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Chapter 1: New Beginnings
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She always wondered about the stars. Even at a young age, Orion was fascinated. She just wanted to be up there, you know? Among the stars, flowing through the galaxy like an unstoppable comet. Maybe that’s why her parents named her after the star cluster? No, that couldn’t be it, how would they have known? Do parents have that sort of intuition? No, maybe she was so obsessed with space because she was named after a star cluster. Causation, correlation, coincidence. She couldn’t decide. Not that it mattered.

Once when she was 9, Orion had been snooping while her parents were working crops in the field. Snooping and gossip, two of her favourite things. She had even acquired the nickname Skuttlebutt from her mother, mostly because she would tell all her friends secrets to the family dog. While snooping on this particular day, she happened to stumble upon a box hidden in the back of her mothers’ closet. The box hadn’t been opened in years judging on the layer of dust across the top of the lid. The name Shepard. H. was typed in bold gold letters on the side, with the Alliance symbol in the top of the lid. As she began to open the lid, oozing with curiosity, her parents called from downstairs, startling her.

“Orion! Its time to come cleanup for dinner!”

Nervous about getting caught, Orion spilled the contents of the box across the floor of her parents’ bedroom. The loud bang of a pistol hitting the floor could be heard through the entire farm house.

“Orion! What was that?”

Her mother yelled, and began moving up the stairs toward the bedroom. Orion scrambled to pickup the items from the box. Just as she closed the box and placed it back in the closet, the form of her parents came into view in her peripherals.

“Care to explain?”

Orion's father asked, with the same look he gives right before he makes her clean up after the cattle in the barn. A chore he saves for when she has done something wrong. She prepares for the wrath that is to come.

“Ugh, no, I was, ugh looking for my lucky socks. You know, with the stars on them? Sometimes they end up in with moms’ socks and...”

“Enough Orion”

Her mother sighed. Probably wasn’t the best idea to lie about it, but she was nervous, what had they expected. Of course, that meant she was in the barn after dinner. Cleaning up after cows and pigs. Next was the chicken coup which smelled the worst. As night fell, she could hear her father yell that that was enough for tonight, and she should clean up and head to bed.

A few weeks later, when she had worked up enough nerve, she had asked her mother about the contents of the box. An Alliance uniform, passport from Earth, a pistol, and the tiniest pair of shoes she had ever seen being among the notable items in the box.

Orion’s mother Hannah was Ex-Alliance. Enlisted the moment she turned 18. She spent most of her Alliance career posted on frigates, eventually ending up posted in Lowell City on Mars. That was where she had met Orion’s father John. Her father describes it as “love at first sight”, while her mother describes it as “an attempt to get the pain in the ass to stop asking me out”. The two had met while she was overseeing a new section of prefabs being built near the Prothean dig site. John had taken one look at Hannah and decided he was going to be with her for the rest of his life. Looking back, Hannah admits he was definitely a charming man. Showed up at the prefabs with a bouquet of flowers straight from his greenhouse, wearing a bow-tie and a dorky smile. The two had been inseparable ever since.

They married in 2153, and shortly after found out they were going to be blessed enough to have a family. Hannah had always thought she would be Alliance until the day they forced her to retire, but the moment she saw Orion during the Ultrasound, she knew that little girl was going to run this galaxy the way her mother couldn’t. She retired from the military shortly after and began working with her husband at the greenhouse he owned in the city. Once she had Orion, some of her squad mates visited her at the hospital bearing a gift.

“Well aren’t these the most adorable baby shoes! You guys really didn’t have to get me anything.”

“The least we can do Shepard. You’ve been a valuable member of this team. Although you will be missed, we wish you and your growing family nothing but the best.”

That was the last time she saw anyone from her Alliance squad.

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The Mars settlement had slowly lost funding and attention after the discovery of the Prothean ruins, making life hard for the Shepard’s. Owning a greenhouse in a dying city wasn’t the best way to raise a family. After the First Contact War in 2157, Humanity was allowed continue colonization under the watchful eye of the Council. John and Hannah decided this was their chance, and the Shepard’s caught the next transport to Mindoir, the newest of the human colonies.

Orion loved hearing her parents talk about their days on Mars. The idea of being somewhere other than Mindoir was an exciting concept. In school, they had been learning about all the constellations view-able from the Earth Local Cluster, as well as the clusters view-able from Mindoir. One day she would rule this galaxy, travelling to every star system and planet in the known galaxy, just like her mother said. She often would lay under the stars in her families field dreaming of the plans she had for the future. Fighting bad guys, saving the innocent, meeting all kinds of cool alien life. Maybe even discovering a new species or becoming a Council Spectre. She planned to keep a record, documenting all of the people she met, the planets she had visited and the cool adventures she went on. She spent the better part of those nights under the stars dreaming of Orion Shepard, hero of the galaxy.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Who are you?
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2165
Orion Shepard: Age 11
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Today was an exciting day. Orion was out of bed an hour earlier than usual and ready for school well before she needed to be. She was brimming with excitement, and could not wait for the school day to end.

Each year, Mindoir held a carnival as an anniversary of the colony being founded. Living on a colony world was hard work, and most of the families could hardly make ends meet, but it was an opportunity for the colonists to have fun and celebrate the hard work and dedication that had gotten them to where they are today. Shepard was especially excited because that meant candy, rides and aliens!

Aliens were rarely seen on Mindoir, so Orion hadn’t had much of an opportunity to meet anyone from elsewhere in the Galaxy. Occasionally an Elcor merchant would visit the colony to sell his wares, but he only came around every 6 or 7 months.

This year the carnival was hosting a group of what humans referred to as Carnies. It was a band of aliens who travelled to different planets with Carnival style rides from different species home worlds. They would be arriving today, and Orion was determined to meet as many aliens as she could. But first, school. Not exactly the most exciting thing, but she was more than happy to go if it meant she was one step closer to the carnival.
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The day seemed to drag on forever. Orion was having the hardest time focussing on anything the teacher went over during today's lectures. All she could do was stare out the window or draw pictures in her work book of all the aliens she hoped to meet today. Sticking with the human carnival stereotypes, she drew a sword-swallowing Asari, a Turian strong man, and a juggling Batarian. She knew that these were probably not the most accurate representations of what people at the carnival would be doing, but she wasn’t sure what kind of events happen on their home worlds.

As the school bell rang, Orion was already out the door and running to the site of the carnival. Earlier that day she heard the shuttles landing on the far side of town where the carnival was being held. Today was going to be the best day of her life.
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After meeting with her parents at the predetermined meeting spot, they bought their tickets and entered the carnival. There was a beautiful melody playing through a series of speakers wired around the entire grounds, which were linked to a band stage on the other side of the carnival. She made a note to check out the band after making her way to the food vendors.

As they made their way, they could smell all kinds of exotic foods from different world being cooked in the small area. There was a Salarian cooking something that resembled beetles in a pasta sauce, under one tent, an Asari cooking what looked like sea-food at another, and at the final tent, a Turian who seemed to be (half) cooking a teal coloured meat. Curious, Shepard approached the Turian tent.

“Well hello there Red, my name is Arricus, and who might you be?”

Shepard was in awe. A Turian, a real lie Turian was here. On Mindoir. Talking to her? His voice was beautiful. His main voice was deep and almost raspy, with a second voice which harmonized with the first. She had learned in school about how Turians had dual-toned voices, being able to convey emotions through the second tone of their voice; but she never imagined it would sound this beautiful. Seeing her stunned silence, Arricus came out from behind his table and put his hand toward Shepard in a human style handshake. Shepard took his hand and shook vigorously, brimming with excitement.

“Orion, sir! My name is Orion Shepard, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well Orion. Say, now that we’ve greeted each other in human fashion, how do you feel about learning a standard Turian handshake?”

If she didn’t know any better, Orion would think she had died and gone to galactic heaven. After watching her shake her head in a frantic furvor, Arricus kneeled to her level and held out his right arm.

“The first thing you want to do when you greet a Turian, is bring your right arm toward them, just like you would for a human handshake.”

Orion mimicked the action, and watched as he brought his arm under hers and gently but firmly held her forearm with his hand just below the elbow. She mimicked this action as well with his arm.

“Great! You’re doing wonderful, now once you and whomever you are greeting are holding onto each others arms, you both bow slightly without breaking eye contact.”

Shepard and Arricus completed the next step, then she asked if she could practice a few more times.

Once she was convinced she had the hang of it, she was smiling from ear-to-ear. Looking at the meat he had drawn his attention to, Shepard asked

“What is that you’re making here Arricus?”

“Well Orion, although humans cannot eat dextro-based food, there are many who work at the carnival who do, so I am making Vekhi which is a popular dish on Palaven.”

As Arricus explained to Shepard why Turians and Humans could not share the same food, allergies being the main reason, several Turians approached the food stand to receive a portion of the meal he was serving. It had a teal colour to it, and looked almost raw, but seemed to have a similar texture to what a human steak would have. He was serving a cooked green mush with it that almost looked like boiled spinach, which made Orions stomach turn at the thought. Boiled spinach was one of the grossest things she could imagine, and it was being served with raw meat. She decided that now was probably a good time to move on to the next booth before she lost her appetite.

“Thank you very much for teaching me how to do a Turian handshake Arricus! If you don’t mind, I’m going to look at what else the food area has to provide! It was wonderful to meet you.”

As Arricus went to answer the little red-headed human, she was already running toward one of the other booths.

“You’re quite welcome Orion, it was nice to meet you.” He called after her.

Shepard approached the Asari booth and decided to order what looked a little like a soup with long noodles, and had a meat called Tareah which, according to the Asari working the booth, was similar to Earth chicken. She had her at chicken.
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In Shepard's eyes, the carnival had been the greatest moment of her life. She met Turians, Asari, Salarians, Batarians and even a Hanar! As the sun began to set she knew it was almost time for her to meet her parents at the meeting spot, so reluctantly she began making her way away from the fair grounds. As she passed a series of seemingly empty tents, she could hear what almost sounded like soft screeching. Ever curious, Shepard slowly made her way under the tent. Behind a stack of crates, she found a young Turian girl who seemed to be the source of the sound. Carefully, trying not to startle the girl, Shepard made her way toward her. As Shepard approached, the girl jumped up into a defensive stance and the screeching turned to a growl.

"Are you alright? My name is Orion and I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I could hear screeching and …."

The young Turian looked at Shepard with a curious glare and slowly lowered her hands. Shepard was grateful that the girl seemed to relax a bit. Those talons were terrifying no matter the age of the Turian pointing them at you.

Slowly the girl made her way toward Shepard, still looking at her with a confused gaze.

"I wasn’t screeching! I was keening. It happens when Turians are upset, we cannot control it."

The girl had said that so matter-of-factly that Shepard blushed for having been so foolish, embarrassed for not having known better.

"Are you a part of the carnival group, or maybe your parents? I can help you find them if you would like."

She girl shook her head and took another step back. The girl had beautifully metallic bronze plates and purple clan markings that started on her temples, curled around her eyes and ended at her jaw. As she stepped back, Shepard could see a shade of blue fade onto the surface of the skin of her neck. Was she blushing? Embarrassed, nervous? Shepard wasn't sure, but she needed to calm the girl down again before she ran.

"What is your name?"

Hoping the question would take the girls mind off of Orion's previous question, Shepard tried to look more relaxed, less threatening.

"Tulia, my name is Tulia Agolus and I'm not supposed to be here."

"What do you mean you aren't supposed to be here? Is this tent off limits?"

Shepard asked as she looked around at the items in the tent, curious what would be off limits in the tent.

"No. Here. This planet, with these people. I should never have snuck into that shuttle."

Shepard snapped her head back to the girl. Had she run away? Hopped in with the carnies at their last stop and hoped for a better planet?

"What do you mean? Did you run away from your family? Maybe I can help you get back."

Shepard offered, thinking maybe she should ask Arricus when the next time they would land on Palaven would be.

"I have no family to go back to. When the carnival group visited Cipritine I snuck into their shuttles hoping I would end up at the Citadel or another city on Palaven. Anywhere that wasn't a constant reminder of what happened. Then I ended up here and I'm not sure if I'll be able to sneak on the shuttle unnoticed a second time. So, I guess I'm stuck here."

The girl keened again as she finished speaking and Shepard's heart broke. Shepard thought about these words carefully. This poor girl had no home or family. She could see the universe just as Shepard had always wanted.

"You could live with me!"

She blurted without thinking.

"I mean, we aren't so bad here. There is a store downtown that sells dextro rations I think. I have two beds in my room for when friends sleep over. It could be like the galaxy's longest sleepover."

The questioning glare Shepard had been getting initially was back, and Shepard felt foolish for a second time. What a stupid suggestion. She couldn't stay with them. Her parents would pitch a fit.

"I could just set up outside of town. Do odd Jobs for families in the colony until I have enough for transport to the Citadel. That's where I want to end up anyway."

Tulia had said. In that moment, Shepard had made a decision. She would sneak the girl upstairs to her room. At least for now. Until they could get everything figured out.

"Come with me, I have a plan."
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As they left the tent it was completely dark out and the carnies had already begun taking down the carnival and packing it into shuttles. Shepard made her way over to where Arricus had his food stand, and found him about to pack the rest of it away.

"Orion! A pleasure to see you again. Shouldn't you be on your way home?"

He asked her, while packing the rest of the dextro food away for the evening.

"I'm just about to head there now, but I had one last question for you before I could go."

"Oh, and what might that be."

He asked her, curiosity getting the better of him.

"Well I wondered if you knew of any foods that dextro and levo based species could both eat. I have a...friend, and we were hoping to share a meal together."

Oh, now Arricus was really curious! What was this human girl going on about? He had met many curious aliens in his day, but this one was a real laugh.

"There are genetically modified foods that they have been making that work with both chiralities. Other than that, there isn't much cross over. Say, how about this?"

He turned his back from her to dig through a deep freezer he had behind him. He turned back with a big box with Turian writing on the side.

"This is a box of frozen dextro rations I've had for a while. I don't need it because we stop on enough planets to buy fresh food. This should be enough for your uhm…friend."

The smirk on his face told her he knew she was holding back details, but she excitedly grabbed the box and began to walk away. At the final second she turned back, placed the box on the ground, and hugged her new friend as a silent thank you. He looked stunned and didn't know what to do. He gently patted the girl on the top of the head, with a slight chuckle and told her it was not problem. As she ran off with the box, in the distance he could see a young Turian girl, couldn't be more than 11 or 12 running behind the redheaded human.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: All good things...
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The weeks following the carnival had been stressful for the girls. They spent their time making sure Tulia was hidden from Shepard's parents. During the day while Shepard's parents worked in the fields, Tulia would hide in Shepard's room, reading human history books and teen gossip magazines. When Orion got home from school, they would hide in her closet and she would teach Tulia everything she had learned at school that day. Some of the information she had already known, but it made Shepard happy to teach Tulia what she was learning, so she soaked up all the information Shepard would provide.
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Weeks went by doing the same thing without Shepard's parents even noticing the young Turian squatting in their daughters’ bedroom. One day the two girls were out in the field. Tulia was telling Shepard about growing up on Palaven. She still wouldn't open-up enough to tell Orion how she had lost her family, but she knew one day she would feel comfortable enough to share. As they stared up at the clouds, they heard someone approaching from behind them. Instantly fear coursed through both of them, realizing that this hidden friendship was about to come to an end. Orion knew it was her father. She could tell by the way he dragged his boots in the hay as he walked. As he approached, Tulia and Orion could only look at each other. Preparing for what was to come.

"Orion, who’s your friend?"

Her father seemed so passive about the presence of the Turian girl. Maybe he thought she was a friend from school? Doubtful he would believe that on a human colony.

"Hello sir, my name is Tulia Agolus. I am a friend of Orion's”.

She stumbled, unsure of what else to say.

"Well it is a pleasure to meet you." He said with a smile. "Just so you ladies are aware, dinner will be ready in twenty. We have much to talk about."

As her father walked away, the colour drained from Orion's face. Had he known? Had her parents found out? They were in big trouble. She looked over at whom she now considered her best friend in the entire galaxy and prayed to her God and Tulia’s spirits that her parents didn't know.

The two girls sullenly made their way back to the house to cleanup before dinner. Over their time together, the girls had collected a bunch of possessions for Tulia so that she could feel more at home. Together, they packed her possessions and clothes, neither of them exchanging a word. Expecting the worst, they made their way downstairs. Tulia wasn’t quite sure what she should do. Should she sit at the table with everyone else or make her way to the door?

"Tulia dear, come have a seat. Dinner will be on the table shortly."

With that, Hannah made her way into the kitchen and the sound of plates banging around could be heard. Shocked and a little bit stunned, Tulia slowly made her way to the table and took a seat in the chair next to Orion.

Shortly after making their way to the table, Orion's mother began bringing meals to the table. She even had taken the time to fix Vekhi for Tulia, to which she was surprised. As Hannah sat at the table, an eerie silence fell in the dining room. The only sound that could be heard was the sound of the barn door in the distance being blown open and shut by the wind outside. For several minutes the group sat at the table silently. Finally, Hannah spoke up.

"Well...we figured it was about time we all got to sit down and get to know each other. John and I noticed a few weeks ago that you were staying here. But decided not to say anything. I think it is only fair the two of you gave us an explanation as to why we have been lied to for weeks."

Riddled with fear, the two girls began shouting their versions of the story at the same time. All John had to do was raise his hands and there was once again silence in the dining room. Satisfied, he continued.

"Tulia tell me, how does a Turian girl become a secret guest in a human's home?”
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After hours of explaining and crying and yelling, Shepard's parents relented and allowed Tulia to stay. The girls were relieved. They had begun to love each other as if they had known each other since birth. Orion now had a sister. A Turian adopted sister. Shepard's parents ordered Turian style pillows and a mattress for Tulia so that she was more comfortable. She was enrolled in school and began to make friends. At first the other kids were scared or mean to Tulia but over time they had become accustomed to her and welcomed her as a member of the community.

The two were practically inseparable. They did everything together. Hannah and John knew they had done the right thing. With the story the girl had told, even though they didn't know what happened to her family, they couldn't just let a child be homeless. Regardless of where she was from. They could see their decision had had a positive impact on their daughter as well. Orion had always been an energetic child, but preferred playing alone, rather than with the other kids in the colony. When asked about it she simply stated

“I have big dreams, and they have weaker minds.”

But Tulia brought a fire out in Orion that the Shepard’s had never seen before. She was happy, and so were they. Now they just needed to know how to care for a Turian child.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4. I’m a what?
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2156
Orion Shepard Age:12 / Tulia Agolus Age: 13
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Tulia had been worried about Orion for a few weeks now, and figured it was about time she mentioned something to the Shepard's. Orion had been complaining of headaches, and seemed to have a bottomless pit of a stomach. She had mood-swings that ranged from anger to tears, and often ended up with nosebleeds. Orion kept shrugging it off, saying she felt fine, but Tulia was worried about her sister.
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One day at school, Shepard had been at recess with a group of friends. On the other end of the school yard, she could see a group of boys huddled around someone curled on the ground. Making their way over, Shepard realized it was Tulia on the ground, nursing a dislocated mandible. Fueled with anger Shepard screamed “Who did this? Who would dare do this?” Orion kneeled to help Tulia up as Adam Pritchett, the colony bully pushed through the crowd.

“What’s it to you, freak? Got a problem with how we deal with those who don’t belong here?”

“Yes actually, I do. If anyone doesn’t belong here Adam, its you. Tulia has been here for over a year, and no one as so much as batted an eye. What the hell is….”

Tulia cut her off and began to drag her away. Adam was hardly worth the breath, and with how strange Orion had be acting lately, Tulia was worried she may end up with another nosebleed. Neither of them expected what came next.

Out of no where, Adam pushed Tulia back onto the ground and went to grab Orion’s shoulder to spin her around. A blood curdling scream came from Orion’s mouth and she was enveloped in blue. Tulia couldn’t believe her eyes. Was Adam a biotic? At that instant Adam was also enveloped in a sea of blue and flew 20 ft backward halting abruptly as his back slammed against a tree.

Pekrit!

Tulia scrambled to catch Orion as she seemed to have blacked-out. Her nose was bleeding like crazy, and the surrounding crowd was either screaming, cheering or in shock. Tulia rushed Orion home as soon as she could to tell the Shepard's what had happened. Where on Mindoir had this girl been exposed to Eezo? It must have been from when Hannah was pregnant with Orion. She remembered her mentioning something about Prothean tech and a dig site. That would have been the point of exposure.
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Tulia explained to her adopted parents what had happened at school. Human biotics were still rare, but the stories had made their way to the colony of kids who were kidnapped by the Alliance and taken to Jump Zero. The Shepard’s refused to let Orion be taken, but they needed this girl to get an amp before she fried herself or someone around her.

Needless to say, no one in the school yard messed with the sisters again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Fire and Smoke
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2170
Orion Shepard Age:16 / Tulia Age 17
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-Tulia -

"I'm telling you Shep, you look hot." Tulia said through the display.

Tulia had approached her step parents before her 15th birthday about going back to Palaven. The years she spent with them had been everything to her, and she loved them more than she could imagine. But she had this calling, telling her she needed to go back to Palaven to enlist in her mandatory military service. She was required to in order to be coming a Turian citizen, not that she really planned on moving to Palaven. Although she was only required by the hierarchy to serve one year, she was mid way through her second. She loved it. She felt a sense of belonging. A bond formed between squad mates was strong, and as much as she loved the Shepard's, she knew this is where she needed to be. Any free moment she had for a call, or shore leave granted was time she spent with the Shepard's.

Currently she was in a vid call with Orion who was freaking out about a date she had with Jason from school. They were going to a harvest dance, and she couldn't decide which top to wear with her favourite pants. Helping her pick out outfits was exhausting. Neither of them had much sense in fashion, especially with Tulia being a Turian. Sure, she had spent years with humans, but she didn't know the first thing about dating. Especially between two humans.

Once the two had decided on the perfect outfit for Shep's date, they decided to catch up on what had happened in their lives since the last time they spoke. Tulia had been stationed on a Turian frigate working in the Terminus taking out bands of slavers that had been raiding colonies. Shepard loved hearing her adventures. Since Tulia had know her, she had been obsessed with the stars. Orion had told her about her mother being Ex-alliance, which made sense when you saw how she held herself. The woman was strong and focused. Although it had been years since she had been apart of the Alliance, you couldn't take the soldier out of the woman. Orion had these big dreams of joining the Alliance and fighting evil in all of the galaxy. It was easy to see why she felt this way.
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After a few hours of catching up, it was time for Tulia to report for inspection, and Orion to be picked up for her date. They said their goodbyes and Orion promised to give her all the juicy details the next time they spoke.
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-Orion-

Jason had been on time as promised, so they made their way to the school for the harvest dance. Shepard had never been so nervous in her entire life, but Jason had bought her a corsage; a gesture which had helped to calm her nerves. They arrived at the school just as the dance was in full swing. Teachers and students all having a great time, dancing and laughing. All-in-all the night was going great.
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Near the end of the dance, Jason had lead Orion away from the crowd. He seemed to have a devious look in his eye, and Orion had a feeling she knew where this was going.

"Want to get out of here? I'll walk you home. I know a shortcut."

Shepard didn’t really like the idea of taking a different way home, but she agreed and he went to get her coat.
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The air was cold and damp as they made their way in the dark toward the Shepard's farm. They took a route through the trees lining the series of prefabs they called home, only lit by the light from the planets two moons. About 100 meters into the brush they came upon a makeshift cabin Shepard had never seen before.

"Welcome to my hiding place!" Jason exclaimed in exasperated fashion.

The cabin was held together with junk metal and cardboard, with a mostly shredded tarp acting as a roof.

"You built this yourself? It must have taken forever!"

It wasn't exactly what she would call homey, but it was a neat home away from home she supposed.

"Would you like to come in? We can stay here for a bit before I bring you home. You aren't expected back for another hour, right?"

This made Shepard nervous. What was he planning? Just a chat between friends? More? She had kissed boys before, but she wasn't sure she was exactly ready for whatever this situation may be leading to. Reluctantly she agreed, and he shifted the sheet of metal to the side which acted as a door. Inside the cabin there were carpets lining the floor, and pillows acting as a bed of sorts. Along one of the walls of the tiny 'shack' she had decided to call it, was a workbench that he had been making alterations to his omni-tool. Next to that was a case. As she made her way over the items on the bench, she hesitated when she realized what the case would contain.

"You have a pistol? Where on Earth would you have found one?"

A silly expression still used by colonists even though they clearly weren't on Earth, most of them had never even been to their home planet.

"It was my dad's. When he left, I found it with his things. It's the only real thing I have of his."

Shepard felt bad for asking. Jason's dad had disappeared about a year ago without a trace. His mother thought him a missing person, but Jason didn't have the heart to tell her he had just left to be somewhere away from them. It was a sensitive subject, and the air almost felt colder with it having been brought up.

Ever awkward, Shepard said "Well at least you have something I suppose."

Stupid! That was insensitive.

She hoped he hadn't taken it the way it sounded, but by the look on his face and the way he opened his mouth to speak then shut it, she had hit a sore spot.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that." She said, extending an arm to grab his hand.

Reluctantly he took her offering and accepted the apology for what it was.

Slowly he made his way closer to her. Too close for this to be accidental. Her heart began beating in her ears as she realized what was happening. She closed her eyes and tilted her chin upwards, as he tilted his down. His hand was around her waist and the other was moving to touch her face. The inches between them seemed to close painfully slow, but when their lips met, her vision went white.

Tulia was going to love this!

The awkward kiss lasted what seemed like forever, but was broken by a sound in the distance.

Was that a scream?

They parted, both flushed red; and listened for the sound again. Neither of them heard anything, both deciding they had imagined the whole thing.

Nerves. It must be the nerves. She thought.

As they moved closer to kiss again, they heard screaming again. Lots of screaming. And gunshots? Now both of them were out of the shack running towards whatever was happening back at the prefabs in town.

"Wait!" Jason yelled, running back to the shack.

Orion spun around just as he entered the shack and came back out with his father pistol. Hand in hand, they ran.

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They emerged at the edge of the brush and crouched. They could see fire and smoke littering the air. Shuttles were dropping into the atmosphere and the ground turrets couldn't keep up with the number of them. Colonist were running frantically, screaming and terrified. That's when they saw the first of the Batarians raiding the colony. They had guns, so many guns, and were shooting any armed citizens and stunning the rest. Were they taking slaves? Shit, she had heard Tulia talk about how they did it, and now it was happening to them. She opened her omni-tool and sent a distress signal to Tulia. Hopefully she could get here in time, or alert someone who could. She then messaged her parents, telling them to hide.

"I need to get home to my parents so we can try to hide. Are you coming!"

She whispered as she tried to drag him back in the cover of the trees.

"We have to get my mom too."

He whispered back as they entered cover. He was terrified. Ghost white and shaking.

"Okay, our houses are near each other. We will make our way to the edge of our properties then split up. We can meet back at the shack."

Plan in motion, they made their way through the bush ad quickly and quietly as they could. The sound of screams and gunshots echoing through the cold night air. She prayed to the human gods and Turian spirits they would be safe.

They reached the point of where they would need to split up. Jason lived next door, but on a farm your neighbour was as close as the edge of a field, so it would be a long trek back. They stopped and stared at each other for a moment, processing whether this was really happening. All the sudden his lips were crashing into hers with such force, she was sure she would bruise. They parted and without a word ran to their homes.

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Just as Shepard emerged through the hay field, her father was exiting the house on the porch holding a shotgun. Shortly after, her mother appeared holding her alliance issue pistol. From the box of her forgotten past. They saw Orion exiting the field dirty and shaking, and ushered her inside quietly. They needed to hide. Orion explained what she and Jason saw, and told them about the shed in the trees he had and how they had agreed to meet there.

"No, we hold out position." Her mother was stern. A soldier. "We hold out here. The Alliance will be here. Distress beacons are set to signal as soon as the ground turrets fire. They will be here."

She looked hardened, like she had never left the Alliance. If she wasn't Orion's mother, she would have feared her.

They barricaded the doors and windows as the screams and smoke drew closer.

"Those bastards are thorough. This won’t end until they're stopped, or they've killed or taken every last one of us on this rock."

She was no longer the mother Orion had known. She was Lieutenant Hannah Shepard. Alliance Navy, and she was going to save their sorry asses.

As the gunshot grew nearer still, Hannah moved them to the basement and John barricaded that door as well. If they were getting in here, they were going to have to fight for it. Just as they holed up in a defensible corner of the basement with sufficient cover, they could hear the slavers breaking through the front door barricade.

"Shit." Cursed Hannah. “John, open that window and help Orion through. We fight. Orion, go to that shack you told us about and stay there until we come find you. Do you hear me?"

Orion was shaking. Barely able to focus, let alone produce coherent answers.

She nodded in response and approached the window with her father. He quietly opened the window and peered out to check the coast was clear. The window was located at the back of the house, and Batarians were already inside, so now was Orion's chance. She kissed her parents in silent goodbye. Her father had tears streaming down his face and her mother still looked like she was made of steel. Hannah pulled Orion close and whispered

"Remember we are so proud of you Skuttlebutt. Tell your sister to take care of you until you’re ready. You'll rule this galaxy one day, I’ve always known."

Tears streaming down her face Orion took one final look at her parents, knowing this would be the last time she saw them. She left the basement through the window and ran.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Stars
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Shepard awoke to an explosion. How long had she slept? It couldn't have been long, it was still dark, but the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. As she came to her senses, realizing she was still alone at the shack in the woods, she heard another explosion. She ran to the edge of the clearing to see Alliance shuttles dropping into the sky, shooting any remaining Batarian shuttles attempting to leave atmo. They were here. Her mother was right. The alliance and come through for them. Knowing she still wasn't safe. She made her way back to the shack to wait out the remainder of the fight, hoping her parents and Jason would still make it. As she entered the shed, something from behind her emerged, and with the butt of a pistol her biotics crackled and her vision went black.
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Shepard awoke sometime later in an unfamiliar room. How had she gotten here? Where was 'here'? She surveyed the sterile room. Okay Shep, you're in the hospital. They found you. You're safe. She thought. Tears began to stream down her face unexpectedly and she noticed she was still filthy and covered in blood. That's when she noticed how much her head hurt. Right, someone attacked me. Fuck, could it have been the Batarians? I'm on their ship, aren't I? She panicked and jumped off the cot, scrambling into a corner and knocking medical supplies all over the room in the process. At that moment, the door slid open. A human man, in Alliance dress blues entered the room.

“Be still child, you’re safe now. My name is Captain David Anderson. The SSV Einstein responded to a distress signal on Mindoir and immediately called in for reinforcements. When we arrived, the Batarians were beginning to disperse from the raid. We found you, and a boy named Jason, badly injured and holed up in a shack in the woods just outside of town..."

She felt relieved, Jason had made it. She wasn't alone.

He continued, "The boy explained to us that he had accidentally hit you with his pistol, thinking that Batarians had followed him into the shack. We began patching the two of you up as a group of Batarians attacked."

There was a long pause before he continued, obviously uncomfortable with what was coming next.

"I’m sorry to say, but you are the only survivor.”

No, no this couldn’t be. Her parents. Jason. They were coming, right? They were probably still holed up in the corner of the basement, waiting until the coast is clear.

“Take me back! I need to go back!” She screamed as she made a run for the door.

Anderson stopped her and shook his head. He held her as she broke down and began to cry. She couldn’t be the only one left. It wasn’t possible. In the background, she could hear Anderson asking her more questions, but she couldn’t focus. Her vision was blurry from the tears, and she had a headache that could kill and Elcor. For the second time that day, she passed out.
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She awoke to the pinging of her omni-tool. She remained in the med bay of the Einstein, but the mess she made had been cleaned up, as well as her injuries had been treated more appropriately, and she donned hospital style garb. She looked at her omni-tool to discover she had 87 missed messages.

“Shit, Tulia!”

Without even bothering to check the messages she made a call to her sister.

“Pekrit Shep are you okay? Where in the hell are you? What happened, I’ve been worried sick.”
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Orion filled Tulia in on what had happened, and told her that she was on the SSV Einstein, but didn’t know where they were headed. She imagined they would take her to Earth or the Citadel, seeing as she was still a minor and technically an orphan. She felt a stabbing pain as she realized that she really was an orphan. Taking to Tulia about it definitely helped. Tulia knew exactly what to say, seeing as she was an orphan twice over. Shepard promised to keep Tulia updated on what was happening, so they could meet up once the Einstein had docked. As she ended the call with Tulia, Anderson came in with fresh clothes and something for her to eat. She scarfed down the ration in record time, soliciting a laugh from Anderson.

Mouth half full and muffled, she retorted, “I’m a biotic, and haven’t eaten since yesterday.”

“Its alright child, I’ve just never seen anyone eat so quickly, and I've worked with starved marines. The Einstein is on its way to the Citadel to make an official report with the Council. I saw you talking to someone on your omni-tool. Do you have family that wasn’t on Mindoir?”

She thought carefully about how she wanted to answer this question. Deciding she could trust him she started, “A sister, sort-of. She’s adopted….and Turian.”

“Turian? Really? I’m curious how your family came to adopt a Turian, but that seems like a story for another time. Depending on the age of your sister, you may be able to stay with her. But seeing as you’re a minor, we will need to register you for adoption when the time comes.”

Shepard went white. Adoption? Was that necessary?

“I can take care of myself! I want to join the Alliance when I turn 18, can’t I just stay with my sister until then?”

Anderson thought about this for a moment. Seeing as she planned to enlist, he may be able to pull a few strings, but first they would have to report the events of the raid to the Council.
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Anderson had told her that they weren’t scheduled to arrive at the Citadel for another 3 days. Feeling restless, Shepard decided to wonder around the ship. She took the time to meet some of the crew, asked them what they did on the ship, and their experiences with the Alliance. Despite all that had happened over the last few days, the was excited to be meeting people apart of the Alliance. After stopping in the mess for something to eat, she made her way to a room labelled ‘Port Observation’ As the door flew open, her jaw nearly hit the floor. Stars. Beautiful, glorious, stars. It had only now hit Orion that she was finally fulfilling her dream of being among them. Floating like a comet through the galaxy. Sadness overtook her as she thought of the last conversation she had with her mother.

"You'll rule this galaxy one day, I've always known."

Her mother was right; she really was going to rule the galaxy. She would be strong and fearless, for them.
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Chapter Text

Chapter 7: You’re the Alien Here
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The SSV Einstein was making its approach into the Widow cluster. Shepard had been housed in the Observation deck since its discovery, even sleeping in it when she had the ability to. She watched in awe as the frigate made its approach toward the Citadel. It was marvelous. One of the most beautiful things she had ever seen in her life. The way the arms extended reminded Orion of the fluid movements of an orchestra conductor. Poetically beautiful, while mysterious and calculated. Earlier that day, Anderson had joined her in the observatory, just to look out into the vastness of space with her. After over an hour of silence, he told her he had received word that the Alliance was making her attend psychological evaluations due to her experiences on Mindoir. She wasn’t exactly surprised. She was convinced she must still be in shock. She hadn’t slept much since her rescue, and refused to think about her parents or how their final moments may have been. She hadn’t mourned yet. She wouldn’t. She still had Tulia, and they would mourn together.

Anderson and Shepard shared companionable silence like this for hours, staring out at the stars. Shepard wondering what came next for her, and Anderson hoping to change the future of Orion Shepard for the better. But how?
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The Einstein docked and the crew began to disembark, with orders to meet back at 0600 in two council days. After the horrors seen on Mindoir, the crew needed shore leave, and with Anderson needing to meet with the Council, they were going to get it. He guided Shepard through decontamination and off the ship. She was so innocent and in awe of everything around her, and Anderson couldn’t help but smirk and how adorable it was. They made their way to the nearest transport depot, and hailed a cab to the council chambers. Shepard was practically glued to the cab window, taking in all the sights as they made their way to their destination. Anderson made a note to take the long way to his apartment on the Strip when they were done with the council. She needed a place to stay for the night and he had plenty of bedrooms. Plus, she would love the scenic route through the Silversun Strip.
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Shepard stood next to Anderson and a puppet he referred to as Donnel Udina, in front of the series of aliens that made up the Citadel Council. She was only half paying attention. Listening to them referring to Mindoir as ‘tragic’ or a ‘fatal error’ was making her skin crawl. How could they be so cold and disconnected about what happened. The only reason she had been brought to the meeting with the council, was because the councillors wanted to be able to ask questions directly to the only person to have survived the attack. The only reason Udina wanted Shepard there, was to attempt to force his way onto the council, as he had been trying to do for years now. By using Orion’s presence, he would imply that the council should be responsible for finding a place to live for Orion, as to not risk once again discounting Humans as members of council space. To him it was one small move in the long game he was playing with the council. Of course, they couldn’t care less what happened to her, but obliged. They were on to Udina, and it was easier just to give him what he wanted than to deal with whatever political scheme he came up with next.

They were currently arguing over whether Shepard should be assigned a guardian, or put into an orphanage until she was old enough to enlist. It seemed unfair for her life to boil down to ‘waiting until adulthood’. Suddenly Shepard heard something worth paying attention to.

“She can stay with me.” Anderson stepped forward, having been the one who spoke.

The council seemed to chew on his offer for a moment before the Asari councillor spoke.

“What inspires such an offer, Captain? To my knowledge you have never had children of your own, therefore have no experience. Why should you be the one to take the charge?”

Charge, ugh. They made Orion sound like the garbage you left on the curb for someone else to take.

“With all due respect councillor, whether I’ve had children of my own is not up for question. I offer to take Orion, because I have the resources, time, and know how to prepare her for the future she wants. Over the last week, Orion and I have bonded, and I believe that if you asked her, she would prefer my option to the alternative.”

Pushing past Udina, Shepard moved to stand next to Anderson, recognizing a cue for her in the conversation approaching.

“Orion Shepard, the events that occurred on Mindoir were a fatal error in the judgement of humanity.”

Fatal error, god dammit.

“The council wishes to extend the deepest of sympathies in regards to the events that transpired, and your experienced on that tragic day.”

Tragic, fuck.

“We wish you to participate in mandatory psychological evaluation followed by re-housing. Captain Anderson has graciously offered for you to reside with him, until you reach the age of majority, for which you are free to make decisions as you please.”

Jesus, who are these people.

“We would like to hear your input Shepard. Are you opposed to staying with Captain Anderson?”

She though about the offer for a moment. It really was a no-brainer. Anderson had mentioned earlier this morning that he owns property on the Citadel and that he is rarely home. Shepard would have time to herself to recover, as well as explore. She would be unshackled, which seemed the opposite of what the council wanted.

“I would love to stay with Captain Anderson if he would have me. I believe I can learn a lot from Anderson, and when I can enlist in the military, I can make sure fatal errors such as the butchering of everyone I have ever known, doesn’t happen to any other colonists again."

She made sure to lace her words with extra venom, so they could tell she was done with their shit.

“Very well Anderson. The charge is yours. We will contact you with scheduled visits for her evaluations. That will be all.”

With that the councillors left their podiums and made their way back to their private offices from the balcony. Shepard looked up at Anderson who was brimming with excitement. From behind her she could hear Udina scoff.

What a kiss ass.
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Shepard and Anderson made their way to Anderson's apartment on the Silversun Strip. It was marvelous! There was an arcade, the Armax Arena, and a casino. The Strip was bustling with alien life and the most vibrant place Shepard had ever been.

I guess I’m the alien now, aren’t I? .

Since leaving the chambers, Anderson and Shepard hadn’t said a word to each other. But in this moment Anderson burst into laughter.

“I though you might like the scenic route to the apartment. Seems I was right.”

Shepard looked at Anderson slightly confused.

“I’ve never seen anyone more excited to sight-see than you. We could have been at the apartment 10 minutes ago if we had taken my usual route, but I figured you would want to soak it all in.”

Orion laughed for the first time in over a week. It hit her like a rush. It was a relief to feel an emotion other than the stagnant inner void of she had been experiencing. She couldn't stop. She laughed until the cab touched down and they made their way into the building. But the sudden breach of emotions betrayed her and the laughter quickly became tears. Until she began to feel emotion, she had no idea how empty she had been feeling. The revelation washed over her like a vat of acid. Orphan. She was an orphan.
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By the time the two approached the entrance to Anderson's apartment, Shepard was bawling. Anderson opened the door to the apartment and Shepard slowly entered. She couldn't see much due to the blur of tears in her eyes, but to the right her could see a bathroom. She quickly ran to the bathroom, locking the door.

Get it together Orion.

She knew there was only one way should could feel better, and decided to call Tulia.
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After speaking with Tulia for a few hours she felt better. The two grieved together as well as you could through omni-tool. Tulia had been given emergency family leave and would be on the Citadel in 2 days. First, she needed to apologize to Anderson. Not only had she left to cry in a bathroom, but she hadn’t even taken the time to thank him for his kindness. She exited the bathroom to find the apartment empty.

Fuck, I must have pissed him off. Off too a great start Orion.

She made her way back to the entry where she found a data pad resting on the piano.

Orion,
Be back 1800 with food. Look around and make yourself at home.
-Anderson.

She couldn't help but smile. She had known him for just over a week and already he knew her almost as well as Tulia. The companionable silences, constantly feeding the bottomless pit that was her stomach... This was going to go well, she could tell. She synched the time on her omni-tool to the Citadel and saw that it was already 1735. With less than a half hour before Anderson would be back, she decided to wonder around the massive apartment. She loved the view of the Strip below from the window. So, chaotic but beautiful. She made her way to the office under the second set of stairs, then to the kitchen. The fridge was massive, and the sight of it made Orion's stomach rumble. Thank the spirits Anderson would be home soon.

Next she made her way to the back bedroom on the first floor. It seemed to be a spare room, which was an option for her, but wanted to check out the upstairs before she decided on a room. At the top of the stairs she found another room off a living area. She liked this one. I wonder if Anderson will let me take this one. She kept moving through the upstairs until she found the balcony. Tacky sculptures and artwork but overall her favourite spot in the apartment. Just as she made her way back down the stairs, Anderson was entering with food. The smell of greasy cheeseburgers made its way to where she was standing.

“Jesus Anderson, I’m beginning to think you know me better than I know myself.”

As they sat down and began eating, Shepard apologized for her behaviour and thanked him for all that he was doing for her. She still didn’t quite understand why he had taken her in, but she was happy.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Target Practice

2171
Orion Shepard Age:17
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Today was complete shit, and Shepard just wanted to shoot something. Anderson was due home for a week-long shore leave any minute, and she could really use the distraction. Today marked the one-year anniversary of the attack on Mindoir. One year since she had been forced to say goodbye to the only life she had known. The past year had gone by so quickly; she hadn’t even realized it had been a year until she had received a message from a news outlet about a memorial being placed at the recently re-build colony. Although they had tried to keep Shepard under the radar, word eventually got out that Mindoir had a lone survivor, and that survivor was living on the Citadel with an Alliance officer. For weeks, medial outlets were camped outside Andersons apartment, waiting for an interview from the two of them. Eventually the Alliance had to step in, causing the hoard to disperse. Occasionally her face appears in an article from a hidden reporter who happened to follow her around the Strip.

Her personal favourite was “Fiery Mindoir survivor takes on Krogan at Armax Arena. Could there be something in the water on human colonies?”

She frequently went to the Arena to practice combat training for when she could enlist. David had been the first N7 graduate, and Shepard couldn’t get enough of the stories of his missions. Ever since she found out, she had been spending 3 hours a day at the gym, then target practise at the arena.
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Anderson has messaged her about an hour ago saying his frigate was beginning docking procedures. She wondered what he had planned for the week. The last time he was on shore leave they had gone to an alliance combat sim and he had 'started her basic training early'. He worked her to the bone. It took her weeks to recover from the onslaught of training exercises.

"Keep going child, just a little longer." He chanted, over and over. "If you want to be in N-school you're going to have to work harder than that. I'm going easy on you, but they won't."

When he was in Captain Anderson mode, he was much more terrifying than the big teddy bear that she knew him to be.

Why isn’t he training recruits in Rio?

She laughed at the thought. At that moment Anderson came through the door. It had been weeks since they had seen each other, so she ran straight into a deep hug from him.

"People are going to start thinking you're a softie, old man."

This drew a jovial laugh out of him, which solicited a laugh from her as well. He came bearing food, which she took from him and began to set up in the kitchen.
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After eating, Anderson pulled a box out of one of his bags and held it out toward Orion.

"I missed your birthday by a couple months, so we celebrate now."

She took the box from Anderson. It was heavy and beautifully wrapped in black and red paper, with white ribbon. She untied the ribbon and slowly tore off the paper. The box had bold detailing that reminded her of the box in her mother's closet.

Shepard. O.

She ran her fingers over the lettering on the side if the box and thought of her mother. She had dreamt of receiving a box like this when she enlisted, and now she had one. Slowly she lifted the lid off the box and gasped at its contents. It was a modified Cobra I by Hahne – Kedar Shadow Works. HKSW was a newcomer in the industry of weapons and armor manufacturing, but they made reliable products. They had even started supplying Alliance Special Forces officers with their gear. She looked up at Anderson who had the biggest smirk on his face.

"You won't be able to carry it around with you until you're 18, but I figured we could go to the range and get some practice in. Anytime I’m on shore leave you will be able to use it. Then, when you enlist on your 18th birthday, you'll have that to take with you."

She jumped up and embraced him in a vigorous hug that threw off his balance.

"Thank you so much Anderson, it's perfect."

"You're welcome, child. Now get ready, were heading to the range in 20."

A smile spread across her face, and she hurriedly cleaned up after their dinner and changed her clothes.
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Anderson was impressed. All her time spent at the combat sims had made her quite the marksman. Being a biotic made her more suited to close ranged combat with a pistol or shotgun, and she was doing well. He would have to take her to the sim to see how she uses her biotics. He had tried to make sure her records after Mindoir said nothing about her being a biotic. Although the Alliance thought they were helping, Jump Zero had been FUBAR from the start, and he didn't want her taken for BAaT. He had heard about the poor boy that killed the instructor at Jump Zero back in '68 and was shipped back to Earth. Anderson had been stationed in Vancouver with the boys’ father, Commander Alenko years ago. Excellent soldier, and good man. He hoped he would be able to lead the boy in the right direction. Something like that could destroy even the best of them.

He watched Orion take out the last of her targets. She was a 17-year-old savant. He knew she wasn't really his daughter, but God was he proud of her. He loved her, and wanted her to have the entire galaxy if he could provide it. She slowly made her way over to him, shit eating grin and all. She was making a real show of it.

"You did good child, you did good. The belated birthday celebration isn’t over yet. I’ve got a booking at Armax if you're up for it?"

He'd never seen her move so fast.
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As his shore leave came to an end, he received his orders for departure. He had to be at bay D-67 at 0500 for briefing. All he knew was that it was going to be a long cruise. With less than 24 hours left, and not knowing how long he would be gone, he headed to the Alliance Navy offices on the Presidium. If he was going to miss her birthday again, he wanted to make sure everything went smoothly for when she enlisted.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Pompous Ass
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2171
Orion Shepard Age:17
Pekrit – Turian curse word. Similar to fuck
Faex – Turian curse word. Similar to shit
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Orion had been invited to take part in a tournament at Castle Arcade on the Strip. Being a frequent player at the arcade and holding a few records definitely helped her odds, but she was going to be against the best of the best. The prize was the Polaris III omni-tool. Her omni-tool had been through hell, and needed an upgrade, so she was determined to win the prize. She entered the arcade early to scope out the competition. The arcade was packed with people who wanted to watch the games, but overall there were only 20 competitors. She made her way through the crowd to the registration desk to sign-in and see if she recognized any of the names on the list of competitors. She recognized a few of the Asari, Humans, and Salarians on the list as people that frequented the arcade. That only narrowed down about 15 people without including herself. There was a Volus, a Hanar, and two Turians that she hadn’t recognized at all from the list. She tried to scope out the crowd to see if she could see any of them. She wanted to introduce herself and get a feel for them before the competition started.

From the balcony, a cacophony erupted. She made her way up and through the crowd. At the top of the stairs an Asari and a Turian were playing Kepesh-Yakshi. Shepard recognized the Asari as Hogara T’suza. T’suza was a master at Kepesh-Yakshi. Shepard had hoped she wouldn’t be here, making this tournament easier for her. T’suza was playing one of the Turians she hadn’t recognized from the list. As Shepard approached the table, T’suza got shocked for sacrificing a frigate, allowing the strange Turian to begin his final assault. The last of her cruisers fell, leaving her with one frigate to protect the homeworld. You could tell by the look on her face that she knew she had been bested.

“Looks like you have a lot of grovelling to plan T’suza.”

What the hell is he talking about?

T’suza was left with no choice, she keyed in the command for the remaining frigate to move in toward his dreadnaughts, effectively leaving the frigate vulnerable. The dreadnaughts fired on the frigate, causing a massive explosion on the board and a shock to T’suza for sacrificing her pieces, then another large shock indicating she had lost the game. The crowd erupted in awe and excitement with comments on T’suza losing the game being heard everywhere.

“She has never been beaten! Garrus beat T’suza! Her reign is over. Told you he would win, pay up!”

The Turian stood in good fashion to shake her hand, but she scoffed and left the arcade. The crowd laughed as the disgraced Asari ran out of the arcade, then began cheering for the Turian named Garrus.

“Yay Garrus! Congratulations! That was amazing!”

Seems I should have come earlier, then at least I would know what’s going on.

One less opponent to face and the tournament hadn’t even started. Shepard thanked the gods for sore losers, but needed to learn more about this guy.

“Impressive. No one has beaten T’suza in 6 cycles.” She said to him as she approached.

He turned to her and laughed. “She wasn’t exactly a challenge. What does that say about you….”

“Shepard, Orion Shepard. And who might you be?”

Jesus, he was a pompous ass, wasn’t he?

“Vakarian, Garrus Vakarian.” He said in mocking fashion, then turned away from her to talk to his friend.

Feeling shunned, Orion stormed off.

“Asshole.” She muttered as she made her way back down the stairs.

She still had about a half hour before the tournament started, so she decided to take out her frustrations with the asshole Turian by imagining he was the opposing character in Shattered Eezo. Imagining his smug face in place of the head of the mech in the game helped, which could prove beneficial seeing as Shattered Eezo is the first round of the tournament.
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Each game was spread into 5 rounds, and Shepard found herself in the finals. Of course, that asshole Vakarian was in the semi- finals and the final game was Kepesh-Yakshi. Just my luck. Orion was good at Kepesh-Yakshi, but she had never been able to beat T’suza, and Vakarian had been able to humiliate her before the tournament had even started. He was currently playing a Salarian as part of his round of the semi-finals. The winner of this game would face off against Shepard. She watched nervously as Vakarian took out frigate after frigate of his opponent and began his bombardment of the homeworld. Dammit, he really was good at Space Chess. The crowd erupted as the Salarians final frigate blew and he got the final shock signalling the end of the game. Vakarian shook the hand of his opponent, then made his way toward the Claw Machine where one of his friends was standing. Shepard watched as he and his friend slowly turned and stared at her while whispering something. Great, the pompous ass is taking about me already. She rolled her eyes and began to get ready for their game. Vakarian made his way over to set up at his spot at the table, then approached Shepard.

“Good luck Shepard.” He extended his hand to complete a Human handshake, but she grabbed his arm and did a Turian handshake instead.

He looked surprised that she had known the handshake but reciprocated the action.

“Good luck Vakarian.” She then turned to take her seat at the table.
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The game began in Shepards favour. She had successfully taken out 3 of his frigates before he had been able to make a single tactical move. Things went downhill from there. The crowd was alive with cheers, ooohs and ahhhs as Vakarian took out frigate after frigate. Eventually Shepard was down to 2 frigates with Vakarian still having 7. She was being destroyed, and at this point was out of tactical moves that could do anything for her. Vakarian began moving his frigates forward for an all-out assault.

Pekrit!” She muttered as he took out another of her frigates, leaving her with just the one.

“Such a dirty mouth Shepard. Too bad it won’t help you win.”

He looked up at her with a deviant smirk that made her want to punch him.

He’s infuriating.

She successfully took out two of his frigates, leaving him with a remaining 5, and meaning it was his turn. This is it. I’m getting my ass handed to be by the snarkiest ass in the galaxy. Just as he was about to begin his turn, she saw Tulia emerge the top of the stairs and wave. She waved back, causing Vakarian to turn to see who she was looking at. He bumped the controls, causing him to sacrifice one of his frigates as his turn and was surprised with a shock.

Faex that’s not fair, I wasn’t looking at the table.”

The invigilator shrugged off his complaint saying that it was his own fault.

Ha, serves you right.

Shepard took this opportunity to dominate in her turn, leaving them both down to one frigate.

The crowd fell silent as Vakarian began his final turn. This was it, if he could pull this off, he would be the winner. Vakarian took a deep break before successfully completing a Bay-Lucien Gambit, sending Shepard the final shock of a game lost.

Shit.

The both rose, and shook hands once more.

“Good game Shepard, you may be able to take on T’suza one day.”

Well that was almost a compliment.

As the crowd began chanting: "Gar-rus Gar-rus Gar-rus" over and over, Shepard made her way over to where Tulia was standing with two drinks and a smirk, and handed one off to Shepard.

“Who’s the hottie?” she asked, soliciting a scoff from Orion.

“He’s an ass, don’t waste your time. Plus, I think he’s a little too young for you sis.”

“You win some, you lose some. I probably shouldn’t anyway. I ship out at 0500.”

“Spirits Tulia! You just got here. In fact, you were supposed to be here hours ago. What the hell happened?”
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Tulia filled Shepard in on the shit-storm that was her current cruise as they made their way to the Casino, which was hosting the ‘afterparty’ for the tournament. Most of the crowd and competitors were underage, so they had sectioned off a ‘dry’ area for the arcade group. Tulia and Shepard took a seat at a table and took the time to catch up. The two hadn’t seen each other in months, and the next time they would see each other wouldn’t be until after Orion completed basic. As the two of them spoke, they heard someone clear their throat from behind them.

“Excuse me ladies, could I have a seat?”

Tulia looked at Shepard with a "Spirits please say yes!" look and Shepard sarcastically waved her hand at an empty chair, signalling him to take a seat.

“To what do we owe the pleasure... Garrus, was it?”

She asked him, probably with more malaise than necessary.

What can I say? I’m a sore loser.

“I actually wanted to apologize for my behaviour earlier, I was trying to seem tough and it wasn’t right of me, so I’m sorry.”

Shepard went to make a snarky remark in return, when he cut her off.

“I also wanted to introduce myself to your friend here.”

He smirked at Shepard, knowing he pissed her off and extended his hand to Tulia, who gave him hers as he bowed to rest his crest against her open hand. It was the Turian equivalent to kissing ones’ hand and Shepard was not impressed.

“My name is Tulia Agolus-Shepard. I believe you know my sister Orion.”

Vakarian looked back and forth between the two in awe.

Oh Tulia, you play a good game.

“Sisters? I’ve never heard of a Turian-Human family. How did this come about?”

“These things do happen.” She responded and he resigned to leave it at that.

The three of them made relatively pleasant conversation for a while. Trivial stuff about their childhood and how Garrus was on the Citadel visiting his dad who worked for C-Sec. The bar on the other side of the casino called last call and Shepard realized the time.

Pekrit! Tulia its already 0130! We need to get back to Andersons so you can sleep before you ship out.”

“That’s okay Shep. I actually have somewhere to stay tonight, so I won’t need to come with you to Andersons tonight. I’m actually meeting with a…colleague in a few minutes.”

Did she have a date? With a member of her crew? Was that allowed in the Hierarchy?

Taking it as his cue to leave, Vakarian rose.

“Well ladies, its been a pleasure."

He sent his contact info to Shepard saying, “I’m on the Citadel for a few more days if you want to practice your face-off with T’suza.”

She rolled her eyes, but accepted the gesture knowing she wasn’t going to bother contacting him. He turned to Tulia and drew closer to her so he could whisper something in her ear before walking away.

“What the hell was that, Tulia.”

“Oh nothing special, told me I had eyes as beautiful as a Palaven sunrise." She said in a deep mocking tone. "Like I haven’t heard that one before.” She added, with a wink.

The girls laughed as they exited the casino, but something about Garrus hitting on her sister didn’t sit right with Orion.

Chapter Text

Ch 10. Pompous Sona
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2171
Garrus Vakarian Age:14
Sona- Turian curse word. Equivalent to the human word ass when referring to a person
Patri- formal Turian greeting for referring to ones father. Typically used by traditionalists or high ranking families
Matri- formal Turian greeting for referring to ones mother. Typically used by traditionalists or high ranking families
Kapri- Turian dessert similar to cake.
Pekrit- Turian curse word. Similar to fuck.
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The past week had been excruciatingly boring. Garrus had been what he could only consider to be ‘summoned’ to the Citadel to visit his father. Castis Vakarian could be very particular about how he wanted Garrus and his sister Solana to grow up. They didn’t get see their father often since they lived on Palaven with their mother, and he lived on the Citadel working for C-Sec. Castis would come home once or twice a year, but they mostly had to be the ones to go and visit him due to his busy work schedule. He had called Garrus a few weeks ago, telling him that he was …“obligated as a Vakarian to visit his father on the Citadel to see the inner workings of C-Sec, so that he would be better prepared for his inevitable future”. Castis was insistent that Garrus follow in his footsteps and become a detective with C-Sec as soon as his military service was over. Garrus hated the idea of living on the Citadel. It always seemed too sterile to him. Artificial seasons and sunlight, no real trees, or flowers. Not to mention, the Keepers gave him the creeps. He wanted adventure and excitement. He really wanted to be a Spectre. Working for yourself, taking out bad guys, getting your hands dirty, no red tape. It sounded like the greatest job in the Galaxy. But of course, Castis absolutely despised the Spectres because they ‘took the law into their own hands’ and ‘made work for the actual detectives harder’. He had even gone as far as to ban Garrus from joining the Spectres, which was overkill if you asked Garrus.

Currently Garrus was in his father’s office at C-Sec waiting for his father to arrive. Castis had told him to meet him here over an hour ago, and had yet to show up. Garrus passed the time by putting a few finishing touches on the Omni-game he had been developing on his tool. He had plans in a few hours to meet up with some friends he had met here on the Citadel, as well as some friends from Palaven who had moved to the Citadel for one reason or another, so he really wished his father would hurry up. As he finished, his father entered with Officer Wikus, who was his partner here at C-Sec.

“Garrus, thank you for joining us. Wikus and I were about to being working on paperwork for the day and I figured I could teach you the proper way it should be done.”

Spirits, was he serious?

“Actually Patri, I had hopes to see a few friends tonight. I am only here for a few more days, and I have spent all of my time here with you, learning the inner workings of C-Sec. I was would really like to spend at least a little time away from C-Sec, you know…to learn my way around the Citadel…”

A little lie

“I will need to know my way around when I come to work for C-Sec, right? My friends offered to take me through the wards over the next couple of days.”

Another lie.

Really all Garrus wanted was some time away from his father. He really hated the idea of working for C-Sec, and hated the idea of having to work with his father even more. The two of them didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye.

Castis and Wikus stared at each other. They almost seemed as if they had expected that answer the whole time.

“You make an excellent point son. You will need to know the inner workings of each and every ward if you want to make it as a detective. You may take a few days to spend with your acquaintances. I expect you to check in regularly, and you can expect quizzes from me as to what you have learned and seen.”
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After just barely escaping his father’s clutches, Garrus met with his friends at a Turian restaurant on Bachjret ward. The restaurant was owned by a Turian couple who had moved here from Palaven many years ago, and was the best place on the Citadel to get a Turian-style home cooked meal. After hours of food and drinks, laughter and jokes, he and his friends decided to head down to the Silver Sun Strip and hang out at the arcade. The strip was one place on the Citadel that Garrus had never been, so he supposed that what he had said to his father earlier wasn’t entirely a lie. If he was going to be forced to work on this station, at least he could make friends and find places he enjoyed, that would at least make his time here tolerable.
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The strip was beautiful. Garrus had never seen so many lights in such a small space. The streets almost seemed to crawl with all of the people in this small space, but the claustrophobic atmosphere only added to the beauty of the place. This type of condensed environment wasn’t often seen on Palaven, so the experience to Garrus was fascinating. He and his friends made their way to Castle Arcade to play a couple of games before they all needed to make their way home. When they arrived at the Arcade, a group of Salarian's were grouped at a table being set up by the door of the arcade.

“Hurry it up would you! I want to sign-up and start practicing before the tournament.”

The frustrated Salarian was hovering over the owner of the arcade as he set out a set of forms on the table. Garrus and his friends paid their admission to the arcade, and made their way over to the group hovering over the table being set up so they could see what the fuss was about.

“Awesome! A tournament! Look at the prize Garrus, a Polaris III. Weren’t you just talking about that the other day?”

His friend Silus clearly didn’t get out much with the way he was screaming with excitement.

“Yeah, its supposed to be the best omni-tool yet. Want to sign up?”

The idea of beating a bunch of like-minded nerds at an arcade seemed the perfect way to piss off his father, so Garrus was definitely going to sign-up.

“Yeah! We can practice today and come back tomorrow for the tournament.” The two of them signed up for the tournament, then spent the rest of the evening playing all of the games in order to prepare for the tournament tomorrow afternoon.
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The crowd at the arcade for the tournament was massive. There was no way they weren’t over the maximum capacity for the venue itself, but with the level of excitement the crowd seems to be at, they wouldn’t have been able to do much for crowd control anyway. There was still an hour before the tournament was to begin, so Garrus and Silus decided to register and practise some of the arcade games to try to get an edge on some of the competition. As they made their way up the stairs, there was a cacophony of shouting gathered around the Kepesh-Yakshi area of the arcade. The two made their way over to find an Asari gloating as she finished the final assault on the planet of her Salarian opponent. The crowd erupted once more as the planet exploded and the Salarian received the final shock signifying the end of his game. Once the Salarian had recovered, he approached the Asari in order to shake her hand as a gesture of no hard feelings.

“Good game T’suza, well met.”

The Salarian proceeded to stick out his hand in a friendly manner.

“Hardly a challenge and quite a waste of my time I might add. Come find me when you’ve had enough time to actually present a challenge to me. You may need to wait until Salarian lifespans are as long as that of an Asari.”

The crowd of T’suza idolizers erupted with laughter at sight of the Salarian being torn apart.

“Excuse me, T’suza is it? You want a challenge? You’ve got one. I win, you personally apologize to any opponent you’ve beaten and belittled.”

As he said this, Garrus moved through the crowd toward T’suza who looked amused. The Salarian she had just beaten looked aghast at the demands Garrus had given her, but excited at the idea of the self proclaimed Kepesh-Yakshi queen being forced to repent.

“You dare challenge Hogara T’suza at a game of Kepesh-Yakshi! Who are you Turian, because I’ve never met anyone this foolish?”

The oohs and awws in the crowd grew louder as Garrus and Hogara were standing an inch from each other as some sort of intimidation tactic on both ends.

“My name is Garrus Vakarian, and the only one here who is going to look foolish is you.”

This enlisted a laugh from T’suza, who then signaled for Garrus to take a seat at the table and begin setting up his frigates. Silus moved to the front of the massive crowd hovering over Garrus in order to be able to better support his friend.

“Spirits Garrus, are you sure this is the best idea? Hogara T’suza is known as a champion of Kepesh-Yakshi to everyone and their Matri

“I just hate when people act the way she did to her last opponent. None of us are better than the other. She needs to learn that.”

Clearly done with conversation on the matter, Garrus turned back to the table, ready to start the game, and Silus moved back to his spot in the front of the crowd.
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The game was well underway, T’suza had already lost half of her frigates and was looking like she had just been hit with a barrel of Pyjacks. In only ten moves, Garrus had been able to fully fortify his home-world and take out half of her frigates, one of her dreadnoughts, and 3 cruisers. The game had attracted enough of a crowd, that even the arcade staff had abandoned their posts preparing for the tournament, to come and watch the showdown between Garrus and Hogara. Frigate after frigate, T’suza was left more and more vulnerable, until finally all she had left was a single cruiser and frigate. Garrus had the advance, so he made a move toward her home-world, taking out her cruiser in the process. At that moment, he saw a flash of red in the corner of his eyes and looked toward the stairs. A human woman was standing at the top of the stairs staring at him.

What a strange colour for a fringe.

He hadn't had much exposure to humans, but he had never seen one who looked quite like she did. She was strange for a human, that he could tell.

“Looks like you have a lot of grovelling to plan T’suza.”

For effect, he made sure to say that while smirking at the red-fringed human.

May as well freak out the competition, right?

He heard a scoff from T’suza as she realized she had no choice but to assault his dreadnought. Garrus sat back and laughed as he watched T’suza get shocked twice, ending the game. The crowd erupted as T’suza ran out in disgrace. Garrus looked back in the direction of the red-fringed human, who had her back turned to him and was laughing as Hogara ran out of the arcade. Just as the strange red-fringe was about to turn back to look as Garrus, he could hear Silus calling him from within the crowd.

“Spirits Garrus! That was amazing! It shouldn’t be any problem for you to win the grand prize!”

“Impressive. No one has beaten T’suza in 6 cycles.”

Garrus smirked before turning around, knowing exactly who was standing behind him. “She wasn’t exactly a challenge. What does that say about you….”

“Shepard, Orion Shepard. And who might you be?”

Ha, what a pompous Sona. I’m going to have fun bugging the Spirits out of her.

“Vakarian, Garrus Vakarian.”

Garrus could see her eyes rolling into her head at his mocking, so he knew he had gotten under her skin. To add insult to injury, he decided to end the conversation there and turn back to talk to Silus. When he turned back a moment later, he could see that she had begun to make her way downstairs, clearly heated from their interaction.
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Garrus seemed to be on a roll with the tournament. Shattered Eezo turned out to be a piece of kapri. He had been against a Volus who had never even played Shattered Eezo before, so there wasn’t exactly much of a challenge. With each round of the competition, he took out more and more opponents until he found himself in the semi-finals playing Kapesh-Yakshi. The Salarian he was playing in the tournament was the very same whom he had defended by playing T’suza. As the game began, Garrus knew this wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Only 10 minutes into the game, the his opponent had already been shocked 3 times for sacrificing ships.

Another piece of kapri Garrus.

As more and more of the Salarians ships fell, Garrus could see the red-fringed woman was watching from the crowd. He could tell by how nervous she looked while watching the game, that she would probably be his opponent should he win this round. Her look of anxiety just added fuel to his fire and be began his initial assault on the home-world. The crowd watched in anticipation as the last frigate was sacrificed and the home-world began to burn. As the game finished, the digital scoreboard updated showing that Garrus would be against Orion in the final round. After shaking hands with his defeated opponent, Garrus made his way over to where Silus was waiting by the Claw Machine.

“Remember that woman from earlier? The weird one? She’s the one I’m playing in the finals.”

“That should prove to be interesting. She seemed pretty stunned about you beating Hogara earlier”

Silus laughed. The two of them turned to watch Shepard as they talked about her. They saw her turn to notice them, making them both call out in laughter. Garrus couldn’t put a finger on why he liked to bug her so much. There was something about her that made him think that he would be seeing her more often than just tonight. He couldn’t tell if that was a good or a bad thing, but he was going to have fun with it until he figured it out. He made his way over to the Kapesh-Yakshi table to set up his place for the next round, where Shepard was already setting up.

“Good luck Shepard.”

As he extended his hand to greet her with a human handshake, she surprised him by extending a Turian handshake instead.

Where in the pekrit had she learned that?.

“Good luck Vakarian.”
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Garrus was surprised the game was beginning with Shepard on top.

She is much better at this than I expected.

Each move she made was calculated and methodic, which probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to Garrus, but to him she seemed like a spoiled rich girl who spent time at the shops rather than in an arcade “geeking out” as the humans would say. As the game progressed he seemed to become enthralled with her. Each move she made both in the game and in her general demeanor was captivating. He decided he needed to know more about her. How does a young human girl learn a Turian handshake? For a moment Garrus was distracted by his own thoughts, leaving her open to take out a frigate he had left unprotected. The resulting shock from the game table was enough to put his head back in the game and put a fire of determination within him to pick up the pace. From that point on it was a dark decline for Shepard. Over and over Garrus took out more and more of Shepard's pieces. He could tell she was starting to panic and run out of sound tactical moves that wouldn’t sacrifice her 2 remaining frigates.

Pekrit

He heard from her place at the table as he too out another of her 2 remaining pieces.

“Such a dirty mouth Shepard. Too bad it won’t help you win.”

He responded with a smirk. He couldn’t help but pester her. Based on the glare she was giving him it was working. She responded to his torment by taking out two of his frigates in a single turn.

Hmm…works well under pressure.

Just as he was about to initiate his final push on her home-world, he saw her waving to someone near the stairwell. As he turned to look, not only was he surprised to see one of the most beautiful Turian woman he had seen off Palaven, he bumped the game controls. This resulted in the sacrifice of one of his frigates and a surprising shock from the game.

Get it together Vakarian, you look like a fool .

“Faex that’s not fair, I wasn’t looking at the table!” he yelled, at the Salarian who was overseeing the game.

The Salarian shook his head in response, letting Garrus know that he really didn’t care that Garrus hadn’t been paying attention. Shepard smirked at him and took the opportunity to surprise Garrus by taking him down to only one frigate in just a single move. This left them both with one frigate, making it anybody’s game.

This is it; this is my chance.

In one brilliantly executed move, Garrus was able to complete a Bay-Lucien Gambit. This was a game move only ever seen when watching professionals. The crowd was dead silent as they watched in awe. The last of Shepard's frigates exploded as Garrus’ frigate continued its bombardment on her home-world. With one final shock to Shepard, the game had ended.
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The two rose from their places at the table and made their way to shake hands in sporting fashion.

“Good game Shepard, you may be able to take on T’suza one day.”

As he shook her hand he could practically see her roll her eyes so hard she was practically choking on them.

Haha, too easy.

The crowd began chanting Garrus’ name over and over, making Shepard's anguish worse. Garrus watched as she made her way over to the beautiful Turian woman she had been waving at earlier. The two embraced like old friends as the Turian handed Shepard a drink. He could then see them both look over at him, knowing they were talking about him. The Turian locked eyes with him and blinked, before turning away and heading down the stairs with Shepard.
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After the plethora of promotional photos for the arcade and fans, as well as an award ceremony, Garrus and Silus were finally able to leave the arcade and head to the after-party at the casino across the strip. The place was packed with arcade goers and gamblers alike. The two made their way to the section that was reserved for the after-party, and grabbed a table. The two spent over and hour talking about the tournament, all while Garrus was scouring the room to see if Shepard and the mysterious turian woman were here. After having spotted them hiding in the darkest corner of the casino, Garrus was able to muster up the courage to go and speak to them.

He wouldn’t lie to himself and say that the Turian woman wasn’t his type. That was the majority of he reason he was drawn to the two of them. She had beautiful bronze coloured plates which melded perfectly with the elegant clan Agolus markings on her face. He wondered why such a high-tiered Turian was hanging out at an arcade with an orange-fringed human. This is another reason he wanted to get to know them, as annoying as the human was. He wanted to know how this friendship came to be, because it definitely was a rare one.

As he approached the table and cleared his throat, he could see the human do that eye rolling thing that makes his plates crawl.

How is that even possible?

The Turian looked at him with those smoldering eyes, which made his plates crawl in an entirely different way.

How is THAT even possible? He thought with a smirk.

“Excuse me ladies, could I have a seat?”

The two of them seemed to have an entire conversation just with their eyes, trying to decide whether or not Garrus could join them. The Turian seemed more than willing for him to take a seat, and not surprisingly, the human didn’t seem as thrilled. With one last glance, the human gave in and flashed her hand toward Garrus and the chair.

“To what do we owe the pleasure... Garrus, was it?” the human asked with as much enthusiasm as he was expecting.

“I actually wanted to apologize for my behaviour earlier, I was trying to seem tough and it wasn’t right of me so I’m sorry.”

The human looked surprised at his apology, as lackluster as it was, but as she opened her mouth to say something he continued.

“I also wanted to introduce myself to your friend here.”

As he extended his hand to the Turian and she responded in kind as any Turian of the opposite gender would, Garrus couldn’t help but smirk at the look of distaste on Shepard's face. “My name is Tulia Agolus-Shepard. I believe you know my sister Orion.”

Pardon me? Sister?

The look of confusion on his face must have been the highlight of Orion's day.

“Sisters? I’ve never heard of a Turian-Human family. How did this come about?”

Garrus was running every possible scenario in his head that he could imagine to try to figure out how this happened. Divorce in Turian culture was heavily frowned upon, so it seemed unlikely to him that one of Tulia's parents married a human. She shrugged off his question though, so it seemed as if he would never find out.

As the three of them continued to make pleasant conversation with each other, they were interrupted by the last call announcement from the bar.

Pekrit! Tulia its already 0130! We need to get back to Anderson's so you can sleep before you ship out.”

“That’s okay Shep. I actually have somewhere to stay tonight, so I won’t need to come with you to Andersons tonight. I’m actually meeting with a…colleague in a few minutes.”

Garrus was slightly upset by the fact that she clearly had a date after this.

You win some, you lose some.

“Well ladies, its been a pleasure." He said as they all stood from the table.

He sent his contact info to Shepard saying “I’m on the Citadel for a few more days if you want to practice for your face-off with T’suza.”

He added a wink in there for good measure. That should heat her up a bit. He then leaned toward Tulia, sending her his contact info at the same time.

“If you ever get bored, give me a call. Bring those Palaven sunrise eyes.”

With that he took his leave. It was time to hit the hay anyway.

Chapter Text

Ch 11. Dressed in Alliance Blues and Coke
Friday April 3rd, 2172
Orion Shepard: Age 17
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-Shepard-

With only a week left until her 18th birthday, Shepard was growing impatient. She had been training for over a year and was ready for whatever they threw at her. She decided to meet up her friend Shoshana at an Asari restaurant on the Presidium that served the best food on the Citadel. Shosh had said something about having exciting news which usually consisted of fabricated and overexaggerated stories, and attempts to woo her classmate Emily. She had had the biggest crush on Emily Wong for as long as Orion had known her, but could never work up the courage to ask her out. Shoshana had the habit of exaggerating everything she said, but boy could she make a conversation intriguing. Orion could listen to Shosh explain Quantum Entanglement for hours, as if it was a personal experience of hers and not a dry physics concept.

Shepard entered the restaurant and scanned the tables to see if she could see Shosh. At the back, she could see her friend jump up and begin waving wildly, drawing a lot of attention. Shepard laughed and approached the table. That was just like Shoshana, the most noticeable person in the room by default. Orion took her place at the table and picked up the datapad containing the menu so she could place her order.

“Its about time you got here Ori, I was beginning to think you had stood me up!”

Shepard scoffed “Yeah right Shosh, you know no one would ever dare to stand you up.”

This solicited a laugh from Shoshana. “Gods have you seen me, no one could stand me up if they tried.” She said then winked.

The two chatted while they looked over the menu and placed their orders.

“So!? What’s this exciting news you have? I live and breath your social life, don’t you know.”

Shepard smirked as Shoshana punched her in the arm.

“I will have you know, that my life isn’t as exciting as you plebeians seem to be making it out to be.”

Shepard laughed, knowing she was joking as she continued.

“Well I may have lied a little bit about having exciting news. You are leaving in about a week, so I may have a few things up my sleeve for today. Think of it as a last hurrah before you abandon me on this station to go live your dreams of travelling the Galaxy and saving people. So selfish!”

Shepard laughed. “You have a way of making everything about you, you know that right?”

“Oh, I do.” She started. “But then your life wouldn’t be very exciting then, would it?”
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The two girls ate their meals while catching up on the exciting life that was Shoshana’s. A few times, Orion had tried to get Shosh to spill the beans on what she had planned for the night, but all she got in response was Shosh tapping the side of her nose with her finger and a wink. A real show-woman. The two of them paid for their meals and walked to the nearest transit hub. As they entered the cab, Shoshana entered the coordinates for the cab to take them to Purgatory. Shepard gave Shoshana a skeptical look.

“Purgatory eh? And how exactly do you expect were going to get in? You may already be 18, but I’ve still got a week to go, remember?”

“Oh my beautiful freckled Goddess, you’re of age now.”

As Shosh said this, she handed a fake ID to Orion. She didn’t know what Shoshana’s plans for the night were, but she knew it was going to be wild.

Sorry Anderson, Sorry Gods.

Purgatory was about as underground as a popular bar goes. If you ask Avina, Purgatory wasn’t even registered as a nightclub. That either meant, illegal things happen here all the time, or the place is constantly under the watch of C-Sec.

Orion really didn’t need Anderson finding out about her going to a nightclub underage, but at this point she really didn’t care. It felt good to break the rules. She felt like a badass as they entered the club and made their way to the seating area near the lower bar. She felt a tad under dressed as she looked at others in the nightclub. She was wearing black jeans, a leather jacket, and an emerald green top that brought out her green eyes. They picked a table and Shosh went over to the bar to grab them drinks.

At the table next to them, two Salarians were having a heated conversation about the ethics of club dancers, to which Shepard laughed as she watched the dancers above. Seeing that she too was watching the dancers, one of the Salarians moved his chair over to her table.

“Excuse me miss. My name is Raman Jaral and this is my friend Visanin Silu. Would you mind settling an argument for us?”

This was going to be good.

“When you enter a nightclub, what is your first thought as a female when you see the dancers?”

A smile spread across Orion's face. Clearly, she didn’t look underage, or these guys wouldn’t be assuming she frequented nightclubs.

“Well, I’m sure there are a variety of reasons why women choose to dance at nightclubs. The stigma on Earth, from what I’ve heard, is that they are broke, or addicted to drugs, or have low self-esteem. Personally, I think they are artists. They love the beat of the music as it surges through their bodies causing them to flow like water.”

The two Salarians looked at her as if she had spontaneously grown a third eye. Clearly this wasn’t the answer they were looking for.

“So, you believe that they do this out of choice, not obligation then, correct?”

As Visanin asked her this, Shoshana came back with drinks for the two of them.

“Oh you’ve made friends! Tonight’s already off to a great start.” Shoshana introduced herself to the two that had joined them and Shepard began to answer Visanin’s question.

“Yeah, I guess you could say that I don’t feel that they do it out of obligation. I’m sure there are some who do, but for the most part, I think they are thrill seekers. Most of the Asari dancers do it in their maiden stage as a sort of…. teenage rebellion. At least that’s what I think.”

Shoshana looked between the three utterly confused by the conversation. “I’m sorry, are we talking about strippers? Because I can tell you right now, they are probably addicts of some kind.”

“See! I told you!” Raman stated, matter-of-factly to his friend.

“Oh relax, just because one person agreed with you doesn’t mean you’re right.” Visanin responded.

Feeling defeated, Visanin rose to make his way over to the bar for another drink. “Would anyone like another drink?”

“Sure! I’ll come with you to help carry.”

Shepard went to the bar with Visanin, asking him how the nightclub dancer argument had even started. Just as he was about to answer, Orion walked square into someone's back, causing him to spill his drink on the girl he had been speaking to. The girl, not noticing that it had been an accident and Orion's fault, proceeded to slap the man in the face, then poor her drink over his head. She then stormed over to a table where her friends were seated, where her friends comforted her over "the rude jerk who threw a drink on her”

“Shit! I’m so sorry! Oh my goodness, are you alright?”

Shepard reached across the bar to grab some napkins to help clean up the mess as he turned around to look at her. Despite being covered in rum and coke, he was classically handsome, with dark hair and eyes. At this point Visanin grew tired of waiting for her and had made his way back to the table, where Shosh and Ramen were watching the encounter.

“I’m fine. Things weren’t really going well with her anyway, so I’m sure she was itching for a chance to dump her drink on me and bail.”

They both kneeled to the floor to clean up any leftovers of the drink that hadn’t soaked into his hair or clothing. As they stood, Orion noticed that he was wearing Alliance blues.

Good work idiot, this guy will probably be your superior in a week, and you get a drink spilled on him before you even get his name.

“Are you sure you’re alright? I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for your uniform to be dry cleaned and…”

He cut her off as she began reaching for her credit chit to pay him for the damages.

“How about you buy me a drink. Technically you’ve already gotten me one, but I think you owe me one I can drink rather than wear.” A smile spread across his face.

Damn, he’s charming.

“My name is Orion Shepard. I don’t believe I got your name 2nd Lieutenant.”

“My name is Kaidan Alenko, now how about that drink?”
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Kaidan and Orion stood at the bar for over an hour talking about the Alliance and being biotics. Kaidan had enlisted when he was 19 with the encouragement of his father. His father was a retired Commander with the Alliance who lived on Earth with Kaidan’s mother and two sisters.

Shepard asked him about growing up on Earth, as she had never been. She wanted to see the ocean and swim in the salty water. He spoke of his parent’s cottage in the mountains, which was located near a lake as clear as glass. She was fascinated. How could a single person be so interesting? She was mesmerized by everything about him.

After buying him a few drinks, and a few messages from Shoshana, she asked him if he would like to join her table. They made their way over to see Shosh had collected more bar-goers whom were all playing a round of Skyllian Five.

“Well hello tall, dark, and handsome. Its about time you brought Ori back to me. Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”

Shoshana sure had a way to put people on the spot.

“Sorry about that ma’am, Orion caused a bit of a commotion over there and I had to submit her for questioning...”

He winked at Shepard before continuing. “My name is Kaidan Alenko. It seems we’re interrupting…”

“No, no have a seat! We will deal you in next round. Shepard, you know Raman and Visanin. This is Da’Mera, Lixius and Gokis.” The Asari, Turian and Batarian waved and they continued their hand of Skyllian Five.

“Oh Ori! While you were away, I came up with a sort-of nickname for our Salarian friends here.”

Shosh loved to dish out nicknames, and was the only person in the Galaxy that could call Orion Ori without consequences.

“Can we not do this again Shoshana? I’m not sure its really appropriate.”

Visanin clearly isn’t a fan.

“Raman’s name almost sounds like Ramen, which is an Earth delicacy, and Visanin’s last name is Silu, which is like Hikaru Sulu from an Earth classic Star Trek. Get it? They are Ramen and Sulu!”

She drew a few laughs out of everyone at the table, less from the names, and more from how clever she thought she was, but the two Salarian’s seemed unimpressed with their new nicknames.

“Don’t worry guys, nicknames are kind of Shosh’s thing, you’ll get used to it.”

The two Salarian’s gave a skeptical look at Shepard in return, who only shrugged back in response.
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For hours the group played round after round of Skyllian Five. The loser of each round had to buy a round of drinks, rather than the group placing any bets. Shepard was terrible at card games, so she was buying a lot of the drinks, but she was having so much fun that she didn’t mind. Eventually the bartenders called last call, and the group began to finish the last of their drinks to head home. Shoshana had been staring at Shepard and Kaidan all night. She definitely had something up her sleeve involving the two of them, and Shepard didn’t like the fact that her friend was trying to meddle so much.

“Not bad for a last hurrah, eh Ori?” She looked smug, and was winking more than any one person should, but Shepard just attributed it to the amount of drinks the group had had that night.

“Yeah, you could say that. I had a lot of fun tonight. Thanks Shosh, this was really great.”
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-Kaidan-

The new group of friends exchanged contact information and began trickling out of the nightclub. Down to just Shepard, Kaidan and Shoshana, the three walked to the nearest transport depot to flag a skycar. Shoshana kept winking at him and signaling toward Shepard, which was making him slightly uncomfortable.

What is she going for?

“Where are you guys headed? Maybe we can share a cab.”

He hoped the two of them were headed somewhere near his hotel. Even though he had no plans on pursing either of the girls, he still didn’t want the night to end quite yet. He found Shepard had a certain aura about her. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he knew she was going to be a force to be reckoned with. He could spend days with her and still want to spend a thousand more.

What is it about this girl?

“Well Shosh is headed to the 800 blocks on Zakera ward, and I’m headed to Silversun Strip.”

“Oh that’s too bad, I’m headed to the Alliance apartments in the Bachjret ward. I guess this is where we call it a night then.”

He didn’t know why he was so nervous, but he hoped to the Gods it wasn’t showing.

Pull yourself together Kaidan, you just met her.

Sure, he liked Orion, she was beautiful, funny and definitely didn’t lack for ambition; but nothing was going to come of that. She had told him of her plans to enlist next week on her 18th birthday, so he knew she was at the club underage.

Kaidan was only 21, so they were within his age group to be friends, but that was it. Even if he had wanted to pursue anything with Shepard, with her enlisting in a week, they wouldn’t be able to see each other for another year at least. Basic is long and grueling, and sometimes you come out of it a different person.

With that, the three of them said goodbye and parted ways. As his skycar touched down outside of his temporary shore-leave apartment, Kaidan sent out a message to Shepard.

Orion, Thanks for the drinks. The one I wore and the ones I drank. Be sure to look me up once your done basic, maybe I can ruin your dress blues. -K

Chapter Text

The sound of the crickets was almost deafening in the cool night air. The stars were twinkling above as if they were the only other thing out there in the universe. Orion lay in the grass thinking about how the following day would go. Get up, get dressed, just a normal day. She didn’t want to get too excited about the day to come, just in case things didn’t go the way she had dreamed they would go.

A collection of fireflies began landing on her feet, tickling her toes. She loved this spot, it was always so peaceful and serene. She had never brought anyone else here, not even Tulia. She guessed she worried that it would change the atmosphere for there to be too many people in such a perfect spot.

She could hear a commotion in the distance that she couldn’t quite make out. She sat up on her elbows to try to better hear the direction of all the banging. As she looked across the darkness toward a cluster of light, she realized the banging she was hearing was actually gunshots.

She ran barefoot through the grass toward the commotion. As she got closer, she could hear screaming, smell smoke, feel her heart tightening with the creeping familiarity of fear.

It’s happening again. How can this be happening again?

The world around her began to distort the way a photograph would, had you held it above a flame. It became hard to focus on anything, or even see where she was going. Blindly making her way back to the colony, she tripped and face-planted into the grass. Disoriented, she brings her hand up to her head where she hit it during the fall. She looked through the smoke toward her feet to try to get a look at what she had tripped on.

Laying in the grass was Jacob. She and Jacob were supposed to go to the Harvest Dance tomorrow, and she had been freaking out about it since the day he had asked her. He was laying there with his eyes open as if he had been looking at her the whole time. Only, his eyes were bleeding, and she couldn’t tell if his chest was heaving, indicative of taking a breath.The world around her began to distort further as the panic began to take hold. The photograph was on fire now, burning the same way her memories were burning. Her childhood home, school, friends, and family were all burning and dying in front of her due to an unknown force. With nowhere left to run, she could feel the heat of the fire as it raged its way toward her. It was as if it was intelligently seeking her. She closed her eyes as tears began to stream down her face. There was no where left to turn. She was going to die here.

Everything seemed to have gone quiet since she had closed her eyes. She opened them to witness the horror in front of her. Everything seemed to be frozen in time, the flames were frozen in their place, the screaming had stopped, but everyone she had ever known was surrounding her. Not only were people she knew growing up on in the colony, but people from her current life. Anderson, Kaidan, Tulia, even Garrus. All of them bleeding, dead, and badly burned. Each of them was looking at her as if she could have helped them, should have helped them. The most disappointed were Shepard’s parents, who were directly in front of her.

She exhaled a breath she didn’t know he has been holding. As soon as she did, each of the people in front of her slowly began to make their way toward her. They grabbed a hold of her and began to tear into her. She could feel each and every piece of her body being torn up by her attackers. She tried her best to fight back, push her way through the crowd to get away, but she seemed to be frozen in place. The pain was horrendous.

All that was left to do, was scream.
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Shepard awoke covered in sweat and throat raw from screaming. She had had nightmares about Mindoir before, but never this detailed. She had never been able to feel or smell what was going on around her before. What was with people being featured in a dream that weren’t even there in the first place?

She lay in bed for another moment to piece herself back together and try to figure out what entirely was going on in her nightmare. She couldn’t let what happened ruin her day. Get yourself together girl, it wasn’t real.

Today was the day, finally. Excitedly she rose and made her way to the bathroom to shower and get dressed. When she made her way downstairs, she had a pending vidcall waiting for her in the living room. She accepted the call and Anderson's smiling face greeted her over the screen.

Shepard, you look like shit, soldier. You haven’t even started basic yet.”

“Listen old man, I still look better than you.” She chuckled.

“Is that any way to speak to a commanding officer, Shepard?”

“I still look better than you, sir.

Anderson smiled and laughed at her over the screen. He looked tired, but he often did now-a-days. She could tell he missed being home. Shepard knew he probably also missed Kahlee Sanders. The two of them had started seeing each other around the time he adopted Orion. Although from what Kahlee had implied, they had been on and off for years. They didn’t get many opportunities to see each other, as they were usually both posted on opposite sides of the Milky Way. He needed shore leave...yesterday.

“I just wanted to call to wish you a Happy Birthday and give an early welcome to our newest Private 2nd Class. I assume that is still something you plan to do today?”

Shepard could tell he was a little nervous that she may have changed her mind about enlisting.

“Come on Anderson, you know me better than that. Of course I’m enlisting today. I plan on heading to Alliance headquarters as soon as possible. The next time you see me, I will have already surpassed you and made it to Admiral.”

The laugh that brought out of him was enough to bring light to his eyes and make him appear to be much less tired.

“Oh really? You’re going to walk in there today, and they will promote you right to Admiral without basic training or any of the shit assignments the rest of us had to deal with for years, eh? You must have magical powers, child.”

“Well I didn’t say I wasn’t going to name drop when I walked in there.” In a voice mocking her own she began… “Excuse me, I would like to be an Admiral please. Couldn’t you make an exception seeing as I’m Captain David Anderson's daughter, oh and 2nd Lieutenant Hannah Shepard was my mother.”

Anderson knew the girl was joking to try to lighten the mood. Not only was he sure his worry for her was showing on his face, be he could see she was nervous. He knew she had been waiting for this day for longer than he had known her, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t be excited and scared at the same time. He thought back to the day he had enlisted and recalled feeling the same as he imagined she was feeling right now.

“You know, speaking of your mother, I just wanted to say that I know she would be proud of you. I had only met her once, long before you were born, back when she was posted on Earth. But I know she would be proud. I’m sure as hell proud of you as well, and I wish I could be there with you when you go Alliance HQ today.”

“Thank you sir.” She said with a salute. “I promise I won’t let you down.”
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Orion had a few places to go before she made her way to the Presidium to enlist. First, she wanted to stop by to see Shoshana to say good bye. Shosh had messaged her earlier that morning saying that she would be at this little café on Zakera ward that the two of them would frequent whenever they hung out. When Shepard walked into the café, she saw Shoshana sitting at a table with Emily Wong. Shepard internally giggled. She had to give it to Shoshana, the girl was good at getting what she wanted. As she approached the two ladies at their table, Shoshana lit up and jumped from the table, running toward her with enough speed to knock Orion over.

“I’m so glad you decided to come see me before you leave to live your dreams and be a hero. Pretty soon you will forget about us common folk.”

As her friend began to drag her over to the table, Orion replied. “Oh come on Shoshana. Anyone, stranger or no; couldn’t forget you if they tried, after spending enough time in a room with you.”

“Oh trust me, I know.” She replied.

This brought a laugh from Emily who had been seated patiently at the table while the two friends conversed.

“Ori, you remember Emily right?”

At this, Emily rose from the table to extend her hand to Orion. “Hello Shepard, I remember meeting you once before. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Taking her hand in her own to accept the handshake, Shepard smiled.

“Hi Emily, its wonderful to see you again. Shoshana speaks fondly of you.”

From behind her, Orion can see Shoshana give the “OK” symbol with her fingers followed by a wink. Shepard laughed realizing her friend wished her to continue the flattery and ego boosting to her new girlfriend? Friend? Shepard wasn’t quite sure yet.The three of them placed their drink orders with their omni-tools and waited for the Asari barista to bring them over. When the barista arrives Shepard smiles down at her drink on the table. Shosh makes a disgusted grunt on the other side of the table watching Shepard take the tea bag out of her drink.

“I don’t know how you can drink that Shep, it looks like water after you’ve filled it with cleaner and used it to scrub every inch of your apartment.”

Orion makes a mock offended face and replies. “A London Fog is an Earth classic and probably one of the best drinks on the menu here.”

“I’ll stick with my coffee, thanks.”

The three spent their time at the café exchanging stories and filling Emily in on all the hijinks the two friends had found themselves in over the years. After about an hour, Shepard says her goodbyes, promising to message Shosh anytime she is able, and to visit the Citadel whenever the opportunity arises. Naturally, Shoshana begins crying, attracting the attention of anyone in the café, which is just like Shoshana. The three part ways and Shepard makes her way to her next stop before the Presidium.

She had been itching to head to the shooting range to get some practice in before heading to enlist. She figured she may be one of the few recruits who has held a gun before, let alone know how to use one. She wanted any sort of advantage she could get.

She arrived at the range and got set up where she was assigned, with the pistol Anderson had given to her. She fired off a few practice rounds before setting up the paper “bad guy” the range would hang from the ceiling at the end of each aisle. She pressed the keys to have the target lower into range. She decided to start easy by having it lowered in the middle of the aisle, then having it move farther and farther back to get some ranged practice.

Things started out well with the first few distances she had tried. Most of her shots were in a critical area, with a few stragglers or missed shots. She decided to go for the ultimate challenge by sending the target as far back as it would go. She lined up her shot, hoping to go for the head shot. Just as her finger began to pull on the trigger, someone in an aisle next to her let off a loud bang of a sniper rifle, throwing off her focus and causing her to miss her shot entirely.

She could hear a familiar voice chuckling next to her over the missed shot. When she turned to look, insult was added to injury to realize it was that annoying Turian from the arcade a while back.

“I’ve known infants who could shoot better than that. I hope you don’t plan to wield a gun outside of a range anytime soon, human.”

“Cut the shit, you did that on purpose.” He held his hands up in mock surrender, still laughing at the clear embarrassment she felt.

Of course, she would run into the last person in the galaxy she would want to see her fail at something. She knew she wasn’t actually a bad shot, but she always felt like she had something to prove when he was around. She couldn’t explain why if you asked her, but the Turian just had a knack for getting under her skin.

“What are you doing here? Didn’t you tell my sister you were only on the Citadel for a visit, months ago?”

The malice in her question didn’t go unnoticed by Garrus, making him smirk.

“Well actually I wasn’t lying. I had left shortly after the tournament at the arcade, but I turn 15 soon, so my father dragged me back to the Citadel to ensure I’m ready to serve the Turian Hierarchy the way any proud Vakarian would.”

The last part he had said mockingly, showing the type of relationship he must have with his father.

Shepard began dismantling her gun to clean it so she could pack her things to go. It was probably time for her to head to Alliance HQ anyway to begin intake.

Who knew how long that would take?

“Oh don’t tell me you give up already? And here I was about to challenge you to a shoot off. First to get fifteen head-shots wins.”

Shepard stopped cleaning her gun and began to mull it over. She knew her way around a gun, had for years. He was only 15, how good could he be? It seemed like the perfect opportunity to redeem herself after she had lost to him in the tournament.

“Fine Vakarian, you’re on.”

After putting her gun back together the two began to get set up in aisles next to each other. They programmed the targets to drop every ten seconds, and in time with each other in both of their aisles. That way neither of them had an advantage over the other, and they were on level ground so to speak. The rules were simple, one shot per target. If you missed, too bad, if you hit but it wasn’t a head-shot, too bad. First to fifteen wins.

After some debate over whether they should use pistols or sniper rifles, they decided to make things more difficult by using pistols.They both prepared and at the same time started the program. Both of them missed the first target, unprepared with how quick it would actually fall. Shaking it off, Shepard prepared for the next target. It was neck and neck for the next ten targets after that. Both of them getting perfect head-shots on all ten targets. Admittedly, Orion was beginning to sweat. She was praying to the Spirits that he would miss at least one target. She needed something to be able to hold over his head.

In the end the two of them were at a draw. Neither of them had considered it would come down to a tie, so they hadn’t bothered to program the targets to continue dropping after fifteen.

“Well I guess this will just have to be a fight for another day, I should probably be heading out anyway.”

Garrus watched as Orion began cleaning her gun once more, and placed his next to her to the same. The two of them worked in silence, not really knowing what to talk about. She had to hand it to him though, he knew his way around a weapon. She knew from what Tulia told her that most Turians had weapons experience before their mandatory service in the military, but she honestly thought she had had this competition in the bag.

After packing away her gear, she reached under the weapons bench to grab the duffle she had been carrying with her all day that contained everything she would need when the Alliance transported her to Earth for basic training.

“What, are you homeless or something? Who carries that much with them to the firing range?”

Shepard explained where she was heading right after they were finished, and began to make her way to the door before Garrus had the opportunity to respond. Just as she reached the door, Garrus stopped her, but didn’t say anything.

“Is there a problem?” She asked, confused by the entire interaction.

“Listen Shepard, I know we don’t really know each other, in fact we probably both despise each other. But I was sort of hoping we could do this again sometime. You know, to finally determine who is better. Oh, and maybe you could bring your sister.”

Shepard couldn’t keep her eyes from rolling. The smirk on his face said it all. Of course he was just trying to get closer to her sister. That’s probably the only reason he even approached her today.

“Not in a million years would you have a shot with my sister, Vakarian. But hey, who am I to keep a man from dreaming. I’ll bring Tulia to our next standoff. It will probably distract you enough for me to finally prove who is better.”

“You need me to be distracted in order to defeat me? Doesn’t that prove that I am better than you, seeing as you need me to have some distraction?” He laughed.

She continued to move through the door stopping only to say, “I don’t need you hindered to beat you, but it will be satisfying to see you lose in front of my sister.”

With that she turned and waved as she made her way to the Presidium.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Can You Feel the Heat?
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Even my sweat has sweat

They were holed up somewhere deep in the jungle taking shelter as best they could from the storm. The last six months of basic training on earth had been the most excruciating yet rewarding experience of Orion’s life. Initial boot camp had been a piece of cake. All her years of preparation on the Citadel had paid off, and all the time she spent with Anderson had made it that much easier. She was vastly more prepared for training than many of the recruits in her outfit, so she quickly surpassed them in every field of training. Not only had this caused her to be noticed by her commanding officers, but it also made her the target of a lot of pranks and rumors. She had many friends in her training group, and no matter what they were like a family, however there were a few people who resented her for the attention she had drawn to herself due to her skill and knowledge.

Now that they were in their final month of basic combat training, they were frequently dropped in different environments to establish how each of them can handle themselves under stress. They had first done a four-day stint in the Siberia, testing their resolve in a winter climate. Then they were placed in the Western Desert in Egypt testing their skill in hot arid climates. Now they were somewhere in the Brazilian rain forest, searching for the pickup point and seemingly getting no where.

For this mission her friend Gordon Jessop had been put in charge. During all of their previous training, Jessop had excelled, so their superiors wanted to test his leadership skills in a testing style environment. He wasn’t adjusting well.

From the very start the mission was FUBAR more than any other mission they had experienced before. At least with their previous assignments the environments were all they were really fighting against. Here they were fighting the environment as well as its inhabitants. There were deadly snakes and spiders, all sorts of dangerous carnivorous animals stalking them through the jungle, and they quickly discovered the humidity was messing with their navigational instruments, making it difficult to determine where they were going and where they had already been. Orion knew that this was part of the test, of course the Alliance had instruments that could withstand any type of environment they had come across. They wanted to see how they handled the situation, what moves they made, and what resources they used in order to complete their mission without the benefit of having state of the art navigational systems.

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Jessop had instructed the majority of the squad to set up camp while he scouted ahead with a few others to see if they could find a high point above the treeline for a better view. Orion began setting up a perimeter barrier with sensors they had in their equipment which would alert them of any movement beyond the camp. At least they could try to fend off any animals large enough to set off the sensors. She was almost done when she could hear Jessop cut into the com.

“We’ve run into a bit of a snag and we need assistance. Shepard, we’re about three clicks north west of the camp location. Get here ASAP. Bring rope.”

You could hear the nerves in Jessop’s voice, but he had been so nervous since taking command of their unit, it was hard to tell if there was actual urgency behind his order or if he was still in his current state of not knowing what to do.

Shepard quickly placed the last barrier sensor, grabbed a rope from her pack and gave the job of setting up the actual network to one of the other privates while she began her run to Jessop’s location. The majority of the trek was downhill, so Jessop hadn’t really been successful finding higher ground. As she came to the bottom of a hill, she could hear rustling to her left where there was a ravine that dipped down about 10 meters. She came to the edge of the ridge to see Jessop and Martinez at the bottom of the ravine, stuck in a sinkhole.

“Well don’t just stand there Shepard, tie off the rope and get us the hell out of here!”

Jessop had clearly been struggling more than Martinez because he was already sunk down to his waist where Martinez was only sunk down to his knees. Shepard went to a tree nearest to the ravine that could support the weight of the two of them and tied one end of the rope around the tree. She threw the other end down the ravine as close to Jessop as she could. He managed to reach the rope and started to pull as hard as he could to drag himself out of the sinkhole. Clearly struggling, Orion grabbed into the rope on her end and began to pull Jessop up while he pulled himself out of the muck. After about 25 minutes of cursing and pulling, Jessop was at the top of the ravine, and the rope was thrown down to Martinez who was now sunk down to his mid thighs.

While Orion was helping Martinez out, Jessop tried his best to clean himself off and sat on the ground leaned against a tree seemingly deep in thought. For the entire 20 minutes it took to get Martinez out, Jessop hadn’t said a word, just stared into the distance. It was getting darker out now, and they needed to finish up and get to camp before the night dangers began to stir. With one final heave, Martinez was out of the sinkhole and Orion untied the rope from the tree to being back to camp.

“Jessop, we need to go… Jessop!”

She hadn’t even been able to make him blink. He was still just staring into the dark looking at nothing. Shepard and Martinez exchanged worried looks. Seemingly deciding what needed to be done. Martinez reached down and heaved Jessop over his shoulder like a potato sack and began to carry him back to the campsite. The whole way back the only sound from him was that of his breathing, or a sputtering huff anytime they walked through a cloud of gnats. Once back at the camp Martinez set Jessop down under one of the makeshift shelters that had been set up put of sticks and tarps they had in their gear. Everyone seemed to ne looking to him for direction on what should happen next, but Jessop was still frozen, unable to do anything.

I have to do something

“Alright everyone, listen up! I know this mission has been rough to say the least, but we should be able to reach the pickup point tomorrow morning. Jessop needs some time to think, so everyone get cozy for the night. Kensington, Belinsky you’re on first watch, we will follow the usual rotation after that. Everyone else, get some grub and some shuteye we move out at 0400h before the sun gets too hot.”

With that everyone dispersed and went about their nightly routines. Shepard turned back toward Martinez who was trying to convince Jessop to eat something. He just sat there looking right through the both of them.

“What the hell happened to the two of you out there Martinez?”

“Everything was fine until we reached that sinkhole Shepard. One-minute Jessop and I were looking over the edge at the bottom, the next the ground was sliding beneath our feet and we fell into the pit. Jessop seemed to have been fine until just after he had radioed from help. I think he’s struggling with command to be honest.”

“I’m sure he just needs some rest. Hopefully he will be fine in the morning.”

She hoped she hadn’t stepped on any toes by essentially taking over command which Jessop was “absent” but its not like they could be expected to sit their waiting for him to get it together. Besides, technically she was second in command, and the second in command always takes over when the commanding officer was incapacitated, right? She settled down near Jessop so that she would be alerted if anything were to happen to him and closed her eyes. This mission was definitely FUBAR, no doubt about that.

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Not much had changed with Jessop by the next morning other than he seemed to have eaten what food was left for him at some point overnight. Everyone was up and packing up camp so Shepard decided to try to pinpoint their exact location on the map before the humidity started to mess with the instruments. If her assumptions were correct, they were only about 10 clicks south from the pickup point. Assuming they don’t run into any major issues, they should be at the pickup by 1300h at the latest.

Once the squad was all packed and ready to depart, they assumed their usually formation and made their way North. Jessop was still out of it, but willing to walk on his own, however he seemed too out of it to be able to carry his gun. They made their way cutting through thick brush and weeds for hours. By noon, the humidity was back to its peak intensity and the instruments were all starting to show signs of disruption.

After another 15 minutes, they reached a clearing and could see the pickup point in the middle. A chopper was waiting to take them back to base. They had made it. Suddenly on the right of their position, three Jaguars emerged from the thick jungle, and began circling their position. While there were only 8 of them in the squad, with the exception of Jessop they all had guns and should easily be able to take out a couple of Jaguars.

“Tighten up and be ready everyone, but don’t fire unless necessary. They may be more scared of us than we are of them.”

The group huddled closer together and began to slowly continue forward, never taking their eyes off of the Jaguars following them from a distance. Martinez was pulling Jessop behind him like a child as he haphazardly tried to keep up with the group. Another 800 meters to go and they would be home free. Surely, they could manage that without all hell breaking loose. Of course, at that moment, Stevens tripped on a stump hidden in the long grass and fell face first. This was seen as an invitation by the Jaguars who began a full sprint to their location.

“Look alive people, we’ve got company. Martinez, get Jessop to the helicopter and provide cover fire when you get there.”

Martinez threw Jessop over his shoulder and made the sprint to the helicopter while everyone else began firing at the assailants. Stevens had recovered from his fall and was firing from a kneeling position, blood pouring from his nose from hitting the ground.

The first Jaguar leapt at him and pinned him down, but Orion hit it with a Reave giving Steven’s the chance to push the animal off of him and take it out. Turning back toward the other two Orion noticed that they split up and were circling around the group from opposite directions. They were both sprinting furiously around them, tightening the circle, making it difficult to get a shot in without missing or bumping into the person next to you.

Orion threw a Singularity just outside of where the Jaguars were but not close enough that the members of the squad might get picked up in the field. One of the animals was picked up in the field making it easy for the squad to pick off. This left them with one Jaguar left. Shepard looked furiously around but lost sight of the animal. Suddenly from behind her, the Jaguar jumped out from some tall grass and managed to pin her down face first in the grass, the members of the squad feared shooting through the animal and hitting Shepard and seemed to pause not knowing what to do.

A loud shot rang out and with a thud the Jaguar collapsed onto of Shepard, the weight of which knocked the air out of her lungs. Stevens helped Shepard free herself from the animal pinning her down. Once free she looked into the direction of the chopper and saw Jessop holding up a sniper rifle, pointing it at their location.

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The trip back was mostly silent. Everyone dirty and tried from a long mission. Some members were catching a quick nap before they landed, others were eating a ration bar or cleaning their guns. Shepard made her way over to Jessop, who was still holding onto his rile, as if midair another Jaguar was going to attack.

“Thanks for your help back there Jessop; I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

He looked up at her and seemed to be seeing her for the first time since the day before.

“I couldn’t let it get you, Shepard.”

Reluctantly he let Shepard take the rifle he had been clinging onto and she placed it on the racks on the wall of the helicopter. They began their decent over the base and everyone prepared to exit the chopper. As with their previous missions, their superiors would be waiting on the landing pad to give their tactical appraisal of the mission and dish out punishment and congratulations where deserved. Everyone wore cameras on their armor, so the whole mission had been broadcast back to base. They disembarked and made their way forward to the waiting officers.

“Congratulations on another completed mission. Although I’m disappointed things hadn’t been handed better.”

Training officer Danson stepped forward to stand in front of Jessop. “Interesting how those who seem the cockiest, can never seem to make it as effective leaders. What have you to say about this blunder of a mission Jessop?”

Once again, Jessop was frozen, unable to look up from the seemingly interesting pebbles at his feet.

“Just as I had suspected, all talk and entirely incapable of performing under stress. People like you give ranking officers a bad name Private. Maybe you’d be better suited to an administrative role?” Shepard’s hands clenched into fists at the way Danson was speaking to Jessop. Danson was definitely just trying to get a rise out of Jessop with the malice behind his comments. He wasn’t wrong, Jessop had blown this one, but his track record was great enough that this one missions shouldn’t be what defined the rest of his career. Turning his attention to Shepard, he was sure to hover over her in a way that made her cower under his gaze.

“Shepard, well done keeping it together in order to complete the mission. Not everyone seems to be capable of getting the job done around here.”

“As second in command, it was my responsibility to ensure the mission was completed sir.”

She hated the way Danson would compliment one person while taking hits at another like that, but she needed to respond in kind to a commanding officer. Rocking the boat would just make it worse for Jessop.

Danson continued to dish out his compliments and disapprovals to each of the members of the squad, then dismissed them to go about the usual shit, shower, shave routine after a long mission. They were to report to the officers’ mess at 1800 for a formal debrief.

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Upon getting some grub in the mess and cleaning up, they were informed that they had all completed their initial basic military training. Each of them was going to be shipped home for a month-long leave, in which time they would receive their orders for their first posting in the Alliance Military. They were to get up at 0500h to pack up their bunks to head to the transport shuttles which would send them off for their rest period. She couldn’t wait to tell Anderson. She was now officially a Private in the Alliance.

Chapter Text

Ch 14. I wish I Could Avoid You
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December 2172
Orion Shepard: Age 18
Garrus Vakarian: Age 17
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Waiting for permanent assignment while on leave from boot was starting to make Orion antsy. It had been a week since she had arrived at the Citadel, and another week yet before Anderson would arrive for his own shore leave. Each night she awoke in a cold sweat, haunted by the nightmares of what happened to her family. She had never had this problem at bootcamp, so it must be due to her not being too busy to dream now that she was on leave.

Much of her time had been spent working on what she felt were her flaws during boot. Being a biotic, with a love for pistols and shotguns, naturally she fought more close range. Because of this, she was never quite happy enough with her skills with a sniper rifle. She spent at least an hour each day at the shooting range, and once or twice even set up a sniper’s roost at the combat sim to bring her sniping skills up.

She wanted to be as well-rounded as possible, so whenever she could, she toyed around with her omni-tool trying to get her tech skills finer tuned. This, however, proved to be tough to do inside a combat sim when she was only a novice and without any formal training whatsoever, so she eventually made a mental note to sign up for a Sentinel fighters workshop where they would hopefully be able to teach her how to use her biotics and tech in a way that supports each other in a fight.

Even with all the work she had been doing since docking, she still found life boring in comparison to her new military life. Sitting around doing nothing made her feel like she was missing out in something or like she was late for something important.

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Garrus

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“You know how proud I am of you for completing your service in the military Garrus, but I forbid you from accepting the offer to train as a Spectre candidate.”

To say that Garrus’ father was upset would be an understatement. Garrus had been tapped along with a thousand other recruits to receive special training on the citadel at a facility for potential future Spectres. Castis Vakarian hated the Spectres. He didn’t agree with being able to take the law in your own hands and not having any rules to follow.

“Patri, I respect your position here with C-Sec, but I want to be able to build a career on my own without the Vakarian name carrying me through. Being a Spectre is an honor, and I am honored to have been chosen to train with them.”

“I’ve already gotten you a position as a patrolling officer on Tayseri ward. It is an honorable career for a Vakarian and I will not have you go against my wishes. You start next week, it is final.”

There was no arguing with his father. Once he set his mind to something, it happened. Especially when it came to deciding how his son would live his life. Being a high tiered Turian wasn’t easy, Garrus understood that a lot of bureaucracy follows each decision made in the Hierarchy. But he just wanted to be able to follow his own path. He dreamed of taking down merc bands and slave ships as a famous Spectre. He imagined crowds cheering for him as he saved entire colonies from an unnamed menace. Children would have Spectre Vakarian action figures and posters for him to sign. Beautiful women would call his name and ask him out. It’s exactly what he had wanted since he was a kid. He had never wanted to work for C-Sec, all of the rules and paperwork sounded like more trouble than it was worth.

His father wasn’t going to let up. He knew he would have no choice but to work at C-Sec. At least until he could get into the Spectres. If his father wasn’t going to let him go to the training camp, he was going to train on his own time and apply again.

“Yes Patri.”

“Good, you’re going to make me proud Garrus. I’ve set you up with your own apartment on Tayseri ward. The apartment is close to Tayseri's C-Sec offices so you will be able to get their easily. I’ll send you the address so you can head over and learn your way around the area before you start next week.”

“Yes Patri.”

He left his father’s office and called a skycar to take him to his new apartment. Tayseri was one of the wards with the most crime in comparison to the others, so the idea of working beat here wasn’t on the top of his list of things to do, but if it made his father happy while he worked at getting into the Spectres, he could do it. He arrived outside the apartment complex and checked his fathers’ message to see which unit number was his. He made his way up to unit 7C to start making himself at home. The apartment was nice. It was one bedroom with a space for an office, a small kitchen and a living area with a large window.

He had to admit, even though Tayseri is a lower end ward, the view from his window was beautiful. His apartment was high enough that he could see all of the lights of the ward and had an excellent view of the Citadel’s arms. Tayseri was one of the first wards open to population after the Asari discovered the Citadel, so there is a large centre of culture and art in a nicer area of the ward. Museums and Art Galleries acted as a distraction for the slavers and drug dealers hiding in the darker areas. C-Sec was out in force on most nights, but were rarely able to catch anyone other than your typical thieves and the occasional duct rat.

After dropping off his stuff, he decided to walk around the ward to learn his way around. On the surface the streets seemed normal. Mothers at the park with their children, performers playing instruments for crowds, groups of friends visiting different shops and restaurants. But if you knew where to look you could see shady deals in the alleys, gangs hanging in dark alleys for some poor innocent to wander the wrong direction, clubs that are fronts for drugs or Varren pit fighting. He could see why his father had him starting with C-Sec in this ward. It would be an excellent place to begin building a career as arrest records would be high if you put the work in.

He messaged his friend Silus to let him know that his meeting with his father was over, and that they should meet up for dinner before he heads over to the combat sim. He wanted to be able to keep his skills sharp and start learning new skills for when he applies to be a Spectre later. Silus said he would be there in twenty minutes, so Garrus hailed a skycar to take him over to the restaurant.

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Orion

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When Anderson arrived, he and Orion went out for a celebratory dinner at her favourite restaurant. She continually pried at him for information on his latest mission but he was being unusually clandestine about it. When it came to their relationship, secretive is not a word she would use to describe Anderson, so she felt it was odd that he wasn’t willing to share even the smallest of details with her. She knew this meant that whatever it was, it was too secret and he would be willing to tell her in due time, so eventually she gave up her questions. He was willing to tell her that he knew what her first assignment was, and while he didn’t want to ruin the surprise by telling her, he did say that it was a posting that he knew she would enjoy. Knowing that Anderson knew what the posting was made her feel better about how long they seem to be taking to tell her. At least now she knew that a decision had been made and any insecurity she had been feeling was unwarranted.

Anderson was only on the Citadel for the night, as he was due at the villa in two days in Rio for the graduation ceremony for new N7s. She loved hearing his stories from his time training in N-school. She hoped one day she would be able to get invited to Rio to begin training, to live up to the near-perfect example that Anderson had set for her. After the two of them finished their dinner, Anderson went to meet up with Kahlee while Orion headed back to the combat sim to practice using more tech in combat.

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The combat sim was busier than usual when she arrived, and all of the private rooms were already booked. The only rooms available were ones where they stick you in with a random other participant who fights with you to take out the enemies. The arena purposely doesn’t tell you who you’re paired with until you get in there, which makes for a more exciting match for the crowd. She had watched a few of these matches before, and they usually turned out relatively well. Each pair going in is given 2 minutes to prepare on the field before the enemies begin flooding in. Most groups take the 2 minutes to discuss what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, then plan accordingly. However, there are some situations where it doesn’t quite work out so well and they either get each other taken out or take each other out.

As much as the crowd loves a good fight, they also enjoy the drama of the matches with two people who are not compatible as squad mates. She had seen a few of these matches herself and had to admit they were entertaining. One of the matches she had seen the two people in the arena seemed to absolutely hate each other, and in the end one of them ended up tackling the other resulting in a bloody wrestling match. The invigilators needed to break the two of them apart and ended up banning them both from the sim for life.

Regardless of how much she hated the idea of having to practice with a stranger when she hadn’t fully tuned her skills, she still wanted to be able to fight in the sim. Working with someone new could still be beneficial to me in the future right? She wasn’t always going to be fighting with seasoned Alliance Officers exclusively, so she could learn from whatever situation this happened to put her in. She could also stand to benefit if the person she was paired with was good with tech, whether she just watched them work in the field to get ideas or was even able to convince them to teach her better ways to use her tech under pressure.

She made her way up to the sign-up kiosk and put her name in for a match. The next available sim arena was hers so she made her way down to the change rooms to gear up while she waited for the current match to finish.

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Garrus

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The Armax arena was unusually busy for this time of day, which was fine by Garrus as he loved an opportunity to show off his skills to others. He went to the kiosk to sign-up and saw that only the paired matches were available. He loved the matches where you we placed in with a stranger. Not only was it a way for him to show off but it was also an opportunity to learn different fighting styles and tricks. Especially when fighting against someone from another race. Each races military trained their soldiers differently, so being in the sim with someone with a different combat style would give him an edge when he is training to become a Spectre.

It could also be an advantage to him when the other race happened to be the opponent. Garrus was meticulous on the battle field and obsessively observant. He studied the way his squad or opponents moved. Finding strengths and weaknesses so he could learn how to best them in a fight. This was made easy by him being a sniper, as he had the advantage of a good vantage point in order to be able to study the movements of others on the battlefield.

He signed up for the next available arena and headed to the changerooms to gear up. He was excited to get started and wondered what he could learn from his opponent today. The last time he was here he was paired with a Salarian Infiltrator so it had been a bit difficult as they both had a similar preferred fighting style. Although they had won their match, there was quite a bit of argument about who should take the snipers roost, and which spot should even be considered a roost.

He had yet to have much experience fighting with a biotic squad mate and really hoped whomever was on the other side of the changeroom was a biotic. Most Turian biotics were sent off to be a part of a Cabal unit early on in their military careers, and Cabal units were only seen if shit had really hit the fan. He hoped he would be against a Human or Asari biotic. While the class of the biotic really didn’t matter much to him, he really admired Vanguards for their up close and personal means of fighting. Not only would it give him his opportunity to hang back and watch their six, but he found the way Vanguards fought to be graceful and exciting in combat.

He finished up donning his armor just as the current fight came to an end and made his way to the arena entrance to await the start of his match.

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Orion

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The arena doors opened and the crowd could be heard above as the VI announced the names of those participating in the match.

The next match is about to begin. In the arena is Orion Shepard and Garrus Vakarian. Fighters, you have 2 minutes to begin preparations starting now.

Seriously! The one person in the entire galaxy she never wanted to see again, she was paired up with in this match. Great, just fucking wonderful. Apparently, it isn’t a big enough galaxy.

She looked over to her left to see Garrus entering from his side of the arena and could tell by the look on his face that he was having the same though process that she was. Perfect. I won’t be able to learn anything from this ass. She couldn’t miss the smug look on his face though as he gathered his composure, and she knew she would end up getting the same snarky remarks out of him that she usually did when they ran into each other. The two quickly made their way over to each other to begin preparations for the match.

“Orion, fancy meeting you here. I thought you’d have given up being a galactic hero by now.”

“Garrus, shouldn’t you be working your way up the military ranks by now, or did they kick you out after your mandatory service for being a terrible shot.”

“I don’t like this just as much as you do Shepard, but if we’re going to be stuck here together, we may as well do it right. Obviously, you remember how great of a shot I am or you wouldn’t have brought it up, so I can head up to that roost to the left while you cover ground down here. By the look of your neck I can assume you’re a biotic right?”

“Yeah I am, I tend to stick to close combat with a pistol or shotgun and use my biotics offensively.”

“Great, I’m going to head up to the snipers’ nest before we run out of time. You do whatever it is you do. Maybe you’ll even hit something.”

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The buzzer sounded and the computer rendered enemies began to materialize in the centre of the arena. Shepard glanced upward to see that Garrus had made it up to his position and was already firing at the simulated mercenaries as they attempted to take cover. Orion dashed to cover to take stock of where she wanted to begin.
To her left there were three mercs grouped together trying to get a clear shot at Garrus. Taking this as an opportunity, Orion vaulted over her cover and threw a Singularity. With each of them caught in the pull field, Garrus was able to take a shot at the first mercenary, and Orion was able to take out the other two. As another merc suddenly flanked her, Shepard used a biotic charge and took him out with her shotgun while he was still stunned.

The two of them carried on this way wave after wave of enemies. No matter how many enemies surrounded her on the ground, she always found her attention drifting up to where Garrus was perched. Each time she looked up, she noticed that he had been doing the same. Seemingly studying her movements and choices in battle.

They finished off the final round with Garrus joining Orion on the ground in close combat. As the final mercenary fell, the final score tally appeared overhead. As a team their overall score was 5269 points, putting them in the Silver Prize category. Orion finished with 36 overall kills and Garrus finished with 39. Overhead the crowd of onlookers was cheering both of their names, so had even made signs cheering them on.

"No surprise that I took out more enemies than you. We should play again the next time I need a confidence boost."

He stuck out his hand for a formal human handshake and Orion accepted.

"Yeah, sure. I'm always down to kick arrogant Turian ass."

The two of them exited the arena and headed to the change room as the battle area was set up for the next scheduled match. Orion took off her armour and placed it on the table to be packed away and headed into the shower. Typically, after being in the sim, while in the shower she liked to assess the previous battle in order to determine how she felt it went overall. As she stepped under the hot spray of water, she found that rather than thinking back on how the battle went for her, what she felt she could improve on, and what she felt she had done well, instead she thought of how Garrus did, what he did well and what he could improve on.

Maybe it was her brief experience in charge of a unit in bootcamp that caused her to focus more on the performance of her comrade rather than herself, but she had a feeling it wasn't quite as logical as that. She thought about each of the shots he made and how he rarely ever missed. Even the shots he would have considered a "miss" because it wasn't a headshot, still hit somewhere on the enemy. There was a brutal elegance to the way he worked in the field that she appreciated. She had even taken note of how he used his omni-tool while in combat and took note to remember to ask him to show her next time they saw each other.

She finished her shower and made her way back to her armor and cleaned it up a bit to bring home. She was due to give it a good scrub and buff, but she could do that back at the apartment in Anderson’s mini-armory built into the closet in his room. She exited the changeroom and made her way up the stairs and toward the overlook to see how the current sim was going. There was two Asari fighting a squadron of Geth and it was not going well. They were both hiding behind cover and being flanked from all sides by Geth. It wasn't going to be a very long match. She could hear footsteps approach behind her and turned to see Garrus coming toward her. She stopped in front of her and opened his mouth as if to say something, then clamped his mandibles to his face instead. She had seen Tulia do this hundreds of times when she had something to say but was nervous.

"Hey Garrus, come to watch this disaster unfold with the rest of us?"

As she said that she pointed her thumb behind her toward the Asari/Geth battle below. He stepped forward to lean on the railing to look down at the battle below.

"Just came to gloat a little bit more about my victory, but if I beat you down too much, you won’t be willing to do this again sometime. All jokes aside though, I … I'm actually glad I was able to catch you. I uh was wondering if you would like to grab lunch or something tomorrow. You know, just to go over the battle. I've always wanted to work with a biotic and I have a few questions. But if you're busy or don't want to that's fine too. I know we aren't exactly friends … "

She found his rambling to be incredibly adorable considering his usual confident banter toward her, and couldn't help but to start chuckling as he struggled to get out what he was trying to say.

"Sure Garrus, I actually have a few questions for you as well. It will be a good opportunity for us to go over how I kicked your ass in there despite you having a higher kill count."

At first Garrus seemed stunned that Shepard had said yes, let alone without him having to pester her about it until she relented. After a moment she eventually noticed him smile, losing the remaining tension he had about essentially asking her out on a lunch date. As long as the two of them could joke around with each other, it should be an enjoyable afternoon.

"Uh, great. I'll send you the info in the morning for where we can meet up. See you later Shepard."

As Garrus left, the crowd watching the match began chanting, drawing Orion's attention back to the battle below. One of the Asari had been eliminated, and her teammate didn't look like she was going to be far behind. She had managed to get herself perched where Garrus had been earlier that day, but with so many enemies on the field, it's hard to reduce their numbers and also watch your own flank. After a few minutes, she too was eliminated, signalling the end of the match.

Seems like enough excitement for one day, I think.

Shepard made her way back to the apartment and cleaned and buffed her armour. Before crawling into bed, she sent a message off to Tulia telling her about her day and her "date not really a date" with Garrus tomorrow. Tulia replied with an expected "Don't you hate that guy?" to which Orion replied "Yes, exactly why I need to get close to him so I can destroy him."
The two agreed to schedule a proper vidcall later on in the week to catch up and for Tulia to get details on Shepard’s lunch with Garrus. Shepard crawled into bed and closed her eyes. This had been the best day she had had since arriving in the Citadel a month ago. As she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed about fighting alongside Garrus as if they had been squamate’s forever. For the first time docking on the Citadel, she didn’t have any nightmares.