Author: tarysande PM
When a routine reconnaissance mission goes awry, Shepard and Garrus are pushed to the bounds of their endurance.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Garrus V. & Shepard (F) - Chapters: 22 - Words: 49,523 - Reviews: 345 - Favs: 239 - Follows: 155 - Updated: 07-19-12 - Published: 05-20-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8135392
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It didn't take long for Garrus to realize that, in spite of the rescue at hand, somewhere along the line things had gone terribly wrong. Even more terribly wrong. The initial overwhelming wave of hope crashed against reality and left him shuddering with barely-restrained disappointment, colored with a tinge of fear. While he'd sat in engineering, thinking the ship was distracted by his calibrations and his code, it had been up to something else entirely.
He'd gone complacent and underestimated the damned thing. He'd screwed up. Almost as bad a mistake as losing count of hostiles in a fight. He had the sinking feeling his antics had actually forced the ship to learn more quickly, to adapt. There was a kind of sick glee in the synthetic voice taunting them over the intercom now, and each door they passed took longer and longer to hack.
And of course they were hampered at every turn by the husk-like creatures. The sleeping monster in the CIC had woken with a vengeance, and it was hungry. Some abominable twist between marauders and husks, the creatures were twice as hard to kill. No matter how many bullets were pumped into their rotting bodies, they kept coming, scraping and dragging themselves along the floor even when their legs had been shot out from under them, animated by coils of writhing wire and cord. Vega shot three, and pulled a fourth off one of the other soldiers, dashing it into a wall. It lay shuddering, but didn't die until Liara crushed it under the weight of her biotics. The soldier it had nearly taken emptied a clip into its head. It still twitched, but at least it no longer moved toward them or blocked their path forward.
Arms full of Shepard, Garrus was all but useless in the fighting. He turned his visor back on and attempted to provide early warning. The creatures didn't give off proper vitals, and their heat signatures were all wrong, but they registered as something. Still, the waves of enemies kept coming. Dozens of them, from every direction. With a twist in his gut, Garrus thought about the complement of soldiers a dreadnought carried. Some had escaped. Too many hadn't. What they lacked in finesse they more than made up for in sheer numbers. The damned definition of uphill battle.
Apart from muttered curses or groans of pain when one of the creatures got in under someone's guard, fighting kept them all silent. No time for explanations. No time for stories. Garrus caught the occasional concerned look from Liara, and though he could see in her eyes the questions she was so obviously desperate to ask, she held her tongue.
Shepard stopped breathing twice more, each for longer periods of time. Ten seconds. Twenty. Her lips never quite lost the eerie blue cast. Her eyelashes lay still against her cheeks. He knew she couldn't be comfortable, but no matter how he was forced to shift her, even when he pounded once on her chest to start her breath again, she didn't so much as moan.
"Don't you dare," he whispered down at her after the second time. "You're not doing this now, Shepard. I told you they'd come and they did. Now you have to give us a little more. We'll get you out of this."
And yet even with the end in sight, he knew Shepard was running out of time. The ship was too damned big. They were moving too damned slow.
Two hallways and three doorways away from engineering, Garrus' omni-tool gave yet another unpleasant beep. The sound stopped him so suddenly Liara ran into his back, fingertips sparking with biotic energy. Garrus flinched, but it had nothing to do with the little burst of Liara's power and everything to do with the steady sound his omni-tool emitted.
"Damn," he murmured.
"What is it?" Liara asked, flinging a stasis field toward an oncoming pair of husks.
"The gift from Grixos," he said. "The… Shepard's Trojan Horse. It's a damned trap."
Vega reduced a couple of heads to pulp before adding, "Shit, Scars, we kinda figured that one."
"No," Garrus said. "You don't understand. It's been a trap the whole time. Tailored to snare Shepard. She can never pass up a distress call. Never. It was just waiting for the Normandy to show up before it snapped shut. The ship's never been as distressed as we thought it was. And now it's going to show us just how much power it has."
Liara and Vega exchanged a glance that spoke volumes. Garrus' gut twisted further as understanding settled on him. "When you mentioned Hackett, you meant he was here, didn't you?"
"With half a dozen ships," Vega agreed. "Sparks and Esteban were pretty intense when we finally found them. Said Shepard was in the shit and had insisted on backup. And because it was the commander, backup came in force."
Even the pang of relief he felt at knowing Tali and Cortez has somehow managed to survive wasn't enough to stop Garrus' slide into grim certainty that they were all up to their damned necks in trouble. Bad trouble. Life-and-death-but-mostly-death trouble. "So chances are they'll be able to take down the Valiant, but not without heavy losses. It's just trying to slow us down. It's been buying itself time, fixing problems, working things out, laying tripwire and proximity mines. It's prepared to sacrifice itself to take us out. That's why it's here. Reaper-tech hiding in a turian ship."
"The gift from Grixos. The Trojan Horse," Liara repeated softly. "The asari have a story like that too."
"Everyone does," Garrus said.
"Can't. Run," said the ship. "Shepard."
Vega took a shot at the ceiling, then trained his gun on one of the still-twitching creatures at his feet. Liara only frowned. "The ship's been playing dead for days, though; it can't power itself up all at once. There's still time. We can warn the others… prepare—Normandy? Joker? This is Liara. Normandy, come in."
Garrus didn't need to ask if her attempt failed; disappointment colored the curves of her face and her hands curled into fists at her sides. He shifted Shepard until he could bring up his omni-tool interface. You took your eyes off the hostiles, Vakarian. When he attempted to remotely set the bomb's detonator sequence, he was thwarted. "We've got maybe fifteen minutes before this ship blows ours away," he said. "Unless… unless I stay to make things difficult. I can recalibrate the guns to buy some time, and I can set the bomb manually. You get back to the Normandy and make sure everyone gets the hell out of the blast radius."
Garrus saw understanding—a soldier's understanding; that ruthless calculus of war understanding—on Vega's face, and the big man didn't protest. Liara, on the other hand, shook her head and reached out to lay her fingers against his forearm. "You can't. She'll—"
Her eyes were huge and damp and Garrus couldn't bring himself to look at them for longer than a moment. "She—she relies on you, Garrus, you know she does. Now more than ever. You more than anyone. She'll be heartbroken."
"But she'll be alive." He crossed the distance between himself and Vega, offering his too-light, too-thin burden to the big man. Vega slipped his arms around Shepard, and just for a moment, Garrus had trouble letting go. He took a deep breath, wrenching himself away. The wound in his shoulder reopened, and when no immediate soothing rush of medi-gel followed, he realized he must be out. Hardly mattered now.
Liara began to protest again, but Garrus spoke over her. "And she'll know why I did it. She'd do the same in my place." He pressed his fingertips to Shepard's brow in a brief farewell, even though he knew she wasn't alert enough to feel it. "Take her. And run. Don't waste your time with the husks; they're just a tactic. They're slow and they're stupid but they'll bog you down if you let them. You get her to Chakwas, you make sure she survives. And tell her… no. She'll know. Give the Reapers hell. Take her, Vega. Go."
Somehow Shepard looked even smaller, even more broken in Vega's huge arms.
Liara took a step toward him. Wrong direction. "We can wait for you."
"No," he said, "you can't. Come on, Liara. You remember Virmire. You were there. I'm going to trigger a bomb. Waiting'll only get you all killed."
"Shepard had a choice on Virmire. We can make it a choice here. Maybe I don't have your tech skill, but I know my way around a computer system. Enough to buy time. I'll stay," Liara said, drawing herself up and raising her chin defiantly. It was almost enough to make Garrus smile. He remembered his first glimpse of her, the frightened archaeologist trapped in her Prothean bubble as the world went to hell around her, desperate for a savior. He didn't think that woman would have volunteered for this job.
He couldn't let this one do it, either. "You may know information, but not like I know firing algorthyms. Shepard needs the Shadow Broker more than she needs another sniper."
"You're not just—"
"Go!" he repeated, giving Liara a little push. "We don't have time to argue about this. I can give you half an hour. Maybe less. Make it count."
"Come on, Doc," Vega urged. "We're losing her. We gotta get outta here."
Even asari curse words sounded graceful, beautiful, but Garrus was familiar with the meaning of this one, and it was anything but. Vega gave him a last nod. It was almost like a salute. Shepard lolled against the marine's chest, pale and still, but Garrus' visor told him all he needed to know. She was alive. She was going to live.
That was enough. That was everything.
He didn't watch them go. He reloaded his assault rifle, blasted his way through another obnoxious wave of husks, and followed the bodies back toward engineering at a run.