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Chapter 2: The Night of the Thief


The young traveller left the Sanctuary at the rise of dawn. Discarding her robes for a black leather tunic and pants concealed beneath a travellers cloak she hoped such sombre attire would allow her to tread the open roads undisturbed. She mounted her borrowed steed, Shadowmere, and set out on her journey towards the eastern fringe of the frozen land.

Sofie had chosen to remain on the main roads and soon found herself passing through the hold capital of Falkreath. Although the estate she had called home for the past few years had only been within a few miles of the town this was one of the few times since she had come here since her mother’s passing. As her horse trotted slowly through the street she strained to overhear the fleeting conversation of two men standing outside the local inn.

“Wasn’t that the estate of the Dragonborn?”

“Yeah, I heard something happened a few days ago. You hear anything?”

“The guards went out to investigate this morning. The whole estate looked abandoned, scars of battle everywhere”

“Bandits you think?”

“It’s an odd sort of Bandits that use fire and ice spells. And there weren’t nothing stolen, no weapons or jewels missing. Only thing that was gone was a load of clothes and all the food in the kitchen”

“You’re right. Mighty strange bandits who break into the home a dragon killer for a frilly dress and a stale sweet roll”

So it was true, the estate had been abandoned with no trace of Brelyna, Runa or Lydia. No doubt the city guards presumed everyone either dead or taken by whoever had attacked the estate. She could not risk returning to home based on idle curiosity, but it did not comfort her to rely on second word and gossip. For now it would have to suffice.


**********************
A few days ride from Falkreath laid the city of Riften. Known as the City of Thieves it was a city regarded as a den of treachery and deceit unfit for all but the lowest of creatures of Skyrim.

Sofie arrived as a fresh sun broke over the horizon on the fourth day in the wake of the attack. She dismounted Shadowmere at the edge of the forest lingering just within sight of the city, preferring to approach the city on foot rather than astride a demonic mount. She walked the beaten path as many travellers had done before her draped in her flowing black cloak she hoped she would be able to pass unnoticed-

“You in the cloak” the challenge of a guard’s voice stopped her in her step outside the city gate.

“Yes” Sofie acknowledged the guard.

“You have to pay the visitors tax for entering Riften” the guard said.

“Why would I need to pay to enter the city?” Sofie asked.

“The visitors tax is paid by all non-residents entering Riften. If you don’t, bad things happen” the guard repeated.

“I call horker dung on that, how can you expect me to believe-” Sofie instinctively reached out for the dagger at her belt. Riftens reputation for violence required-

“My apologies, miss. I didn’t recognise you” Sofie noticed the guard had taken an interest in her mother’s pendant around her neck. “Please go ahead” the guard stepped aside to allow her entry.


***************************

Walking through the streets she found the city carried itself with a cold and weary dreariness as much in the people as the architecture.

Leaning on the railing overlooking the river across from the market square she could watch the bustle of the people going about their trade. On the edge of the city she could see the towering citadel of Mistveil Keep piercing through the morning fog. The moment she had stepped into the city she could feel a looming sense of sadness and sorrow, or it may have been the smell of the canals-

In a flash of movement too quick for her eyes to follow a figure emerged from the shadows behind her. She felt a hand at her belt, her purse. They ran off down the planked street.

“Hey, give that back!” Sofie protested and swiftly gave chase down the street after them.

Reaching the end of the street the thief darted around the wall to emerge in the courtyard of the Temple of Mara, Sofie remaining close on his tail as she pursued him. Following in his wake through the courtyard Sofie emerged into an eerily silent graveyard. Fearing she had lost sight of him she glanced up to watch as her quarry scampered across the treacherous rooftops as naturally as a creature born to traverse the urban jungle of wood and stone.

Forced to continue the pursuit at ground level Sofie could only fight to keep pace as the young thief ran from rooftop to rooftop across the back alley of the city. Quickly running out of roof space to traverse the thief leapt from the high ledge and surrendered himself to the unforgiving influence of gravity, transferring his fall into a roll which brought him back to his feet in a single motion to continue his escape.

Turning a corner Sofie found the thief standing at far end of the alleyway, struggling to unlock the metal gate. He turned to face her down because he had no choice; she saw the desperation in his eyes. Sofie realised she had drawn her weapon out of instinct, she did not know what she would have done once she had caught him.

This was not just some mad dash for justice or a crusade to right some injustice made against her, all the money she had left since leaving the estate was in that pouch. Sofie did not know how he would dare to break free but knew that he would have to go through her-

“That’s enough”

Sofie turned to be met by the source of the voice at the mouth of the alleyway, a woman with long blonde hair dressed in a black leather jacket and pants.

“You did well to keep up, almost too well for a common mark” the woman commented to Sofie with a sly grin. “You though” the woman’s tone suddenly turned harsh as her attention was shifted to the young thief, she stepped past Sofie without a second glance to stand high over the young boy. “What the hell happened there? What’s the first rule of running away?”

“I know” the young thief replied with downturned eyes, clearly being forced to suffer the repeated sting of the same lecture for the ever growing nth time.

“Always know your escape route before you execute the snatch” the woman enunciated every word as if she wished them to be thoroughly nailed through the boys’ skull.

“I already picked the lock-” the boy was quick to reply in an attempt to redeem himself.

“Second rule” she interrupted, seemingly anticipating his response. “Always assume your escape will be blocked and have a backup already planned”

“That’s what I thought” the young thief pleaded. “If I could just get through here I could loop back around to the graveyard and-”

“Rule three; never return to home base with a tail on your arse” the boys pleas appeared to fall upon deaf ears. “It seems she’s got you cornered here, not seeing much hope of you getting away now”

“Right, sorry Ve-” the young boys’ apology was silenced by a sharp clip around his ear.

“Rule four, don’t let slip any information about who you are or where you’re from” the woman glanced over at Sofie. “I mean it’s not like she could find us anyway but-”

“What’s going on?” Sofie asked.

The woman’s attention suddenly shifted back to Sofie. “Oh yeah, you” the woman turned back to face the thief holding out her open palm expectantly. The young boy produced a leather skin pouch from his pocket, reluctantly handing it to the woman. She accepted the offering, bouncing it in her hand to test its weight. “Since he got himself caught he doesn’t get his cut this time” the woman threw the pouch back into the hand of its owner. The young thief shuffled past his victim with a downturned gaze. “But he’s getting better” the boy turned, the woman threw a gold coin for the boy to catch in his cupped hands. “And frankly I can’t be arsed training another one if he ends up dead for lack of a meal in his belly”

With the young thief gone the woman finally returned her full attention to his victim. “There, you got your gold back”

With her final word made the woman simply walked away without a second glance. “Wait” Sofie took a few steps in pursuit. “He said your name was Vex right?”

Vex stopped with a weary sigh, not even bothering to face the girl directly. “Now, I’m sure you already know who I am, and I know why you’re still here”

“You do?” Sofie asked.

“You’re the little girl from the small town with stars in her eyes wanting to join up with us and become a dashing thief like in the stories. Well sorry girly, we don’t just let anyone in on our line of work. Try your luck at the Bee and Barb, I’m sure they could do with another dish maid” the woman continued to walk away on her own. “Oh, and drop the cloak and dagger routine, you look ridiculous”

“What, no!” Sofie was quick to give chase after the woman. “If you’re with the Thieves Guild then you’re the one I was to meet. I was told you knew my mother and I needed to know-”

The woman stopped in her step. “Hey, wow” she held up her hands in defence. “If you think one of my guys is your dad then-”

“No, I was told to come here and ask you too-” Sofie persisted.

“Look, I’ll stop you right there; I’ve heard it all before. Sorry kid, give me one good reason why I should even waste my breath with you” the woman turned her back once more.

“Because sometimes it takes a child to tell the Jarl that he is wearing no clothes” Sofie said.

The woman stopped. “What did you say?”

“So I was right” Sofie announced with a noticeable tinge of audacity. “You knew my mother, Brianna Hunter”

“I haven’t heard that name in years” the woman pondered. “Alright, dropping her name gets you a chance at least. Let’s talk”


**************************

“So you must be the ‘Little Dove’” Vex said.

Sofie shook her head. “Why does everyone I meet call me that?”

“Because that’s what you are” Vex replied flatly. “Your mother was the big fearsome dragon and you are her adorable little songbird. Truth is it was your mother’s pet name, not ours. She always called your sister her Little Wolf and you were her Little Dove. I guess your sister preferred to run around the forest with her nose in the dirt while you had your head in the clouds”

“Mother really told you about us?” Sofie asked.

“Of course. I also know if you’ve come all this way there is only one reason, you wish to learn to become like your mother”

“No I-” Sofie stuttered. What do you mean ‘Become my mother’?”

“You’re here to learn as your mother learned from us. How to hide in plain sight, how to pick locks of any chest or door you encounter” Vex brushed past a passer-by with only the faintest flutter unsettling the flow of the people strolling around them. It was only once they were a few paces past the encounter that Vex revealed the leather skin pouch concealed in the palm of her hand. “How to steal from a mark”

“And what if I did not come here to be like my mother?”

“If you want to survive in this world you must learn these skills, there’s no two ways about it”

“If you say so” Sofie had one more thing she had to know. “At the gate, the guard commented on my necklace, he seemed to think it was important”

Vex glanced down at the necklace around her neck. “I remember that, your mother always wore it. Even when we were doing stealth jobs she refused to leave it, she said it was important to her”

“It was my mothers, it’s one of the few things I truly have to remember her by”
“Come on” Vex said. “I’ll introduce you to the rest of our dysfunctional little family”


*********************

“Welcome to the Ragged Flagon” Vex announced into the cavernous space before them.

In the very moment that she stepped into the open space whatever thoughts and opinions she had once held about the city above suddenly disappeared into the sickly green ooze which bubbled and lurched in the centre of the pit, this place smelled far worse.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to the smell, eventually” Vex’s reassurances proved small comfort as Sofie pondered the realisation of a pseudo city hidden in the sewers beneath Riften and how many of those living above knew that such a thing even existed beneath their feet.

Stepping past the array of weapons, armour and alchemy shops into the communal bar area on the far side of the cistern Sofie found herself surrounded by people who in her previous life she would have regarded as dangerous and untrustworthy individuals. How her life had changed.

“Pull up a chair” Vex indicted the vacant seat at the table lingering at the edge of the bar. “I’ll find us something to cure what ails ya” Sofie sat herself down while Vex offered to get some drinks for the two of them.

Sofie had never been much for alcohol, having spent her life living on the street witnessing the anger and depravity such drinks arose in normally sensible people. Now more ever she needed to keep her mental faculties about her and could not afford to dull her senses if she was-

“So you’re the youngen then?” a voice from behind drew her gaze for just long enough that once she looked back she was met by the sight of a large, shaven headed man as he dropped unceremoniously into the unoccupied seat beside her.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Sofie asked

“No” the man replied flatly. “Names Devlin, I used to work with your mother. Divines, I remember your mother. She had great big tits and fat arse”

“That’s my mother!” Sofie was shocked.

“Which one do you mean? You’ve got two of them ain’t ya?” Devlin laughed, taking an ample swig of his drink. “Sure is a shame she was into all that, would have loved to try her on myself”

“I can’t believe my mother would work with people such as you” Sofie said.

“People like us, eh” Devlin laughed. “Listen Little Dove, sometimes there have to be bad people in the world so that good people can feel better that they have never done the things we do to survive in this world. I never met your mother, your other mother that is, but your mother would talk about her and you kids non-stop. Nearly blew our cover on more than a few jobs because of her mouth, a few being more than zero in my books-”

“Alright Devlin, that’s enough” Vex reappeared, two hefty flagons held between her hands. “No need bore the kid to death with your dreams of conquering her mother”

“Where did you find her anyway?” Devlin asked.

“I gave her a saucer of milk and she followed me home, I was going to ask Brynjolf if we could keep her” Vex smiled. “Now are you quite done?”

“I was just regaling the young lass with the tale of how her mother brought the guild back from the brink of the abyss and re-established our position as a dominant force within every city within the reaches of-”

“Yeah, yeah we all saw it” Vex sat down on the unoccupied seat beside Sofie. “Now do you mind shoving off, I’ve got to have a talk with the Little Dove”

“As you wish” Devlin hefted himself up and silently returned into the idle humdrum of the bar around them.

“Is it true what he said about my mother and-” Sofie trailed off as the thoughts seeped into her mind.

“Devlins an old pervert” Vex passed the flagon across the table. “I’ve told him before if he follows me to the lake again I’ll cut off his most valuable asset. He never listens though”

Vex ensured her colleague was truly beyond earshot before she returned her attention to the young girl at her side. “Now then” she asked, raising her flagon to her lips in anticipation of the sweet drink. “Let’s hear the tale of what brings you to this den of sin and debauchery we call our merry little clubhouse”



Sofie fell into a recount of the events which had led her to this place. She told Vex of the men who had attacked the estate, her escape through the forest, how she met the assassin who had told her the truth of her mother’s past and the chance encounter which had brought her to this place.

“So the blue witch yet lives eh? I guess after the number of lives the Dark Brotherhood has taken it’s too much to ask the universe for one in return” Vex took another swig of her drink. “As for your men in black cloaks I’ll admit even in my infinite wisdom I’m stumped to think of anyone who matches what you describe”

“You’re saying that you cannot help me” Sofie replied defeatedly.

“I never said that” Vex interjected, keen to nip the accusation in the bud. “There is only one person in the Thieves Guild who may have an idea of what it is that hunts you” Vex took another swig of her drink. “I’ll send a message; should be able to meet them by morning”

“By the way, where are you staying tonight?”

Sofie bit her lip and she resisted the urge to reply.

“I suspected as such. Your mother maintained a house in the docks, I’m guessing she had the key on her last time she left” Vex reached into her pocket, she cast a leather bound satchel of small metal picks across the table. “Use these on the lock” Sofie could only stare at the illicit tools until Vex finally responded. “What, your mother never told you to pick locks?”

“Yes” Sofie begrudgingly answered.

“Then what’s the problem? It’s technically your house anyway” Vex took her final long swig of her drink. “I’ll stay with you tonight until you learn about your mystery attackers, keep the other guys from getting any ideas”

Her instinct had been to reject the offer. For now all that she wished was to be left alone to contemplate all that came before her. She knew that such an attitude would only see her dead in this situation, she could not show any sign of weakness to these people.

“Very well” Sofie said. “For tonight”


****************************

A journey bound by the touch of the cold.
A traveller guided by the words of the bold.

A vanguard rises at the sirens call.
A dragon whispers a name through the wall.

A daughter cast to the whims of the tide.
A mother bound by a life she must hide.

A cold covered mound, holds the truths of this tale.
A traveller’s journey, to safeguard the truths of the veil.

“That’s a lovely song” Vex mused as she listened to Sofie sing the tune softly beneath her breath as she sat on her bed, clutching her knees to her chest. Vex ran the final pass of the cloth across the bladed edge of her dagger before placing it down on the table alongside the rest of her freshly cleaned assortment of blades, picks and armour plates.

“My mother, Brelyna, she used to sing to my sister and I every night when we were children” Sofie said, singing the words brought back memories of happier times.

“How did you know my mother?” Sofie asked.

Vex rose herself off of the chair at the desk, passing across the house she collapsed unceremoniously into the vacant bed besides Sofie. “I was here when your mother joined the guild. Thanks to her efforts the Thieves Guild has established contacts in every city, and as Guild Master she commanded our resources across Skyrim. We even had people in Whiterun keeping an eye on you and your sister, your mother’s orders”

“You were watching?”

“Every time you and your sister would sneak out of the city to go play by the riverside”

“So you were watching me all the time” Vex smiled. “Or every time you used to hide beneath the bridge to get out of doing your chores”

With the memories of her childhood swiftly returning to her so too did memories of her mother. “Why did my mother speak so harshly of this place to us?”

“Because it’s true” Vex flatly, offering no defence for the city she called her home.

“But why did she tell us never to come here, to the city where my sister was born?” Sofie asked.
“Because she wanted something better for both of you” Vex replied.

“I have to know” Sofie swiftly shifted the topic. “Gabriella insinuated that she had been... with her”

Vex sniggered beneath her breath. “Your mother was rather adventurous in her time, and I’m not referring to simply fighting Dragons”

“So” Sofie said down beaten. “You’re saying my mother cheated-”

“No” Vex silenced Sofie before she could finish the thought. “This was before she met Brelyna, the one person in all of Skyrim who could ever tame that Dragons soul”

“So, did you ever?” Sofie’s mind drifted to other thoughts.

“In my youth I did cast a flirtatious gaze over the Jarl, Laila. We even invited her Steward Anuriel with us on occasion” Vex’s slips curled into a feline smile as the memories returned to her. “She was a right goer in her day”

“But you and my mother?” Sofie repeated the question.

“Never mix business with pleasure” Vex suddenly returned serious for the briefest of moments. “Unless” but as quickly as it had dispelled her cat like grin had returned, accompanied by a drifting hand across her thigh. “You enjoy that sort of thing?”

Sofie only now realised that Vexs fingers had drifted further up her thigh, likely the same dexterous skills she used in her thieving. After her experiences with Gabriella Sofie was eager to take the lead in this moment. Sofie pressed her weight into Vexs shoulders, rolling her onto her back and taking advantage of her surprise to pin Vex beneath her on the bed.

“How cute” Vex smiled devilishly. “The little pup thinks she’s Den Mother”

Vex was swift to reassert her control over her younger counterpart, rolling the two of them across the bed only for her to emerge on top in the end. Sofie found herself pinned beneath Vex, throwing herself upwards she pressed her lips to Vexs.

“Huh” Vex appeared mildly impressed at the attempted subversion. “Perhaps you should be the ‘Little Iguana’, work your way up towards Dragon”

Sofie knew what this was, a battle, and a test of dominance. In truth Sofie knew that this was not a contest she could hope to win yet still she resisted, determined to prove herself at least a fighter in her late mothers’ eyes. To her astonishment her persistence was rewarded as she began to gain the upper hand, an offered victory no doubt. In her mind Vex relinquished her unwavering grip over the situation, tasting the arousal at the merest thought of allowing her actions to be dictated by the whim of another.

“I thought you said you would never mix business and pleasure?” Sofie said.

“I would hardly call what we have business” Vex said. “Besides, what is the point of having a rule if you refuse to break it?”


****************************

Sofie lay in her bed, held in the warm embrace of her sheets. A rustle in the darkness unsettled her from her slumber. She saw a figure looming in the shows. “Vex?”


Sofies mind returned to the reality, the dark outline of a figure looming over her.

Welcome Little Dove.

“Uh” Sofie groaned hoarsely. “Why does everyone call me that?”

Because that is what you are, Little Dove.

Sofie opened her eyes, a dark spectre looming over her draped in flowing black robes. Her vision began to clear as she saw herself sitting in the centre of a dark cave.

“Welcome” the dark feminine figure raised their arms in open acceptance. “To Nightingale Hall, Sanctuary of Nocturnal”

“Who are you?” Sofie asked.

The figures hand reached up to remove their mask and cast back their hood. “My name is Karliah, servant of my Lady Nocturnal”

“You were the one I was told to meet” Sofie said. “The one who knew the truth about my family”

“Is that what you were told?” Karliah asked. “Very well, what is it you wish to accomplish?”

“I need to find the people who attacked my family, I need to protect them” Sofie said.

“A noble endeavour” Karliah mused. “To do that you must become your mother”

“So I have been told” Sofie said. “But I do not know how learning to pick locks and steal pursues will help me to find the people who attacked my family”

“Your mother was far more than a mere thief” Karliah laughed. “Your mother was a Nightingale. She swore her oath to Nocturnal as one of the three. Although she may not be your mother by blood her heroic spirit dwells within you”

“What are the Nightingales?” Sofie asked.

“We work with duty in the service of our Lady Nocturnal” Karliah said. “Our work serves with honour and we do not taint our blades with the blood of innocents”

“Are you saying I must be as my mother and conspire with Deadra to spare myself?” Sofie asked.

“You must become your own person and dare to live beyond your mothers’ shadow” Karliah said.

“If that is what I must do, then I accept your contract” Sofie accepted

“Very well” Karliah reached out to her. “Now, sleep Little Dove”
Dragon Training


Sorceress Apprentice Bianca sat cross-legged on her large double bed in her quarters deep within the heart of the Sorceresses citadel. Bianca allowed her mind to clear, consciously ignoring all external stimuli from her mind. The gentle tweets of the birds on the windowsill, the heat resonating from the fireplace across her room washing over her bare face in waves, the slow thumping of her beating heart inside her chest all shifted in the background. Bianca let a slow, gentle breath flow silently past her lips.

Her eyes snapped open, she extended her arm outwards in front of her. “Ahring Abode Yabi!” she read the complex script from the spell book lying across her crossed knees. The small common plant in front of her began to rumble and shake, Bianca’s magical influence quickly expanding the creatures size to three times its natural mass. Pearl white fangs grew from the tranquil blue petals. Its alien throat growled with demonic rage. “As abang!” Bianca growled. The plant’s bladed teeth froze just short of consuming their creator. Its body began convulsing as the magic began to recede from its form, returning it to its original, non-carnivorous state.

Bianca breathed a deep sigh of relief, turning to the next page in her spell book, for now she would mark that spell in the ‘Maybe’ pile. However despite these setbacks she would not allow her training to falter, she would need to prepare harder. She would need far more powerful spells the next time she encountered that dragon and his idiot friend, the harsh burn marks on the back of her robe were a testament to what would recur should she fail.

Bianca’s deeply rooted desire to please her mistress and atone for her past mistakes drove Bianca to committing even more time and energy to her training. But despite her resolve subconsciously she could feel herself beginning to falter. Having dedicated several hours to researching new spells all that had emerged were two dozen duds, a variety of spells detailing ‘How to remove stubborn stains from your apprentice robes’, though strangely nothing relating to Dragon scorch marks  as well as several incantations more likely to backfire and blow up in her face proved rather disheartening.

Bianca allowed the book to slip his lap and onto the bed, allowing herself to fall back against the soft mattress. Biancas mind suddenly cleared instantly, the strain and suppressed stress born of hours of tireless training cascading out of her in one fell swoop. She wished that she could remain in this sweet silence for an eternity, but in her heart of heart she knew that eventually she would have to cast herself from the comforting embrace of her soft bed to return to her work once more. Bianca allowed her eyes to flutter closed, savouring the silence.

Bianca begrudgingly forced herself to rise off of her bed, sitting cross-legged she stared down at the text laying before her, daring the docile text to respond to her gaze and finally relinquish the secrets she desired. However despite staring daggers at the inanimate object it refused to respond, stubbornly remaining silent to her demands.

In one final attempt to discover the knowledge she required Bianca gripped the thick pile of pages and began to flutter through them indiscriminately, stopping to place her finger onto a section of the page, praying that random searching may yield a more positive result. The overhanging title of the section read ‘How to turn your Newts invisible. Remember, no newts is good newts!’ Another dead-end, however before Bianca fell completely into the dark vortex of insanity something on the opposite page suddenly caught her eye.

Bianca allowed her finger to glide across the divide between the pages, coming to rest atop the heading written in piercing bold text proudly proclaiming ‘Double your magical power instantly!’

On the one hand Bianca was rather intrigued by the claim, but she still knew that any claim to ‘Double magical power instantly’ always carried with it a devious catch. Whether the catch was that each of her spells would only last half as long, that she would grow two heads or if it required a hefty sacrifice to unknowable evil Bianca was not entirely sure. However considering the procession of utterly useless spells which had preceded it Bianca was sufficiently intrigued to at least attempt to cast the spell.

Bianca closed her eyes, once more allowing her mind to calm and her body to descend into a state of tranquil serenity. Her lips began to move of their own accord, chanting the incantation beneath her breath. Bianca’s voice finally began to speak aloud.”Si jars naik arha!”

A large plume of purple smoke exploded as the incantation ended, accompanied by a blinding flash which forced Bianca to momentarily turn away. As her eyes adjusted she could see a mass amongst the dark purple plume of smoke. Bianca allowed the book to slip from her lap as she became consumed by the sight of the figure as they emerged from the dissipating smoke. As the dark smoke began to clear the figure finally gained an identity, Bianca was staring at a clone image of herself. Even the clothes, the purple cloak and the sand coloured top and skirt, were perfect replicas.

The same bemused look forming on the stunned faces of both Biancas. Bianca raised her hand from her side, her reflection mirroring her movement perfectly. “Bianca?” her own name cascaded past her lips.

“Bianca?” her doppelganger repeated the name more as a question to herself than to the original Bianca.

Bianca raised her right hand from her side, Clone mimicking her action with her left hand, their finger tips touching in a mirror image. “What are you?”

“I am you” Clone answered.

Bianca realized that such line of questioning would yield few answers, she attempted another question. “Where did you come from?”

Her clone pondered the response. “From you, you created me” Clone suddenly leant forward, clasping her arms around Bianca in a warm hug. “Thank you, thank you”

“Wow” Bianca returned the hug herself, wrapping her arms around her clone images back. “An affectionate one aren’t you”

Bianca’s arms unravelled from around her companion, she reached down onto the bed and retrieved the spell book lying on her bed. Bianca began to read deeper into the text in search of answers. ‘Doppelgangers are near perfect imitations of their subject. They may become emotionally attached to the one who created them, viewing them as a parent or creator figure’ glancing up from the text her eyes went wide with what she saw.

The clone brought her paw up to the nape of her neck, holding the tie of her cloak between her fingers. With a single light tug lightly the bond released, the flowing purple fabric cascaded down her back to pool behind her. Biancas clone reached down to the hem of her sand brown top, gingerly beginning to lift the fabric over her flat stomach.

“Wow” Bianca’s hands rushed from her side, the spellbook falling from her lap, she reached out to hold her companions hands in hers. “What are you doing?” Bianca asked as though the very idea that she would dare to attempt such an act would be ludicrous.

Biancas clone stared back at her with the innocence of a child attempting to decipher what infraction they had unknowingly committed in the eyes of a parent. “I just wanted to thank you”

Bianca’s gaze returned to the paragraph in the spell book. ‘Clones are manifested from the Sorcerer who summons them. The clone may reveal their creators inner most desires and wishes to them’

“Please Bianca” her clone whispered softly. “I only wish to repay your kindness” Bianca could not help but take notice of the rather ampler chest on the otherwise identical doppelganger, her clone noticed her interest. “I thought that you would enjoy them, a compliment to the one who brought me into existence”

Bianca’s clone leant forward to eclipse her counterpart in her arms, nuzzling the tip of her nose into the nape of Bianca’s neck. Bianca felt a quiver down her spine, it felt as though her counterpart had found every of her sweet spots as though she had been drawn a map.

“Well you are rather sweet” Bianca cooed. “But if we are going to do this we have to come up with a proper name for you”

Her clone pondered the request for the moment. “Mirror” was her soft reply.

The truth was this could work; perhaps two of her would finally be enough to beat the Dragon and his idiot friend. But before that she had a better idea.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes and strong language)
Chapter 1: Laser Battlezone V


The door to the luxury Citadel apartment silently whooshed open, two Alliance naval officers stumbling in to shatter the looming silence, dressed in the navy blue fatigues of two grunts that looked fresh off the boat for shore leave.

“So, Shep” Alliance Navy Specialist Samantha Traynor collapsed unceremoniously onto the couch, basking in the flickering glow of the fireplace as it ignited across the living room. “What are we going to do now?”

“Well we could watch the director’s cut of Fleet and Flotilla” Shepard suggested.

“What, again?” Samantha said.

Shepard stepped across the apartment, leaning against the window she looked out across the great divide towards the Ryuusei sushi restaurant across the way. “Looks like they finally replaced the fish tank-”

“I’ve got it!” Samantha snapped up on the couch, her fingers aflutter across the holographic surface of her omnitool. “Take a look at this”

Shepard checked her Omni-tool to find the icon of ‘Laser Battlezone V’, a virtual reality shooter playable between players or holographic bots, flashing on her screen.

“I was playing that onboard the Cruiser SSV Cambridge when I was nine” Shepard replied.

“Not this version I suspect” Samantha smiled with a cat like grin. “Rule 34” she added.

Without the faintest hint of sarcasm Shepard replied. “What does this have to do with an Alliance regulation regarding bagpipe music at military honours ceremonies?”

“You’re serious” Samantha shook her head, exasperated. “Extranet Rule 34” she repeated.

The stark truth of the situation dawned upon Shepard. “Oh lord, why does everything on the extranet have a nude patch?”

“Ask the modders” Traynor sniggered.

“How does that even work?” Shepard asked.

“Well the Omni-tool projects holographic armour around the player which uses tiny mass effect fields to detect hits from the laser pistol. This version has been modified to remove sections of your armour after each hit. Ergo, strip Battlezone”

“Amazing, we discover a method to defy the most fundamental laws of physics and we use it to play a video game”

“Oh yeah, you also have to strip down to your underwear” Samantha said.

“Of course you do” Shepard replied with a resigned sigh.

“Come on Shepard” Samantha sauntered forward, draping her arms across her partner’s shoulders.  “You scared?”

A daring smile creased Shepard’s lips as her dexterous fingers reached down to unclasp Samantha’s belt with a flick of her wrist. “Bring it on Traynor”

“Don’t get too good a look, Shepard” Traynor quipped.

“Oh don’t worry. I’ll see what you have under there in time” Shepard said.


******************************

“Ready?” Traynor and Shepard stood back to back to each other, their pistols held at their sides. “Ready?”

Shepard counted down. “One, two-”

Traynor broke away early, both combatants quickly dashing for cover, firing blindly behind them as they ran for cover. Shepard dove behind the pillar to the right, Traynor crouched behind the kitchen counter. Each of them took pot shots at the other from their cover, but at this range their accuracy was erratic and uncoordinated. Traynor took a lucky hit to the shoulder, the force feedback in the armour unsettling her precarious balance and casting her to the floor.

Traynor decided upon a daring tactic, memories of basic training having lied dormant for years beneath time spent in the lab or onboard the ship suddenly resurfaced to assist in her moment of need. Bolting from her position she dashed for the stairs, keeping Shepard pinned beneath a wild hail of gunfire. Shepard dared to peek out, a near miss striking the pillar beside her forced her back into cover. Shepard considered pursuing her opponent onto the second floor. Quickly she dismissed the notion, the lingering threat of too many unknowns demanded a different a tactic.

Shepard snuck around the edge of the apartment in front of the window. Traynor emerged on the balcony, sniping from her superior position she pinned Shepard by the fireplace. She had yet to realise her attempts to entrench her superior position had left her side exposed. Shepard saw her opportunity lined up her shot. ‘I’ve got you right by your scrawny little-’

Ding Dong

The door to the apartment opened, Alliance Intelligence Staff Analyst Maya Brooks stepped into Shepard’s apartment. “Shep, you in?” Shepard gritted her teeth.

“Truce?” Shepard called out to Samantha.

“Truce” Traynor replied. Traynor and Shepard stepped out into the open living area to welcome Brooks into the apartment.

“I wanted to return your copy of ‘Fleet and Flotilla’” Brooks held out the vid in her hand.

“Maya, we were just playing a game” Traynor called out, leaning against the balcony railing. “Want to join us?”

Shepard was surprised by Samantha’s sudden brash forwardness.

“Sure” Brooks answered without daring to ask the full extent of what she had just agreed to.

“Great, you can download the program from Shepard’s terminal” Traynor said. “Oh, and you have to be in your underwear”

That condition visibly rattled Brooks. “Ok” but she unwaveringly continued into the apartment to access Shepard’s terminal.

Once she was out of earshot Samantha whispered down to her companion at ground level. “Shep, how do you feel about a little two on one action?”


******************************

Maya tapped the final commands into her omni-tool, the program executing automatically. “Alright” Brooks stepped out into the open living room. “When do we star-”

A sudden burst of fire emerged from multiple directions, forcing Brooks to dive to cover in the kitchen. Brooks glanced down to see her holographic forearm plate fading away to reveal her uncovered arm. “You utter bitches” Brooks’s outburst only served to intensify the barrage against her. Moving beneath the cover of the tabletops she shifted towards the rear stairs. Climbing up onto the second floor she found herself pressed against the wall, flanked behind Traynor. She lined up her shot-

Traynor turned around, firing off a single shot and forcing Brooks back into cover. Glancing out of cover she saw Traynor behind the wall at the far end of the apartment. Brooks fired blindly at her target, keeping her pinned behind the wall. Brooks prepared herself to leap out and charge-

A heavy weight landed on top of her, forcing Brooks to the ground and pinning her against the floor. Brooks wrestled and writhed against her captors hold, their grip around her wrists only tightening from her attempts to resist. Brooks succumbed to her attack, Shepard pulling Brooks to her feet and holding her against her chest.

“I wouldn’t have thought it would be this easy to catch you” Traynor said devilishly, she lined up her killing shot. “Goodbye Brooks”

Brooks knew she had to escape, she had to be free. Brooks lashed out with her elbow hard into Shepard’s stomach. Without her armour the unexpected attack threw the Spectre off balance the moment necessary for Brooks to slip from Shepards grasp. Traynors pistol discharged, striking her temporary ally in the shoulder and disintegrating the plate in a shower of sparks.

Brooks broke away in a rush across the top floor of the apartment. “Let the hunt begin” Shepard said with a sly grin, heading away down the corridor while Traynor resumed her pursuit. Traynor ducked as another hail of gunfire peppered her, lacking adequate protection she suffered several hits against her arms and legs before she could conceal herself behind the wall.

Brooks broke away and ran further down the corridor. If she could get around to the rear of the apartment she could loop around again and-

Shepard leapt out from around the corner, tackling Brooks to the floor in a flail of limbs.


******************************

“Boy, this escalated quickly” Brooks lay across the large double bed, her hands tied above her head at the head of the bed. “I mean that really got out of hand fast”

Traynor stood behind Shepard who was sitting in comfortable lounge seat, a perfect dragon to her master, Shepard idly handling her pistol in her hand. All around them still glowed the bright orange armour indicating that the game was still on. After the fight Traynor had been reduced to her chest plate and right gauntlet. Shepard, being the competent soldier amongst them and saviour of humanity to boot, had fared far better losing only her right and left forearm plates.

“This is like a scene of Reservoir Varren” Brooks mused idly.

“Careful” Traynor interjected. “You don’t want to give her any ideas” Traynor indicated the seated Shepard with an idle wave of her hand. All Shepard needed now was some vicious alien pet spread across her lap to complete the image of her as some evil genius prepared to subjugate the galaxy.

Shepard raised her pistol, taking aim at Brooks last remaining piece of armour, her chest plate. Pow to one side, pow to the other. Two simulated shots went wide, each barely grazing their target. A taunt, or a warning.

Shepard checked her pistol, adjusting the sight as she did with each of her weapons. “Let me tell you something, Brooks” satisfied that the sight was aligned she returned her pistol to her lap. “Sometimes life is about timing. You could end up being too late, something could happen”

“And we wouldn’t want anything to happen now would we?” Traynor said with a cocked eyebrow.

“There’s something you have to remember, nothing is forever” Don Shepard continued to the haunting music of the Asari Godmother in her mind.

“Human life for instance” Traynors words were a stark reality which stung deeper with every passing day in this war.

“You’ve made a mistake, you got caught” Shepard continued. “I just hope, you don’t live to regret it.

“You’re a dead woman” Traynor said with piercing eyes.

Shepard rose from her seat, turning her back on her captive and clasping her pistol in both hands at the small of her back. “Traynor let me ask you something. Do you believe its right to take a life? Is it justified to cast down an enemy who is bound, helpless and can do nothing to resist?”

Traynor leant against the back of the chair, her eyes unwavering from Brooks. “Only if they would do the same were the roles reversed”

Shepard bounced the pistol in her hand, catching the weapon and casting it back up in a single motion. Shepard threw the pistol into the air a final time, catching it and turning to aim at Brooks’s chest. “I agree”
Chapter 5: The Long Road Home


“Angela?” Sasha asked as Angela lingered near the Bridge door. “May I speak with you?” Angela knew whatever Sasha wished to discuss was important, no one ever addressed her by her full name otherwise. Angela turned on her heel to approach Sasha. “Bridge staff, dismissed” Sasha ordered. Angela’s fears regarding the current situation only grew as the half dozen Galactic Rangers operating the Phoenix’s bridge without a word.

Sasha turned her command chair to face Angela. “I wanted to talk with you, alone”

Angela remained sceptical but was willing to entertain the idea. “Talk, about what?”

“I have noticed as we travel together that you have grown increasingly closer to our Lombax friend” Sasha said.  “I believe the two you of you share a history”

“I believe you do as well?” Angela interjected; Sasha simply stared back at her with a piercing, feline gaze. “Yes” Angela finally conceded and answered the question. “Ratchet helped me save the Bogon Galaxy during the Protopet incident; I think it is easy to see why people call him a hero of the galaxy”

“During my childhood my father ensured I received the best education the galaxy had to offer” Sasha was swift to fluidly change the subject, she was very much the politician as you would expect of her father’s daughter. “I took a keen interest in the history of ancient races, including the Lombax’s. I remained particularly fascinated with Lombaxes, their culture, their art, and the etiquette rituals of Lombax society” Sasha said, rising from her command chair she stepped down to stand before her counterpart. The stark difference in height did little to dispel the air of authority her rank demanded. “I see the way you look at him, the way your eyes bulge and your chest swells. I hear your laboured breaths and feel your racing pulse” Sasha reached up to place the palm of her hand across Angela’s chest, feeling the pounding rhythm of her heart as she fought valiantly to conceal it, but in vain. “Your spirit rages with barely contained passion” Sasha froze. “But still there is something different, perhaps your true desires lay elsewhere-”

Sasha suddenly realized what she had seen. At first she had put it down simply to a lack of refinement, a modern echo of rituals lost centuries ago with no one left to teach it. “But perhaps your true desires lie elsewhere”

“What makes you think that?” Angela asked.

“You disguise desire as jealousy” Sasha said. “You use feminine wiles to enflame my passions as an attractant to allure your female companion without them even replacing it” in terms of military strategy it was brilliant.

Angela smiled; it seems she could no longer deny the subtle truth of the situation. Angela leant forward, her lips brushing across Sasha’s. “Well, they say that actions speak greater than words” Angela leant forward to press her lips to Sasha’s, her hands raising from her sides to clasp Sasha’s cheeks  in a warm embrace. “I find you rather an interesting and exotic beauty” Angela nuzzled the tip of her nose against Sasha’s. “Ratchet would make a fine mate, however sometimes I wish for the gentle and graceful touch of another of my kind”

“That’s very sweet of you, Angela” Sasha slowly drew herself back. “You may have tried to lead us in Bogon” Sasha stepped back to keep herself at arm’s length. “But now you have returned to Solana, and serve aboard my ship, there are going to be some changes”

“Oh” Angela crossed her arms across her chest. “Am I going to enjoy these changes?”

Sasha smiled deviously. “Perhaps” Sasha stepped back to gain some small distance between the two of them. The short woman reached up to the base of her neck, untying the knot which held her heavy cloak in place across her shoulders.  


*******************************

Galactic Federation Starship Phoenix descended into orbit around the Federation Capital planet of Marcadia. The Dropship departed the Phoenix’s main hanger bay and began its descent through the atmosphere towards the planet’s surface.

Having obtained clearance from Galactic Control, thanks to Captain Torns authorization codes the Dropship descended towards the main docking platform of the Presidential Palace. The craft touched down onto the landing platform, its engines whirring down to idle, the main loading ramp touching down onto surface of the platform. Captain Torn lead the precession from the ship with Angela and Sasha, dressed in their Bounty Hunter disguises, dragging Ratchet in his jet black jumpsuit with his hands secured behind his back in the model image of the prisoner. Angela and Sasha were armed with their standard pistols Captain Torn had been allowed a pistol in his holster at his thigh, the ammunition clip emptied for good measure as a guise to any who may have otherwise questioned it.

As soon as they approached the Palace itself they encountered the first of a series of ever increasing checkpoints, a guard force of four Galactic Rangers stood parting to allow the group to continue towards the central complex within the heart of the Palace.

The group were escorted into the President’s office, a grand oval room with the large wooden desk dominating the centre of the room flanked on either side by Galactic Rangers in the jet black armour denoting them as Special Forces within the Galactic Military. The President himself sat behind his desk, his large form illuminated by the sunlight emanating from the window at his back casting a dark shadow across the papers on his desk.

Captain Torn stepped forward to address the President. “Mr. President, as you requested I have recaptured the fugitive Ratchet and returned him to Solana for proper sentencing”

“Very good Captain” despite the success the President appeared unconcerned by the result. “But tell me, what about my daughter? What have you learned about my daughter?”

Captain Torn was careful in selecting his words with the same care and diligence as if he were attempting to disarm a nuclear device with a pair of nail clippers. “I am afraid that there has been no indication as to the whereabouts of your daughter, sir” The President appeared understandable sullen by the lack of news; Sasha suppressed any instinctive urge she had to react. “She was last believed to be on Maktar with the fugitive, alive and well, though there has been no sighting of her since then” Captain Torn nodded subtly to the President, the brief gesture passing beneath the gaze of all others present, dismissing the movement as an involuntary twitch or unconscious action. “However in the meantime I feel that the assistance of these Bounty Hunters proved invaluable in securing the fugitive. I therefore recommend that they be rewarded for their contribution in the capture who is not only a dangerous fugitive of the Federation but who may also hold information regarding the whereabouts of your daughter”

The President leant forward in his chair, his large brown fingers interlocked and his eyes narrow and direct as he contemplated his response. “Bounty Hunters?” he asked the title like a question to no one in particular. “I guess the Captain did what was required to capture the fugitive and return him to Galactic Federation custody. I suppose given these unique circumstances it would only be fair that you be reimbursed for-” the President was on his feet before anyone could react, the large brown index finger of his right hand pointed directly at the two Bounty Hunters standing before him. “Now! Arrest them, they have my daughter!”

The Galactic Rangers swiftly stepped forward to surround the group, Captain Torn stepping aside to allow the Rangers a clear line to their targets. Angela and Ratchet reacted purely on instinct, Angela drew her pistol from her belt, aiming at the closest target of opportunity. Ratchet broke free of his sabotaged restraints and took hold of the spare pistol offered by Angela and took aim at the President himself, fearing that any further escalation would leave him no choice but to pull the trigger.

“Wait!” the muzzled voice of the short hunter shattered the looming silence, stepping forward they stood between the ‘fugitive’ she had worked so hard to capture and the President who had chosen to betray them. The Bounty Hunter reached up to clasp their mask in their right hand, pulling it free and allowing their hood to fall back and flutter to the base of their neck.

“Sasha!” the President was stunned beyond the ability to respond, the stark reality of the situation quickly dawning upon him. The President raised his arms from his sides, motioning his soldiers to stand down. “Lower your weapons, all of you put your weapons down now”

The Rangers followed the order without question or hesitation, lowering their arm mounted cannons to their sides. The President stared across the desk at his daughter, unable or unwilling to believe his own eyes. “Sasha, you came home” The President hefted himself from his seat, circling around his desk he held his arms out, ready to consume his only daughter in a crushing fatherly hug. “I thought I had lost you, but now you have returned safely to me-”

“No dad” Sasha reacted sharply, freezing the President in his step, his arms falling slack at his sides. “I did not come back for you”

“But, but…” the Presidents usually composed features, trained through years of Galactic Politics, suddenly began to falter. “But I thought you had been kidnapped, I sent the Captain after you, I sent the Phoenix. I thought he had taken you-”

“No” Sasha said sternly, making her true intentions clear of any interpretation. “I left with Ratchet to protect him” Sasha pointed an accusing finger into the face of her father. “From you”

The President was stunned into silence. “But what I found in your room” he stammered through quivering lips. “What he did to you-”

“Yes, Ratchet took pictures of me” Sasha stepped back to stand beside her partner; placing her hand atop his wrist she gently lowered the weapon. “I asked him for those, it was a gift, for him”

“But how and why?” the President attempted to decipher this cryptic conundrum which had been laid out before him.

Sasha stepped forward to stand before her father. Even though she was considerably shorter than most she could stand head and shoulders above the tallest man when she wished to. “I know it’s hard for you to accept, but I am afraid that I am no longer your little girl anymore. I’m my own woman; I’m free to make my choice, to make my own mistakes”

The President lowered his head, pondering the revelation of his daughter’s words. “I’m sorry, Sasha” The President straightened, raising his gaze to face his daughter. “But why did you not say anything before”

“You did not give me the chance” Sasha said. “As soon as you found out about us you arrested Ratchet and fired him off to the edge of the galaxy while you cast me to my room like a child”

The President could no longer remain blind. “I realize now that I was wrong, so wrong” Sasha knew that it was something that was hard for her father to admit. “You have become a strong and independent woman, your mother would be so proud of you. I already lost your mother, I thought I could not bear losing you as well” a warm smile creased his lips at the memory of his long departed sweetheart, Maria. He held his arms out wide in offering of a crushing embrace “Can you forgive an old galactic fool?”

Sasha stepped forward and clutched her father tightly, his large arms wrapping around her. “Of course I can, dad”


*******************************

It was only once the door to the Galactic Presidents office had been closed, it was only once the band of three intergalactic fugitives found themselves out in the open air of the grounds of the Presidential Palace, as far away from the office where moments ago Ratchet had held a gun to the head of the most powerful political figure in the galaxy he could finally allow a breath to escape past his lips.

“So what do we do now?” Angela asked no one in particular.

“Blackwater City hover board track?”Ratchet suggested.

“You’re on Fuzzball” the group walked along the walkway towards the waiting Federation Dropship.

“It looks as though we have finally been given your dads blessing for us” Ratchet said with a grin.

Sasha smiled. “Whoever said I needed it” Sasha snaked her arm around Ratchets waist, planting a playful kiss on his cheek her lips pressed to his ear. “Hotshot”
Chapter 4: The Scientist and the Psionic Soldier


The door to the secure laboratory slid open with a mechanical whirr. Kiara immediately felt an unnatural chill washing over her. Intertwined with the unsettling scent of disinfectant and sterile plastic hanging thick in the air indicating a medical facility came a looming feeling which hinted more towards a spiritual or other supernatural disturbance. Such was an odd combination which only served to feed her misgivings of what was to come. Two others dared to follow her into this unnatural abyss.

Sergeant Lewis ‘Broadsword’ Edwards had eagerly volunteered for the procedure. After his experiences during the assault on the alien base, and the tragic circumstances surrounding sister, he was looking for a shield, and a sword.

Corporal Evana Burke, a new addition to XCOM’s operations followed swiftly beside them. Her research duties diverting her away from Strike Team operations the past few weeks meant that Kiara had yet to serve with her in the field. However her preliminary reading of Burke’s operational reports described her as an effective heavy weapons operative, instrumental in several successful anti-terror operations.

“Welcome to the Psionic Laboratory” Dr Vahlen greeted her entourage with professional curtsey. “Please, follow me”

“I believe your squad commander has already briefed you on this task, no doubt neglecting the most of the vital elements, so allow me to reiterate” Dr Vahlen lead them to the viewing gallery overlooking the main Psionic Laboratory. “You have been selected to undertake scientific tests conducted in an effort to uncover Psionic potential within humans. Due to the nature of the experiments I am afraid that I cannot divulge any details until the experiments are complete. If any of you are familiar with the work of Project Stargate or the experiments of Doctor Vasiliev from the 1960’s please maintain an open mind that scientific study has progressed since the Cold War. There will be no card games in my laboratory. Is there any questions?”

“Have you documented any successes?” Evana asked.

“The truth is that despite our best efforts we have yet to identify anyone with Psionic Potential” Dr Vahlen admitted.

In any other situation Kiara would have been quick to crack jokes regarding lab rats and lifting pencils with her mind. She remained deafly silent as they entered the laboratories.

“We will begin testing immediately” their walk brought them to the heart of the XCOM Psionic laboratories they had observed from the viewing gallery. Built in a circle around the centre of the room several pods stood pulsing with loathsome cold energy, each yawning open wide at their approach. “Each of you has been assigned a pod” Dr Vahlen indicated the pods. “Please get comfortable and we will begin the experiment immediately”

The three soldiers approached their assigned pods. Kiara was surprised to find Dr Vahlen had chosen to assist her into her pod personally. Kiara stepped cautiously into the pod, settling herself down as the structure closed around her.

“Are you ready?” Dr Vahlen asked. Kiara gave her a curt nod. “Then let us begin”

Dr Vahlen closed the pod, silencing Kiara from the world around her. Kiara inhaled a calming breath, allowing her to drift into the soft embrace of darkness.


******************************

She felt the shift of her seat beneath her feet, the gentle hum of machinery assaulting her ears. Her eyes drifted open to find herself surrounded by the soldiers of her squad. Surrounding her she saw Evana and Lewis. There were others around her, Lieutenant Andrew ‘Shield’ Burrows (Support) and Squaddie Angela Edwards (Assault).

That was impossible.  Angelas face lacked the distinctive blazing red scar across her eye left in the wake of the attack on the alien base, an injury which had earned her the nickname ‘Zuko’ amongst those of her squad. Burrows had volunteered for the Mech Trooper augmentation program shortly before Kiara had taken over his duty as squad leader, however now he still wore the uniform of a standard soldier.

“Our target for this operation will be in Canada” Central Officer Bradford’s voice overlaid the holographic display detailing the objectives of the coming operation. “We’ve picked up a local broadcast indicating alien activity within a major population centre. We should get down there and eliminate any hostiles”

As Bradfords voice trailed off Burrows rose from his seat, clutching the overhead webbing for support against the linger turbulence. “Alright everyone you know the priorities here. Save any civilians in the area, watch the back of the soldier next to you; kill aliens, in that order. I want as many butts in these seats on the ride back as we have now, let’s all make sure that happens”

“Get ready Strike One, we’re overhead the abduction site. ETA to touchdown, 30 seconds” Big Sky interjected over the squad COM. Lieutenant Burrows returned to his seat. Kiara felt the sudden lurch in the pit of her stomach as the Skyranger made its sudden descent towards the target area.

This seemed like some form of lucid dream, reaching up she pinched her gloved fingers across her exposed neck, feeling the sharp burn of her enflamed nerves. If this wasn’t reality it was a damn good mimicry of it. She began to wonder whether Lewis and Evana were in here with her, an interconnected simulation. Perhaps they too were in their own personal versions of this world.

In an effort to maintain the integrity of the simulation she decided to push such thoughts to the back of her mind for the present. In this instance she chose to consciously defer to Lieutenant Burrows command, she knew from past experience that he would do his utmost to bring everyone back, or die trying.



******************************

The Skyranger touched down on the smooth surface of the empty parking lot. The loading ramp fell to strike the concrete, the Strike Team scrambled down the ramp with weapons scanning in front of them. Lieutenant Burrows stepped forward to the head of the group. “Hunter” Burrows called for his team sniper. “I want you on over watch from the rooftop” Burrows pointed to the roof the building across the street.

“Roger that” Kiara hefted her rifles strap over her shoulder and began a brisk trot towards her assigned position. Climbing a storm drain she found the rooftop deserted save for the gently whirring air conditioning units still running despite the ghostly silence elsewhere. The cold night air bit at her exposed skin as she moved to the edge of the rooftop, bracing her rifle on the low wall she could clearly observe the entirety of the open parking area from the restaurant to across the lot. “Overwatch established”

“Roger that” Lieutenant Burrows lead the strike team forwards as a group, Assault troops leading towards the service door of the building with Heavy and Support following in their step. The two assault troops took position of either side of the wide shutter door, preparing to engage whatever dared emerge to face them.

“No targets identified around the perimeter” Kiara scanned her eyes across the open car park, the empty rooftops and the deserted steak restaurant next door to the small warehouse the team was preparing to enter.

“Roger that” Burrows clapped his gloved hand against the shoulder of the operative crouched in front of him, tensing the soldier to readiness. “Opening the can of worms”

Angela Edwards clapped her open palm on the door control switch, the metal shutter groaning open on its worn motor. Angela and Lewis burst through the breach into the dimly lit room beyond, their shotguns tracking in front of them in search of concealed threats. Through the looming darkness pierced glowing red eyes and the subtle clicking of alien tongues. The overhead lights blinked into life, scattering the creatures and leaving only the trace of their latest kill in their wake. The creatures were no doubt preparing an ambush for them.

The answer eagerly revealed itself from the darkness as the green glow of the creatures’ plasma pistol. It was only Lewis’s lightning reflexes which prevented him from taking the shot into his chest, allowing him and Angela to dash into the cover before a second volley could emerge to suppress the rest of the team still positioned outside the warehouse.

“Three targets” someone called out, the constant hiss of the aliens plasma weapons making it difficult to tell who had given the report.

“I have no eyes inside” Kiara interjected. “Moving to assist” Rising to her feet she began to sling her rifle over her back to begin climbing down to-

“Kiara, hold position” Burrows ordered. “We can handle ourselves down here, we need you to cover us and ensure they do not sneak up behind us. We need our guardian angel”

Kiara repressed her instinctive urge to object. Having spent so long in her position as squad leader she found it difficult to suddenly return to the role as Lieutenant Burrows subordinate, but that was what a good soldier does, follow orders. As she lingered on the wings, unable to help, the battle raged on.

Corporal Burke peered out from cover, feeling the sudden burn as the alien plasma energy grazed her shoulder. “Son of a bitc-” she hissed, diving back into cover she instinctively clutched her wound with her gloved hand. She pushed the pain aside as she had been trained to do, turning her anguish to her advantage. “Right back at ya” she stepped out of cover she fired her machine gun in a hail of bullets, ripping the offending alien to shreds in a spray of luminescent green blood. As her gun ran dry she cast herself back into cover to reload and steady herself for another attack.

Silence descended in the wake of the battle. Lewis Edwards dared to poke his head out from cover, seeing only the scattered remains of alien bodies he released a steady breath and cautiously stepped forward to investigate. Finding alien blood staining the cold floor around the cluster of alien bodies he called back to his team. “We’re clear”

The rest of the group stepped forward to meet him, their weapons raised in anticipation of another attack. When they confirmed their attackers dead they allowed themselves a momentary respite. “What have we got?” Burrows asked.

“Three Sectoids” Lewis Edwards crouched down to sift through the sticky remains with the tips of his gloved fingers. “Weapon fragments, plenty for the lab rats to tinker with” Lewis rose back to his feet. “Can you believe they’re building some shock stick so we can bring one of these things back alive for them to play with”

“Orders are orders, big brother” Angela interjected. “You know what that means, suck up and deal with it”

“If it helps us get these things off our planet I’ll drag it back to base kicking and screaming myself” Evana said.

“Considering we’re in Canada I’d pay to see you swim the Atlantic with one of these things strapped to your back” Lewis remarked with a sly grin.

“Alright, stow it you lot” Burrows interrupted before the conversation could be allowed to devolve any further. “There’s still more of them out there so let’s go find them”

The team moved forward through the deserted warehouse in search of the next group of enemies. Angela felt a sudden shooting pain cutting through her head; she clasped her hand tightly to her forehead in a desperate effort to quell the agony.

“Are you ok?” Lewis asked.

“I’m ok” Angela smiled through the looming pain, forcing herself to keep going.

Lewis continued to follow the tail of the group, leaving his sister to follow behind him. The stark reality of this situation was only revealed as the sharp crack of a shotgun emanated through the warehouse, the low thump as Lewis fell to the ground. Angela cocked her shotgun, Corporal Burke turned to face her just as the second volley pierced her armour in a barrage of shot.

Lieutenant Burrows reacted purely on instinct, dashing for cover he burst through the first door he saw in a desperate attempt to escape the treacherous ambush.

“What’s going on?” Kiara pleaded for information, as she listened to the event over the radio. Readying her weapon she stared through the scope of her rifle in search of targets. She saw Burrows burst through the side door of the warehouse into the alleyway, Angela in sharp pursuit. Anticipating enemy contact Kiara’s gaze lingered on the open door in search of alien pursuers.

Her sight only drifted in time to watch as Angela drew a grenade from her belt and threw it in pursuit of Burrows. She heard the clink of metal striking metal, the muffled curse beneath the lieutenant’s breath overcome by the sudden shockwave as the grenade detonated at his feet.

Edwards emerged through the billowing smoke in her scope, the muzzle of her shotgun tracing in front of her in search of her prey which had no doubt eluded her. But she knew that her attack must have weakened him, the few flecks of fresh blood dotting the floor. Following the trail leads her into the chain steak restaurant next door, the décor no doubt mimicking a true authentic Texas style.

Kiara saw Burrows crouched behind one of the wooden booths, offering concealment but little protection if Angela decided to start shooting again. “I have the solution” Kiara said the phrase with the cold detachment as she had when she had readied shots against drug lords, enemy commanders and alien invaders.

“Keep calm Hunter” Burrows gulped loudly. “I’m goanna try to talk her down”

Kiara instantly knew his suggestion was a bad idea. “Burrows, wait-”

“Ok Angela” before she could finish her protest he called out. “What’s going on here?”

“Oh christ, Andy” Angela cursed. “I’m not talking with you, just die already”

“Ok, I’ll talk then” Burrows gulped again. “You’ve got a shotgun on me. Kiara, she has a sniper rifle pointed at you. That’s what we call a Mexican standoff”

Angela glanced up to stare at Kiara through the scope of her rifle. Kiara did not know if she could dare to kill one of her own.

“And I don’t think any of us want it to end like that” Burrows continued.

“Don’t you dare try to psychoanalyse me” Angela snapped. “You can’t even begin to understand”

“Try me” Burrows called out.

“Stop resisting!” Angela barked. “The aliens, they can help humanity to evolve and adapt. We are emerging on the brink of a cultural renaissance, yet you choose to remain stagnant”

“What I wish to know is what would turn someone against their own kind?” Burrows asked.

“You and your kind are relics of a forgotten age to be cast into the darkness of history” Angela said.

“Perhaps” Burrows replied. “But perhaps this old relic still has enough sense and grit to bring us all back alive”

“No Burrows” Angela said. “I shall walk the path of life while you shall walk the path of death”

Burrows knew of only one way both of them would be able to make it out alive. “I’m going to step out now”

“Don’t do it” Kiara pleaded in his ear.

Burrows gulped loudly through the com link. “Please don’t shoot me”

Burrows stepped out from cover from behind the booth; his hands raised above his head in as least a threatening pose as he could muster. “Angela-”

Angela raised her shotgun and fired a single burst at point blank range into his chest; the lieutenant fell to the ground in a pool of blood. Kiara finger rested on the trigger, staring through the scope preparing to take the shot-

She saw the glowing red eyes staring back at her through the shadows. The creature, little more than half of Angela’s height, lumbered hunched over into view on its spindly legs. The alien appeared to be a Sectoid, but larger with glowing red lobes pulsating with ruinous red energy. It reached up with a lithe hand, crushing his hand into a tight fist it seemed to exert some psychic control over Angela. Discarding her shotgun she clasped her hands to her forehead in a desperate effort to quell the intense pain as she fell to her knees. As she writhed and squirmed in place her strength began to seep from her body as she fell to the ground, cold and limp.

Kiara tracked her rifle over the creature, squeezing the trigger-

The Sectoid looked up to stare her down through the scope. Kiara felt experienced a sharp stab of pain as she felt herself being consumed by some powerful force inside her head. She recognised this touch, knew the embrace of the aliens attempting to take control of her mind.

“No” Kiara gritted her teeth, tensing all of the muscles in her head until it hurt. “Get…out…of…MY HEAD!” she felt herself being overtaken by a sudden burst of energy. She saw the creature falter, stumbling back on its legs Kiara knew she would have to take the opportunity and run. Leaving her rifle perched at the edge of the rooftop she bolted through the open space, casting herself through the billow of steam from the vent she clasped the drainpipe tightly and slid back to street level in less than a moment.

“Big Sky, this is Strike One” she breathlessly gulped in air as her mind ran circuits just trying to make sense of what she had just been a part of. “We’re compromised, send evac-” she rounded the corner into the parking lot, throwing herself into the waiting claws of a beast twice her size with blood red armoured scales. Her death was far from peaceful.


******************************

“What is happening?” Dr Vahlen swooped into the observation room, bringing with her an air of authority which brought calm to the ordered chaos.

“I’m not sure, doctor” the technician answered, typing at his console in search of answers. “Sequence complete, vital signs are stable, but Psionic energy levels are reading well beyond normal levels, I don’t know how a human being could survive-”

“Because she is far more than a mere human” an excited smile grew on the doctors lips as she peered down into the Psionic Laboratory. In that moment she knew she had found humanities champion.


******************************

Kiara’s mind ran wild with thoughts of what had just transpired. She had been there, she had seen them die, even died herself. She had failed. Yet even after all that they had told her of her ‘gift’, Psionic potential as the scientist called it. They claimed that given sufficient training she could emulate the mind altering powers of the invaders.

“You will go down in history” Kiara looked up to see Dr Vahlen stepping into the empty barracks. “The first human discovered with these abilities, possibly marking a turning point in the entire conflict”

“But you said it yourself Doctor” Kiara refused to look up, continuing to face the floor at her feet. “Anyone could have these abilities, before today I remained blissfully ignorant of my ‘gift’. There could be others out there”

“But you were the first” Dr Vahlen sat down on the bench beside Kiara, her lab coat gathering at the small of her back. “You will no doubt prove to be someone very special”

“Even if I have these powers you cannot make me use them” Kiara replied firmly. “I saw what the aliens did to people, what your experiments did to me. I would never wish that upon another, no matter what their crime”

Dr Vahlen sighed. “I am afraid that sometimes we do not have a choice in the matter” Dr Vahlen rose back to her feet. “Maybe in time you will come to realise what that means”
I know I don't write journal entries very often but I decided to now because I have 'Good News Everyone', of sorts.

As far as submissions and random comments my profile is about to go quiet for a few weeks (Yes I know, you're crushed) but the reason for this is because at the end of the week I shall be departing on my first trip to the United States. As some of you know I've been training as an Aircraft Pilot and so now I'm heading to Michigan to train with the air school in Traverse City. Any locals will recognize me as the brit student in a brown bomber jacket who seems way too interested in aircraft and engineering for most people. Anyone who suspects they may have encountered me may utter the phrase 'The Black Wolf from Soviet Russia' to identify themselves as someone who has read this posting. If you receive the response 'Only in winter 1986' rather than the traditional response of 'What the bloody hell are you talking about?' then you'll know you've found the right person.

However before I leave I've got two more chapters to review before I submit them. The first is the next chapter of Soulstorm- Spirits of the Wasteland, in which the Tau finally make contact with the elusive Eldar of Kaurava. The second is the continuation of Photo Op- Maktar Resort or Bust, the continuing saga of Ratchet and companions on the run from the Galactic President for daring to seduce his daughter. After I finish reading over them again I'll submit them into the gallery by the end of the week.

I know that while this is rather late to most PS3 gamers but since I've only just recently acquired one myself I finally managed to complete the PS3 exclusive Valkyria Chronicles. Any of you who have yet to play it I highly recommend it as another instalment from the studio that created Skies of Arcadia (Another of my all time favourites). The two games are rather similar except with VC focusing more on tactical shooting and SoA more towards world exploration but they're both rather like Final Fantasy but actually understandable in what's going on!

Anyone who's been read some of my works will know I hold a love of the video game Mass Effect and the TV show Avatar the Last Airbender. As such it's been an enjoyable time recently which saw the release of Mass Effect 3 and Legend of Korra. Ever since their releases I have been hunting for inspiration to write something on both of them. I don't know whether it was simply a massive case of writers block but it's taken me quite a while to come up with any inspiration sufficient to write about. Finally though the spirit of non-profit writing has smiled upon me and I have finally come up with sufficient inspiration to start writing. Hopefully I'll have something worth showing by the time I return so stay tuned.

I know it's pretty much a mortal sin now to mention Mass Effect 3 without referring to the much debated 'Ending'. (Please note some may consider what I'm about to say spoilerish so take that into consideration). I can kind of see why people would be angry about how it turned out but personally I wasn't surprised. Rather than being annoyed about the ending I think most people are simply bummed that finally most of the mystery has been revealed. Back in Mass Effect you learn the Reapers are an Advanced Machine Race out to kill you, Mass Effect 2 you learn the Collectors are the Protheans, Mass Effect 3 you find out the whole cycle of destruction is to preserve order through mass slaughter. Much like with 'What the Quarians look like' I think most people preferred it when they could let their imaginations go nuts and each had their own personal theories, once the series has given the 'True answer' all that speculation evaporates. I was expecting something along the lines of either the Reapers were pre-programmed from some previous war and after their creators got killed they simply repeated their previous orders or it was their method of growth/development, as suggested by the Human Reaper in the Collector Base.

Personally I don't think the line 'We kill you all to preserve order on the command of another higher being' seems a bit defunct to me but I guess since they've got to have some other mystery to solve in the next instalment otherwise where are they goanna go next?
  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: The Now Show
  • Reading: Republic Commando
  • Watching: Sea Patrol
  • Playing: Valkyria Chronicles
  • Eating: Unkown substance
  • Drinking: British Tea

deviantID

alimination602
Alex
United Kingdom
Current Residence: UK
deviantWEAR sizing preference: As loose as they come
Print preference: Glossy
Favourite genre of music: Swing
Favourite photographer: Unkown
Favourite style of art: Photo-Manipultation
Operating System: Windows
MP3 player of choice: Windows Media Player
Shell of choice: Unkown
Wallpaper of choice: Red vs Blue
Skin of choice: Lombax Fur
Favourite cartoon character: Sarge
Personal Quote: How Evil
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Journal History

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:iconsargechris:
sargechris Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013
Nice job on your story's its been a while since i been on this site. and posted anything. Well if you watched ep 9 of spartan ops they revealed something more a key to ancient forerunner tech.
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:iconlonewolfartist:
LoneWolfArtist Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for the kind comment It's really great to know that theres also someone othyer than me who enjoys lindsey stirlings work I actually play the viola so she's a big inspiration to me ^^"
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
You play the viola, thats really cool.

I've never been very musical but being in engineering i always find her music calming and relaxing to listen to as i draw up 60 page wire drawings.
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:iconlonewolfartist:
LoneWolfArtist Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Student Digital Artist
yeah everyone says the viola and violin are hard to play but there really simple.and yes her arts are always impressivly relaxing
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012
I'm guessing it requires a lot of timing, memory and co-ordination to be able to do it well.
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(1 Reply)
:iconlorcan0c:
Lorcan0c Featured By Owner May 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Hope your birthday is treating you well

:party::cake::party:
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner May 5, 2012
Thanks. I've finally had some quiet time to relax and do some writing.
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:iconlorcan0c:
Lorcan0c Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm glad to hear it.
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:iconwatchamacallit-daal:
watchamacallit-daAL Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for the fave :D
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:iconsailor-star5:
sailor-star5 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2011
hello, could you do a star wars clone war story showing bariss trying to help Ahsoka live past the event of the trandoshan kidnapping her.
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2011
I don't usually take requests and i can't legally be paid upfront for writing them (Copyright laws and all). However if you are feeling generous towards a deviantART writer you could always poke around my wishlist.

I am in the process of writing a similar story involving those two after the incident on Geononosis. However that project is in early stages of writing right now.
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:iconsailor-star5:
sailor-star5 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2011
I understand what you say (Unfortunately i am broke as hell at the moment) though i am happy to hear that last tidbit.
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:iconratchetfan123:
Ratchetfan123 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
I faved the first three chapters of photo op by the way its pretty good.
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:iconratchetfan123:
Ratchetfan123 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
Looking thorugh Your favs if you dont mind. The Ratchet and Clank ones especially. I am a big Ratchet and Clank fan so those pics appeal to me. Srry if I sound nuts.
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:iconratchetfan123:
Ratchetfan123 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
Hey man whats up? Hope you had a good new year.
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
Pretty good so far.
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:iconahsokatanofan2:
AhsokaTanoFan2 Featured By Owner May 30, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
lol nice profile checkout mine
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:iconahsokatanofan2:
AhsokaTanoFan2 Featured By Owner May 30, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
lol nice profile checkout mine
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:iconhanaraad:
hanaraad Featured By Owner May 22, 2010  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the watch!
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner May 22, 2010
No prob. I especially like the ME2 comics!
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:iconcoreythemighty:
coreythemighty Featured By Owner May 16, 2010
I absolutely loved your Halo stuff. There needs to be more people like this on the internet. I just don't see or read about people that "get" Halo on the internet. Keep the media coming!
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner May 16, 2010
Thanks alot.

As long as ideas keep coming, i'll keep writing
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:iconcoreythemighty:
coreythemighty Featured By Owner May 17, 2010
I hope to read some new stuff from you soon. It's taking forever for the next Halo book. I'm so ready to find out what happens after Ghosts of Onyx.
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:iconalimination602:
alimination602 Featured By Owner May 17, 2010
Me too.
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:iconrandomness2k9:
Randomness2K9 Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2009
Hey, I realised you didn't appear on my watchers list. What's going on?
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