Mass Effect: The Ties That Bind

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    She should have been ecstatic to be back, but the Reapers had done a number on the once tall, sleek buildings of the asari planet. Now, workers of all races milled outside the broken edifices, hurrying to fix what was broken. Yes, the Reapers had been destroyed, but at what cost? A high cost indeed, she thought.

    A tap on her shoulder had her turning to face a male turian. He wore no helmet, displaying his bluish-gray skin and deep red facial markings. "Commander? Lieutenant Caldis uploaded the information on the target, as you asked."

    "Thank you, Pallick," she answered, poking at the omni-tool on her arm. "Tell the engineers to keep the ship ready to leave at a moment's notice. I don't want to linger here." The turian nodded and she went back to her window. They were closer to the planet now, reaching what few docking bays still remained. There was no one to direct them to a specific dock for the ship. Everyone was busy rebuilding. And to think, Thessia was only worse than Illium...

    "No, not now," she whispered to herself, feeling the ship lurch to a stop. She had been geared up and prepared long before they'd reached Illium, but now that she was here, nervousness sidled through her system. It wasn't the first run she'd been on, but this one was more important to her superiors. The thought made her poke at the omni-tool again, bringing up what information her lieutenant had sent.

    "Jerome Parrish... scientist and doctor, hm... ex-Cerberus." The Alliance had been quite clear on what to do with ex-Cerberus agents, but they wanted this particular Cerberus doctor alive for some reason. And it was her job to find out why.

    Exiting her room, the Commander padded down the hall and descended down the short stairs to her command center. There, she found someone waiting for her. "Commander T'Ralim," the quarian said with a slight bow of her head. She was dressed in a black enviro-suit as many of her fellow quarians did, but hers was trussed up with navy straps and linings on her hood. As the sneaky type of quarian that she was, Nia'Kahn liked to keep her suit unassuming, but fashionable in a way.

    "Nia," she replied, "I take it you need something? You wouldn't stand here otherwise."

    "Yes, I thought I might ask to be taken along for this mission. I've been along for the others, and I don't believe this should be an exception," Nia stated, matter-of-fact tone never wavering.

    "I see no reason to deny you, though be cautious. I know quarians are slowly becoming accepted again, but there's no need to upset what little commerce Illium may have going again." Nia nodded and darted off to prepare herself to leave the ship.

    The Commander herself wasted no time in informing the rest of her crew about the situation, though she neglected to mention the ex-Cerberus part. There wasn't any reason to ruffle up the crew.

    Only she and Nia departed from the ship. Bringing more crew members, as trained as they were, had the potential to startle her target into running, which was never smart against a biotic... or a sniper.

    "Commander, what are we looking for exactly?" Nia inquired as they walked. What few people milled about in what was possibly a business heavy area stared the quarian down, but the Commander had no doubt she was glaring back.

    "A scientist. Previously Cerberus."

    "I suppose that's why we're searching then, yes?"

    "Correct. What the Alliance wants from him is only partially my concern, but we should focus on finding him first, or coming here will have been for nothing. Be on your guard. Expect that he's ready to leave at the blink of an eye," she answered, allowing Nia to wander off and vanish. The quarian was always better off bending the rules, even if that meant using a cloaking device in the middle of the barely-working asari market.

    The Commander asked around, but no one had heard of a Jerome Parrish, or they simply weren't willing to talk. Their time was already full with rebuilding what was lost, and she was interrupting that. Every now and then, she saw a flash of black behind blue asari skin, confirming that Nia was still following her lead. But that lead was slowly going nowhere. Stifling a sigh, she continued on, getting deeper and deeper into the ruins of Illium's shady undergrounds.

    The Reapers had blasted much of the surface, but the undergrounds had survived. Unfortunately. The cheap deals, the stolen goods, the rocky trades... Illium could have done without the parasite, but there it stood. Any planet with major commerce had some kind of underbelly, but that didn't make it any easier to think about.

    All she had to do was think about finding her target, and that was it. She could worry about purging Illium of its black market another time.
    #1 Saren, May 10, 2015
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
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  2. Even half blasted to smithereens, Illium was still open for business. Such was a truth of life, ugly though it was, that the worlds of the Citadel races were in utter shambles and desperate for succor, and what savvy entrepreneurs remained would now reap from what the Reaper War had sowed. That they were forced to conduct their dealings in the planet's crude and chasmic undercities rather than its once lofty skyscrapers was considered an acceptable sacrifice, even a calculated play on the sympathies of offworld investors.

    If Dr. Jerome Parrish, Ph.D., M.S.B.M.E., et al., had been someone else, he might have found such people repulsive, might have called them vultures, bottom feeders or parasites. But when it came to callous exploitation of the weak and gullible, Jerome reckoned himself no better, and perhaps a good deal worse. As that specious volus adage went, "Opportunity is a hole in an enviro-suit" — and there were plenty of holes needing patched nowadays.

    Right now, one of them was in the side of a hoary salarian crime boss bleeding and thrashing around in a state of near apoplexy on Jerome's doorstep. He was swearing like a sailor with a mouth set to fast-forward.

    "Ungrateful little hatchlings! Still be kissing cloaca for research grants if not for me!"

    Jerome had worked on old Desh's boys a number of times recently thanks to an ongoing gang-war between his crew and some rival asari, but never Desh himself. From what could be deciphered from his ravings, the aging salarian's home base had finally been captured after several failed attempts when some of his own foot soldiers broke faith and sabotaged the security systems, inadvertently spreading a fire throughout the compound. Desh had nearly suffocated in his sleep and had been clipped by enemy fire as he stole away with a few loyal survivors. Now the gang leader had come calling for aid. Jerome had rented a bunker upon his arrival under the alias of "Holliday" and quickly converted it for his role as an underworld doctor (the lack of a practitioner's degree among all his others notwithstanding).

    "Settle down, Desh. Help me." Jerome and Desh's men hauled the ailing outlaw inside, setting him into an operating chair in the center of the apartment, then reclining and repositioning him onto his uninjured side. Gesturing the others back, Jerome took a pair of shears and began to cut away the fabric of the light armor covering his new patient's torso.

    "Well, you got banged up pretty bad," he said, examining. "Luckily, it looks like a clean shot, in and out... no arterial spray, that's good... you'll need to find some place to lie low and mend."

    The salarian kingpin wobbled his narrow head in protest as Jerome mopped up sickly yellowish-green blood. "In my thirties, human. On my last legs. No time to mend. Just close me up... so's I can get back at them..." Desh's glassy eyes narrowed as his heavy, plated brows met and he clenched his three slender fingers into a fist. "Sons of varrens! Think they can steal my outfit? Everything I built? Just need to live long enough—"

    A sudden coughing fit racked his reedy body, probably from smoke still left in his lungs.

    "Long enough to watch them die..."

    Finished with cleaning the entry and exit wounds, Jerome made liberal use of some butterfly stitches to hold the tatters of pebbled flesh together while he healed them.

    "I'll put you right, Desh," he said, "don't worry about that. But it's up to you what you do with yourself after."

    Jerome's fingers danced nimbly across his omni-tool and he began to administer medi-gel over the sites of injury. His patient relaxed against the chair's faux-leather.

    "And it's you who'll have to face the consequences when you spin the wheel again," Jerome added.

    Desh laughed weakly. "Wheel of life, eh? Never bought into that. This life bad enough, I gotta suffer another? But maybe I'll get off light. Universe probably junks clanless hoods like me."

    "No reason to go finding out just yet."

    Jerome took Desh's men off to the side, inspected them for any serious wounds of their own. They were shaken up, with some cuts and bruises and generally low spirits, but otherwise fine.

    "If you've got somewhere to take him, do it fast and quiet. Those Midnight Sisters may still be looking for you."

    The salarians exchanged twitchy glances, nodded. "Thank you, human," one said. "We are in your debt."

    "You better believe it. And if any of those succubi come slinking around here, you'll owe me double. If I can convince them I'm in the dark, that is. If not, I'll sell you down the river." He glanced over his shoulder. "Nothing personal, Desh."

    Rising stiffly from the chair with a hand clutching his middle, the salarian smirked. "No problem, doc. See you in the next life."

    The lanky aliens departed. When his door shut behind them, Jerome activated his omni-tool again to confirm that the nano-trackers he'd infused with the medi-gel were working; they were, and he watched their little blips disappear down the corridor beyond. He didn't think it too presumptuous of himself to consider them a rather ingenious little safeguard for his interactions with Illium's criminal element. He'd meant what he said about selling Desh and what remained of his crew out if circumstances called for it.

    This already is my next life, Desh, he thought, not without some guilt, and I can't afford to give it up, too...

    But it was useless to dwell on past mistakes. He could do nothing about the lives lost, the trust betrayed, he could only devote himself to the work. Telling himself this, Jerome was reminded of several details he had been poring over before being interrupted. Wiping down his operating chair and disposing of all the biohazardous material, he returned to his computer terminal.

    He was galled to discover a message waiting for him from a pedantic volus weapons peddler by the name of Ree Howkoon. The squat little gasbag had been avoiding him for weeks and had probably called just to finagle another imposition out of Jerome on the threat of taking even longer to get back to him if he was denied.

    "I finally looked into that... hsshhh... thing you asked me about, Holliday," Howkoon slobbered smugly in the recording. "And I think I have some good news. Hsshhh. Would you mind terribly meeting me at The Berthing Bed when you've a moment? I find it's always... hsshhh... best to discuss business over a meal and in public view. Don't keep me waiting, dear doctor. Hsshhh. I am a busy man, after all..."

    Erasing the message, Jerome promptly grabbed for his jacket and headed out the door. Just the stroke of luck he'd been waiting for! Hurrying past the confines of his drab apartment complex, he hailed a skycar. Howkoon had chosen a popular dockside lounge on the other side of Nos Astra. With the devastation of much of the planet, many of the below-ground hangar bays, seldom used in ages, had turned into bustling centers of commerce and recreation again post-war.

    Climbing into his ride as the door lifted for him, Jerome gazed down on the rubble and up at the heavy overcast above. Occasionally, brilliant shafts of sunlight would break through and a sliver of Illium would gleam with such resplendence as to belie that war had ever touched its surface.

    But it had. Everyone and everything in the galaxy was changed and nothing could go back to how it was before.

    And things aren't done changing yet, Jerome thought, remembering the work he had safely hidden away. He did his best to ignore the shiver that ran up his spine.
    #2 dreamshell, May 14, 2015
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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  3. "Commander?" a voice quipped through her earpiece. "A message just came through from... Ree Howkoon? Isn't that the beady fat roll of a volus that gave us the tip?" Only her often too snarky communications specialist could have come up with such a quick insult on the spot. Stifling a sigh, she pressed down on the earpiece.

    "Yes, Avenka. What he looks like isn't important right now. Relay the message to me." None of the crew had ever met with the informant before, but it appeared that someone had been doing some digging in their off time.

    "Comin' right up, Commander," he responded. There was a moment of silence before her omni-tool flickered. "Y'ever wonder what a volus looks like under their masks? I mean, they've gotta look all funky--"

    "Thank you, Avenka," she stressed, tuning out her rambling comm specialist to inspect the message. Howkoon had informed her that her target might be using an alias and that he had actually gotten the doctor to a public place.She hadn't even told the volus they had landed on the planet, which meant he had some kind of separate eyes or ears running around. If she hadn't been dealing with slimy informants like him for a while, she might have been unsettled.

    While she despised open confrontation, Parrish, or whatever name he was using, would have little chance to run. If that failed, she had Nia, a sniper who didn't like to miss. "Get all that, Nia?" she asked the quarian. Where Nia had actually gone off to was unknown, but she couldn't have been far behind her Commander.

    "Yes, Commander," came the reply. No fuss or extra words; that was why she liked Nia. If only the quarian could teach the ranting Avenka that words weren't always necessary.

    "Don't stray far behind. If he runs, shoot to wound, not kill. I don't doubt the Alliance would be upset for missing out on this opportunity." There it was again, the nagging feeling like her superiors weren't telling her something. She had come all the way to Illium on a hunch and little else. The broken asari planet had no time for such trivial matters as hunting down a member of its underground, and the Alliance had bigger problems than a scientist with no organization at his back.

    "Commander, can we trust this source?" It wasn't like Nia to ask such questions. Despite the tough exterior the quarian put up, she had a fierce loyalty to the Commander. Now, while that loyalty wasn't wavering, it seemed as though Nia was having similar doubts.

    "Howkoon hasn't failed us before, as far as I'm aware. He's been a fairly trusted source for a few months. I don't think the Alliance would set us up with someone who couldn't be trusted," she answered, but even as the words came out, she almost faltered. She had to be strong and have some faith in the volus that he was going to come through yet again.

    "...If you say so," Nia said, her radio falling silent after that. They made their way closer to the supposed location of her target, noticing the dwindling crowds as she neared the place. Few people had time for meals or drinks in such a time of reconstruction. She didn't pity them, for they had far worse things to worry about than a lost target.

    The hole-in-the-wall bars and hideaways were scattered all around the underground, but most tended to linger around the skycar drop off stations. The crowds dwindled the farther they ventured, as many were worried about the state of the surface. As far as she was concerned, the underground didn't need rebuilding, even if it had been spared from the worst of the damage from the Reapers.

    The Berthing Bed came up faster than she was expecting, and if Nia's voice hadn't chirped in her earpiece, she might have missed it. "Commander, there's a volus on the inside from what I can see. No one else except a bartender."

    "You're able to see inside? Do they have glass ceilings or something?" she asked, biting back more sarcastic comments.

    "No. There's a hole in the roof," Nia answered, missing the point of the joke.

    "Oh. Well, stay there. It might be the only vantage point you get. There aren't many places to gain an advantage around here." Radio silence again, but at least she was nearby in case of trouble. Ex-Cerberus of any kind were always a pain in her ass, and this one was likely to be no different.

    The door slid open automatically as she entered, but she made no move toward the volus. If her target really was on the way, her mere presence might scare him. While her Alliance armor was standard, anyone who was smart would know an authority figure when they saw one. Her target had avoided detection until now, and she didn't think he would risk coming inside if he saw her as a threat.

    She took a seat at a corner table, leaning back in the cool, metallic chair. It didn't seem like anyone else was keen on entering the Bed, and now, all she could do was watch and wait.
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  4. The sounds of commercial haggling and machine-driven dock work echoed off the wide walls and high ceiling of the spaceport. Jerome kept his collar up and his chin down, striding past asari, humans and a smattering of other Citadel races as if they were mere holograms. He stole occasional sideways glances at his surroundings, checking for any signs of a shadow or a pair of eyes that lingered overlong. There was a compact little pistol with a backup thermal clip in one of his jacket pockets, a smoke grenade in the other.

    It was important to look inconspicuous, to disappear amid the crowd. Past experiences had taught him how to mask the tension that came with high-risk endeavors, breathing to center himself, relaxing his face and body, wearing drab colors to become forgettable, and more. Nonetheless, he disliked the idea of meeting Howkoon out in the open; there were just too many variables to conceivably manage. Among the throng of people might be any number of obstacles: rent-a-cops who knew his reputation on Illium and felt like playing hero, goons hired by Howkoon to corral him in, the Midnight Sisters out looking for inroads to Desh, old coworkers out for blood or mercs they'd hired to get it for them, Alliance officers eager to toss him into a cell and throw away the key.

    But the work required that he take such foolhardy chances, had from the very beginning. Jerome just hoped what the volus had to tell him was worthwhile, otherwise he was going to be very, very sorry.

    Shortly, he turned a corner on the far side of the hangar and saw the faulty neon lights of The Berthing Bed. The door whooshed open belatedly for him and as he stepped through it, Jerome could see that the lounge was outmoded and in disrepair, likely seldom patronized save perhaps by graveyard-shift cargo haulers and shify-eyed drifters. It was empty but for the barkeep, the moon-shaped form of Howkoon in a booth to his left and... a lone asari sitting in the opposite corner.

    She was a pale shade of purple and her uniform was Alliance, which would have raised eyebrows only a year ago, but had become more commonplace in the wake of the Reaper War. So much had been lost and all parties were still so busy licking their wounds that the Council had thought it best to keep the forces of the various Citadel races working together and pooling resources. Thus many aliens had made their way into Alliance positions and vice versa. The asari was watching an old terminal phase in and out of an ANN news story about recolonization efforts, but something about her seemed... wrong.

    I don't like this...

    Just as he was beginning to edge back towards the door, Howkoon turned his bulbous body around.

    "Doctor!" he greeted, raising a clawed hand. "I thought that was you. Won't you sit down? Hsshhh. We really have much to discuss."

    Jerome gave the asari a final glimpse before approaching the bartender, a human female with tired eyes, and ordering a glass of batarian ale. Without further delay, he made his way over to the booth with its dusty tabletop and arrangement of grimy-looking utensils and sat across from the volus.

    "I have to warn you, I'm feeling a bit paranoid lately," he said. "So I'm going to ask you something, Ree, and you'd better be straight with me — Is she one of yours?"

    He gestured discreetly towards the asari. Howkoon's method of looking over his rounded shoulder was rather more obvious.

    "The Thessia-clan? Why would you... hsshhh... think that? She's wearing your colors, isn't she? That is, she's wearing Earth-clan's."

    Jerome leaned in, reaching into his jacket and removing his pistol. He brought it underneath the table and against the arms merchant's enviro-suit. Howkoon looked down in surprise.

    "Listen to me, you little ammonia-breathing blob," Jerome whispered, "I'll pop you like a balloon unless you tell me right now. Is. She. Yours?"

    "N-No! Hsshhh. I've never seen her before! Doctor, I'm trying to help you, remember?"

    Jerome made to cast another look at the asari, but saw the bartender with his drink. Jerome replaced his sidearm and paid for his order. When the woman left, he sat back and took a long nip.

    "Help me, you said?" he asked, settling down. "My guess is that 'help' comes with a hefty price tag."

    The volus relaxed as well. "But of course, doctor. This is a matter of business, after all."

    "Then you... found the location of the Collector ship?"

    Howkoon nodded, his suit's wattles jiggling slightly. "That I did! I have a certain turian customer who traded the information for a shipment of munitions. Hsshhh. Still a lot of those 'Marauders' and other horrid things on Palaven, you know. Furthermore, I was able to verify what he told me through a fellow dealer... hsshhh... who's sold to the Collectors in the past. According to him, the coordinates line up exactly with the route they would use."

    This was astronomically good luck. The wealth of knowledge he could find aboard a Collector vessel was uncalculable. But the question was: would Howkoon share what he knew? Jerome imagined he might, with the right sort of motivation.

    "You know, Ree, I'm a man of... precautions. So while I'm perfectly willing to pay you a fair price if what you have for me is authentic, I'm afraid you won't like my reaction if I find you're trying to chisel me."

    Howkoon chuckled. "You've been around those street thugs too long, doctor. If you want what I've got, you'll have to pay the price I set... hsshhh... and none of your little under-the-table intimidation tactics will do you a whit of good. After all, you can't get information out of a dead man. Hsshhh. Your threats are empty, Earth-clan."

    Jerome allowed himself a small smile. "There you are mistaken, Ree. Your cred accounts, however..."

    "What? No, that's... not possible." Howkoon sounded mostly certain.

    Jerome took another sip of his batarian ale. "Oh, feel free to call my bluff, if you like."

    Howkoon's beady, glowing eyes lingered a moment before his omni-tool flickered to life and the volus began to prod its shining surface with nervous haste. In moments, he was hyperventilating.

    "How... how did you do this?!"

    Jerome urged the volus to lower his voice with a gesture of his hand. "They don't call me 'the hack' around here for nothing, my little friend. I've decrypted RNA strands that go on for miles. Compared to that, your passcodes were child's play. I cracked them the same day we met."

    "No, no, no... hsshhh... NO!" Howkoon squirmed out of the booth, frantically swiveling his rotund body around. His gaze settled on the asari in the corner.

    "Are you the one? You can't take him yet, do you understand? He's bankrupted me! Hsshhh. Do you understand? You can't take him yet!"

    It wasn't what Jerome had thought; it was worse. The greedy little butterball had sold him out. Jerome saw the asari was leaned forward, tense, and her eyes were showing their whites. What was she — A commando? Eclipse? A Justicar, maybe? It hardly mattered.

    Jerome raised his glass and downed the ale in a single quaff before glaring over at the panicked volus.

    "Bad form, Ree."

    In a flash, he was charging towards Howkoon, a fork in hand. With a forceful downward thrust, he punctured the dealer's enviro-suit and sent his round body rolling across the room towards the asari with a hard shove. Jerome then withdrew the grenade in his jacket and hurled it into the corner. A smoke screen rose quickly, obscuring her from vision (and him from hers) and Jerome dashed out of the lounge, leaving Howkoon's desperate gasps and the coughs of the asari behind. Eyes darting about the hangar, Jerome glimpsed a skycar's timely landing and made for it at break-neck speed. As he raised a hand to activate the door, a shot rang out and bounced off the skycar's metal with a spark. Jerome snarled and retreated for cover.

    Damn it! How many are there?!

    By now, the people milling about the spaceport were aware that something was up and began to flee to safety (So much for inconspicuous). Hiding in the entrance of a shop with a group of frightened onlookers huddled away from him, Jerome sent out a call.

    "Desh? You there? Remember that debt of yours? Well, I'm gonna need you to pay it back sooner rather than later. And I mean pronto."

    "Get you in trouble with them Sisters, doc?"

    "No, this I did all on my own. But if you could find your way to Docking Bay D94, I'd sure as hell be grateful."

    "That one underground, yes? No problem, doc. Hang tight. Be right there."

    "Sure," Jerome grumbled to himself, "I'll just wait here for you and hold off God-knows-how-many of God-knows-who with next to no goddamned weapons."

    Checking their location via the nano-trackers he'd used, Jerome saw that Desh's crew was going to be little while.

    "Walk in the park," he said, and took out his pistol. He sincerely hoped he wouldn't have to take any hostages...
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  5. Waiting, as she discovered, was not something she liked to do. The humans had a saying: "Patience is a virtue." Well, that didn't seem to work for everyone, as she lacked the patience to even sit for five minutes. Time on her ship even frustrated her, with no places to move around and little to do. Just like on her ship, she would be trapped there until her target showed up. Her eyes wandered to the terminal flickering in the corner, watching the picture fade in and out. Recolonization... It was a noble ideal, but with what little the Reapers left behind in some places, it would take years before anyone could take residence on the broken planets.

    The sound of the door sliding open had the asari almost turning her head. However, if she looked, it would be entirely conspicuous. Her target was smart; he'd stayed underground long enough to know how to avoid any sort of authority figures. Resisting the urge to glance over, she leaned back in her chair and let herself stare at the terminal. Ree's voice was in no way quiet, and while her first objective hadn't been to eavesdrop, she found herself listening anyway. Her target's voice was low, so she couldn't make out his words, but at least she could listen in on the volus. Whatever they were discussing seemed to turn sour, and she tensed, waiting to strike. "Commander, I can take the shot," Nia's voice filtered through the comm. She couldn't make an answer without giving herself away, but the volus did it for her.

    He said she couldn't take him, but the volus's financial status was the least of her worries. It seemed that her target had realized he'd been duped, and she saw the flash of the metallic fork before he plunged it into Ree's suit. The volus screeched, and that was all she got to take in before smoke filled the entire room. "Dammit!" She waved her hand through the smoke, but it was musty and hard to move in. Not to mention she had a choking volus tangled around her legs. Her coughs hammered at her ears and her eyes watered from the smoke, and she only managed to escape the Bed by stumbling and knocking over a few chairs and tables. The lone human bartender had already fled, leaving the Commander and her faithful quarian to give chase. She certainly couldn't count on Ree for anything useful.

    "Commander, are you alright? The smoke floated out of the hole. I lost sight of the target and took a blind shot. I'm trying to pursue him now," Nia explained into the comm between breaths.

    "Good. I'll catch up to you. Try to keep him in your sights, and remember, don't shoot to kill," she ordered. She took silence as an affirmation, and she continued on her way. Recovering from the bout with the smoke grenade, the asari found it hard to muster the power to charge biotics, but after a moment or two of struggling, the blue energy of her biotics swirled around her hands. The azure aura surrounded her, and she used her power to take bigger strides and leap forward some extra feet. She knew that many asari could hover or fly with their biotics, but the energy it took to maintain any flight pattern was simply too much. She kept pushing on with her short jumps and long strides, slowly covering the distance her target had put between them. Illium's patrons had started to scatter, making her job a little easier.

    "Commander, I can't find him. He's gone under somewhere."

    "Well, we can't go into every single place guns blazing. We might have to wait for him to show himself again." She came to a halt, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and broken chunks of the world above. They had chased their target all the way out of the underground and into the finer, but still broken, parts of Illium's spaceport. If only location had mattered, for he was still lost in one of the buildings. "He can't come out without showing himself, as far as I know."

    "I'll try... to find a better... place to... stand," Nia panted through the radio. Quarians weren't very strong when it came to physical activities, if she knew anything about their race. The fact that Nia had kept pace with her was impressive, but there was little time for appreciation.

    "I suppose I could try and talk to him," she mused. Now that the spaceport was void of any people, it was remarkably quiet. She could actually hear her own voice floating out of her mouth, since she had an awful habit of talking to herself. Unfortunately, there was a second person privy to her audible thoughts.

    "Talk to him, Commander? I thought the reports made him out to be ex-Cerberus! You can't talk to them." Nia seemed to have both caught her breath and sound genuinely concerned (or upset) for her Commander.

    "I've done this before, Nia." Not with a former agent of Cerberus, but she liked to think herself capable of handling him all the same. "If he tries to kill me, feel free to shoot."

    She heard a sigh on the other end, but there were no further comments. She stepped forward, scanning the various buildings in the spaceport. She was too far to see inside any of them, so she had to guess. With luck, he would still be hiding and not looking for a way out. Then again, if he was hiding, it was possible he had a weapon and was just waiting for a chance to use it. The thought caused her to summon a biotic barrier between her and the rest of the world. It wouldn't protect her from every bullet, but it often slowed projectiles enough to only ping her armor and do little damage. That was only if the barrier was strong enough, but if there was one thing she was really good at, it was using biotics. She was nowhere near the level of a matriarch, but she was strong, and she could count on that, at the very least.

    "Parrish?" she called out, raking her brain for her target's name. In the fray, she'd forgotten most of the information about him, though being a part of Cerberus wasn't easy to let go of, even for her brain. "You probably don't know this, but I wasn't sent here to kill you." If anyone had stuck around from the initial panic, anything she might have said definitely sounded strange. "I just want to talk to you."

    "Commander, I don't think you should be trying to level with him. Humans aren't level. Especially not Cerberus."

    "...Ex-Cerberus," she corrected. "That has to count for something, right?"
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