Alliance Research Facility, Luna; Sol
Earth rose gracefully over the lunar horizon; a sight which had come to feel as natural as the warm sun on one's skin to the Alliance research team stationed here since the climax of the First Contact War. Whilst being the Human's closest colony to their homeworld; Luna was far from being the closest to the Alliance Command's mind - with events unfolding around the galaxy making Humanity's local efforts pale into insignificance, at least for some.
Whilst many have looked straight past the Luna Facility in more recent years - eyes wide with wonder as they look beyond the Sol Relay - The Alliance Research Division has taken advantage of Luna's local obscurity to establish convenient research facilities for a multitude of projects; close enough to be monitored and supported but not so close as to draw unwanted attention. Now with the old colony structures gradually being rebuilt to accommodate an ever growing team, the Alliance's activities here have begun to draw the very attention they wished to avoid.
In the distant hills overlooking the aged facility, one of the Alliance scientists was out gathering geological samples - a practice which drew plenty of ridicule from the rest of the team given that they were working on the development of a controllable AI - what they of course did not appreciate in this obscure practice was that it was simply an excuse to walk out across the lunar surface, away from the rest of the stuffy science team.
"There you are, Doctor - I knew you'd be wandering out here again." The Salarian team lead called out from behind as he approached the wayward scientist he'd been required to don a dreaded suit to go and retrieve once more, "What do you want, Vistann? Last I checked my downtime was mine to do with as I please." Came an unwelcoming response in a distinctly English accent. Dr. Vistann Leran had been through this too many times now and sighed, really not having the patience for their usual verbal dance this day, "Just come back with me already, there is... urgent business to discuss." With that he turned and headed back to the facility, leaving his troublesome Human scientist to follow in his wake.
"It's about time!" Dr. Leran snapped as his scientist finally caught up to him, "What's this all about, Vistann?" she snapped back overly harsh at the Salarian - clearly unimpressed with being dragged back before she was ready, even if his own abruptness was down to his Salarian nature than any personal feelings towards her. The Salarian stood straight and stared at her for a fraction of a moment then simply shrugged, "An Asari arrived here asking to speak with you; said it was important - important enough for her to insist I bring you back from your "sampling" ahead of time, so whatever this is get on with it then get back to work; we've still got a schedule to keep and these algorithms aren't going to write themselves!" With that he turns abruptly to leave before adding, "And since you're heading out in to the civilian section and you are not actually on shift yet I suggest you dress more accordingly; no need to let the Asari know anything she doesn't need to." He again turns and heads back to the main lab, leaving a now dumbfounded human stood alone in the entry chamber, "...an Asari...?" she mused quietly to herself, "...I don't even know any Asari!" She looks down at the uniform she had only just changed back in to and let out a defeated sigh as she turned back towards the changing room; knowing that it was indeed a wise precaution in the likely scenario that - whoever this Asari is - she did not know this was an Alliance Research Facility and likely assumed it a simply colony or outpost.
"Dr. Scott?" The Asari asked approaching the impatiently waiting Human leaning against a balcony over the central courtyard, "Leveson-Scott..." she corrected flatly turning to face her mystery visitor, "What's this all about, I'm very busy here you know." The Asari girl appeared a little put out by the cold welcome as she stared nervously out over the courtyard before turning back to face the Doctor, "I... I am so sorry Doctor, it is never easy being the bearer of bad news..." she said pausing with reluctance. "It's... Mischa, right?" She tentatively asked the impatient Human who now stood with her arms folded and simply nodded in response; still awaiting an answer to her question.
The Asari took a deep breath and continued her explanation, "Mischa, I am here on behalf of a... mutual friend. He wished me to convey this message." she says holding out a datapad as Mischa's face developed a somewhat bemused and slightly nervous look.
Mischa hesitantly took the datapad and reviewed it's contents while the Asari continued, "Mischa, I truly am sorry to be presenting this to you but it.... it's your husband - Len - his ship was shot down over Cybele and, well... he was not counted among the survivors; I am sorry, Doctor." she speaks with an increasingly soft tone and finishes by placing a reassuring hand on Mischa's shoulder as her face drops further.
Staring blankly at the datapad in disbelief for a prolonged moment,
Mischa eventually looked back up sharply at the Asari, "Wait, no! This doesn't make any sense! If anything had happened to Len the Alliance would have informed me - this is a lie!" She snaps as she shrugs off the Asari's hand from her shoulder, throwing the datapad sideways over the balcony; making the Asari girl jump slightly as it smashed against the wall and scattered small shards all over the area below them, much to the shock of the few civilians roaming around on that level. The Asari looked at her calmly, "And they undoubtedly will, but you know he would not send me to you if he weren't completely sure about this. Unlike Alliance Command however, he does not have so many official channels to go through first."
Mischa just stared back, still in shock over this unsettling revelation as a frown slowly formed across her brow, "And why exactly would he see fit to show me this uncharacteristic courtesy? I don't even work for him!" The Asari girl couldn't help but reveal a small smile, "Well... had you decided to read the full contents of that datapad before... disposing of it, you would have seen that he has a new offer for you." Mischa almost snarled at the mention of this blatant manipulation, "I still don't trust him and - by extension - you! Now if you will excuse me, I have matters to attend to." She turns and walks away in a huff, not leaving the Asari time to say anything further, instead all she could do is watch Mischa disappear into the corridors and smile wider knowing that her mission was not only complete - but also a success.
Stubbornly as ever, Mischa refused to believe what the Asari had told her and returned to her lab - this has to be another one of his dirty tricks! - She kept telling herself as her mind raced. "Well I trust that now your socializing is over, we might hope to see some work out of you today now?" Dr. Leran said looking up from his console as Mischa entered the labs, "And why are you not-..." "Not now Vistann!" She snapped, cutting him off as she marched straight past him and towards her office. The Salarian simply watched her walk by a moment and shook his head, turning his attention back to his work, "Humans..." He muttered incredulously. As much a personification of his doubts about working with Humans and the Systems Alliance as Dr. Leveson-Scott was; he could not deny her brilliance - if only she were born Salarian - he would often tell himself - then she may truly belong.
Mischa stormed into her office and paced wildly; frustration bubbling to the surface as she continued to deny her remorse before yelling in a loud outburst and swinging her arms violently across the surface of her desk; launching it's contents across the room. With a heavy sigh she turned and leaned against the now relatively clear desk, holding her head in her hands - this can't be happening... - she kept repeating in her mind before her train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a beep from her console. She looked up and cautiously approached, "Oh no..." she spoke in a barely audible voice as she stared down at the blinking light indicating a new message had been received.
With tears already starting to form in her eyes, she tried to take a deep and steadying breath though it came out more quivery than she would have liked. Nonetheless she reached down and hit a button to open up the message she already the contents off; and it was indeed a black border from Alliance Command; The SSV Havana had been shot down in an unprovoked attack by Batarian forces on Cybele and her husband - Captain Len Scott - was reported as going down with the ship. The tears streamed down her cheeks as she stared down for an eternity of several minutes; not even reading the message any more but simply staring through the holodisplay at nothingness.
Anger, fear, confusion and remorse all melded into one another as Mischa's mind raced before she finally decided on a course of action. Quickly drying her eyes and cheeks on the back of her hand, she marched back out of her office and walked purposefully down to the communications hub; a gritted determination in her stride as she calmly and blankly passed by friends and colleagues who's greetings all fell on deaf ears as she did not even break pace, let alone stop to chat. Arriving at the communications hub she stepped into the central chamber and programmed a secure encryption before the holo-imager hummed into life.
As Mischa's image flickered into life at the other end of her transmission, she looked around and her eyes quickly fell upon him; sat as always amid his displays which looked out at the distinct star remnant in the distance.
He swiveled in his chair to face her; legs crossed and a cigarette held out to one side like always, "Mischa, to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" He greeted flatly as ever, following by a long pull of his cigarette. Mischa's eyes narrowed with no time for his games, "Cut the crap; you know why I'm here!"
Sighing slightly as he rolled the ash from his cigarette into the ashtray perched on the arm of his seat, "No time for the usual pleasantries today I see, Mischa. Very well; as you wish it..." He stands and takes a few steps towards her, pulling again from his cigarette as he moves, "...I know you better than think Doctor - likely better than you know yourself - tell me, just how many inanimate objects have you broken since hearing the news about your husband; for which you of course have my deepest sympathies." Mischa folded her arms in a huff and looked away briefly, not impressed in the slightest at his insight into her character.
He continued, "I know what my message to you said; and what was confirmed in that sent by Alliance Command. Now I regret the deception, but I must tell you; Len may still be alive." He again states flatly, taking another long pull from his cigarette as he watched for her reaction almost as though he was enjoying the sight. Mischa looked back up at him wide-eyed as her arms drop back to her sides, too speechless to challenge the comment, he continued as he slowly paced back and forth, "The events described by the Alliance are for all intents and purposes accurate. However, there is still a chance that Len survived since the ship went down in the mountain ranges of the planet. A search and rescue mission has already been mobilized, though it is likely more a matter of salvage and security." He pauses and stops his pacing, staring at her a moment before settling back into his seat, "I said that I know you Mischa; so tell me that I'm wrong and you don't want to go to Cybele and find your husband - or if not him, then those responsible for his death." Mischa stared at him with daggers in her eyes as she watched him casually nestle back into his seat, "That is hardly a deep character insight, who wouldn't do the same?"
Giving a slight scoff he looks back up at her from his seat, "Perhaps you are right; either way I wanted you to know that I can get you there and provide you the resources necessary to seek out your answers." He takes another long pull of his cigarette as he watches for her response, "And what would be the price of this generosity? I know you wouldn't go to all this trouble out of the kindness of your heart." she quips defiantly. He stares back coldly, "You know my price already Mischa, and it is not such a big ask; your project holds great potential for Humanity but the Alliance will not see it through to it's full potential. Embed the backdoor code to allow my teams here to remotely access the AI and upload the fragments recovered from the Batarian artifact. It will take several years at least for it to reach full sentience, but I am a patient man."
Mischa let out a defeated sigh, kneading her brow between her thumb and finger, "If I do this, you will get me to Cybele?" He simply stares back at her knowing that he has already confirmed this and not seeing necessary to do so again, "...Fine!" she eventually spits out, "But don't think this means I work for you now - this is a one off, mutually beneficial arrangement - nothing more!" He smiles slightly, "As you say, Doctor" With that he slowly swivels back around in his chair leaving her to disconnect, safe in the knowledge that he would do as he promised. It might not happen instantly, but Mischa knew that he would make good on his part of the bargain and so turned to walk away; the transmission closing behind her as she heads back to the lab with a newfound determination in her stride as she finally - and reluctantly - goes to do the Illusive Man's bidding and give him the means to corrupt the Alliance's AI program with a mysterious code fragment said to have been recovered from an ancient artifact of some description by the Batarians; could it trully allow her AI to achieve true sentience? Perhaps, but it would be many years before anyone would find out for sure.
I'm coming for you Len, and when I find you... God help those responsible...