Chapter 11 - Conspiracy
The apartment had become chaos - C-Sec teams picking over everything: the shotgun, the impacts, the Geth "blood". Bailey had been roaring blue murder when he'd arrived: one of his team bleeding out on the floor: it made no odds to him what species they were, just that they were wounded.
He'd faltered in the face of Shepard's dead eyed stare. He'd gotten the potted, edited version of events: hacked unit, still aware, code altered. Resisting. Shepard had asked they keep it quiet: no idea what other countermeasures there were - if whoever had sent her thought she'd failed, was there a remote wipe? What if they were listening?
Shepard had managed to disable the wireless comms traffic, so Delenne had been isolated. Bailey had brought in a med-tec team and instructed them to keep her to local networks only. As the wounded Geth had been gently lifted onto a gurney she had managed to reached out, her damaged limbs offering only restricted movement. Shepard had stood then and taken her hand.
"Thank you, Shepard Commander. For seeing me as more than a machine. I have managed to localise a cache of corrupted data…. it may prove useful."
He had felt her squeeze his hand, before the techs had wheeled her away. His omni tool had blipped with the received data almost instantaneously. He'd forwarded it to EDI immediately.
The rest of the team had arrived then. Shepard had sat, staring into the middled distance whilst Bailey argued with Kaidan over procedure, Liara paced, Garrus and Kasumi whispered and C-Sec swept. Vega had turned up and posted several marines unobtrusively around the complex. Surprisingly, they were being quite subtle.
After twenty minutes his omni tool had beeped. After quickly scanning the information Shepard had stood suddenly and turned to look at the arguing humans.
"We tell the media the bare minimum: shots fired, Geth officer down. No reports on my status. Yet."
Bailey looked about to argue but paused, "What're you thinking, Shepard?"
"We don't want to give the enemy absolutes. Word gets out Geth are shooting me? We'll have a riot. Me shooting Geth? The Council will ask questions. Say C-Sec believe the officer was wounded and is now "inactive", injuries sustained whilst interrupting an assault in my apartment complex. Keep an eye on her. Whoever compromised her may try to retrieve her. As for me… I'll stay here. Send a coroner vehicle round the block. That may distract people. We have a few hours grace."
Kaidan watched his boss carefully and nodded slowly, "Giving us time to do our thing."
"That usually means gunfire and explosions in the wards. Great," grumbled Bailey.
"No. This time we go subtle. The data Delenne sent me is a transmission signal. A couple of directed streams. So, we have two base stations - a transmitter which sent the signal and a monitoring station. Probably for failsafes."
He brought up the tool and opened a data pack. Kaidan squinted.
"Wait… that's outside the Citadel?"
"Yeah. EDI thinks a ship or something else in the nebula. Something the fleets aren't aware of or…" he grimaced, "one of the ships in the fleet. The signal has been bounced around but she's traced it to these co-ordinates."
Garrus leaned closer and gestured to the second signal.
"Warehouse in the wards. Most likely the base station. Probably a temporary base."
Bailey frowned, "Tricky - a tac-team'd be spotted. So many damn alleys and access routes down there. Especially with the construction."
"Then we go in quiet. Can you give me a couple of good guys?"
Garrus snorted and flexed his mandibles, "Don't be stupid Shepard. You're barely standing. And you said yourself - you don't want to tip them off. Kasumi and I can take this."
The thief rolled her eyes, "Oh, really. We can can we? Do I get a say?"
Garrus fluttered his mandibles and turned a look on her. She smiled softly, "Oh alright. But you have to give me a backrub at least afterwards," she nudged her husband, "As if I could say no to those eyes. Or you Shep."
"Guys, this could be dangerous. And you're on your honeymoon."
The pair of Vakarians exchanged a look. Garrus shrugged, "Well, we've mostly spent it testing her flexibility… trying out the new weapon mods should be a change of pace."
"Exactly. A little more sedate," Kasumi nudged Garrus again. Shepard blinked and shook his head.
"More vodka, please. Right. Still leaves the ship. Kaidan, I hate to ask."
"We can find it. Liara, Vega and I should have no issue."
"And Miranda can stay here and make sure our idiot Admiral doesn't go letting any more assassins in the front door."
Operative Lawson strode into the living room and fixed a stern glare at Shepard. Her catsuit practically creaked under her pose. Samantha Traynor was stood a little behind her, trying to divide her gaze between the vision that was Miranda and a worried look at Shepard. The Admiral grinned.
"I think my hangover cure works better."
Miranda smirked, "Slightly reduced risk of death with mine."
Shepard waggled his hand, palm down.
"Let's not go there Shepard," Traynor had practically gone beetroot, "We'll set up in here to co-ordinate. I can give the impression of distraught girlfriend for media types. Keep the opponents guessing."
Shepard nodded, "Right. Bailey, if you could lock this area down. I'd ask you to be ready to support if Garrus gets in trouble."
The human nodded. Shepard looked at his motley crew and gestured, both hands, towards the door, "Let's do this. Find out why someone wants me dead then. I'll field any calls from the Council, keep things quiet."
"And if it was one of them?"
"Then either I accuse all of them or pretend I'm a paranoiac who wasn't here. Hell, I'll make something up. It's the Council - they'll know I'm still alive."
"You pissed off the Dalatrass…."
"A rogue synthetic trying to kill me? Not subtle enough for Salarians - too many variables. Right, go, let me think. We need facts, people."
Kaidan hung back as the rest dispersed, "You haven't mentioned the Quarians."
"Why should I, Captain?"
"Because… well, the obvious."
"What should I think?"
"That Tali is an Admiral who fought the Geth above Rannoch and was there as their specialist. That she'd have given any countermeasures to the military, which would have then become standard issue? She was damn good."
Shepard nodded, "And I have to keep thinking that. Otherwise I might believe that my ex tried to kill me with a Geth."
Kaidan nodded, then cracked a weak smile, "Gotta admit, damn ironic way to go."
Shepard stared at him, then barked a laugh, "True. Go on, get out of here."
"Citadel control, this is SSV Normandy SR2, requesting permission to clear the dock for standard shakedown calibrations."
"SSV Normandy, this is Citadel control. Received. Please stay within markers - we've got unchecked debris out there. We don't need to add you to it with a collision."
"Received, will maintained beacon contact. Normandy Out."
Joker looked over his shoulder at Captain Alenko, grinning as he engage the thrusters, clearing the docking clamps in a smooth movement, "Like old times, eh Captain?"
"Not enough. At least the Commander would get the blame before."
EDI looked from her position in the co-pilot seat, "That does not seem conducive to a trust based hierarchy, which the military is predicated upon."
"Precisely EDI. Now everyone gets to blame me when it goes wrong. Get us to those co-ordinates. I've got a feeling we're looking for some of that debris."
"Aye aye Cap'n."
It was another warehouse district - clearly a repository for boxes. Garrus hugged the cover, adjusting himself carefully.
"Finding the armour a bit awkward?"
"Hey, I've spent most of the past couple of weeks out of it."
"And definitely in something more comfortable."
Kasumi glided past him and peered around the edge of a crate, before turning to drape her arms around his neck, "Charming, Mr Vakarian."
"I try, Mrs Vakarian."
They touched brows, then broke apart, eyes scanning the towering crates. Squatting, Kasumi brought up her omni tool.
"That's the place. No guards. None visible at least."
"None on thermal either. So, either hidden, or we're about to hit a load of hibernating mechs."
"Didn't we kill enough of those last time?"
Garrus fluttered his mandibles in chuckle, shaking his head, "Not going to tempt fate. So, let's scope it out. I'll take the high ground, get some overwatch. Get close… but not too close. Ok?"
"You worry too…"
His hand closed on hers, "No. I worry enough. I'd rather you weren't here but I know there's no talking you out of it. And there is no one I'd rather have around."
She smiled and sighed, "Why did I fall for the damn hero? C'mon Casanova. Let's get this done. They did the deed, I bet they've bugged out."
"Definitely not just debris!"
The Normandy swept up in a graceful arc, shifting around the wreckage of a former dreadnaught, tangled amidst the shattered corpse of a Reaper Destroyer. Beyond sat a squat construct: a small space station.
Kaidan, clad in armour and fully kitted with weaponry growled under his breath, "Seriously? How the hell is there a fully armed fortress here? How did no one notice?"
"Uh, no idea. Less talking, more evading the thanix cannons?!" grumbled Joker. Bright lances of searing metal flashed through space, narrowly missing the weaving vessel, "How the HELL does it have Thanix cannons?! That's my trick. Please, Captain, let me open up on them."
"No, we need to get on board. That place is obviously not up to any good."
Kaidan ignored him and strode back through CIC, bracing himself as the vessel weaved through the dense debris at the very edge of the Citadel control zone. He knew how that place had gotten there, or at least suspected: the Citadel had taken weeks to move. Plenty of time to setup an advanced station. The debris field was what remained of the Citadel defense fleet, which had been wiped out when the Reapers had arrived to retake the massive space station. It would've been childs play to set a station up, hidden amongst the wreckage. But to what end? He tapped his comm device.
"Liara, Vega, get the marines on the shuttles. We're going in hot. Joker, make some volleys at them. Aim to miss. We're going to use the debris field to get a boarding party in there. EDI, see if you can't scramble them."
"Understood Captain. They are using very advanced algorithms. They are familiar. Salarian, Quarian encoding. Geth modifications. I will do my best."
"That's all I ask."
Kaidan stepped out of the elevator and jogged to one of the shuttles. Liara pulled him on board.
"No, you stay here."
"As you would say, like hell I will. You may need my…"
"You aren't a tech. I'm a biotic as well. We have a squad of marines. I need you to oversee things here and keep in touch with Shepard."
"Kaidan I will not be ordered around…"
He kissed her. She blinked in surprise, "Liara, I will be back. I'd like to be able to ask you something when I do. So, please, let me do this. This is a combat situation, we can relay what we need. EDI can remote hack. But I need you here, safe… ish…. to understand what we're seeing objectively. Now. I need to go."
Liara had blushed and blinked then nodded and stepped off the shuttle. As the door hissed shut Vega's voice came over the comm.
"Damn, that was one hell of a proposal Brains."
"Brains. That the best you can do Vega?"
"Hey, I capped out at Scars. Good on you. The doc looks happy."
"Heh. Right, cut the chatter… let's ride the lightning."
The shuttles blasted out into the vacuum.
"'Bug out', riiiight. What did I tell you?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't realise tempting fate was a couples issue!"
Crack, "Another one down. How many you see?"
"Two mercs on the left, got me pinned. Three mecs coming your way.
Crack, "That's one merc on your left. I'm relocating, keeping you in sight."
Mercs. Always mercs. Probably just being paid to set up equipment and press the "on" button. Not easily traced, and expendable. Kasumi heard the pings of mass effect rounds against her cover and took the chance to activate her cloak. She sprinted from cover, the merc still trying to suppress where she had been. She ignored him and vaulted over into the cover of another pile of crates, giving excellent oversight of the three LOKI mechs trying to climb the cargo containers towards her husband.
She keyed her omni tool which transmitted an overload code to the middle-most mech. The humanoid droid spasmed and exploded, knocking the droid behind it off the container, where it smashed onto the plasteel floor. The furthermost droid she sighted with her pistol and cracked out two rounds into it's head. The machine shuddered and collapsed, exploding as soon as it had hit the floor. The mercenary nearby spun trying to identify her new position, but jerked as a round bisected his head. His corpse slumped to the floor.
"Nice play. Thanks for the cover."
"Likewise. Shall we take a peek at what they were guarding?"
She saw him emerge from cover and descend the crates. Even now, she couldn't help but admire his movement - birdlike, yes, but coiled like a predator. He was contrast. Gentle, yet sharp. A guardian angel.
"Not complaining. C'mon."
They advanced carefully into the warehouse, the external yard now clear. It had been tricky getting here, through a maze of docking ports, cargo bays and haphazardly stacked containers. This place looked a little better organised. The containers were neatly lined up against a side wall. There were smaller supply crates piled near the entrance. Garrus twitched and his eyes narrowed.
"This isn't a temporary base. This is a staging area."
Kasumi ducked down into cover with him and frowned, "What?"
"Look at the layout. Large kit and equipment over there: probably vehicles. Bulk supply. These boxes, near the middle and entrance: surplus supplies like ammo, weapons, armour. Ready to issue as people go out the door. Another warehouse probably is going to be used as a barracks. Up ahead, see there, where they've stacked those containers: dividers. What's guessing the HQ is there?"
Kasumi looked around, "Bit empty for a military post."
"Could have been used by Cerberus last time, now just being recycled by the mercs. Or C-sec during the defence."
"Yeah, not many guards."
"Tempting fate again."
"It's why you love me."
They advanced cautiously, using the larger container as cover. they could hear a voice now.
"We lost transmission an hour ago. The monitoring station has reported contacts as well - the Normandy."
"Well, to be expected. They're clutching at straws. He is no doubt dead. The threat eliminated."
"And you're sure she ordered this?"
"What does it matter. You work for me. I work with her. He would have become problematic. And this is a perfect test. You have the data?"
"Yes. Transmitted to the ship for her review."
"She will be here in a few days to oversee the final implementation. Have you got the connectors running?"
"As I said before, it is slow going. The Keepers try to undo the work, but we're getting good at stopping them."
"And your problem?"
"If they get past the outliers they won't be getting past us."
Garrus leaned out and took in the scene: a Turian was addressing a terminal - the voice was distorted, the screen obscured. The number of desks and terminals indicated an operations room - but why hadn't they bugged out? Surely they knew they'd been compromised? Had their guards been spread further out? Looking to ambush at the edges? Piss poor strategy.
There were other mercs: at least twelve, half of whom seemed to be playing cards. One stood atop the containers at the far end of the warehouse, sniper duty. The other fice were arrayed at the edges of the room. He leaned back.
Kasumi looked at him, arching an eyebrow, "We keeping score?"
"At least twelve. I can take the sniper. Probably drop another two. We'll need a flash-bang. Try to take the commander alive. And don't fry the terminal."
The shuttles hugged the wreckage whilst above the Normandy dived and slice with her own Thanix cannons. There was a blossom of flame from the station as a turret erupted. All the weapon systems of the structure were trying to track the fast moving frigate.
They closed in, keeping low against ragged metal and jutting Reaper. Then they broke into open space, rocketting forwards at full burn. The point defence towers opened up, but it was too late, the shuttles dived and spun. The station was small, just an outpost, so it wasn't bristling, like Omega. The Normandy had done her job.
They angled for the docking bay, the doors of which were sealed shut. A flash of burning metal from another attack run by the Normandy removed that issue. The twin shuttles roared into the breach.
Inside it was a mess of flame and wreckage. As the shuttle doors opened the marines piled out, slamming themselves into cover, avenger rifles trained on access doors and hatches. Kaidan bailed and signalled to Vega.
"Secure the LZ. Get up to their control tower and lock this place down. I'll take a squad to the bridge, find out what the hell's going on here."
The marine nodded and started ordering the squads. Six marines secured the hangar, barely fit to even be called that. Three more jogged to the access door that led to the raised control room. There was a brief retort of gunfire, followed by the comm message: "Clear. Blue Suns. Tango down."
Kaidan gestured for three marines to follow him. They approached the main hangar access. A marine placed a charge and backed off. After three seconds he triggered it and the squad swept into the bowels of the station.
"Shit shit shit."
"You ok?" Garrus ducked briefly as another burst of rounds clattered off their cover.
"Yeah just my shields. How about you?"
"The Armour's fine. We got six of them at least."
"I think I winged a seventh."
"Yeah, that was the commander." Kasumi just shrugged. Garrus chuckled.
"So, pinned. No high ground. We need to negate their numbers. Thank spirits they don't have a Krogan. Blue suns. Prejudices die hard."
He risked a glance and ducked back, then looked at Kasumi. She smiled and triggered her cloak. His optics tracked her as she practically vaulted up the larger crates. At the apex, she rolled into a prone position and then opened up with her SMG. The mercenaries fire faltered as they realised they'd been flanked. A burst of sparks followed by a shocked cry indicated an overload of someone's shields. Garrus popped up, sighted and squeezed the trigger. Another merc dropped. As he ducked back he saw a second man fall, clutching his neck.
"You haven't won yet you bastards!"
"What's the crazy asshole doing?" he heard his wife mutter.
"The commander, he just did something to a terminal. Self destruct?"
"Shit. I'll cover you, we need to get out."
"Oh hell. It's not a self destruct…."
He saw a container open across the room, one of the larger ones. He knew from the sounds that Kasumi could see a second one somewhere. In the shadows within, single, white optics began to light up.
Alenko spun through another corner, his squad methodically clearing the narrow rooms and access ways. This was the most simplistic of stations he'd ever been on, more a relay hub than anything. It remind him of the old Close Quarter Combat training they'd run through in basic. All prefab and featureless rooms. They'd passed several server rooms and an empty computer lab, but so far they'd encountered one surprised Blue Suns Batarian who had barely had a chance to swear. Several storage rooms had yielded nothing. Vega was holding firm, where the mercs had staged a counter assault, with only a squad strength.
Now they were at the bridge. The door here was a lot tougher. Three charges.
Kaidan stood back and counted down on his hand. As they reached one he flexed with his mind and pushed. The charges detonated and the biotic force he had added to the mix took the door into the room. The surprise was palpable from the Mercs inside. Gunfire errupted, but it was haphazard. Kaidan and his squad waited, then surged forwards, Alenko forming a barrier in front of him to deflect cover fire.
They moved in, taking cover behind the consoles near the door. After a few short moments, the bridge was secure, the station commander on his knees, hands in the air.
"We surrender! I demand amnesty!"
Kaidan frowned and commed Vega, "Bridge secured. How is it down there?"
"All green boss. Counter attack neutralised."
The Captain turned back to the station commander, "So, how about you explain what a load of mercs are doing aboard a military grade space station…."
The man smiled nervously, typical of human mercs when they realised the gig was up, "We're just a monitoring relay. Secure comms from a Citadel address. We just guard the computers. Got a suit rat somewhere who keeps tabs on things, makes sure we get paid. We get commed weekly by some woman, voice all distorted. Don't ask don't tell, y'know."
"So you're working, quite happily, in the dark for someone you don't know?"
"Hey, the pay's good."
"A shame you won't be alive to spend it. Really you get what you pay for."
The voice was distorted, modulated. It had an edge to it. Kaidan frowned. It had a tell tale modulation that screamed Quarian, "Who is this?"
"Someone you should not have underestimated, Captain Alenko. First Shepard, now you. Two Spectres in one day. Quite the little score I am racking up. This day is turning out very well. I think she will be pleased with the results."
"Not your concern. I will leave you in the capable hands of my associates. Please try to die in a dignified manner."
He heard the station comm go dead, just as his suit radio crackled to life.
"Boss we got hostiles. Four shuttles just hard landed down here. We got Geth and Loki mechs, as well as some mercs. Platoon strength, heavy fire. One wounded, no fatalities. We are doing a firing withdrawal to your position. We will try to hold the corridors. Plan boss?"
Kaidan tried the wide band to the Normandy, but cursed - the comm links were jammed; he hit his personal comm, "Hold position as best you can. We will come to you. We need to get to the shuttle bay for a hot evac. They seem to want this place intact."
He hoped EDI had the sense to realise it was an ambush. Outside, through the bridge viewport he could see movement which made his heart sink: a cruiser, camouflaged amongst the wreckage, moving into cover position. He looked at the prisoner, who had an expression of defiance and fear on his face.
"Knew they were coming?"
"We have contingencies… But they're using the Geth drones… those haven't been tested," he stopped abruptly. Kaidan smiled grimly.
"You're going to help. Get those turrets back online. Simmons, Rasheel, head to Vega's position, reinforce him. Janeson, you're with me, cover the prisoner. Let's light this puppy up."
Kasumi dived into cover, sliding to a halt against a container. Rounds pinged off of the crates and she swallowed air. Panting, she pinged her comm.
"Garrus… where are you? Garrus."
There was a loud retort, followed by the distinctive noise of a Geth having a serious problem. There was movement above her and garrus dropped down from a cargo container. His armour was scratched, but he looked otherwise unharmed. The Turian grunted with irritation and tossed his sniper rifle to one side, unholstering a pistol.
"Out of thermals. You ok?"
Kasumi smiled weakly and nodded. Garrus cursed, "Sorry about this, Kas. Not much of a honeymoon. Shouldn't have dragged y-"
Her fingers went to his mouth, "Shut up, idiot. We both owe Shepard. I chose this. Hell, without him I wouldn't have you…. so, less regret, more killing Geth."
Garrus risked a look around their cover, then glanced back at Kasumi, "There's something off. These geth aren't working smart. They're working like LOKI mechs."
"Yeah, no weapons either. Still the mercs out there?"
"Yeah, three left now, but a couple of the Geth have picked up weapons. A few more are heading for those crates we passed… they're learning slowly. But if we can work fast, they won't be able to catch up."
She sighed and popped over the cover, firing twice. Another Geth dropped, but there were at least twelve advancing slowly towards them. it was creepy - they lurched as much as walked, like zombies from an old vid. She ducked back with a frustrated hiss.
"The mercs are moving to flank us."
"Thought so. If we suppress and move right, we can get out the back. Then it's a fighting withdrawal through the containers. I'll comm Bailey, get us some support."
"Withdraw to where?"
"Anywhere away from fifty or so Geth?"
"Point… any more mercs?"
"Probably, but it's been light here. I think they pushed their guards out too far in the district. They were expecting heavy attacks, not infiltration. Cocky. Right, lets go. Make every round count."
They nodded to each other and rose, weapons brought to bear...
Shepard paced in the apartment. On the vid screen Councillor Victus watched him carefully.
"As I said, Admiral, I'm glad you're alive. but there's rumours about what happened. Some are saying you murdered…"
"Do you believe said rumours?"
"No. But you don't exactly have many friends on the Council. They'll take every advantage to disrupt what you achieved yesterday. A day is a long time in politics."
"The Asari must be bored as hell then. Well I'll tell you this much: someone is going to a lot of trouble. What happened here could have caused… problems for the whole Council."
"You rate your death quite highly."
"Seeing the state of the universe after you lot thought I was dead a second time? Seriously though… it's more the nature of the incident. Please inform the Council I will have a full report in two days."
"I'll try to mollify them. Esheel is being unusually quiet. That means STG probably have you under surveillance."
"Maybe. But whose STG?"
"There was another matter Shepard… the Spectres. Officially, your status, indeed the status of the whole organisation, is under review. We saw what happened with Saren and the Council feels that the risks and threat of the Spectres, particularly at this time, gives the organisation too much potential for abuse. Power grabbing. I admit I am on the fence. I can see the good, but we all know the history with the Salarians and the League of One. Saren. Tela Vasir. there are many variables where it can go wrong."
"True. And I would agree, Councillor."
Victus looked surprised, briefly, "Really? After yesterday I thought you would take full advantage. To keep the peace…"
"That's me. But what happens if I have a bad day? Or I do die. Will my replacement be the same? To what standard do we hold stability? Until the Council is unified and has such an idea, we Spectres are… dangerous. But we are also stability of a sort, recognised. I'm not sure of the answer to that Councillor."
"I think you are the answer Shepard. We need to… redesign the Council, the government. The Spectres, ironically, are the most famous aspect and probably the most likely to be judged by action. I think your opinion there would hold sway. I have put a motion towards the Council suggesting reformation of a number of areas, suggested structures and I have recommended you for the new post of Inquisitor."
Shepard flinched, his mouth twisting into a grimace, "Yeah that title isn't going to go down well. Not sure how well it translates for you, but inquisitors have a bad reputation in human culture."
Victus shrugged, "I will let you decide the rank. it is just an honorific. The Council would like your recommendations by the end of the week. And I thought you should know, in a sign of good faith, the Turian fleets have begun patrolling with the Asari. Outside of the nebula as well… trust is being rebuilt… we just needed a dose of reality."
"You had plenty of that, Councillor. But I'm glad you've all started to take notice of it. Good day."
The screen flickered off, but flashed to life again, revealing a monocular flashlight visage. Shepard blinked and frowned.
"I don't believe I accepted a call…?"
"Councillor Descartes, Admiral. A pleasure."
"Ah, Councillor. I apologise for not introducing myself to you yesterday."
"I understand. You had an urgent requirement to forget."
That was rather close to the bone. This one was either learning diplomacy still, or had a very good grasp of it, "Yes, indeed. What can I do for you Councillor."
"Explain. Why was a member of my species harmed and why was I not informed?"
Oh great. A geth with attitude, Shepard looked contrite and nodded slowly, "My apologies Councillor. We are still piecing together what happened. I did not want to start a panic or allow rumours to…"
"A panic. You assume that the Geth would riot? And rumours are already spreading. You are accustomed to the chains of command, you should ha-"
"I didn't want people to riot against the Geth. Councillor, I can understand your frustration. Most people would have killed her and not bothered to even call C-Sec. As I said yesterday, I am not going to go charging in to watch everything you have built to collapse."
The Geth on the other end of the vid link reared back, eye flaps raised in surprise.
"Yes. Her. is that an issue?"
"No. It removes all issues. I would have preferred alerting to this incident. But… we trust you, Admiral. I was remiss. I should have trust our Progenitor's faith in you."
"Legion was… a good friend. A surprising friend. You should be proud of him."
"Every day. We were... worried. This is new to us, still. I would like to see her."
"I will talk to Commander Bailey, set it up. We have to be careful… we believe she was compromised. I am still trying to find out by whom." He added quickly as he saw the Councillors occular widen, "And I will bring them to justice. I promise you."
The Geth nodded, "Thank you, Shepard Commander."
There was a commotion near the kitchen and Miranda entered. She looked frazzled.
"Shepard, we have a problem. The Normandy has lost comms with Kaidan and Vega. And Garrus and Kasumi are pinned down by Geth…" she trailed off as she saw the vid screen. Shepard kept his face neutral and looked at the Councillor.
"Are you aware of this, Councillor Descartes?"
"This is troubling. We have no runtimes engaged in active combat. No reports of distress."
"Then it looks like we're seeing round two. Councillor, I will be moving on this, please excuse me. I will report when I know more." He terminated the link and looked at Miranda, "Brief me."
She was suddenly all business, "Garrus and Kasumi are pinned in the warehouse district, total number of hostiles unknown. But considering the number of containers in the warehouse… a lot. Kaidan and Vega boarded an unidentified station but are now stranded," she consulted a datapad and huffed, "There's a cruiser class vessel, mercenary registration, engaging the Normandy, The debris is preventing a clean fight, otherwise the Normandy would be able to disable it. Several fighters as well."
"Commander Bailey is attempting to support Garrus, but C-sec have run into outliers in the warehousing district - probably sentries. There's a few outposts, plus gangs. They're bogged down. The Normandy cannot retrieve Kaidan - no shuttles, but they have prevented the Cruiser from reinforcing the station or from being able to take it out. I'll need to support one or the other Shepard, I'm sorry."
"We. And no we won't."
"What? I mean, I can get the Alliance to move in on one area… splitting the fleet may cause an issue with the other representatives, especially if they know Geth are involved."
"Exactly. So, let's keep this Spectre." he hit his comm. Two images popped up, revealing a surprised Kirrahe and a not-so surprised Jondum, "Gentlemen, I'm calling in a couple of favours. I need the help of the Free Salarian Task Groups."
Jondum grinned, "But that doesn't exist Admiral,"
"It better. Sending you co-ordinates. Get ships there now. One cruiser, disable it. The station, rescue and retrieval of my team. Get in quiet. You have twenty minutes. And Kirrahe, you're now an acting Spectre, should anyone question your orders. Refer them my way. Shepard out."
He looked at Miranda and limped past her, heading for the stairs.
"Shepard, what are you doing?"
"Saving my best friend."
"Help me or get out of the way Miranda. I have a spare kit set upstairs."
Miranda nodded and helped him to the bedroom. Inside he hit a button and part of the closet slid aside, revealing a veritable armoury. He smiled grimly, "If Delenne had attacked me in here, it'd be a different story…"
He tossed the cane aside and began strapping armour on. Miranda bound his knee up and pulled tight, eliciting a grunt of pain. "Shepard, you won't be able to…"
"Painkillers - I need the suit to keep administering them."
"Not now. You can criticise me for killing my liver later."
The armour went on, clipping into place, straps secured. Shepard pulled a helmet from a shelf and looked down at the metal face plate, then jammed it over his head. A pair of Carnifex pistols clamped to his thigh. A widow slapped against his back-plate mag lock, followed by a Mattock rifle. Finally an SMG, the Locust, thunked to his waist. He felt the pinpricks at his neck and then the warm sensation as his leg became a numb, blissful nothing. He turned.
"Sky car. Now. You're driving."