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Interesting Times

Coming to terms with being reborn? Doable. Finding out you're in the Mass Effect universe? Slightly more difficult. I know I'm no soldier material but I want to do what I can to help save the galaxy. To that goal I will become one of the worst beings in human society. A businessman and politician. #reincarnation #self-insert #masseffect #kingdombuilding #space #star #scifi #war

Zanarkand_Kido · Video Games
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56 Chs

Interesting Times - Chapter 42

October 25th, 2173

18:09

Illium, Tesale-System

Nos Astra

Temporary Eclipse Field-HQ

"Dammit!" cursed Iyara Nesta over and over again while kicking a crate with her armor-clad foot. During her last kick, as her temper flared up, a blue haze with some violet slices coated her leg, and when her foot met the crate, it flew through the room and hit the opposing wall with a resounding crack. "How could it go so wrong? And so fast at that?" 

The Eclipse lieutenants behind her exchanged meaningful looks with each other. It wasn't like they had known that their operations on Illium would receive such a setback and that the human company they got hired to attack would fight back with an unprecedented amount of ferocity, but in hindsight, they could agree that everything went downhill from the moment they accepted the job without looking deeply into the matter. 

And now they were paying the price in men, resources, and reputation. 

"Maybe we should consider pulling out?" one of the two Salarian lieutenants present spoke up but closed his mouth with a snap when Iyara Nesta turned around and fixated him with a furious expression. 

"So, you want us to give up? Run away like a Varren with its tail between its legs? The proud mercenary company with a history tracing back centuries fleeing from an upstart human company that doesn't even specialize in fighting. Would you like us to become the laughingstock of the galaxy? And what do you think Sederis will do to us if that comes true? Huh?" 

A shudder went through the whole group as they imagined the reaction of Jona Sederis when she heard that they bungled this mission, especially since Iyara took this mission without Sederis' knowledge, and all her lieutenants agreed with her decision. 

Perhaps it hadn't been their brightest idea, as Sedaris wasn't notably known for her ability to share power, but the promised money and assets that would have gotten if they finished the mission successfully would have curbed Sedaris' temper and put them into a higher position within Eclipse. 

Yet, right now, they were in danger of ending up as paste on the floor if 

Sederis heard about their exploits. If there was something she hated more than disobedience, then it was failure. 

And what they were currently facing was certainly a failure of epic proportions. 

"What about the Shadow Broker's agent? Couldn't she help us out? After all, with her help, we killed those human elite teams," the second Salarian suggested after Iyara offered her opinion on the proposed retreat. 

"Impossible," Iyara shot the idea down. "The agent got hired over our benefactor, and she told me it was a one-off deal between her and the Shadow Broker. Besides, that agent isn't on Illium anymore. We wouldn't have so many problems otherwise." She didn't mention that involving the Shadow Broker on their own would reduce the promised payment substantially, and Sedaris' due and their own expenses were already high enough that there wouldn't be much left for them. 

"We will have to continue with what we have," she continued, hiding a wince as she calculated the chance of coming out on top. It was lower than she would have liked, something around 50%. Normally, she wouldn't engage an enemy unless their chances were around 70% at their lowest, but the sudden reinforcements on the enemy's side put that to rest. Furthermore, Iyara didn't know how much more the enemy could bring to the field. In the worst-case scenario, their chances would sink to 20% or even lower! 

Deep in thought, she didn't notice the video screens of the surveillance equipment they had set up in this temporary field HQ and the people it showed that were on their way towards this room. 

If she had, Iyara would have been relieved that they wore armor with the Eclipse colors and emblem proudly displayed, and on the other hand, she would have been absolutely terrified because she would have recognized the Asari leading the mercenaries. 

In the end, it was the polite knocking on the door that brought Iyara and her lieutenants out of their thoughts, and her first reaction was to scream: "I thought I told you fuckers that I don't want to be disturbed while we're planning out next steps!" 

Apparently, her choice of words had been wrong because the next time, it wasn't polite knocking that came from the door, but a loud crack as a fist, shrouded in deep blue biotics, crashed through it and left a hole big enough to push a head through. 

Yet, it wasn't a head that came through but two armor-clad hands that gripped the sides of the newly made hole. 

Iyara and the two Salarians watched with horrified expressions, their hastily drawn weapons shaking slightly in their hands, as the two halves of the door slowly and with a terrible screech got pushed apart. 

 Every second the door took to open fully was akin to torture for Iyara. She didn't know who was on the other side, but she knew it wasn't the humans, and in her mind, that was by far more terrifying as that probably meant someone higher up in Eclipse hierarchy had noticed the absence of her group's usual reports and had come to investigate. 

As Iyara finally got over her state of shock, the door was already halfway open, and the screeching suddenly stopped before there was a blue explosion of biotics, and the doors were thrown open fully in one go. 

A crash echoed through the room and probably through the rest of the base, and Iyara could see how some cracks appeared on the side of the doorframe caused by the power that had thrown the doors aside. 

A small cloud of dust had been thrown up, blocking the sight of Iyara and her lieutenants for the moment, but that didn't mean they couldn't hear the slow clicking of approaching heels. 

It took only a moment longer before they could finally see who had arrived at their temporary base, and when Iyara saw the Asari that entered the room in front of a number of other Asari, Salarians, and mechs, her eyes widened in recognition of her immediately. 

And while the Asari, who was obviously leading this team, wasn't Jona Sederis, this only slightly reassured Iyara as the possible outcome changed from long and painful torture followed by death to getting messily killed. Sadly, not a change that would allow her to see the beginning of the next day.

"Now, now," said the Asari, entering the room and not even looking at Iyara and the two Salarians. Instead, she was more interested in the scuff marks on her gloves. "Is that the correct way to address a superior who came by to see how you're doing?"

"Of course not, Ms., we just didn't expect you," stammered one of the Salarians toward Kalara Ayori, one of Jona Sedris' top commanders. 

"You're right, it isn't," she agreed and didn't even look up at the Salarian, who had answered and completely ignored his presence as she crossed the room toward Iyara. "And you, my dear, should know that I insist on good manners. Or has your promotion to the leader of your own little sub-group caused you to forget everything you learned under me?" 

Iyara gulped as she looked into the ice-cold eyes of her former direct superior and was instantly reminded of the times she watched Ayori punish unruly members of Eclipse who were part of her group. 

Sometimes, she still heard their begging when she tried to sleep. 

"I'm sorry, mistress, I haven't forgotten what you have taught me," Iyara answered and promptly looked toward the ground to try to avert the madness that hid behind the frigidness of Ayori's eyes. 

"Good, good," said Ayori and patted Iyara's cheek. Every time Ayori's hand made contact, Iyara couldn't help but twitch as if she was expecting to be hit. "While I don't doubt that you remember my lessons, I think reminding you of them will help you become better than you currently are. After all, we will have enough time to work on that while we are here." 

"We?" Iyara asked, and when her voice trembled a bit at the thought of spending more time in the presence, nobody noticed it or ignored it completely. 

"Of course we, my dear," Ayori repeated in a sing-song voice that belied the danger the woman was. "After Jona heard how much trouble you had from your newest contractor, she was of a mind to personally pay you a visit and take control of the situation. Sadly, her timetable didn't allow for such, so I volunteered to take this mission. After all, you were once one of my subordinates, and I feel like this is somehow my fault because I didn't train you as best as I could have before you took on your own command. But that is something I will rectify in the next few days. You will be one of my lieutenants again, and I will only let you go after I'm satisfied with your performance." While she talked, Ayori softly put her hands on Iyara's cheeks like a lover, and the tone she spoke with wouldn't have been out of place when a mother talked to her child. 

Yet, Iyara didn't feel any of the love or safety a child would. The horror she felt at the thought of being Ayori's subordinate was great enough that she couldn't keep it from her face, but instead of being put out, Ayori's smile grew even bigger at the sight of it. 

"What about my lieutenants?" asked Iyara. 

"What lieutenants?" 

"I think she means us," said one of the two Salarians, raising his hand as if to report for duty. 

Ayori glimpsed at him before sighing and letting Iyara's face go. She took a step back, her arms hanging limply at her side. 

Then, as fast as a lightning strike, she drew her shotgun with one hand and took aim at the Salarian who had spoken up. A bang echoed through the room as Ayori pulled the trigger, and the Salarian's head turned into a fine red mist. Her arm was still straight after she had pulled the trigger, the slight shine of active biotics the only hint that she used them to mitigate the recoil. 

"I repeat: What lieutenants?" said Ayori, her sing-song tone coming through once more. 

The remaining Salarian lieutenants took this as his chance to leave, and he didn't waste a second before he started to run out of the room. 

Yet, he didn't come far as Ayori snapped the fingers of her off-hand, and the mechs, like the machines they were, started to fire their guns as one, shooting the running Salarian from all directions until he was lying on the floor drowning in a pool of his own blood. And even then, the mechs continued to fire at the obviously dead man until their weapons overheated. They would have continued to fire if Ayori hadn't snapped her fingers again to return them to their rest positions. 

"One of the lessons we will have to go over is how to choose competent subordinates. I do not doubt that it was their fault that this operation stagnated so much. Or was it your fault?" 

The way Ayori looked at her let Iyara's blood freeze in her veins. It was the look of a predator that was looking for the slightest miscalculation on Iyara's end, and if she remembered her mentor as well as she thought she did, then there was only one possible answer that would let her avoid certain death. 

"I don't know, mistress," answered Iyara demurely, knowing that a definite yes or no would be the wrong answer. "It could have been my fault, but I'm willing to look for my faults and correct them." 

"As I thought," said Ayori with a smile on her face. "You haven't forgotten the first rule I established. Always be on the lookout to better yourself. If you keep that in mind then there will be no problems going forward." 

Iyara let out a sigh of relief at knowing that she had chosen correctly and that her former -or perhaps once again- mentor hadn't changed in the last thirty years. 

"Now," continued Ayori, and her smile turned bloodthirsty, "tell me all about those humans you have so many problems with. And we will see if we can't come up with a plan that will see them put in their rightful place. Right underneath our boots." 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

October 25th, 2173

21:29

Illium, Tesale-System

Nos Astra

Ad Astra HQ - Illium Branch

Listening to the reports coming in from the different teams around Nos Astra and our operations area brought a smile to my face. 

I hadn't expected that the tides would turn this fast after our reinforcements arrived, but they had blown all my expectations out of the water and then some. Commander Svenson's men were truly among the best Ad Astra had to offer. 

Yet, a nagging thought at the back of my mind told me that this whole affair wasn't nearly over but going into the next act instead. I couldn't pinpoint why I felt this way and was about to write this feeling off as paranoia. But something stopped me from dismissing this thought completely. 

Call it premonition or instincts or something along those two. 

Besides, it wouldn't hurt to prepare for the worst-case scenario if my feelings were correct, and I didn't get to my position without listening to my instincts or vague feelings from time to time. Sometimes, our subconsciousness knew better than our consciousness after all. 

"I just got another message from our logistic squad at the docks," said Commander Abebe, and I looked up from the datapad I had been reading. "Any critical damage sustained during the fighting in the area that could have impeded the safe landing, discharging, and loading of our ships is now patched up, and, in their words, the only work left is of a cosmetic nature and can wait for a few more rotations." 

"Wonderful," I exclaimed, with a bright smile on my face. "I was worried when the reports came in that told us there was a real danger that the docks could be inoperable for some time if they weren't fixed quickly. And I think we can go with their suggestion that cosmetics can wait for the moment. Any recommendation on their next job?" 

Commander Abebe lifted her right hand to her chin as she thought about my question. Absentmindedly, she stroked with her thumb over her chin, as she always did when she considered the pros and cons of a decision. The corner of my mouth twitched in amusement at this unconscious gesture. 

"I would prefer to send them to Checkpoint Gamma first. The work on the defensive structure there is somewhat behind our schedule. I know we didn't give them much time in the first place, but they are more behind than the other four checkpoints." 

"And how is the danger prediction for Checkpoint Gamma? Don't you think we shouldn't concentrate on where an attack is most likely?" I asked, not out of any real concern that her reasoning was wrong, but because I decided to play devil's advocate for most of the decisions as there weren't enough people left to question Commander Abebe without feeling the pressure of rank. 

"While it's true that Checkpoints Delta and Epsilon are closer to where we suspect Eclipse's base of operations, and they are not that much further with their defensive structures, we have to keep in mind that we're not dealing with a fixed frontline. Eclipse and the other mercenaries they hired could go around and attack Charlie without coming up on Delta or Epsilon's scanners. Furthermore, if we lose Charlie, those two will be cut off from our direct supply line, and it's highly possible that they will fall in short order if they get surrounded on all sides by enemy forces. It's better, in my opinion, to fortify Charlie so that we can send reinforcements in all directions from that point."

As Abebe voiced her thoughts on the issue, I nodded along with her words, only listening halfheartedly, keeping one eye on the new data appearing on my datapad. 

"Sounds like you already have a well-thought-out plan in mind," I said after she finished relaying her points. "We will do it this way. Can't see anything wrong with it." 

Commander Abebe must have noticed that I hadn't followed her deliberations with much enthusiasm as she gave me a look that would have sent some of her subordinates running before she let out a sigh and shook her head tiredly. 

"Is there something interesting going on, sir?" she asked, noticing that my eyes were focused on the datapad before me. 

"You could say that. It's another piece on the current events in the galaxy." 

"Are they talking about the mini-war we're fighting here on Illium?" she asked, and it was a good question, in my opinion. Should the rest of the galaxy look too closely, I would probably have no other choice but to retreat from Illium before it turned too ugly as that would have hurt my political aspiration in the long run. 

"They still see it as just a minor skirmish. There's a greater focus on the turmoil in the Batarian Hegemony. That one looks like it's going to turn into open rebellion on one planet any day now. Besides, if you're looking into news from and around Illium, the only piece that's really interesting is the attempt of the Citadel Council to intervene and the consequences thereof."

I couldn't help the smirk that appeared on my face as I thought about that little tidbit. 

The Citadel Council, in all their glorious and unimaginable wisdom, decided to try to intervene in the armed conflict that I got involved in. Of course, it had nothing to do with me being a person of high public interest in the Alliance and with my rising reputation outside it, and they would never try to curb my and humanity's influence by doing so. 

Sadly, they hadn't thought about the consequences of trying to dictate terms for the end of the conflict by basically ordering the Asari Matriachs of Illium to intervene. 

Those Matriachs didn't like being ordered around and pointed out, with all the politeness and hidden viciousness only beings with over eight hundred years of life experience had, that Illium wasn't part of the Asari Republics or inside Citadel territory, and thus the Council didn't have any say about what was happening on the planet. 

Overall, that had started an apparently ancient discussion about the rights, privileges, duties, and everything else of Illium's relationship with the Citadel and vice versa. 

Thankfully, no one had any interest in me after that, and I continued to safeguard my interests with every method available to me. 

It's nice to see that sometimes, you don't have to do anything to keep noisy people away from your things. 

"As long as we keep this between us and Eclipse and their employers, we will be fine. Illium's government and its Asari Matriarchs won't involve themselves so long the rest of the planet can continue to operate in its usual fashion," I finished, and Commander Abebe had a relieved look on her face. 

"That's good. I have enough on my plate with making sure our people are safe. I wouldn't have liked to get involved in a political shitstorm too." 

Despite her fears of this becoming political, I wasn't as concerned. I gestured dismissively at her worries and said: "You wouldn't have to deal with them anyway. After all, that's one job I would take over completely. And even if I wasn't here, the guys in the PR department are more than enough to deal with it. They would probably come up with a solution that would let us come out of this smelling like roses, no matter how much shit gets thrown around." 

Perhaps I should involve them anyway. Even if there was no huge problem that would necessitate hard work on their side, it would be better to nip any potential problems before they could grow into something annoying. 

Commander Abebe looked like she wanted to continue to discuss the placement of the coming second wave of Commander Svenson's men that would be coming in the next one or two days and would bring with them some mobile armor, but before she could get a word out, one of the communications officers ran over breathlessly and said: "Sir, there's a highly encrypted call coming in for you. We traced the signal, and it comes from the planet. There was only one word in the message to describe what this call is about, and it says Alameina. Does this mean anything to you, Sir?" 

I had already wondered when this call would come. After all, the fighting wasn't exactly quiet, but until now, the other members of the Circle had kept themselves out of my affairs, and perhaps I would have preferred to keep it that way. 

No matter, I would tell them that I had it well under control and try to keep them neutral in this. Should they offer any support, I would decline. The favors they would certainly expect in return for any help were not something I was willing to pay, especially since any support they could offer me would only be a drop of water on a hot stone and nothing more. 

"Reroute the call to the secure conference room. I will be taking it there. Furthermore, please make sure that nobody can listen in." I turned toward Commander Abebe and added: "I don't believe this will take long. Continue to plan our next offensive, and we will go over it when I'm done with this." 

Without much further ado, I got up from my seat and walked out of the command center in the direction of the secure conference room. A short elevator ride later, and I was on the right floor. 

Getting into the room required me to put my hand against the holographic lock, and seconds later, the door opened smoothly without any sound beyond the click it made after I entered the room, and it closed again. 

A low-key humming started to sound as the holographic projector started to warm up, and the counterintelligence measures did as well. 

Just as I took my seat, the projections of four different people started to form around the conference table, and I critically watched each of them, trying to see if any of their body language could give me a clue who had called for this meeting in the first place and why. 

At first glance, I didn't notice anything, but after a few moments, as everybody got comfortable and I shared a respectful nod with Nisco Ron, I saw that Qintinius Cicerio looked tenser than he usually was during a meeting like this. 

Narrowing my eyes, I decided to get some people to check on his latest activities. More out of caution than truly believing him to be involved in my current troubles with Eclipse. It was better to be careful with things like this than to be blindsided. Besides, the only one I trusted in this group to not stab me in the back was Nisco Ron, and that was only because he would lose far more than he would gain by breaking his connection with me. 

Mirala and I may have a mutually beneficial agreement, and our sexual activities may be fun, but I wouldn't put it past her to turn on me if she got an offer that would better her position. 

Cicerio... that one was as mercenary as they come. Our previous deal wouldn't mean much to him. Should anyone pay him, he would support them against me without a second thought. 

But the one I knew the least about how she would act was Ayala Nessara. Her shyness and bashfulness made it hard to keep any conversation going beyond a certain point. Furthermore, it made her hard to read. If anything, she could already be part of the attack on me since the first attack happened after I flew back to Ad Astra's HQ after I finished a deal with her. 

Yet, my thoughts about their possible involvement were stopped when Cicerio started to speak, beginning the meeting, and confirming for me who had called for it in the first place. 

"It's good to see you all present. I called for this meeting to discuss Denebren's ongoing war against Eclipse, and what it means for the rest of us. Furthermore, I got a message from our unofficial sixth member, the Arbiter." 

This news got me to perk up. Anything involving the Arbiter, the one who stayed in the background and made sure that any contracts and agreements between Circle members were honored, was bound to be interesting.