When he had joined the original Normandy, there had been surprisingly little paperwork. He supposed that somewhere between the race after Saren and the detailing of the ship to Shepard’s Spectre authority, whoever was supposed to take care of forms hadn’t known whether they needed Alliance or Council approval for anything, and had kicked it up to Shepard, who had dealt with everything by having Tali, Wrex and himself give the requisitions officer supply lists appropriate to their species before they left the Citadel.
Shepard was really more of a “summarize everything in the comments field” sort of person, when she could get away with it.
If he had ever thought about it, which of course he hadn’t, being neither precognitive or delusional, he would have guessed that joining up with a rogue starship staffed by a human terrorist organization would have involved even less bureaucracy than that.
He would have been so, so tragically wrong.
“Don’t worry, Garrus—can I call you Garrus?” the little human said, patting his hand as he stared at the pile of datapads in her arms. “It looks worse than it is! We just want to make sure everything’s in order, I’m sure you understand— I know how important structure is to turians!”
He wondered if her voice sounded that... chirpy to other humans, or if it was some strange calibration error in his new cybernetic ear. “I—”
“Now, this is probably the first thing to take care of,” she said, pointing to the pad on top. “This is your employment contract. We couldn’t reach you to negotiate terms ahead of time - well, obviously!” she giggled. “So this is the standard Cerberus package for specialized subcontractors, plus hazard bonuses, plus dextro-amino-suitable benefits package. I’m sure you’ll find it’s more than fair, but just between you and me, some of the other specialists have negotiated additional perks, so if there’s something you need, just fill in the request form in Appendix D and submit it through the standard requisition channels, and I’m sure we’ll be able to make it work.”
“Hang on a damn minute!” he said, as soon as she stopped for breath. “You can keep all that crap, I’m not here to work for Cerberus.”
“Oh, of course not!” she said, blinking up at him with wide-open eyes (innocence/simulated innocence/surprise). “Of course, you feel great personal loyalty to the Commander, and no wonder, with all that you’ve been through together... clinging on to the skin of the Citadel, facing death from beyond the edges of the galaxy and laughing in its face...”
“We weren’t really laughing much at the time,” Garrus said. “It was more a grunting, shooting, exploding sort of thing.”
“Well, anyway, it’s only natural that you’d feel this way,” she said, not seeming to hear. “But you might as well get paid at the same time, right? I’ll just leave this here. Oh, and Appendix B is the direct deposit form, just indicate the name and account you’d like the credits to go to - on this project, we understand it might not be the same one you’re using now!”
“That’s... surprisingly practical of you,” Garrus managed.
“Now, this one is the employee handbook. This one contains the list of mandatory training modules you’ll need to complete - we’re waiving the firearms certification requirement, obviously! But you’ll still need to do the safety sim, and we do require you to pass a computer security test before your extranet access is turned on - can’t be too careful!”
He took the pad tentatively. It said “Welcome to Cerberus!” on the top. He wondered if maybe there was more in those hypos than Dr. Chakwas had let on- she did know him pretty well, after all, and narcotic-induced hallucinations would make so much more sense than this. The little human was still talking.
“Here’s a copy of the Normandy SR-2 SOP manual,” she was saying. “This has got all your necessary forms, procedures, and regulations. I’m sure it’s less than you’re used to in the military, but please do give it a look. We have a standard dextro ration allotment on board, but feel free to requisition anything additional you may need. Also, as a member of the Commander’s special squad, you’re entitled to an extra equipment allowance, active combat rations, and an extra five minutes of shower time per day, with additional time allowable on an ad hoc basis on days when you’ve got ground missions.”
He snorted. “Now that, we’ll need.”
“We analyzed the records of your previous mission very carefully to provide everything we could to create an atmosphere that would nurture success,” she said. “Now, just one more thing and then I’ll leave you to it- I’ve set up your omnitool on the Normandy’s internal network and messaging system. You’ll get mission materials and appointments on the system, plus I’ve subscribed you to the daily ship newsletter!”
He stared at her in horror. “The what?”
“It’s called the NormanDaily News - get it? It’s a great way to settle in. We have crew profiles, number puzzles, announcements, recreational activity schedules, and Commander Shepard writes a daily column!”
“Well, I think she may dictate it, but she certainly has a very distinctive style! It’s very popular with the crew.” She pushed the last of the stack into his hands and smiled, showing a disconcerting number of teeth, even for a human. “We are so glad to have you aboard, Garrus. Please, don’t hesitate to come find me if you need anything at all. I’m usually right next to the galaxy map, and I always have time to talk!” She bustled out, door swishing shut behind her. The battery seemed to ring with the sudden silence.
He pulled up his omni-tool and opened the message interface.
Why didn’t you tell me humans had developed a redundant respiratory system?
It was only a few seconds before a reply pinged.
oh god, you must have met kelly. —s
Apparently Cerberus’ upgrades didn’t include an inclination to use the shift key. It was almost painfully familiar, and it’s stupid how much he could feel himself relaxing over such a little thing. He leaned against the console, incidentally knocking over the stack of datapads. He didn't care.
Didn’t catch her name. The little one, talks a lot, high-pitched voice, kept patting me.
thats her. shes supposed to be my assistant or something, but also like a ship counselor? seems mostly ok. watch her though, shes handsy. —s
That’s a strangely terrifying thought.
youre telling me. —s
also i have it on good authority that she just wants to hold you in her arms and tell you everythings all right. —s
i think she may have spent a little too much time looking at that turian double issue of fornax from last week. —s
not that i know that much about fornax. i just saw it on omega. —s
i mean i know there is a deluxe subscription on the intranet now but that was totally a joke to piss off the illusive man —s
i mean not like theres anything wrong with liking turians or whatever, i can totally see why
dammit that wasnt what i meant to
garrus? say something.
He would, he totally would, but he was laughing too hard to type anything, and his face was on fire but he didn't give a damn.
garrus if you are passed out in the battery chakwas is going to kick your flat turian ass and i will help her
thats it im coming down there
He was sitting in the battery of a reconstructed starship, nursing a reconstructed face, getting ready to accompany his resurrected CO (best friend) on a mission that would almost certainly kill them all.
She burst through the door, saw him laughing helplessly, propped up by the console, and smacked his good shoulder.
“You ass,” she said. “I was worried.”
“Sorry,” he managed, trying to get control of his breath, but it was the first time he’d felt this light in two years and fifteen days and really, he wasn’t sorry at all.