In a split second, Ashley’s rifle was off of her back, the weapon leveled at Ilara, but before she could fire, the Ardat-Yakshi’s words stopped her. “I wouldn’t be so hasty,” she called out even as, from behind another shuttle, the enormous form of an elcor emerged, a massive rocket launcher mounted on its back.
“With considerable menace,” it rumbled, “I suggest you not make any hostile moves.”
“Are you insane?!”, Ashley snapped. “That thing could blow a hole clear through the hull and space all of us.”
“Well, then,” Ilara laughed, the life and death showdown they were in not seeming to phase her in the slightest, “I guess you’d better hear me out before anything so dangerous has to happen.”
The marine lowered her rifle slightly but didn’t put it away even as Sha’ira was asking, “Who is this, Ashley?”
On the walkway, Ilara pouted. “You didn’t tell her about me? I’m hurt.”
“With eager anticipation,” the elcor asked, “Shall I punish her for you, mistress?”
“Not just yet,” the slaver responded, shaking her head before turning back to Ashley. “Did you and that blithering idiot Gorax really think it was going to be that easy to steal from me? That I wouldn’t have a tracking device in my ship? Or override codes?”
Honestly, Ashley hadn’t thought it through. She’d been so desperate to get to Sha’ira that she’d ignored everything else and now it was coming back to bite the two of them in the ass big-time. She wasn’t about to admit that to Ilara though, so instead she asked, “What did you do with Gorax? Kill him?”
“His punishment did have to be severe,” Ilara agreed nonchalantly.
“I am asking you again,” Sha’ira interjected, confusion and frustration mixing in her voice, “Who is this?”
“A crazy Ardat-Yakshi slaver who captured me while I was looking for you,” Ashley answered her, knowing that if they survived there would have to be a longer conversation.
“I think we meant a deal more than that to each other.” Ilara’s tone was disapproving, as if she couldn’t believe the marine would say such a thing about them.
“Only in your messed-up head, lady,” Ashley protested.
“That isn’t the story your body told,” Ilara insisted, and the Spectre could feel her face reddening. Plenty of people dreamed of having two sexy asari fighting over them but this probably wasn’t what they had in mind.
“Listen,” she told the Ardat-Yakshi, “You’ve got the ship back. You punished Gorax for selling you out. Let’s call it a draw. We walk away, you keep your stuff, and nobody ends up spaced.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’m going to let you off quite so easily,” Ilara demurred. “Not after you abandoned me like that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still make a deal. How about this: you come with me, and I’ll let that little piece of fluff you’re so worried about go on her way.”
Ashley hesitated, a shiver running through her at the Ardat-Yakshi’s offer. Going with Ilara once more would mean her death, but it was her fault things had come to this. If a firefight broke out under these conditions, especially with that fucking rocket launcher, there was no telling what might happen. She couldn’t let Sha’ira die because of someone she’d brought into their lives.
She never got to make the decision. While all eyes were turned to the Spectre, Sha’ira acted. A sudden glow of biotics flared up around her and the rocket launcher jerked on the elcor’s back, pointing upwards towards the walkway that Ilara was standing on. As the weapon moved, the alien reflexively activated it, and the launcher discharged its rocket in a trail of flame and smoke.
Ashley hit the deck, yanking Sha’ira down with her even as the Consort threw up the best barrier she could manage. The blast wave slammed into their shields but they held, their distance from the impact minimizing the damage as the confined space of the hanger filled with burning light.
As the flash faded and the fire died down, the marine leapt back to her feet, looking for her enemies. Ilara she couldn’t see but the elcor was easy enough to find, the alien staggered but not down. Aiming through the sparking mass of metal left behind by the collapsed walkway, Ashley opened fire before he could close with them. It took the whole clip but the elcor fell, crashing to the ground in a shower of dark blood, and as she reloaded, Ashley turned back to her new bondmate.
“Are you all right?” The asari was sooty but not bloody, much to her relief.
Sha’ira was breathing hard. “I am.”
She wasn’t the only one. “You know how risky that was?”, she asked, shock and admiration mixing in her voice. “If that rocket had gone through the hull…”
“I can hardly believe I did it,” the Consort confessed, “But I was not going to let that creature take you any more than you would have let Hock keep me a slave.”
Ashley felt her heart sing at those words, but this was no time for romance. “Get on the shuttle and stay there,” she told her lover. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Sha’ira hesitated. “I don’t want to abandon you.”
She laid a hand on the asari’s cheek, her voice losing the edge that combat had given it. “You aren’t. You saved me. Now I need to know you’re safe so I can end this.”
Sha’ira gave the marine a passionate kiss before getting back onto the little ship while Ashley headed towards the elevator. The Spectre could tell from the cracked display that the Ardat-Yakshi had already used it to get out of the hanger and she had to do the same before Ilara could get to the bridge and lock them down there, or even worse, vent the hold. Sha’ira would be safe from that in the shuttle, but she, and Ashley if she stayed put, would also be trapped.
The lift doors opened up for her, and Ashley took a deep breath, trying to settle her nerves. In battle, she didn’t normally get scared, but this pause was giving her too much time to think. Ilara hadn’t been entirely wrong; the Ardat-Yakshi had gotten under her skin during their time together, and Ashley didn’t entirely relish the thought of facing her again, especially not on her terms and without reinforcements, but she had no choice. Whatever dark spell the slaver might have cast, it couldn’t compare to Sha’ira ‘s magic, and she needed to win this battle, if not for herself then for the woman she loved.
As soon the elevator arrived at the main deck, Ashley sprinted for the bridge. Her quarry wasn’t there. The marine hadn’t made it more than halfway down the hall when, from an open storeroom door on her left, a powerful burst of biotic energy flared out, knocking her from her feet and sending her skidding into the hard metal of the corridor wall.
Her shields and armor prevented any real damage, but even as the marine grabbed for her dropped rifle, the sleek, black-clad form of Ilara leapt out of the doorway, crashing down on top of the Spectre. The Ardat-Yakshi’s armor showed signs of real damage from the rocket blast and judging by the snarling expression on her normally sexy face, she wasn’t happy about it.
“That wasn’t a very smart choice your slut made,” she growled as her biotics pressed against Ashley’s torso, pushing the marine hard into the wall.
Ashley swung an elbow around, clocking Ilara on the side of the head and knocking her to the ground. “What?”, she needled the asari. “No more ‘pretty little pet’ talk?”
“I don’t think so.” Ilara fired off another biotic blast, but Ashley dodged, grabbing her rifle and rolling into the storage room the Ardat-Yakshi had been hiding in. She took cover behind a stack of surplus turian combat armor while the asari hissed, “You could have known unimaginable ecstasy before you died. Now, it won’t be nearly so pleasant.”
Her former captor pursued her into the room and Ashley shoved the stack as hard as she could, sending the suits of armor crashing into Ilara. They mostly bounced off of her barriers, but while she couldn’t see straight, the marine opened fire with her assault rifle. A few of the shots made it through and as they tore into her armor, the Ardat-Yakshi retreated back through the doorway.
“Don’t expect me to cry over it,” Ashley snapped as she pulled back herself in order to reload. “I was getting sick of your shit anyway.” At least in part she was sick of the strange way Ilara’s advances made her feel, but that wasn’t something the other woman needed to know.
“Well, that was your mistake,” the Ardat-Yakshi purred, but though her voice was superficially seductive once more, there was no warmth left in it. “Because what I promised was a great deal more fun than what’s going to happen to you now.” Panther-quick, Ilara danced back into the room and before Ashley could roll out to shoot at her again, the asari’s biotics took hold of a crate behind her and slammed it down into the back of the marine’s head. Her vision swam at the impact and even as she tried to shake it off, Ilara closed with her, the Ardat-Yakshi firing two shots from a rather large pistol into the center of her armor. Her breastplate started cracking under the force of the impacts, and Ashley staggered backwards, her chest burning.
Desperate hands closed around a grenade, and before Ilara could strike again, the marine rolled the metal sphere at her attacker. She threw herself behind a stack of dextro ration boxes and although the asari mirrored her actions, retreating as she raised her barriers, the explosion caught her hard.
Taking advantage of the breathing room the grenade provided, the Spectre fell further backwards into the maze of the store room. “As long as we’re talking about mistakes,” she panted, “Yours was keeping me alive. This isn’t a fucking game.” She ducked out from behind her pallet, firing a burst in Ilara’s direction before making it back into cover. “That and thinking I’d pick a psycho like you over Sha’ira. You should have just blown our shuttle out of the sky for all the chance you had with me.”
“But then I wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy doing this in person,” Ilara screamed, all pretense of friendliness gone as biotic energy enveloped her. “I’m going to break every bone in your body, and after I flush your broken corpse out an airlock, I’m going to find that whore you left me for and suck her dry. She’s going to die screaming and the last thing she’s going to think about before she does is that is that you failed her.”
“We’ll see.” Even while Ilara had been ranting, the marine had circled around room and as the surprised asari whirled at the sound of her voice, Ashley struck from her blind side. A concussive shot to the center of the Ardat-Yakshi’s barriers staggered her, and while she stumbled to find her footing once more, Ashley opened up with everything she had, emptying her rifle’s clip into Ilara.
It wasn’t enough to put her down. Ilara’s barriers collapsed, but the asari didn’t fall, her defenses sufficient to save her from any real bodily harm. She returned fire, a massive biotic blast whipping out at the marine, who twisted her body to avoid it the strike. She only partially succeeded, her armor along with a rib or two cracking when it connected with her, but despite the pain, she pressed on. She had no choice, no more than she had had ever since the first moment she set out after Sha’ira.
With a roar, the marine hurled herself at Ilara, extending her omni-blade as she did. The Ardat-Yakshi tried to knock away her arm, but Ashley pushed through her block, pouring every ounce of rage and frustration she felt at her enemy into the thrust. She forced Ilara’s arm aside and the blade plunged into her black armor, slicing through the metal and sending spurts of dark blood spilling down her body.
Ashley didn’t relent, her other hand smashing into Ilara’s face, making her spit more blood from her mouth. The Ardat-Yakshi wasn’t going to go down easily though, leaning back and smashing her forehead into Ashley’s face. The Spectre staggered, but she didn’t let go, instead twisting the omni-blade in Ilara’s gut. The asari screamed and her biotics flared, a surge of energy striking Ashley’s already-burning chest. The marine fell to the deck and Ilara fumbled for her pistol, the bloody asari trying to draw a bead on her attacker.
The Spectre was a split-second faster. Her own pistol flew out of her holster and her shot caught the Ardat-Yakshi in the throat. Blood spurted wildly out and Ilara collapsed in front of her, clutching at the wound in a futile effort to stop the bleeding. The marine started pulling herself back to her feet, but before she could rise, Ilara’s free hand suddenly lashed out to seize hold of Ashley’s own. The Ardat-Yakshi’s eyes were black as with her last strength, she tried to seize onto Ashley’s thoughts.
Images shot through the marine’s mind, too sudden and powerful to be blocked out: A vivacious young asari’s face falling in shock as the doctor gave her the diagnosis she’d been dreading… A sizzle of lust between her legs as another of the maidens at the monastery was glimpsed emerging from the showers, water dripping from her nude form… A savage surge of pleasure filling her as the turian collapsed at her feet, her whole self consumed by the free asari…
The shallow meld collapsed as abruptly as it had begun, the dying asari unable to maintain it any longer. Ilara’s hand slumped to the floor, and as the tendrils of her mind slid out of Ashley’s own, a tingling in the human’s forehead all that they left behind. The asari’s dark eyes fell closed and Ashley shook her head, gasping for breath through her injuries. Ilara was dead and though she couldn’t say she was sorry, the marine had neither the strength nor the heart to gloat just then either.