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If Not Now, When?

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Jane was tucked under a console in the CIC, working on one of the Star Maps projectors that were going in and out randomly. The first time it happened there was a ship wide panic that the whole Attican Traverse disappeared, thinking an even larger incident than the Alpha Relay had happened. When Jane had discovered the overloaded junction the emitter was now having to share with other Alliance systems, everyone gave a sigh of relief and even found humor in the situation. One IT glitch and their whole perception of the war had changed.

“Jane?” A voice came from above, loud with panic.

She hadn’t heard anyone come up behind her, and jerked in reflex and hit the back of her head on the sharp interior lip of the panel. Rubbing at it Jane hissed out, “Yes Traynor?”

One couldn’t help but like the young tech, she was talented at putting her foot in her mouth but had powerful drive to do all she could now that she found herself stuck on the Normandy with people she considered legends. Jane only wished she would wind down just a little, else Traynor would burn herself out.

“I know we are heading to the Annos Basin to meet up with the Diplomats, but I just received a distress call from Grissom Academy.” The young woman was nervously playing with her hands.

Jane recognized the name with a twinge of worry, Jack had been debating taking a teaching post there before the Reapers had arrived. “And?”

Traynor froze, like a puppy about to be hit, “I know getting a treaty between the Turians and Krogans is the Normandy’s top priority, but I don't think we can put off this call for help.”

“And you're not sure how to pass on the information to the Commander.” Jane sighed as Traynor nodded vigorously. Pulling up a knee to rest an arm on it, Jane had to remind herself that this was Traynor’s first time on an active wartime ship. “What would the normal protocol be, ignoring the fact we are fighting a godlike race of machines?”

Traynor came back with a snappy textbook answer, “All emergency signals are passed along to the Commanding Officer.”

Jane held up a hand, offering Traynor her own answer back. “And there you go. I am not trained by the Alliance, but whether it be a bar or a squad of Turians the regs are there for a purpose.” Jane hated that it meant more trouble for Johnny, but this was his life and she knew he’d do the right thing. “Tell you what, if it is Alliance pass it on directly if anything else let me know and I’ll see who else we can send.” She hoped to take some pressure off her brother, after all, if it was turians involved there was a chance her and Garrus’ squad could help in a pinch.

Traynor sighed relief, “Thanks, I just wasn’t sure if the old rules apply to life.”

Jane laughed, “Hell no, but that doesn’t mean we scrap it all.” Turning back to the panel, “Five minutes, and this new junction will be up. And Traynor, don’t tell the Commander you came to me first.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thanks.”

As soon as Jane finished replacing the panel’s cover, Johnny’s voice came over the comm, “Vakarians, prep for a ground mission and meet in the Cargo Bay in 30 minutes.” Jane quickly picked up her things, happy that her brother wasn’t willing to give up his duty to get a job done.

-

The trio managed to sneak onto Grissom Station, but Shepard had to send Cortez and the shuttle away. Garrus shoved a feeling of dread aside. They would find another way off, it wasn’t like they could evacuate more than a dozen people on the shuttle anyway, another option was needed if they were successful.

Making sure to stay quiet, they were able to sneak up behind the attacking Cerberus operatives, dispatching them quickly. Luckily the security office was nearby, and they found Dr. Sanders. Garrus had never met a human so pale overall. Jane had pale skin, but her hair was darker than the light gold of Sanders, even her eyes looked like ice. The group wasn’t shocked hearing what was happening, except that the students themselves were being attacked and taken.

Both Garrus and Jane straightened a little behind Shepard when he’d said they would do what they could. Even though they both weren’t soldiers at the core, they would do anything to protect the innocent.

Leaving Sanders to handle getting a way off the station, they started to go deeper into the facility. They didn’t have far to go before running into trouble. The door opened to show a large glass window splitting them from another passage. As the door on the one side opened, Garrus ducked down, behind the low wall and dragged Jane down, using his body as a shield just in case they were spotted.

Garrus felt the grip of her hand on his waist tighten, in the other room were three guards dragging a male adolescent by the feet toward one of the dock bays. He lifted his assault rifle aiming for the window when a blue biotic field covered his hand freezing it.

Behind them, he could hear Shepard hiss, “No, we need to get farther in before the alarm goes up.”

Turning Garrus watched as Jane turned her panicked stare from the boy to Shepard and bared her teeth. For the first time since he first saw her through a scope, he found himself in the presence of the wild woman who’d killed all her captors. Before he or Shepard could move to stop her, Jane dashed over to a grate farther back down the hallway, got it off, and managed to get through even while wearing armor.

“Shit,” Shepard cursed, looking after her down the vent, “Keep it quiet!”

Garrus held his breath and listened. There was a couple thumps from her moving in the vent, then a couple of cracks of bone and a wet gurgle. Garrus knew the sounds would be drowned out by the sobbing boy, and unless someone saw Jane take them down or came to check out the boy’s sounds, they’d be fine.

There were a few more bumps, his mate’s softer tone and a gasping kid came through the vent. Quietly Jane pointed the boy back toward Sanders’ area with instructions to wait with her. Turning back the men, Garrus almost flinched.

She had red blood coating one side of her face, and her green eyes burned with the embers of the madness he’d only seen on occasion. He almost couldn’t remember the last time Fury had taken over Jane, now it seemed alien on her once smiling face.

Before the Commander could get out anything she held up a hand, and amazingly, Shepard stayed quiet. “You didn’t see our friends get dragged off just like that on Mindoir. I did. There was no way in hell I was going to sit there and let it happen again.” Closing her eyes and taking a breath, some part of Jane seemed to come back to the present. “No one saw or heard, the bodies are in a planter, out of sight. Let's continue.” Without waiting for a reply she started to move forward almost mechanically.

Garrus and Shepard shared looks, and Garrus saw the hurt in the Commander’s eyes. Ever since meeting up again on Omega, Garrus had learned more of Mindoir from both sides. When they were separated Jane managed to meet up with friends, they ambushed and no where near any place they could hole up or get weapons. Shepard had been on the farm with their parents, unable to help them before he got to the hunting gear. He’d been forced to defend it alone for over twenty-four hours, with no chance to get to anyone outside. The guilt of it still bothered Shepard, and Garrus suspected that while the siblings had talked it over, neither had forgiven their own selves. Jane felt she should have been home maybe one more pair of hands would have spared their parents and Shepard thought if he had made a run for it he could of found Jane before she was taken.

Garrus doubt either was correct in their regrets. Maybe he could help push them toward mending that before the end of this war. Spirits knew he would give anything for one more time to talk to his father civilly. All the years before Jane in which they refused to see eye to eye seemed like such a waste.

Once they were farther in the alarm went up, not the usual kind though. Garrus scoffed at the Speaker's attempts to persuade the kids not to trust the Alliance. Judging by the damage to the classroom, Cerberus didn’t put their best behavior on initially. Jane picked up one of the pads and smirked.

Shepard gave her a questioning eyebrow, carefully, still seeming to worry she’d jump down his throat again.

Jane shrugged, the smirk turning into a grin, “Just think you’re going to like some of the staff here.”

Neither of the men seemed to have a clue what she was on about, but were happy she had seem to come back to herself. Take the wins you can, Garrus thought to himself.

Sander’s came through on the comm, giving directions to more students and staff. Breaking out to a run, they picked up only the spare ammo they would need. Coming up to Orion hall, the group had to jump back as Cerberus guards were flung across their path.

An angry and familiar voice followed the bodies, “Eat this.”

“Jack?” Shepard asked, unsure of what was before them.

Turning Garrus found Jack, hands coming down from her biotic attack, standing guard over a group of teens like some angry mother varren protecting her pups. So this must have been what Jane had found funny.

“Shepard?” Jack started toward them.

Before she got more than a few feet, a rumble came through the floor platting. Looking through an open door, Garrus cursed as he saw and Atlas squeezing its way into the room. Spirits, just a little overkill.

Before they could get into position, Jack slid in front of the struggling member of her group and through up a shield that caught the first heavy slug it fired. Dropping her shield she looked at the trio, “Everyone down! This thing’s outta your league! Shepard, keep it off us!”

Getting into cover Shepard directed their attack against the Atlas. This was a no-brainer for Garrus. Even though this place was Alliance run, the students were still civilians and C-Sec training took over. Together they were able to make a more dangerous target than the fleeing kids, and it was long before they were able to whittle down the enemy’s shields and armor. Garrus had to hook a hand on Jane to haul her behind a crate when he heard the whine of a failing generator and they were able to avoid the resulting blast. She flashed him a smile of appreciation, and Garrus couldn’t help but return it, adrenaline did odd things to a person.

The rest of the standard Cerberus team fell easily, and Jack was able to drop her shield. Leaning over the railing of the floor above, she looked them over, “Kahlee said she was putting out an SOS. I have no idea King of the Boy Scouts would show up.” She gave out some orders before jumping down to their level, biotics flaring to slow her descent.

Shepard walked toward her hand outstretched, and Garrus winced when instead of accepting it Jack punched him in the jaw. Luckily she didn’t put any extra force in it, so Shepard only stumbled a little before recovering.

Jack glared at him hard, “Damn it, how many times did I tell you not to trust Cerberus?”

Rubbing the spot that was likely to bruise Shepard replied quietly, “You're not telling me anything I haven’t told myself, Jack.”

Still not losing the attitude, Jack got into his face, “Oh, you feel bad? Well shit, I bet that’s a big comfort to all the people Cerberus has killed!”

Deciding to break the tension, Garrus stepped in, “As charming as ever…”

“Bite me, Garrus,” Jack shot angrily, “Or better yet, bite the Shepard’s sister. Probably how she likes it.”

Garrus’ mandibles dropped, not expecting the dig at his people’s customs, and Shepard’s eyes glowed as they became comically wide. Jane though almost doubled over with explosive laughter. Even Jack couldn’t help a small smile looking at the other woman.

Dropping the attitude, Jack refocused them. “All I care about is getting my guys out of here.”

“Your guys?” Jane asked, looking at the teens above.

Jack almost had a soft look on her face, when chuckled and looked up as well, “Yea, I guess so.” Going back up to check on them, Jack left Garrus and the others to figure out a path through the facility. Jane volunteered to work on the lockout systems while Shepard relayed info to and from Sanders'. Garrus took up a lookout post where he could keep an eye on the room in case there was another attack.

“So,” Jack leaned on the railing next to him, “been enjoying your mate’s new ink?”

And Garrus almost swallowed his tongue and sputtered not expecting the comment. Jack couldn’t hold back the laughter, seeming to know he was uncomfortable talking about some of these things.

“Don’t worry, I’ll let you keep that little kink in the bedroom. It was all her idea, so don’t go blaming me for corrupting her.” Looking down at the siblings, “Not sure of those two who is more renegade.”

Under control, Garrus had to agree, but there was one difference, “Jane will always do the right thing without even considering anything else. Whereas the Command is willing to do anything to get it done.”

“Suppose you're right,” Jack shrugged, “Seemed like she took the Alpha relay hard.”

Garrus nodded, it was hard to fathom, but even after being a slave to the batarians she was completely distraught at a number of lives lost. The media didn’t see it, but he did, every day when small moments of shadows entered those green eyes. What he wouldn’t give to have been able to help in some way.

Gathering everyone up, they moved on, Shepard’s group charging out into the open and being noisy. The idea was to attack the brunt of the force, if they got hung up the biotics would support or slip by as needed. In one room, while taking a breath, Jane came across some orders. Seems while they wanted any of the kids, there were a couple, in particular, Cerberus wanted. The ones Jack seemed to yell at the most, tough love did seem to be Jack’s MO.

The team paused at one open door, for once they had the drop on one of Cerberus’ engineer. Garrus personally hated them and their unending supplies of the turret. Quietly Jane walked forward and took him out with her Omni blade. The body hadn’t hit the floor before she started looking over the damaged Atlas. Turning back to the men, she smiled, eyes large and hopeful, “It's still working…”

The pair looked at each other, of course the chance to work one of these would put a child-like gleam in her eyes. Shepard could only nod, “Go ahead, just be careful where you fire.”

Garrus nodded, and said in a sarcastic tone, “Yea, I don’t think rockets are good for my health.”

Jane got a few good hits in with the Atlas before it took too much damage, it made their clean up job easier.

Finally they were at the bay, students filing into the shuttles. From what Sanders was shouting they wouldn’t have much time. Jack paused looking over those running past. “Where the hell is Rodrigez?”

She was answered by the sounds of shots, and Garrus heard Jane cursed under breath. One of the students listed as a primary target was on the other side of bullet proof glass running from a fresh new squad of Cerberus goons. The Shepard glowed blue, as he tried to smash through the window, “She needs covering fire!”

“She needs more than that,” was the only warning Jack gave, and Jane barely had time to shove her brother away from the path of the biotic. And with one blast she shattered the whole window and pushed the attackers back. They got the girl up on her feet and onto the shuttle.

On the way back to Normandy Garrus was surprised to see how well Jack took to being a leader. She was tough as nails, rude, and still ready with a snarky reply. But he was most taken back by the worried look she gave when Shepard was asked what he thought of the Biotic Artillery uses. And the rush of relief when he suggested more support roles.

Staying on the fringes, Jane let out a sigh, seeing Garrus curious look she explained quietly, “These kids are the closest thing to family Jack has, and they really are still kids. They don’t belong in war, let alone the front lines.”

Garrus nodded in understanding, “And she was worried Shepard would only view them as another strong weapon meant to be used?”

Jane nodded, “And to be honest if it was back before Saren… I think he would have. But now he is seeing more of the big picture and not just the goal.”

Garrus nodded, turning back to the conversation between Jack and Joker.

“Cover your ears kids… Hey, Joker, f-”

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