"He's back in hospital," Lux said as he started obnoxiously tapping his fingers on the counter. "Paladin hit him with his Biotics, pinned him to a wall. Caused most of the wounds Miles had patched up to rupture. Lot of blood."
He then turned and grabbed a small glass from one of the cupboards and started looking for a drink.
"Miles was able to patch him back up though, think he called it his masterpiece or something. Ver wasn't too happy about that one. Claims that it'll be at least a few more days before he recovers again though."
Paladin stood, looking Verahl in the eyes, he said nothing, nothing would help, besides, he gave his word. Verahl hit him again, in the gut this time, the wind knocked explosively out of Ethan's lungs. Verahl kept up the assault, each time Ethan took longer and longer to stand up, but each time, he stood up, looked Verahl in the face until getting beat down again. Ethan kept his word, he took his licks without complaining, uttering only responsive grunts and wheezes. Verahl hit Paladin a final time on the face, a loud sounded out as Ethan's nose left its customary position when his face hit the ground. Paladin stood back up, bleeding, long since past bruised, his nose bent out of shape.
Paladin, pinched his nose between his thumb and forefinger, and violently snapped it back into place, a low groan leaving his lips at this new pain. Then looked Verahl in the face again, or rather, slightly to the right as his vision had long since blurred, he breathed a raspy wheeze and stood as tall as his beaten body would allow.
Verahl glared as Paladin, before giving him the final series of blows. Another punch to the chest to wind him, followed by an elbow to his back while he was bent over, sending him right back into the ground. This time though, Verahl didn't allow him to get back up, instead grabbing the back of Paladin's collar, dragging him back to the Gauntlet, and dropping him near the bottom of the ramp. He then flipped him over, so the two's faces were only inches apart. He placed his arm across his neck, placing just enough pressure on it to make Paladin's breathing more difficult than it already was, but not enough to choke him.
"Now, I will tell you this once, and only once," Verahl said slowly and quietly, almost whispering it to Paladin. "If you cause this company any more trouble, if you send someone else to the infirmary, or have those Biotics flare on us one more time, I will bring you back, to this same spot, and when I'm done, you'll have to crawl back to your ship because you won't be welcomed back to the Elixir."
He then released his grip, and got off of Paladin, walking back into the Gauntlet and towards the cockpit.
"Get us back to base Raven."
Korat grunted in relief at Lux's comments.
"Good. I was afraid there would be long term damage. Karnak is an asset to operations. Still, we are going to be less productive while one, if not two members short."
Korat didn't just consider his team members to be disposable stock or minor aggrivations. If they were effective, they were possitive assets; He felt "closest" to those who worked well and in his favor. Brooks may be obnoxious at times, but Korat would still kill for him. It was a principle of Krogan honor, yes, but also of mutual benefit.
The same went with Karnak. Sure, he was brash, uncalculating or reckless at times, from what Korat had observed. The decision to start taunting paladin was not a wise one, even if there hadn't been a biotic altercation. But Karnak was part of this team, like part of a family unit. Damage done to him would effect everyone, and that was not good.
Korat sat silently for a few moments before speaking again.
"Now I am hungry..."
Paladin lay beaten, not broken, but beaten all to hell. Even with the medical technology available at best he would be too bruised to move around much tomorrow, at worst it'd be a few days before he'd be able to breathe comfortably. His mind was still working though, "Wonder what his deal with biotics is?" Ethan had met anti-biotics fundamentalists before, but military types had always appreciated the usefulness of their abilities, and Verahl seemed to make a special point of Ethan's biotics, rather than just his actions. A rather inane train of thought, but the distraction helped to keep his mind off the pain.
Paladin lay on the floor of the Gauntlet, and then the name hit him, "Gauntlet" After all he just went through, Paladin could laugh at the coincidence, but the best he could manage at the time was a sort of gurgle-cough, interspersed with an occasional "heh" followed by spasms of pain, but after all that happened he simply couldn't stop.
When the three arrived at Aegis' base, Verahl and Raven opened the ramp and saw Paladin lying spread-eagle on the floor, laughing between coughing specks of blood. When he saw the ramp open, he staggered down the ramp, still chuckling, and walked toward the base, passing the others in the common room, "laughing" all the way, and hoping that Miles would have some decent pain killers.
Lux nodded in agreement, as he prepared his drink. While he did feel some sympathy for Karnak, being hospitalized again so soon, and he did see Paladin's rather liberal use of Biotics to be a sign of weakness, he was more upset over the fact that it would mean that the company would still not be operating at its full potential.
When he finished preparing the drink, he shot it instantly back, letting out a deep breath as he felt the burn work its way down his throat. He licked inside of his lips for a moment before looking back at Korat.
"I wouldn't be too worried about Paladin," he said finally, breaking the silence that had fallen between the three of them. "While Verahl's going to put him back in his place, I doubt he'd go far enough to seriously hurt him. He knows well enough that anyone who's on a bed in the Med-Bay crippled is a liability to us as a whole."
Only seconds after he finished saying that, the three turned to see Paladin limping and laughing through the Common Room, and down to the opposite set of stairs.
After several seconds of silence, each of them trying to process what they just saw, Lux gave off a loud laugh as he looked at the two.
Verahl returned to his office, even more angry after seeing Paladin just laugh it off as he made his way out of the Gauntlet. He knew that if Paladin didn't realize the severity of what he had done, that eventually the two would be back in that lot.
He opened his Comms and contacted Miles, instructing him on what to do.
"Are you sure you want me to do that?" Miles said as the doors to med-bay opened. "No, no, I'll do it, but I mean isn't that a bit, well, unethical?"
He paused for a moment, listening to Verahl, as some of the colour seemed to drain from his face.
"Got it," he said as he shut the comms off and turned to face Paladin.
"Uh, hey buddy," he said cautiously, as he scanned his body up and down, noting all of the wounds he could see. "What you doing down here?"
"Got the shit beaten out of me" Paladin said, with a sarcastic look, that was slightly warped along with the rest of his face. "Then I thought of something ridiculous, started laughing, and it's helped me realize how much pain I'm in, I don't suppose you got any pain killers on you Doc?"
"Nope, fresh out, sorry," Miles said, as he took a few steps closer to Paladin, cutting him off so he couldn't go further into the room. "You can just walk it off though, right?"
Paladin was still running off the euphoria from earlier, his mind a hazy mix of half-followed trains of thought, mad jokes, endorphins and a whole host of other chemicals. This final little cosmic giggle pushed him over that edge. As Ethan burst out laughing again, the pain hit him harder than before; followed by him collapsing on the floor of Miles' office.
Paladin woke up in a daze, he looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it had been hours since he passed out. "HUZZZUMMMMSSSSHHHHUUUMMMM....????" Paladin groaned as he regained consciousness. He was in impressive pain as he sat up, and tentatively stood, it was still pain, intense and almost pulsing, but it was the pain one felt while healing. "Son of a bitch..." he sat back down on the cot. "Any news on those pain killers doc?"
Miles looked up from his desk to see Paladin waking up.
"One second," he said as he closed the holographic screen he had opened in front of him and got up to walk over to Paladin. "Was playing Galaxy of Fantasy."
He looked over Paladin once more and sighed.
"Here," he said as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a hip flask that he handed to him. "You can take this."
Paladin took a swig out of the flask, then a second, longer one. He noticed the metallic taste of blood amid the burn of the alcohol, when he handed the significantly drained flask back to the doctor he told him "you might want to disinfect that thing before you use it again."
The alcohol did help a bit, and as Paladin stood up again he could put the full weight on his legs and stand on his own efforts. Paladin stretched out his body and heard a series of pops from his joints as he stretched. before sitting down again, "it could be worse" he thought. "Verhal wasn't holding back" Ethan felt his pain, trying to gauge it out. He had been boosted in the Alliance, just like everyone else, so he healed fast, but it would probably be at least a few days until he could move without pain again, and a few more until he was totally combat ready.
"So how's Karnak doc? I didn't know he was in that bad shape, I hope he's not too injured."
Terina wandered around the base aimlessly. So bored...Terina always hated the downtime between missions. Drinking was fun for a bit, as was the satisfaction of...baser urges...but Terina was currently in the mood for neither. Heading down to the training room, she started sparring, attacking a training hologram with her bare hands, no biotics. She knew how weak she was in hand-to-hand. Time to fix that.
"I tried to stop em" said Ocara, as he sat back in the sofa, taking a gulp of the drink he'd gotten during Paladin's absence. He had to admit, the Human looked pretty bad when he came in, daresay-it almost as bad as Ocara himself had looked after his and Verhal's 'falling-out', though that being said, Paladin's eye wasn't broken and he didn't had a massive hole in his stomach, so he was to be considered lucky.
Ocara also made a mental note to pay a visit to him later on, to see if he was alright and to make sure there were no hard feelings, for while his friend had been put in the infirmary, Ocara wasn't one to hold a grudge, especially not with anyone that might one day save his life (with the exception of Miles of course,he could go to hell).
"Looks like me and you will have to kill Karnak's share while he's out, you up for that Lux?"
"I've been taking his share for the past two months Ocara," Lux said before his Omni-Tool flashed as he recieved a message. He opened it and quickly checked the contents.
"Verahl wants something," he said as he went towards the stairs.
About an hour later, a message had been sent from Lux to the rest of the company again, detailing their next moves.
"Alright everyone," it began, Lux sounding a little annoyed. He didn't approve much of their next move. "A new smuggling ring has started, with their headquarters somewhere in our district. We don't know much, but they're apparently not tied with anyone else at the moment. Verahl wants us to either run them out or to force them to join. Apparently one of their ships is due back in twelve to fourteen hours. We're to set up an ambush for them when they return. Eleven hours until the Gauntlet drops us off."
Once it was sent, he continued back down to the kitchen, looking for Dray once more.
Immediately after opening the message from Lux, Esten opened a Comm Channel to Verahl. He needed information. He asked where the ambush was being set up, and closed the channel after getting the coordinates. Without waiting any longer, he went to the master bedroom.
In the months between the 4-6's destruction and the move of Aegis, Esten had found an apartment for himself. He made sure that no one would be able to trace him to it, purchasing it under an alternate name, and never going directly to it. He kept its existence as far removed from Aegis as possible.
The apartment was very large and luxurious compared to most of the other residences on Omega. It came at a high price, but he had been able to afford it thanks to the funds he had 'acquired' over time. The main room was fairly large and open. It had a small set of stairs in the centre that lead up to the kitchen and bedroom. The only other room on the lower level was a small bedroom that he had refitted for storage since no one else would use it. The walls were fairly bare, with a few small paintings on it he had been able to purchase. It was one of the first times that he was able to actually have possessions that didn't need to be restricted to what he could keep in a duffel bag or locker. As he climbed the circular stairs up, he stopped for a second to admire the most prized piece he had in his small collection. He had purchased it from another Salarian he had met a month back, one of the few people he actually considered a friend now. He had painted it upon Esten's commission. It was a simple landscape of a planet and its moons, as well as the surrounding stars. He had made it from a photo that Esten had provided. It was of his home.
Once he was finished admiring it, he continued to his bedroom. A large bed sat against one of its walls and a mirror and dresser sat opposite to it. The master bathroom was also connected here. He walked past these those to the corner where he kept his armour. There was a large glass case that held two suits here for him. The first was his Aegis one, the one he was forced to wear regularly. The other though was only made up of bits and pieces. Only a few plates he had managed to keep. It was the pieces he had been able to keep from the time he had spent with STG. Now he only had most of the right arm as well as the boots and gloves. He had wished he had been able keep more of it.
Once he had his armour on he opened the case beside the armour rack. Here was where he had kept his weapons. He took his sniper, as well as his assault rifle and made sure both were secure. He then took his pistol, checked that a fresh thermal clip was loaded, and left. It would only take him an hour to reach the ambush, but he would wait there until the rest of Aegis assembled.
"Give him a few days and he'll be fine," Miles said as he returned to his desk. "Also, new mission in a few hours. Looks like you'll be the ones doing the ambushing this time."
Terina stepped back, reading the message. Smuggling ring, huh? Good source of income if run out. Better if recruited. Terina could appreciate the value of cold, hard credits. Funded weapons, armor, everything. She needed to make up for the last mission. Big-time.
Sal sat up on her bunk when she heard the message alert go off on her Omni-tool. She put the holo-pad on the nightstand and quickly read the message. She smiled behind her mask Good, a job that has a better chance at not going wrong. She thought as she headed twords the armory to grab her equipment.
Terina headed up to the armory, reaching it around the same time as Sal. "Looking forward to the next mission?" she asked.
"Good to hear." Paladin said to Miles. He did some quick stretches, feeling the pain for where he was weak, it was distressingly spread out, but he could function. He checked his nose on the mirror in the doctors office, planning to straighten it out if necessary, while it was still loose. He was glad to see that he had gotten it right the first time, his nose was swollen but nicely straight.
Ethan reached to the back of his neck and turned his bio-amp back on, feeling the familiar pins-and-needles that suffused his body as the device tuned into his nervous system. A blue glow surrounded him as he "flexed" his powers, making sure that everything was up to snuff.
He then walked out of the office and up to the kitchen, he hadn't eaten in hours and was hoping to get something he could eat on the way to his ship, where he had kept his armor.
Ocara was ready and waiting for the mission, having retrieved his 'special ammo' and suited up in his room. Now, he was ready for anything... Ambush-wise.
'Time for one last sandwich before takeoff me-thinks'
"Hey Paladin" said Ocara, coming up behind the Human in the kitchen, holding a sandwich in his right hand. Ocara took a bite out of it as he sat down at one of the tables close to Paladin, swallowing his mouthful, before setting the unfinished sandwich on a nearby plate.
"I just wanna say that as far as I'm concerned, there are no hard feelings between me and you. Sure you hurt my friend, Karnak, but I understand that he can be a little much at times" continued Ocara thoughtfully, taking out and fiddling with his Kessler pistol on the table, clearing the breech, unloading the magazine, checking it, testing the trigger and reassembling it, his eyes wandering about the room as if he was bored, looking at his weapon only when safety demanded.
"Your good at hand to hand and biotic skills too man, but make sure you only use em' against the enemy and in the ring in future, k?"
With that Ocara holstered his pistol, nodded and stood up, extending his hand towards Paladin, a small smile adorning his face.
Paladin reached out his hand to Ocara, taking the Turian's in his own and shaking it. "Alright, but for the record, I wasn't trying to get him that bad, I kept him pinned because I wanted to get out of there without, ironically enough, hurting him too bad."
Ethan then took out his own decently layered sandwich and started for the door, on the way to his ship. "alright Ocara, if anyone asks, I'm heading to my ship to grab my gear, tell 'em I should be back in about half and hour, maybe a bit more."
"Sure thing man" replied Ocara, setting himself back down on his chair, putting his feet up on the table infront of him and resuming eating his sandwhich, glad that there little altercation hadn't descended into a grudge, for Ocara knew, grudges could be dangerous, dangerous things.
But atleast that was settled now and Ocara could focus on more important things.
'Mmmmh, gotta love the taste of BBQ Varren'
Sal glanced at Terina as she examined her Viper. "I am actually. There's a chance well get new recruits which is always good, and there's the chance this won't end with someone getting killed or chewed out by Ver." She said allowing the relief to come out in her voice. "And how bout you, Terina? Lookin forward to a fairly simple mission?"
"I'm looking forward to a chance at redemption." Terina smiled. "And a possible source of good income is always nice. Add a smuggling ring to our profits."
Paladin walked over to the Lienne, finishing off the last of his sandwich and feeling all the better for it. The ship was only about a 5 to 10 minute walk away from the main base of Aegis, and the announcement gave Paladin the impression that he would have some time to himself to get ready.
He stepped up to the ship and typed in a command code on his omni-tool, in response to which the ships cargo bay hatch opened wide and Paladin walked in. He headed over to the set of lockers in which he stored his gear. Briefly looking over the other lockers and feeling the loss of the two who he once shared the ships, now depressingly empty, interior with. As he opened the locker and took out his familiar Explorer armor, he brought up the ships VI's holo-rep. Ethan had, some time ago purchased a personality implant of the character of Stephen Fry's Jeeves. He could have easily, and less expensively, continued with the use of the original VI "theme" that came standard, but he found the charm of the old world English butler appealing, and he had enjoyed the old vids of Jeeves and Wooster that his family had kept when they had emigrated from Earth, among some other things that he now had comfortably and securely on his ship.
"Any news for me Jeeves?"
"You recieved 5 messages while you were away Sir, one from Miss Ashala, the rest originated from reported spam addresses, I took the liberty of assuming that you were quite content with the size of your member, and disposed of them."
Ethan let out a little chuckle at this news and felt a hit of pain from his bruised ribs
"Jeeves, what would I do with out you?"
"The mind boggles sir."
"alright, send the message from Ashala over to my omni-tool, I'll read it when I have the time."
"Of course sir, will there be anything else?"
"Yes, I want you to run an extranet search on my current employer, the Aegis Protection Firm, I want to know more about their history, put a focus on their leader Verahl."
"Very good sir."
Paladin finished strapping on his armor and felt the familiar cool, gooey feeling as the Armor's Nano gel suffused his body, adding its final layer of protection and body and armor stress analysis. He also decided to use a dose of medi-gel on his battered frame, it wouldn't replace a good nights sleep and a little bit of R&R, but it would get him more-or-less combat ready. As he applied the medical miracle that was medi-gel he felt the pain ease as it flowed through his system, he could swear he felt his bruises diminish, either from them actually healing or the pain-killers mixed into the gel no one could tell. Ethan picked up and holstered his folded weapons, and grabbed a 12' length of rope from the locker, which he looped on his armor. He then walked out of the cargo bay, typing another command into his omni-tool and hearing a familiar hiss behind him as the doors closed shut. He then began walking back to the firm's HQ, now fully armed.
"That's everyone," Lux yelled as he stepped onto the Gauntlet. He sealed the door behind him as he moved towards his seat. "Let's get her moving Kry!"
Heavy traffic could be heard from outside as the Gauntlet went to land. Kry swore a few times in his final approach, cursing someone who had flown to close to him as he finally touched down. With a final lurch, the Gauntlet dropped onto the landing pad beneath. The doors to it then opened as Lux stepped out.
"It's one of the smaller ports of Omega," he said as he took a look around. "But it's the only one we got access to."
While it was true that it wasn't the largest dock on Omega, the area was still massive. As the members of Aegis slowly funnelled out of the Gauntlet, the scope of the port hit them. The ports of Omega were its commercial lifelines. Goods of all nature were constantly surging through them. Whether it is minerals or Element Zero mined out and refined on Omega being exported elsewhere, or foods and luxury goods being sent in, every port was almost always active every minute of every day.
Where the Gauntlet had landed, several other smaller, local transports had also been left. Most of these were to take goods to the markets to sell. Larger ones were closer to the main docks, unloading minerals onto ships that would be sent to several other corners of the galaxy. This port was large enough to dock four larger cargo ships, and also allow for a couple dozen smaller ones to be sheltered. A few workshops and mechanics were also centred nearby, allowing for maintenance to be done on any ship in need, at rates which would likely force you to sell it to them afterwards.
When everyone was out of the Gauntlet, and Kry had taken off once more, Esten emerged from a nearby crowd, anxiously looking about.
Heh, Salarian's out of his environment. Doesn't like being down here in all the commotion.
Lux indicated for the company to form around him as he explained the plan.
"Alright, listen up, we're going to split off into three separate groups. Esten, you take Sal and Ocara and find a vantage point to overlook terminals B-7 through B-12. From what we know, they'll be coming in on a smaller ship, and will likely be arriving near there. Raven is to take Pali, Korat, and Brooks. He'll take the three of you to B-7 to set up around there and wait for them to arrive. That leaves me with Ter, and Jetta. You two are coming with me to B-12, where we'll do something similar."
Lux started to tap his fingers against the side of his armour, making sure that everyone knew who they were with before continuing.
"We're to intercept these guys, not kill them. We don't want to have a blood bath out here. It's too crowded, and it would lead to a dozens more problems after things cooled down. Now, they're going to be a crew of one of the smuggling ships. They'll be lightly armed, and there will be no more than five of them. Once we ID them, we're to close in on them. Try to surround them without alerting them. Don't go in with a gun and force them to do what we want, our numbers will do that for us. Once they're in our hands, we're going to walk them to a nearby landing zone, and put them on the Gauntlet. From there, we'll begin our... Negotiations."
Lux looked around at each of them for a moment, before asking, "Any questions?"
"No kills" repeated Ocara to himself, silently laughing to himself at the thought that Lux wasn't too pleased about that order.
"I suppose it'll be our job to identify the targets? It might help to know who we are looking out for" continued Ocara, walking over to join Esten, where then he began idly fiddling with a few of the clasps and knobs on his armor, double checking that they were all sealed, because afterall, an enemy backed into a corner is ten times more likely to act irrationally.
Sal's mind flashed back to one oof her first missions with Aegis, a gaurd job the ended with all four thieves dead, they were deperate, but she had done her job and protected the contents of the warehouse, still she didn't want something like that to happen again.
Aim for the limbs, no body or headshots. They may be lightly armored so Aim for below the knee but above the elbow and not at the shoulder. Sal told herself as she gathered with Ocara and Esten.
Paladin walked over to Raven, "No hard feelings, right? If it's all the same, I'm gonna take a back seat, support role, here. I'm still not sure if I'm ready for full combat."
Raven shook his head before moving towards their designated location. Lux isn't the only one to be upset by this mission. Even a lightly armored person can kill someone who isn't going for the kill even more so when they are backed into a corner. Fucking wonderful. Stepping into the elevator to that lead to B-7, he mentally went over the layout of the dock once more in his head before shaking it in frustration. "All right, the aim of the game is to capture these smugglers not kill them. When we reach the dock I want you to spread out and keep watch as unobtrusively as possible, especially you Brooks. If you think you've ID'd one, call me for confirmation before you do anything. Be careful out there."
Satisfied, he calmly left the elevator and took a slow, meandering route to a bench that overlooked a good portion of the dock while silently wishing he had been able to conceal more weapons on his persons, only having two pistols, his knife, and some grenades in his civies. Leaning back in the bench, he lit his cigar and pulled the brim of his hat down to hide his eyes. It's going to be a boring mission....