#FreedomFalls – February 26, 2016

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Leah is in the parking lot all alone. No cars to be seen. Just a very tired and wary woman sitting propped up against a light pole. Her boots are caked in mud and spots of dirt cover her jeans in places. A few smudges are on her cheeks and hooded jacket as well. She looks far less put together than usual, but her hair is still pulled into a neat ponytail. She doesn't seem to even be

bothering with her hood to keep away the morning drizzle, but given how wet her clothes are, it appears that she's been out in the rain for most of the night.

Adam slowly walks into the car park, his armour glinting in the early morning light of the day. His visor slits glow a gentle orange as he walks over to the lone figure, a curious brow arched under his mask. He comes to a stop, his foot splashing in a small puddle. "...what is this about, Leah?" He starts, his voice tinny and electronic. "You messaged at an...

Inopportune time."

Leah grabs ahold of the light pole and, with a grunt, rises to her feet. She makes an attempt at wiping at the legs of her jeans, as if it would make a difference at this point. "I'm sorry." she says, her eyes tired from a sleepless night, "But this isn't the sort of thing you handle in a message. I have some information about Damien..."

Adam stands up straighter, his interest now perked. "You do?" He asks cautiously.

Leah lowers her gaze slightly and nods before turning on her heels and facing away from the man. "Suppose it would be easier just to show you." she says. Her voice is low and sounds as if she's been through a hell of a rough night. She waves over her shoulder for him to follow as she walks towards the forested incline at the edge of the parking lot. "Sorry... I was up all night thinking

about what I would say... Nothing seemed right, so I'm just going to do the best I can here."

Adam narrows his eyes beneath his helm and his hand flexes above his pistol. A feeling of dread started to creep into the pit of his stomach. Yet, he followed regardless.

Leah slowly descends the hill, balancing a hand against trees as she passes them, slowly making her way downward. "Be careful." she says with a glance back up at him, "It was raining all night. Might be a little slippery." At one point she nearly topples forward, but manages to catch herself on a branch and stay upright. Her boots sink into the mud with each step and she struggles to

pull them free. "I thought about everything you told me about your brother." she continues, "It doesn't change anything. People make mistakes. Bad decisions. But those things don't define a person." She swallows hard, focusing on navigating the slope. "Your brother was a good man. And one of the best friends I've ever had." she says, her voice cracking somewhat. She doesn't bother looking

back at Adam. He's a smart guy and she's sure he knows what her choice of words mean.

Adam trudges through the mud, his balance wobbling at one point. However, he manages to keep on his feet. As he continues to listen to her words, his hand tightens around the grip to his gun. It engages and he pulls it free, keeping it at his side. "...what did you do?" He asks, his voice hissing through the speaker.

Leah continues walking towards her destination as she reaches the bottom of the slope. "Your brother saved the lives of me and my dad..." she says as she steps over a fallen tree trunk, emotion returning to her voice. "It's something I'll never be able to thank him for. But-... But I thought you deserved to know. And he deserved to get off of this rock and be with his family..."

Adam steps over the tree, remaining silent as he follows her. His engrained survival instinct has him searching the forest for any potential hostiles. A small distance behind him, a twig snaps. He pays it no mind.

Leah continues onward until she reaches a formation of trees, three all bunched upon one another, their trunks weaving in and out of each other. A single light blue flower grows from the ground beside the trees. As she reaches the location, Leah turns around to face Damien. Her eyes scan over the weapon but she gives no reaction to it. The ground is wet and soft and she steps from one

foot to the other to keep her boots from sinking. After a few shuffles, she gives up trying. A few stray tears make their way down her cheeks, but she's mostly drained of emotion by this point. She looks at Adam's helmet with red and puffy eyes. "I killed your brother, Adam." she says, giving a nod towards the blue flower, "I buried him here. I wanted to tell you when we first spoke...

You have no idea how badly I wanted to tell you. I can't imagine you care too much about reasons..." she continues, glancing at the pistol in Adam's hand, "I took your brother from you. I-... I understand. But I want you to know that his death wasn't for nothing. But-..." she stammers, wanting to avoid her words sounding like excuses, "...I would never have hurt your brother if I had

any real choice in the matter, Adam. I-... I cared about him."

Adam comes to a stop and stares down at the flower. And he continues to do so, her voice almost naught more than a buzz in his ears. His hand starts to shake and his vision starts to blur. His baby brother's grave is behind a damned parking lot. He slowly turns his gaze back to her, the only sound being ragged breaths. He grips his pistol tighter and raises it,

the laser sight flicking on and settling between her eyes. "Why... Why did you kill him," he asks softly. "TELL ME!" The latter booms from his helmet, raw anger and grief filling his voice.

Leah closes her eyes, making no attempt at fighting back if this is to be her fate. She swallows hard. "Cerberus." she says, "An organization named Cerberus gave me a choice... Either I kill Damien, or they kill me and my father. And-... And then they'd most likely kill your brother afterwards just to tie up any loose ends." She says, her voice picking up a little speed. She flinches

slightly and her eyelids twitch as she awaits the sound of the gunshot. She spits her words out, hoping to race the projectile in Adam's gun, "If it was my life, I would have gladly accepted my fate rather than harm a hair on your brother's head. Please, I need you to understand that. Whatever you do, know that there's nothing I would've rather had than the opportunity to trade places

with your brother if it meant both him and my dad could live...." Tears begin to flow more freely and she folds her arms across her chest as she begins to sob, "I'm so sorry... I'm soo, so sorry...."

Adam freezes up. "Cerberus," he repeats. He grits his teeth. "Cerberus...". He takes a deep breath, slowly trying to calm himself. He's better than this. A professional. "You said he saved your lives... He allowed you to kill him?" He keeps the gun trained on her head, his finger poised over the trigger.

Leah remains in place, her hands gripping at her arms so tightly it hurts. Her eyes stay shut as she nods her head. "I-... I told him what was going on and he.... Just let it happen." The stream of tears get heavier as she speaks and she loses whatever control she had left over her emotions and descends back into a sobbing mess. "I-... I didn't know what to do. I was injured on a job

and-.... The hospital.... Cerberus......" she trails off, her sobs cutting off her words as she attempts to explain events but they just become a jumbled mess in her mind.

Adam | "An implant..." he says quietly. He watches Leah, her pain and grief evident in her actions and words. And, as much as the darkest part of him wanted to kill her, to end her life... He knew it wasn't right. He glances back down to the flower, her simple gesture to his dead brother enough to convince him. He slowly lowers his pistol and holsters it, a shaky

breath escaping. "You didn't have a choice... I know how those psychopaths operate," he says quietly as the rain gently patters against his helmet. "His blood... His blood is on their hands."

Leah slowly opens her eyes, blinking away a few tears. "You-... You know about them...?" she asks, trying to regain her composure but failing spectactularly. "They-... My eye. I'm so, so sorry, Adam...." she stammers.

Adam grips his hand into a fist. "I know...". He walks over to the lone flower and kneels in the mud. He pulls off his helm and tucks it under his shoulder as saddened eyes watch the flower. He presses a hand against the ground, a very weak smile slipping onto his features. "He died protecting others," he says softly. "Mum would be proud." He glances over his

shoulder at the weeping woman, nodding gently to her. "Thank you for... Burying him. And for showing me where. I'll make the necessary arrangements for him to be transported home and have a proper funeral."

Leah nods a bunch of times before moving to take a knee beside Adam. She looks down at the patch of dirt housing her friend. "They were my mom's favorite." she finally manages as her eyes come to rest on the flower. She bows her head slightly in embarassment as she struggles with finding the right words to say right now. "Just-..." she trails off as if she lost her train of thought.

After a few moments she shrugs sadly, "He should be with family..."

Adam nods. "He will be," he assures her. He kneels in silence, his eyes not breaking from the flower. After a few tender moments he speaks. "I take it that you are out of their target for the time being? Otherwise, I doubt you would be telling me this."

Leah slowly shakes her head. "Not likely... I'll be taking my savings to get my dad off-world later today. I just wanted-..." She bites her lower lip for a moment. "This was important. He gave his life so I could be with my family. The least I could do was return the favor..." She places her palm flat against the dirt, "...Thank you, Damien..."

Adam nods slowly, his gaze finally tearing away from the flower to look at her. He ponders for a moment, before activating his omni-tool. He taps against the interface, sending Leah a simple message. "When you get off world, contact these people," he explains as he closes the device. "Explain to them the situation and that I sent you. They can help you disappear

for awhile. You and your father." He looks back down at the dirt, a shiver running up his spine as he clenches his eyes shut. "If you go off world and end up being killed by Cerberus... It'll make Damien's sacrifice mean nothing."

Leah begins to object until hearing Adam's reasoning. She falls silent and nods slowly. "Thank you, Adam." she manages after a few long, silent moments. "This didn't go the way I expected it..." she admits, "You certainly are Damien's brother. Full of surprises." She manages a weak smile and places a hand on his shoulder, using it to climb back to her feet. "I can't imagine I have much

time before they're on my heels... Are you going to be okay?"

Adam chuckles weakly and without humour. "Did you think I'd shoot you and bury you alongside him?" He asks. "That would completely negate his sacrifice...". He stands up and stares down at the makeshift grave. "I'll cope," he says. "I don't know how his father or our mother will take it, though... Or Cass." He closes his eyes and takes a singular breath.

Leah gives a shrug of her shoulders, allowing her arms to droop at her sides. "I would be lying if I said no." she admits, "I wouldn't have held it against you... For whatever that's worth." She lets out a sigh, recalling the photo in Damien's room. "He cared about you guys." she says. She places a hand back on Adam's shoulder and gives it a quick squeeze before turning her back to

him, "He was a good man." she repeats sternly as she begins to walk back the way they came, "And I'll never forget everything he did for me."

Adam | "Make sure you don't," he says as she walks away. As she walks away, he is left to stand in the rain, the gentle pattering of the droplets against his armour the only company in this dark moment. The minutes tick by. Eventually, he pulls on his helm and looks up to the heavens. "Cerberus. It seems our job has just gotten more complicated," he says to the

supposed emptiness. A shimmer passes through the trees and lingers in the air beside him in silence. "I'm going to take Damien back home. I want you to continue until I return." He is greeted by the sound of rain pattering against the ground. "How long? I don't know. A month at most." He starts to walk back in the direction Leah went, his hands clasped

behind his back. "Redrock?... Assume compromised for now. But do no take any action unless absolutely sure, understood?" More silence. "Good." The shimmer wavers and disappears into the trees, leaving Adam to walk back home on his own.

Steve is seated at the edge of his bed in a pair of jeans and work boots. The TV is on, but he's not particularly paying attention to it. An open bottle is on the floor in front of him beside a crumpled up grey shirt as he looks over the nasty bruising showing up on the right side of his ribs. He winces slightly as he presses a finger against the bruise.

Renala opens the door to the apartment and steps inside. The asari looks weary and tired. Renala has not answered any messages until the evening when she said she'll be back later depending on how well work went. She's dressed like during the combat encounter earlier this day: her leather jacket zipped almost all the way up. Her dark-blue pants have some marks of dirt and grass, but very few other signs that she's been outside. The

backpack she had on when she left this morning is also missing.

Steve cranes his head a bit and looks towards his bedroom door as the sound of the front door opening catches his attention. "That you, Ren?" he calls out, lifting his right arm to get a better look at his bar-room brawl wound. "Late one for ya, ain't it?" he adds, assuming the arrival must be his roommate

Renala nods. "Yeah," she says with a sigh. "A few more days now, and then I can be on-call... barring disaster." She doesn't bother taking her jacket off before taking a few steps towards his room and looking inside. "What happened?" she asks, looking him over.

Steve raises his eyebrows as he glances through the doorway at Renala. "Oh, this?" he asks, casting another look at the bruising flesh. He lowers his arm and gives a shake of his head. "It's nothin'. Couple of shits down at the bar were raisin' a bit of hell. Doesn't seem like anything is broke, I'll be fine. Stings like a mother, though." He reaches down for his bottle and slugs some

back before holding it by the neck and offering it towards Renala, "So what do they got you doin' that's keepin' ya out so late?"

Renala steps towards him and takes the bottle. "Well..., I fucked up," she says and sits down on the bed. "You see, the agency was looking for Atana's car." She glances at the bottle before adding, "And somehow the boss was hot on my trail." Without actually bothering to check what the bottle contains, she takes a swig of it.

Steve frowns, his expression turning grim as Renala explains. "Fuck... What did you tell 'em?" he asks, "...Do they know what happened?" He shuffles a bit to face the asari as she sucks down some of the free rum given by Ten.

Renala clears her throat as the alcohol was a bit stronger than she expected. Serves her right for not reading the label. "I decided to tell him I did it," she says. "The last thing we want is them finding out on their own, and then realizing I lied to him. Jason did track the chief down to some hidden space station, after all."

Steve mutters something about every idiot having their day when she mentions Jason's achievement. "I'm sorry, Ren." he sighs, reaching back and propping himself upright, hands flat against his bed. "I didn't mean to drag you into this... How much do they know? Is this a 'We're about to lose our jobs' situation?"

Renala sighs. "I'll do my best to keep you out of it," she says. "I'm sure he's already suspecting you, though, because there's nobody else I would do that favor for on this rock." She takes another swig before handing the bottle back to him. "I'm not too worried about my job, replacing me is going to be fucking expensive and time consuming."

Steve accepts the bottle and takes a swig in turn, holding the bottle by the neck. He lets out another deep breath and shakes his head. "Shit... Well, so long as we keep the details sketchy, what can they do, right?" he asks, tilting his head a bit. "There's been no follow up since that all went down... Maybe they've learned their lesson. With any luck, this'll all blow over..."

Renala shakes her head. "If only it was that simple," she says. "I went out into the woods to look for the car, which took most of the day, but... someone else was also there when I found it." She pauses. "Now, I don't think they're your enemies, because one of them went to pay Atana a visit earlier, but Jason still thinks it could have something to do with what I stole the car for."

Steve winces. "So is fuckface asking questions?" he asks, "Look, Ren. I appreciate what you've done for me. Loyalty is a hard thing to come by, but I ain't lookin' to bring you down with me if this catches up to us." He goes quiet for a few moments and brings the bottle back to his lips to take a large swig. With a shrug, he continues, "I'll just tell him the truth. He knows we ain't

a bunch of boy scouts. Shit caught up with me and I handled it. If he doesn't like it, he should probably look into a different career choice. Cuz, so long as he's in the business of pointin' guns at people, it's always gonna come back around at some point. He can't expect any different from the rest of us, right?"

Renala gives a relieved sigh, given that this isn't something she has looked forward to coming clean about. "Come on, I can't let you get in trouble because I didn't cover my tracks," she says. "The only thing I regret about taking that car is that it was going to become Redrock's business."

Steve shakes his head. "It ain't your fault, Ren. This was my mess. It ain't you 'lettin' me get in trouble'. It's me takin' responsibility for my own shit before you have to take the fall for it. I just don't see no other way to handle it if he's askin' questions." he says, looking towards Ren as if hoping she may have a suggestion of her own.

Renala looks towards the floor for almost ten seconds. "Well, unless he finds out who those people I ran into out in the woods are, that does seem like the only solution," she says, turing her gaze back at him. "It's a shame I just got to see one of them before I was... knocked out. The one I did see didn't wear the colors of your enemies on his armor, though." A yawn escapes her after that.

Steve lets out a sigh of relief. "Well, that's some good news, at least..." he says, "...No clue who these folks are, though? If there's any info to look into, maybe I can get ahead of this whole thing without needin' to have a lil' chit-chat with Wolfe..."

Renala hums. "Mendez is the one that's seen the turian before," she says, enabling her omni-tool. "According to Jason, he claimed he was working for the militia." After going through a few menus, an image of the car appears with the turian inspecting it. It's taken from a vantage point overlooking the car. The picture's quality is poor, but one can tell it's a fully armored turian in black armor with orange trims.

Steve raises an eyebrow as he leans over to examine the photo. "Mind sendin' that to my omni-tool? Maybe I should pay a visit to the militia and ask a few questions..."

Renala nods. "Can do." She taps a few times on her omni-tool, sending it to his omni-tool directly. "Just be aware that the agency could be sending someone down there too."

Steve sucks in another, frustrated breath. "Well, sounds like I need to beat them to the punch, then. Did they say anything about sending someone over? Any idea how much time I've got?" he asks, "Also, do we know anything about why the militia might be lookin' for the car?"

Renala shakes her head, then goes quiet for a moment as a realization hits her. "Now that I think about it, he was waiting for me to come with him and Mendez," she says. "Whatever knocked me out is going to make me feel like shit for a while according to the doc, so you'll have the time you need."

Steve gives a couple nods. "Works for me. I'll try and take care of it first thing in the mornin' then-..." he trails off and furrows his brow, "...Shit, I'm sorry Ren. I ain't even asked if you're alright. Someone get the drop on you out there? What happened?"

Renala frowns. "When I got there, I saw the turian drop off a shuttle up ahead," she says. "I retreated and called in help. Mendez and Leah showed up to confront the turian." She pauses for a moment, trying to remember more details. "It escalated into a firefight," she continues, "and... I don't remember anything after that. Whoever knocked me out must have snuck up behind me."

Steve leans back a bit, taking a look at the back of Renala's head. "Doesn't look like they did much damage. Have you had the doc look at it yet?" he asks, "Feelin' alright?"

Renala nods. "The hospital is where I spent all evening," she says. "I feel like my mind's running at half speed, though, and I'm feeling nausious." A purple spot on the back of her neck is the only trace of the injury. "The doc couldn't give me an estimate on how long it'll take to get that crap out of the system."

Steve sits forward again and offers the bottle back to her with a smirk. "Ain't no better medicine." he jokes. "Was a gift from some guy I ran into down at the bar." he continues, nodding towards the bottle, "Seemed to know how to take care of himself. I pointed him in the direction of Redrock. Figured it might be nice to have a few more people to work alongside that might not get us


Renala accepts the bottle and takes a long swig from it. "Halisi didn't say a word about alcohol," she says with a chuckle. "More competent mercs is something we need, yeah. Is he a tech?"

Steve gives a slight shrug. "Seemed armed to the teeth and had no issues takin' out a batarian built like a brick shithouse. Seemed like the no-nonsense sorta guy. Suppose we'll learn more about him if they decide to hire him on."

Renala nods. "I think I'm the only tech working for them, unless I'm forgetting someone," she says. "I have more than enough to do back at the base that doesn't involve me getting shot at... or whatever horror vid material their off-world jobs is all about."

Steve stands from the edge of the bed and rotates a bit to look over his bruise one more time. He gives a chuckle as Renala speaks and nods. "I still haven't been given a new assignment. Gotta admit, a part of me is actually lookin' forward to headin' back to the Respite again. Runnin' out of shit to keep me occupied." He rounds the bed and moves over to the bedside table. Atop the

table is his SMG beside a small bottle of pills. He scoops up the pill bottle and pops the top off with his thumb. After dumping a few into his mouth, he swallows hard and replaces the cap. "Only so much to do in this town."

Renala looks up at him. "Have you talked to Wolfe or the chief about it?" she asks. "It didn't take them this long to get you back in there when I was stepping in for you."

Steve gives a shake of his head as he sets the bottle back down. "No. With everything going on, I figured it's probably a good time for a break anyway. If my old 'friends' were on to me over at the Respite, distancing myself from that place for a little bit ain't such a bad idea. And now with this whole ordeal, I feel even less inclined to have a sit down with Wolfe unless I have no

choice... Figure I'll give it a few more days to see how this all plays out first."

Renala nods. "That's not a bad idea," she says. "I could remind them that you're ready to go back to work. Maybe they've got something else to assign you to." She sighs. "I can't take tomorrow off anyway, which means I'll likely run into them."

Nah. I appreciate it, but I'd prefer to stay out of their thoughts for now. Lemme handle this whole skycar business first... If Wolfe asks me to get back to work, great. If not, I'll just bring it up myself when these issues are out of the limelight.

Steve shrugs, "Besides. I'm sure I'll find somethin' to do with myself for now. That bottle ain't gonna drink itself."

Renala glances towards the doorway. "Yeah, you're right, that's probably for the best," she says. "If you're at a loss of things to do, you could always start on getting stuff to put in the living room."

Steve snorts, "Riiiight. Cuz that sounds like the sorta thing ya wanna leave me in charge of. I'm good with a crate to sit on and a TV." He shrugs and gives the asari a smirk, "But if you're givin' me free reign, I'll get right on it."

Renala chuckles. "I'm certain you'll manage just fine," she says. "If you really want my opinion on it, snap a picture and send it my way."

Steve raises an eyebrow. "Snap a picture? How d'ya do that?" He reaches into his pocket and pulls his omni-tool out, holding it upside down as he shakes it a few times. "Am I-... Am I doin' it right?" he jokes. He gives the asari a wink and throws the omni-tool onto his bed with an underhand toss. "Alright. I'll take care of that sometime this week, then."

Renala smirks and stands up. "If all goes well with the VI, I'll definitely have time to go with you," she says, "but... I wouldn't even bet one credit on that." She covers her mouth before another yawn. "I'll be heading to bed, I think," she says. "I barely got any sleep at all at the hospital."

Steve gives a chuckle, but nods as she mentions sleep. "Suppose I should probably get a bit of sleep, too." he says, taking a step towards the asari. "Sounds like I've got a long morning ahead of me..."

Renala nods. "Sleep well, then," she says. "I'll do my best to delay their visit to the militia." With that, she turns around and walks out into the living room, heading for her own bedroom.

Steve blinks a few times and turns to follow her to the door. Placing a hand on each side of the frame, he remains in the doorway calling after the asari. "Yeah, you too.... Especially since you're stealin' all my booze. You're lucky I like ya, Ren. Where I come from, stealin' a man's drink is grounds for a fight." he teases.

Renala looks back over her shoulder. "It's for your own good, Steve," she says with a chuckle. "Drinking too much before bedtime... it's not good for you."

Steve lets out a loud laugh. "Uh huh, right. Always lookin' out for my best interests ain't ya, darlin'?" he says with a shake of his head. "That's alright, I got plenty more stashed 'round here. Takes a whole lot more than a bottle to lay me out..."

Renala turns around and walks back to return it to him. "Well, no point confiscating this one, then," she says, handing it over.

Steve grabs the bottle from her hands with a big smirk on his face. "Get yourself some sleep, Ren." he says, leaning against the doorframe. "If you decide you'd rather help me find the bottom of this bottle, you know where I am."

Renala gives a slight smile. "I'll take you up on that offer some other day, Steve," she says, before turning to walk back to her room. "Good night."

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