Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 19

Tall, Green, and Handsome

Having had the wind so thoroughly taken out of my sails by Miranda’s unexpected capitulation, I decided to try a different tack. “I need to know why you did this, Miranda. Did you change something to give me biotic abilities or were you testing to see if the implant would work without them? If you’ve done things to my body that you haven’t told me, now is the time to come clean.”

Conflicting loyalties showed clearly on her face. Sure, Cerberus had been home to her but I was in control of whether anyone went along to protect her sister from the mercenaries their father had hired. No matter how skilled or determined she may be she knew she couldn’t do it alone. It felt pretty sleazy to use that leverage but knowing that I was going to go with her anyway made it bearable.

“It’s a standard L5 implant,” she said after a few minutes’ consideration. “Since the whole point of the project was to bring you back, personality and quirks alike, we didn’t dare try gene therapy to add biotics but we wanted to see if someone without powers could still use the device. Without specific action from me it should not have begun working. You’ve fought dozens of biotics in the past few weeks and you’ve spent plenty of time with Jack. What happened?”

“I don’t really know, Miranda.” I wasn’t about to share the specifics, no matter how suspicious it made her. “Maybe it was the build-up from repeated exposure or simply that the person who touched me was that strong. Once it was up and running I was lucky to find people willing and able to put me somewhere safe and help me get it under control. If we’d been at some merc base on a back-water planet both the team and I might have been in trouble.”

Miranda nodded. “I was hoping that we could talk on the way to escort Oriana. I wanted to gauge whether you were open to my activating the implant and working with me on your training. We haven’t exactly spent much time together.”

Damn, I thought, she’s got me there. I could hardly be rude in the face of her conciliatory tone. “The three-day crash course has given me a basic understanding but I still don’t have the sort of strength and control I need. I don’t see any choice but to do more extensive training with you and Jack.” Her eyebrows shot up practically into her hair, impressive considering the height of her forehead. “You can’t deny that we both need to improve our discipline or that she knows tricks you don’t. If I train, you both train, too, and anyone else who wants to join us.”

I may need Miranda for the time being but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy torturing her. I’d have to talk to Jack about this, though. I intended to turn these training sessions into Cerberus dirt-digging expeditions as well. Having both of us there meant that passing on any results would be far less obvious. We could alternate meetings with Joker rather than one of us stuffing ourselves into a janitor’s closet with him after every session. I suspected he’d enjoy the boost to his reputation, as well, and that Garrus would appreciate the occasional break from standing about in my shower.

I agreed to set up a training schedule, although the where and how would necessarily be variable. We parted on polite, if not friendly, terms. I left and turned the corner to the main battery where Garrus usually played between missions. He told me he was calibrating the guns but I suspected he spent most of his time in there pretending to shoot Reapers or ships filled with mercenaries or geth. I’d once caught him making “pew pew” noises when he hadn’t heard the door open. I did seem to have a bad habit of embarrassing the poor man but it was such fun that I hated to quit.

Although I was desperate for a big meal, a hot shower, and a long nap in whatever order they came I wanted to make sure he knew I was all right. He seemed pleased to see me in one piece. “Ah,” he said, a smirk in his voice. “I see that the package has delivered you this time.” I gave him a little happy dance to show just how much better I was feeling and he laughed, all awkwardness between us seemingly forgotten now that Kaidan was back in my life.

“I’ve got a few things to do but when I’m up to speed we’re going to find the assassin,” I warned him. “I’ll let you know when it’s time to suit up and we’re going to take Miranda this time.” For a guy with no lips or eyebrows his face was remarkably expressive. The puzzlement stood out clearly. “I know, but I need her to help me keep on top of this implant thing. She can’t do that if she doesn’t even know what I can do.”

Garrus shrugged and nodded assent. I clapped him on the shoulder and walked back out to the mess. Mess Sergeant Gardner served me a heaping plate of his calamari gumbo that I supplemented with some of the fresh bread I’d had asked to be delivered daily while we were docked and the biggest cup of coffee I could find. I asked him to hunt up a thermos that I could take back to my quarters, as well. Some needs had been fed recently but caffeine was not one of them.

I zipped up to my cabin and stripped off my clothes, tossing them over the desk chair on my way into the shower. Half an hour later I was squeaky clean and barely able to keep my eyes open. I all but fell into bed, not even bothering to dry myself, pulling the covers up to my neck with a sigh. I felt fantastic. When I woke half an hour later I pinged Miranda and Garrus to get ready, then pulled on a set of armor and threw my badly-soiled casual clothes in the wash. Thank heavens they’d thought to install a laundry machine in my room. I had no idea where everyone else got their undies clean but I was certainly glad I didn’t have to sit and wait for mine to be done where they could all see them. I’d found enough interest in my pants without putting their contents on display.

I met the others at the airlock and we walked down to the shipping area to meet with Liara’s contact, Seryna. Happily, she was thrilled to help us. It turned out that the target was none other than Nassana Dantius, the same psycho who’d paid me handsomely for killing her slaver of a sister a couple of years earlier. I hadn’t pointed out at the time that my supposed assassination had simply been a coincidence of timing and she had assumed I’d acted on her behalf.

It seemed she since had fallen victim to the mad female rush for power that had struck the galaxy after my death and was now the proud owner of two nearly-completed skyscrapers somewhere, humbly named Dantius Towers. The assassin, Thane Krios, handily enough planned to take her out that very night. Sometimes the universe just seems to fall into line for me, as though events waited until I was ready to address them. Seryna took us to the ground floor and explained that the bridge between the two buildings was the vulnerable point in the path to Nassana’s office. I thanked her, enjoying the spiteful pleasure she was getting from not only having set this Thane guy on Nassana but on sending us to back him up as well. She’d really taken getting fired badly.

Garrus, Miranda, and I piled out of her car in time to see mechs shooting some salarian workers in the lobby. What the hell? I thought. It looked like we’d have more to worry about than just knocking off some mercs on the way: we’d have to save some innocent civilians as well. We took out the bots we could see and made our way through the shattered front doors. I pretended to be all professional and serious, like it hadn’t been fun to smash that huge expanse of glass, but Garrus and I did a tiny wiggle of a dance when Miranda wasn’t looking. It had made a crashing, tinkling pile of noise. How often do you get to do things like that with impunity?

Every time we found another group of Salarians, tucked away for safety by our erstwhile bad boy, Miranda tried to hurry us along. She’d clearly been with Cerberus too long if she thought I’d hurry a mission by leaving people in danger no matter their species. I finally told her that if she wanted to leave the aliens behind she could go ahead and take on the mercs and mechs herself while Garrus and I took care of things. That pretty much shut her up as the asari Eclipse had both armor and barriers to get through while avoiding being shot. She simply didn’t have the juice to pull it off alone.

At the top of the tower we found a lone mercenary reassuring Nassana that he had things under control. The idiot was looking out the window and hadn’t noticed our approach. I didn’t even bother to talk to him. I simply put my foot on his ass and shoved him through the window. Garrus gave me an air point for style and we stuck our heads out to watch him spin his way to the ground. I wondered if he even knew what had happened or if he was still talking about how awesome he was.

My best friend and I did a little dance of mockery when he landed then I shook my head and we headed out onto the bridge. Turrets, Eclipse with rocket launchers, and the occasional sniper made for slow going. We finally got across and found the office, where Nassana leaped to the conclusion that I was the one coming to kill her. She hardly reacted to the fact that I was no longer dead, somewhat to my disappointment. I rather enjoyed the expressions of shock and occasional dismay.

As she negotiated to outbid the imaginary person who’d hired me, a form slid from the ceiling, snapped a neck, kicked an ass or two, and shot Nassana before I could draw a bead. He must have fired up through the gut and scored a heart shot because she died in his arms within seconds. He gently laid her on her desk, adjusted his cuffs and collar, and proceeded to pray.

Meow, I thought, talented and stylish. It was a good thing I’d been with Kaidan recently or I might be tempted to learn more. This, clearly, was the man I’d come to find. His green scales and reddened gills marked him as a Drell, humanoid though he was. I hadn’t been prepared for those luscious lips and ever-so-suave leather suit, however. I was going to have to turn a fire extinguisher on Kelly when I brought him aboard.

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