Fight for the Lost

Sins of the Father

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward Docks, Normandy SR-2

"Damn it," Miranda cursed.

"I was really hoping to be wrong," Chakwas said as both women reviewed the data from the scans.

Shepard put his shirt back on and sat up on his bed. He tried to ignore the bad feeling that settled in his gut. "What?"

"Your eezo nodules," Miranda explained succinctly. She was staring at the results intently and appeared completely absorbed on the data on the holo-monitor.

"What about them?" Shepard asked evenly.

Chakwas sighed and turned away from the holo-monitor to face him. She was trying to stay upbeat, obviously for his benefit. At the very least, her face didn't appear grave. Yet. "Comparing the information gathered from the Lazarus Project and the results of your tests now; several, if not most, of your nodules have… ah… grown."

"Grown… as in grown bigger?"

"There were two possible reasons why you would be getting more powerful. Either you were tapping into your element zero nodules much more efficiently, something that takes years to accomplish or there was something wrong with your nodules," Miranda answered distractedly. She appeared to be double-checking the results with an intense fervor.

"And in this case, it's the latter. It would explain why you've gotten more powerful despite the relatively short time you've awoken and began training in biotics," Chakwas continued. "Larger eezo nodules compensate for the lack of training and increased power output."

Shepard rubbed his face in agitation. "Fine. Bottom line it for me. What am I looking at?"

Miranda turned her chair around to address the question. "So far, we only have two points of data, the size of nodules during the Lazarus Project and now. Perhaps it isn't as bad as we think. Since you're using your biotics now, they've grown in response to the sudden stress. It's not uncommon when young biotics begin using their talents for the first time."

"Not this big," Chakwas disagreed. "His are well above any recorded growths from my research of the Ascension program's medical records."

"Perhaps age has something to do with it," Miranda theorized. "He started training and using his biotics at a much later age than any other human."

Chakwas shrugged. "Perhaps, but that's just speculation. We don't have enough information either way."

"So how bad is it?" Shepard asked again, this time with a hint of impatience.

"As Executive Lawson said, we only have two points of data. We'll need to conduct further tests to see if your growth is linear, exponential, or simply nothing at all," Chakwas answered. "Nothing is the best scenario. It means Executive Lawson is right, that your nodules just grew in response to the stress you've put them through since you've been exercising your biotics. They'll settle in, adjust, and adapt to your body naturally. The amount they grew is just an aberration, something to add to medical journals, really."

"And the other two scenarios?"

Chakwas sighed and rubbed her eyes. Her voice took on a more professional and clinical tone. "This is unexpected and possibly uncontrollable. It's important to find out immediately if the growth is constant and continuous. In short, the nodules will act like tumors. Unfortunately, since the eezo nodules are intertwined with your nervous system, we can expect several complications as the size increases."

"Like what?"

Her answer is simple and blunt, a gesture he actually appreciated. "Crippling phantom pains, paralysis… eventually death."

"And linear is the slowest, while exponential means I'm running out of time?" Shepard guessed.

"I'm afraid so. However, the rate of growth might also be near infinitesimal. It may be years, perhaps decades before they become problematic if that's the case," Chakwas optimistically said.

"Or they're fast growing and I'm on a timer," Shepard countered, looking at the other end of the spectrum.

Miranda looked worried, but tried to hide it behind a professional façade. "We'll keep a close eye. Don't worry, if there's any problem, we'll figure out some sort of treatment."

"Professor Solus is already researching the galactic medical databases for anything similar. Again, this is all a precaution," Chakwas reminded. "There's a doctor on the Citadel that's willing to provide some more specialized equipment to help us accurately map the rate of growth of your nodules, should they actually be growing. You, Garrus, and Tali have all met her, I believe. Doctor Chloe Michel?"

Shepard remembered the name. She was a pretty, red-headed human that wanted to help make a difference through her own little medical clinic. He and Garrus had formally joined forces at Dr. Michel's clinic when the former C-Sec Detective saved the doctor's life against Fist's thugs. Tali was even treated by her prior to their first meeting, possibly saving the young quarian's life.

"It'll be nice to see her again," said Shepard.

"She expressed the same sentiments for you, Garrus, and Tali as well," Chakwas replied.

"Docking procedures complete," Hawthorne reported throughout the ship.

"Right. Until we know for sure, I'm not going to worry about it," Shepard decided. He stood up and turned to Miranda. "Give everyone a few hours of leave to wander around or buy whatever they want. Restock on everything we need: food, ammo, etc." He turned to Chakwas next. "Let me know when Dr. Michel wants to meet. I have a few things to take care for the next few hours, maybe even a day."

"Of course, Captain."

"I'll contact you soon, Shepard."

As Shepard left the Med Bay, he felt Miranda subtly rub his hand reassuringly as he passed by and felt a little more optimistic about the sudden bombshell he received. Deciding that there was little point in wasting his time to dwell on something out of his control, he put his focus on events that he had some measure of influence over; namely, his mission and his friends and squad mates that asked for his help. He went to the 'loft' and put on a set of civilian clothes. Next was a trip to the armory to pick up his pistol and a rucksack to hide his assault rifle and armor case. The HMWP was easily concealed in a back holster at the three o'clock position.

After Jacob checked him off, he trekked to the airlock and met up with Thane and Garrus. They were unarmed. Garrus was shooting Thane figurative glances, as if trying to guess why he was there, but Thane stood patiently, waiting for Shepard to arrive. The both of them were subdued in their own ways and for their own reasons.

"Let's go," Shepard said.

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward Docks, Level 27, Citadel Security Precinct

"Further sightings of Shepard place him on Illium, Purgatory, Omega, Freedom's Progress, and most notably, Horizon, during the recent attack there. Council officials deny that Shepard is alive or that he is still working covertly as a Spectre."

The taxi ride was quiet, almost painfully so. Thane and Garrus were wrapped up in their own thoughts, though it was obvious that they were also confused at the other's presence, but maintained their peace. Shepard found that there was nothing he could say to break the silence and allowed it to linger. The situations he found himself in between the both of them were complicated enough anyway that there was little to say without making the issue or issues worse.

Finally arriving at the security checkpoint/precinct, where they would be able to enter the ward proper, Shepard disembarked first and made his way to the doors. He stopped and turned towards Garrus when he noticed the turian wasn't following.

Garrus was looking around with the same look of disappointment and disgust he had two years ago before he quit and joined Shepard's crew.

Even Thane looked contemplative as he observed his surroundings with a critical eye. "You would think that Citadel Security would be the tightest in the galaxy," he commented thoughtfully.

Garrus snorted derisively. "I know C-Sec too well to believe that's true."

"I see no fewer than 14 fatal flaws a skilled assassin could exploit. Eight of them existed when I was here ten years ago."

"I'll bet," Garrus replied as he finally fell in step. "I honestly thought it might be nice to come back here and see how it's changed. But it's just like it was. Same dirty streets, same unrepentant scavengers, same revolving-door prisons. Working in C-Sec was a terrible job."

The door opened to a hallway lined with scanners and a turian C-Sec officer at the end, very similar to the hall Shepard had stepped through when he was entering the Presidium to visit Anderson and the Council.

Knowing what was coming, he walked down the hallway and waited for the scanners to sound the alarm. However, when the lights ran over Shepard and his companions, nothing happened.

The C-Sec officer looked over the readouts and his eyes widened. "Oh, ah… Spectre?"

"Yeah?" Shepard acknowledged and asked.

"Right. One moment…" The officer put his hand to his ear and started talking to someone on his radio, but his voice was too low to make out.

"Is there a problem?" Shepard asked impatiently.

The turian looked up and shook his head. "No, sir. We were just hoping to flag you on your way in. My superior, Captain Bailey, wants to meet you. He heard that you might be coming through and wanted to catch you before you got lost in the crowds."

"Okay. So where can I find him?"

"Just through the door on the right. You can't miss him, Agent Shepard."

"Thanks," Shepard said before heading through the indicated doors.

Inside was the Zakera Ward Citadel Security Precinct. A loud, commanding voice was reprimanding another human officer to the left, near the interrogation rooms. The speaker was a stern looking human man. His subordinate was a human female that was staring at him wide-eyed and nodding rapidly at his orders and rhetorical questions.

"You'll have to make him scream a little. He's not going to tell you everything just 'cause you ask," he said gruffly.

"I-I know, sir."

"If you don't have the stomach or you're worried about being reported, I can take care of it."

This time, she shook her head in the negative. "No, sir! I can handle it!"

"Then get to it and get me some results!"

"Yes, sir!" She snapped off a salute and marched right back into the interrogation room.

The captain sighed before turning around and spotting Shepard and his entourage. "Ah, Spectre Shepard. I'm glad you have time to talk."

"Captain Bailey, I presume? I'm told you wanted to see me," Shepard said.

"I am and I do. I'm in charge of this precinct. Welcome to Zakera Ward," Bailey greeted, his current cordial tone at odds with his earlier harsh voice. He walked over to his desk and sat down. "I read about your career. Trouble follows you," he said before he held up his hands placatingly, "not that I'm getting on your ass about it. You get things done. I respect that." He looked around surreptitiously before lowering his voice. "If you're going after someone, tell me who. I'll get civilians out of the way and provide any information you need."

"Appreciate it," Shepard replied gratefully. "As a matter of fact, I'm here on business."

"What do you need?"

Garrus was the one that spoke up. "Fade," he growled out.

Bailey scowled. "Ah, yes. Him. Or her. Or whatever."

"Know anything?" Shepard asked.

"Not nearly as much as I'd like," Bailey replied. "He's been a thorn in the Network division's side for the last year. As far as we know, he works with the Blue Suns."

"Why haven't you been able to catch him?"

"Whoever he is, he's damned good at avoiding C-Sec. I think someone on the inside's feeding him information. Either that or he's got access to our databases and comm channels – I don't know which is worse." Bailey answered before shaking his head. He perked up a bit though. "But you're outside C-Sec, so maybe you can nail his ass."

"Don't worry, we will," Garrus said darkly.

"So what now?" Shepard asked him.

"I know someplace Fade's people work out of. I'll set up a meeting as a potential 'client' and call you when it's all ready," Garrus said. He glanced at Thane before turning back to Shepard. "I got to get in touch with a few contacts of my own anyway and secure a few things."

"Watch yourself. You already pissed off a merc group by yourself and looked what happened. Just wait for me," Shepard said.

"That was three merc groups and I had it under control."

"Sure you did."

Garrus shook his head and walked away. Within moments, he disappeared within crowds.

"So… something else you need, or can I get back to work?" Bailey asked.

~o~O~o~

Thane stood back and watched as Shepard handled the legalities of his request. Hopefully, Kolyat had yet to find any sort of work that would compromise his future. There was so much to consider now: What to do? What to say? What to reveal?

Those were questions Thane had never considered until now. In truth, with his limited time and less-than-respectable past, he had resigned himself to never seeing his son again as much as it pained him to admit.

Now the Goddesses saw fit to force them to confront one another. He found himself praying once again that he was quick enough to be there for Kolyat, to help or save him, whatever the circumstances may be.

"That shouldn't be a problem," Bailey said and shaking Thane from his reverie. He looked Thane from head to toe from his desk. "We don't get many drell here."

While Bailey searched through his reports, Thane felt his gaze return to where Garrus had left and found himself concerned about his fellow sniper. The look on the turian's face suggested that he was aiming to do something regretful. Thane knew that look well. It was a dark look that he himself had worn prior to committing the atrocities he was now seeking penance for. One of many reasons he had avoided Kolyat.

He never wanted his son to know that he sought the pain and suffering of others for Irikah's death. He knew his son would despise him for abandoning both he and his mother, but if Kolyat ever knew the truth of what he had done, such things would spur him to commit similar sins. In essence, it was the greater of two evils.

Not the best example to set one's child, he thought wryly to himself.

"Ah, here we are," Bailey announced. He looked unusually interested on the report in front of him. "One of my men reported a drell recently. And he was talking to Mouse. Interesting."

Mouse… Could it be…?

It was too much of a coincidence to think that the same Mouse that he used during his 'business' on the Citadel would be the same Mouse helping Kolyat. But how would Kolyat know to talk to Mouse?

"Mouse?" Shepard asked.

"A pretty criminal. Probably not the guy that hired your friend's boy. Most likely a messenger or facilitator at best," Bailey replied. "He's a former duct rat, runs errands for anyone who'll pay."

Again, Thane was reminded of a child that was one of his more effective sources of information when he worked on the Citadel. While Shepard questioned about the term 'duct rats' to Bailey, the door from the scanners opened, prompting Thane to glance at who was entering.

Tali had walked in and spotted both he and Shepard. She walked up behind her friend and waited for him to finish his conversation.

"And what sort of trouble has Mouse been getting himself into?" Shepard asked.

"Odd jobs for shifty people. Duct rats take whatever's available to get by. Data running, fencing stolen goods, selling illegal VI personalities." Bailey grinned all of a sudden. "Actually, he was selling one of you."

"Me?"

"Yeah. When you erased a file, it would say, 'I delete data like you on the way to real errors.'

"I would say that's pretty extreme if it wasn't true," Tali said with a hint of humor.

Shepard jerked and turned around. "Laugh it up, Tali," he muttered when he saw who it was.

"Didn't you actually say something like that to that warlord two years ago? What was his name – Dar-something?" Tali asked. "Whoever made this VI had you pegged."

"It's buggy though," Bailey added. "It crashed every half hour. The error message was about how the galaxy was at stake and you should fix the problem yourself."

"Definitely has you pegged," Tali observed before tilting her head thoughtfully. "Maybe I should get one. I bet I could fix it."

"Don't you dare," Shepard said.

Despite her mask, Thane could easily tell she was smiling. He decided to pull the conversation back on track. "Where can we find Mouse?"

"Upstairs, outside the Dark Star. He works out of a public comm terminal," Bailey helpfully informed. He turned to Tali and Shepard. "You two should pick up a copy of the 'Shepard VI' when you talk to him."

"I don't think so," Shepard muttered.

"I'll do that," Tali said at same time.

"Thank you for the information," Thane said courteously.

"Good luck. Sounds like your boy is running with the wrong crowd," Bailey commented.

"Yes. I agree," Thane replied neutrally.

"If Mouse can't get you in touch with your son directly, he'll know who can. I'll help you if you need it," Bailey promised.

"That's very kind of you," Thane said.

"Well, I've worked for Zakera for two years. Every day, kids turn to crime because they've got no other choice or worse, their parents don't care," Bailey said sympathetically. "You're trying to save yours. That's more than most."

"He faces a dark path," Thane simply said before nodding to Shepard.

"Thanks, Captain," Shepard said before leaving the station.

Tali followed closely. "What's going on?"

"Shepard is kind enough to help me with a personal issue," Thane said.

"Yes, I couldn't help but hear. Something about your son?" Tali asked curiously. "I didn't even know you had a son."

Neither man said anything more.

She seemed to realize that the problem was not one for casual discussion and dropped the issue. "Fine. I won't pry. I'm actually looking for Garrus. Where is he?"

Shepard shook his head. "He said he'll set up a meeting with a contact of an identity forger called Fade. He'll call when everything's ready."

"I want to come too," Tali demanded.

He nodded without hesitation. "I'm hoping that the both of us will be enough to help him out. I'll call you when I get the message."

Tali looked around and sighed when she gazed at the crowd of people. "Actually, I think I'll walk with you a bit. I want to meet this 'Mouse'."

Shepard glanced at Thane before shaking his head. "Tali-"

"I won't pry. I just want one of those VI's. I promise I'll leave afterwards."

"It's all right," Thane said. He didn't want to waste any more time and Shepard trusted Tali as one of his closest friends. It was enough for him.

Shepard glanced at him again before shrugging. "Let's go."

"You didn't tell him that Kolyat plans to assassinate someone," Thane whispered as they made their way to the Dark Star.

Shepard grinned. "I also didn't tell you him what you do for a living. Do you normally discuss assassinations with the police?" he whispered back.

"I take your point."

"We should hurry. I just hope Garrus doesn't call until we're finished."

He knew that Shepard was dividing his time and effort to assist the both of them. For this, his respect and admiration grew for the human and his willingness to help despite the suicide mission he was tasked with accomplishing. "Thank you, Shepard."

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward, Level 28

"Alliance officials have secured a valuable mining facility on Nonuel. The base had once belonged to a criminal warlord known only as 'Darius'. After Darius unexpectedly died two years ago, a number of factions tried and failed to claim the mining center."

"That was him: Darius," said Tali.

"I barely remember him," Shepard admitted nonchalantly. "In the end, just some guy with an overinflated ego, just like any other criminal. Didn't Wrex get the kill, though?"

"I think it was Chief Williams."

"Whatever."

Thane kept his eyes open for any sign of Mouse at the public extranet terminals. Unfortunately, two things worked against him. One was that as a criminal, Mouse would operate out of many public terminals, and they already struck out at the first one they arrived at. Second, it wouldn't be easy to identify him. Even if this was the same Mouse he knew, it had been years since he last saw him. No doubt, the boy would've grown into a man, probably changing his face or any other identifying marks to help avoid the law. At this point, Mouse would almost be a total stranger now.

"Hold on," Shepard suddenly said when the group was making their way to the next set of terminals.

Thane turned his head to where Shepard was looking but didn't see anyone of note. When he listened, it was then he honed in on what caught Shepard's attention.

"Yeah, yeah. I can get that. No problem."

Thane swiveled his head to locate the source. The owner of the voice was faint and it was hard to determine where he was.

"Well, okay. That might be more difficult."

The din of the thick crowds made it a challenge to narrow down the location, but Thane was used to tracking targets down in all manner of environments, urban most of all. He gently pushed and glided through the crowds.

"No, it's fine. I've got some quarians who can strip the copy protection. Just costs more."

Shepard and Tali followed closely in his wake.

"Yeah, I got the package. It'll be there. Don't worry."

Another set of terminals could be seen now. Slipping through the throng of civilians, Thane finally spotted the owner of the voice he was searching for.

"That won't happen. You can count on me. Yeah… Uh-huh. Oh, yeah, I know. I understand."

Thane easily recognized the man in front of him, even from behind. It appeared that Mouse didn't change as much as he thought. Mouse had yet to detect his presence, though considering Thane's affinity for stealth, it wasn't surprising.

Mouse was holding a holo-pad and talking to the terminal in front him. Judging from the tidbits of the conversation Thane had picked up, he was brokering a deal of some sort.

"Yeah, sure. I can get you two cases by the end of the day," Mouse said to his client, still completely unaware that Thane, and now Shepard and Tali, were standing right behind him.

Thane reached around and turned off the terminal.

Naturally, Mouse took offense to this. "Hey! What the hell do—oh, shit! Krios? ! I thought you retired!" he shouted. His anger changed to surprise in an instant.

Thane stood straight, hands clasped behind his back and waited for the other shoe to drop.

"Oh, shit! Commander Shepard? ! I thought you died!"

"You Mouse?" Shepard asked.

"Um…" Mouse looked around, probably wondering if he would be able to escape. "Why'd you wanna know?"

"He's Mouse," Tali said decisively. "No answer is enough of one."

Deciding that running would be fruitless against the Assassin and Spectre, Mouse sighed and backed up against the wall. "What do you want with me?"

Thane stepped forward and patted Mouse on the shoulder. "Be still, Mouse. You can change your pants in a moment."

"Wait a moment," Shepard said as he looked between the two men. "How do you know Thane?"

"Krios? He didn't—" Mouse looked to Thane for confirmation.

Thane bowed his head as the memories of their time together returned.

"Uh… Look, if he didn't say nothing, I ain't either," Mouse staunchly replied.

"When I heard the name, I didn't think it could be the same Mouse," Thane confessed. "He was a contact on the Citadel when I was active. He and some other children would gather information on my targets."

"You put children in danger just to spy for you?" Tali asked, horrified that Thane would do something like that.

"Children, the poor… My people's word for their kind is 'drala'fa': the ignored. They're everywhere, see everything. Yet they are never seen," Thane explained.

Before Tali could object further, Shepard took her by the arm and led her away and out of earshot. Taking advantage of her absence, Thane stepped closer to Mouse. "You gave another drell instructions for an assassination. Who's the target?"

"I… I don't know. I didn't ask," Mouse answered. Everything about his body language and tone of voice said that he was telling the truth. "The people I work for? They can make me disappear."

"Then who asked for the contract?" Thane asked.

"Oh, come on! I can't tell you that! I'd like to help you, Krios. You always done right by us, but I ain't gonna die for you."

A hand clapped down on Mouse's shoulder, startling him. "Look, you know Thane. He wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. Do it for him," Shepard implored.

Mouse swallowed. He couldn't meet their eyes anymore. "I want to. He was always nice to us. But these people ain't nice."

"Nobody's going to know you talked to us," Shepard assured.

"Mouse, I swear that you won't be named," Thane promised.

"All right, all right," Mouse finally said. "He came with that holo you took of me. Said he wanted a job. I ran through your old contacts to see who might give him a shot. The guy who offered was Elias Kelham."

"What can you tell me about him?" Thane asked.

"Human. Moved to the Citadel about ten years ago. He was little people when you were here, Krios," Mouse informed. "He got big after the geth attack. Lots of the big guys from before got cacked. All in them big fancy apartments on the Presidium."

"Power vacuum," Shepard surmised.

"Yeah. Now he runs the rackets on the lower end of the Ward. Shin Akiba. He's seriously bad news."

"The target might be a rival then," Shepard guessed.

"Perhaps. It would not be the first time I was called for such action," Thane said. "Thank you, Mouse."

He rubbed his arm nervously and looked around. "Yeah. Hope I live long enough to pat myself on the back."

"Kelham well never know," Thane assured.

"I hope not," Mouse muttered.

"He sounds like a two-bit criminal, Mouse. You really think he's a match for Thane or me?" Shepard asked confidently. "Just keep your head down and act like business as usual. We'll take care of everything."

"Yeah, I'll do that," Mouse replied before turning to Thane. "I'm out of here, Krios. Next time you're in town: Don't bring the family."

They watched as he walked away, only to be accosted by Tali. Unlike the low tones they were speaking at, she talked at normal volume, allowing both men to hear the conversation.

"I heard you were selling 'Shepard VI's'," she asked innocently.

Mouse's head jerked toward the man himself. "Oh, shit."

Shepard stared stonily at Tali.

"You heard—Look, you were dead! It was totally legal to make a VI of you!" Mouse said in his defense.

"Relax, Mouse. He won't bite. I was wondering if I could have a copy?" Tali requested. She grabbed his arm and pulled him away to help him avoid Shepard's glare.

"I swear…" Shepard grumbled to himself before walking back toward the stairs to Level 27.

Despite his amusement, Thane couldn't muster the ability to smile. If Kolyat had accepted the contract, then time was truly against them. Without the proper training, it was unlikely that Kolyat would exercise patience or possess the finesse necessary to kill his target without alerting C-Sec. To kill a man and walk the path of sin was one concern, one that weighed heavily on Thane's mind, but now… If he survived the encounter, it would mean his arrest and imprisonment. If he didn't…

I failed you, Siha. I cannot afford to fail our son.

"Thane?"

Shepard's voice shook him out of his worried thoughts. "Yes?"

"I asked if you were all right. With Mouse, I mean."

"Mouse knew about my life than Kolyat ever did," Thane admitted painfully. Unbidden, the memories rushed forth. / "He smiles up at me, broken teeth and scabby knees. Bare feet black. A dead-end future looking up at me. Worshipping the petty gifts I offer." /

Shepard waited patiently for his episode to end as they made their way to the C-Sec precinct.

"I was the only good thing he had, back then," Thane said, continuing as if he hadn't paused. "But I left him, as I left Kolyat."

"Mouse said you had a holo of him."

"Yes. A foolish bit of sentimentality. I can perfectly recall every moment I spent with Mouse." Another rush memories assaulted him. / "He pulls at my arm. Smiles. He wants to know that I'll remember him. That anyone will remember him. I take the holo. He smiles at himself in miniature on my palm. Then a frown crinkles his brow. He pats my pockets, checking for other holos. 'Where's your son, Krios?' he asks." /

"Don't blame yourself," Shepard said consolingly.

Thane smiled thinly. He knew Shepard was only trying to cheer him up, but there was only one person to blame. He had long accepted this fact. For Mouse, for Kolyat…

For you, Siha.

"If I don't, who will?" he asked rhetorically. If there was one man that would understand, it was Shepard. "We must carry the weight of our decisions, Shepard. You, of all people, know this."

Against this, Shepard said nothing more.

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward, Level 27, Citadel Security Precinct

"Charles Saracino, leader of the Terra Firma Party, and former Alliance Parliament candidate, has pled guilty to tax evasion. He is in custody pending sentencing."

"You're back. Did you talk to Mouse? And the name of the guy he's working with?" Bailey asked when they came back to the precinct.

"Elias Kelham," Shepard revealed.

Thane had a bad feeling when he saw Bailey's face lose its helpful look and took on an expression more suited for a man that knew he was trapped between a rock and a hard place.

"Kelham. Shit."

"A problem," Thane said. It wasn't a question.

"Ah, look, this is awkward." Bailey looked around to see if anyone was listening to their conversation. "Kelham and I have a—an agreement. He doesn't cause too much trouble and buys tickets to the 'C-Sec Charity Ball' from me," he explained, miming quotation marks to accentuate his point. "In return… I ignore him."

"Well…" Shepard said before shaking his head. "Actually, you're not the worst C-Sec detective I know. Look, I'm not going to give you grief about how you work or how you run your precinct, especially since you've been helping us so far. What I want to know is: are you going to keep helping us?"

"Yeah, I'll help. Absolutely," Bailey readily said. "I'll get some of my people to bring him in and set him up in a private room. You can interrogate him yourself."

"Thanks."

"I'll stay out of sight. If I'm lucky, Kelham will believe I had nothing to do with it."

"Bring him in then," Shepard said. "We might not have much time."

"I'll make it happen," Bailey promised. "Wait here."

There was small flurry of activity around the station after that. Thane found a shadowy corner that was relatively peaceful and stayed out of the way. In a forum like this, he was well out of his element. Unfortunately, by himself, he knew he wouldn't be able to find Kolyat in time. And now, with the knowledge that Kolyat had just accepted a job, the law will no doubt be involved. He found himself thanking Arashu for bringing Shepard into his life. Now Kolyat's life was in the Spectre's hands. All he could do was provide whatever assistance he could. And pray that he is granted the opportunity to make amends with his son.

"Thane?"

The Assassin opened his eyes to see Shepard looking concerned.

"Yes?" Thane asked.

"You alright?"

"Just worried."

Shepard nodded understandingly. "Perfectly normal."

"When Kelham gets here, we should question him together. Keep the pressure on. Thoughts on how we approach it?" Thane asked.

"I'll just introduce myself. Kelham's counting on Bailey to protect him. While that might work on the rank-and-file C-Sec officer, being a Spectre carries a certain weight," Shepard replied. "Other than that, I plan to improvise. No plan survives contact with the enemy, anyway."

Thane nodded. "I suppose that's true. I won't interfere, then." He turned his head to peer over Shepard's shoulder. A man, probably Kelham, was shouting about unlawful arrest and how he'll sue or some such nonsense. "Are you worried about his advocate?"

"No," came the simple reply. "Don't worry so much. I know what I'm doing."

Bailey walked up to them. "He's in interrogation room five, all ready for you. He'll expect me to get him out of this," he warned.

"Not today, I think," Thane said with a small smile.

"Let's go," Shepard said. His face took on a dark look as made his way to the room Kelham was held in.

"Shit," Bailey suddenly said. "Looks like Kelham's lawyer is already here. I'll stall-"

"Doesn't matter. Let him come. I'll be done in five minutes," Shepard called out before going down the hall.

"I place my faith in you, Shepard," Thane whispered before they walked into the room.

As does Kolyat.

Inside the interrogation room, Elias Kelham was secured to a chair that was bolted to the center of the room. Thick metal rings encircled his wrists and ankles, preventing any chance of movement, let alone escape. In all likelihood, Thane suspected that this was a chair reserved for the interrogation of krogan suspects, rather than any other sapient species.

"Get me out of these restraints, Bailey. Pretty funny, bringing me here like this—" he started to say before noticing who it was. "Who the hell are you two?"

Shepard stalked forward aggressively and stood imposingly over Kelham. "You ordered a hit. I want the name."

"The only person I'm talking to is my advocate," Kelham spat out.

"You don't get one. You only get once chance before I send you out in body bag."

"Who the fuck do you think you are, you little shit?" Kelham growled out, clearly unimpressed with Shepard's presence. He obviously thought C-Sec would protect him.

"Council Spectre."

Now the blood drained from his face. "Prove it," he defiantly said.

"Y'know, I was kind of hoping you would say that," Shepard stated in a conversational tone. He calmly drew his pistol and put a round Kelham's leg.

Ignoring Kelham's scream, Thane glanced at the wound and noted it was placed perfectly in a non-lethal area.

"Relax. The round didn't hit bone or the femoral artery. You'll live." Shepard pressed the barrel against Kelham's chest next. "Unless you lie to me."

The door opened at that moment, revealing Kelham's lawyer. "What the hell is going on here? ! I heard gunfire!"

Shepard didn't even turn around.

"I don't know who you are, but step away from my client. I swear, you'll need a shovel the size of the Citadel—"

The lawyer's tirade was cut off when Shepard turned around, pistol still in hand. He reached out with his free hand and grabbed the man by his lapels and hauled him closer until they were almost nose-to-nose.

Thane didn't blame the lawyer's sudden inability to speak. The human's glare was enough that it felt as if the room had dropped a few degrees.

"Spectre business. Walk away. Now."

"This is—"

"Perfectly legal? Yes, it is."

"I-I'll contest this. I'll take it all the way to the Council."

"Right after they read my report that your 'client' ordered a hit on the Citadel, the seat of the Council. Let me know how that goes," Shepard said derisively and called his bluff. When the lawyer fell silent, he scoffed and threw the man back toward the wall.

The lawyer staggered, but managed to remain upright. He visibly swallowed and stared at the pistol in Shepard's hand. "Shit…"

"Freddy?" Kelham gasped out through the pain coming from his leg. He tried to turn his head but couldn't get a good angle to see what was going on.

"Spectres can do whatever they want, Elias. I can't help you."

"What? Seriously?"

Satisfied that there would be no more interruptions, Shepard turned back to Kelham. "What he means is that I could kill you and your idiot attorney and walk right out the door."

"You're insane!" the lawyer shouted.

Thane walked around the bound prisoner and adjusted his collar of his coat. "The law only protects if everyone agrees to be bound by it. We don't."

"Name. Now. Or I'll cut your balls off and sell them to a krogan," Shepard growled. He pressed the barrel of his weapon on Kelham's leg wound roughly.

Kelham screamed again. "Ah! Joram! Joram Talid!"

Shepard eased up. "Who's he?"

"Turian! Running for Intendant of Zakera Ward!"

"Where can we find him?"

"His apartment is in the 800 blocks!"

Shepard holstered his pistol and nodded. "Good. Piece of advice: Don't cause any more trouble. You're a problem below my pay grade, but if I hear your name again, I'm gonna be annoyed. That means you're gonna need more than a lawyer to stop me, then."

"That might not be the shortest interrogation ever, but I cannot deny its effectiveness," Thane whispered after they left the room.

"I thought it was pretty quick. It would've been quicker if it wasn't for that lawyer," Shepard muttered. "Can we get a medic in interrogation room five?" he asked to a passing C-Sec officer. "Suspect got out of hand."

"Was such actions necessary?" Thane asked as they made their way to the main room of the precinct.

"Probably. Kelham was arrested by C-Sec, brought into a C-Sec precinct, and tossed into a C-Sec interrogation room. I doubt he'll take my word at face value seeing as he's bribing C-Sec officers. He'll think I was bluffing or something. To save time, I had to establish my presence to force cooperation. He opened the door when he asked me to prove myself. If I didn't do anything, well… it was unpleasant, but we got what we needed."

They met up with Bailey in the foyer. He was off to the side and trying to keep out of sight of Kelham and his lawyer. "What's the story? Why'd Kelham hire the boy?"

"Assassination," Shepard said without preamble. "A turian named Joram Talid. You know him?"

Bailey brow furrowed at the name. "Joram? Yeah. You might have seen his posters around. He's promising to end organized crime on the ward."

"That would explain why Kelham ordered a hit," Thane said.

"Oh, it gets better. His message is all mixed up in race politics. He's anti-human," Bailey said.

Shepard looked around the C-Sec office and at the majority of humans working. "Are things so bad that people can openly campaign as anti-human?"

"Before the Battle of the Citadel, the alien population thought we were violent upstarts, remember?" Bailey explained before shaking his head and gesturing to the C-Sec officers around them and through the window. "Look what's happened since then. A human fleet guarding the station for months. C-Sec filled with humans."

"A human on the Council?" Shepard added.

"Anderson does what he can, but some people have lived on the station since before humans had starships. They see it as a coup."

"And now we have to save a human-hating politician. Happy times," Shepard sarcastically said.

"Yeah, I can see the irony, too," Bailey agreed.

"Still, we're the good guys, so we need to stop the assassination anyway. Can you get us to the 800 blocks?" Shepard asked.

Bailey nodded and looked around. He spotted a C-Sec officer and whistled sharply, getting her attention. "Sergeant! Get a patrol car! These two need to get to the 800 blocks!"

She snapped off a salute. "Yes, sir!"

"I hope we're in time," Shepard said.

"As do I," Thane replied. He sighed and adjusted his coat to ward off the sudden chill generated from his worry.

As do I.

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Shin Akiba Ward, 800 Blocks

"The turian government is considering further reparations to humans whose ancestors died in the Relay 314 Incident at Shanxi. The turian government previously made reparations for what humans call the 'First Contact War' but refused to pay interest. The Turian Hierarchy has supported improved relations with humanity since the Alliance's heroic sacrifice defending the Citadel from Saren's attack two years ago."

"It's been wonderful talking to you all. I hope you'll come out on election day," Joram Talid said. He was glad handing several people, none of which were human, and speaking his anti-human rhetoric.

"There he is," Shepard said.

Thane nodded absently. He took the time to memorize everything he could about Kolyat's target, almost as if it were his own. Clothes, height, unarmed, escort, best place for assassination…

"You can count on it!"

"Show the humans they won't get their way!"

"How do you want to play this?" Shepard asked.

"Ha! Thanks. Just remember, it's not all about the humans. They couldn't have gained this much power without the Council's support."

"Were it me, the best place would be his apartment, when he's alone. Unfortunately, I don't know how much training, if any, Kolyat has undergone," Thane replied.

"Taking back our ward is only the first step. We must remove the cowards and appeasers on the Council. This doesn't stop here. I won't rest until the humans have been removed from power!"

"Then one of us will need to keep an eye on him and the other will need to scout the area ahead, all the way back to his apartment. Hopefully, we'll find Kolyat before he does something drastic," Shepard suggested.

"Other races wait patiently for hundreds or thousands of years to earn an embassy. Do the humans? No!"

Thane looked up and saw a network of catwalks the keepers and Citadel engineers used for their duties. "Follow Talid on the maintenance catwalks. Tell me what he's doing. The krogan bodyguard will make him easy to follow."

"They win one battle and think they're owed a Council seat. My people won a krogan war before we asked for that honor!"

"Where will you be?" Shepard asked. He adjusted the bag on his back.

"The darkest corner with the best view," Thane simply said.

When Shepard left for the catwalks, Thane glanced at Talid one last time to ensure everything about his target was committed to memory before taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. Clasping his hands together, he focused his mind, body, and soul at the task at hand. For once, the person he was hunting would not be slain, but protected.

"Humans think anything ten years old is obsolete. Worthless. How can they contribute to a 2000-year-old government?"

In his earliest years, he often fell into his battle sleep, using his ingrained reflexes as a weapon for his clients. When Irikah was taken from him, he chose to utilize his talents to make the guilty pay. But now, he could not afford to use that mindset. He needed to be aware, to focus at the real goal.

Kolyat.

His body was trained to be a weapon, so he could no longer trust that instinct anymore. Instead, he needed to consciously command his skills, rather than give in to them. The only time he had ever done so was under Shepard's command.

Perhaps that is why I would have him here with me.

"Amonkira. Lord of Hunters. Grant that my hands be steady, my aim be true, and my feet swift." He opened his eyes and disappeared into the crowd, just as he was taught a lifetime ago.

And should the worst come to pass, grant me forgiveness.

~o~O~o~

"I'm on him, Thane. He's talking to some voters."

"Understood," Thane replied. He drifted with the crowd into the next likely area Talid would probably head toward en route to his apartment. Pausing at a junction, he waited patiently for Talid to arrive before moving ahead again.

"You're in position?"

"Yes."

Thane scanned the people while blending among them, an invisible blade in the crowd. It was different now. Being aware of his actions, every breath he took, every step he made; the last time he felt like this was when he was first receiving training from the hanar, years ago.

Returning to the basics. I suppose this is what human's refer as 'going full circle' in one's life.

Satisfied that Kolyat wasn't in the immediate area, he continued making his way toward Talid's apartment slowly, staying ahead of the politician and trusting Shepard to keep his presence discreet. So far, Talid was acting his role as predicted, shaking hands and talking to potential voters. The only thing of note was the hypocrisy of Talid's 'business' practices, hardly any different from Kelham's.

So the contract isn't just to remove a potential anti-human politician, but a 'business' rival as well.

Despite the obvious shakedown of human establishments, Shepard maintained his peace and followed Talid, giving reports and remaining focused on the task at hand.

For this, Thane was thankful that Shepard exercised his restraint. He had seen the look of disgust on the Spectre's face when Talid was spewing his nonsense for his political agenda. He could image the anger Shepard had at watching the crimes in progress, but not being able to stop it.

So far, all seemed quiet. Thane began worrying that Kolyat would not execute the job today. That would mean that a more constant watch would be necessary. Over Talid, his apartment, any rallies he might attend… Without knowing when Kolyat might strike, there was nothing he could do.

Moving through a club toward the other exit, Thane idly noted a dancing turian, obviously quite drunk if he was willing to step out to the dance floor. In all his travels, he couldn't ever remember, even with his eidetic memory, seeing anything like it. Shaking his head, he forced the image out of his head, refocused, and moved on.

"Thane, it looks like Talid's meeting a couple of mercenaries. Blood Pack, same group as his bodyguard."

Thane ghosted through the shadows of the darkened club to take a look. "He looks nervous. Could be he noticed you."

"No… he's talking about how he getting the feeling someone's watching him. That's either you, me, or Kolyat."

"Also a possibility," Thane allowed. He looked around and noted that they were nearing Talid's apartment now, but no sign of Kolyat yet. "There are obstructions ahead. I'll try to go around. Don't lose him."

"Damn it. Next area ahead is a storage room or something. I'm going to lose him too."

Instantly, Thane realized where Kolyat might strike. The area ahead would also provide ample opportunity for assassination without any prying eyes and the music from the club would mask the sound. Thane quickly picked his way through and searched every dark corner he could before Talid and his escort could show up. "Shepard, this area might be where K—"

"Hey! Who are you? What are you doing back here? !" The voice sounded young.

"What am I doing here? What are you doing here? !" Shepard asked in return.

"Shepard?"Thane called out.

"What?" the boy asked in confusion.

"Do you have any idea how dangerous it is in here? !" Shepard said with a hint of panic.

"Dangerous?"

"Get out of here! Now! Before it blows!"

"Blow? ! What the—? !"

"Run!"

"Alright! I'm going! I'm going!"

"Shepard?" Thane called again.

"Just some stockroom kid," Shepard replied before chuckling to himself. "I can't believe that actually worked."

Thane finished his search, but found no trace of his son. He took a breath to calm his sense of frustration and worry. "Any sign of Kolyat?"

"Hold on, I'm almost out of here—Wait a minute…" Shepard trailed off, giving Thane a sense of apprehension. "Kolyat!"

Thane rushed around the bend and saw Kolyat take down the krogan bodyguard. Talid ran for his apartment, with Kolyat still in pursuit.

"Thane!" Shepard shouted as he leapt from the catwalks to a balcony and then to ground level.

"I saw!" Thane shouted back as both men gave chase.

Shepard paused at the door and drew his pistol before entering.

Thane followed closely, still unarmed. Even if he managed to sneak a weapon through C-Sec's checkpoints, he would never draw it against his own flesh and blood. Irikah's flesh and blood.

Inside, Talid was on his knees, facing them. Kolyat had the pistol Thane had left for him pointed at the back of his target's head. Sirens could be heard as C-Sec responded to the emergency.

"Kolyat," Thane whispered.

"This—this is a joke. Now? Now you show up?" Kolyat snarled.

"Help me, drell! I'll do whatever you want!" Talid begged.

"C-Sec. Put the gun down, son," Bailey ordered. He and another turian had their weapons drawn and ready. The darkened apartment lit up with the lights from the C-Sec patrol cars just outside.

"Get out my way. I'm walking out and he's coming with me," Kolyat demanded. He jabbed the barrel of his pistol into the back of Talid's head.

"They'll have snipers outside," Thane said, trying to reason with his wayward son.

"I don't need your help!" Kolyat shouted.

Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot broke the impasse. The lamp next to Kolyat shattered, causing him to instinctively raise his arm up to protect his face.

"What the hell!" he yelled out in surprise.

In a flash, Shepard closed the distance, grabbed the pistol with his left and punched Kolyat in the face with his right. As Kolyat staggered back, Shepard grabbed the back of Talid's shirt and dragged him away before roughly pushing him toward Bailey and the other C-Sec officer. "Get the hell out of here," Shepard ordered.

"Y-Yeah…" Talid stammered from the floor. Another C-Sec officer picked up Talid and pulled him to safety.

Bailey and his subordinate lowered their weapons. "Take the boy into custody," Bailey ordered.

"You son of a bitch!" Kolyat shouted. He rubbed his face and backed away, looking like a man that knew he was trapped with nowhere to run.

"Easy, Kolyat. We're here to help you. This isn't something you want to do," Shepard said.

"I read his files!" Kolyat pointed an accusing finger at his father. "What made it all right for him to kill all those years? !"

"I was six when the hanar began to train me. I didn't know any better," Thane explained. He took several steps closer to his son.

"Your father is dying. Kepral's Syndrome. He doesn't have much time left," Shepard revealed.

Thane bowed his head. It was an ugly truth that he no longer had much time to spend with Kolyat, but was a truth he deserved to know.

"What, so you came to get my forgiveness? So you can die in peace or something?" Kolyat spat out.

"I came to grant you peace," Thane corrected gently. He stepped closer until he was in arm's reach. "You're angry because I wasn't there when your mother died."

"You weren't there when she was alive!" Kolyat retorted. "Why should you be there when she died?"

"Your mother—" Thane tried to say before swallowing. He had to force back the memories to prevent his solipsism from interfering. He needed to find his own words to properly explain it all. "They killed her to get to me. It was my fault."

Thane's admission caught Kolyat off-guard, as if he was expecting excuses or pardons. "What?"

"After her body was given to the deep, I went to find them. The trigger men. The ringleaders," Thane whispered. He bowed his head. "I hurt them. Eventually killed them. When I went back to see you, you were… older. I should have stayed with you."

"I-I guess it's too bad you waited so long, huh?" Kolyat replied. He tried to sound angry or defiant, but it came out sounding regretful or mournful.

"Koylat…" Thane said before raising his head to meet his son's eyes pleadingly. "I've taken many bad things out of the world. You're the only good thing I ever added to it."

Kolyat couldn't meet his eyes anymore and turned away. As much as he tried, the tears came out anyway.

Bailey stepped forward until he was within sight of Thane. "This isn't a conversation you should have in front of strangers," he said before turning to his men. "Boys, take Kolyat and his father back to the precinct. Give them a room and as much time as they need."

Thane felt an immense gratitude toward him. He turned back to Kolyat and placed a hand on his shoulder. He felt a few tears of his own leave his eyes and roll down his cheeks.

"Thank you for this," Shepard said gratefully. "Though I'm surprised you're letting them do that."

"You think he's the only man who ever screwed up raising a son?" Bailey asked.

Thane didn't know if Bailey was being sympathetic or if there was something personal about this moment that touched him as well.

"Let's go. I'll give you a lift," Bailey offered.

As they entered the cars and prepared to make their way back to Zakera Ward, Thane clasped his hands once more.

Thank you, merciful Arashu, for blessing my son with your grace, and to grant me this friendship with one of your guardians.

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward, Level 27, Citadel Security Precinct

"Later today, we interview Councilor Anderson. The tireless former soldier had put down his guns to build bridges with numerous trade treaties. Tune in and find out what the man behind Commander Shepard's rise to fame thinks is the greatest threat to intergalactic stability."

Their first real talk in over decade was about as expected: Uncomfortable, awkward, and emotionally trying. Kolyat had wanted to talk about the details about his mother and the circumstances surrounding her death, Thane wanted to find out how Kolyat knew about his life and why he did what he did. Several times, Kolyat threatened to lose his temper, but calmed down at the last moment and tried again. Even Thane's unwavering patience was tested more than once.

It was naïve to believe that their problems would be fixed in one afternoon, but there was hope that the bridge they tentatively built together would not be burned.

Through it all though, Thane worried about what legal actions would be taken. Shepard had kept his distance, allowing Thane his space and privacy, but now he longed to know if the Spectre would be able to do anything.

We've come this far. I hope that Shepard can take it a little further.

Kolyat had fallen silent. They both did. After two hours, there was nothing more to talk about for the time being. They needed to absorb, assimilate the day's events. Thane clutched Kolyat's shoulder once more, but felt that any more physical gestures were too much, for now.

He stepped out of the conference room and spotted Shepard speaking to Bailey in low tones. He silently walked closer and discreetly eavesdropped on the conversation.

"I've watched those guys shaking down businesses and threatening humans," Shepard said.

"But he can't just get away with it," Bailey argued.

"The kid wants to make a difference. Give him community service," Shepard suggested.

"Community service for attempted murder?" Bailey asked skeptically. "What jury would agree to that?"

"None that I've seen. This would need to stay out of the judiciary. Strictly within C-Sec."

"And Joram Talid? He's not going to take this lying down."

Shepard smirked. "I had a 'chat' with him. He learned that committing crimes in front of a Spectre is a really bad idea. If he pursues any legal action against Kolyat, I'll pursue 'legal' action against him. Believe me; whatever C-Sec does to Kolyat, I can do worse to him."

Bailey shook his head. "Something tells me that I don't want to know."

"Better that way, I think."

"Alright, I'll think about it," Bailey said before noticing Thane's presence. "Oh. How'd it go with your boy?"

Thane stepped forward and nodded gratefully to the C-Sec Captain. "Our problems… they aren't something I can fix with a few words. We'll keep talking, see what happens."

"Well, your boy shot some people. No one I feel sympathy for, but there it is. Agent Shepard and I were discussing alterative punishments. He'll need to do something, make up for what he's done, but it won't be too serious," Bailey assured.

"Thank you, Captain," Thane said with barely disguised relief. He reached out and shook Bailey's hand.

"Yeah. No problem. I'll look after him, you have my word on that," Bailey said. He shook Thane's hand to seal the deal.

Thane turned to Shepard and tried to offer his gratitude, but the words felt inadequate.

Shepard reached out and shook Thane's hand as well. "You're welcome, Thane," he said knowingly.

Thane allowed a genuine smile to creep across his normally stoic face.

He remembered when they last shook hands. In the beginning, it was like accepting another contract, but now… now he felt like he was helping a friend. With that revelation, the wound in his soul felt a little more healed.

"I have to go meet up with Garrus. Let me know whenever you're ready to leave, okay?" Shepard said.

"Of course," Thane replied. Remembering the look Garrus had before he left, he called out to Shepard before he left. "Wait. When you see Garrus, please tell him: Revenge does not bring redemption. Believe me, I would know."

"I'll do that."

And thank you for granting me redemption, my friend.

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

Interesting factoid, there was some unused audio files in ME2 where you could be reinstated as a Spectre (or not) by the Citadel Council before meeting Bailey or go even to the Zakera Wards at all. It suggests that the Presidium was an open area before BioWare cut it out or at the very least, met with the Council long before going to the Zakera Ward. Sad really. I'd like to visit the Presidium proper.

Anyway, the dialogue I used with the C-Sec officer reflected that.

The main problem with this particular chapter was the lack of gunplay or anything related to action, really. Since most, if not all, the readers have gone through this loyalty mission, I needed to 'trim the fat' as it were. The 'follow Joram Talid' mission is pretty cut and dry so I wanted to avoid most of that, which actually meant that this mission is really short.

BTW, the dancing turian? It's real and in this mission. For those interested, here's a link:

Youtube. com/watch?v=jWYUiVfZo9k

Just be sure to remove the space at 'com'. Or just search for 'Techno Turian'.

Review! I love hearing from all of you! And thanks to all that got me to 600+ reviews! You're the best!

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