, the actors and philosophers anyway. She spoke up "Can you think of any reason why the Collectors would be doing this? or are we like Thesues in the Minotaurs maze?"
The means of communicating with Armstrong was...awkward for her. it felt unreal that she was being dupilcated across to another side of the galaxy, even if it was only holographic.
She looked between The three around her. and said "Any? An advanced version of Slavery?" and like every time she spoke about Slavery, she rubbed her lips.
It replaced her spitting, something she learned was not a good thing after spitting on a quarians foot by accident and learning he fell ill awhile later. She stopped soon after.
Even as she waited, she reached a hand down to her omni-tool and quietly tapped a message of summons to Soul.
She was team leader for Beta, it was her job to praise the best and scream at the worst. Soul had saved her once and her salarian friend had abandoned them. Her appraisals would be far easier.
"Why is exactly what we'd all like to know, I don't doubt. I also don't believe it's a coincidence the Collectors have taken a sudden interest in humanity right after Sovereign's failed attack on the Citadel. But it's to early too speculate. We need hard facts before we can hope too take action, I'm not going to sit back and let the collectors continue to take thousands of innocents. I'll dispatch Nighthawk to see what they can learn." He said, referring to the elite Recon and Stealth unit that operated within Aurora's Intel division. He looked back to Veya addressing her directly. "You have more then my thanks in offering us this intelligence, it finally puts a face behind who, or what, has been happening to our human colonies out in the Terminus Systems. If you can offer any further aid, it would be much appreciated." Having the support of a Specter would no doubt have it's usefulness as things went forward, and Armstrong knew they would need any edge if they had any hope of dealing with this threat.
Looking back to the Sirun and then Jonathon and Miss Shi'ra, she returns to Armstrong's shadow copy and says "When Soul arrives, I want to make a formal appraisal. Though we were caught by Blacklight amidst the mission, Soul performed greatly and I would like to appraise him for his skill, It's nothing he'd likely appreciate but... It's polite and, as I have read good for team building.".
Catherine turned her head to Veya with a smile "A spectre is always an assest as an ally.... Liable to be get you killed as an enemy. So... Hopefully, She would like to stay.". blinking once then breaking away, she looks to Armstrong again "I suspect though Soul will need more time for recovery so may not be able to assist in the next mission. If a sniper is not required, I will stay behind and watch on Soul's recovery." She stood straight and thought briefly -I feel like I should have a rod in my arse-
As Armstrong listened he was already punching in key commands into the holo-command projected from his chair. As Catherine finished he looked back placing both elbows on either side of the chairs armrest's clasping has hands together. "As of the moment there are no pressing contracts that need dealing with, and we still need to obtain data before moving forward. Navigator Kingsley should already have a course set for the colony Elysium, the team's earned a break until we can plot our next move."
Veya listened, features overtaken with pensive thought, she nodded every so often to show that she was listening, her mind was there as Catherine and Armstrong spoke. She broke from her trance, eyes once again meeting Armstrongs as he inquired about further aid on her part. She nodded, leaning a hip to the right as she tried to make herself comfortable under the scrutiny of everyone in the room. "The Council still thinks I am messing around on Omega, looking for those stolen Alliance weapons which is a case solved in my book.Seeing as we all were on the recieving end of them." She sighed softly, arching an eyebrow as she nodded once as she reached a decision, "I am all yours, until other matters come into play." She gave Catherine a soft smile, then chuckled lightly, "Glad to see someone is looking forward to my participation."
"Until Nighthawk finds any evidence I will scan Alliance files as well as other Spectre reports of strange activity elsewhere involving human disappearances. I will also look into Black Market dealings and see if we can score a meeting with someone claiming to be representing Collector interest. Perhaps we can bait them." She said, uncrossing her arms as she brought a hand to her clavical and touched it as she thought quietly. "In anycase," she began, "I will work my ties and see if I can dig anything up that is useful. I will keep in contact with you, Armstrong." She finished as she waited for the meeting to be wrapped up so she could finally get some sleep.
Jonathan remained quiet as the meeting played out, Armstrong was in his element and he felt no need to interject unless called upon to do so, his matters could wait until the end of the data transfer, although evidently he prickled somewhat at the sight of human colonists being abducted, for not neccesarily much more so than at the idea of any civilians being treated in such a way. Considering himself a fairly logical individual, he had neither denounced nor claimed the existence of the Collectors before, he was still somewhat suprised to see such clear evidence of their existence.
As the meeting concluded, Jonathan turned to Veya, holding out one of his hands in the typical human greeting;
"Considering your sticking around, glad to have you on the team Angel," He smirked slightly, whether the code name was deliberate or a coloquiel attachment, it was all the more amusing when it turned out to be an asari behind such a name, at least from the Earth Western meaning of the term.
Veya watched as Captain Jonathan offered her an extended hand, she had many dealings with humans and recognized it as a sign of comradery. She took a firm hold of it, giving it a few gentle shakes as she smiled at him, though it seemed polite and diplomatic there was a mischievious gleam in her eyes. "Please call me Veya. You must be Captain Jonathan." She said as she released his hand as brought hers back to her hip.
"Anyway, Armstrong, from what I've heard the whole squad has performed well, I can vouch for Alpha anyway, although, next time I would rather remain in the loop about any connection between my target and my squad," he spoke, momentarily glancing across at Sirun, while his frustration at the situation had died down somewhat, it was still a point that needed to be made.
"You did a good job keeping the heat off our asses, but we needed certain information hidden, in case of unwelcome ears." She interjected, her arms folding across her chest again as she drew in a long breath and released it slowly before continuing. "Seeing how things turned out it was a good thing the information was kept from common knowledge. Half of those bastards were looking for a human." She chuckled darkly shaking her head. "You never know who is going to get their hands on what, if all things would have gone smoothly then it wouldn't even have mattered who was who or what was what. I would be here, your asses wouldn't have taken such a beating," she paused a feline grin spreading across her face as she let her lilac gaze fall on Sirun who remained against the wall quietly as he held a hand over the wound on his shoulder, then returned her gaze to the Captain, seriousness recapturing her finely formed features, "and a whole district wouldn't have been depressurized, but it could have been a lot worse if they were aware of my real identity."
She spoke for Sirun, it was her hand who had directed him to infiltrate Aurora and make sure everything checked out before she would agree to join. But she couldn't say that, Armstrong knew full well but she didn't need some human Captain doubting her integrety when Armstrong understood the delicate position of being a Council Spectre, and helping a independent organization would not go over well with the Council. Especially with the rise of Cerberus sending worry into the councilor's minds.
At the mention of depressurization Armstrong raised an eyebrow, visibly alarmed at this news. "Wait a moment, am I to understand an entire district was depressurized? When was someone going to bring this to my attention?" Armstrong shook his head, he could only imagine the amount of collateral damage, not to mention the lvies lost, some human lives as well as other innocent sapient beings.
Veya looked to Armstrong's projection, realizing that he had not been informed about the depressurization. Her brow furowed slightly, her eyes solemn as she nodded. "No clue what caused it, could have been the Talon forces hired to take down the team. A whole Talons operated district was depressurized, fortunately most of the civilians were most-likely evacuated considering the fire fights. I probably won't be able to go back to Omega any time soon." She said with a frustrated sigh as she brought her fingers to her temple and massaged it delicately. Her head thumping in aggrivated beats as she remembered another worry she would have to take care of later.
Veya returned her attention to the previous conversation with the Captain, in attempt to rid herself of the worry and suffocate the guilt that always seemed to haunt a Spectre, especially after a mission went so wrong. "In any case, Captain, what is done is done. You must understand my position as a Spectre and what precautions I must take so that everything goes smoothly." It was evident in her tone that she was done with the subject and thought it pointless to go on about it any further. If Armstrong thought it secure to share the information he would have shared it.
"I wasn't suggesting we blurt it from the rooftops, but considering it could have affected my planning of the mission, it seems somewhat critical, but other than the general loss of life, it hardly affected us, it's not that great of an issue." Jonathan nodded slightly, in truth, the loss of civilians plagued him somewhat more than he let on, the number of 'innocents' who wouldn't see another day, but the mission was of greater concern, and consequently, the cohesion of his squad.
Veya smirked at the young captain's comment but it soon faded as she released a soft sigh, not out of impatience but because of fatigue. "I understand Captain, and I am sorry you were excluded." She let her lilac eyes drift to Armstrong's image, as he watched the conversation with distant attention, then returned her gaze back to Jonathan. "But I suggest bringing this up with your superiors, and let us get the rest and medical attention we deserve ." It was a suggestion more than an order, seeing as this conversation required only the Captain and Armstrong to work out Jonathan's grievances and not the eyes of a weary, bullet ridden team she thought it best to press the point rather than drag on the meeting.
Armstrong gave a tired nod. "Right, it will be awhile before we have a plan in motion, and data to work off. Until then, everyone get some rest while you can. We don't know what we will have to face in the near future. So each on in the team will need to be at their best. Now unless there are any other pressing matters, that concludes this debriefing, I'll make contact again if we manage to find anything worth following." And with that, unless there was further interjections. The 3-D image of Armstrong fizzled and went dead.
"Alright then, each of you are dismissed, go patch yourselves up and get some well deserved R&R, if anyone needs me, I'll be in the gym." He saluted the group, even if again, somewhat unnecessary given their mercenary nature, before heading to leave himself, the familiar swoosh of the doors heralding his exit.
Several hours later...
The small garden world of Elysium was like an oasis in the wild mostly uncolonized space that was the Skyllian Verge. A beautiful world quite befitting it's name. Here the The Polaris SS-29 made it's long awaited stop. Docking at a massive space station that served as a special discharge facility, and also provided adequate transportation to and from the colony world. As the ship discharged it's drive core, sheets of lightning jumped away and onto the planets atmosphere resulting in a fantastic and beautiful light display across the sky. The expensive size of the drive core creating a larger then usual aurora.