Tonight was going to be perfect. Perfect.
Miranda did a quick mental check to ensure that everything was in order for her date with Shepard. Her apartment was thoroughly cleaned by a professional cleaning service, the best she could find on this area of Illium. Temperature at a steady 72 degrees. Dinner heating, ready in approximately one hour and twenty minutes. Assuming Shepard was punctual, they would have time for some light conversation, about thirty minutes, before the food was done. Twenty minutes for eating, with more light conversation intermixed, all by candlelight to set the appropriate mood. Should she dim the chandelier lights? Yes, definitely. Bring out the candlelight more, let the nighttime sky add to the ambiance. After dinner, they would watch a movie - Piano Black, a 2051 film. Miranda had did a little digging into Shepard's files and learned that he had some interest in films from that era, so surprising him with it would give him the impression that she had foresight into his tastes, that she was interested in the man behind the armor...which she was, of course, but she didn't like the idea of leaving it to chance.
From there, things would lead into the bedroom - or rather, she would lead him into the bedroom. She had nothing concrete planned from there, though - some things are better left to improvisation.
She strolled across the kitchen floor with two candles in hand, careful not to trip over the skirt of the black, satin dress that drapped all the way to her ankles. The high heel shoes were easy enough to walk in; she had quite a bit of practice from her normal attire. But the dress itself was another matter. She was used to getting the occasional snicker from the form-fitting attire she wore on the ship, but she didn't care - it was comfortable and gave her maximum mobility and protection. Wearing it felt like wearing nothing at all. But this dress was another matter. It had been years since she had occasion to wear it, andthe occasional misstep was great proof of it.
No matter. She would adapt. Tonight was worth it. They had gone through the Omega 4 Relay. They had severed ties with Cerberus. Shepard and her, were in the clear, and the time had come to take their well-deserved free time and make the best of it. Tonight would be a night to remember.
It was 8:34, galactic time, when the doorbell finally rang. Shepard was late by four minutes, but it was a small matter; traffic on Thessia was notoriously unpredictable.
"You're late." She called out to him, teasing, bringing out that playful side that Shepard loved to see every now and then. Giving the tablecloth one more pull to even it up, she straightened up her dress and went towards the door, opening it with a seductive smile and an even more seductive voice. "Will I get an apology before we-"
But it wasn't Shepard on the other side of the door. It was Jack. With a shotgun. Pointed at Miranda. "Sorry I'm late, bitch."
Jack was never one for subtlety, and very few things are less subtle than a shotgun blast at point blank range; Miranda was just barely able to get her barrier up in time out of pure reflex, and it still hurt like hell and it still sent her spiraling across the room, slamming into her couch and tumbling over it on the floor.
"Aw, did I come at a bad time?" She heard Jack laugh as she entered the apartment and slammed the door shut behind her.
Miranda reached into the sofa cushions, pulled out an SMG, stood up from behind the couch and let fly with a Warp aimed straight for Jack's head. The counterattack almost surprised Jack as much as her first attack surprised Miranda, and it ripped into her barrier, staggering her and making her much more vulnerable for Miranda's weapon.
"Shit shit shit-" Jack dashed to the side as a volley of SMG shots came her way, peppering the wall all around her and sending glass and dust everywhere. She ran into the kitchen and took cover beside the door, and Miranda didn't waste the opportunity to catch her breath; she kicked off her high heels and ran the other way, taking cover in her bedroom and placing them both on opposite sides of the apartment, with the living room between them.
"You keep an SMG in your goddamn sofa?" Jack called out from the kitchen, popping another heatsink into her shotgun. "Who the hell keeps an SMG in their sofa?"
"People who expect situations like this." She rolled her eyes and reached into her boudoir dresser, grabbing a heat sink of her own along with a flash grenade. "What are you doing here, Jack? Bloody hell, how did you even find my flat?" Miranda peeked out from behind the door, saw Jack doing the same, and fired a few shots, giving her some incentive to stay put.
"Fuck!" Jack reeled back quick as the bullets flew past the door. "You know why I'm here, cheerleader. I promised Shepard I'd hold off on evening things up until we were done with the mission. Collectors are fucked, now, so you're all mine. Should've died at the base, bitch - now I get the honors."
Of course. Jack and her stupid, petty, immature grudge. The possibility of Jack getting retribution hadn't completely slipped her mind, but Shepard assured her that Jack was past that, that getting her closure on Praggia would curb some of the violent tendencies. Miranda just shook her head, she should have known better - Shepard was many things, but a psychiatrist was not one of them.
Miranda needed to keep her talking, keep her occupied - plain and simple, she was in serious trouble. Jack was a far more powerful biotic than her; if she wanted, she could rip the whole apartment to shreds and end this in a few seconds. Right now she was just playing around. With Shepard here, they might, might, have a chance of overcoming her, but that would only work if she wasn't dead by the time he arrived. And he was still running late, damn it.
"That still doesn't explain how you found me, Jack."
No answer. Quiet. Too quiet.
"Jack?" She peeked out again just in time to see her own refrigerator flying towards her, covered in a blue biotic tinge. She rolled away from the door as it came flying overhead, crashing into the wall and demolishing the area she was just a second ago. Jack was quick to follow up before she could get to cover again and emerged from the kitchen, throwing a shockwave straight at her. Furniture went flying in all directions and the sofa slammed into Miranda, pinning her to the wall and forcing her to drop the grenade and SMG on impact.
Jack started to move in like a lion going for the kill, charging biotics in her right fist, no doubt intending to ‘smear the wall’ with her blood, but Miranda hit the chandelier with an Overload the second Jack passed underneath, making a makeshift explosion of glass and blinding light.
“Cunt!” Jack screamed as the glass flew everywhere, more than a few shards finding a home in her overexposed torso, stunning her, giving Miranda some precious moments. She looked around, quick; she hadn’t seen where the gun and the grenade went to when the couch hit, and she didn’t have time to look. She was doing this the hard way or no way at all.
She tossed the couch aside with a biotic push, threw a Warp into Jack to dispel her barrier, and ran straight at her.
The first task was disarming Jack, evening the odds; with Jack dazed, Miranda grabbed hold of her wrist with one hand and slammed her other hand into Jack’s elbow, forcing her to drop the shotgun out of surprise and pain. Before the gun could even hit the floor, Miranda was already following up with a vicious knee to Jack’s stomach that doubled her over, and that was quickly followed by an uppercut to the jaw that straightened her back up. Still holding onto the wrist, Miranda spun around in a classic judo throw, tossing Jack over her shoulder and dumping her hard, her back landing on the discarded shotgun for an unexpected but welcomed bonus.
Miranda dropped down, letting her knees crash straight into Jack’s face as she did, and went to work; no more finesse, no more style, just straight, hard punches to Jack’s face.
“Come into my - come here!”
She opened Jack’s lip.
Another punch opened it further.
That one bloodied Jack’s nose - blood was starting to spill onto Miranda herself now, hardly visible on the black dress. She got in two more good, undefended punches as Jack squirmed in front of her, laid out on the floor from the toss, but it would take more than that - as good as Miranda was giving, Jack had taken worse from just about any day at Purgatory. There was plenty of fight left.
With the blindness wearing off, Jack grabbed the first thing she saw - Miranda’s hair, dangling above her. Wrapping her fingers in it tight, she pulled down hard and brought the surprised Cerberus’ officers head down along with it, bring her just close enough for Jack to lift up and give her a harsh bite on the neck. Miranda’s shrill scream had pain and surprise mixed in equal amounts, with an added touch of pure disgust as Jack bite hard enough to draw blood and even take off some skin. Miranda pulled away with a violent jerk that let Jack rip out some of her hair clean from the scalp, grabbing her neck in panicked pain.
“You taste like shit, cheerleader.” Jack spun around on the floor and rose to her feet as Miranda staggered to hers, still grasping her neck. “Nah, don’t get up.” A biotic blast took Miranda off her feet, launching her towards the bathroom door. Fortunately, the door was set to open automatically whenever she came near it. Unfortunately, the hard linoleum floor that she landed on instead wasn’t that much better. She slid across it, coming to a harsh stop when her shoulder hit the bottom of the toilet.
Arm numb, head spinning, pain all over, bleeding from the neck, chest hurting, ribs possibly cracked, and Jack was already starting to make her way towards the bathroom, only stopping to pick up her shotgun along the way. Miranda was quickly running out of options - she tried starting up her Omni-Tool, trying to connect with Shepard; if he was close already, maybe he could power through whatever was holding him up and make it before-
Jack saw the attempt, got a running start, then leapt into the bathroom and came down on Miranda’s stomach, knees first, stopping the effort cold before she could even start the call. Miranda couldn’t even find the breath to scream, but her mouth made the motion anyway as Jack’s weight crushed her stomach, slicing past her abdominals, apex pain, definite internal injuries - she’d need a week to recover from that attack alone. And she had the distinct feeling she wouldn’t be getting that week anytime soon.
Jack spread her legs and came down to a seat on Miranda’s chest, pinning her like there was even a remote chance of her getting back up. With her physical options gone, Miranda went for the verbal - a dim chance with Jack.
“Jack...” Miranda started to lift her head, looking into Jack’s eyes for even a hint of mercy and finding cold, hard hatred instead. “Jack, I-”
She was cut off by the butt of Jack’s shotgun in her face, busting her nose and knocking her head back down. “You’re tough, cheerleader, got to say. Much better fight than Kelly put up-”
Miranda’s eyes widened in surprise then narrowed in rage. “Kelly? Kelly Chambers?” Her voice was hoarse, but she was trying her best to yell. “What about Kelly?”
“Hm?” Jack looked down confused for a moment, then snapped out of it. “Oh, Kelly, that’s right. Who do you think told me where to find you?”
“Oh, she would. It took a little convincing - and some pulled teeth. But she spilled.”
“Bullshit, you’re full of-” Jack dropped fourth teeth on Miranda’s chest, one of the front teeth, both canines, and a molar. Miranda just stared at them for a moment, then looked back up at Jack with a disturbed mixture of disgust and disbelief. “You’re insane.”
“Nope. I’m - what did you call me, back then? A ‘mistake’.” She tossed the shotgun back into the living room and reached down, grabbing Miranda by the hair again, moving off her chest and yanking her up. “That was what you said, right? ‘Clearly, they made a mistake’.”
She smashed Miranda face first into the side of the bathtube. leaving a red blot on the pristine porcelain, then yanked her back and did the same move on the rim of the toilet. “Jack, stop, stop-”
“Still feel like a mistake to you, cheerleader?” She open the toilet and shoved Miranda’s head, holding her under the water. “That a mistake, too?” She slammed the lid on the back of her head. “How about that, huh?” Again, harder. “That a mistake?”
She held her under the water for just over the minute, fighting Miranda’s thrashing, throwing punches into her ribs with a spare fist until the movements started to die down. Before Miranda even had a chance of passing out, Jack pulled her out, smashed her against the rim one more time for good measure, threw her against the bathtub and blasted her in the face with a hardened knee that made her nose spurt blood, replacing the blood that had washed away in the toilet. Miranda shivered, still conscious, and her body fell limp to the floor; coughing, wheezing, spitting blood - maybe even crying, though it was impossible to tell with all the water. Still, Jack believed she was, and that was good enough for her.
Jack just sat down, indian style, next to Miranda. Looking down at her. Watching as the coughing started to ease up and her eyes started to get some sense about them. Miranda was in a haze, for a moment, looking around, until she met Jack’s eyes and just held her gaze there. No fear. Just acceptance. “I am not going to-” She paused, spitting away some of the blood that was pooling in her mouth. “I am not going to beg, Jack.”
“I don’t want you to beg.” Jack’s face took on a sudden calm. Despite the blood all around her, despite the situation, despite the glass shards in her shoulder, she seemed to be at an eerie peace. “I want you to apologize.”
“Say you’re sorry for what you said. Admit you were wrong about me and I’ll just...go. You’ll never see me again. Never. Admit it.” She was serious - as serious as a criminally insane sociopath could be about anything. She meant it. Miranda felt that she meant it. She could lie and be okay, walk away from this in one piece.
All fine, except for one thing - Jack would win.
Jack closed her eyes and smiled, shaking her head as she enjoyed a little chuckle. “Just as well, I guess.” She reached over, wrapped her hands around Miranda’s neck. “I was lying.”
Jack began to squeeze and Miranda gagged, making a feeble effort to pull Jack’s hands away - it wasn’t happening. “I know you think this is the end, cheerleader.” Jack reared back with her leg and shot her knees into Miranda’s stomach, making her efforts to breath just that much harder. “Know I said I was going to kill you - and I still might. But not for a little while. See, you’re going to get knocked out, and when you wake up, you’re gonna be in a special little place I found. A place nobody’s getting to you. It’ll be just you and me. We’re going to do some activities - some things I used to when I was a kid. Things Cerberus did to me. I’m going to take you through my childhood step by step by bloody-ass step. You’re going to get as close an experience as I can provide, I shit you not.”
Miranda’s eyes flickered and her movements slowed to only a weak struggle, as darkness started to rise and take over. “I’m going to do the one thing worse than killing you, cheerleader - I’m going to turn you into me.”