Fight for the Lost

Interlude XIII

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Upper Wards, Medical Clinic

A Few Hours Ago

"The Kaidan Alenko Memorial Scholarship has begun sending gifted human biotics to the Ascension Project for care and training. Lieutenant Alenko, a graduate of the controversial Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training project, sacrificed his life to help stop Saren on Virmire."

"I'm glad to have helped, Tali."

Tali blinked back to awareness and turned her head away from the news report and the memories it invoked. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"I said: I'm glad to have helped, Tali."

"Oh, yes—yes, you did. Thank you, Doctor."

Doctor Chloe Michel smiled before frowning. "You'll tell me if everything is all right?" she requested with a worried look.

"I promise. Hopefully, we'll convince Garrus not to do anything foolish."

Dr. Michel shook her head and sighed. "Well, I know how he is. Always busy on his grand crusades, his great passions… he tends to focus on them to the exclusion of anything or anyone else. I hope you and Command—I mean Captain Shepard can help him."

There's nothing noble about this 'crusade'.

Tali nodded and shook hands with the human woman. "I'll look into that warehouse."

"Please be careful. I also heard that Fade employs a mercenary group for protection," Michel cautioned. "I'd really rather not treat you for another gunshot wound."

"Which merc group?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know. There are so many different groups now that I don't bother keeping up," she replied with a shrug. "It's not really my thing, anyway."

"Alright, I'll be careful," Tali promised.

"And tell Comm— I mean, Captain Shepard that I look forward to seeing him again soon and that I'm excited to have a chance to tour the new Normandy. I'll have the equipment ready by then," Dr. Michel added.

Tali stopped and turned around, completely caught off guard by that last statement. "Wait—what are you talking about?"

Michel looked surprised as well. "You don't know?"

"Know what?"

Dr. Michel blinked before sighing. "Never mind. I can't tell you. Doctor/Patient privileges."

"Patient? Is there something wrong with Shepard?" Tali asked anxiously.

"I can't discuss it any further. I'm sorry, Tali."

"But I'm his friend!"

"Then you should be asking him directly, not me. I don't even know all the details yet. Doctor Chakwas was to fill me in when I make my way to the Normandy later today," Chloe asserted gently. "I'm sorry."

Tali huffed in frustration. "First Garrus, now Shepard. Fine. I'll ask when I see him. Thank you again, Dr. Michel."

"Of course, Tali."

Putting Shepard's mysterious need for medical attention out of her mind for the time being, she hailed a taxi and traveled back down to Zakera Ward.

Tali had suspected that Shepard had talked to Captain Bailey about more than Thane's son. After getting her 'Shepard VI' from Mouse, she followed them, but took care to maintain her distance. Considering the skill between both men, it was likely that they would be able to detect her if she wandered too close.

Actually, considering their professions, I wouldn't be surprised if they already knew I was there.

She had kept an eye on the precinct, waiting for both Thane and Shepard to leave on whatever business they were engaged in. About 30 minutes later, she saw them enter a patrol car and fly off. Seizing her chance, she walked in and casually asked Bailey what they were talking about prior to Thane's problem.

Because she was clearly Shepard's acquaintance during their earlier meeting, Bailey had no problem telling her what he told Shepard and Garrus, though he seemed a bit harried. Apparently, some sort of emergency was happening down in another Ward, and Bailey was trying to organize a response team to that region.

No doubt Shepard is in the middle of whatever is going on there.

All Bailey managed to offer was that Garrus had an interest in an identity forger called Fade and that C-Sec's Network Division had no leads on him or her before leaving to one of the many blocks on the Ward.

Instead of waiting for Shepard's call, she decided to take the initiative and try to preempt Garrus' movements herself. No matter how distasteful she felt about the course of action Garrus was taking, she also knew Shepard was right. This was something their friend couldn't let go. Even now, she was still writing messages to the families of the slain marines that died on Haestrom. It was their duty to help in any way they can for their turian friend.

After trekking through the various Wards, making subtle inquires about Fade, and getting only vague or unhelpful answers, she decided to visit Dr. Chloe Michel. The doctor tended to have an ear to ground on a few things that went on in the Wards, so it was worth a shot.

Luckily, her gamble paid off. With a set direction, she made her way to Level 26 of the Zakera Ward.

~o~O~o~

Location: Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward, Level 26

Present Time

"Two years after a geth attack nearly destroyed it, the colony of Zhu's Hope has announced plans for an expansion."

Upon arriving, she avoided the thick crowds and ignored the slightly hostile looks of the C-Sec officers that were patrolling. As a quarian, she was used to getting disparaging looks from the other Council races. Nevertheless, she spotted the shipping warehouse where Dr. Michel said Fade's underlings met up with potential clients.

Looking around the immediate vicinity revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but without any more solid leads, she maintained her vigilance for the next hour or so until she spotted a fully armored krogan entering and not leaving. What made it more interesting was the other krogan she managed to see just inside, waiting for his partner. He was carrying an assault rifle, M-8 Avenger from the look of it.

Two years ago, an occurrence like that wouldn't raise too much suspicion normally, but with C-Sec's newest security precautions, the only way to carry weapons was to either be a C-Sec officer, registered as private security, or military personnel. Anyone else had to smuggle them into the Citadel now. To put that much effort might mean that there was something illicit going on. Even the major mercenary groups had to be careful not to expose themselves or risk a full-blown C-Sec investigation.

And I doubt those krogan are paid to guard the merchandise inside that warehouse with that much firepower. If this isn't a sign, I don't what is.

She had to admit, Fade had moxie. He operated practically underneath C-Sec's nose considering the location of the nearest precinct was only one floor up.

Feeling more confident that she finally found the place she was looking for, she sat down on a stool at the nearby human restaurant, The Stand, and carefully considered her next move. She knew Garrus would be too skilled and covert to be blatantly watching the shipping warehouse and risk getting spotted. It'd probably be next to impossible for her to find him through the crowds and nearby buildings. If anything, he probably had spotted her sometime ago. He'd keep himself hidden though, but would still be able keep an eye out for any signs of a trap. Or probably for Fade himself.

Tali had to doubt that last scenario, though. After talking to Fist to 'meet' with the Shadow Broker, she learned her lesson. It was unlikely that the person in charge would ever show up to any meetings unless absolutely necessary. A random client would hardly necessitate Fade's personal appearance, only his talent.

She decided that her best chance to find Garrus would be at his meeting, whenever that was. At some point, he'd have to go into the warehouse and meet with whomever. It also had to be sometime soon or else Shepard would recall him back for departure off the Citadel and to wherever the next mission takes them. This was his, and her, only shot.

If I hang around, either I'll find him or he'll find me. There's no way he can avoid it. Especially with at least two armed krogan in there.

"Irasshaimase!" the store owner greeted cheerfully and interrupting her thoughts.

Tali turned her head curiously at him and made a mental note to upgrade her omni-tool with the latest update in human languages. "I'm sorry. My translator didn't pick that up."

"It means: Welcome to my store," the chef kindly translated. "Can I get you anything? Ramen, perhaps? It's a delicacy back on Earth. I'm afraid the meat isn't fresh out here, but you won't find any better seaweed on the station. I also have six kinds of beer on tap if you're interested."

"Dextro," Tali informed with a shake of her head.

The vendor looked confused. "Dextro?"

"Dextro-DNA. Turians and quarians can't eat or drink anything with levo-proteins," Kasumi helpfully explained as she and Jacob sauntered up and sat next to Tali.

The chef still looked confused.

"Like us," Jacob added. "Or asari. Or salarians. Quarians and turians need to eat something entirely different."

"Really? I kept wondering why I never got any turian or quarian customers. I thought they just hated humans or something," the chef muttered to himself. "So what can I get you two, then?"

"I'll have a beer," Jacob said and pointing at his selection.

"I'll just have some water," Kasumi replied. "Domo Arigato."

"Here you are," the chef said. "Anato no kangei." After he passed the drinks, he moved to the other side of the counter to wait on his next set of customers.

He completely missed Kasumi's snort of laughter.

"What?" Jacob asked.

Kasumi shook her head and pointed at the chef. "That guy…"

Matthews and Hadley had taken a seat a few stools down and conversed with the shopkeeper. They were so engrossed with their own business that they didn't even notice Tali, Kasumi, or Jacob sitting nearby.

"You'd think he try to learn about the locals if he's going to open a business here," Jacob said with a shake of his head.

Kasumi sniffed at whatever was boiling in the pots and sighed. "You know what I haven't had in ages? Ramen."

Tali looked at her funnily. "I thought this place serves this, um, 'ramen'. Why don't you buy some?"

"I doubt it's any good, especially since all the normal ingredients are back on Earth. Besides, his Japanese is terrible; I wouldn't trust his food at all," Kasumi explained before sighing again, this time in remembrance. "My grandmother used to make the best ramen. Delicious." She propped her head on her hand and leaned on the counter. "Thinking back, I really should have stolen her recipe."

Tali couldn't help but giggle, while Jacob chuckled appreciatively.

"Glad to make you both smile," Kasumi said with a smile of her own before turning to Tali. "So! Why were you looking so serious? So to speak. I mean, with the environment suit and all."

"I'm looking for Garrus. I think he's about to make a mistake and I want to help him before he does," Tali replied as she glanced at the warehouse again.

"What kind of mistake?" Jacob asked.

She shook her head distractedly. "I don't want to betray his trust. It's really personal to him."

Kasumi gave her a side-long glance and had an impish look on her face. Before she could pry through, Hadley and Matthews started talking after giving their orders.

"What's up, man? You've been quiet," Hadley said.

"We're on the Citadel, but my appointment with Sha'ira is in three months. Damn—talk about bad timing!" Matthews replied in frustration.

Hadley rolled his eyes. "We're flying into the eye of the storm and you're thinking about some asari prostitute?"

Matthews took offense to that and shot a dour look at his friend. "Hey, watch it! It's not like that at all. She's so… she's… ah, you wouldn't understand unless you meet her."

"I've heard a lot about her," Jacob commented to Kasumi and Tali. "Haven't met her myself, though."

Tali smiled underneath her helmet and said nothing.

Apparently, it was the wrong move, because Kasumi whipped her head around at the engineer. "You've met her?" she exclaimed.

Matthews and Hadley both turned at the thief's voice and spotted them.

"Oh. Hey, ladies, Chief Taylor. Didn't see you there," Matthews greeted.

"Met who?" Hadley bluntly asked.

"Tali met with Sha'ira," Kasumi said hurriedly. She turned in her stool to better face the quarian. "Spill. What happened?"

Matthews looked shocked. "Seriously? You did? When?"

"And why'd you meet her?" Hadley asked.

Even the chef looked interested. "And is she anything like the rumors?" he asked excitedly.

Tali shook her head and her hands in an effort to stave off any more questions. "No, no, no! I didn't—I mean, I did meet her, kind of. Actually, she wanted to talk to Shepard! I just happened to be there. With Shepard, I mean. I was travelling with him when he went to talk to her."

"Shep, hmm…? I bet the Consort got a good look at his 'aura' as well," Kasumi wickedly mused.

"If anything about those rumors is true, I don't doubt it," Jacob said.

"Nothing like that," Tali corrected. "She wanted a bit of help. That's all."

"Really?" Matthews asked.

"Really," Tali affirmed. "Just to talk to a few friends of hers and smooth things over. She was having a bit of trouble and asked Shepard for help, that's it."

"What kind of help?" Matthews asked intently.

"She… I mean, he… they… Wait… um…" Tali hedged before shaking her head and crossing her arms. "That's none of your business, actually."

"Hold on, lemme get this part straight then," Matthews said. "Did she ask him for help? Like by name? Or she sent out a message to him specifically? Or…"

"It was Shepard's first time on the Citadel. The Council had just made him a Spectre. We were waiting for Ambassador Udina and Captain Anderson to make all the preparations for the mission to find Saren. During that time, the Consort contacted Shepard for help and we went," Tali explained simply. "She called him by name for help."

"So the Captain and her didn't do anything?" Hadley asked skeptically.

"I got the impression that she offered, but he didn't take it. Either he wasn't interested or he didn't see the signs," Tali answered with a shrug. "She said something to him, he thanked her, we left. What she said, I don't know. I never asked."

"Damn… I can't believe the captain actually got to meet her," Matthews groused.

"Well, if there was anyone the Consort wanted to meet, it's had to be Shepard," Jacob reasoned. "First human Spectre and all, she probably wanted to get the story right from the source. That is, unless Udina is a frequent visitor."

"What does it matter if he did or not?" Hadley said.

"You haven't been on the Citadel much, have you?" the chef said knowingly. "Otherwise, you'd know what we're talking about."

"So what was she like?" Kasumi asked while the men argued about the Consort.

Tali shook her head and wondered how to answer when she heard a familiar voice behind the partition running down the middle of the level.

"What—what are you talking about? ! I didn't do anything!"

Lia?

Tali got up and walked around the partition to see a friend of hers, Lia'Vael nar Ulnay. She would often help Tali send packages to her father back at the Migrant Fleet.

Currently, Lia was being accosted by a C-Sec officer and a volus.

"This clanless is a thief and I want her arrested!" the volus demanded.

"I was just walking by!"

"Ha! I felt your hand go into my pocket when you bumped into me at the Sirta Foundation store! When I checked, my credit chit was gone!"

"I didn't even touch you!"

"Hey!" Tali shouted. "What are you doing?"

"Tali!" Lia cried out in relief.

"Great. Another one," the human C-Sec officer muttered to himself. "This is Official C-Sec business. Please leave."

"Another clanless," the volus spat out. He turned to Lia and pointed at Tali accusingly. "Did you steal my chit and passed it off to her?"

"I didn't steal anything!" Lia retorted angrily. "Just because we're quarians…!"

The human, Officer Tammert, judging from his name tag, turned to the volus. "Mr. Kor Tun, I need you to stop and take a deep breath."

Now Kor Tun rounded on the Tammert, his respirator taking deeps breaths already. "You're mocking me, Earth-clan! Just because the Vol-clan need—"

"It was a poor choice of words, sir. I apologize."

So you apologize to this angry bosh'tet and let him accuse whoever he likes? Bastard.

Before Tali could make a scathing remark at either of them, Kasumi gripped her by the arm and pulled her aside. "Easy. Getting angry at the law won't help your friend. Believe me, I know," she whispered.

"Alright, so you claim you didn't take his credit chit?" Tammert asked in a bored tone.

Lia took a breath to try to calm down. However, when she spoke, it was through clenched teeth. "No. I was walking to the used ship dealer when he barged into me outside the Sirta Foundation. He even didn't stop or say he was sorry," she explained before finally losing her temper and pointing a finger back at Kor Tun. "A minute later, he runs up and accuses me of stealing his damn chit!"

Tammert nodded, though Tali got the distinct feeling that he was only humoring her. "Are you sure you're being straight with me? There's nothing you want to admit?"

"What? Why are you accusing me? I didn't do anything!"

Tammert crossed his arms and glared. "First: I ask you a question, you answer it. Second: I don't like your tone."

"Hey, man. Ease up. She didn't mean anything by it," Jacob said in her defense.

"I'll be the one to determine that," Tammert retorted with a glare.

"Why are you getting angry?" Jacob asked calmly. "We're all just talking here."

"I'm not getting an—"

"No, I think you're getting a little angry," Jacob interrupted, a slight condescending tone lacing his voice.

Tammert was about to argue further when he looked around and saw that they were making a scene. Visibly forcing himself to calm down, he said, "I'm just trying to do my job. If she stole something, it's better to confess now than at the precinct."

Tali couldn't stand watching anymore. "They just bumped into each other. Maybe you should ask him," she said before pointing at the accusing volus, "if he dropped it at the Sirta Foundation!"

"Yeah!" Lia shouted in agreement.

"I didn't drop it!" Kor Tun argued.

"Fine, then you left it there," Tali said dismissively.

"Of course I didn't! You'd think I'd make a mistake like that?" Kor Tun retorted stubbornly.

"Do you really want me to answer that?" Tali asked mockingly.

"Bah! I didn't even buy anything there! The chit stayed in my pocket!" Kor Tun shouted in between breaths from his environment suit, a sure sign that the volus was angry. "Don't try to trick me! I know how pickpockets work! They bump into you and use that as a cover for rifling your pockets!"

"He's not actually all that wrong," Kasumi mumbled.

"Not helping," Jacob hissed quietly to her.

"As if anyone can turn their backs on you clanless quarians. Thieves, all of you, ready to take anything not welded to the deck!"

"Quarians are only forced into destitution when people like you won't let them have real jobs," Tali spat.

"And to think my taxes pay to support you here," Kor Tun said mockingly. "Go back to your fleet, clanless."

"I am clan Zorah, crew of the starship Neema. And you are an idiot," Tali growled as she took a menacing step toward him.

"Don't waste your breath on him, Tali. It's not worth getting angry about," Kasumi interjected before the situation could escalate. She kept a grip on the younger girl and held on reassuringly.

Tali took a deep breath of her own and backed up. "My brain agrees with you," she said calmly before glaring at the volus. "My gut says I should jack his suit's olfactory filters so that everything smells like refuse."

Lia actually giggled at that, while Kor Tun's breathing got more rapid in increasing ire.

"Damn, girl. You got a nasty streak in you, huh?" Jacob commented with a smile.

"Don't even think about it," Tammert warned.

"Can you do that?" Kasumi asked over Tammert's threat. "I know some people… Nah, forget it."

"Alright, look. You're interfering with—" Tammert started to say before a heavy hand clapped down on his shoulder.

"Easy, hotshot, you don't want to get on her bad side. Trust me, I've been there first hand."

~o~O~o~

Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Lower Ward, Lower Markets

A Few Hours Ago

"An independent inquiry is investigating a group known as Cerberus in light of charges made by one Corporal Toombs and testimony by an apparent Cerberus scientist. A researcher known only as 'Dr. Wayne' has been promised immunity and has suggested Cerberus may also be tied to the death of Admiral Kahoku several years ago."

"Alright. I got everything you asked for," Morlan said nervously. He looked around to see if there were any C-Sec officers nearby before sliding a bag underneath the table.

Garrus calmly picked up the bag and gave it a little shake, using the weight to judge the contents. "This is everything?"

"Everything!" Morlan hissed. "I didn't leave anything out!"

"If I find out you're cheating me," Garrus said ominously.

"I'm not!"

After leaving the agreed amount of credits on the table, Garrus walked out, mindful to avoid garnering any undue attention. He hopped into the car he rented and sped off back toward the Zakera Ward. Once inside, he set the destination and let the vehicle go on auto-pilot.

He grabbed his bag and opened it to inspect the contents. Inside was an M-3 Predator Heavy Pistol, standard fare really, but it would be enough to get through whatever bodyguards Fade's contact would probably employ. The other weapon was what Garrus focused on. It was the latest in military and police sniper rifles, the M-29 Incisor. Capable of semi-automatic fire for precise, calculated shooting or 3-round-bursts that fired so rapidly, the recoil would be barely noticeable from single-fire option. This would take out any shields or armor that the target was wearing, as well as increasing stopping power without sacrificing accuracy. He inspected his new rifle from barrel to stock to ensure it was in working order. A full stock of thermal clips filled with heat sinks completed the package.

Satisfied that everything was modified as he specified, he stowed his gear back into the bag and leaned back in his seat. The meeting was all set up in the shipping warehouse on the 26th level of Zakera Ward. It's not likely that Fade would show up personally, so whoever Garrus was meeting would need some 'persuasion' to give up Fade's location. From there, Sidonis could be lured out without suspicion.

His prep was complete, but a small part of his mind nagged at him. The meet was in a few hours, but he hadn't called Shepard yet. He was pretty sure that he didn't want to, either.

I can do this by myself.

He knew Shepard would be pissed, but if the deed was done, any further argument would be pointless. Shepard would be rational enough to realize this. He just had to act quickly enough before his friend was any the wiser about his duplicity.

Besides, this is my problem. No need for anyone else to get involved.

It was a hollow excuse and he knew it. It was obvious what Shepard's stance was on this, but Garrus was adamant on his position as well. Sidonis would die today and there was nothing left to discuss or argue about. He had a duty to honor his squad. To avenge them.

He took off his Kuwashii Visor and rubbed his eyes tiredly. The constant strain of the mission coupled with his lack of sleep was starting to take its toll. Even now, after more than a month, he couldn't close his eyes without seeing the faces of his squad. The sleeping pills he took damn near every night were probably the only reason he was still sane.

Almost there…

He idly traced the names he etched into his visor: Erash, Monteague, Mierin, Grundan Krul, Melanis, Ripper, Sensat, Vortash, Butler, Weaver.

Ten men and women that worked with him to bring justice on the unjust. Ten men and women that wanted to make a difference.

Ten men and women that was dead because of one traitor.

His finger brushed against the spot Sidonis' name was once written, but had long been scratched out.

I have to do this.

Garrus put his visor back on, and turned off the auto-pilot. He took the car in manually, landing a fair distance from the warehouse. Slinging the bag over his shoulder, he walked the rest of the way to his perch.

~o~O~o~

Location: Location: Serpent Nebula, Widow System, Citadel, Zakera Ward, Level 26

Present Time

With another two hours or so left to go before the meeting, he ducked into one of the shops and snuck into the back. He reached the second floor and looked out the window. The vantage point was perfect. He was overlooking the meeting place and had a clear line of sight over most of the floor below.

He started working on his weapons for the next hour until he spotted a krogan entering the building he was watching. Inside was another krogan armed with a rifle.

Looks like they're getting ready.

Something caught his attention from below. Looking over the precipice of the window, he spotted Tali's preferred purple clothing among the crowds. She was just within of the shadow of the building he was hiding in, preventing him from seeing her until she had moved. He watched as she made her way to the human restaurant in the corner, sit down, and observe the warehouse he was observing.

He cursed to himself. She's not leaving. She's waiting. Damn it, she knows.

It was the only conclusion he could come up with. He had no idea how she figured out that Fade worked out of that shipping warehouse, but he had long since learned not to underestimate her intelligence or her tenacity. She'd wait until he showed up or something happened. With at least two armed krogan inside, conflict was probably unavoidable.

As annoyed as he was though, he had to admire her conviction and ability to figure out his location.

The meeting time was closing in. Adding to his irritation was appearance of Kasumi and Jacob, followed soon after by Crewmen Matthews and Hadley.

At this point, why don't I just call everyone and host a party down here?

He kept an eye on the warehouse and on Tali occasionally, but after another half hour, he got up. There was nothing further gained by surveillance now. Tali had gotten up as well from her stool and walked around the partition and out of his sight. What she was doing, he had no idea, but the meeting time was approaching. Placing all his weaponry into the bag, he exited the building and tried to blend with the crowds in an attempt to avoid everyone.

Just as he got past the partition, he heard Tali's irate voice.

"I am clan Zorah, crew of the starship Neema. And you are an idiot."

"Don't waste your breath on him, Tali. It's not worth getting angry about," Kasumi said.

"My brain agrees with you," she said before sounding angry again. "My gut says I should jack his suit's olfactory filters so that everything smells like refuse."

"Damn, girl. You got a nasty streak in you, huh?" Jacob commented.

"Don't even think about it," a C-Sec officer warned.

"Can you do that?" Kasumi asked over his threat. "I know some people… Nah, forget it."

"Alright, look. You're interfering with—" the officer started to say before Garrus clapped down on his shoulder.

"Easy, hotshot, you don't want to get on her bad side. Trust me, I've been there first hand," Garrus said with a warning look. "Take my word for it."

The human, Tammert, shook him off. "This quarian stole a credit chit. She—"

"Did she now?" Garrus interrupted. He looked at the quarian dressed in gray and shrugged. "Doesn't look like a thief to me."

"Bah!" the volus cried out in disbelief. "All quarians are—"

"I'd be real careful about what you're going to say," Garrus warned in a no-nonsense tone.

The volus shut up immediately.

Turning back to Tammert, Garrus said, "Why not just scan her for the chit? If she has it, then you're right and you should arrest her. If she doesn't, you got no case, even if she actually did steal something, which I'm not saying she did."

Tammert glared, but turned back to the quarian. "I'm legally obligated to inform you that I'll be doing an omni-tool scan."

She crossed her arms. "Fine, if it will get you both to leave me alone."

After running his scan, he looked at his readouts. "Only one credit chit and its registered to Miss Lia'Vael."

"See?" Lia said angrily.

"She could've hacked it! All these quarians are—"

"You do know that it takes a computer the size of an elcor to hack any of those chits?" Kasumi interrupted. "And it costs a lot of money just to have one. And they're illegal just about everywhere."

"Quarians are good, really good even, but they're not that good," Jacob added.

"She may not have the chit, but she could've have stashed it to recover later," Tammert argued.

Before Tali could blow up again, Garrus scoffed. "Good luck proving that. You got nothing but accusations and no evidence. Run her in, and you'll be looking at a reprimand, if not a suspension, for harassment."

"Hold on!" Kasumi suddenly shouted. She slapped her fist into her hand. "Have you been to Saronis Applications? The clerk mentioned a volus forgetting his chit there."

"Oh, yeah. That salarian, right?" Jacob added. "A couple of hours ago, he asked if we saw a volus. Apparently, he purchased some environmental system drivers and left without the chit. That you Kor Tun?"

Everyone turned to the volus.

Kor Tun took a nervous breath when everyone's eyes turned to him. "Oh…"

"Idiot," Tali said decisively.

"Took the words right out of my mouth," Jacob said.

"I have to agree," Kasumi said.

"Well… the quarian could have stolen it," Kor Tun said lamely.

Tammert grumbled. "I'll close this event report. But I'll be watching you," he said to Lia. "What's your current address?"

"What?" Lia asked in surprise before shuffling nervously. "Um… Some nights I get a HabCapsule in 633 block."

"Your permanent address."

"I'm on Pilgrimage! I don't have one!"

"I'll have to mark you as a vagrant," Tammert smarmily said.

"I'm not homeless! I'm nar Ulnay!" Lia screeched.

"She said she's on Pilgrimage!" Tali shouted. "It's tradition in which—"

"Look, you can take your traditions and cram them. Every time a quarian shows up—"

Tammert didn't get a chance to finish. Garrus grabbed him by the shirt and forced him to look into his eyes. "What did I say about watching your words?" he growled menacingly.

Far from being afraid, Tammert actually smirked. "How about these words: You're under arrest for assaulting a C-Sec officer."

Garrus was tempted, very tempted, to reach into his bag, grab his pistol, and shoot Tammert's kneecaps. Or just beat the man within an inch of his life with his bare hands. Or even…

"Over here, Captain!"

Before he could decide what bloody mess he was going to turn Tammert into, Shepard walked up to the altercation with Hadley and Matthews pointing out the location for him.

"How 'bout you walk away?" Shepard 'suggested'.

"Do you know who I am?" Tammert growled. He tore free from Garrus grip and glared.

"No. Do you know who I am?" Shepard asked calmly in return.

"What does that—?"

"I'm a Spectre."

Tammert lost his haughty attitude in an instant.

"I'm also acquaintances with Captain Bailey, as are a few of my friends here. You should expect some serious problems in your future, Officer…" Shepard made a show of looking down at the nametag, looking almost as if learning Tammert's name was a chore or he was too insignificant to bother knowing. "Tammert. Unless you want more, I 'suggest' you walk away."

"Son of a…" Tammert muttered.

"What was that?" Tali asked sweetly.

He looked like was about to make a biting remark when Shepard stepped around and stood next to Tali proudly.

Tammert left without another word.

"Um… well… I'll just be going to collect my chit now…" Kor Tun stammered out.

"How about an apology first?" Garrus said in a low tone.

"Oh… yes… um… sorry…" Kor Tun reluctantly said to Lia before waddling off.

"Thanks for calling me," Shepard said to Hadley and Matthews.

"Yes, sir," said both crewmen in tandem. They saluted and then walked back to The Stand.

"Are you alright, Lia?" Tali asked.

"Yeah. Fine. Thank you. I—I wish I could give you something more than words," Lia said.

"It's fine. Your pilgrimage isn't going so well, is it?" Tali asked sympathetically.

"No. I came here thinking there'd be a lot of work. EVA stuff. Salvage. Fixing all the damage the geth attack caused," Lia said miserably. "Everywhere I went to apply, signs said 'Not hiring quarians.' And the other people would give me mean looks."

"The Citadel has never been tolerant of quarians on Pilgrimage," Tali explained. She sounded like she knew that first hand.

Then again, Shepard and I did team up with her on the Citadel.

"Yeah. And now people are blaming the quarians for the geth attack," Garrus added. "It's making life a bit hard for them here."

"Can you take care of yourself from here?" Jacob asked.

"I guess. I mean, most nights I eat nutrient paste in a turian shelter. But I'm surviving," Lia replied. "I can take of myself now."

"If you're sure. Good luck, Lia'Vael," Tali said.

"Thanks, Tali'Zorah."

After Lia left, Shepard turned to Garrus. "So when were you planning on calling me?"

"Just now, actually," Garrus lied. "Seems Hadley and Matthews saved me some time."

"Um… Garrus?"

Garrus turned his head toward Tali. She was nervously fidgeting with the hood of her suit. "Yeah?"

"Thanks for helping Lia'Vael out. I really appreciate it," she said softly.

"Sure thing," Garrus replied easily. He turned to Kasumi and Jacob. "So what are you two doing here?"

"I'm looking for somebody called 'Fade'," Kasumi answered with a shrug. "Interesting moniker, don't you think?"

"Why?"

"Why he's called Fade?"

Garrus crossed his arms and glared.

"Wow, you look a bit scary," Kasumi observed nervously and stepped behind Jacob.

"He does, doesn't he?" Jacob agreed and crossed his arms as well, completely unfazed by Garrus' daunting appearance.

"Why are you looking for him?" Garrus asked waspishly.

"My old partner, Keiji, had a personal note mentioning him. I think he was going to employ Fade's services to go into hiding," Kasumi informed. "I wanted to ask Fade a few questions. No big deal. I don't think Keiji actually met him, but pays to be thorough." She gestured to Jacob. "I'm also doing a bit of shopping. Jacob kindly volunteered to escort me."

Jacob scoffed and muttered, "Volunteered, my ass…"

"What did you say?" Kasumi asked.

"Nothing!" Jacob replied quickly.

Garrus rubbed his head agitatedly. He knew that not every plan will work to the letter, but this was just blowing up in his face. First Tali, then Shepard, and now Kasumi and Jacob.

I'm this close and now this.

"When's the meet?" Shepard asked.

Garrus looked at his chrono. "Now, actually."

"Who're you meeting? Are you looking for Fade too?" Kasumi asked rapidly.

"Let's go," Garrus muttered to Shepard and ignored the questions. He led the way into the warehouse, keeping his bag slightly open so he could be prepared for anything. As much as he didn't want anyone else with him, the idea that Sidonis might get away the longer he delayed was far worse.

To his annoyance, Tali stepped up next to him. Her body language almost seemed to suggest that she wanted, dared him really, to say that she couldn't come.

Kasumi and Jacob had taken it upon themselves to follow along uninvited as well.

Inside, the two armed krogan were standing around. They had no real markings or characteristics that identified or showed that they were affiliated with any specific group.

Local guns for hire, then.

The two krogan brandished their assault rifles, but as a warning or a deterrent. They appeared cocky since they believed they were the ones armed and assumed that none of the potential clients carried any weapons.

Garrus heard the sounds of a respirator to his left. Turning his head, he spotted a single volus walking out from behind the crates he was hiding behind.

"Fade? You're not exactly what I was expecting," Kasumi commented.

"Looks can be deceiving," the contact said. "So… which one of you wants to disappear?"

Garrus wasn't interested in parley nor was he amused at the play on words. "I want to see Fade," he demanded brusquely.

"I told you—"

"If you're Fade," Garrus interrupted, his voice taking on a menacing tone, "then you'd better make someone reappear. Right now."

"Ah… that's not the service we provide," the volus hesitantly replied.

"And yet, you're going to make an exception," Garrus growled out. His hand reached into his pack and gripped his Predator. "Or else you'll find out what it's like to 'disappear' yourself."

The volus knew the gig was up. "Damn it… shoot them! Shoo—!"

In a flash, the pistol was up and already sighted. Targeting the krogan on the left, he put a round in each eye. Before he could focus on the bodyguard to the right, Shepard had also drawn his pistol and put two rounds in the throat and a third in the head.

"Too slow," Shepard taunted.

"Why do I even bother…?" the volus said in resignation.

"Fade. Now," Garrus ordered tersely.

"Wait… I'm not the one you want to talk to. I'm not—"

"I know who you're not and I don't care. Where is Fade?" Garrus poked the barrel of his pistol against the underling's head roughly, using his size advantage to intimidate the stout volus.

"Garrus!" Tali shouted in alarm.

"He's in the factory district! Works out of the old prefab foundry!" the contact said.

Garrus lowered his weapon and nodded. He knew the place well enough.

"What else can you tell us about him?" Tali asked, her gentle tone a stark contrast to Garrus' rougher methods. "And which group of mercs does he work with?"

Garrus turned to Tali questioningly, but she didn't spare him a glance. She continued to regard the contact.

The volus was still breathing rapidly from Garrus' frightening presence and backed up a bit. "His real name is Harkin. The Blue Suns work with him."

Harkin… that bastard.

"How the hell did Harkin end up being the Fade?" Shepard asked.

"Well… he got fired from C-Sec a while back—"

"I'm shocked, I really am," Shepard muttered sarcastically.

"—and he used his knowledge of C-Sec and their systems to help a few people disappear," the underling explained. "Then he made himself disappear and Fade was born. So to speak."

"What about the mercs? What do they have to do with this?" Garrus asked.

"They use his services… to help their people infiltrate businesses and various organizations here on the Citadel," the volus replied.

"Interesting. But it changes nothing," Garrus decided. "I just need him to bring out Sidonis."

"Think Harkin is going to be happy to see either of us?" Shepard asked.

"I'm sure he'll be ecstatic," Garrus darkly replied. He glanced down at the volus.

"So I… I can go?" the contact asked hesitantly.

"Sure," Garrus said before glaring. "But if I don't find Harkin, I'm coming back for you."

"Oh. Goody."

"Hold on," Kasumi said. "Does the name Keiji Okuda mean anything to you? A potential client, maybe?"

Garrus left, not really interested in her personal affairs. He already had his own business to finish. Tali and Shepard followed in his wake.

"So, now we're going to find this Harkin?" Tali asked.

"Shepard and I are going. You're not," Garrus said.

"The hell I'm not," Tali retorted.

Garrus blinked and looked at her strangely. He'd never heard her sound that vulgar before.

Then again, I seem to be bringing out her bad side more and more.

"I'm coming to help, whether you want it or not," Tali said.

Garrus stopped in his tracks and rounded on her. "You're unarmed. You can't—" The argument died on his lips when he saw her holding a collapsed M-8 Avenger, most likely taken from one of the downed krogan bodyguards. "Do you even know how to use that?"

"Assault rifles aren't really my thing, but I'm proficient enough to use one. Besides, you need me. Out of the three major merc groups, the Blue Suns are known to have the most up-to-date technology they can get their hands on." She crossed her arms and looked smug. "That means mechs, shields, and advanced weaponry. Sounds like you could use someone that can combat or even negate that advantage."

"She's right," Shepard calmly added. "We don't know how many mercs are with Harkin or what resources they have on the Citadel. We could use an extra gun. She can 'retrieve' a shotgun from one of them later, anyway."

Garrus scowled at Tali's stubbornness, but lacked the will to argue. As angry as he was, he privately appreciated her staunch loyalty to him, even though they shared a rocky outlook on his mission. Besides, as much as he hated to admit it, she had a point. Her help would be invaluable against the tech-savvy mercenaries. "Fine. Let's just go."

As the group trekked to his car, he got the uncomfortable feeling that everything was spiraling out of his control and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

I can do this. I need to do this.

He tried to ignore the concerned looks from his friends as they sped toward the Factory District.

~o~O~o~

Author's Notes:

I'll be honest, this is one of the loyalty missions I was looking forward to writing (second to Miranda's anyway). It was killing me to push it back, but as you can see, I wanted to give Tali a legitimate reason for coming other than Shepard pointing at a lineup and saying, "You. Let's go." In video games, it works; in novels, I actually need a reason, right?

Out of all the companions, I wanted Garrus to be the one that was a bit different. Everyone actually wanted Shepard's help in the game. I felt a small change was necessary. The only one that didn't want anyone's help, including Shepard's, would be the one who is closest to him, (besides Miranda) despite their friendship. I thought it would make an interesting dichotomy and add a bit of drama. Besides, he's a turian rebel, right?

Kudos to Rise Against713 for recognizing the Thane/Garrus loyalty mission comparison I was aiming for.

I apologize for the length as well. It's a bit shorter than what I usually write, but adding this and the loyalty mission made the chapter seem way too much. I decided to cut it in half and call it an Interlude. I'm almost finished with Garrus' loyalty mission.

Domo Arigato: Thank you

Anata (Not anato) no kangei: You're welcome

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