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[diss]Consonance

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Perdendosi (Italian)
A directive to perform  the indicated passage of a composition in a manner that the sound dies away, gradually diminishing in volume, rhythm, and tone.         

                                          
Opia
(noun) The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.


 

Year 2183. Post-Sovereign Attack.

The air still smoldered with the heat of plasma rifles and grenades.

Sinead Shepard basked in the tranquil light of the Citadel Tower, growing warm with the comfort of victory and pride. She had become used this, the hot smell of battle with the buzz of adrenaline: her ideal cocktail.

Numbing.

She drank with such pleasant satisfaction.

The dim light still managed to glow, gold and white against the cracked walls and burnt garden bushes. Rubble and charred ship remains littered the ground and disrupted the serene ambiance the Citadel Tower once had. Now, it was nothing more than a burning mountain of Reaper remains and Saren’s memory.

Shepard had held onto her pity for a respectable time before throwing it onto the smoking ashes of building remains. Thoughts and prayers were only good in death. Clinging to them was for the weak minded.

It appeared the council members did not share the idea.

The surviving council members stood before her, Sparatus and Valern with their heads bowed while Tevos laid a hand over her heart.

Ambassador Udina and Captain Anderson stood by her, proud and tired after the long battle. Udina hunched in on himself under the weight of the rush, unaccustomed to the thrill of tension in his shoulders. Anderson shrugged into it with ease like the marine he was.

Shepard hoped one day to be able to wear her victories like Anderson did. With accomplishment and satisfaction of good deeds and righted wrongs. Till then, she would drink her fill in her own way.

She indulgenced in the glory of a win like a glutton, chasing the high with nothing to lose and a glass of scotch tight in her hand. Maturity and wisdom could wait till the next war.

Ambassador Udina broke her spell and brought her back to the conversation. “Shepard, you can’t be serious. You? As Councilor?”

Shepard turned her head to him with a hint of a glare. “No one’s gonna do it the way I want it done.” She recalled a memory from her time on Mindoir, a woman held her close and said ‘be the change you want to see’.

She didn’t want to see this massacre happen again.

With her hip shifted to the side, Shepard waited for Udina’s challenge. She always did love a good fight.

Udina fidgeted side to side and passed a concerned eye to the asari councilor who watched him curiously. “Frankly Commander,” he began with constrained calm, “you like to let your fists do the talking. I believe someone with a more political background would be better qualified.” He tried to be professional, with an analytical point and firm nod of his head with hands tucked behind his back.

“Like you, Udina?” Shepard asked sarcastically.

He straightened his back with a high chest. “I’m only an example of many potential candidates. But yes, someone like me.”

Councilor Sparatus stepped forward from the council group. “I agree with Ambassador Udina. Commander Shepard, we are grateful for all you’ve done but you’re not exactly suited for a job as a politician.” Polite with a patronizing undertone. At least he was trying to soften his distaste now.

“What do you think another politician is going to give you that I can’t?” Shepard forced herself to relax her jaw. “I have first-hand experience dealing with the reapers and the drive to put an end to this mess.”

Councilor Sparatus balked with his mandibles fanning out only to snap them against his jaw. “Reapers? Shepard, there were geth swarming the Citadel only moments ago. This is clearly a geth-”

“You’re still denying they’re real? Even after all of this?” Shepard dramatically gestured to the smoking chaos around them all.

Udina cleared his throat and grumbled, “It’s rather poor taste to use this attack at your political platform.”

“I’m not using this as a platform, I’m making my point,” Shepard said to him with a glare. She faced back towards Councilor Sparatus and hardened her stare. “You ignored me and look what happened. Maybe you’ll listen to me a little better when I’m sitting in front your face everyday.”

The turian councilor folded his arms, green eyes as sharp as hers.

“Commander,” Udina interjected firmly, “I am humanity’s ambassador. I am the most qualified for this position.” He tried to stand tall, hands by his side with shoulders pressed back.

Shepard mirrored his stance and angled her chin back with sharp military precision. If anyone was going to win this contest, it was going to be her. “No Ambassador,” she said with finality. “ I don’t think another politician is what we need. The Council needs someone who knows the dangers out there and can move forward in the fight.” She turned back to the council, at a military rest, and locked eyes with the asari before her. “I am the more qualified one here.”

Councilor Sparatus groaned quietly with his arms still crossed. “I beg to differ, Commander.”

“You usually do, Sparatus,” Shepard clipped.

Councilor Tevos gently cleared her throat and stepped behind Councilor Sparatus with a small hand on his shoulder. “I think this proposal is worth listening to,” she said softly to him.

The asari councilor turned her head towards Shepard with a delicate blue smile. “Commander, I think it’s an inspired choice. You have a great deal of perspective to give the council. The people of the Citadel will have peace of mind knowing you’re humanity’s representative.”

A flush tickled Shepard’s cheeks as she nodded her appreciation. “Thank you, Councilor.” A pretty smile always did soften her mood.

Captain Anderson nudged up behind her. “Are you sure about this, Shepard? You’re not the type to sit out of the action for too long.” He let his hand linger on her shoulder as a sign of comfort.

The warmth radiated through her shoulder and eased the tension she pinched up her spine. “I know. But needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Right?” Shepard gave him a soft smile, assured and steady.

‘Be the change you want to see.’

Years of obedience in the Alliance taught her many things. Most importantly, if you want something done right then do it yourself. She had served others for so long. Now was the time to be in charge where she felt a real difference could be made. She wasn’t the biggest fan of sitting out of the action, but doing what she felt was right was more important.

There was a twisting in her stomach as she nodded on with her proposal. Never let them see you sweat, she reminded herself.

Anderson’s eyes gave her a once over. He paused, then nodded with a push of his lip and grunt of approval. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe you are suited for this after all.”

Udina’s side eye burned in Shepard’s peripheral. She pushed her shoulders back once more and stepped forward to the council, leaving the critic in her shadow.

The three council members exchanged looks, a silent conversation. Councilor Tevos cleared her throat as she stepped forward .

She moved before Shepard, long and elegant. Her hands rolled like waves as she spoke with a mother’s care. “Well, it seems a little unorthodox but I agree with you Commander.” She briefly glanced back to her comrades for confirmation.

Councilor Valern nodded while Sparatus shrugged with a defeated huff behind him.

Her half lidded grey eyes relaxed Shepard, smooth as silk like her voice. “You bring an expertise the to table that no one does. We’ll need to discuss further on this, but I believe you may have yourself a seat on the Council, Commander.”

Shepard wasn’t sure if it was the pretty asari in front of her, the cocktail of her aftermath, or the invitation of a council seat, but she felt pretty damn good.

 


Year 2183. Months After Sovereign's Attack.

“Clean up is going according to plan, Councilor.” The trademark pink and white armor had earned a few new scuff marks, but Ashley Williams still wore it proudly.

Shepard smiled to herself and waved off the formalities. “You don’t need to call me that Ashley.”

Ashley returned the smile. “I know. But it’s kind of fun.” She paused a moment to hold back a snicker. “COUNCILOR,” she emphasized with a bow and twirl of her wrist.

“Shut up!” Shepard snorted. She tossed the data pad on to her desk, not paying attention to the dull statistics anyway.

Ashley laughed a little more at her own joke and tried to wipe the smirk from her face. “Cute hair by the way,” she said and pointed to the grown out curls atop Shepard’s head.

“You like? I’ve been letting it grow out,” Shepard said flirtatiously and flipped a curl from her forehead. She leaned in closer to her comm and dropped her voice, “Now are we going to talk shop or are you finally falling victim to my charms?”

The extra wink and cheesy grin were enough to make Ashley roll her eyes. She laughed along with Shepard, basking in the sweet comfort of their cat and mouse banter. Some things would never change, the playful flirting was one of them.

“Geth sightings have been dropping steadily,” Ashley said through the remnants of her laugh. “We’re going to keep checking around of course, but I have a feeling they’re heading for the hills.” She cocked her head high in pride, the triumph over Sovereign still stoking her fire. “How goes the work on your end?”

There was a heavy sigh with the roll of Shepard’s eyes. “Slow. You’d think convincing the galaxy a giant technological termination squad is coming after them would be easy. Sparatus has it out for me. I had allies in the beginning, but he’s been spinning my words with his fancy ‘politician talking’.” She mockingly threw in the air quotes for emphasis. “He makes me sound like a loon. I’m nothing but a rambling crackpot to these politicians.”

“How can they say that with all of the evidence?” Ashley’s face twisted with confusion.

Shepard sighed. “They’re telling me I’m ‘mistaken’. Sparatus continues to push ‘geth invasion’ and everyone eats it up. When I try to argue against him he just talks me into a corner! He’s making me look like an idiot.” She pinched the bridge of her nose with a groan. “How am I supposed to make this work?”

There was a hard frown on Ashley’s face. “You’ve done the impossible on the battlefield. Is a conference room really that much different?”

“Oh, it’s different,” Shepard sighed. “Our meetings go nowhere and we never actually get anything done. How these blowhards ever got anything accomplished is beyond me. I try to move conversations along and no one listens! I’m constantly talked down to like a child just because I don’t have their kind of experience.”

“You have strengths of your own, don’t let them make you think otherwise,” Ashley said. “You’re the Savior of the Citadel and you saved their lives. Remind them of that.”

Shepard scoffed and hung her head. “They don’t seem to care. I’m just a jarhead to them. They love to remind me I’m a soldier playing politician.” She bit her lip and swallowed down the lump in her throat. Her heart beat a little louder in her ears at the acknowledgment of her failure. “I think I’ve bit off more than I can chew.”

Ashley shook her head, sympathy clear on her face. Her unwavering support felt oddly overwhelming. “If anyone can do it, it’s you.”

The honey in her eyes always made Shepard grow warm, like seeing home just around the corner. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she said softly, careful not to let her emotions bleed over.

It appeared Ashley could sense it nonetheless and smiled wide. “I’ll always be here to support you, Shepard.”

I know, Shepard thought to herself. No matter how much Ashley smiled the rock in Shepard’s stomach remained.

“Thanks, Ash.” There was a chime at her office door signaling an entrance . “I have to go. I have a meeting.” Her tone was short, but with it held a twinge of regret at cutting their call. “Keep the Normandy safe for me. And tell Joker to behave.”

The call ended with another laugh accompanied by an “Aye-aye, ma’am!”


Year 2183. Present Day.

She loved being alone.

The freedom that came with it was a luxury she would bask in for days. She would savor the sweet taste before the chains of social expectation caught around her ankle once more.

In her penthouse, Sinead Shepard sat on her bar stool at her kitchen counter, highball glass teetering between her thumb and forefinger as she spun it on its edge. The melting ice cubes would shift and slide along with her movements and crush against the lime peel at the bottom. There was a warm numbing buzz slowly radiating through her entire body.

Her home was far from modest, though it wasn’t of her choosing.

The walls were a soft neutral with large paintings of blooming flowers with asari sculptures hung next to them. An elaborate crystal chandelier spun over head, twinkling with the soft natural pink of the bulbs behind its curtain of stars. It dangled over the large glass coffee table which was dwarfed by the suede couch to its side. The only soft edge to her living room was the white faux fur rug that cushioned it all.

She spun in her seat, leaving her glass on the counter. Her kitchen was large and never used, looking as pristine as the day she moved in. It opened into the sitting room with three steps and met the fluff of the rug. She crossed the rug, enjoying the fur against her bare feet, and gave a passing glance to the windowed wall of her sitting room. The giant window overlooked the calm of the city, and reflected her disdain.

Through her she could see the lights and life of the citadel, moving without her and needing her all the same. Her ghostly image melted into the reflection, her eyes finding themselves and glaring. When she signed up for this position she had expected more. This frustration, this weight, wasn’t what she wanted. But things don’t always happen the way you want, her reflection said. There she was, Councilor Sinead Shepard, Hero of The Citadel, Defeater of The Geth, Crackpot of The Reapers.

This is what I got for trying, she thought.

Snapping her head straight, she walked into her study that was on the other side of her penthouse. There was a mahogany desk littered with datapads and another empty glass from an hour earlier, a drying old fashioned with lipstick on the rim. The room was lined with bookshelves and stories she never read, or ever would. Framed holo images of her former N7 squad and newer Normandy crew sat on the shelves too. She felt a little melancholy as she looked at them. Those days were done now.

Time for another drink.

She passed the desk, the shelves, and, small end table to reach the bar. Its brass frame, sturdy and polished, held her salvation.

With practiced ease, she uncorked the crystal decanter and poured into a new whiskey glass. Amber swam and pooled until half full. No ice. No mixers. Just her and her pal, Johnny Walker.

A sudden surge of voices caught her off guard, booming through her home and drawing her attention away from the needed drink gripped in her hand. With a confused tilt of her head, she slowly made her way back out of the office and into the sitting room.

She stepped around the corner, caution warning her senses to be alert. The voices grew louder, emitting from the opposite side of her home, possibly from the small living room. She soon heard the voice clearly and made out a heated conversation.

“All I’m saying is this whole Anti-Human business has a lot of growing support and frankly, it seems quite foolish to dismiss it as nothing.”

“These radical fear mongers are nothing more than talk. They spew hate rhetoric like it’s air, and that’s all it is! Hot air! A bunch of wind bags wanting to hear their own voice!” said a gruff man who made Shepard cringe. How she hated that voice.

The other man scoffed, “That may be so Ambassador Udina, but that hot air can cook up some real serious trouble. Are you going to ignore the multiple death threats made in the passed two weeks to Councilor Shepard? Your own human councilor has been painted in a nasty light.”

Feeling a groan on annoyance come on, Shepard rounded the corner of her home and found the bright colors of the news channel playing in the dim living room. Udina’s grumpy face was blown-up wide on the television as he argued with a reporter. She managed to make out a tall figure, armored with a pistol strapped to his side, standing with an irritated edge up his back in front of the television.

“Come on, Garrus. Turn that news junk off.” She peered at him over the rim of her glass, vision blurring only briefly.

Her friend turned to her, blue visor a bright bullseye on his face. His mandibles clicked once against his jaw before bringing his omni-tool up to shut the news off.

With his shoulders squared, he eyed the glass in her hands and hunch of her posture. “Is that really wise, Shepard?” Garrus’ voice was laced with mild annoyance but cushioned with the concern only an old friend could have.

“Is it really wise to just sneak into a former marine’s home?”

He ignored her jab and pointed to her glass.

Shepard slouched into the doorframe and waved her hand in dismissal with a smirk. “This is only my first one.”

Garrus crossed his long arms over his chest and cocked a hip to the side, sending her a skeptical glare.

Shepard deadpanned and sat in the silence with him for a second before throwing back a gulp of amber and turning back into the sitting room.

As she strolled away Garrus sighed another heavy breath and followed her to the sitting room where she flopped on the couch. He sat on the end opposite her and waited for her to speak.

She didn’t, as usual. Waiting him out became the easiest thing to do. The concerned lecture was coming regardless of what she said.

“Shepard,” he began, but struggled to continue. His eyes caught the large vase of calla lilies sitting on her coffee table, briefly allowing the distraction to ease the conversation.

He turned to her and gestured at the flowers. “Curious that you have so many flowers in this place. That badass reputation you try to maintain won’t last at this rate.” Garrus leaned back into the couch and swung an arm over the back.

Shepard smirked and sat her drink on the glass coffee table, sans coaster. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have pretty things, Garrus.” She mimicked his pose, lip pinched in her teeth and a rosy glow dusting her face and neck. “The cleaning crew brings them in for me from time to time. This is the most recent bouquet.” She sent a sloppy point in the direction of her white flowers.

“Hm,” Garrus hummed.

She wrinkled her nose with another smile and patted Garrus on his arm. “How are you doing, Garrus?” The couch bounced as she turned to him, her chipper change of mood fueled by the blooming whiskey heat in her chest.

Garrus scratched the back of his neck. “You know Shepard, I’ve been better. Organizing your protection detail has been a little taxing. But hey, what are best friends for.”

The sarcasm was not lost on Shepard. She played through his comment and danced right into her next joke. “You’ve brought me all these new friends, Garrus! It’s been a party every day!” She bent down and grabbed her glass again, taking another sip. She noticed Garrus’ lingering judgment on her hand and ignored it.

“This is serious, Shepard,” he urged.

Shepard stood up, placing her glass down, and walked over to a tall wooden cabinet with shelves under it. It came about as high as her waist, old looking but well maintained. Within the shelves were slim folders which she began to finger through.

“You’re worrying over nothing,” she said trying to ease him. “No one is actually going to follow through on any of that, Garrus. Despite all the mud being thrown on my name, I’m still the Savior of The Citadel. Those Anti-Human extremist can say what they want, but they can’t change the fact that I saved all of them. People know that.”

“Yet you’ve received more death threats in two weeks than the entire Council combined.” Garrus leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

Having found what she was looking for, Shepard stood back up with a thin folder in her hands. She lifted the lid on top of the cabinet and pulled out a giant black disc. A smile pulled at her lips as she gave the item in her hands a once over.

She passed a quick look his way before putting the disc in the cabinet and fiddling with it. “You’ve put a lot of work into that protection detail you’re so proud of. Even if someone did try something, I doubt they’d get very far.” Catering to his ego usually got her off the hook.

She watched Garrus nod in agreement. He said he had handpicked the best he could find, including himself, and stationed them around her home. Overkill in Shepard’s opinion, but if it got him off her back then so be it.

Garrus stopped his thoughts and watched Shepard struggle with her cabinet. “What the hell is that thing anyway?”

“This,” a small lever came down with a scratch, “is a record player.”

“That doesn’t really answer my question,” Garrus said with a chuckle.

“Give it a minute.” Shepard opened the cabinet doors of the player to reveal large speakers hidden underneath and then backed away while activating it with her omni-tool.

Soft guitar strings echoed in the room as a bass morphed in with the song that began to play. The speakers were soft, at a respectable level, and sang away the tension that had been sitting in the room.

Shepard smiled to herself and looked Garrus’ way. “See? It plays music,” she said proudly.

Garrus got up from the couch and inspected the player. “Seems archaic.”

“It’s nostalgic,” she corrected.

Garrus shrugged his shoulders. “Semantics.”

The song began to pick up with a female singer’s voice soothing away the instruments only to call them back. Drums pattered in the background, sturdy in their rhythm, much unlike Shepard’s venturing hips.

“Come on, Garrus,” Shepard quipped, boney elbows flapping like wings. Her teeth pinched her tongue against her bottom lip with a goofy smile as her cheeks flushed a little brighter from the alcohol.

Garrus sighed. “I don’t think it’s a great idea to be getting drunk at a time like this. You know death threats really kill my mood to dance.”

Aiming her omni-tool at the large speakers, she clicked the volume up another notch.

Garrus was met with an awkward butt shake as his only response.

She peeked at him over her shoulder, red lipstick smearing slightly at the corner of her mouth. A quick swipe of her finger and she appeared clean. She sashayed over to the coffee table and picked up her glass for another sip.

With glass in hand, Shepard bounced and then slid over to Garrus, casually bumping shoulders with him. Her dance assault continued with a displaced hip-check and a shimmy.

Garrus looked her up and down. “You’re really going for it, huh?”

Shepard nodded into her glass for another sip. Eyes locked onto his, a little mischief burning behind them while she worked her shoulders in circles.

“Spirits, you look like an idiot,” he affectionately muttered. “Well, if you’re going to do this might as well do it right. Here, let me help you.” He took the glass and sat it on the nearby table. He lead her away from standing objects and held her close for a dance.

Her hands fell into his easily enough, though the clumsy way she followed through the turn gave Garrus pause.

Leading her back into a closed position he swayed and bobbed with her in her living room. “How you holding up there, Shepard?”

“I’m doing great,” she said and leaned back to look up at him. “You having trouble keeping up?” She attempted to lead herself through another turn with a fancy flare, but stumbled on her way back in.

With his long arms, Garrus caught her easily enough and straightened her against him. “Never could quite catch up to you,” he joked. “There anything you want to talk about? Like, why you drinking alone tonight?”

“I’m just trying to have a good time!” She created a little more distance between them, stepping backwards to make room for another dramatic spin. She never came back in.

“This is my favorite part!” Shepard increased the volume another notch and her hands fell into Garrus’s once more, though she kept her distance.

She flung her head side to side, flopping her curls around with the beat of the song and pumped Garrus’ arms along with her. The intensity of her dancing pulled Garrus along and down to her level, roughly shaking him.

“Alright, calm it down,” he joked. “You’re going to break my arm with your dancing.”

“Coward,” she said playfully and twirled away from him.

He laughed in response and watched her fumble about with the chorus. “I think you need to settle down, Shepard.”

Ignoring him, she danced on. She broke into a spin and let her head fall back, arms thrown to the side.

Yet again, Garrus sighed with defeat. “I’ll go get you some painkillers and a shower started.” He left the room and headed to Shepard’s bedroom where he knew she kept her things.

Shepard spun with the chorus, and took flight with the swell of the words, the notes fanning her inhibition. Her drunkenness steadied her in a way gravity couldn’t. Her worries ebbed with the caress of its warmth, like a lover’s hand on her cheek. Heart pounding, chest rising, she rolled her head into another full body spin and let the mad twister of song and dance claim her. She was lost in its moment, never wanting to leave, to abandon the life that damned her.

So, she spiraled down.

As the song declined to its end there was a heavy explosion at her front door. She saw it blasted open—hard and fast. It crashed down and in poured a group of six masked turians and batarians. They fanned out into her home with military ease.

The group stormed in with guns up and ready, all aimed at her head.

She halted mid spin from her dance, song coming to an end, and stared at them in surprise before anger took hold. The commander in her came up and glared them down, counting their numbers, examining their load out, and planning her attack.

“Check the place,” the turian in front ordered. She assumed he was the leader.

Two men, one on each side stepped away and left the scene to check her home.

Gingerly, she brought her hands up and out for them to see. Keeping her movements slow, she stepped towards them. “Get out of my home,” she ordered.

The turian lowered his gun and swayed forward with a cocky air. “Councilor Shepard,” he said and reached behind his head to unlatched his helmet. He removed it and sat it down on the couch as he approached her. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

Shepard scoffed. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re here for an autograph.” She began planning how to disarm him and hoped Garrus was either taking someone out, or waiting for a moment to attack.

“There’s that human arrogance I love so much.” With his rifle lowered he appeared short for a turian, almost young looking. The yellow colony markings were stark against the grey of his face plates. His armor was dark, black with hints of sleek teal on his shoulder and chest, and made him look more menacing than the bright colors of his face.

Shepard let her eyes rake him up and down with an obvious move of her head. She quirked a brow in skepticism. “You seem a little young to be waving that rifle around.” She looked to the soldiers behind him. “How did you even get in here?”

He answered by snapping the gun level to her head. He was short for a turian but could still tower over her easily.

“You forget that turians start training their people for combat at young ages. I’m old enough to know how to shoot you in the face.” His blue eyes were hard and narrow. “We’re an elite group of individuals who are fighting for a righteous cause. We’ve been training for this day.”

Shepard straightened up to look him in the eyes. If it was a stare-off he wanted, it was a stare-off he would get.

They held each other’s gaze for a moment, neither one moving, until the two men from earlier came back from their inspection.

“Are we all clear?” the young turian asked, never taking his eyes off Shepard.

The two batarian men nodded to each other. “Yes, sir. No one in the house.”

Good. They didn’t find Garrus, Shepard thought.

The only thing standing between her and the invading turian was her oversized glass coffee table.

He lowered his gun some, never breaking eye contact, and flipped it around to smash the butt of the rifle into the table. It broke easily, the lilies and vase spilling onto the shattered remains.

“Councilor Shepard,” he began, “I’m going to make this simple to understand.” He hugged his rifle close and walked around the frame of the destroyed table. His voice was almost serene as he spoke. “I’m going to hurt you. You will feel pain. Once I’m done hurting you, I’m going to kill you. It will not be quick.”

Shepard hardened her glare. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because you humans need to understand your place. You’re entitled and full of shit. You bring nothing to the galactic table and you’re an annoyance.” He was now in front of her, mandibles twitching in anticipation. “But you, specifically, need to be brought down.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

“You’re corrupt and power hungry,” he said with a stern voice. “You create conflict just so you can solve it. Take this ‘reaper threat’ for example. You’ve put yourself in a position of power for your own agenda. You’re just like the rest of your species. You’re dangerous, and I’m going to stop you.”

Shepard lowered her arms and stood as tall as she could. “You can’t tell me you seriously believe all that propaganda. West News* has had it out for me since day one,” her hand waved away his ridiculous accusations. “I saved the Citadel from a Reaper invasion, they’re real.”

He chuckled softly. “It’s not propaganda when every newscaster is saying the same thing.”

Shepard shrugged. “Pretty sure that’s the definition of propa--”

The turian cut her off with the back of his hand, the armor cutting into her cheekbone.

Though surprised, she didn’t stumble back. She clenched her jaw and remained standing tall. She turned her eyes back to him, glare hot with an ugly scratch budding under her eye.

“That,” he said gesturing to her cut, “is only the beginning.”


Dextus Talid was the angry, petulant nephew of a turian politician. Over confident, self righteous, and with a chip on his shoulder the size of his ego. Though young, he had many connections to the men and weapons that his namesake gave him. He was inexperienced not the way of a gun, but in the consequences it brought.

Thane Krios didn’t like him. But work was work, and he would follow through.

The batarian styled helmet that he had forced on chafed against the frills of his neck and reminded him to keep movements minimal and the job quick. Don’t expose yourself, no matter what.

Slipping into the six-manned group unnoticed had been a simple task. He took the place of a batarian extremist by stealing his armor before the group’s assault meet-up. All he needed to do was remain quiet and follow Dextus’ lead. Simple.

Taking out the multiple C-Sec officers proved to be no challenge for the trained ex-soldiers. They were swift and moved through their targets with little to no remorse as they made their way to the top floor of the building.

Once they reached Shepard’s penthouse, their engineer pulled programed charges from his pack and passed them to Dextus who eagerly planted them.

The young turian was riding his high as he set off the explosives along Shepard’s door. His excited breathing was easily heard through their comm link.

With their guns at the ready, the group stepped in and found Shepard spinning in her home to a loud song.

Catching someone in a private moment would normally make one cringe, but Thane had grown numb to nagging empathy.

“Check the place,” Dextus commanded.

Thane and another had peeled away from the group to check opposite ends of the house. He readied his weapon just in case, pistol firm in his grip. Be quick, he thought. He couldn’t be away from long.

He stepped into what appeared to be an office, warm colors and yellow lights, with books and a bar table. Empty. Move on.

Moving forward, he found a bedroom in the next room over with a small bathroom. The door was open with the light casting through the dark room.

Thane carefully looked around the dark bedroom using his special eyes to his advantage. The residual heat signature warned him of another’s presence.

With a careful step forward, he angled his gun close.

A C-Sec officer, turian, whipped around the corner with a primed pistol aimed at Thane’s head.

With his prowess guiding him, Thane stepped under the turian’s arm, jamming a punch into his elbow and forcing him to drop the gun. He turned deftly and front kicked the officer deeper into the bathroom.

The officer struggled to find his composure in the cramped room but made a few swift jabs at Thane’s head regardless. A fighter’s spirit.

Thane used the small room to his advantage. Like a ballet, Thane dipped and turned avoiding each throw. He sidestepped the turian and slipped behind him. Quickly, he jumped onto his back, feet bracing himself on the walls as he wrapped himself around the officer’s neck and squeezed.

The officer put up a fight, trying to slam his back into the wall and crush Thane, but couldn’t find enough leverage for a strong push. His long arms reached back to scratch but only met the smooth armor of a helmet. His vigor faded and his body’s rash movements slowed with an occasional jerk.

Thane lowered them both down gingerly, still cautious of his opponent, and checked the turian over and confirmed he was only unconscious. He quickly removed the set of omni-cuffs from the officer's belt.

As Thane worked the turian’s wrists into the unlocked cuffs, the name badge caught his attention.

Garrus Vakarian. C-Sec Detective.

This wasn’t good.

Unfortunately, Officer Vakarian’s reputation preceded him and Thane was aware that the group in the other room were very interested in a formal introduction. In his preparations, Thane learned that the only turian in the galaxy to be closely tied with Councilor Shepard had a special spot at the top of many extremists’ lists.

Thane was not in the business of making those suffer unnecessarily, price of the hit be damned. Garrus Vakarian was not his target.

He finished locking the cuffs and shoved Vakarian into a corner. Disconnecting Garrus’ omni tool, Thane holstered Vakarian’s pistol on his own belt and hit the lights of the bathroom on his way out. With the door to the bathroom and bedroom shut, he jogged back into the sitting room where Dextus and Shepard stood off.

“Are we clear?”

Thane looked to the other batarian and nodded his lie. The other answered for him with a “Yes sir,” and Thane let himself feel a brief wash of relief. Vakarian simply needed to stay out of the way and everything would be fine.

He watched Shepard give no sign of worry or acknowledgement over Vakarian, her gaze steady on Dextus. Thane read her silence as a means of protection for her friend.

Dextus continued to talk as he usually did, with a superiority he claimed to detest. He sneered and lectured with the audacity of a villain from a low budget vid as he dramatically hit the Councilor across the face. Shepard responded with the same bite only to be struck down once more.

Thane had to restrain the urge to stop him when he vamped up his hits and started to beat the woman. She fought back only to have her arm broken in response, genuine fear briefly flashing on her face. His chest clenched as he was forced to stew in his discomfort, finger itching to put a bullet in her chest and be done with it.

Dextus had her pinned to the ground now, fist tearing at the collar of her suit as he repeatedly slammed her head into the floor. Wham! Wham! Wham! With each heavy throw a fresh droplet of blood would fly and stain the lush rug.

He arched back his fist, landing another punch into her eye, her copper curls catching in the seams of his armor and ripping from her scalp.

Shepard merely turned to him with a wincing smirk. “Oh man, you’re really pissed huh?” She laughed as he landed another hit to her gut.

“And what is so funny,” he asked with a sharp edge.

Shepard chuckled again with her blood smeared smile. “Killing me will accomplish nothing. I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this. I really don’t.” Another laugh and she wheezed with the strain of her ribs.

With a growl, Dextus lifted her again and whipped her down with more force than before. “Your submission!”

Thane watched on with misplaced wonderment as she took the beating with a smile. Her hair was a halo that fanned like the sun, catching in the chandelier’s light. With each throw, she rolled in on herself to lessen its blow which made him think of a small animal. Her snide laughs reminded him that she was in fact a hard soldier capable of destruction, much like her history had proven.

There was a sudden movement in the corner of Thane’s eye that alerted him to a bullet coming his way. He dropped down into a roll and aimed his own pistol up to see the C-Sec officer, Garrus Vakarian, sliding into the room with a gun aimed high and with purpose.

He placed a couple bullets in a nearby soldier’s leg and two more in another one’s chest, killing him instantly. No hesitation as he angled his body over to Thane, ready for a final shot.

Two other soldiers appeared from Garrus’ blindspot. One slammed a kick behind his knees, driving him forward and down, the other readied their gun. The turian soldier climbed on Garrus’ back, knee digging into his carapace. One hand tugged at Garrus’ fringe while the other jammed a pistol against the back of his skull.

Garrus threw an elbow up to the side and managed to hit the turian soldier in his waist, which allowed for enough distraction to throw the attacker up and off.

Thane sat back and watched as the second soldier, batarian, kicked Garrus’ pistol across the room. It happened to land near Dextus who stood towering over Shepard.

As Garrus was attempting to push himself up, the batarian swept his arm out from under him with a kick and sent the officer back down to the floor face first.

The turian soldier climbed on him once more, this time making sure to pin Garrus’ arms to the side.

Those bright blue eyes snapped over to Thane, hot and livid. Thane suppressed a sigh, pity budding in his chest at the knowledge of what was to come.

Garrus’ attention was suddenly pulled passed Thane to the scene across the room. His friend bloody and bruised under another turian who’s fists were splattered red and primed for more.

There were many things Thane had seen in this world, specifically many violent things. Garrus Vakarian’s gaze in that moment earned a spot high on his list, most likely a close third place.

Turning slightly, Thane saw the bloody face of the councilor, relief and hopeful at the sight of Garrus' arrival. Oh, how wrong she was.

“I thought you said the place with clear,” Dextus yelled as he came up next to Thane.

Thane opted for an ignorant shrug of his shoulders. The confused look Garrus sent him didn’t go unnoticed.

Dextus stepped in front of the officer with his rifle rested against his chest, snide tone in his voice and a smug flare of his mandibles. “Well, if it isn’t Garrus Vakarian.” He looked down his nose at the other turian.

Garrus huffed in annoyance. “I know who you are,” he said. “You’re that bratty nephew of that politician, Joram Talid. And here I thought you were all talk. Did you find some big kids on the playground to play with you?” He struggled to gesture his head to the armed men holding him down.

Dextus snapped his rifle between Garrus’s eyes.

Shepard coughed a laugh at Garrus’ jab, hand over her ribs as she rolled to the side. “Ha! Nice one.”

Garrus snickered back to her. “Yeah, I thought so.”

“Both of you are going to regret your smartass jokes.” He waved his man off Garrus’ back and kicked him over. “Hold him.”

Thane watched as the two men pulled Garrus around. He scrambled against them, aiming kicks and punches wherever he could. They yanked him down to the floor and held him by his shoulders.

Garrus struggled angrily against them with Dextus looming above. With one man dead and the other applying medi-gel to his leg, Thane was the only one available to stand at the ready over Shepard. He stepped back towards Shepard like the wounded animal she was, and let the horrific scene play out. The gun in his hands began to feel oddly heavy.

Each man held Garrus tight on his arms while Dextus overshadowed him, backlit by the chandelier.

“What’s it like, Officer Vakarian?” Dextus asked while waving his gun in Garrus’ face once more. “What’s it like betraying your own people? To slum it with lowly little pyjacks?” Dextus bent down next to Garrus and brought his face close to his. “You know, everyone says you’ve been dipping into a nasty pool, Vakarian.” He gestured over to Shepard with a toss of his head. “You should know better than that.”

Garrus never looked up at Dextus as he and the two others began beating him. His icy blue eyes strained to watch Thane who stood by Shepard, ever vigilant. 

Things would have gone so much easier if Garrus had stayed unconscious.

A pinch of remorse tickled his gut, but he remained still and let the assault continue. The orders “Don’t expose yourself” kept repeating in the back of his mind. He felt the chains on his wrists grow heavy with each sounding crack of Garrus’ face plates.

Thane turned his head away.

Shepard forced herself up, terror more than flashing across her face this time. Thane could almost hear her blood racing in her veins. Her eyes, bloodshot, panicked around for the weapon that had been kicked in her direction.

She leapt for the pistol, clumsily gripping it in her blood slick hand and aimed for the group.

Thane struck like the viper he was trained to be. He grabbed her arm and whipped her down to the floor again. With the pistol thrown out of her hands by the force, she was defenseless. Thane pinned her under the weight of his boot on her good wrist and clenched a hand around her throat. He aimed his pistol in her chest and primed the gun with a soft beep of warning.

 

Time stilled in the chaos. There she was, presented like a gift under the rainbow lights from above. His target. He would end all this suffering for her right here and now. A weight lifted from his shoulders as he whispered a prayer and readied his trigger finger.

She stared up at him, squinting to make out his eyes behind the black glass of the helmet. The blood had already started to dry and crack around the tiny worry lines of her eyes and forehead. She frowned at him and her red lipstick had added to the blood as another smear of wounded pride. The pure rage in her green eyes glistened, defiant.

Her hair was orange, sunset colored.

Sunset colored eyes defiant in the scope.

Shepard glared and trembled not with fear, but indignation.

“How dare you!”

There was an invading flash of memory and Thane was caught off guard as the real world and his past mixed together. He felt the strong pull of a hand on his shoulder that tore him off his target.

“How dare you!” Dextus repeated, now standing over Shepard. “Don’t you dare take this from me!” There was a jagged talon pointed in Shepard’s face.

Thane backed away and found his eyes wandering over to Garrus who lay motionless on the floor, blood pooling under him, the right side of his face unrecognizable.

This wasn’t how this was meant to go.

The wounded man, their engineer, hobbled over to the group with his medi-gel taking affect. The engineer opened up his omni tool and tapped a few commands onto the screen. “We’ve got C-Sec incoming, Dextus. Vakarian must have alerted them.”

Having managed to get free, find a weapon, and contact C-Sec without an omni-tool earned Garrus a gold star in Thane’s book. Too bad the poor fool was probably dead, or at least close to it.

“Damn,” Dextus said and knelt down over Shepard the way Thane had. She swatted at him with a growl and snap of her teeth. He gave her a slap in the face to tame her. “I guess I need to savior this while I can.” His hands shot forward and clenched hard around her neck.

Shepard squirmed and thrashed under him the best she could, her small hands dwarfed next to his as she clawed at them. Coughing and gasping with her last sight to be the twinkling stars of her home’s chandelier as the halo of her grim reaper. This is how humanity’s savior would die.

Thane once again felt the itch of a merciful trigger finger.

Just die already, he begged.

With her face turning purple and eyes tearing, the twitching fight she had left in her began to still with each violent shake Dextus gave her. She finally stopped moving.

Dextus released a sigh of satisfaction and threw his head back with a laugh. “Yes!” He slowly stood, breathing heavy, and gazed down at his work with a righteous sneer. “YES.”

There was an uneasy pang that pulsed in Thane’s chest at the sight of Dextus kicking the dead body. Troubled, disturbed, twisted.

“Filthy human,” he muttered.

The engineer chimed in again. “C-Sec closing in. About five minutes.”

“We’re gone.” Dextus backed away, savoring his murder. He turned on his heel to lead the group out the door with a wave of his hand.

One man helped the wounded engineer while the other carried the dead body of their comrade. No traces left behind except for the wake of their destruction. Though the measure of an individual couldn’t be discerned by actions alone, their aftermath spoke volumes.

The group made their way out, being sure to take the stairs and side exits. As they left through the building’s back door Thane slipped away into the dark shadows of the alley they emptied into. He stilled his breath and let the group head deeper into the hellish void of the black abyss. It seemed fitting to see the demons return home.

“Where’s Baltran?” he heard one of them ask.

There was a series of irritated mumbles and curses before they pushed on and left him behind. One less soul to be claimed by the darkness.

He ditched the bulky armor in the side dumpster, thankful to be rid of the pinching helmet, and rushed through the back door. There was no time to enjoy the free air against his scales as he doubled back up to Councilor Shepard’s home.

Thane tightened his jaw and forced himself forward through the doorway and into the soft, elegant pink light of the gruesome crime scene. The playing record from before skipped in the eerie background. With one glance down he stepped around Garrus’ body, shattered glass beneath him, and respectfully bent his head. He’d beg for forgiveness later.

The matted mess of orange hair and bulging eyes of the Councilor was enough to haunt him. Her body was a scraped and tattered mass of suit and blood. The glassy green of her irises contrasted sharply with the red veins and irritated rims of her lids. Thane reached down and slid her eyes shut and whispered a brief prayer on her behalf.

Wasting no more time, he yanked a large black bag from a pouch under his leather jacket and unfolded it to reveal a large body bag. He hastily unzipped the bag and pushed it open.

With considerate care, he lifted her into the bag and sealed her away from the world with a tug of the zipper. He then gingerly placed her over his shoulder, mindful of her head, and walked out the penthouse door. The C-Sec officers arrived with the elevator’s ding and he hurried onward. He slipped down a hall and around to a back staircase that lead to a door on the bottom level.

With his target acquired, he left the apartment building buzzing with the C-Sec and reporters that quickly followed. Dodging security down the back alleys of the wards with a dead body was never easy.


Thane’s muscles ached with a special burn he hadn’t felt in a long while. He tilted his head to the side and a sudden ‘crack’ snapped in the silence of the skycar. He then finished sending the notification to his contact for the drop-off and focused on the drive.

He sighed softly and savored the quiet stillness of night that he cherished so much. With the peace he found clarity after the buzzing rush of a job. Tonight he needed that clarity more than ever.

Sour jobs have happened in the past, but this aftertaste was difficult to swallow. The death of an innocent along with the twisted joy of perverted satisfaction was enough to make his stomach turn. With the uninvited presence of his past and the connections his brain made, thinking clearly was becoming troublesome. Thane began to question his contract’s intentions. It would not be the first time he was lead astray.

No matter what he felt now, the deed was done. Not in the way he wanted it to happen, but he did his job. He would have to find solace in that and forget those damning green eyes and orange hair despite his eidetic memory.

He arrived at his destination: an empty warehouse. Cliché, but it served its purpose. He lapped around the empty warehouse and parked in the back of the building, hiding the skycar behind a large shipment of crates and a forklift.

He exited the skycar with cautious alert and a hard gaze at the surroundings. Just crates, a few rats, and one man hidden beneath a tactical cloak just 10 meters to his left.

With feigned ignorance, Thane turned his body slightly away, never letting the man out of his sights. As the stranger moved, Thane delayed his attentions to give the cloaked man a false sense of superiority. Better he have the upper hand than this stranger.   

The cloaked figure moved cat like against the crates and rounded the skycar to stand behind Thane. With no breath or words, he dropped the cloak.

“Do you have what we want?” he asked in a low voice.

Thane turned around slowly, unimpressed by the suspenseful entrance. He met the dark eyes of a human male, black shoulder length hair and lightly tanned skin, staring him down with obvious distaste in an attempt at intimidation.

Thane’s face was impassive. This man’s aura of arrogant strength reminded him of Dextus, and those memories were far too fresh.

Silence surrounded them for a few awkward seconds. The man gave Thane a heavy sigh and tilt of his head, black strands sweeping over his eyes as his back grew rigid and frown sharp. Thane let him sit with the quiet for another moment.

“Am I to assume you are here on behalf of my client?” Thane casually asked.

The stranger quirked a brow. Another exacerbated sigh and a huff later. “Yes, I am. Now do you have what we want or are you wasting my time?” The man placed his hand atop a long sword that was strapped to his hip and tapped his finger along the hilt. A dated method, but effective in certain situations. Thane read his flaunting movements easily enough, and inwardly scoffed at the man’s audacity.

“If you are referring to the body of Councilor Shepard, then yes, I have what you want.” Thane placed his hands behind his back with a neutral face calmly in place. He stood still and waited for the response.

The stranger attempted to remain passive. “May I see the body?” he asked through gritted teeth.

“Certainly.” Thane turned to open the trunk of the skycar.

The door craned up to reveal a long simple black bag zipped tight. It was almost as if the bag had morphed up from the depths of the shadows, only to be hinted at by the nearby street lamps.

The two stood closer than wanted at the trunk of the skycar. The stranger snagged the zipper of the bag and yanked it down. They both were met with the chaos that was Sinead Shepard.

“Good.” The stranger nodded in approval. He slid the zipper up slowly, gaze lingering with an unnamable excitement.  

Thane felt dirty. The fact that this woman’s ending didn’t bring relief to anyone, but a sick satisfaction and hunger for her even in death, left his heart heavy.

“Was the brain damaged?” the man asked.

“Though she was roughly handled, I don’t believe so. I couldn’t interfere and cannot guarantee its condition unfortunately. I attempted to end things quickly, but another had a different idea in mind.”

The man let his irritation build. “You were told to keep the brain intact.”

With a sudden jerk of his head Thane slipped into a memory, the words flowing freely.

“The Illusive Man’s image flickers on my com-channel. He flicks the ashes of his cigarette into the tray at his side. “You’re to guarantee Councilor Shepard’s death and bring her body to the designated coordinates. And keep the brain safe if you can. She’s probably going to be in for a rough ride.” He draws from his cigarette once more .

“I will do my best.” I tell him.

He disconnects the call.”

Thane gathered himself and turned to the stranger.

The man merely scoffed and reached down to grab the body bag. He flung it over his shoulders like a sack of rocks and pushed by, letting the hips of the Councilor knock into Thane as he passed. Thane watched him leave behind the crates, probably to his own hidden skycar, the bag nothing but a rolled rug to him.

There was something rather unsettling about being shoulder checked with a dead body.


Codex:

*West News (Westerlund News): The news network that reporter Khalisah al-Jilani

works for. This is the reporter from the original trilogy that has a reputation for being antagonistic and hostile.

Chapter Text

Inquieto (Italian)
A directive to a musician to perform the indicated passage of a composition in a restless, uneasy, or agitated manner.

                                                      

Nodus Tollens
(noun) The realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.

 


 

Year 2183. Three Weeks Before Night of Assassination. Councilor Shepard’s Office.

Shepard could see the broad silhouette of a man backlit from the lights outside her doorway. He confidently strolled in, shoulders pressed back in his fitted dark suit, making his way over to her with a polite wave and nod of his shaved head.

Shepard’s back ached with the building tension she held. “Ah, Jacob Taylor,” she sighed. “What a pleasure to see you, again. You must really want to speak to me if you’re weaseling your way to the top of my to-do list. ”

He winced a little at the stab and held up his hand in defense. “I simply mentioned the urgency of my meeting to your secretary. He was understanding.” His coy little smile spoke of his persuasion.

Shepard frowned. “I’ll have to have a talk with him about prioritizing my schedule.” She crossed her arms and gave Jacob a hard stare. 

Jacob’s shoulders dropped as did his formality. “He was only trying to help me, go easy on him.” He stepped closer, aligning himself against her office desk. “Have you thought any more about our offer?”

His boldness surprised her, such a strong approach for someone with such a delicate purpose. “You mean the incredibly vague bribe you offered me?” Her hands fanned out down over her desk, leaning in with a predatory hunch of her back, “I am not one to be bought off, and you’re lucky I didn’t have you arrested on the spot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more important matters to attend to.” She grabbed the closest datapad and began skimming through it, absorbing nothing of value.

Jacob cleared his throat and straighten the lapels of his suit. “I was hoping you would hear our offer from the head of our organization.”

Shepard peered up at him, still hunched down over her hoard of datapads, her green eyes sharp with judgement. “And just who is that?” she asked hotly. “You’ve yet to mention anything of value about who you work for. All of this sounds shady and dirty.” The tired rang clear in her voice, the deception she so feared along with the persecution of trust.

Those dark brown eyes soften with the subtle tilt of his hand up in offering. “We’re just trying to help you Councilor.” His olive branch was answered with the ice of her stare. “That’s why they sent me to talk to you. I’m here to help,” he tried again.

Shepard clicked her tongue against her cheek, glancing between the sincerity of his gaze and the trap of his hand. “I know why they sent you. It was smart of them,” she said with a shake of her finger. She made her way around the wall of her table, bringing herself closer to him. She nodded a few more times, approving of the tactical choice. “You’re former Alliance military, young, attractive. Of course I’m less likely to throw you out on your ass when it caters to me.” She paused and looked him up and down. “Was that part of your plan?” she asked with narrowing eyes. “First meeting: throw down the old war stories then pull at my heartstrings so I’ll empathize with you.”

The heat of her words licked at Jacob’s heels. “I was being myself and doing my job, ma’am,” he said curtly.

“Cut that ‘ma’am’ crap,” Shepard scoffed and bobbed her head side to side. “What is this ‘head of your organization’ going to say to me that you haven’t already?”

Jacob sighed. “Just hear him out. Please?”

Shepard bit the corner of her bottom lip and raised a hard skeptical brow. Her eyes never left Jacob’s, testing their little game of chicken. Damn this developing compassion of hers. “I don’t like this, Jacob. This ambiguous shit leaves a bad taste in my mouth.” He was holding strong with her.

Jacob didn’t blink as he nodded in understanding. “Secrecy isn’t fair to you, but it’s necessary. We have a lot to protect.”

Trying to reason with her was smart. Make her understand his side, empathizing with the cause lead to likely joining. He was clever, but she was ready. She let him stew in the bubbling tension of her pause.

“I’m just like you Shepard,” he finally said. “I did the military gig for a while until I found something that needed me, a better calling to do what was right. We’re the same. We’re trying to save people, just like you are.” His voice carried a righteous certainty that coaxed an eager soldier from her past.

“My God. Fine!” Shepard broke out. “I’ll listen,” came the reluctant grumble. She crossed her arms once more and rested her weight on her hip. “Don’t make me regret this, Jacob.”

Jacob’s smile warmed the frigid air of the office. “Thank you, Shepard,” he said  and began working at his omni-tool. Few a quick clicks and an image fizzled together before her from the player on Jacob’s wrist.

An older man, clean cut and suave, gave her an informal salute with his cigarette hand. His suit spoke of money, while the unbuttoned collar showed his lack of care. “Hello Councilor Shepard,” he said casually. “It’s good to finally meet you in person. So to speak.” He took a slow drag of the cigarette, pixelated smoke billowing gently.

“And just who am I talking to?” Shepard asked.

The man smiled to himself and flicked stray ashes to the side. “Let’s just say I’m someone who has yours and humanity’s best interests at heart.” He stared back at her, with a devilish smile and the brightest eyes she had even seen on a person.

Shepard looked over the caller’s shoulder and gave Jacob a skeptical look. “That’s not an answer,” she said.

He carelessly glossed over her response. “I’m sure you’ve heard of the rise of violence against humans in the news. All of these radical hate groups popping up are really keeping the council busy,” he said with an air of detached ease. “How’s your Reaper defense plan coming along with all of these distractions?”

There was a knot forming in Shepard’s gut. “You’re pretty cocky for someone who doesn’t want to give their name.” She found herself growing rigid again, having tamed that bright-eyed young cadet from before.

“My name’s not important,” the stranger clipped. “What is important is that I have the means to help you. The Council isn’t pushing for the defense against the Reapers. They’re trying to side step you and label it as a geth attack then plan to focus on these growing hate crimes.”

Shepard remained still. “And how do you know all this?”

He took another drag. “I have my sources,” he said simply. “You and I both know that the division of species will always exist. We can’t be distracted by a phony peace treaty when we have bigger things to worry about.” He waved his hand in dismissal, a sour sneer of his lips curling up.

“There’s nothing phony about peace amongst the galactic species.” Even as asshole like Shepard wanted peace. “The Reapers are important, but we can’t defeat them divided.”

“Idealistic words,” he chuckled at her naiveté. “There is always going to be a gap. We can either fall in it, or rise about it.”

The pain in her stomach became an angry throb. “What exactly are you saying?” she asked, dreading confirmation of her suspicions.

He discarded his ashes once more. “I’m saying that humanity needs to ascend to our greater role in the galactic community and you and I are the ones to make that happen. You’re running out of support from our allies.”

Shepard held up a hand and dropped her chin to her chest. “I’m going to have to stop you right there. I don’t like where this conversation is going.” She looked to Jacob and saw the shock in his eyes. “Jacob, you’re going to have to leave.”

“Shepard, listen to what I’m saying,” the stranger cut in. “You need to think about the greater good.”

Shepard spared him a short glance. “Yeah, you’re ‘greater good’ seems a little one sided from where I’m standing.” Without waiting for a response, she grabbed Jacob’s omni-tool and disconnected the call, the image of the stranger blinking away.

“Jacob,” she said with a pointed finger at the door, “I need you to leave.”

Dumbstruck, Jacob blinked at her then tried to tap back into his omni-tool and pull the call back up. “Shepard, he wasn’t finished--”

Shepard grabbed his busy hands and stilled him. Her face came close to his, voice nothing more than a whisper in his ear. “If what I think is happening right now is happening, then you need to go. I don’t need to hear the name Cerberus to know when I’m being fed bullshit.” She gave him a solid push in the direction of the door.

He fumbled only slightly, not bothering to adjust the bunching of his suit. He looked passed her, out the window to the buzzy city life of the Citadel. “Are you going to have me arrested?” he asked with muddied anger and disappointment.

Shepard sighed and released the tight hold she held in her shoulders. She pitied the young man, she really did. “I like you Jacob and I think you’ve made a mistake, so no,” she said softly and gave him her back. Damn compassion. “I’m doing you a favor and giving you a chance to get out of here and never let me see your face again. Maybe you should reevaluate your morals while you’re at it.”  She could practically hear him frowning.

“That’s all a matter of opinion, Councilor,” he twisted her title with a turn of his heel and headed for her office door.

Shepard let him take a few steps before saying over her shoulder, “You’re on the wrong side of history Jacob.”

He paused briefly before hitting the button of her door with the force of wounded pride. “We’ll see when the time comes,” he said coldly and left her in the lonely ornate room.


The air system finally kicked on after having been on the fritz for the last three days. So much for living in a technologically advanced age.

Sweat began to dew on the back of Shepard’s neck as she childishly rocked back and forth in her desk chair. What a shitty day.

After the lovely chat with Jacob Taylor, Councilor Shepard’s day was filled with further problems. The meeting on her proposal for the Reaper battlefront had been blown off again due to another anti-human assault. A human male was attacked by a masked group just outside of Flux. Though their faces were covered, it was easy enough to see they were turians. She remembered someone reading off gruesome details to her, but it all fell on deaf ears. She didn’t need to hear more.

She struggled with her feelings. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about the assaults, the hate groups disturbed her greatly. But the Reapers were coming and she needed everyone to rally now more than ever. Actually getting them to rally was proving to be a bigger issue than anticipated.

She sighed again, the breath heavy in her lungs, chest sagging with the weight of expectation. The noise of the door hissing open barely hit her.

“Having a bad day, Shepard?” came a smooth and deep voice.

With her hand covering her eyes she smiled her relief at the sound of familiarity. She used to not like Garrus, with his idol worship and brown nosing, but she quickly changed after his personal request for vengeance back on the Normandy. Good old fashioned vengeance was something she could get behind. It felt like years ago at this point.

She blinked away the dreary daze of the day and found the turian strutting his way towards her desk. It would be another few months before he came down from his victorious high post Saren defeat. Oh, how he savored that kill shot.

“I need a drink,” Shepard groaned and opened the bottom drawer of her desk. There were a few clinks then she reappeared with a half empty bottle of whiskey and a glass. “Do you want one?” she asked with a playful shake of her bottle. “I got the special turian brandy you love so much.”

Garrus smirked at her coy little grin and waved her off. “Not while I’m on the job, you know that.”

She did know that. But it never stopped her from asking. “Killjoy,” she teased and kicked the drawer shut.

With a dramatic flare, she spun her chair to the other side, tossed the lid onto her desk, the sloppy waterfall of copper comfort in her old lipstick rimmed glass making her smile. Joy sparkled in her eyes as she watched the glass fill, anticipation eating at her after the long day.

Garrus ignored the liquor’s call and pressed on to more important matters. “We’ve received a new batch of your fan-mail,” he said with a sigh. “They’re getting quite colorful in their descriptions of you.”

“I’m flattered,” was her dull reply. Using the back of her hand to catch a stray drip from her mouth, Shepard turned her chair away from Garrus to stare out her window and watch the ambient enviro-lights of the Citadel dim on.

“I’ve made the call to step up security around your office and home. No more single guard escorts for you.” His teasing tone did nothing to lighten her mood.

“Seriously?” Shepard asked and spun her chair back around. “It’s annoying enough already, Garrus. I don’t need a flock of babysitters.” She waved her glass around, pinky finger out in a semblance of class, whiskey sloshing about, and gave Garrus a pout.

“Hm,” Garrus began with a shrug, “the massive number of threats you’ve received say otherwise.” He opened his omni-tool, preparing to quote her the updated number like she knew he would. His nagging irked her.

“Nothing is actually going to happen,” she groaned. Shepard stood from her chair, designer shoes dragging along, and poked a finger at Garrus’ shoulder plate with a mumble of words. “No one is going to follow through with those. I’m the Savior of the Citadel. And a former N7 Spectre , so I’ll kick anyone’s ass who gets near me.” She sipped her drink with the eagerness of a teen at a frat party.

Garrus sighed, mandibles fluttering subtly. “I know you’re capable of handling yourself, but if an attack happens--”

“Won’t happen.”

“--I want you protected.”

“Aww,” Shepard placed a hand over her heart with a sarcastic lover’s sigh, “that’s sweet.” She fluttered her lashes, a gesture that confused Garrus given his awkward head tilt, and chuckled at his expense. “Relax, Garrus,” she said with a wave. “With you around I can’t lose. Right?”

“That’s the plan,” he said.

Shepard took another drink, stepping back to her desk and resting her hip against its edge. “We’ve defeated Saren and a giant Reaper. I think we can handle a few angry extremists.” She carelessly swirled her whiskey, watching the city lights dance in its pool.

With his harmonics buzzing at the fresh memory, Garrus folded his arms and smiled with the ease of the reminiscing war hero that he was. “I sure hope so,” he sighed.

He walked over to Shepard’s desk and sat on the other edge, perpendicular to where she was. Their arms were only inches from touching. Together they sat in the growing quiet, sounds of the Citadel night humming in the background with warm city lights illuminating the dimly lit office.

Garrus sighed to himself, eyes focused down and away. “These groups have been gaining more ground with each passing day,” he said with concern straining his voice, though not in a tone Shepard could hear. “C-Sec is working on trying to find out any information we can, but so far we’re not pulling up much.” He slouched a littler further against the desk. “It’s like they’re being protected by something, or someone,” he groaned in annoyance. “It’s got me a little nervous.”

Since they day they met, Shepard had known Garrus to be nothing less than a hard worker. She imagined the frustration ate at him, like many of his cases did, but this feeling—the need to solve this— probably bothered him more than normal. 

Part of her felt his worry was unnecessary while another part agreed with him. The mental tug-of-war in her head was exhausting. Pushing these dilemmas aside was usually easier. Too bad Garrus wouldn’t let her. 

Shepard frowned into her drink, feeling a dread claw at her throat and almost choking her. Her hand found its way up her neck in an afterthought to soothe the constricting feeling. She titled her glass back for another drink. “Sounds like some kind of conspiracy is brewing,” she tried to joke, elbowing Garrus’ arm.

He lazily elbowed her back with the jutting edge of his gauntlet. “That’s the last thing I need right now,” he scoffed.

“You and me both,” she lightly laughed back. “These jerks are a pain in my ass in more ways than one. Council work has been jammed because of these crimes popping up left and right. We have to keep the peace with public speeches and reassure the Ambassadors that this kind of hate won’t spread to their home worlds. It blows.”

Garrus hardened his tone, eyes narrowing in on her. “We’ll stop it here, Shepard. The Citadel won’t be known as a safe haven for these extremists.” His certainty was as strong it had ever been and it was something Shepard was beginning to rely on.

“I know we will,” she said more-so for herself. “It’s just annoying because I can’t get anyone to focus talks on the Reapers when everyone is scared of these damn lunatics spreading around the galaxy. I’m the one receiving the death threats and you don’t see me cowering!” She took another drink, liquor almost gone.

Garrus laughed and stood from the desk. “That’s only because your thick skull prevents you from experiencing fear.”

“Haha,” she said dryly. “Very funny.” Shepard stood as well and adjusted her suit with a sharp tug of her free hand. “This thick skull of mine,” she said with a knock on her head, “has also bashed in a few others and has saved your ass more times than you can count on your three fingered hands!”

Garrus gave her a playful wave of his fingers. “I have the right amount of fingers. It’s you that has too many.”

Shepard pointed to herself with her glass still in hand. “I have just the right amount, Vakarian.” She raised her sans glass hand in a gesture Garrus remembered as “flipping the bird”.

“Yeah, alright,” he said with a dismissal of his hand. “Finish your little juice break so I can take you home.” His hand found the pistol strapped to his side and pulled it forward to check the rounds.

Throwing back her drink one last time, Shepard swallowed the rest and set the glass on the desk with a clatter. “Are you going to open my car door for me and everything?” She signaled for Garrus to get her coat on the hook by her door. It wasn’t that it was ever cold on the Citadel, but the coat did hide the small gun she was strapping her back.

Garrus secured his pistol and grabbed the coat, back straight once again with the seriousness only turian military could train. “Of course. I know how to treat a lady.” He opened the door with his omni-tool and waved Shepard through with a small chivalrous bow.

She gave him a playful quirk of her brow and stepped out of her office. “What a gentleman.” Garrus assisted her with the coat as she clumsily slipped her arms in, feeling the whiskey take effect.


He inhaled slowly, the smells of spicy heat sizzling, his wrists turning about the spatula in the pan. It was calm, as his preferred mornings were.

He cooked his breakfast alone in the narrow kitchen of his spartan apartment, protein heavy with a side of fruit. Another sizzle, fresh waft of smell, smokey and thick.

A single plate was to the side of the stove. With his breakfast ready, he tilted the pan to shake his food onto the plate. He grabbed the plate with utensil in hand and walked towards a tiny round table to pull out the single chair.

The hunger in his stomach churned with a noise and was soon overshadowed by a sigh of content as the first bite neared his mouth.

A loud ping from the omni-tool on his wrist snapped his attention away with no hesitation. Checking the ID of the incoming call, he shifted into work mode. The utensil found its place on the plate that was easily pushed to the side. He sat up straight in the chair, wrist brought forward with a large screen and the image of human man.

His white hair was pushed stylishly and peppered with grey. The neon of his blue eyes glowed behind the curtain of cigarette smoke that he puffed before speaking.

“Thane Krios, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.” He flicked the cigarette out of sight in what Thane assumed was an ashtray.

Thane gently dipped his head. “Of course. I find it pertinent to speak with all of my potential clients.”

“Professionalism I can appreciate.” There was a ghost of a smile, pulled together with polite obligation.

Thane paused a moment. “Forgive me, I’m not sure how you wish to be addressed. Unless, ‘The Illusive Man’, is what you prefer?”

He nodded with a mild chuckle, “Yes, The Illusive Man, is fine.” The cigarette came back into view, toying between his fingers. “I assume you read over the dossier I had sent over to you.”

“I have. My target is to be Councilor Shepard.” He paused again, considering his words carefully. “I have done may jobs but I must confess, I don’t make it a habit of removing good people from the world. Your request troubles me.”

The Illusive Man pulled the ember’s glow back from his mouth, brows pinched together in consideration. “An assassin with a conscience? Interesting.” His tone was thoughtful, bordering condescending. “I would have thought the reasons of your employer didn’t matter as long as the paycheck was guaranteed. At least, that’s what all the referrals had assured me.”

“I am not above ‘dirty work’, as they say. Do not mistake my concern as weak hesitation.” Thane shifted forward, eyes a blank void. “Once a contract is signed, my arm is yours. Normally, I let my clients have their motives, but targeting a Citadel council member—Councilor Shepard, no less—begs my attention.” He let his words linger, watching for any tell from the man’s face.  “Removing the good is something I am capable of, but I don’t readily do so without question. I’m ensuring the stability of the job.”

The Illusive Man slowly brought his cigarette back to his mouth, eyes strong, heavy with skepticism. He inhaled, never blinking, the orange fire burning bright. “I understand your concern,” he said with the smoke rolling between his lips. He roughly flicked the ashes to the side, a sharp jolt of his arm. “To the public, Sinead Shepard seems like a hero. She did save the Citadel and council from destruction and I, along with many others, are thankful. But she’s fallen. I’m sure you’ve seen the news reports. You know that this Reapers nonsense she pushes isn’t real. The g eth lead that attack and Shepard can’t let it go. She’s taking the council on a goosechase. She’s done her duty and now it’s time for her to rest.” He paused then sighed with pity. “She’s not well. I’ve tried speaking with her to get her to see reason and step down, but I fear if she’s kept in her position that she will only do more harm. The rise of anti-human extremists is proof enough of that.”

Thane titled his head, inner lids blinking. “A mercy killing then?”

The Illusive Man smiled tightly. “You see my point exactly. She has done enough for us. It’s sad to see how the pressure has made a great soldier crumble.” His shoulders shrugged at the sad thought, head shaking, brow mournful.

“A pity,” Thane said while ignoring the unease of his stomach unrelated to his cooling breakfast.

There was a nod, then a heavy sigh. “I’ve received information of a scheduled anti-human attack on Shepard’s home. I’ll send you an updated dossier. I want you to insure that she dies during the invasion.” The Illusive Man reclined back in his chair, eyes studying the assassin.

Thane keep his face passive as the years had taught him. “There are a more peaceful ways to achieve her death. I can slip into her home while she sleeps--”

“That won’t be necessary.” Those bright eyes lazily closed with the inhale of the cigarette.

“A home invasion in rather aggressive.”

“The council needs an aggressive push.” Cool and steady, he opened in his eyes behind the smoke. “With the news of Shepard’s death to these groups the council will see the importance of stopping them and put this Reaper nonsense to bed.”

“I see,” Thane sighed. He inhaled for clarity, chest tight with a prick of discomfort. “Political motivation to urge a peaceful cause forward. I will work for you.” There was an odd feeling Thane couldn’t put his finger on nagging in the back of his mind. “Please understand, given the nature of the target my price will increase.” He was cold and firm, jaw fixed in place along with his stare.

“Of course,” The Illusive Man said with a nod. He paused a moment and considered Thane’s glare, then pushed on. “I do have one other request.”

Thane inclined his head cautiously for the man to continue. “Go on.”

“I need you to bring me Shepard’s body.” He let the words carelessly fall, unconcerned with their weight.

Thane felt it land square on his shoulders. “That is an odd request. May I ask what for?” Suspicion was a bitter taste and it grew nastier the longer it sat on his tongue.

“That’s for me to know,” The Illusive Man said with finality. “Can you do it or not?”

There was quiet between them, uncomfortable and thick. “I can, yes.” Thane reclined back in his own chair. He felt uncertain and reluctant, but he would treat it as he did any other job.

“Good, I’m glad we could work out the details. You’re to guarantee Councilor Shepard’s death and bring her body to the designated coordinates. And keep the brain safe if you can. She’s probably going to be in for a rough ride.”

Thane nodded his head, “I will do my best.”

The call was cut, the man with glowing eyes fizzled away with his satisfaction and smug cigarette smoke. Thane ignored the lingering caution humming in the back of his mind and opened a different window on his omni-tool. He opened the dossier he had been sent and began scrolling through the intimate file of Councilor Sinead Shepard.


Year 2183. Present Day.

There was a steady beep by her head. It was muted at first, but became louder with each annoying pulse. Her conscious was slowly stirred awake by its call.

Her mind was bleary and limbs weak. Where was she?

She felt uncomfortable by the uncertainty creeping up in her. She was lost in the darkness behind her lids. Then came the throbbing pain. It lived in front of her skull between her eyes, and shot down the back of her neck like lightening.

She twisted her body, wincing at the pain. The pull of stiff bedsheets dragged across her skin as she tossed and turned.

Her eyes hurt, but she willed them open regardless. This was nothing compared to the injuries she suffered in the past.

The white lights above were dimmed but still blinded her. She blinked through the discomfort.

Dry. Her eyes, her tongue, her skin, was dry.

Everything was so dry.

Water.

There was a rustle of sounds to her side, hurried scrambling, almost panicked. Then a figure loomed above, dark in shadow but light in presence. A hand fell on hers with such delicate care.

“You’re awake!” She could hear the excitement in the voice, but it rang like it was a top a passing cloud. “Get the doctor!”

If only she could see clearly.

Her throat was painfully parched. Had she ever been this thirsty? It scratched as she croaked out to the voice.

Water,” she tried weakly.

More rustling noise and then a glass was placed in her hand, supported by a large claw. She felt the ever subtle prick of its tips on her wrist.

Her body was being slowly lifted from the cushion of a pillow. She was moved forward, the glass lifted to her mouth. The cool sensation of water tickled her lips and the thirst took hold.

Her eyes closed in relief as her body summoned the strength to grip the glass and tilt is back. The need was overwhelming. Each gulp almost made her choke but she didn’t stop. She was so thirsty.

She struggled with the glass as it was pulled away. “Slow down,” eased the voice.

Her eyes managed to open once more, this time her vision a little clearer. She groaned at the lights and weakly lifted her hand as a shield.

The room came into view through her haze. Humble and stark. Plain walls with one window behind navy blue curtains that glimpsed outside only slightly. There was a stand on the side next to a large stained chair that looked well sat-in.

Garrus stood before her, a fuzzy blur of blue markings and grey stone. She heard his swallow filled sigh next to her ear and felt the heavy reassurance of his hand of her shoulder. “Shepard. You’re awake.”

Shepard blinked again to clear the fog. Her body sagged with aches. “Where the hell am I?” she asked, voice still scratching with a dry wheeze.

Garrus sat back down in his chair, hands now in his lap. “In a hospital. Do you remember what happened?” His voice was low, cautious. Almost like he was afraid.

Shepard slowly adjusted herself forward to sit up, waving away Garrus’ readied hands. She groaned at her head and rested it in the cradle of her hands.  Breathe in, then out. She pointed at the glass of water, which Garrus handed her without question. In a few quick gulps, the water was gone.

Shepard dug into her mind for what she could remember. “Uh, we were in my office?” she tried. She then shook her head. “No. At my place. We were talking. I don’t remember about what.” There was more pain between her eyes, sharp and stabbing.

“Don’t push yourself,” Garrus cautioned with another gentle touch to her arm. “The doctor said you need to take things slow.”

Shepard pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled slowly, the tightness in her back seeming to ease. She looked over to Garrus with her vision now clear and froze. “What happened to your face, Garrus?”

A massive bandage stretched from his right eye down to his neck and under the armor of his uniform. The tearing of scars peeked out to taunt her into staring. His beautiful colony markings were destroyed, ripped and tattered like the look in his eyes. He dropped his gaze to the tiled floor.

Shepard felt her stomach knot and lip quiver. Hot fire crept up her neck, making her feel more alive than any glass of water ever could. It was the anger of seeing evil done to the good, the ones whom you vowed to protect. Nothing burned and thrived quite like the heat of helplessly seeing a loved one broken.

There was a polite knock at the door before it opened to reveal a man in lab coat. He was bald, with light eyes and stubble, and carried a presence of detached knowledge from years of book study. He sat on the edge of Shepard’s bed, thin light in hand ready to examine.

“Hello, Councilor Shepard.” His voice was calm, but cold. Without waiting, he darted the shining light in front of her eyes for inspection. “It’s good to see you’re awake. I’m Dr. Wilson. I’ve been overseeing your stay with us here at Huerta Memorial. How are you feeling?” He stood once finished and placed his arms around his back.

Shepard sent him an annoyed scowl and sat farther back into her pillows. “My head is throbbing, but I’ll live.” She paused a moment for an explanation. “Is anyone going to explain what’s going on?”

Garrus turned his hands in one another, eyes glancing at the doctor in question. “There’s a lot to explain,” he said with a nervous undertone. “Do you remember the anti-human groups problem?”

Of course she did. Shepard nodded her head. “Yeah.”

Garrus’ fidgeted in his seat like he was trying to find the right words to state the obvious. “Well, it’s gotten worse. Humans are being severely targeted. There are incidences all over the Citadel and C-Sec is scrambling to handle them.” He glanced back at Dr. Wilson, who gently gestured to continue.

Shepard groaned, hands flopping in her lap. Her eyes slid shut in defeat. “How did this happen?”

Garrus sighed heavily as his head hung low. “When the news of your attack—”

“Go slow, Officer Vakarian,” warned Dr. Wilson.

“What attack?” Shepard sprang up, ignoring her body’s protest. She looked to Garrus with pain in her eyes. “Is that what happened to you?” Her voice broke, but only barely.

The bright blue eyes met hers for a second, bitter and broken by failure, then turned to Dr. Wilson in a plea.

The doctor stepped forward. “Let me take it from here.” He turned to Shepard with a fake sympathetic smile and looked her in the eyes. “Councilor Shepard you’ve been in intensive care for approximately seven months. You’re just waking up clearly for the first time in weeks.”

The thought of being absent for seven months rattled her. There was so much she could have prevented if she had been there. “Why am I here? What happened?” Her voice began to rise with the continued pussyfooting.

Dr. Wilson brought his hands up in defense. “Please remain calm, Councilor. This is going to be a lot to take in,” he said gently. He then placed a slim hand on her shoulder. “You were harmed during an attempt on your life, but we were able to save you. You’re still recovering so you must go slow.” His pace was easy, he must have been expecting a delicate patient. He was clearly ill informed.

“Good luck getting her to listen to you.” Karin Chakwas made her way through the door, confident stride and sleek grey hair in place.

Shepard released a breath of relief. “Dr. Chakwas! You’re here too?”

Karin scoffed and crossed her arms. “Of course I’m here! I came as soon as I heard the news. Though they were reluctant to let me see you for the longest time.” She sent Dr. Wilson a hard side-eye.

“Please, just tell me what happened.” Shepard sat forward, eager and ready. “This guy is sugarcoating stuff. There was an attempt on my life?”

Karin’s eyes softened and the smirk she had in place pulled down slightly. “Yes,” she began slowly. “There was a raid on your home seven months ago. You and Garrus barely survived.” She gestured a hand over to Garrus, who sat patiently on the side.

“C-Sec arrived on the scene and found me almost dead.” Garrus seemed calmer once the ball had dropped. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “You were missing though. Your body was dropped off anonymously here at the hospital. We don’t know if the attackers did it as a weird threat or if it was someone else. But you’re alive and that’s all that matters to me.” He placed his hand on her shoulder once more.

An ugly frown etched itself onto Shepard’s face. “You were hurt protecting me, Garrus.” Her gut twisted in on itself, sick and empty. Look at what I put you through, she thought to herself. Her throat began to close but she quickly forced the lump down. Not here, not now.

Dropping his hand, Garrus tried to wave her off. “Don’t start feeling sorry for me, Shepard,” his voice lighter with forced humor. “That isn’t you.”

Hearing that hurt in ways Garrus hadn’t intended. Shepard gathered her sorrowful rage and buried it, saving it for the right time. She cleared her throat and looked up to Dr. Wilson. “I was just dropped off here?”

Dr. Wilson scratched his bald head in confusion. “Yes. Your body was discovered by a group of nurses just outside our front doors. Cameras were wiped clean by whoever left you. They must have saved you because you were still hanging on. ” He pulled another phony smile into place.

“That’s incredibly suspicious,” she said with a frown. The story stunk like varren shit. But it was something she could ignore for the time being as long as the criminals still walked free. “Do we know who attacked us?” Shepard whipped her gaze back to Garrus.

Stepping into his role as bodyguard, Garrus straightened his back and gave a confirming nod. “Yes, his name is Dextus Talid. C-Sec has been running the investigation to hunt him down, but he’s being protected by some powerful money. His uncle is a politician, but this seems above his pay grade even.”

If C-Sec was having this much trouble tracking down one guy, then this thing ran deeper than just a mindless hate crime. Shepard bit her lip in thought. “Are there any leads?”

“Not much. The group was apparently highly trained.” Garrus brought up his omni-tool, orange screen flashing with the overview of the incident. “They took out security cameras and the C-Sec squad I had posted around your condo complex in a matter of minutes. They were packing some serious fire power.” Garrus knelt down and angled the screen for Shepard to see.

Dr. Chakwas emerged and gently pushed Garrus’ arm out of range. “Please, Shepard. I know you want to stop this, but you need to rest still. You’re just waking up.” The fine lines around her eyes wrinkled in concern as her gaze remained steady on Shepard.

“This is bigger than my health, Dr. Chakwas.” Shepard hardened her eyes back at Dr. Chakwas, regretful of the stern edge she was giving.

Dr. Wilson chimed in, hand up in warning. “Councilor, if you are unable to cooperate with our medical guidelines I will be forced to confine you to your bed.”

Shepard responded with an angry glare in challenge.

Karin sighed and turned towards Dr. Wilson. “Don’t threaten her with that. You’re just going to antagonize her.” She reached over to him and snatched a small datapad out of his lab coat pocket which earned a huff from the man. She nodded at the pad she read, most likely Shepard’s charts, studying the details carefully.

Shepard inwardly smirked at the sight, then turned back to Garrus. “What has the council said about all of this.”

Garrus shrugged. “Just the usual ‘We must prevail in the face of adversity’.” The fake asari voice he attempted made Shepard smile. “They want to meet with you as soon as you’re able.”

She nodded. “I’m able.”

Both doctors chimed in unison, “No, you’re not.”

“Garrus, get me an omni-tool,” Shepard ordered. “I’m going to tell the council I’ll meet with them first thing in the morning.”

Frantic, Dr. Wilson stepped in front of Shepard. “Councilor, I advise against this. You need your rest!”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” she said coldly.

“You were dangerously close to it!” Dr. Wilson’s smooth surface had cracked.

Shepard shrugged and rolled her eyes at the man. “It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. Karin has patched me up after worse.”

Dr. Wilson turned to Karin, hands flopping in disbelief. “I don’t know how you put up with this.”

“Acceptance and brandy.” Karin handed to pad back to Dr. Wilson and looked to Shepard. “I’ll start readying your release papers,” she sighed.

“Dr. Chakwas, please. Try reasoning with her. She’s not ready!” Dr. Wilson cried as he followed Karin out of the room.

With the two doctors gone, Shepard turned to her friend. “We’re gonna find the bastard that did this to us. We’re gonna get payback.” Her chest grew tight with anticipation, rage fueling her.

Garrus leaned in close. “I’m right there with you, Shepard. We’re doing everything we can to find some leads of these guys, but there are a lot of attacks going on. This mess is spilling everywhere.” There was a small twinge in his voice that made Shepard bitter and angry at the world.

She groaned loudly. “This is ridiculous! We’re supposed to be fighting the reapers, not each other!”

“I know.”

They were quiet for a moment, sitting together in the hospital room with only the beeping monitor as company. Shepard closed her eyes and reached for the back of her mind, pulling at her memory. It ached but she pressed on.

An image began to surface, like a reflection in a muddy pond. “I’m remembering his face,” she whispered. “Yellow colony markings and blue eyes.” She opened her eyes with a determined goal. “I’m gonna kill him.”

Garrus scoffed into a chuckle. “We’re forced to play by the rules now. Going off with guns and grenades is a thing of the past for us.”

“Being on the council was supposed to let me have the power to move things forward. All it’s done is chain me down with rules and red tape.” Shepard bit her lip, nibbling at the dry skin that peeled.

“That Spectre title is looking a little bit nicer, huh?” Garrus playfully jabbed.

“It really is.” Shepard nodded with her gaze staring off into nothingness. “Maybe the council just needs some of my Spectre perspective pushed on them?” Her tone and mischievous eyes left much to the imagination. She felt her ruthless N7 fire smoldering under the months of political anguish.

Garrus chuckled again. “You can give it to them at your meeting tomorrow.” He reached behind into a back pocket. “Here’s your omni-tool. I’ll escort you to the Citadel Tower in the morning.” He made his way to the door then turned back to her with a gentle look. “Try to get some more rest,” he begged, “for me.”

“What about you?” she asked, looking him up and down. “You look like you haven’t slept in days.”

Garrus turned back towards to door. “I’m not letting someone get the drop on us again. I’ll be outside with the squad keeping watch. Get some sleep.” The door slid open and Garrus stepped through with quiet dignity. It closed behind him with a hiss.

Shepard sighed with the weight of loneliness hanging on her shoulders. She managed to get up from her bed and weakly wobble to the small bathroom in her hospital room. She hit the light on to see the narrow sink and toilet jammed side by side.

Once finished with the bathroom, she bent over the sink into the mirror, water gurgling loudly down the drain.

Her reflection was that of a frail looking woman, healing bruises beneath flattened greasy bangs and sunken eyes. This woman was defeated in her own home, her safe place invade by mindless violence while she did nothing. Those closest to her suffered for her arrogance, her selfishness, her inability. She was unprepared.

Councilor Shepard had become a weak woman.

It was a good thing Commander Shepard knew how to get shit done.