chapter 2 chance of a lifetime...or two
Jacob looked out the window as they approached freedoms progress.
"Well, well, well. Looks like another ghost town." he said. Miranda opened her mouth to comment but Jacob continued before she could. "Spoke to soon. Are those quarians? What are they doing here?" Shepard looked out the window to see a group of quarians moving into one of the houses.
"Get us down there now!" Shepard shouted at the pilot. Shocked at the sudden change in the Commander, Miranda snapped around to look at Shepard.
"What's wrong?" she asked. He locked eyes with her. She saw a determination she had only heard of.
"One of my crew is down there." Miranda looked back out the window down to where the Quarians were at. She saw a couple of heavy mechs firing where the quarians were hiding. It wasn't only determination she saw in the Commander's eyes, it was loyalty. This was the man the fate of the galaxy rested upon. This was the man that could save them all. For the first time in her life she believed they were right and knew that she would die for this man, but at the same time wondered if he'd get himself killed first. Shrugging the thought off she hit the door to the cockpit with her pistol, she had read his file and it would take a lot to kill this man.
"Double time pilot!" she yelled.
"Where do you want me to land?" the pilot asked. Miranda looked at Shepard. He pulled the grenade launcher off of his back.
"Drop me right on top of them then take Miranda and Jacob a hundred meters north and drop them there."
"I'm going with you." Miranda said pulling out her SMG.
"You can't when I get down there I'm going to need both of you to distract the heavy mechs if I can't take them out. Two is a bigger threat than one." The pilot dropped down just above the heavy mechs.
"Keep in mind we spent four billion credits to bring you back." Miranda reminded him. The Commander just smiled.
"Make sure you hurry." Grabbing on to the door frame for support Shepard leaned out of the craft holding his grenade launcher. He fired at the heavy mechs, two at the one on the right, one at the one on the left. The heavy mechs turned their attention to the man in the air and readied their rockets. Shepard dropped the thirty feet on to the heavy mech on the right shouting at the pilot.
"Go, go,go!!!" The heavy mech that Shepard landed on reached up to knock him off but he jumped off before it could reach him. Just as the rocket from the other heavy mech hit it. He watched the shields of the heavy mech drop to zero. As soon as the shields winked out the Commander unloaded his launcher into it. The heavy mech started warming up its gun as it turned around. Before it could turn all the way around the Commander's grenade blew a hole in its side. The first heavy mech fell to the ground slowly shutting down. Shepard took shelter behind the fried corpse of wires.
"What is it?"
"There's a pile of crates blocking the only way to you from where we're at!" Miranda yelled into the com.
"Calm down. I got one of the heavy mechs I think I can take out the other one. I have enough grenades."
"We'll get there as soon as we can."
"Take your time." He said as the mech started firing on his position. Shepard leaned onto the balls of his feet and got ready to run.
Tali watch the man drop from the shuttle onto the heavy mech right beneath him. This man was reckless, almost reminded her of someone she knew. She sighed knowing the man was going to need help. She walked over to one of the wounded quarians and picked up his weapon.
Shepard darted out of cover firing his grenade launcher. It fired three shots then clicked. He knew the moment he told Miranda that he had enough grenades he jinxed himself. He ran back behind the dead Heavy mech, putting away the launcher and pulling out his assault rifle while readying one of the two hand grenades he had left. The heavy mech's shields were all but gone. Have to time this just right for it to work. He peeked out of cover just in time to see the heavy mech fire a rocket. Just before the rocket hit his cover the Commander's last thought was, 'well, there goes that idea.' The rocket hit his cover blowing it to pieces throwing Shepard into the open. It took all of his willpower to lift his head enough to see where to throw his grenade. The grenade stalled the heavy mech long enough for Shepard to watch it warm up its other gun.
One moment the heavy mech's head was there the next it was gone. The beeping that signaled the start of the self-destruct sent a jolt through the Commander's body. He rolled himself behind a crate that he hoped could protect him enough. The heavy mech exploded sending the crate toppling onto him. The moment it hit the ground it fell apart. He waited a few moments for the effects of the explosion to wear off a bit before he stood. He turned to see a quarian standing at the door of the house at the far end of the area. The quarian was holding a rocket launcher. He walked over to where the quarian was standing. When he was close enough to hear the quarian the quarian called out.
"Lucky we had this with us." The voice sent another jolt through his body. Tali. Not having fully recovered from the explosion the added shock dropped the Commander to one knee. It was Tali. He heard her approach him the sound of worry in her voice.
"Are you alright?" she asked as she reached him, he kept his head down.
"He'd better be," another voice said nearby. "Or so help me I'll kill him again." Miranda jogged out of the shadows. Tali ignored her and grabbed his left elbow to help him up.
"Shepard, next time you do that I'm coming with you no matter what." Jacob said has he grabbed the Commander's other elbow.
Tali froze. Did he just say Shepard? Shepard felt her hand on his right cheek. He leaned into it a little loving the feeling of her glove. She turned his face towards her. Their eye's met and the world just disappeared. She started gently stroking his face, mindful of the glowing scars.
"Shepard?" he knew what she was asking. She didn't want this to be a dream. He brought his hand up to hold hers against his face.
"It's me." He answered getting lost in her silver eyes.
"Shepard?" this time he knew she was asking him to tell her something only he would know.
"Did you get that file on the geth okay?" he asked her. He could see her eyes start to water.
"Are you the ones taking the colonists?" Miranda asked. Tali's head snapped towards her.
"You think we did this?!?" She said breaking contact with the Commander to take a threatening step towards her. Shepard heaved a sigh, leave it to Miranda.
"No, not really. Just asking what I see." Tali looked around to see what she meant. They were standing in an empty human colony and the quarians were the first things they saw.
"Oh. Well, we're just here for another quarian that was here on pilgrimage."
"He's still here?"
"Yes, we saw him. He saw us, panicked, and ran over that way. He was the one who activated the mechs."
"Whatever he saw must have been bad for him to act like that." Shepard muttered.
"Tali!" a voice yelled over the com.
"What is it?"
"We found him." in the back ground Tali could hear a gun fight. Her omni-tool beeped as she received the location on her map.
"What's your status?"
"Just a handful of mechs, nothing we can't handle. That's what you get for sticking your arm out like the rookie you are!" the sergeant yelled at another solider.
"Arm shot?" she asked.
"Arm shot." the sergeant confirmed
"Upper or lower?"
"Upper." Shepard watched her eyes narrow.
"Tell him when we get back he and I am going to have some one on one training." the sergeant laughed.
"With pleasure." Tali looked at her map.
"We'll be there in eight."
Shepard watched two quarians lead Veector to the waiting shuttle through the window of the house he was in. looking to the left he saw Miranda and Jacob asking the other quarians questions. He felt someone close behind him. He smiled knowing who it was. Her hand rested on his shoulder to pull him around to face her. She looked at his scars, tracing them with a gloved finger.
"Two years." She said. He didn't move a muscle.
"I know." She dropped her hand. Turning around she took a few steps toward the door.
"Two years I thought
here you are." He had told her what had happened to him. It still didn't change the fact that she had spent two years thinking he was dead to find out that he was brought back to life. Tali heard the Commander shift uncomfortably. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips.
"I know you're in a partial state of shock right now and I know this might not be a good time to ask you this, but I'm going to anyway. Tali will you rejoin my crew?" Tali spun around so she could look into Shepard's eyes.
"I would love to but I still have one mission left that my people want me to do." Shepard nodded his understanding.
"After then?" he asked hopefully.
"No question." She answered. He gave her a small shy smile that she had only seen one other time.
"I can't wait to have you back." He offered his hand to her. She took it and stopped. Her eyes widened as she pulled his arm into better light. The material looked similar to what the geth used but far more advanced. She ran her other hand along the arm.
"What happened?" she asked quietly.
"We've been around each other for the past two hours and you never noticed?" he teased. He knew if that visor had been clear she would be blushing right now.
"My attention had been on other things." She answered tilting her head down so he couldn't see her eyes. He gave out a small chuckle that died as he looked back at his arm.
"When they found me, my body, half of my arm was gone with the rest damaged beyond repair." Her eyes snapped back up to his. "That's another reason I want you back, to help me with my arm. It has a built in gun." He could see her smiling and knew what she was going to say.
"Did they think it would come in handy?" it tested all of Shepard's control not to roll his eyes. Tali noticed this and started laughing. The sound of her laughter, though somewhat electronic, sounded like a perfect day in a meadow back on earth. He could almost smell the grass.
"Commander, we're done with the questioning. The illusive man will want to hear this." Miranda said over the com. Shepard walked through the door then turned back. Tali walked up to him pointing to his shuttle.
"I'll see you soon." She promised him.
"soon." he promised back. Tali watched him get into the shuttle and take off. She turned on her omni-tool to start a count-down to when she could join the Commander.
Shepard sat on his bed looking at a couple of holos he'd had taken of Tali without her noticing, he hoped. She looked a lot better since he'd last saw her. She'd been working out. He smiled, before she wouldn't have been able to lift a rocket launcher, now she hefted it like it was a pistol, or shotgun in her case. He made the holo start spinning slowly. He'd been given a second chance and there was no way he was going to let it become his greatest regret. He started humming the old tune 'damn regret' because it fit his mood at the moment.
"You have been looking at those holos for twenty minutes and thirty two seconds." EDI announced. Shepard let the hint of a smile tug at his mouth.
"You can just ask a question, EDI."
"I don't have any other way of letting you know I am here."
"How about just saying my name?" he suggested.
"Would you prefer me to do that from now on?"
"Mix it up a bit."
"Greeting has been changed."
"Now what can I help you with?"
"Why don't you tell her how you feel?" EDI asked. Somehow he knew this was going to come up.
"I have to know that she feels the same way about me."
"The video log I reviewed of freedoms progress would suggest that she is very interested in you."
"That could be an effect from the shock of seeing me alive again. I'll know soon enough."
"When she joins the crew again I'll talk to her to see where she stands if she hasn't already been taken."
"Where has she been taken?" Shepard smiled at EDI's innocents.
"It means that she might be someone's lover already. Don't you have access to the extranet?" he asked.
"I do, I will look up a majority of what we talked about that I didn't understand later. When you said taken you had a physical reaction to the word." She answered.
"To sum it up I'm basically saying that I hope she has feelings for me."
"One more question then I will leave you to your processing. How will you make the relationship between you and Tali work?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"She is a different base than you."
"You mean sex?"
"That is part of it. How will you be able to touch each other without starting a severe reaction in the other?" Shepard smiled.
"That answer will have to wait until later."
"I have a couple of ideas but I want to check a few things first to see if they will work."
"You will tell me later?"
"Yes." He promised.
"I will hold you to that commander." Joker came on over the com.
"We just got permission to dock, ETA thirteen minutes to Omega."
"Anytime." With thirteen minutes to wait the Commander went to the elevator to head down to the armory to talk to Jacob. As the elevator door closed he started singing the old classic, 'one more time'.
Shepard watched Mordin go around the room collecting everything that he needed. The Commander had sent Miranda and Jacob back to the ship while he waited for Mordin. The Salarian was done faster than Shepard thought he would take by a good margin.
"Ready doc?" he asked. The Salarian doctor nodded his head in a quick, jerky movement.
"Yes. I can't wait to study what the collectors are using on the humans. You called them swarms, yes? That would indicate something small that travels in large groups. How does the swarm use
" Shepard let the Salarian mutter to himself trying to figure out as much as he could with the little information he had. It took about ten minutes for them to get back to where the Commander killed the first two mercs they encountered. Curiosity got the best of the Commander and he went over to the spot where they had met the dying batarian. Mordin stopped muttering to himself to see why the Commander had stopped. Shepard rounded the corner to find the batarian face down on the ground. Mordin saw what the Commander was doing and hurried over. Scaning the batarian with his omni-tool, nodded his head. The Commander moved the batarian into a sitting position, staying close in case anything was needed.
"Advanced stages of the plague. Can still save him if given cure now. Should take a few minutes before he opens his eyes. Should be fine after a few hours. Full recovery in four days." He muttered as he dosed the batarian with the cure. No sooner had the cure hit the batarian's blood stream he opened his eyes. Mordin paused what he was doing to study the batarian. The batarian grabbed Shepard's hand cannon off his thigh. Aiming behind the Commander the batarian fired all six shots. Shepard heard two bodies hit the ground. The batarian smiled at his success.
"Better hide human." He said before he slumped back to the ground out cold. Mordin picked up the hand cannon as he dashed for the cover of the nearest door, Shepard did the same opposite of Mordin. Sheapard felt the impact of several shots on his lower back. His kinetic barriers dropped to forty-two percent. He poked his head out of cover long enough to see three mercs walking toward them. Two with rifles flanking the one in the middle who happened to have a grenade launcher. Looked like all three have shields and good armor.
"Commander, I need some heat sinks." Mordin said over the com.
"Hey Mordin, think you can take them out alone?" the Commander asked jokingly. He watched Mordin peek out for a split second. The two mercs with the rifles fired at both of their positions trying to keep them pinned down.
"I can, if you wish. I still need heat sinks." A moment passed.
"Then do it. How many heat sinks do you need?"
"Can do it with three. Give me four just in case." Shepard tossed them over.
"Make sure you tell me when you need help, I won't interfere otherwise." Mordin nodded.
"Yes." He prepped an incinerate, loading a fresh heat sink into the pistol as he did so. He popped out of cover one more time to confirm the mercs positions. After counting down from twenty Mordin spun out of cover. His incinerate hit the merc with the grenade launcher catching the other two mercs as it spread. The merc with the grenade launcher stopped moving to try and put out the fire. The merc that was focused on his position panicked. Human, he thought, won't have to worry about him for a few moments. That left one merc that was closing on the Commander's position fast. The fire didn't seem to bother him. Mordin quickly fired all six shots at the advancing merc. The first three took out the rest of the mercs shields and weakened the armor. The other three were used in a quarian style, two to the heart one to the head. Ejecting the used cherry red sink he slid his second heat sink home. The merc with the grenade launcher had given up on putting out the flames. He scanned the room looking for one of his targets. Mordin fired six shots in the same fashion as he used on the other merc. The last shot pinged off the mercs head, his shields sparked out. The Salarian rushed behind cover as the first grenade reached him. The pistol chirped that it needed a new heat sink; he slid the third one he had into place. When the merc paused to see if he killed the first of his two targets Mordin leaned out of cover. He fired until his gun chirped for his last heat sink. The last two of the six shots punctured the mercs armor, both in the upper part of his left arm. Unable to hold the weight of the launcher anymore the merc dropped it. Reaching behind his back the merc pulled out his shotgun in time to look down the barrel of Mordin's gun. The Salarian stepped over the body looking for the last merc.
"I don't think you have to worry about the last guy." The Commander said pointing to Mordin's right. Looking he saw the burnt remains of the last merc.
"Shields and armor not as strong as I thought." He took a deep breath through his nose and let it out through his mouth. "Well, don't have to worry about him. Commander Shepard, do my skills meet your expectations?"
"That and more. I thought you were just a science genius." Mordin smiled.
"I am. I was also in, what you would understand as, the Salarian special forces."
"A science and a military genius. I thank you for joining my team. Your skills will be invaluable on this mission. I look forward to our time together." Shepard said adding his smile. Looking around at the damage the Salarian doctor had done he spotted the batarian.
"The batarian will be fine. Might be out longer due to the strain of saving us." The Doctor said when he noticed where Shepard was looking.
"How do you think he knew about the mercs?"
"Likely he heard or saw them before he passed out." Shepard nodded, that was his guess too.
"Let's get him home. It's the least we can do." The Commander activated the batarian's omni-tool to get the location of where he lived. Noting the location he walked to the right of the batarian for eighteen meters to find the door.
"That was easier than I thought." Shepard said. He walked back to the batarian grabbing his feet. Mordin grabbed his arms and they made their way into the batarian's living quarters. After laying him down on his bed Shepard started going through his pockets. Mordin watched quietly to see what the Commander was doing. He found what he was looking for in the batarian's leg pocket, a credit chit. Activating it he added ten thousand credits to the batarian's account, and then put the chit back.
"Not what I expected you to do." Mordin commented.
"You think I was going to take it?"
"No. expected you to leave, not to give him credits."
"He did save our lives." The Commander pointed out. The Salarian nodded his agreement.
"I know. I agree with what you did. Just need to know you better." Shepard let out a chuckle.
"You'll have plenty of time to do that, I can promise you that. Let's head back to the ship. Miranda will be wondering what's taking us so long."
"Yes. Must start work on collector tech. The field generated by the swarms
Salarian doctor mutter all the way back to the ship. With the ghost of a smile on the Commanders lips he started whistling the tune to another old song, 'high voltage'.
"Mordin! Jacob! Take care of all the mercs! I'm going to play tag with archangel." Shepard shouted in to his com pulling out his sniper rifle. After watching archangel for a good half hour he knew it was Garrus. Who else would find a building like this to snipe from with mad mercs gunning for him? It may have been two years but some things never change. Sometimes on shore leave he and Garrus would find a place where they could practice their sniping on each other. Of course they would triple check their shields before they went and they used 'rubber' ammo, more than enough for their shields to handle for at least six shots. Of all the times that he and Garrus hunted each other, Garrus had only won once. The Commander always shot Garrus in the same places. Two to the head, one to the scope. When he finished switching the ammo type he waited for Garrus to poke his head out. He watched his first shot ping off the shields around the turian's head. The Commander quickly changed his location. He knew Garrus was thinking one of two things right now, first that the mercs had finally sent a challange or was wondering why someone good enough to get a head shot on him would be using crappy ammo. Shepard squeezed the trigger, that's two. He could tell at this point that Garrus was getting frustrated with himself.
"Come on Garrus, I know you're thinking about coming out into the open to find the sniper." he muttered. Garrus did a quick scan of the area only to find Mordin and Jacob. He wasn't worried about them at the moment they only had pistols. The bigger threat was the sniper. He knew for a fact that the sniper was using 'rubber' ammo. He was sure that it was a trick to make him careless. He sighed; I'm not going anywhere, he thought, might as well use myself as bait to find the sniper. Taking a couple of deep breaths to steady himself, he stepped out into the open.
"Do I know you Garrus or do I know you?" the Commander laughed to himself. Taking aim he fired at Garrus's scope. Garrus looked at the mark the 'rubber' shot had left. Shepard shot the scope one more time for good measure. Hoping that Garrus was still on the same frequency he used the turian's catch phrase.
"Scoped and dropped!" The sniper rifle fell out of Garrus's numb fingers clattering to the floor below.
" Garrus whispered over the com. He stumbled back from the window. Jacob picked up the turian's sniper rifle and walked back to the Commander with it.
"This is a nice gun. Your friend has very good taste in guns." Jacob ran a hand along the length of the gun with the care of a mother for a child.
"Likely in shock from the news. May need to sedate him. Will get dose ready just in case." Mordin said behind the Commander. Shepard grabbed the rifle from Jacob just as Garrus came out of the building.
"The last person I expected to see in this life. Call me strange but for some reason I knew death could never hold you." Garrus commented as he walked up to the ex-dead man. Shepard held out the rifle.
"Now I know you're treating it bad just because I gave it to you." He joked.
"Only because I know you'll get be something bigger and better." Garrus said without missing a beat. Garrus grabbed the gun and Shepard pulled him in for a hug.
"You have no Idea how glad I am to see that you're still around." Garrus returned the hug.
"You have no idea," Garrus retorted. "I thought I lost my brother."
"Commander, I'm going to have to rethink everything. The people you work with don't ever react the way I expect." Mordin said. He took his eyes off of Garrus to look around. "Where are all the mercs?"
"My guess would be planning for an all out assault for me." Garrus answered. Jacob looked over his shoulder at the barricade they had jumped to find Garrus.
"Oh, you mean these mercs?" he lifted his hand so they all could see him activate the detonator in it. The ground started to shake as several explosions went off behind the barricade, in the rooms they had walked through. The last explosion they saw was on the barricade itself, creating a nice hole for them to get back to omega's main area.
"Let's watch this city burn
" Shepard started singing under his breath. Garrus looked at Jacob with wide eyes. Walking over he placed his hand on Jacob's shoulder.
"I like you already." He said watching the flames grow higher. The moment was short lived as an alarm on Garrus's omni-tool went off. Quickly typing a few holo keys he found the problem.
"About time they used their brains, though a few minutes too late." He remarked. "They breached the lower tunnels of the building. It'll take them a good fifteen minutes to get up here."
"Let's not be here when they do. Garrus you have cyro rounds?" The Commander asked turning toward the still flaming barricade. Garrus checked what he had left.
"Enough for about three heat sinks."
"Up front with me. Use one heat sink to put this fire out." Between the turian and the human they managed to bring the fire down to a passable size with well placed shots.
"Raaa! Kill them!" a group of vorcha started out of the building firing wildly.
"Time to go!" Jacob shouted to be heard above the gun fire. After all of them made it through the salarian doctor shot an incinerate in the hole effectively blocking it for a good seven minutes.
"Good job Mordin. I though you said fifteen minutes?" Shepard asked Garrus. Garrus just shrugged his shoulders.
"Vorcha, what do you expect?"
"Vorcha, not too smart. Rush into things without thinking. Can regenerate like a krogan. Hard to kill." Mordin added. Everyone nodded in agreement but Shepard. He remained quiet all the way to the Normandy's airlock.
"Stay on the ship." The Commander ordered Garrus, Mordin, and Jacob. "I have a few things I need to do."
"To do what? I thought we came here for these two." Jacob asked.
"First, he," Shepard pointed to Garrus. "Can't eat the same food as us. I know the food here isn't the best; it's just to hold off until we get to a better place. Second, I need to talk to Aria about a few things. I'll be back in twenty-four hours." Jacob shrugged and joined the other two in the airlock. On his way to afterlife the conversation they had on the way back to the Normandy nagged at the Commander. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind to replace it with what he was going to tell Aria. His plan was to report back to her what happened. He was sure that she already knew but he wanted to stay on her good side for future reference.
He had talked to Aria and It turned out she wanted to talk to him too. She wanted him to do a few favors for her. He did them not only to get in her good book but to do something he didn't have to think to hard about. When he refused the credits she offered him for the favors she thought he had a favor or two he wanted to keep for later. She made it clear that she wouldn't do any favors. The Commander just smiled and said ok as he walked back down the steps. Little did he know that his actions would change Aria in ways she didn't think possible.
After walking around what passed as a market on Omega, buying the food he needed, then ending it with helping a quarian, he noticed some vorcha that were standing by a corner. What Jacob, Mordin, and Garrus had talked about came back to the front of his mind again. He stood there watching them for a few minutes.
"Whatever you're thinking of doing with those vorcha, I'd advice agents it." A man said behind Shepard's shoulder. He came face to face with another human. He had grey hair but he looked like he could do some damage.
"Can I help you with something?" the Commander asked. The man grinned.
"Always helping out with something."
"Do I know you?"
"Not yet but you will. My name is Zaeed." A picture from one of the files flashed into Shepard's mind.
"Zaeed Massani?" Zaeed nodded.
"The gun for hire?" Zaeed nodded again. The Commander offered his hand which Zaeed took in a firm grip.
"Glad you found me. Welcome to the crew." Zaeed nodded and let go of his hand. Shepard turned back to watch the vorcha. He started humming another old classic 'Almost'.
"Like I said before, don't do it." Zaeed looked at the Commander's face. "Looks like you're going to do it anyway. What are you going to do with them?" Shepard pointed to the vorcha closest to the corner.
"I'm scouting out that one." Zaeed let out a huff.
"I'm going to ask him to join my crew."