2 – Hide!
Her shuttle was now drifting near Omega and Athena was calculating. She knew her shuttle and the uniform she was wearing were plastered with Cerberus symbols. It was like they weren’t even trying to be subtle and the last thing she needed was to broadcast her position or even remote affiliation with the terrorist organization. Her chances of getting off this shuttle normally without being spotted were slim to nothing. Well to tell the truth, they were at 2.340090807653524184% but she wasn’t counting. The various plans she had come up with so far ranged from prohibitively stupid to just crazy enough to work and that was if she was being generous.
With a huff, she settled on her most likely to succeed plan and set the shuttle on crash course with a carefully selected point on Omega, near one of the many disused docking bays. Then she set one of her thought threads to monitor it and walked to the locker in the back. Each shuttle was equipped with a hard suit capable of protecting its wearer from the cold of space, as well as carrying enough air to last twenty minutes of hard physical activity. One thought thread helpfully provided her with the data while another gave her a by blow account of exactly how this could go wrong. She winced as the visual image of a suit breach was played in her mind’s eye.
She shook her head. She set the other threads to triple, quadruple check her calculations as she pulled on the one size fits all suit and prepped for what would either ensure she had breathing room to escape Cerberus, or make it so she didn’t have to worry about anything ever again. Several thought threads tried to understand her cavalier acceptance of possible death but she shunted them back to the calculations.
The thread she had dedicated to watching her trajectory warned her that her window was rapidly approaching. She made some minor course corrections and sealed her suit, preparing for vacuum. With the final coordinates locked and the computer wiped and fried to prevent anything in the way of records from surviving, she opened the rear hatch. The decompression was quick and would have taken her with it if she hadn’t been holding onto a rail designed for such an occurrence. A thread began a countdown from ten and she eased to the edge of the shuttle. Her fingers gripped the lip of the door as she lowered her body out of the craft.
The stone wall of Omega rose above her, details rapidly becoming apparent. She adjusted her grip. Her plan was simple but suicidal if a person couldn’t run through over a thousand calculations in under a nanosecond and has the reflexes to pull it off. The timer flicked to zero and she swung herself off the shuttle and towards the wall of omega. She flew at an angle towards a defunct bay. With desperate speed, she set her threads to hacking into the ancient systems.
“Come on, come on, come on,” She chanted under her breath as she worked. If she didn’t get that doors open now, then she would splatter against them like a bug on a windshield. The doors shuddered and began to move, their guide rails rusted and damaged. They opened halfway then shuddered to a stop. Five seconds till impact, a thread informed her whilst three more began calculating exactly how much this was going to hurt and what would happen if she failed.
Success rate sitting at 3.224%, another thread informed her almost jovially. “Shit,” She muttered and twisted her body to the side, thinning her profile and releasing a little of the oxygen in her suit to tilt her to the correct angle. The doors were open barely five feet and she was approaching at a speed of at least thirty km/h. It was going to be like threading a needle and threading one at high speed. She grit her teeth and held her breath as she rocketed past the doors, the left most one scraping her back.
She grunted in pain before she hit the gravity of the station. In the fraction of a second before she hit, she let her body go limp. All air was driven from her lungs as her body hit unrelenting metal. Thank god that the suit had a hard shell designed to protect the wearer from space debris. She hit at an angle with her left side facing down and skidded across the metal floors. Sparks sprayed away from her and her left side exploded in pain.
Turns out her threads were correct as well. It hurt like a bitch! Available threads were sent to close the doors and wipe the records of them opening from the severs. Three threads were dedicated to expunging every piece of evidence from the stations sensors that her ship had even existed. All the while she lay on the ground in pain, wheezing like a landed trout as she attempted to get her body moving again. Still gasping and feeling like her ribs were on fire, she scraped her body off the ground and staggered to the inner air lock door. Her right arm wrapping around her midsection, trying to hold her ribs together.
An internal monitor informed her that the third rib down on the left side had a hairline fracture and the others were already developing deep bone bruises. She could feel blood rushing to the skin on the left side, creating some marvelous bruises no doubt.
She cracked the door open and dragged herself through. She slumped against the wall, panting and gagging at the stench that was coming in through her nostrils as she activated the external filters on her helmet. It stank like burning garbage, asphalt, and burning motor oil. A thread was analyzing the smell and told her that apparently, she was smelling burnt Vorcha. She winced at the hypothesis as to why a Vorcha nearby was on fire.
She shook her head, intentionally bashing the helmet against the wall, trying to rattle the threads into some semblance of order. When they refused to cooperate, she growled. She set three threads to monitoring her movement using the station security and any nearby electronics, purposefully instructing them to erase her form the minute it was recorded. That kept them busy as they began scanning. A handful of other threads were set to monitoring the comms around her, checking for key words such as Cerberus, target, Metis, experiment, subject, A.I., Athena, Illusive man and Operative or any combination of those words.
She couldn’t take any chances that she might be cornered. The rest she set to form bank accounts under several false names and to begin skimming credits from cash transactions that were happening all around her. No big amounts, just a single credit off of a transaction here, three from an arm’s deal there.
Barely specks of dust from the millions that swam past her. It was like catching minnows with her bare hands, tedious and slow, even for her.
She decided to let those credits sit as an emergency fund for if she needed to get out in a hurry. The credits funneled themselves through the extranet as those threads worked hard to hide where the money was coming and going, some writing programs to continue this with instinctive ease.
She took a moment to frown at how instinctive and easy it was for her to act on the digital level but shook her head. She couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. In her old life she had been as technologically incompetent as it was possible to be and still work. As an android, she had only one thing going for her and that was her hacking ability.
Lastly she dedicated four threads to hunting down transactions by the Shadow broker. She would end the threat posed by the Broker and Cerberus if it was the last thing she ever did. With the broker, it was merely business but with Cerberus, it was personal.
Her left fist clenched, despite the bruising and her lips curled back in a snarl. She could understand Jack’s hatred now, only she wouldn’t whine about it. She would end them. Two years of hell could not be repaid by simply robbing the organization blind. No, she would tear it apart, brick by brick, byte by byte. She would destroy their cells, end their projects and smile like a mad woman as she used a broadsword, or maybe a shotgun, to remove the Illusive man’s head.
A rogue thread tried to theorize what the blood spatter of such an action would cause as well as the pros and cons for each weapon, but she shut it down almost instantly. She straightened and staggered forward a step, swaying on her feet, the pain hanging over her like a shawl, but forcibly ignored. It was only now that she registered the gnawing hunger that her body was trying to inform her of.
She took another step forward, and another. Leaning heavily on the wall. She needed food and she needed sleep. Her body still apparently carried such mortal failings. A thread helpfully brought up a map of the station and she drove her failing shell onward. She looked for a place to get out of her Cerberus equipment and a safe place to hide. She dedicated a thread to finding these needs and she soon found herself nearing a block of apartments.
According to the security footage, there was no one home. The door lock presented her with no challenge, neither did the alarm. Both were of poor quality anyways. She stumbled to the bedroom and rummaged the closets. From what she could tell, this was the home of an Asari. Lots of picture decorated the walls showing a smiling blue woman, some with other blue women and a few with her arms wrapped around a grizzled looking reptilian looking alien. She assumed that it was a Salarian. There was a collection of dresses and uniforms in the closet as well as some work out gear. She pulled out some pants and surprisingly a t-shirt as well as a jacket.
Hastily she ripped off the armor and uniform, keeping the boots from the uniform and throwing the Cerberus gear into the garbage incinerator that was apparently a mark of higher class on Omega. Dressed now in black slacks, dark blue shirt, black canvas jacket and white boots, she raided the fridge. There were some fruits and vegetables sitting next to an old cartridge of what appeared to be take out. She stole the fruits and cautiously nibbled on them.
A strange dark purple one that was shaped like a dragon fruit but with the skin like an apple was her favorite. It had a strange tangy sweetness that she liked. Her body accepted the offering’s gratefully after the testing nibble didn’t cause her body to swell up like a balloon. Sustained and a little more camouflaged she returned to the street. Second step was getting her hands on a weapon. On a place like Omega she knew it was only a matter of time before she ran across someone trying to fleece closed her eyes and took a deep breath, bringing in all her threads to focus. If she was going to survive even a day in Omega she needed to do one of three things:
One: Make herself useful to someone in power, essentially turning herself into someone’s pet A.I., She didn’t like that option.
Two: Start selling information that she could get but that would draw attention she didn’t want to herself.
Three: Hide in the streets, gathering money and experience, but that had the possibility of her getting shanked in her sleep.
She sighed and prioritized. First a weapon and some cash, then food and safe place to rest, then plan. Course of action laid out, she made her way through to the main plaza of Omega. If she was going to do anything then she needed stuff. A Batarian forced his way past her and she felt a flash of awareness from his Omni-tool. An Idea formed in her mind and she smiled. The next person that neared her she stumbled to the side, brushing against him.
It was a Turian who snarled at her and backhanded her across the face. The blow snapped her head to the side and forced her to stumble away. Her whole body protested the abuse and she knew that her face would be joining the left side of her body in its colorful state. In that crucial half-second, however, she had accessed his accounts and, in a moment of spite, she drained them all. That would teach him to beat on unarmed non-combatants.
She gingerly rested her hand against the side of her face and winced at the pain that covered it as she continued on her way.
With the Turian’s credits in her stolen Omni-tool she entered the plaza and began to purchase the essentials for herself. After a long argument with a Salarian vendor who she knew had tried to fleece her for the omni-tool she was attempting to get so she could ditch the Cerberus issue one currently adorning her arm, she turned her attention to a food vendor and bought some ration packs and water.
Food taken care of, she visited a nearby weapons merchant. She didn’t have much left but enough to purchase a knife that she quickly attached to her person. With what little credits she had left, she found a fabric vendor tucked away in a corner of the plaza. There wasn’t much, a few bolts of low quality textiles and some sewing materials for the hobbyists or the poor. She bought three meters of a dark grey, linen like materiel and the required tools before she retreated into the bowels of Omega. After a hike through the darker and unoccupied halls, she found herself an abandoned nook situated high in a wall near the end of a low-quality neighborhood.
It was high and hard to reach but enough for her needs. Her body protested as she used one of her downloads to run the twelve feet up the wall, latching onto the ledge with weary fingers and laboriously hauling herself up. The nook was more of a ledge near a heat vent with a bend that protected her from prying eyes. In the near dark, she separated her haul into sections. The rations and food were carefully stored under a piece of wall she pried off with her new knife.
The omni-tool was set to the left and the cloth was folded neatly, awaiting her attention. She took a ration bar and ate it in five quick bites, the dry and tasteless bar doing its job. Finally, she turned her attention to the omni-tool from the station, examining it for the first time in detail. She didn’t need an omni tool per say, the augments in the back of her head allowed her to interface with any wireless system within a four-kilometer radius but it was a good prop. She just needed something for when wireless didn’t work.
She closed her eyes and dove into its software, sifting through the coding. It was rather like sifting through a tray of tangled jewelry, trying to separate the amber beads from the silver chains without breaking either. Her eyes snapped open and she swore violently, her mind crushing every program on the tool. The feeling of programs snapping like stepping of glass shards in her head. There was a tracking program on the tool.
She should have known! Should have guessed, she had the entirety of Cerberus’ policies in her head! She knew how they operated! How had she not thought of the fact that they tracked everything they owned?
Frantic now, she threw the unusable tool away from her and into the vent. It clanged against the sides of the shaft as it fell. Panic not subsiding, she pulled all her threads inward and began to examine the hardware in her own body and the programing in her mental augments. It was agonizing, having all her thought threads focused on one thing. She was not meant to focus this utterly. The clarity and speed of her mind had increased exponentially but she had to close her eyes as the thread in charge of that function was drawn in as well.
The only ones not active were the ones focused on her breathing and heart, she made a mental side not to form an automatic process for that before she returned to her task. The sheer amount of tech within her was frightening. Her brain alone had hardware grafted onto it, no doubt to allow her mental faculties to be so super charged. A transceiver near the base of her skull allowed her to mesh with nearby systems.
Muscle grafts, bone grafts, monitors and hormone production centers littered her body, she could literally flush the blood from her body and the implants would stimulate her to make more. She shivered at the thought of Cerberus having the coding for her implants. The last thing she needed was some enterprising hacker turning her blood to formaldehyde because that’s what one could do. With her entire mind focused on it, she began to sift through her own programing, desperate to find any backdoors that could lead to her death.
From the records she had copied into the hard drive that lived near her heart, she could see that she had been designed to have no personality. The stimulus sessions had been in an attempt to get her programing to link up with the body they had put it in. She was meant to be a human drone. A downloadable personality, the perfect sleeper agent, unknowing of its true purpose until activated, unfeeling, unmoving and implacable.
She shuddered and thanked whatever deity that existed here or in the multiverse for giving her, her memories. With a mind and morals controlling her intellect, she had thrown a wrench into the plans, filling the personality void that would have been held by the control chip. It was an intense and painful process as she had to carefully skirt and sift through her own mental codes looking for errors, locks and backdoors.
She found several, including a transmitter and a vital sign monitor and a deadman switch that sent an active signal to somewhere. She dared not track it for now. Her back muscles cramped and her head felt hot as she dug through her core. She needed to insulate herself, protect her mind from invasion. She would not be a puppet. She wove new firewalls, hid the functions of her implants, diverted threads to building new programs and having them perform quick switches that reminded her of Indiana Jones switching statues on pressure plates.
She was knocked from her efforts by a migraine that felt like her brain was seconds away from pouring out of her nose but she was only half done. She had managed to deactivate the trackers but she still was a long way from being shielded completely. Shaking her head, she tried to focus her threads inward to finish the process but she was knocked out by the pain and a warning from her neural implants that continued action would liquefy her brain.
She wearily glanced at her internal clock and saw that she had been at it for over six hours. Exhausted, she lay down and placed her head on the fabric, letting her eyes droop shut as her body shut down to recuperate. Her mental threads drifted free along the lines of code until she wearily drew them together to prevent them from wandering out into the Extranet. She set them loose among a long list of calculations that they could play with for however long she was unconscious. Finally, for the first time since she became aware, she slept.
Miranda Lawson stalked into the Illusive man’s main office. It wasn’t often that she was summoned to the inner sanctum like this, but she wasn’t one to question. The door slid open before her and the black tiles reflected her image back at her like a pool of black water. The baleful light of the star this station orbited filled the room with its fiery light, causing the black tiles to glow. The effect of black and red made the room look almost hellish.
He sat at his screen, his back to the door and an ever-present cigarette between his fingers. A wisp of smoke curled lazily into the air, vanishing into the dark void that was the high ceiling. “Miranda, so good of you to come,” He greeted her without turning, his voice soft and somehow still menacing.
“I came here as soon as I could,” She informed him stoically, taking a stance near him and joining him in his observation of the star.
“A situation has arisen that requires action,” He informed her. She nodded and waited for him to continue. He would speak when he was ready and not one second before. “Tell me Miranda, what do you know of Project Mnemosyne?” He asked her in an almost off handed manner, but her boss never did anything casually.
She looked over at him and blinked, surprise flickering in her sky-blue eyes. “I’ve never heard of that project, was it in a briefing?” She asked, wondering if she had missed some crucial data. The Illusive man shook his head and took a pull from his cigarette.
“No, but it’s good to know that my security is still tight on that front. However, Muse station, where Project Mnemosyne is located has gone dark,” He informed her as he exhaled a cloud of smoke through his nose. With an almost absent air, he tapped the cancer stick, knocking the ash clinging to the tip into a crystal ash tray near his elbow. He waved his free hand and a console near him activated.
“I want you to follow this frequency and recover Subject Metis, preferably still operable,” He told her calmly.
“Who or what is subject Metis?” Miranda questioned as her omni-tool pinged. “A significant investment Miranda, that is all you need to know. It looks like a human female but don’t be fooled. If Subject Metis is the reason Muse station went dark, then you will be dealing with a very deadly opponent,” He replied sharply.
Miranda looked down at the files that loaded onto her tool. “It says here that Metis is on Omega,” She noted and the Illusive man nodded. “That is correct, our normal agents can’t handle this, they don’t have the training to take Metis out.”
Miranda nodded in understanding and turned to leave. “And Miranda. If Metis proves too hard to capture, terminate but don’t destroy its head,” He told her smoothly.
She paused. “Understood,” She replied before continuing her exit.
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