A Mass Effect Fan FictionBy *pestomonkey
Characters: OC created by PestoMonkey and eventually Zaeed Massani
Disclaimer: The Mass Effect Universe is owned by BioWare. I am not making any money off the publication of this story. Sam Blanco/Mason Black belongs to me.
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Songs: Kiss Kiss by Yeah Yeah Yeahs; My Body by Young the Giant
Chapter 29 - Curiouser and Curiouser
It surprised me how little remorse I felt the next time I saw Sadie, which happened to be early the following morning during PT.
She gave me the same dazzling, cocky smile she always did, punctuated with a flirty air-kiss that was far too trite for her. As if to make up for it she surged ahead, matching my speed on our run. Our footsteps pounded against the dirt in tandem, mingling with the cadence of two dozen other pairs of feet.
Her reliable attitude and presence were a comfortable reminder of why I was going to such lengths, but when she surged ahead of me I found myself distracted by the play of her tight ass flexing beneath the fabric of her sweatpants. The image of her already out of her clothes and naked in my shower made me stumble a step. The guy behind me bumped into me and cursed.
After that image lodged itself in my brain it was difficult to complete the run without staring at her perfect ass and imagining all the things I could do to it. It took all my considerable willpower not to end the run with a raging hard-on, but I managed.
"Come up," I said to her as we trudged back to the barracks to shower, panting and sweat-soaked in spite of a relatively cool Gulf Coast morning.
"No time. We've gotta be at today's lecture in twenty."
"Make time. I have something to show you. Besides, you can shower in my room, remember you stashed a set of fatigues right after inspection last week."
Her eyes lit up at that. She still believed I'd been spending evenings out either talking with Booth or hunting down intel in other myriad ways that I kept making up so I wouldn't have to give away Typhon's existence.
It was a white lie, though. I didn't really have anything to show her.
I just wanted her.
She nodded and we headed up the stairwell. She hedged at the door to my floor for a second until others had passed through, then we followed and surreptitiously slunk into my room.
Once inside I turned and cornered her against the door, bending to kiss her. She responded exactly how I'd hoped,her arms wrapping around my neck and her lips latching onto mine, as hungry as a piranha, which set my blood pumping faster.
"Goddamn I love you," I murmured when she hoisted herself up, already tugging at my sweaty shirt. Once it was gone she quickly discarded her own, then tugged her sports bra over her head.
"I love it when you say that." She grinned, breathless, then pulled me into a kiss, the taste of her cold sweat salty on my tongue.
I pressed her harder against the door, grinding my throbbing dick against her pelvis and bending my head to suck each of her nipples until they stood up, two perfect little dark-pink peaks. Her head banged back against the door and she groaned.
I slipped a hand down the front of her pants, finding her wet and ready, and teased her clit gently the way she liked.
"Oh, and I love it when you do that."
I began to turn toward the bed, but she stopped me with a tug of a hand against my shoulder. Her eyes had a wicked gleam.
"Fuck me here, just like this," she said.
Goddamn if that didn't make me burn even hotter. I set her down and kissed her again, my hands busy getting her naked.
A second later her boots and pants hit the floor and she was climbing me again, one hand somehow managing to unfasten my pants, leaving my dick standing proud and ready.
I pressed her back against the door and sank inside her with a heavy groan. She gripped me tighter, her lips already hard against mine, her tongue teasing at my mouth in between breathy pants. My hands slipped down to her ass and squeezed, the familiar feel of her soft, tight cheeks filling my palms perfectly.
I knew every beautiful inch of her slight body and almost wished we were in the bed with another hour to kill so I could reacquaint myself with all of it. I didn't care that it had only been a couple days since we'd last screwed. It might as well have been a lifetime after the previous day's events. Events I was forcing myself to keep locked down for the time being until I had time to deal with them properly.
The telltale tension in her muscles and hitching of her breath were my cue to fuck harder. She didn't care for pain, but she sure loved the jackhammer treatment, especially when she was about to come.
"Oh, fuck yeah. Give it to me," she managed to articulate between gasping breaths.
Her bare ass smacked against the door with each hard thrust until I completely lost it, unable to hold back. Her head flew back, thunking against the hollow metal behind her and she moaned, her orgasm forcing her muscles to clench around my already spasming dick.
I leaned hard against her, bracing myself against the door with both hands, afraid I'd lose balance otherwise. Sadie's arms clung to my neck and I could feel her breath hot in my ear.
"I love your cock," she whispered.
Something about her tone struck me and I started laughing. Maybe it was just that my dick was still tightly gripped in her perfect hot pussy.
"Sweetness, I'd fuck you again if I had it in me, but I think you'll have to wait for a recharge."
She laughed, my favorite sound, and I responded, unable to control myself.
Our chests heaved against each other, the slick wetness of the sweat from sex mingling with the dusty sweat from our workout.
She let out a satisfied sigh.
"I didn't even realize how much I needed that," she said, her eyelids drooping.
I nuzzled at her neck, tasting the gritty salt of her sweat. My scalp tingled when she scraped at the stubble with her short fingernails.
It took us another minute to recover our senses enough to let go. I kissed her once more and released her. She hopped to the ground with all the awkward grace of a baby bird, then stumbled to the bathroom. The shower came on and I sat down to take off my boots and shove off my pants the rest of the way before walking with just as much finesse to join her.
"So, what'd you have to show me?" she asked.
I gave her a look of mock hurt. "Weren't you paying attention? Don't tell me I've gotta show you again…" I sidled up to her and gripped her ass with one hand, squeezing.
She punched my chest with a wet fist. I laughed.
"Asshole. I thought you found something new."
"No, unfortunately. I might have a lead, but I need to talk to Booth about it to find out for sure. Someone your dad used to know."
Her eyebrows shot up. "Oh? Who was it?"
"Don't know exactly yet. Or even if they're involved. Booth was pretty close to your dad so hopefully he'll know one way or the other."
The look in her eyes grew pensive as she soaped up her hair.
"I love you for this. For everything," she said. "I just want to make sure you know that. I couldn't do it without you. I just wish I didn't feel so damn helpless to do anything myself. It's fucking frustrating as hell."
"Sadie," I said, tugging at her chin so she'd look at me. Her big brown eyes met mine.
"I'm not giving up. I'll do anything to help you find answers. Trust me. And I love you, too."
A fist pounding at the door interrupted my near-kiss, making us jerk to attention abruptly. Brody's voice carried through to the room reminding us we were on a schedule.
"Shit," we both cursed in unison, then got our asses in gear to start the day for real.
Later that evening Booth and I stood at the far end of Hangar C-1.
In another life the building had sheltered ships the size of frigates, but now parts of it had been built out to contain several different training areas aside from the wide open space where Booth and I did our physical training. One of the built-out areas included a firing range, along with a full arsenal, cleverly hidden behind a bare wall.
I faced the wall now, waiting while Booth tapped at his omni-tool. A second later a silent mechanism shifted the surface, displaying an impressive collection of weaponry, almost none of which was standard Alliance issue.
Tonight was arms and target practice, one of my weak points. Not the arms part so much. I was pretty adept at assembling weapons. I just wasn't quite so smooth at employing them to actually kill someone. Maim, yes. Maybe even paralyze. But killing shots were still beyond my current level of skill.
"You look like shit," Booth said. "Need the night off?"
"Fucking hell. I don't know where to begin, man."
After what I'd learned in Cat's office, I wasn't sure I could trust the man. I knew the best way to find out would be to confront him about it, but I had to find the right moment.
"How 'bout you start at the beginning?" Booth said.
I snorted and started going through our standard starting exercise, taking inventory, checking components, assembling, then loading a heat sink into the piece I'd chosen for target practice, all the while choosing my words.
I had a preference for pistols, in spite of Booth urging me to get more practice with a rifle. I wasn't in the mood for a challenge tonight, so I'd chosen a Harpy. A prototype pistol from some random Typhon engineer in some other munitions lab somewhere, but the piece was perfectly balanced and performed like a dream. I guess I just liked the way small things felt in my hands.
"She's a pistol," I said, chuckling to myself.
"Who?" Booth asked.
"Sadie. I love the shit out of her, but I fucked Cat. What do you think that means?"
He was silent for a long time. I kept going with my routine. The heat sink slid home with a satisfying click and I walked over to the target range with my loaded weapon.
Booth cleared his throat.
"You're shitting me."
I shook my head.
"Nope. I had a chance to get into her office, but it came with a price, so I paid it. She's something else. I'd really rather not think about it now… not because it was bad. Actually, it was pretty fucking good. But I did what I had to do."
"Fuck, Sam. You could've just staged a power surge when she was out. I would have helped."
My gut clenched and I had the strongest urge to shoot him.
"Would've been nice of you to mention that detail before I fucked the woman. Not that it was much trouble."
I turned to look at him, keeping the gun pointed at a safe target, like his kneecap. The good one.
He shifted from his good leg to his prosthetic, then back. He swallowed, his brow drawing together.
"I figured you knew about the power surge detail. Didn't you read the ops manual for the lab tech job?"
I shook my head. I hadn't even skimmed the manual, but that was neither here nor there at this point.
"Doesn't matter. I found out what I needed."
"And? Can you quit pointing that goddamn thing at my good leg, for fuck sake?"
"You're telling me you don't already know? Seems like the kind of thing you should know."
"Will you fucking spit it out already?"
My finger twitched against the trigger. He flinched almost imperceptibly, but I'd become pretty attuned to his tics by now, and I was perfectly willing to shoot his fucking leg off if he gave me cause to.
"Cat's a Typhon operative. Didn't you think that was a pretty fucking pertinent detail to include before I started lying to her? Lying to Sadie?"
As controlled as I felt, the gradually rising volume of my voice betrayed how pissed I was.
His jaw clenched and his nostrils flared. He met my eyes and held them steadily.
"I didn't know."
He stared at the ceiling for a second then back at me, his eyes resting on the pistol briefly before meeting mine again with resignation.
"Typhon's… elusive at best. I know the operation is pretty widespread, but we don't all know about each other for a reason. You know about me. Ben and I were partners, which is rare enough, but what we were doing - recruiting and managing Ben's research - we needed someone to watch each other's backs. Most operatives lead pretty solitary lives, answering only to their handlers. I'm not surprised they have someone else installed here. I never expected it to be Cat, though."
I held the gun steady and stared at him, not sure what to believe.
"Sam, I've never lied to you. If I'd known don't you think I'd have told you?"
I lowered the gun.
"Should we trust her?" I asked.
"You'll just have to get closer to her to find out."
A heavy breath escaped through my nostrils.
"Fucking hell. So there's a chance she's the mole Sadie's dad was looking for, even though they were lovers?"
"Maybe the fact that they were is the biggest clue," Booth said.
Before responding, I turned toward the target dummy across the room, adjusted my stance, and fired. The slug hit dead center with a satisfying thwap. I guess my aim was improving.
"She sure gets emotional when she talks about Ben. I believed her when she said she loved him, and she had no reason to lie to me about it at the time."
"All the more reason to get closer to her," Booth said. "My best advice is get her to open up to you. Find out if she's hiding any other dark secrets. Besides the Typhon thing, of course. I'll do some checking on my end to see if I can find out how she got in."
"She's a smart woman. You don't think she'll see through me eventually?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "You've been working with her for months already. If she had any suspicions there's no way she'd have let you back in that office, much less into her pants."
"How do you know? You didn't even know she worked for Typhon."
"Typhon doesn't recruit nobodies. We've all got our strengths, but most of us rely on a seed of truth to get us past the skeptics. Like you and your little 'crush' on your girlfriend. We're still human. I could be wrong, though, so don't underestimate her, but it sounds like you're in a pretty unique position to get the goods."
He smirked at his own joke.
"Fuck you, man. I never wanted this. And Sadie's more than just my girlfriend."
"Yet you did it."
"I did it for Sadie," I said, grinding my teeth and wishing I'd known there was an alternative.
"Right. And I'm sure it was so hard for you to give in to Cat. Tell me, how hard did she knock you over the head before dragging you to bed?"
I hated his assessment of the situation, but knew he was right. The next night proved it.
I knew Cat was there during my shift. She always either greeted me on my way in as she made her way out the door, or she'd come out to say hello and then go back to whatever work she did back in her office in the late evenings. Shit, I'd become that attuned to her routine it was a little creepy, even to me.
Tonight she hadn't greeted me on my way in, so I knew she had to be back there. But as my shift drew to an end she still hadn't come to say hello.
I stared down at a random drawing in my sketchbook, conflicted about what I'd actually do if Cat did show her face. Should I turn her down? Especially now that I knew a little of her background. But there was no way I could spend time with her now without betraying Sadie again. And there was no way I could get Cat to share anything with me without giving her the same treatment I had the other night. And goddamn if part of me wasn't really fucking keen on that. Fuck.
"I hope you mean me," Cat said from the doorway across the room. My head shot up and I dimly realized I'd said the last word out loud.
"You just gonna sit there staring at me? My sofa's built for two."
I smiled when she said that, but my gut sank at the same time with the knowledge that my decision had already been made.
She was flushed when I reached her and quickly led me back to her office where we made excellent use of the sofa.
It became yet another new routine of duplicity for me to juggle along with my daily activities. Lab nights were only twice a week, but Cat was ready and willing most of those nights. We didn't talk much after the first night, but after about a month of bi-weekly trysts, she started to open up and I made sure I was paying attention.
We were lying entwined under that same small blanket she kept that barely covered our naked bodies. Her head rested against my chest and my fingertips traced random patterns across her shoulders. I was sure she'd dozed off when she began speaking softly.
"Tell me something about you," she said. "Something secret."
I glanced down at her, surprised by the melancholy that tinged her voice. She didn't look back at me but her arm clung a little tighter around my chest.
"Something secret… Ah, I'm not exactly a secretive guy. I grew up in LA. I have a younger sister who's whipsmart. My dad's an asshole. My mom was a saint but died when I was seventeen. Um… I lost my virginity when I was fifteen, the girl's name was Monica."
"Did you love her?"
"At fifteen? No… I didn't have a clue what love meant back then."
"But you do now?"
Her arm gripped me tighter again and I began to feel like I was treading on dangerous ground.
"Yeah… yeah. Now I know. So, your turn. Tell me your life story."
"I grew up in the Huygens colony. When I was ten my parents got the chance of a lifetime to move to the Vallis research outpost on Mars, so we went. Left everything behind. I hated it at first. I had to leave my friends behind, but the view from the Vallis facility was so beautiful compared to where we'd been it didn't take long before I fell in love with it. Have you ever been to Mars?"
"Nah, only a few backwater industrial moons overrun by pirates. Do you get back to see your folks much?"
"They died," she said with a helpless shrug. "Everyone I ever loved is dead."
A shuddering sigh escaped her and I stilled my idle caresses across her shoulders, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"I hoped this job would help me move on, to destroy those old demons, but all it did was let me get wrapped up with a man I had no business falling in love with, then having to live without him, knowing it was my fault."
"What was your fault?" I asked.
"My fault I let myself get attached. After him I swore I'd never do that again."
"You can't live your life like that. Afraid to reach out to someone on the off chance you might get hurt."
"Well, if it's any consolation I'm a failure at sticking to it. You're a prime example of that. No… There was only one thing I ever got right and that's the one thing I regret the most."
"Care to elaborate?"
She gave me a rueful little smile and shook her head.
"Not particularly. Dwelling on regrets gets you nowhere. I just want to enjoy your company while I have you. Do you know what your next duty assignment's going to be yet?"
"No clue. With any luck it'll be on a pretty planet out in the outer systems. I hear Eden Prime is nice. But I'll probably just get stuck in some sardine can with a bunch of other sweaty Alliance marines."
She'd grown tense in my embrace and I sensed there was something she wanted to say but wasn't letting it come out.
"What is it?" I asked.
"It's nothing. I think it might be a good idea if we take a breather for a little while, actually."
She pulled herself up and began dressing without looking at me.
"Right now? So, you don't really want to enjoy me while you have me?" Her reaction surprised me and I was hoping a little bit for a follow up to our earlier tryst. At least part of me was and that part was apparently dictating my dialog at the moment.
"I just can't. Being around you is hard enough knowing you're leaving in a few months."
"I'm not Ben. I'm not fucking dying, Cat. It doesn't need to be the end."
"Maybe it should be."
"I'm sorry, Brett. I just… I can't do this again. Just accept that I'm damaged goods and you're probably better off."
I swiped my hands over my face, frustrated. She'd just started opening up tonight and now she was effectively dumping me. I still had the lab job until Brett's assignment ended, which conveniently was the same time as my own, but if she was shutting me out I was pretty helpless to get any more out of her.
I stood and dressed quietly, then left without another word.
She avoided me after that. I never knew whether she was back in her office or not because that night was the last time I saw her for several weeks. At a loss for anything else to cling to I replayed our last conversation over and over in my mind, hoping for some clue that might shed light on her situation with Typhon and whether or not she really was the mole Ben Watts had been looking for. Shit, if he'd found her what a fucking way to go. Killed by your own lover.
The more I thought about it the more the pieces seemed to fit in a disturbing way. I just didn't understand why she'd have done it. And I didn't see that she was capable of it, either. But love will make you do some crazy things.
I hadn't made any more headway on clues and our final round of tests was coming up. It was a four-day gauntlet to test our teamwork skills. All I knew was that Booth was one of the instructors who designed the tests, and that they were different every year, each one intended to simulate an actual crisis. Every element we'd learned over the past year would factor in somehow or another and they'd be grading us on every detail.
The Saturday before our last week was supposed to be my last meeting with Booth for Typhon training, too.
We started out with our standard warmup on the mats. Then he put me through my paces, only giving me slight nods of approval when I managed to anticipate his moves.
"You're shaping up nicely," he said.
"Well, I've had a good teacher. A real asshole who doesn't pull any punches."
He chuckled. "I was no harder on you than my trainer was on me. He was the only reason I managed to get over my self pity over losing my leg."
We paused to cool off at the end of the evening.
"Any luck getting back into Cat's good graces?" he asked.
"Fuck all," I said, shaking my head. "But something's been bugging me. I can't put my finger on it - maybe you can help, if it's not violating your teacher rules or something."
"Shoot. If I can share, I will."
"You were there when Ben died, right? What happened?"
Booth paused in the midst of unwrapping his hands. He stood eerily still for several moments, eyes closed. His nostrils flared and he blinked up at the dwindling sunbeams coming through the windows at the top of the hangar.
Finally he let out a heavy breath and went back to what he was doing. For a second I thought he was just ignoring me, then he began to talk.
"He and I were both on duty for the tests the day he was killed. I… got lucky, I guess." He frowned and shrugged his shoulders. "I still don't know what happened. I was prepping for the team on deck. Giving their mission brief before we started the final scenario. He was finalizing the setup of the test in another sector of the station isolated from the rest of us. The station's built like a maze. We change it up every year. Trust me, you'll be disoriented as hell once you get up there regardless of what I tell you now, so I'm not worried about giving you an advantage." His brow furrowed and he began pacing.
I stood listening. He seemed in a sharing mood for the first time in awhile, so I was damned if I was going to interrupt him.
He paused at the edge of the mat, then spoke again. "We'd flipped on it. We always flipped on who would do what during the tests. Next thing I knew the wall of the station separating the team from the testing sector flew to pieces. The shrapnel pierced through the hull of the station like it was fucking butter. No warning. Just… it was there one second and the next our asses were practically hanging out in space until the shields activated. There was nothing left of him, or the front of the station."
"Christ, that's… Shit." I stared open-mouthed while he continued pacing. "And you really have no idea why anyone would've wanted him dead?"
"The mole is the only explanation. Whoever it was found out he was on to them. He and I were close enough maybe they assumed I knew something, too. So I can only guess that they weren't picky which of us, unless someone had eyes inside the station. But if I'd been standing in another spot that day, it could've been me, too… or any of the students."
"Got lucky's a fucking understatement," I said. "What's to stop something like that happening now?"
"We have different safety protocols now. No more flipping on it. I set up the tests a day in advance. Sergeant Teague checks everything over. Then as if that's not thorough enough, we have someone on the lab team triple-check all the codes and connections remotely to make sure nothing's been tampered with. Security's so tight on that station you can't fart without it condensing into a turd in your exosuit. Besides, whoever killed Ben must've gotten what they were after. Nothing like that's happened since."
The story hadn't told me anything, except for one detail. I still needed to know why. Grasping at straws I spent the rest of the night sitting at Booth's terminal in the hangar hunting down a shadow.
Catalina Pierce didn't exist as far as the intel was concerned. When I looked up information on the colony she said she'd lived in there was no record of the name, nor on the colony she'd moved to. I wasn't surprised. If she was a Typhon operative, no doubt that wasn't her real name, and I had no way of finding out what her real name was. So I focused on the external details. The locations.
Her parents had died, she said. She hadn't told me how, though. So I just kept skimming through newsfeeds from Mars, looking for any kind of clue.
My eyes were beginning to glaze over from fatigue when the bright text on the screen started to stir a memory. Realizing I needed a little help in the focus department I poured myself another cup of strong coffee, grimacing at the harsh flavor. Booth was of the "good enough for government work" school of thought. That meant the hangar was equipped with sandpaper for wiping your ass and something akin to jet fuel for coffee. It would do the job, at least.
I sat back down to read the newsfeed that had caught my attention.
15.7.2148 Lowell Colonial News Network
A bomb with the magnitude of a small nuclear device was detonated at the Vallis research laboratory at midday, killing everyone and leveling the building. Fatalities are numbered in the hundreds and authorities are still scrambling to determine the organization behind the attack, but one thing is certain, and that's that the attack had to have been planned and executed with intricate detail considering the level of security employed at the facility.
The Vallis facility was one of many belonging to a coalition of governments conducting research on the recently discovered alien technology.
I sat up straight, re-reading the report, then skimming further to find the names of the casualties. No Pierces, but another set of names caught my attention.
Deborah and Donald Pearson, survived by a daughter named Catherine.