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Like Constellations a Million Years Away

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Shepard was livid. Storming through the halls of the Cerberus base he found himself stuck on, Miranda hot on his heels.

"Shepard, please. You need to think about this-"

"The fuck is there to think about?" he snapped, whipping around to face her. His biotics flared; a nearby potted plant was flung from its perch on a table and crashed onto the floor in a mess of broken ceramic and artificial soil. "I've seen how Cerberus operates. I know what you're willing to do to get the results you want."

Miranda huffed. "This isn't the time to get into petty quibbles over politics, Shepard. Colonies are disappearing-"

"And I'll look into it!" He didn't tower over her, but he had enough height and bulk to loom. He was also too angry to care that he was breaking one of his own personal rules by using that to his advantage. "But I'm not doing it under the supervision of the Illusive Man's right hand."

"Then at least take Jacob with you."

"Jacob's a tool."

"You can't just go off on your own. It's too much of a risk, we have no idea what we'll find when we get there."

"What I'll find when I get there," Shepard corrected. He turned back down the hall, headed to the shuttle bay. Security had been tightened on the base; there were guards everywhere. Goons, really. His eyes darted to inspect them as he passed, taking note of how they were equipped.

He didn't need a tech. He could handle that himself in a pinch. What he needed was versatility. Mid-range, a balance of offense and defense. Shepard knew what he was capable of. If this was a typical human colony, it'd be a lot of close quarters and flimsy prefabs. Completely workable, as long as he could-

"You," he said, pointing to a helmeted guard with an assault rifle. "What's your name?"

The guard stiffened. "Uh, me?"

"Yeah, you."

Shifting from one foot to the other, the guard glanced around before giving his hesitant reply. "It's, um. Markov. Yuli Markov." Then he shot upright to give a quick salute as he seemed to realize who it was he was talking to. "Sir."

Perfect. "Alright, Markov. You're with me."

Miranda looked like she was about to blow a gasket. "Shepard, what-"

"You said I shouldn't go alone," Shepard reminded her. "Look at that gear. Markov, what's your specialty?"

The guard, now clearly uncomfortable, looked between the two of them with obvious uncertainty. "Biotics, sir," he said, "but uh, where exactly are we going that it's gonna matter?"

"Freedom's Progress," Shepard told him before turning again to Miranda. "See? Biotics and an assault rifle. And with gear like that, he's a heavy. You? Someone pops your barriers and bam ," here, Shepard smacked the heels of his palms together to indicate getting flattened, "you're a smear on the walls. Him? That's forty pounds of modified ERCS kit he's wearing. He's fine. And I'll be fine in his hands."

Miranda folded her arms, a deep frown etched into her face. "The Illusive Man won't be happy about this, Shepard."

"Tough." Shepard went right back to heading for the shuttle bay, ignoring her sputtering. "Come on, Markov. Let's see what's up with these missing colonies."

"Yes sir," Markov acknowledged.

This was gonna be rough.