“Hey there fly boy,” she said seductively, leaning on the bar next to the young pilot. The woman had long chocolate brown hair, which contrasted sharply with her pale complexion. Her sharp blue eyes were beams of light, sparking in the right light with the hint of prosethics. “Bourbon neat,” she said to the bartender.
The man she had spoken to looked over at her before returning his attention to the drink in front of him. A moment later, his head snapped back in a shocked double take.
“Maya, is that you?” Joker asked the woman who sat down on the stool next to him.
Maya smiled, she had known that her presence would startle the Alliance pilot. The pair had known each a very long time ago; to her it felt like a lifetime ago.
“Of course it’s me, Jeff,” she said with a wink as she leaned in closer to the pilot. “Long time no see. I’m surprised to find you here. Why aren’t you off flying about the galaxy?”
“Kind of hard to fly when the Alliance has me benched,” Joker said looking away sullenly. Turning back to her he plastered a false smile on his face when he asked, “But what about you, Maya, what have you been up to?”
“I’ve been working on something big… with Cerberus,” she said quietly so that the other patrons would not hear. Most of the patrons were Alliance and she knew exactly what the Alliance thought of their organization.
“Cerberus!” he said drawing attention to the pair.
Maya stiffened and stayed silent as the rest of the bar slowly returned to their conversations. She looked around to make sure that no one would overhear them before she spoke, “Listen it’s not like that,” she said in a hushed tone.
“I don’t care what it looks like. I have seen what they are capable of doing. They are terrorists and not just to aliens,” he hissed out but at least this time he was keeping his voice down.
“I know,” she said frowning. “I know what they have done in the past, but it’s different now.” With his prior knowledge of the organization, it would certainly make her job more difficult.
“The Reapers will be coming,” Maya said leaning in close so she could speak quietly. “I know you were there, you saw what Sovereign was. You know what the Counsel is trying to cover up.”
Joker nodded sadly looking into his drink. He did not say anything but she knew he was listening. That was all she needed for now.
“The other thing the organization is concerned with is the more immediate threat to the colonies. While everyone is worrying about the geth, there is an unknown enemy attacking human colonies. Something has to be done and so far I haven’t seen anyone else doing anything.”
Joker rolled his eyes at her explanation, “That doesn’t make what they do right. Or for that matter how they go about it.” He had begun to shout as his rant finished.
Maya brought her hands up trying to placate the pilot. “I know. They have done bad things, but they have done great things too.” They could go around like this for a long time; she had to try a different tactic if she was going to get through to him. “If you gave them a shot, they could get you flying again,” Maya said flashing him a smile. She knew she could convince him if he would give her the time to explain. “They have a… project, in the works.”
“I’ve seen some of the nasty shit that Cerberus is into. Maybe I don’t care about this ‘project’.”
Maya frowned at that. This was not what she wanted to hear, she needed to get him to listen to the details. As much as she did not want to, she knew she needed to use their past to get through to Joker.
“Let me just tell you about it,” she said, hating the pleading tone that had crept into her voice, “please.”
“Okay, but first a small wager.” After all these years, Joker had not changed that much and Maya still knew which buttons to push. She felt a twinge of guilt at using their past to manipulate him but she had to try. “If I can get you to say yes in less than five words, you buy me a drink. If not, drinks are on me.”
Joker gave her a skeptical look, but nodded his accent to the challenge, just as she knew he would.
“We… are… rebuilding… the Normandy,” she said ticking off each word on her fingers. Then she resolutely closed her lips and watched as the pilot’s thought process showed on his face.
Maya knew that Joker was surprised at her words. He seemed to be weighing the cost of working for Cerberus with the possibility of piloting the Normandy once again. She knew from reports that he had loved that ship more than any other he had in the past. She almost wished she had more words to explain the upgrades that the project had planned for the Normandy. She knew that many of the additions they were working on depended on Joker’s co-operation.
“Rebuilding the Normandy?” he asked incredulously, but she continued to watch him without saying a word. “How?”
Maya wanted to tell him how they had “acquired” the plans for the SR-1 but she knew that information would turn him off to the project. She had to walk the fine line of enticing the best pilot in the galaxy and frightening him off. It was one of the hard parts about recruiting ethical Alliance marines.
“Why?” he asked looking at her full on, trying to read any subtle body language form her. She batted her eyes at him innocently. “What do they plan on doing?”
As much as her competitive side wanted to win the bet, Maya knew she had to give in. If Joker kept questioning the motives behind Cerberus’ actions, she would lose any chance of winning him over.
“I can tell you aren’t completely convinced.” The first words she had said since letting him consider the project. “Drinks are on me,” she said to the bartender sliding some credits across the bar.
“So if the Normandy isn’t enough to bring you on board, then what about joining us to help Shepard?” Maya asked watching the pilot out of the corner of her eye.
“Shepard’s dead,” he said sharply, going cold the instant she spoke the name. “She died because of me.” The last was said almost to quiet for her to hear.
“Death isn’t as permanent as everyone thinks,” Maya said evenly in a low voice, leaning in so only the pilot could hear. “That’s part of the project that only a select few know. We plan on bringing Shepard back.”
“How?” Joker asked skeptically.
Maya mulled over how much to tell him. She knew he needed answers but too much and this whole thing could blow up in her face. They needed Joker for his piloting skills, even though the Illusive Man had said there was more to it than that.
“Do you remember how sick I was back on Arcturus?” she said changing the subject completely.
Joker stared down into his drink for a few moments before looking back over at her. He nodded, “Yeah. I didn’t think I would ever see you again.”
“I died, Jeff,” Maya said biting her lower lip. She had not spoken of her death to anyone. “I had finally been diagnosed with ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. That’s why they took me from Arcturus. Even with all the stations medical advances, they had no cure. To make matters worse mine was fast progressing.” She looked away knowing that she would have to lie to tell the rest of the story, “My father had a connection with Cerberus and they had some ‘treatment’ options that weren’t available to me on the Alliance station.”
Maya studied the pilot for a moment while she took a swallow from her glass of bourbon. Joker looked surprised, as she had expected, but there was something else. She hoped she could cash in on his feelings for either her or for Shepard, to get Joker to work with them.
“On my way to the medical facility, I stopped being able to eat, and fell into a coma. A short time later my lungs stopped functioning. I was clinically dead for weeks. Cerberus brought me back.”
“How?” he asked again in a whisper.
“I don’t know the specifications of the procedure, but I am proof that it works,” Maya said giving a shrug. She knew more about the process than she was letting on, but what she knew frightened even her. “It’ll take time but they will bring Shepard back, then you can stop blaming yourself.”
Joker winced at that comment. She knew it had been a low blow, but she needed to bring the focus back to how Cerberus could help humanity by reviving Shepard.
“Shepard knows things about the Reapers. She might be the only one who can stop them. Cerberus realizes that.”
Maya knew that she was getting through to Joker. He was seriously considering her offer. She just needed to push him over the edge. She thought she knew what would do just that.
“They can help you too you know,” Maya said trying to convince him of the added benefits. “Their doctors have a way to reinforce your bones. No guarantee but it is worth a shot, wouldn’t you say?”
The pilot blinked rapidly. For a moment, Maya worried that she may have pushed too hard too fast. Maybe she should have kept that last bit back. Time was important but this had to work for the success of the mission.
“I’ll think about it,” Joker said slowly.
Maya passed him a datapad before downing the last of her drink. “There’s my private information, let me know what you decide,” she said giving him a flirty smile. She licked her lips before adding, “Just don’t wait too long.”
She knew the last was overkill and she hated herself for doing it. If it worked, it would be worth it, she thought letting her hips sway as she made her way across the bar.
Maya was walking out of the bar when a hand grasped around her upper arm, which caused her to stumble into the person who grabbed her. She had to put her hands out on the person’s chest to catch her balance.
“If your father knew you were here,” the man growled at her.
“Hi, Kai,” Maya purred softly recognizing the person holding her. She ran her hands down the tight leather that covered his muscular chest. “My father put me in charge of this part of the project. He trusts my judgment.”
“You know,” Kai Leng said flatly, “I’ll have to kill him if he doesn’t agree.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, my dear, but he will accept my offer.”
Maya went up on her toes to give the dark haired man a kiss. The assassin wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, kissing her. Just as she knew it would, her omnitool binged with an incoming message.
“See, I told you,” Maya said with a smirk returning the kiss.
* * * * *
Disclaimer: Mass Effect is property of Bioware. I do not own the characters. No money is made on this fiction.