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"Once Bitten... Pt. I"

//Collab. between LegacyCloud & AnnCarise//



Mischa stood motionless on the balcony overlooking the transport pad; her face bearing no expression as she felt dead inside. As to the cause of that empty feeling, even Mischa herself did not dare guess - the news of her husband dying, the news he may still be alive, the Illusive Man's offer... or her finally doing what he wanted...


She did not even look up as the approaching shuttle was announced over the area comms. She simply stood... awaiting her fate that she had resigned herself to, feeling in some way that she had signed her soul to the devil himself. Watching quietly as the shuttle descended through the airlocks high above, Mischa let out a weary sigh as she finally turned to descend the steps to the landing platform. She did not stop to look back at the facility she had known as home for so many years, nor did she say goodbye to any of her colleagues - simply mailing the Salarian her letter of resignation.


As the shuttle's engines powered down, Mischa approached - not even so much as a packed back across her shoulder - walking ahead towards an unknown future and carrying nothing of her presently tormented past apart from the clothes on her back; she observed the unremarkable and plain appearance of the shuttle, bringing herself to a stop a short distance from the door with a slight knot of uncertainty forming in the pit of her stomach as she watched the brief hiss of air jet out either side of the shuttle door before it opened - No turning back now...

A young man, looking to be in his early twenties, stepped out from the shuttle. He wore a simple leather jacket and an unremarkable pair of dark grey pants; there was nothing to him that said he was anything beyond your typical spacer. Even the way he carried himself was casual and relaxed, as if there was also a certain toughness to his swagger, not an intimidating toughness, but one that said this man knew how to handle himself in rough situations.


He came to a halt in front of Mischa, glancing over her quickly and with a hint of discretion- or was it shyness? The man's eyes soon met Mischa's; his gaze was sharp, hiding a flame within. There was anger in this man, but above all else there was determination. He did not smile as he spoke, but his voice was gentle, conveying nothing but good intention.


"Are you the one who needed a ride to Cybele?"


Mischa watched the brazen younger man step from the shuttle with her head tilted ever so slightly to one side as she studied him - there was clearly something... more to him than she could see on the surface. But within the briefest of moments, her thoughts were snapped back on track as he addressed her; staring back at him through sad, cold eyes she proceeded to walk right by his side and board the shuttle - pausing for the briefest of moments as she passed by his side, "Let us get this other with." She gave as much a confirmation as she deemed necessary in her strong Cambridgeshire accent before settling herself into one of the less than comfortable seats on board.


Strapping herself in she glanced up again at him and paused, as he still stood in that same spot just... watching her - was it disbelief at her demeanor or was it that same something bubbling under the surface within him again? "Problem?" She asked flatly, remaining paused in her movement as she stared up at him awaiting a response.


"No, just...confirming your identity," the man said as he activated an omni-tool, glancing at it for a moment before making for the shuttle.


Once inside, he sat down on the pilot seat and tapped a button, closing the door behind him. He idly spoke as he worked on launch procedures, "You are Miss Leveson-Scott, correct?"


"Mrs..." She corrected with a weary sigh, resuming her own flight preparation while he initiated the launch, "At least I hope so still..." she trails off


"Right," the man instantly turned back to the consoles. "Sorry." He remained silent as the shuttle began to move, working quietly on flying the craft as it lifted off from the moon. Plotting a short-range FTL jump, he sent the shuttle speeding away in the direction of Jupiter.


Mischa let out another - heavier - sigh, rubbing her brow with her fingertips, "Sorry..." she finally spoke out almost begrudgingly having realised she was probably a little terse with the pilot who by all likelihood knew no better. She looked up as the shuttle accelerated away from Luna, "It's just a... delicate subject just now, you understand." She stares out of the forward window as the relay comes into view, "Will it take long to get there?"


"To Cybele? It might be a while," the man responded. "We're almost at the transport. There should be more to keep you occupied there...if that helps."


"Well... I suppose if nothing else it will give me a chance to read up on the place." She says as she unbuckles from her rear seat and moves up to sit alongside the pilot, "If the journey's going to be that long though I suppose a little conversation wouldn't go amiss either - it has been a while after all." She looks at him thoughtfully as he focuses on piloting the ship, drawing an uneasy sideways glance from the young man probably wondering what she was looking at which only served to cause the first hint of a smile to cross her lips in far too long, "So what should I call you?"

"Gabe," he simply said, before adding, "short for Gabriel Maskawigwan Shaw. Since you're here with me, I presume you know what I do?"


Mischa's brow quirks slightly; unsure if that was a serious question or not as her eyes drift towards his hands on the console, "Well one would at least like to think that you are some kind of pilot..."


"I'm not," he replied, his tone completely serious. He let his statement hang for a moment before adding, "But I've had good training."


"I see... Well as long as you are least competent behind the controls then I suppose you will suffice." She stares ahead out of the front window again as she speaks further, "Can you tell me anything of this transport ship - who exactly is it transporting to Cybele?"


"Us," he simply said.

Tapping a few buttons on the console in front of him, the shuttle dropped out of FTL speed, almost right beside a larger vessel. The shape of the other craft was distinctly that of a Kowloon Class freighter, the basic, go-to transport vessels of humanity. This particular ship stood out with a specialized shuttle bay, indistinguishable from the exterior of the freighter save for the hangar doors. Their shuttle swooped around to the rear of the vessel as it aimed for these doors.


As the shuttle nestled into it's dock and the door opened up, Mischa - for the first in a long time - felt the unease of strange surroundings. In an uncharacteristic show of her more humble side, Mischa patiently waited for Gabe to finish his shutdown procedure and depart first. Since she knew not what to expect beyond the shuttle doors she felt more than content to follow his lead from this point.


Gabe waited for a minute, presumably for the hanger to be sealed and re-pressurized, before opening the shuttle doors. Stepping out, he took a glance back to see whether or not Mischa was following, then headed towards the exit of the shuttle bay. However, he did not leave the room, instead activating a communication panel beside the door and beginning to speak into it. "Asset is on board. Aditi, take us to the Zhuge Liang." "On it," a female voice replied from the panel. "Oh, and Agent Rawlings tried to contact you while you were gone." "He can wait. I'll show our guest around first." Gabe ran his omni-tool over the panel and the door sli


Mischa had indeed followed closely and now stood behind Gabe with her arms folded and brows raised expectantly, " 'The asset?' " she challenged in a somewhat confrontational tone, "And what's the Zhuge Liang? Isn't this ship going to Cybele?"


"A formal term," Gabe explained. "You're a person, not just some asset. Don't worry, I won't forget that." For a moment, he gave a hint of a smile before speaking again, "The Zhuge Liang is a Cerberus ship being used as a mobile base. We're stopping there first for the resources the Illusive Man promised you. It's passing through the Hades Gamma Cluster so we don't have to divert course for this; it shouldn't take too long."


Mischa groaned with reluctance but conceded nonetheless, "Fine; but it better not take too long - every minute wasted is another minute I-..." She paused hesitantly suddenly finding herself doubting the level of detail she wished to share with a total stranger, "Nevermind..." She continued, "Exactly what kind of resources does the Illusive Man figure I'll need on Cybele - it's just a Human colony world, isn't it?"


"Not from what I've heard," Gabe shook his head. "It's supposed to be a human colony but the batarians heard about the Prothean ruin there and now they want the planet for themselves. The Alliance is locked in a stalemate with them and neither side is confident enough to start an actual war. But things might be heating up now. Better to be prepared if they do."


Mischa's face visibly dropped at the news, "So that's why his ship got shot down..." She quickly shakes the thought from her mind and looks back to Gabe with a slight hint of uncertainty written across her face, "So he's arming me to enter the middle of a potential warzone then? Because he of all people knows that I am no soldier - despite the uniform..."


"We're not going to fight a war," Gabe responded as he began to walk. "We're going to win one. And you don't need to be a soldier to do that."


Gabe stepped through the door into the next room, an unimpressive-looking cargo storage area. The crates were piled in a fashion that there was enough room for a person (or sometimes two) between them. In addition, two intersecting wide corridors down the centre were kept clear of cargo, which allowed for easy mobility to all the exits. Gabe led the way towards the door on the right.


Mischa quietly followed, assuming that Gabe was leading her somewhere specific. As she walked she took in her surroundings with a scientific curiosity. The one thing she observed above all else... was the distinct lack of personnel; she had assumed the ship to relatively packed with people.


They exited the cargo hold into a short hallway with doors on the side and on either end. Here was the first other person on the ship that Mischa had physically seen up to now, a dark-skinned, approximately middle-aged man. He greeted the two with a simple "Hey" and Gabe acknowledged the greeting with a silent nod.


Mischa continued to follow in Gabe's wake with a growing curiosity, "Where are you taking me exactly?"


After a few more steps forward, Gabe moved to the right, the door he headed towards sliding open at his approach. "Here," he replied.

The crew quarters of the ship was what one would expect from any freighter- large but compact, filled with numerous bunk beds, storage lockers and seating areas. There was no privacy in a living space of this size, which was evident from the muscular man who was getting dressed beside the lockers, in plain view of the other three crew members in the room. All of them turned to Gabe as they saw him at the entrance, addressing him in various different ways. Like with the man from the corridor, he greeted them with a simple nod.


Mischa peered in around Gabe's shoulder, trying not to stare at the man who was getting dressed. As she leaned back out of view she looked at Gabe, "So a whistle stop tour then. Very well, it's as good a way as any to pass the time on this trip; lead on!" she says offering a small smile


"That's the idea," Gabe nodded. "The crew quarters will be where you go if you need to rest during the trip. They're not much, but there's only so much you can fit onto a ship this size." He motioned for her to follow again as he stepped out and made for the end of the hallway.


"Of course" she nodded, falling into step at Gabe's side, "So how long have you been with Cerberus?" she asked as they strolled through the corridors; her head tilted slightly as she observed him further.


"A little over a year and a half," Gabe answered as he stepped through the doorway. Beyond the short hallway was another identical one. Gabe proceeded to a door on the left this time. Inside was a room about the size of the crew cabin. On one side was a makeshift medical bay, with two machines, two lockers and a bed along the wall as well as a medi-gel dispenser attached to the wall. The central portion of the room was covered in a large mat, and around it were several crates and a rack holding wooden sticks of different lengths. On the wall opposite the medical equipment was a treadmill machine and another rack, this one supporting various weights. "The rest of this room used to be extra storage," Gabe explained. "We found that one cargo bay was enough for us, so we turned this into a training area."


"A sensible approach" she said with a nod of approval while eyeing the rack full of sticks; head tilted to a curious angle, "Martial arts training?" she inquired turning to face Gabe, "Maybe you should teach me a few tricks if what you say about Cybele is true."


"I plan on it, but all in due time," Gabe replied. Kneeling down, Gabe slid the mat back towards the entrance of the room. He then walked over to the medical section and activated his omni-tool, running it over one of the machines. "You might want to take a step back." A clang sounded, and then after a few seconds, a panel in the floor slid open, revealing a ladder. Turning off his omni-tool, Gabe began to climb down, beckoning Mischa along as well.

As he reached the bottom, the lights flickered on, revealing a room half the size of the one above, but almost completely unfurnished, with wires running across the ceiling and various pieces of machinery along the walls. One wall, however, was devoid of such elements. Weapons hung on the left side of the wall, while the right had several storage lockers. Crates also lay here and there across the room; one was open and inside was a stock of what appeared to be mines.


"Welcome to the armoury," Gabe said as he stepped aside for her to have a clear view.


Mischa stepped off the bottom ladder and turned to look into the room; eyes widening slightly as she took in the sight of all the weapons. She was of course no stranger to the site of military tech, but had never seen such a collection condensed into such a small pace, "You, err... you get much call for that much of arsenal playing ferryman then?" She asked sideways to Gabe, still not really peeling her eyes from the wall display.


"I don't always play ferryman," Gabe responded. "But many of the weapons are for the crew. Usually, I only bring a pistol and sometimes one of the blades. But they're all at your disposal if you need them."


Mischa glanced from Gabe to the weapons wall, then back to Gabe again, "I... probably wouldn't even know which end to hold!" she laughs slightly. "Maybe if we get a chance during the trip you can give me a tour of the basics with them; see what works for me if needed. But for now, I suppose it's on with the tour?"


Gabe nodded, "There'll be other things to teach you first. But if we have time, I'll do my best." "This way," he began to climb back up the ladder.


Mischa watched Gabe ascend the ladder. As she patiently waited until he was clear she could not help but allow herself the briefest flash of indulgence at wondering what type of weapon she might best acclimatize to. In the years that she had been married to Len he had offered a few times to give her some basic firearms training with a pistol, but she had always refused - steadfastly believing that her life on Luna couldn't have been more secure and so the point was moot - if only I knew then what I do now... - she thought to herself, quickly shaking the thought from her mind as Gabe cleared the top and she followed up the ladder and on to their next stop.


Once they had both cleared the ladder, Gabe ran his omni-tool over the machine again and the floor panel slid back into position. He covered it up with the mat and exited the room, turning left towards the other end of the hallway from where they entered. Beyond that door was the cockpit of the ship within which several crew members were working.

"This is the last place to see," Gabe said. "Unless you want to check out the engines."


Mischa glanced around the cockpit only giving the slightest acknowledgement to the few busy crew who glanced her way. After passing a curious glance around the nerve centre of the ship she turned back to Gabe, "I'm sure I can survive quite well without, thank you though; you have been most accommodating." She says with the strongest hint yet of a soft smile of appreciation, "So how long is this journey going to take exactly? It would be good to gauge the available time against the amenities so that I may properly balance out my time on board."


"We should reach the Zhuge Liang in a few hours," Gabe explained. "After everything is done there, it'll be about another day of travel before we're at Cybele."


Mischa considers him a moment before giving a slight nod of acceptance, "Very well; with a few hours until we reach the Zhuge Liang, I shall put the time to good use. If you need me I'll be in the mess, with at least a full day on board I should at least sample the food beforehand and it will give me a chance to read up on Cybele." With that she turned and headed back down the corridor, leaving Gabe to his duties.

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