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Deep Breaths

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When the reports of blackouts in batarian space reached him, Garrus knew at once what was happening. He had been waiting for something like this for months. The Reapers were coming. He’d already sent a message to his superiors telling them exactly what was going on, and actually made use of his shiny new lessons on how to speak like a politician to make sure he got through to them. He’d even made the effort to be polite for once. Now was not the time to antagonize them, as satisfying as that would have been to rub an ‘I told you so’ into their faces. He might have the title and the task force, but he wasn’t sure all of the higher ups were totally convinced about what he was suppose to be protecting them from. At least having Reapers right at their doorstep should be able to do the talking for him.

His new orders came back faster than he had expected. Return to Palaven. Report to General Adrien Victus. You’ll be serving under his command, was the gist of it, all the political bullshit aside. Garrus scanned the file again making sure he had read it right. He knew what they were doing. Drawing everything back in order to fortify turian space. Menae had been a stronghold, a symbol of turian strength for a long time. Besides Palaven it was the one place they would protect at all costs. He wasn’t really sure how he felt about being called back. There was part of him that wanted to defy those orders, and stay out here with his ship, see if they could do some good running interference out here. One ship was easier to hide and could do a lot of good. Shepard had proved that..but then he wasn’t really Shepard either. Omega had proven that to him at least.

Besides, he thought as he pushed away from his workstation, Palaven is my home. The least he could do was defend it. He went to look for the Captain to explain their new orders.

This wasn’t his ship exactly. The Hierarchy had just assigned it to his task force to ‘assist in whatever capacity needed’. At least the ship’s real captain hadn’t seemed to mind his odd assignment. After a while he had actually come to support and appreciate what the task force was doing. Garrus liked him, and wasn’t that surprised when the older turian gave him a sharp look over where he was leaving Garrus.

“It’s time, isn’t it?” was the short reply. Justus didn’t talk much, but he was sharp.

“Yeah. They’ll be coming for the rest of the galaxy once they finish with the batarians,” Garrus leaned against a bulkhead. “Gives the rest of us a chance to prepare a little more.”

“Never liked batarians much,” Justus said as he turned to give his own orders to his crew. When he looked back again, his face was deathly serious. “We’ll get you back as fast as we can. They’ll need you there when the Reapers hit.” The older turian’s confidence in him shook Garrus a little. He had a feeling that was the reason they had assigned Justus to him in the first place. He believed in the Hierarchy and all they stood for. If they said that what Garrus was doing was vital, he was sure they were right and had proved that he would do anything to make sure the mission was completed. When they told him that Garrus Vakarian was their Expert Advisor on Reapers, and the only one who had any idea of what they could do? Well then, it must be true.

I’m not sure if I envy him or not, Garrus mused as he gave a quick sort of thanks, got an estimated time of arrival, and then headed back toward his cabin to see if he could catch some sort of rest. On one hand, he had to admit that Justus’ life was fairly straight forward. He did what he was told, didn’t question it, and believed that it would all work out in the end. The textbook example of a good turian soldier when it came down to it.

Garrus knew he could never have lived like that. He was always questioning, wanting to know the ‘why’ behind everything. Even before C-sec he could never just accept things, or believe words that said ‘this is just how it’s done’. He had just been more willing to back down and think that things would make sense later when he was younger. Now he knew better. After what he had seen in C-sec, after Omega, after Shepard, he couldn’t just sit back and let someone else decided things. If anything, his Commander had proved to him that you had to step up and raise hell if you wanted anything to get done.

Which I did , he reminded himself. Now there was nothing more to do but wait. Not exactly an encouraging thought.

To distract himself from the depressing turn his mind had taken, he started researching the general he was going to be serving with. He had heard General Victus’ name before, but usually attached to one of his father’s annoyed rants. That alone would probably have made him like the General. He might have made some sort of peace with his father recently, but that didn’t stop the man from being a hide bound stiff-necked old turian who growled at any thing that didn’t follow the proper order of things. And from what he was reading about Adrien Victus, he was exactly the sort of person his father would find most annoying…well, next to a son that disappeared for years of course.

Interpreting orders how he wanted them, not following protocol exactly, ignoring proper protocol in some cases…it was almost a surprise that he had managed to make General. Then again, Garrus mused, they made a C-sec screw-up who ran away from his job into an advisor to the top ranks of the Hierarchy. Makes an unconventional General seem outright normal.

At least it proved that he would probably like General Victus. Anyone who managed to piss off the old idiots in charge couldn’t be all that bad. As he settled down to try catch some sleep before they reached Menae, it occurred to him that someone, maybe even his own father, had realized Victus was the General he was least likely to end up clashing with. He was glad of it. The Reapers were more than enough to worry about. He wouldn’t want to be dealing with one of his dad’s old cronies too.

O0O0O0O

He was already packed and ready to go when one of the crew members came to tell him they were nearing the moon. Garrus thanked him, then went out onto the bridge to watch their final approach. What he had not been expecting was the amount of traffic they were having to dodge.

“Is the whole damn fleet here?” he did try to keep how stunned he was out of his voice. The Primarch, and the rest of the higher ups, had trusted his word enough that they had pulled all these ships back here. He had never been in a place where he had that much power before.

He wasn’t sure he liked the taste it left in his mouth.

“Yep,” Justus interrupted his thoughts, looking out over the expanse of ships with evident pride. “Don’t care how strong these Reapers are. We’re ready and waiting. Nothing is getting though the might of the turian fleet!”

There were so many, many things that he could have said to that. He actually had his mouth open to point how blindly optimistic, but then snapped his jaw shut with a small click. Maybe it was better for Justus to keep some of that optimism until the Reapers crushed it all.

O0O0O0

There was someone waiting for him when he disembarked at the landing zone.

“Advisor Vakarian?”

“Yes?” he said with a sigh as he headed over to the soldier. Even though it technically was his title, he preferred not to use it much. It made it sound like actually knew what he was doing.

“Sir,” the soldier sketched off a quick salute. “General Victus has requested to meet with you right away. He’s in the command center, do you want me to take you there?”

Garrus readjusted the bag over his shoulder. Not that he wasn’t used to carrying the weight, but somehow he didn’t think the General in charge would appreciate him walking in with it. A little hard to take things seriously when one person was dragging luggage around. There didn’t seem to be an immediate emergency anyway, so he didn’t see the point of lugging it around. “Sure. Just point me to the bunks so I can drop off my stuff, then you can take me over to see him.”

“Of course sir! It’s this way!” The soldier waved him deeper into the camp, and Garrus followed. “We only heard you were coming a few hours ago,” the soldier was saying as they walked. He was young, very young. He couldn’t be more than twenty if Garrus was any judge of it, and still an open book. He kept trying to sneak curious glances without being caught. It wasn’t working very well.
“Communications have been a mess since the fleet was recalled. Priority messages only, and apparently the arrival of an advisor is considered pretty low priority.” The boy’s subvocals were growling in annoyance, as if the delay in communication was a personal insult. It was almost funny really.

When they boy lead him into the camp, Garrus realized that ‘command center’ was probably going to be too fancy a phrase for anything they had here. Yes, there was a perimeter fence and a gate with a guard that waved them through…but beyond that it was clear that this was far, far from being the center of anything on Menae. No, this was just a utilitarian guard outpost. No reason to even waste money on full buildings here.

Not like that was unusual on Menae anyway. No weather out here meant that someone had realized sticking up shelters that were little more than one sidewall and an overhang provided enough protection. Of course, most of them had ramps that could be drawn up to create defensive positions, but they weren’t what he would think of as real buildings. Thankfully the barracks that the young solider lead him to was a bit more solid looking. No real doors or windows but it had four walls and roof with plastic sheeting over it. He stowed his gear in the bunk the younger turian pointed out to him, and tried to decide if he was annoyed or amused at the way his guide kept fidgeting then trying to hide it. Kids these days.

“So, where exactly is the General?” he finally asked as he straightened up and turned to face the kid again.

“At the command post,” was the immediate reply. “Do you want to head over there now? He said he wanted to see you as soon as possible.” He was practically vibrating with suppressed energy and Garrus decided now was not the time to point out he was repeating himself.

“Ah, sure. Wouldn’t want to keep him waiting.” The boy didn’t even seem to notice his tone as they set out again. He still kept glancing back though and that was beginning to irritate him. “You know, if you’re going to stare at someone, you might as well do it. Get it over with before they decide they don’t like you.”

The kid stopped dead, eyes going wide and mandible flaring out in embarrassment. “S..sorry, Sir! I didn’t mean…”

“At ease,” he sighed, “Just…tell me what’s so absolutely fascinating about me? Do I have something on my face or am I really just that good looking?”

The boy still had that particularly embarrassed look on his face, but he made an effort to look up at him. “They’ve been saying that you’re here because they’re coming. The Reapers I mean. The ones that everyone was talking about. That they’re real and coming here.” His subvocals were raising in eagerness.

“Oh, they are. And when they get here you are going to be wishing that they were nothing more than nightmares. This isn’t going to be a quick or easy war, no matter what the Hierarchy says. I’ve fought with these things before, remember. Reapers don’t believe in little things like fighting fair.”

The kid look taken back, a confused trill threading through his under-voice. “But they said…”

“I don’t care what they said. One thing you’ll learn as you get older is that what you’re told and the truth can be two very different things,” at the look on the boy’s face he decided to take some pity on him. “Isn’t there a General I’m suppose to be meeting?”

“R…right!” the kid shook himself. “This way Advisor Vakarian!”

Shaking his head, Garrus followed his guide deeper into the guard outpost. He was still getting those looks, but now they were more of the ‘what the hell do I make of you’ sort. Those he could deal with. He’d been getting them ever since they had given him his task force.

They found the General standing at a table, deep in conversation with a couple of officers as he gestured at the map laid out in front of them. As he and his guide reached the shelter the officers saluted and left, heading towards the main gate. Victus himself then turned his attention to them.

“Thank you, Hadrianus. You can return to your squad now,” he said at last.

“Sir!” The boy, Hadrianus, looked as if he wanted stay, but apparently he hadn’t learned how to talk back to his superiors just yet. He gave a salute and then headed away. Garrus stared after him for a moment, trying to figure out why the name felt as if it should mean something.

“Wait…” he glanced at Victus. “You did just say, Hadrianus, didn’t you?” He gestured toward the kid, wondering if he really had heard right. Hadrianus was a bit of a political family. Normally anyone connected to that name would have a post under someone with a little more…political savvy than Victus’ reputation implied.

“Yes,” the General sounded slightly amused. “His name is Kaius. Believe me, I was just as shocked when he showed up. Apparently his father felt he would be safest serving under my command. I’m still not entirely sure what he meant by that.” Garrus suddenly found a pair of bright of amber eyes focused squarely on him. “And you’re Advisor Garrus Vakarian. I’ve heard a lot about you.” The general leaned a hip on the map and crossed his arms, those eyes still on him.

“So my reputation precedes me?” Garrus mimicked Victus’ posture slightly. “If you were talking with my father, I should warn you that only half of what he said is true.”

That brought a startled flair of the General’s mandibles. “I…see. I wasn’t aware your father had a reputation for overstating facts.”

“Oh, he doesn’t,” Garrus chuckled, “he’s almost boringly straight forward. But having a son who disappears for two years, only to come just tell him that race of ancient alien synthetics are going to invade and kill everyone tends to make him a bit…judgmental.”

That got a snort of laughter from the General. “I can see why you make several members of the hierarchy nervous.”

“My charming disposition is the sort of thing that would get stuck in the caw of some of the more conservative members of the Senate,” Garrus leaned against one of the rails surrounding the outside edge of the structure. Really, that was understating the reaction of some of the Senate. He might have been given his Reaper task force a few months ago, but that hadn’t happened without a lot of badgering and political maneuvering. Without his father’s support and longstanding friendship with the Primarch it probably wouldn’t have happened, period. Not with Sparatus denying the Reaper threat right up until batarian space started going dark. Even if part of it had just been pride on the old bastard’s part, it had still made more than a few Senate members jumpy. Garrus wasn’t sure where General Victus’ feelings fell on that line, even if his career so far indicated he really, really didn’t see eye to eye with the rest of the Senate. “Do I even want to know what they were saying about me?”

Victus pushed away from the map and made his way over to the railing next to Garrus. For the first time the younger turian noticed that from this vantage point you had an overview of the entire camp. “Actually, you have more support than you realize. Your history means some politicians will always dislike you on principal, but you had the Primarch’s support. That’s not a small thing.”

“Yeah, I know,” Garrus shifted his stance a little. “I was honestly surprised that they listened even with that. Never thought that I would ever see a bunch of politicians make sense. That’s the real sign it’s the end of the galaxy.”

That brought out a snort that might have been laughter from the General. “And here I was wondering why you might have pissed some of them off.”

“It’s a gift,” Garrus relaxed a little and flared a grin at the General. “Of course, disappearing for two years seems to have annoyed more than one of them. Deserting your post doesn’t really inspire confidence I guess. Even the Primarch wasn’t happy about that. I’m still not sure he’s forgiven me for worrying my father.”

“Having a two year gap in your record is never a good thing,” Victus agreed. “Even with your accomplishments you would have been hard pressed to move up at all under normal circumstances. I suppose we’re fortunate that this appears to be the opposite of normal.”

“So I should be thankful to the race of giant death machines. Good to know,” Garrus turned to look out over the guard post.

“Speaking of Reapers,” Victus pushed away from the railing. “What is the Hierarchy’s foremost advisor on Reapers doing out here instead of at Menae's central command or on Palaven itself? I would have thought they would want you close at hand.”

Since that was a question Garrus had been asking himself ever since he had received orders to land here, he just shrugged. “You’re going to have to ask them that. I just decided to be a good turian for once and do what they said.” He straightened and stretched a little. “Besides, there isn’t much more I can tell them. I already gave them all the information I have, and done more with the task force they gave me than they thought possible.” He paused. “Granted, they didn’t go in for the ship modifications I suggested, but hey, can’t have everything I guess.” Not that he could really blame them for that last thing. As much as he would like to have all the ships in the fleet up to the weaponry standards of the Normandy, that would take more time than they had…and probably cost a lot. Yeah, cost probably had a lot to do with that.

“I have seen reports of what you’ve managed to do,” Victus was saying and Garrus wrenched his attention back to the General. “It’s very impressive, especially when you consider that you’ve only been at work a few months.”

The praise was unexpected. Most of the Generals seemed to appreciate what he was trying to do, even if they didn’t understand it. They just felt he was rushing things, that he should take time, wait for more approvals. They didn’t want to listen when he said that time wasn’t something they had a lot of now.

Then again, all of the reports he’d read about Adrien Victus had brought up his unconventional tactics and occasional disregard for orders from above. Maybe he shouldn’t be surprised. The man was apparently another ‘bad’ turian.

“Having a galactic threat hanging over your head is a great motivator,” he found himself saying, “I keep telling people about that, but does anyone listen? Seriously, you can get so much done!” he shook his head. “Granted it comes with most of your superiors questioning if a threat even exists in the first place, but it’s a great way to learn patience and a tolerance for bullshit.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. The memories of arguing with the upper command of the Hierarchy, defending his decisions and how much he had done, spent, or told the colonies still left a sour taste in his mouth. Anytime he did anything useful they questioned him, trying to find some way to reduce his authority or keep him from doing anything useful with it.

“Hah,” Victus shook his head, “ I think, Vakarian, you’ve discovered the secret training methods of politicians. Going to join their ranks when this is over?”

That brought out an involuntary snort. “I’m honored,” he said lightly, “but I don’t think I’m nearly corrupt enough for them to consider me for that honored brotherhood.” He went over to look over the maps on the table. There were more troops on Menae than he had thought. Maybe someone was actually paying attention out there after all. “Besides, I don’t think I can maintain that level of ‘blind idiot’ nearly long enough.” He still couldn’t fully forgive the council for sitting on its collective ass, unwilling to believe that there could be something nasty out there. Something of that must have gotten though his subvocals because Victus made a questioning noise.

“I heard that about Shepard’s beliefs,” he said slowly. “And what the Council said in response.”

“You mean how they turned their back on her? Tried to wreck everything she did just because they didn’t like what she was implying?” Garrus didn’t bother to keep the heat out of his voice. “Yeah, not exactly the thing to give me confidence. We should have been preparing for this day for years, not scrambling to get everything in place a few months, before we know they’re going to show up. Hell, I’m pretty sure the Senate gave me the task force so I would shut up, go away, and stop trying to make them look outside once in a while. They seemed surprised that I actually did anything with it!” He knew, deep in his bones, that he really shouldn’t be ranting at a General. It would probably get him dragged up in front of the Primarch. Right now, though, that seemed like a distant concern. He had been running himself ragged trying to get people ready for a threat they didn’t seem to believe in. Now the Reapers were almost here and he was still feeling as useful as perfume on a vorcha. He wasn’t sure if any of his preparations were going to make even the tiniest amount of difference, or even if what he had done was the right thing. Too much uncertainty, even when the enemy was obvious.

Victus, however, didn’t seem offended by it. Surprised maybe, but there was nothing threatening in his postured as the older turian studied him. So at least I won’t have to deal with someone I outrage just by speaking. Lucky me.

“We can’t change the past,” Victus said at last. “We need to focus on preparing for the future. I doubt you’ll run into that kind of resistance again. Even the most conservative of the senators is aware something is out there now, although there are probably some that won’t admit what it is.”

That got a snort from Garrus. “I think some of the Senate are all to happy to believe in ‘the Alliance did it!’ excuse. They don’t want to think there really are monsters out there.” It still made him want to strangle something when he thought about it. Even after several decades and all that humanity had done, some of his people were still more than willing to believe the worst about them without a second thought. No, that wasn’t right really. They wanted an excuse to justify their old, irrational hatreds. He wasn’t sure whom he was angrier with; the batarians for using that excuse or his own people for agreeing with it.

A sharp chirping subvocal growl was the last sound that he had ever expected to hear in response to that. It was something between outright shock and confusion, and the look on General Victus’ face pretty much confirmed that. “You haven’t heard?” the older turian said before Garrus could ask him about it.

“Heard what?”

“A few hours ago Alliance space suddenly started going dark,” Victus was blunt. “We still aren’t sure exactly what happened, but communications went down amazingly fast. We aren’t getting any good intel on the situation at the moment but it’s clear that something is out there. Even the most…conservative Senate members aren’t going to argue with it anymore.”

The universe seemed to slow down for a second. He was hyper aware of every word that Victus was saying even as each one felt like a blow to his chest. It wasn’t as it was a surprise that the Reapers would have to go through human space first. He just hadn’t though it would happen that quickly. He took a breath to try and calm the almost panicked thumping in his chest. “Do we have an idea on how they could strike so quickly? What about Earth? Have we heard a response from the Alliance yet?” He found it hard to believe that the Alliance would just let the Reapers walk right in without doing anything. What the hell had happened over there?

“No one is sure how it happened. From what we hear, the humans don’t know themselves. All we do know is that something hit Earth hard. The most we’ve been able to hear from them indicates chaos on all channels. They’re scrambling to get themselves organized. We haven’t even heard anything directly from Earth since the attack. That doesn’t bode well.” That’s the understatement of the year. To be fair, Victus did sound worried. Garrus, however, was willing to say that was nothing compared to way the bottom of his stomach had dropped out on him or how his mouth had suddenly gone dry. Then again, he thought bitterly, General Victus probably did not have a personal stake on anything happening on Earth. He was slightly annoyed by that. Oh, he knew it was petty, it wasn’t like Victus could help it, but he was happy being petty once in a while.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” he muttered, only half noticing that he was gripping the table hard enough he would have left talon-scores in it if he hadn’t been wearing gauntlets. “The humans might not have a fleet as large as ours, but you and I both know that they’re damn good fighters. Hell, I think the batarians held out longer than they did!” Garrus turned away from the General for a moment, and reached up to rub his neck. “At least tell me the Hierarchy is doing something about this? If the Alliance goes down then the Reapers will have a path straight to our front door. We have to help them now if we are ever going to have a hope of driving the Reapers back to dark space!”

“Do you honestly think that the Hierarchy would agree to something like that?” Victus sounded maddeningly calm. “You and I both know what their orders have been. They’re withdrawing all our fleets back to Hierarchy space. We’ll watch and wait until we know exactly what’s going.” The General shook his head slightly. “Even in the event that we get a solid picture of what’s going on, why would they be willing to risk our ships and the lives of our soldiers to help the humans when they are going to be needed to defend our own people?.” Victus leaned forward a little, hands flat on the map in front of him. “Would you really have them do that?”

Garrus couldn’t answer that. It wasn’t like he was asking them to send the whole fleet. “So we’re going to leave them alone out there?” he growled out. All he wanted was a few ships. Enough to maybe get through. To get to Earth. To help. To evacuate the important people? A small voice whispered in his mind.

“At first I was surprised you didn’t know about Alliance space,” Victus was saying quietly. “Considering how adamant you were that a threat was coming, you would think you would be on of the first to know of it. Now I’m beginning to understand why the Senate chose to hold off telling you.” He crossed is arms, studying Garrus gently. “Why is this so important to you, Vakarian?”

“Hmmm….,” the truth was, no matter how he tried to phrase it, his real reason was a selfish one. Preach all you like about it being for the sake of the galaxy, but right now you don’t care about the rest of the galaxy, that voice whispered again. He had to admit there was a point to it. I would be perfectly willing to get a ship and a crew just to see if I could get her off that planet. I might be able to fool the rest of the galaxy into thinking it was because she’s probably the best hope any of us have, and that part is true, but I don’t think I could fool myself into thinking that my reasoning was that selfless.

“Vakarian?”

Victus’ voice called him back to reality and he pushed away from the map table. “I’m sure you looked at my file. I served on a human ship, remember? I have friends over there.” Friends, said carefully, because for everything he and Shepard had been through together they had never talked about how far they wanted their relationship to go.

“I am sorry,” to his credit, Victus did sound as if he meant it. “I doubt, however, that will persuade the Hierarchy of anything.”

“Oh probably not,” Garrus agreed. “But I feel like I have to try.” He turned to glance at the rest of the base again, then turned to lean heavily on the rails. “I’ll admit that I’ve got a lot of personal reasons riding on this, but I’m not being completely and utterly selfish. We have an enemy right at our borders, and we have no intel on them. That doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it?” He called up his omni-tool, the nebulous plans to yell at the Senate solidifying into something more concrete. “Besides,” he added as an afterthought, “Like you said, I’m the ‘expert Reaper advisor’. Kind of defeats the purpose of even being one if you aren’t going to tell them anything.”

Victus chuckled. “You might even make it through some of their thick skulls if you yell loud enough,” he agreed. “But, I must insist that you do one thing before you call anyone. Get some rest, Vakarian.”

That was the very last thing he had ever expected to hear from a General. “What?” I had to have heard that wrong. Unless he’s worried about my mental health. “I’m not so exhausted that I’m talking nonsense General. Catching a few winks is not going to suddenly make me see reason and drop this.”

“On that I think we can agree,” Victus smirked at him. “I have your file, remember. I have no illusions about what I think I can command you to do. But, I also know that you just arrived here after a long flight, and heard unwelcome news. Even if you don’t feel it yet, you need rest. I think a clearer mind might help you phrase arguments that actually have a slight prayer of getting anyone on the Citadel.”

“Okay, you might have a slight point,” Garrus was forced to admit. He had been too keyed up to get any real rest on the shuttle that had taken him to Menae. Actually, thinking back, he hadn’t really rested since he had heard the news of Menae.

“Just go rest,” Victus said again. “I’ll send someone to wake you if the situation changes in the next few hours. Hopefully, if the worst does happen you’ll actually be in a frame of mind to deal with it.”

“I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a ‘good frame of mind’ to deal with Reapers,” the younger turian said, trying to ignore the thought of being ambushed by Reapers while he was half asleep. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

“Just get to sleep, Vakarian.”

~*~*~

Garrus did try go get some rest. ‘Try’ being the keyword in that equation. After about an hour his pent up restless energy killed any hope he had of sleep, and he decided that yelling at bareface politicians would at least give him something to do.

Unfortunately, he had forgotten that they were running on wartime communications protocol, and the Senate had been called into an emergency session. After several fruitless hours of attempting to get through, he shut down his omni-tool and decided to try again later. He was going to drive himself crazy if he didn’t try to take a break. Better go talk to Victus. The General probably had some assignment for him, and at least it would be better than endless frustration.

In the end it took more than a day for him to get through to anyone of importance, and the next few days after that were spent arguing with people when he didn’t have duties to perform. Not that it really did any good. Okay, he understood the fear. Having two entire races defeated like that was enough to scare anyone with sense. That didn’t mean you stood back an did nothing. It wasn’t even like it had been with the Council, with everyone sticking their heads in the sand to pretend everything was all right. This was a flat out refusal to help anyone that wasn’t turian or volus.

It was going to get them all killed. He had said that, several times. Loudly. To anyone who would listen. He had offered to come down and yell at the Senate personally, but that had been neatly sidestepped by reminding him his orders placed him under Victus’ command. Of course, not wanting him there to speak his mind didn’t stop them from grilling him about anything he knew…again. Of course he had told them all this before. Several times. But now they had finally decided they would actually pay attention to specifics.

Unfortunately, he was painfully aware that what he knew was limited. He could guess at some sort of Reaper fleet movement based on Sovereign’s tactics and how the Collectors had operated, but he didn’t have much hope on those being very accurate. He could tell them what husks and geth were capable of, but he knew that wasn’t going to be enough for some of the Senate members.

It was why he really wasn’t surprised that they decided to all but ignore him after they lost Taetrus.

“This is suicide,” he growled, pacing behind one of the shelters. This was as close as you got to ‘alone’ without heading out into the rocky craters of the moon itself. “You’re sending more than half the fleet away from Palaven while we have an enemy army bearing down on us. And here I thought the turian military was known for competence.

“You have already made your displeasure known, Advisor Vakarian,” the Senator’s voice echoed dryly from his omni-tool. “Several times. You’re beginning to make me regret agreeing to let you have access to this channel.”

“Well you wouldn’t be if you’d actually listen!” Garrus didn’t bother to try and control his subvocals anymore. “You just agreed to send over half our fleet straight into the middle of enemy forces that have just finished nearly wiping out our nearest neighbors. Our home planet is all but defenseless. What a cunning job of looking after our people. Why would you even back a plan like that?”

“Because it has a chance of working,” the Senator growled. “I would think someone with your reputation would appreciate the risk of an operation like this! Fleet Commander Coronati is risking his own life leading it. You were in full approval of his plans before, why are you..”

“Right. Because throwing drones and unmanned craft at an enemy fleet in order to gather intel is exactly the same as dropping half our own ships into the middle of that same enemy fleet.” Garrus realized he was shaking slightly and took a slow breath to try and stop it. “If this plan doesn’t work then the Reapers have a straight shot right to us!”

“I trust you have an alternate plan then?” The Senator was looking at him in flat annoyance though the screen. “I did think it was odd that the one Expert we have on the subject of Reapers seems to be staying silent on the matter.”

“I told you everything I could when I first took up this post,” Garrus passionately wished he was somewhere where he could at least glare at the senator. “Reapers aren’t like anything anyone has ever faced before. Throwing ships at them is not going to cut it!”

“You still haven’t given us another plan for dealing with this,” the Senator snapped at him. “Our fleet is the strongest in the galaxy. Perhaps the humans and the batarians couldn’t stand against this threat but I have more than enough faith that we will be able to hold them off.”

“Faith isn’t going to cut it either right n…”

“That is enough Advisor Vakarian,” the Senator cut him off a growl rising in his subvocals. “Your own emotions are mute at this point. The decision has already been made. The fleet will be heading out momentarily. There is nothing you can do to change it.” With that the Senator cut the connection.

Garrus spat at curse, and felt his hands clench involuntarily. Of all the stupid, prideful things they could have done. Half the fleet was going to make an FTL jump right into the middle of Reapers forces. Maybe they would be able to cause a bit of damage. Maybe even a lot of damage. Maybe. But he was absolutely sure it wouldn’t cause them to scatter like the turian commanders were sure it was. He had seen what a single Reaper could do, back on the Citadel. Even if they won, the losses would be incredibly high.

And it leaves Palaven open to attack no matter what the outcome is. I have a bad feeling about it. Garrus rubbed the back of his neck, wondering if there was anyone else he was going to call. “Spirits…this isn’t good.”

“Is the plan really that bad?”

It said something about his mental state that he actually jumped. He hadn’t even heard anyone come up near him. That was sloppy. Very sloppy, and stupid when they were about to end up in the middle of a war. Thankfully it was just Kaius, of course. The younger turian had been hanging around him almost constantly since he had woken up after his nap that first day here. Garrus still wasn’t entirely sure if it was something Kaius had decided to do on his own, or an assignment from Victus. Neither option was really a good one.
“You know you weren’t supposed to hear that,” he said to Kaius as he tried valiantly to ignore his stupid mistake. “ There’s a reason I was over here you know. The whole secrecy thing kind of means I’m not supposed to be babbling all over.”

“Sorry, sir” Kaius said as he strolled over. “I wasn’t trying to listen in at first, swear to the Spirits. General Victus just sent me looking for you, and well, you seemed busy. I didn’t want to interrupt you in case it was important, so I waited.”

“And listened in,” Garrus said firmly. “You do realize you could get in trouble for that, don’t you?”

Kaius shrugged. “I’ll just say my Grandfather leaked it to me. He’s on the Senate, and he’s probably going to anyway.” The younger turian didn’t seem to be particularly pleased about his Grandfather’s action. He didn’t even sound ashamed of the fact, more like he was…resentful of it. Everyone knew that Senate members occasionally let things slip about what was going on even though technically they weren’t supposed to. No one did anything..usually. Letting military strategy slip during wartime would have been treason however. He doubted even someone like Kaius’ grandfather could get away with it.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told the younger turian. “Everyone is going to know soon enough anyway. It’s not like you can hide something like this. I’m sure there are some that are going to try holding off an official announcement about it until after the ships launch, but it’s hard to hide the movement of the entire fleet.”

“If you say so, sir,” Kaius had fallen into a parade rest as he had been talking, but he was still fidgeting, and finally straightened up. “But is the plan really that bad?” he asked again. “I know you don’t like it, but isn’t it kind of needed? You keep saying how the Reapers are beyond anything we’ve ever faced. Doesn’t that mean we need something so out there no one thinks it can work? Something that’s different from what we tried?”

There were a million things Garrus could think of to say that. He wondered, again, just why Kaius was here instead of on a high profile, traditional, turian platoon on Palaven. Okay, well maybe it wasn’t really that much of a mystery. Platoons like that didn’t take well to a youngster questioning authority, least of all very high-ranking authority, like say, he was at the moment. “You’re kind of assuming a lot there, aren’t you? Yeah, Reapers mean we have to do something different, but forgive me if I don’t put a lot of faith in that ‘something different’ being throwing half our fleet at them. Even someone as young as you has to realize how insane that is.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s bad,” the boy insisted, “you’ve done things that most people would call insane, and managed to come out on top.” There wasn’t even any challenge in the words just a simple sort of insistent honesty.

Garrus just sighed and brought his hand up to rub at his forehead. “You know, you keep questioning your superiors and you’re to end up punishment detail for the rest of your life. Not exactly a stellar military career.”

Kaius eyes went almost comically wide and he snapped to attention “Sorry Sir! I didn’t mean any disrespect sir.”

It was almost enough to make Garrus laugh despite everything. “At ease. Believe me, I’m the last person on this rock who can talk about ‘respecting my superiors. That was just a bit of friendly advice on how not to be like me.” Kaius looked completely confused by that, and the older turian considered that a small victory. He outranked almost anyone but the generals on the moon at the moment. Garrus was willing to bet the kid had gone through his military records, and didn’t get why someone with a rank that high would discourage anyone from following him. What the records didn’t show, and what Kaius apparently hadn’t figured out, was that his current rank was due to dumb luck and being the only turian still alive who had any knowledge of Reapers. The kid had to learn at some point that rank didn’t mean everything, and better he learn it now than later.

Hell, maybe he shouldn’t be so hard on the kid after all. The Hierarchy tended to work at stamping out soldiers who had individual thoughts. It was better that Kaius learn how to think for himself.
“Besides,” he told the younger turian when Kaius apparently couldn’t muster up any words to say to that. “what you said earlier? It’s wrong.”

“Sir?” Kaius slowly relaxed, bringing his arm down and cocking his head at the older turian.

“I won’t deny half the stuff I’ve done has been insane,” Garrus told him, “but that was with one single ship throwing itself into danger. A very valuable ship maybe, but it’s not the same as taking away a fleet and leaving a planet defenseless. Besides,” The younger turian looked as if he wanted to say something, but Garrus cut him off “you’re missing one of the most important factors over why those crazy missions worked.”

“What’s that..sir?” the last was added on quickly, as if he was just remembering the words he had heard moments before. At least Garrus was fairly sure the kid wasn’t following around a spy for someone or other in the Hierarchy. It would be a piss-poor spy that couldn’t even keep his feelings to himself, and Kaius’ subvocals were clearly broadcasting confusion.

“You’re forgetting that I didn’t do any of it alone,” he pointed out. “I wasn’t even the one in charge of the mission, that was Shepard. She was the one that took us into hell and got everyone back out again.” He took step nearer Kaius. “That’s why now is different. We’re putting an entire planet at risk with this operation. The Fleet Commander is good, I won’t deny that, but he is no Commander Shepard. I fully expect this thing to end in tears.”

There was something that Kaius wanted to say to that, Garrus could tell. The younger turian half opened his mouth to reply, but then his eyes focused on something just beyond the other turian’s shoulder. His pupils went wide, his mouth snapped, and mandibles clenched tightly to the sides of his face as he stiffened to attention as he threw a salute. After that, Garrus wasn’t even surprised when he heard a voice speak up from behind his back.

“Spirits, if Commander Shepard is half the person you say she is then I will be surprised if she doesn’t take down a Reaper with her bare hands.” There was a slight teasing tone to the words but it was buried under a slight stress on the subharmonics that Garrus wasn’t sure how to read. It could have been anything from stress to annoyance with how tightly Victus was trying to keep it locked down.

“Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t put it past her,” was Garrus’ reply as he turned around. “Something you need, General?”

“I need to have a word with you,” Victus said, walking straight past the other turian, “but I’m afraid it will have to wait a moment.” Garrus turned to watch as the General stopped right in front of Kaius. He was the very image of a military officer, hands locked behind his back, feet braced and head tipped slightly forward. Even without being on the receiving end of the lecture that was about to come, Garrus couldn’t help but give a little mental wince. A dressing down was never fun, but at least Victus wasn’t the sort of man to take pleasure in ripping apart one of his men. Kaius could be facing a lot worse.

“Private Hadrianus,” Victus said without even raising his voice. Not that he really needed to with the way his subharmonics were registering disappointment and scolding all in one, but still. It said something about the general’s force of personality that he didn’t even have to grow to get his point across.

“Sir?” There was a quiver in Kaius’ subvocals. You could tell the kid was trying to hide it, but he just didn’t have enough experience to pull it off yet.

“You had orders, didn’t you?” Victus said firmly. “You were to bring a message to Vakarian, not stay and chat with him. You’re lucky that this time it wasn’t something urgent. If this had been a true war-time situation then the time you took could have thrown off whatever plans had been made and cost men their lives, all because you felt you had some right to screw around with your orders. You might not know the reason your superior has given you an order, but that doesn’t matter. You are to obey, not think.”

“I’m sorry sir! It won’t happen again, sir!” Kaius was all but shaking and his subvocals were vibrating hard with an apology harmonic that made Garrus feel sorry for him. The older turian knew better than to show that sympathy. Kaius wouldn’t appreciate it.

“I know it won’t,” Victus was growling, “or you won’t have much of a career to get back to. Go back to your duties for now. I’ll speak with your superior officer about your punishment detail as soon as I’m done here.” With that last word the General turned his back on the younger turian and walk away from him. From over Victus’ shoulder, Garrus saw the younger turian sketch off a quick salute, and bark a ‘Yes sir!’ before walking away.
“Something amusing, Vakarian?” The general had stopped in front of him. Garrus hadn’t even been aware of the smile on his face until Victus had spoken.

“Ah, just thinking. Not that I mean any disrespect, but someone with your…reputation giving a lecture on listening to your superiors is a little funny.”

“I could take offense to that,” Victus said, hands clasped behind him. “But, even I have to admit it’s true. I can, however, say that it would be even more amusing watching you attempt to lecture someone.”

“And that’s why I’ve worked to make sure I’m not in a place to do that often,” Garrus grinned. “I’d probably screw it up anyway, and end up corrupting some poor kid. Pretty sure the Hierarchy doesn’t want anymore bad turians running around.”

“Since we have more important things to argue about I’ll let that slide for now,” Victus said. “Have you heard about the retaliation plan that the Hierarchy approved?”

“You mean the one I just spent several hours arguing against? Yeah, I think I’ve heard of it.” Garrus didn’t try to hide the annoyed humming in his subvocals. Watching the Senate, the turians that were supposed to be the pride of the Hierarchy, fall apart out of fear and then cling to the first semi-plausible looking plan shoved their way, had been enough to convince him that there were no competent politicians left in the galaxy. He understood their fear, hell, he would’ve been even more convinced of their idiocy if they hadn’t been scared of the Reapers, but they were suppose to be leaders. They were supposed to be able to make rational decisions. Not ones that were based on that fear.

In some corner of his mind, Garrus could see why the Senate had went along with it. On paper it looked like it made good, logical sense. After all they knew the position and number of the enemy fleet, while the enemy had no idea they had that sort of information. Plus, the drones had made it clear that the larger Reapers were not maneuverable. It took them time to turn, and their sides weren’t protected by anything as powerful as the main guns. Having the fleet do an FTL jump into the middle of the main formation would enable the smaller, faster, turian ships to unleash hell on everything around them. Such an unexpected action would disrupt their formation, forcing them to scatter and retreat to regroup. It might even be enough to drive them back through the relay, or at least that was what the Senate hoped.

“So, you think the plans have no chance of success?” Victus was watching closely as he spoke.

Garrus snorted. “The only way that plan is going to work is if the Reapers suddenly decide they want to make friends and be productive members of galactic society. They Hierarchy is going on the assumption that the Reapers are going to react like every other enemy we’ve faced. Which is, you know, a nice thought but it’s not going to work this time. Reapers aren’t organics. We have no idea what they’ll do, and their ships are more powerful than anything we’ve ever seen. We’re already outmatched. This could very well kill us all.”

“Your reputation certainly didn’t lie about your ability to be honest with your superiors,” Victus said, and Garrus had a hard time reading his tome.

“It’s a bad habit.” Garrus liked Victus. They had even started to develop a sort of friendship built on preparing for a crisis larger than anything either of them had faced. However, this was a reminder that the man was still a General. Garrus knew that while he might have a special status, Victus’ title might gain more respect from certain members of the council. Maybe the General didn’t have an official vote with the Senate, but if he had friends there then his word could definitely carry weight. And Garrus wasn't sure which side Victus had taken. “So, in exchange for that honesty, why don’t you be honest with me. What do you think our chances are with this plan?”

Victus didn’t answer immediately, instead taking a few steps and pausing to look up at Palaven floating in the sky. “I have a friend in charge of the fighter squadron stationed here. I suggested he keep his men on stand by.” The general looked down at Garrus and met his eyes. “Even without personal experience with Reapers, this plan felt wrong. I learned a long time ago to trust my instincts, Vakarian. If things do end as badly as you think they will, then Palaven won’t be totally defenseless.”

“Thank you,” The words were more heartfelt than Garrus had intended. “I was beginning to think I was the only one seeing the holes in their little plan.”

“Oh, I’m sure more than a few are well aware of them,” Victus looked back down again and turned to face the younger turian. “You don’t have to be a master strategist to see how badly this could backfire. This is based as much on politics as it is on sound military sense.” The disgust in the General’s voice was obvious.

Garrus sighed and shook his head. “Perfect. As if this wasn’t already bad enough. What, did some politician see a way to advance his own career? Even when it means taking a risk like this?” He crossed his arms a little, mentally planning what he would do to that nameless politician if he could just get his hands on him.

“Part that,” Victus said rubbing his forehead, “and part a select few seeing this as a way to stick it to the humans.”

“Of course,” there was a harsh growl in the younger turian’s subvocals. He turned and gestured out towards the blackness of space “We’ve got Reapers breathing down our necks, so why not bring up Relay 314 again. It’s not like that could go wrong?” He glanced back towards Victus, to find the general shaking his head.

“It’s not just that Incident that’s fueling it,” he said, “humans have made huge strides in the galactic community over the last few years. Just look at your own Commander Shepard. A Spectre like her, the first human one ever, opened her career by taking down a turian and saving the entire Council. It’s making people nervous.” Victus shook his head. “They see this chance as a chance to reaffirm the turian place in the galactic community. To them it’s a chance to prove our superiority to humans by taking out an enemy they weren’t able to handle.”

“This isn’t the time to get into another pissing contest with the humans!” Garrus had to work to keep his voice down. He wanted to growl, snap, and be loud enough to let everyone know how stupid all this was. The last few years had taught him a tiny bit about subtly so he kept it quiet and took a closer look at the general. “I’m surprised you paid that much attention. You, ah, don’t seem like the type.”

Victus flared his mandibles in a half-grin. “You can’t be a general and be entirely discounted from politics, Vakarian. It’s an unfortunate, and messy, part of having the rank. I pay just enough attention so that I know whom I can get away with pissing off, and who I should avoid. Mostly I try to stay out of heavy politics as much as I can. It’s a little too twisted for my taste.”

“That just makes you smart,” Garrus couldn’t help commenting. “Politics is messy business, and with this war it’s going to get even messier. They won’t be the only ones to pay for it either. This will reach everyone.”

“Then we’ll just have to make sure we’re prepared to clean up the mess,” Victus’ mandibles twitched. “Come on, Vakarian. We have a war to prepare for.” There was confidence in Victus’ subvocals, but Garrus couldn’t tell if it was because the General believed his words, or if it was just practiced bravado to keep up morale. Either way, the younger turian was just grateful he had someone else that actually listened to his words.

“Yes sir,” he said out loud. Even as they started to discuss preparations, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was futile. He hoped it wasn’t. Spirits, he hoped it wasn’t.

~*~**~

The next few hours were spent in a waves of exhausted worry. Garrus stood on one of the rises of the moon with Victus, and watched as the ships left orbit. After a while, there was a flash off in the distance that indicated the FTL jump.

“And it’s done,” the General said quietly.

“Let’s hope it’s the right thing,” Garrus replied. “I’m going to go down to communications. They might be sick of me by now, but I’m still entitled to priority updates.”

“At least that rank of yours is still good for something,” Victus remarked as they turned and headed back down towards the main camp.

“I only wish the rest of the Senate thought so,” they had reached the command post then, and Garrus kept the rest of what he had been going to say to himself. Instead he went to bother the communications officer.

Victus and he hovered nearby, making the poor officer nervous while they waited for updates on how the operation was progressing. Much to his surprise, the first batch of communications were actually fairly positive. They crackled and were barely understood by anyone, but they got across the general meaning. Someone was even kind enough to send them the recordings of said transmissions. Garrus couldn’t help but feel that it was just the Senators rubbing his face in the fact that their plan was working, but he couldn’t complain about the results.

“If this happened to work, what will you do?” Victus asked quietly as the techs clustered around the receiver.

“You mean if I was completely and utterly wrong and we, by some miracle managed to destroy the Reapers?” Garrus leaned back against the railing. “I would be perfectly willing to take a thousand I-told-you-sos from each and every senator as long as it meant the Reapers were dead. I just really don’t think it’s likely.”

“From all of them?” Victus raised one of his eye plates.

“Form all of them,” Garrus agreed. “There are bigger things out there than pride.”

Victus nodded in agreement, then frowned as he glanced over at the comm. techs. All of them were gathered around a receiver, talking quietly.

“What’s going on?” the General asked. The officer in charge glanced up at them.

“I’m sorry, General, Advisor. There’s some sort of interference running through the coms. Nothing we can’t punch through, but it will take a few minutes.”

“Interference?” Garrus cut in. “From what?”

“Not sure,” one of the comm. techs said. “We’re getting reports from the other bases on the moon, but communication with the planet is being affected. The same seems to be true for everyone else, so it’s not our equipment acting up.”

“Fix it,” Victus said firmly. “Send word about what’s happening up here planet side as soon as you can get through. I also want an update on the status of our fleets.”

“They’ve probably lost communications with the fleet too,” Garrus was pacing, but he glanced over at the General. “I doubt it’s a coincidence it’s happening right now. This is very, very bad.

“You think the Reapers have something do with this?” Victus pinned him with a sharp gaze and Garrus snorted.

“Come on, this happens right after we attack them? You’ve read the reports! Disruption of communications occurred both in batarian and human space before they hit. Whatever is happening out there is not going to be good.”

Victus gave him once last measured stare before turning back to the comm. techs. “You heard him. Get it working.”

“Yessir.”

From the glances he was fielding from the communications office, Garrus could tell the man probably didn’t believe him. That was fine. He didn’t care what the officer thought as long as he got a line through to the planet.

There were still several long, agonizing minutes that went by before one of the comm. techs gave a triumphant thrill. “Got it, sir! Give me a few seconds to confirm a secure channel.”

“Hurry,” Garrus came over to lean besides the tech. He got a nervous glance, but the man wasn’t anything as professional as the news came in.

The higher ranks in the Hierarchy where aware of the communications problems. They were doing their best to correct it. It was even affecting their communications with the fleet. The status of the fleet was on a need-to-know basis.

“I knew it,” Garrus snarled as he straightened up, and stalked towards the door. Well, what passed for a door. Communications were set up under a three-sided shelter that, like the rest of the camps, was only separated from the outside by a slightly raised platform and the usual ramp that could double as a shield if they ever came under fire. “Why suddenly decide we don’t need that information unless something was wrong? We need to start mobilizing now if we want to have any chance against them.”

Behind him he hard Victus giving final orders to the communications officer, before the click of footsteps announced the General catching up. “Do you have any proof it could be anything greater than a communications glitch, Vakarian?”

Garrus let his footsteps slow, then stop, before he turned around to face Victus. “Proof? Proof?! You’ve read the same reports I have,” he growled. “Both the humans and batarians dealt with massive communications blackouts before they went dark. Do you really believe that the same enemy ending up on our doorsteps just as we get a communications ‘glitch’ is a coincidence?” the glitch was accompanied by air quotes. He wasn’t even sure if Victus knew what the human convention meant, but the General was smart enough to figure it out.

“I never said I believed it,” Victus said calmly. “but you know that others will. I’ll have a communication channel open to the Senate soon. Then, Advisor, it will be up to you to convince them.”

The emphasis on his title was enough to make Garrus straighten himself unconsciously. His first thought was to snap something childish about how he had been trying to convince them to listen. That he had been accomplishing a hell of a lot before he’d been dragged back to the moon. He and his task force had been able to boost the efficiency of communications and convince colony worlds to prepare. Then he realized that there was nothing mocking in the General’s tone. His title was a reminder of the responsibility he carried now. It didn’t matter how hard he tried, unless he could get the Senate to listen to him.

Unwillingly, his father’s words echoed in his head. ‘Do it right, or don’t do it at all.’ Maybe he hadn’t realized just what sort of responsibility would be dumped on him when he made the decision to carry the warning about the Reapers to his people, but it was his now. He couldn’t afford to mess up.

“Oh, I’ll find some way to convince them,” Garrus’ finally said, “even if it means heading planet side and yelling at them all personally.”

“If it comes to that, then I’ll arrange transportation for you myself. I’m sure I can find at least one person that would be would be happy to help you.” The serious look on Victus’ face gave lie to the amusement in his voice.

Garrus had a response for that ready, but before he could say anything about it raised voices from behind them came out. Even though he didn’t catch exact words, the alarming ringing through the subvocals had Garrus whipping around to see what was happening.

There was a small, agitated group of soldiers surrounding a man that he remembered Victus introducing as one of his officers. One of the soldiers was gesturing wildly toward the sky.

“…not one of ours! Whatever that is, it’s not turian!” The soldier’s words seemed to echo much farther than they should have been able to. Garrus looked up automatically, along with Victus and the men standing around the officer.

He felt his stomach drop and he forgot to breathe as he saw the dark shape hovering over Palaven. For one wild second he was sure that this was just a nightmare, a hallucination brought on by the stress of what he had been dealing with. It would be just like him to be imagining Reapers where there was none.

Any hope he had of that dashed when he heard the confused babble of voices around him. It snapped him backed to reality, gasping as he sucked in a breath he hadn’t even known he needed. “Spirits!” he managed to get out. It was half curse, half futile prayer that something would reveal that he was wrong. Instead he heard murmurs around him, from those who had actually paid attention to the footage from Saren’s attack on the Citadel, who had seen and actually remembered.

“Vakarian.”

It took almost every ounce of Garrus’ will power for him to tear himself away from the sight above him. There was a part of him that even now wished this was just a dream. The moment he looked away, the moment he saw the reactions of everyone else around him, that part of him would shatter. He looked down anyway, and was unsurprised to see Victus with wide eyes and slightly quivering mandibles.

“They're here, aren’t they?” The General had his subvocals locked down so tightly that his voice sounded flat. There was also something in the older turian’s eyes that told Garrus he understood what this meant. Victus was a senior general; he would have been one of the people given the first-hand footage of Sovereign’s attack on the Citadel. Even if he hadn’t believed it was a Reaper then, and Garrus was sure Victus believed it now, the General was soldier enough to realize the damage that even one ship like that would cause.

“Yes,” Garrus didn’t even try to add anything to that. It was hard enough as it was to force that one word out of the sudden lump in his throat. Victus just nodded, then took off toward the communications center at a sprint shouting orders. Garrus started to follow him but another shout from behind him made him stop in his tracks and look up.

There was another ship in the air next to the Reaper now. It was too far away to make out smaller details, but the silhouette told Garrus it was one of his own people’s ships. His heart thudded painfully as it went tearing towards the Reaper. One of the few remaining ships from the fleet that had been left behind. “Come on, come on,” he found himself muttering under his breath.

He couldn’t bring himself to join in the men’s shouts, not just yet. After what he had seen during Sovereign’s attack, he wasn’t going to cheer until this Reaper was dead. Given how many ships it had taken just to bring down just one Reaper, he wasn’t even sure that was going to be possible. And this isn’t the only Reaper in his war,the thought came unbidden.

Up above them, the ship fired on the Reaper as it flashed past. You couldn’t hear anything, but fire lit up and down the Reaper's back as its arms spread wide, almost as if in pain. For one second Garrus dared to let himself hope they had actually taken his suggestion about improvements for the battleships into consideration.
All that was shattered when a beam of intense red light, very visible against the dark side of the planet behind it, sliced out of nowhere to pierce the battleship. There was an explosion from something in the vessel, and then it was only light reflecting off the twisting remains of the ship. There was an echoing groan of disbelief from everyone around him. A second strike hit before the ship anyone could even begin to process what had just happened.

Garrus sent a brief prayer to the Spirits for the crew, then allowed himself to give into the horror of having two Reapers hovering over his home planet. He was just starting to wonder where it had even come from when there was a flash of something dropping out of FTL. It wasn’t the backup they had been hoping for.

It was more Reapers.

Other warships had arrived by now, racing to engage the intruders. Garrus tore his eyes away from the battle that had erupted, there wasn’t anything he could do about it at the moment and Victus should at least be aware of what was happening, and noticed a few Reapers that had drifted away from the battle. For a second the turian wondered what it was doing.

The bright beam that lanced into Palaven himself was a silent answer to the question he wished he hadn’t asked. He said something out loud, a curse or a denial he wasn’t even sure, his mind half disconnected and already trying to make sense of things as he sprinted over toward Victus.

“General,” he snapped as he reached the com shelter again. Victus barely looked up when he arrived, and opened his mouth to say something but Garrus cut him off. There was no time to waste talking. “We need more fighters out there, now! The High Command has to know Reapers are still coming and they’re launching…”

“Orbital strikes?” Victus said. The pain in his subvocals struck Garrus. “We know. The Senate arena was the first place they hit.”

Once more Garrus was struck with the sensation that the universe had stopped spinning for a moment. All thought process screeched to a halt, then slammed straight into overdrive, nearly leaving him gasping.

“How? When?” he demanded coming over to the communication station. “We’ve just barely got visuals on them and even the fleet didn’t seem aware they were here!”

“That strike must have been their first move,” Victus growled, and leaned on the edge of a table, his talons digging into it slightly. “We’ve only got an emergency transmission from the Senate and Hierarchy members that weren’t there telling us the Primarch is safe at least. They’re scrambling to get a defense organized down there.”

Garrus swallowed, trying to ignore the hollow cold feeling that had settled in his stomach. It was like a ball of ice in his gut. Where had his father been the last time they had talked? What about Solana? Where on Palaven had she been stationed? They had told him, they both had told him, but he hadn’t been paying attention. Now he had no way of knowing if they had been anywhere near the strike sites, if they were running, or if it was already too late for them. The thoughts were running in frantic circles in his mind. He clamped his mandibles tightly to his face to keep from making any sound, and only then realized the slight keen he heard wasn’t him, but one of the younger techs. Even Victus just gave her a sympathetic look.

The advisor forced himself to take a deep breath. “Orders?” he asked Victus quietly. Everyone in the comm. Tent froze and just looked at the general.

“We have to get things organized here,” he said at last. “Make sure all the fighter squads have been launched. We got word of at least one Reaper probing the defenses here. If we can attract a few more, then maybe we..”
A commotion outside distracted them. Garrus looked up to find an angry crowd of men arguing with Victus’ second in command.
“What now?” The General snarled as he pushed away from the communication counsel. He turned to the comm. Techs with a last snapped order. “Maintain contact. We need to know what’s going on down there!”
Then Victus drew himself up, his hands locked behind his back and he walked a few steps to stand at the front of the communications shed. “Just what is going on here?”

It said something about the strength in his voice that everyone stilled at once. Garrus was impressed. It said something about the sort of respect he had if they listened that quickly.

“Sir,” the second in command threw a salute, not even trying to hide the relief in his subvocals. “The men were just coming to me with concerns about the recent…situation.”

“You mean they know details about Palaven being attacked,” Victus walked down the steps slowly, posture still ramrod straight. He paused for a moment to glance at the planet in the sky above them. “You can be blunt major. It’s not as if we can’t see it.”

“Sorry, sir,” the Major said quickly, but Victus just shook his head and the man fell silent. He looked up at the troops who had started to gather.

“I’m not going to waste time telling you anything that you can’t already tell for yourselves,” Victus kept his voice even, although from behind him Garrus could see how tight his hands were clasped. “Yes, those are Reapers. The ones that Advisor Vakarian,” Victus glanced back at the younger turian and Garrus nodded, “as well as several other wiser heads have been warning us would come. I don’t know how they managed to slip past our fleet, but that doesn’t matter. They’ve brought the war straight to our doorstep, to our homes, our planet, and they are making it very clear what they are here to do.”
“We’ve already lost the Senate arena,” Victus’ words brought out a rash of cries and disbelief from those around them. More than one were throwing wide-eyed panicked glances at each other. The hum of subvocals was so loud Garrus could feel it echoing through him. It hit straight through to his heart, the alarm in the sound making it beat faster. He pushed back the ancient emotions and tried to keep a grip on himself. Subvocals had been used to communicate across distances since the dawn of turian-kind, and a warning of danger was one of the most ancient ones. Hard to ignore if you weren’t ready for it. Thankfully Victus started speaking again.
“We have, however,” the general raised his voice to be heard over the rush of sound, “confirmed that the Primarch and most of the military leaders are alive. They are organizing a push back even as we speak. We have not lost Palaven, not by a long shot.” The soldiers stopped fidgeting, slowly falling silent.
“No, we haven’t lost this war yet. I won’t lie to you and tell you that it will be quick. This is going to drag out to be one of the messiest, dirtiest wars we’ve ever faced. I don’t need to tell you that people will die. You know the face of the war as well as I do.” There was silence around them now.
“That does not mean all hope is lost. That does not mean we are going to lose. We have the strongest military in the galaxy. We have been preparing for this even as the rest of the galaxy ignored it was coming. Every turian on Palaven is a soldier, a fighter. If the Reapers think they’ll be able to take us as easily as they took the rest of the galaxy, then they are dead wrong.” He pointed up at the planet behind them. “As long as there is one turian left alive anywhere in this galaxy, Palaven is not lost. As long as even one of us draws breath, we can drive them back.”
“To do that, we need to keep this moon. Menae is more vital now than it was even during the krogan rebellions. The ships stationed on this moon, the soldiers stationed on this moon represent a threat they can’t ignore.”

“What can we do against them?” someone said. Garrus couldn’t see who it was from his point of view, but he was impressed. It took guts to voice something like that to a Commanding officer, especially in the Hierarchy. “We’re useless up here! There’s no way for us to reach the Reapers! We need to get down on Palaven, where we can help!”
The voice sounded almost like Kaius. Garrus hoped the kid knew what he was doing.

“This moon gives our fighters a base to strike at them from the back. Each single fighter might be only able to nibble at the Reaper forces, but added together they’ll turn into a bite that can’t afford to be ignored. Eventually the Reapers will try to take this moon. When that happens every ship they send, every unit they commit to taking us down will be one less solider, one less ship they can wield against Palaven itself. When they’re occupied with us, it will give the high command down on the planet time to strike back!” Victus’ slapped his fist into an open palm once, before he locked his hands behind his back again. “Now get back to your posts. We have a war to win, and it starts now.”

The speech ended with a finality that made half the soldiers salute. People slowly started wandering away, and Garrus shook his head as the General walked back towards him.
“I’m worried you might actually believe some of that.” He couldn’t help saying.

“And if I do?” Victus quirked an eyeridge at him. “Some of that was just a moral boost, but this is still a military instillation. I doubt the Reapers would be so stupid as to ignore it while they attack the planet.”

“Unfortunately they aren’t quiet that stupid,” Garrus rolled his shoulder and looked away. “I’m still not sure how much of a threat they’ll find us. They already steamrolled over the batarians and the humans. You really think that anything we can do here will make that much of a difference down there?” His subvocals were vibrating with tension, but he wasn’t sure Victus even noticed. Not when every other person on the moon probably sounded the same.

“If I thought we could don’t you think I would be looking for a way to get us down there?” Victus snapped at him. “If Reapers are any sort of threat, they will take notice of us and they won’t leave us alone. Not while we still have fighters to launch. While they’re here we give an opening for evacuation ships to get through. I’m not giving up on Palaven but I’m not allowing them to slaughter our people. We need to get some of them away while we plan the counter-attack.” There was pain buried deep in his voice. Garrus could understand it all too well.

You tried to prepare for the worst, but when the worst was right in front of you and beyond what you could even have imagined…that was something that every leader feared.

“Still,” Garrus said and shook his head as he headed over to look at the sight of the embattled planet above them. “With everything else the Reapers have done, I find it hard to believe a single moon could mean that much.” Perhaps not what Victus wanted to hear, but he was an advisor. The sort of responsibility that carried meant he had to be honest.

“If the men believe it, then it could,” Victus came to stand next to him. “You of all people should know that.”

Garrus opened his mouth to replay to that, but a deep, harsh blare of sound cut him off. It struck straight into his heart and he looked up, heart seeming to stop. That noise was only half familiar, but he knew it all too well. The Reaper cut across the sky and he barely heard the shouts of the men around them.

“Looks like you get to say I told you so,” he said tonelessly to the General. Before Victus could answer him, if the older turian had even being going to answer him at all, there was the familiar shriek of missiles heading towards them. “Down!”

He ducked behind a crate, Victus did the same, and several fire explosions went off in the center of the camp as the Reaper flew away from their positions. Whatever it was the Reaper had thrown as them wasn’t as violent or as damaging as Garrus had expected it to be, but he still heard the screams of wounded men.

“See to the wounded,” Victus stood up shouting before the Reaper was even past. Garrus followed half a second after him, half wanting to drag the General back under cover but knowing he couldn’t. However, before anyone would make a move, more screams, sharper and more panicked rang out. Instinctively Garrus turned toward them, just in time to catch sight of dark figures rushing out of the crater the bombardment had knocked into the ground.

His mind registered the familiar shape before he was even consciously aware of it, and his assault rifle was in his hands, bullets shredding the enemy and sending it reeling back. There was a sharp bark from Victus’ pistol and it went down.

“What in the Spirits’ names are those?” The general snarled as they fired at more of the things. A few men had gone down already, mostly those who had been standing too close to the explosions and had been wounded or too stunned to defend against being mobbed.

“Husks!” He shouts back, louder than necessary if he was just talking to Victus, but he wasn’t just talking to the General. Not with the men shooting at something they didn’t understand. “They’re what Reapers turn humans into. Not really a threat unless you let them get close enough to grab you.”
Just as he finished talking a shot impacted on his shield. His reflexes made him duck back behind the crate. Cautiously he peeked back over, and took a couple of shots at the misshapen, lumbering things following the husks. “Not sure about those though!”

“Very comforting Vakarian!” Victus snarled back as he fired on the new menace. These were smarter than the husks. They were using some sort of weapon, and had enough brains to use cover.

“Hey, it just means we have to kill them faster.” Garrus took aim at one that was crouched by the fallen body of one of its comrades. His bullet took its life just as it started to rip into the corpse. The sniper fought back a sense of nausea as he fired again and again. Even vorcha didn’t rip into each other like that on the battlefield. Although in an obscure way it was helpful. These…things seemed to tune out everything else when they were eating each other.

The firefight felt both short and long at the same time. It didn’t take long to cut everything down, but the emotional toll made it feel exhausting.

“See to the wounded,” Victus repeated, once it was clear there was nothing else coming out of the crater. “Callus, get patrols on the walls, and check to make sure there aren’t any more of those things nearby. Someone see if we can get in touch with the other bases. That Reaper was heading somewhere, and I want to know where.” Soldiers scrambled off to complete their orders. Garrus chose to follow Victus as the General headed over to one of the corpses. He couldn’t help wincing a little as Victus knelt next to one. There was a strange sort of smell surrounding it; half something beginning to rot, but overlaid with a metallic, almost clinical smell. Not pleasant to say the least.
Victus turned his head. “Well, Vakarian? You’re the Reaper expert. What’s your take on this?”

“Honestly? I don’t have a damn clue.” Garrus shrugged. “Those certainly aren’t husks, and they aren’t even collectors. At least they die easily.”

The General sighed. “There is that.” He stood and nudged the corpse with a foot. “Have you noticed they have four eyes?”

Garrus sucked in a harsh breath as he realized what that meant. “Reapers hit batarian space first.” He looked down at the cannibal-thing again. Trust batarians to be annoying pains-in-the-ass, even when they were dead.

“Do the Reapers always do that?” Victus asked, something in his subvocals wavering slightly. “Turn whatever they can into weapons?”

“From what I’ve seen so far? Yeah,” Garrus nodded, “they don’t like to waste when they can corrupt.”

“What about the turian soldiers they’re picking up now?”

“I’ve been trying not to think about that,” the younger turian admitted. It took effort to keep from glancing up at Palaven. To keep from thinking about Reapers dragging families away to be turned into things like…this. Including his own family if they lost this. His father, who he kept wishing he hadn’t argued as much with, his sister that he’d been meaning to talk with more.

“I don’t think we can avoid thinking about it anymore,” Victus said quietly. He was gazing past the younger turian. Garrus turned to follow his gaze. There, just passed the top of the hills, was a distant dark triangle that might be the top of a Reaper. “The war is here now, and it’s going to be a long one.”

~*~*~*

Days later, Garrus was thinking that he’d been an idiot for not believing Victus’ predictions. He just wasn’t about to admit it to the General. The Reapers had hit Menae, and hit it hard. He wasn’t sure how much of an impact that was making on their presence on Palaven, but at least you could feel like you were doing something. Any decent military strategist would know to guard their flank against an entrenched military force. Apparently the Reapers had learned something in the millions of years they’d been doing this.

The attacks had been relentless. Not enough to overwhelm yet, but over half the fighters were damaged, and every base had been dealing with waves of enemies. The only thing you could do was shoot was what in front of you until your rest period came around, then collapse into a bunk and hope you could catch some shut-eye, before getting up to do it all over again. It felt endless. Maybe it would turn out to be.

Garrus had shut off the kill counter in his visor when he’d hit triple digits. He tried to focus on the enemies in front of him. Not the ones he had killed. Not the fact that if it was this bad here, it was probably worse on Earth, on Palaven.

This was a relative lull in the fighting, and he headed over towards the command center. There was a group of engineers trying to shore up a barrier than had nearly been breeched during the last wave. He gave them a nod, and climbed the few steps that lead into the shelter. He could hear Victus before he ever saw him.

“..know how much it’s going to cost to send another unit over,” he was growling at someone over his omni-tool, “but you can’t pretend you don’t see the reason for it. If we lose that base then we’ve all but lost the war!”

There was one of Victus’ aides hovering at the General’s elbow, and he shot Garrus a grateful look. It was the one he was beginning to interpret as ‘Thank god, you do something with him.’ Over the last few days, Victus had inserted himself into the command structure on the moon. Almost every turian with a bit of authority had been contacting him for advice or orders. Garrus wasn’t sure quiet how this had come about, but it left Victus shouldering more of the burden than he would have normally.

“Bad news?” he asked as he reached the General, fairly sure he knew the answer. Unless the Reapers suddenly decided to drop dead, they were still locked in this hell.

“I just got word the Primarch is on Menae,” was the unexpected answer, exhaustion lacing Victus’ subvocals as he spoke. “He’s with General Corinthus now.”

“What?” The news blindsided Garrus. “Fedorian? Here? How did he even get here?” As far as he knew, the Reapers had all but blockaded ships from leaving. He supposed it could be done by a skilled enough pilot, but to come here instead of leaving. “Are things really that desperate down there?”

A silent nod was his only answer. It chilled him to the bone. That the Primarch, the military leader of all Palaven, would flee from the very planet he was supposed to be protecting meant that things were going badly. Very badly.

“He’s trying to oversee the resistance from here for now,” Victus was saying. He leaned forward, resting his hands on the table in front of him, “but if it gets any worse he’s going to try finding a way to get to the mass relay. I think he plans on heading to the Citadel to speak with Sparatus directly. What messages have come through indicate the Councilor’s running into resistance from the other citadel races when asked to send troops our way.”

“I’m not really surprised,” Garrus said. “By now they’re realizing that they can’t just run away from this, and knowing the way the Citadel works, they’ll take forever to do anything about it.”

There was a long silence from Victus, then the General shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said straightening up quickly. “Was there something you needed?” The tone was too formal, too controlled, and the exhaustion in this subvocals was thicker now.

“Victus,” Garrus ignored all their titles for a moment. “When was the last time you slept?” He was fairly sure that the General had been eating whatever his aides shoved into his hands, but he couldn’t remember any moment when Victus hadn’t been involved in either coordinating with the other bases or actively involved in the defense itself

For a moment Victus just stared at him blankly the looked away. “It doesn’t matter. There’s too much at stake for me to take a moment to myself.”

“I wouldn’t call something as vital as sleep a ‘moment to myself’.” Garrus shook his head. “I understand what you’re trying to do. This is more than anything we’ve had to deal with before, and you’re trying to pull something impossible out of the ashes, but you can’t keep pushing yourself. Stims can only do so much and you are going to collapse.” The surprised look Victus shot him was enough for the younger turian to be confident that the general had been taking stims. It had just been a guess, but he hadn’t seen a way for Victus to still be up otherwise. Garrus had done it himself before, back at the disaster that was the end of Archangel. They would keep you awake, but it did nothing to kill the exhaustion.

“What do you want me to do?” Victus pushed away from the table and glared at the younger turian. “Just tell everyone I’m going to take a nap? These men are depending on me to lead them through this. They have to know I’m here, that I’m not giving up. If I disappear even for a while, it will kill their morale. You know we won’t last long after that.”

“So you’ll keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself until you collapse. I’m sure that will be the best thing ever for troop moral.” Garrus growled. “I’m sure that will inspire so much confidence.”

“Vakarian,” Victus snapped warningly, “You’re still serving under my Command and I don’t want my decisions questioned.”

“I’m also a military advisor , and that means I get to tell you things that you don’t like,” Garrus reminded the general. “And right now I feel like telling you to go get some damn rest.” Then, in a gentler tone, “Or take it as the advice of a friend if you don’t want to listen to anything else. You need to get some sleep. You’ve been making sure everyone else gets some rest. Do the same favor for yourself, and for your men. They aren’t going to thank you if you make a mistake because you’re too tired to think straight.”

For a moment Garrus thought Victus was going to argue, then the general seemed to deflate slightly. “Perhaps you’re right. I just…these are my men, Vakarian. It feels almost like I’m abandoning them, even if it is just for a few hours.”

“I could tell you that you aren’t, but I know that’s not going to help the feeling,” Garrus said, “Just remember that the sooner you get that rest, the sooner you can be back here ordering people around. I’m sure you’ll hear about it if anything major happens while you’re gone.”

That just made the General snort. “I get the message Vakarian. Just…keep an eye on things while I’m gone.”

“I will,” Garrus promised and watched as Victus started to head toward his bunk. Now he just had to keep that promise.

Garrus spent the next few hours walking around the camp, checking in with various leaders. Most of them seemed puzzled as to why he was the one doing the walking around, but good old turian discipline meant they didn’t question someone who was so much higher in authority.

After a while he found Kaius standing next to some crates of spare heat sinks. Any punishment the young man had been going receive had been forgotten in the face of a greater threat, and he had been serving as support for the rest of the men since the war had begun. Right now, though, he was just gazing up at the planet above them, mandibles quivering with emotion. Garrus chanced a quick glance up.

The Reapers had hit the centers of population first. He had been born in one of the biggest cities on the planet. Now it was one of the biggest fiery blazes against the darkness. He quickly tore his gaze away and cleared his throats.

“Do I even want to know what you’re looking at?”

Kaius didn’t jump exactly but he did seem to stiffen for a moment and it took him a long moment to look down. He threw a sketchy salute. “Sorry, Advisor, I was just…”

“Hey, don’t worry. I get it.” He came to stand next to the other turian. “Although, a bit of advice? The enemy isn’t going to be as understanding. Keep your eyes down here.”

“Yessir,” Kaius sighed. “…Do you have family on Palaven, Advisor?”

“Yeah,” Garrus replied. “Trying not to think about it. They’re tough. They’ll be alright.”

“I wish I could say the same about mine,” was the younger turian’s quiet response.

Garrus wasn’t quiet sure what to say to that. He shifted a little and finally said. “I’m sure they’re alright,” for lack of anything more inspirational to say.

“Not my grandfather.”

“Ah, um, yeah,” Garrus stammered. “I meant, uh….hmm.” Damn. That was his own fault. If he’d bother to remember, to actually think before he spoke…he knew he wasn’t the only one who had family down there. He was just lucky enough to not have confirmation of anything happening to them.

The warning shouts of one of the soldiers and the shriek of fighters flying overhead was almost a welcome distraction.

“They were close,” Kaius observed. “There must be a Reapers nearby.”

“Unfortunately,” Garrus said, “Although close could be relative, since the launching area is nearby. For all we know there could be a Reaper on the other side of the moon.” Almost as if in response to those words, the distant thunder and shrilled sounds of an air battle reached them. A small formation of three fighters rose up from behind the hills, and then the blare of a Reaper horn accompanied a sweeping red beam that tore into one of the fighters. The other two flew out of formation just as the Reaper itself crested the hill.
“Or, you know, there could be one right there.” Garrus said flatly, eyes already sweeping the ground for anyone with rank. “Sergeant!” He yelled finally spotting a turian with rank-markings. “Get some men on the guns! We have a Reaper heading this way and we might be able to do some damage!” Not that he really believed it, but hey, maybe a miracle would happen. Besides, if worse came to worse and the Reaper was landing here then maybe the guns would be able to cause enough distraction that the survivors might have a chance to retreat…Garrus tried to shake those thoughts from his head as the Sergeant threw a salute and ran off. Things were bad enough without making them worse.

“It’s coming fast,” Kaius said, and Garrus noticed the boy’s hands were gripping his gun tightly. There was a barely concealed growl in his subvocals too, which said more than any body language could. It reminded Garrus of how young the boy really was, and how little experience he had, only to be thrown straight into a war that was threatening to destroy the entire galaxy.

There was nothing he could for him at the moment though. Not until the Reapers were gone. And the one that was their current worry was moving fast. Really fast. He hoped the Sergeant could get to the guns in time. After a moment he let out a breath he hadn’t known he had been holding. “It’s not coming for us,” he said, the unspoken words of ‘this time’ still hanging in the air. “It’s going to be close though.”

“Close enough for the guns?”

“Maybe.” Garrus rolled a shoulder. “It doesn’t matter anyway. We still have to be prepared for…”

An alarm blared from the patrol on the wall. Enemies incoming. Garrus swore. “They must have come from the Reaper. Even if it’s not coming for us, it would have to know we’d have eyes on it.” He turned towards the younger turian. “Head over and see if General Victus is awake. We’re going to need..”

A massive explosion cut him off, the shock wave slamming into him and knocking him of his feet. For a moment he was stunned and lay staring up at the sky above him, before breath and the ability to think returned to him. He scrambled to his feet, screams and shouts ringing his ears, to find a massive hole in the wall nearest them. “Damn it!” There were already enemies scrambling through the opening as Kaius managed to finally get to his feet. Garrus wasn’t sure if the now-retreating Reaper had been the one to launch a missile or if it had been something else, but it didn’t matter now.

All that mattered was bullets and firing as many of them as possible. The clatter of a gun next to him announced the Kaius had recovered enough to start fighting again.

“How many of them are out there?” The young soldier shouted over the firefight.

“Probably as many as they think they need to take us down,” Garrus shouted back, “we just have to prove them wrong. Don’t stop shooting!” That got a terse nod from the other turian as Kaius stopped to put in a new heat sink.

Before he could finish, a load roar echoed through the battlefield. It vibrated deep in his chest, and Garrus could swear he caught the edge of something that might have been subvocals from it, but then it went silent. There was just enough time to wonder what in the hell it had been, and then something charged through the gap in the wall. All he could catch was a glimpse of something really, really, large before it had reached a solider standing near the gap. It roared as it swiped at the man with a clawed hand, sending the victim flying. Garrus caught a glint of blue blood around the still figure, but couldn’t afford to think about what that could mean. He turned his gun on the monstrosity, but the bullets barely seemed to do anything to it.

“What is that?” Kaius whispered.

“No idea,” Garrus growled, “ugly brute though. Reapers really aren’t good at much besides the whole ‘ugly monster’ aesthetic. Someone should really have a word with them about that.”

Suddenly the monster flicked its tiny head in that direction. Maybe it was the bullets, maybe it was just the tiny part of its mind that told it ‘get out of the area where so many turians are firing’. Either way, suddenly Garrus found it charging right at his position.

“Dammit!” He scrambled back, still firing, only to realize that Kaius hadn’t moved. The younger turian was frozen, staring at the creature thundering towards them. His finger was on the trigger but his gun was giving the alarming wail of something that needed a new heat sink, and the creature was almost upon them.

Garrus didn’t even really think. He lunged forward, knocking the smaller turian off balance. Kaius fell over the ammo crates with a surprised shriek, and then the creature was right there. Garrus barely had time to look up before he was flying, shields gone, the faint shriek of the creature’s claws against his armor ringing in his ears and feeling as if he’d just taken a missile to the chest. Then he met the ground with an impact that nearly knocked him out of consciousness. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind and keep the blue-tinged darkness away as he rolled over.

The creature roared as it jumped over to his position, and slammed a hand down on his chest, pinning him in place before he could stand. He glanced around wildly, spotting his assault rifle off to the side. But when he reached for it his fingers barely brushed the handle. The beast growled and raised its other hand, claws at the ready. Garrus stared at in horror, wondering if this was really the way he was going to die. Shepard was not going to be happy with him.

A shotgun blast ripped into the beast’s head, causing it to flinch and shriek in pain.

“And here I trusted you to keep out of trouble for a few hours, Vakarian.” Victus’ voice rang out from somewhere behind him.

“I did try,” Garrus growled back, his mind too preoccupied with staying alive to wonder why the General was there. He activated his omni-blade, and with a brief prayer to the spirits, plunged it into the hand resting on him. Luck was with him and it sank into something that spurted foul smelling fluid and made the creature roar. It lifted its foot, and Garrus rolled away, grabbing for his rifle. He managed to rise up on one knee and open fire on the creature. “Reapers had other plans, General!”

“I can see that!” He heard Victus yell as something exploded on the creature’s back. “What is that thing?”

“Why does everyone think I know?” He stood slowly, backing away from the stunned creature. He chances a glance back at Victus, not liking how close the General was to the creature. At least there were soldiers with them now, including a few that looked like they had come with Victus from the command center.

“It’s your job. “

Before Garrus could decide on an answer to that, the monster shook itself awake again, started forward, and was meet my another blast from Victus’ shotgun. This one ripped through the skull, nearly severing it from the body. For a moment the creature wavered, and Garrus was struck with the horrible thought that it might be willing to fight them headless. Then it slowly collapsed onto its side, with loud thumb. Garrus kept his gun trained on it for a few moments longer, only relaxing once Victus had walked over to him.

“Are you all right?”

Garrus took a moment to stretch a little, wincing a little at the way his chest felt. Still, he had been injured enough to know when something was life threatening. “Nothing broken, I’ll live. Probably have some interesting bruises though.”

“You’re lucky then. We have other’s that weren’t.” Victus glanced over at the creature. “I think that was the last of what they threw at us. It will give us time to figure out exactly what this thing is supposed to be.”

“Advisor!” Kaius’ cry made Garrus looked over just at the younger turian reached him. “Thank the Spirits. I thought that thing had gotten you.” He shook his head. “That was my fault. If I hadn’t been such a coward you wouldn’t have had to..”

“Don’t worry about it,” Garrus cut him off. “I’m alive, you’re alive, and that thing is dead. I think that’s a pretty good end to things.”

“For now,” Victus said, “I doubt this will be the last we see of…whatever this is. ”

“Yeah,” Garrus admitted, reluctantly. “At least we know we can kill them. We just, you know, have to be a bit more careful next time.”

“It also means that we’ve been able to meet and defeat every challenge the Reapers have thrown at us so far,” Victus has raised his voice and Garrus knew it wasn’t just him the General was speaking too. “It hasn’t been without loss, but if we can keep this up then we will win!”

As a cheer went up, Garrus shook his head. “You make it sound easy.”

Victus just flared a grin at him. “Come on Vakarian. We have a war to win.”