"She is waking up. Inform the Captain."
Shepard frowned as she heard Chakwas speak. The spike of pain through the base of her skull made her hesitate.
"Doctor?" she said through a throat that was scratched and raw.
"Lieutenant. Glad you are back with us." Karin Chakwas' gentle hands touched her wrist. "I will turn down the lights, open your eyes carefully."
The halo of ghostly white behind her lids dimmed. Experimentally, she cracked her lids, preemptively wincing. The headache did not worsen.
"How long was I out?"
"Three days, Lieutenant. We are on our way back to the Citadel."
Shepard rubbed her brow, trying to gather her fuzzy thoughts.
"What about the others? Vega? Williams? Vakarian?"
"Williams is fine. She was patched up and is back on duty. Garrus Vakarian knocked you away from the beacon. Some minor bumps and bruises, but he's a turian. They are tough."
"Where is Vega?" Shepard asked again.
The Doctor pursed her lips.
"Lieutenant Commander Vega has been arrested." The turian entered the medbay, shifting uneasily, his mandibles flaring.
"What?" Shepard sat up, and went pale.
"Take it slowly, Lieutenant." Chakwas laid a hand on Shepard's shoulder.
"Screw that." She scrubbed a hand over her gritty eyes. "Vakarian, what is going on? Why is Vega under arrest?"
"Spectre Arterius claims that Vega abandoned his men and his post. He is accusing the Commander of being responsible for the death of Nihlus Kryik."
"That's bullshit! Why didn't you say anything?" Shepard snarled at the turian. "You were there. You know as well as I do that Vega had nothing to do with that!"
Vakarian's mandibles flared as he stared down the angry human. She jumped down from the medbay bed and grabbed for the edge as her knees buckled. He shifted as though he would assist, but she only whitened her knuckles and scowled. He spoke quietly. "I am sorry, Lieutenant, but there is no evidence that he was not on the platform. When you spoke to him he was already at the docks."
"Vega wouldn't do anything to hurt that Spectre. He is a straight up guy." Shepard shook her head. "A little impulsive, sure, but no way in hell would he shoot someone in the back of the head."
"I can't call Spectre Arterius a liar without some proof, Shepard." Vakarian propped his hands on his lean hips.
"But he gets to call Vega a murderer and a coward without proof? That's not right, C-Sec, and you know it."
Vakarian made a soft huffing sound.
"Would Saren have an issue with Vega?" Shepard asked. "You know him pretty well. Why would he lie?"
"Because he has no wish to see a human in the Spectres, Shepard." The door swished, and the new entrant spoke in grim tones.
Shepard whirled and whipped up a smart salute. "Captain."
"Lieutenant. At ease." Anderson returned the salute and marched further into the medbay. "I wish to inform my XO about the situation in private, Officer Vakarian."
The turian saluted and headed for the door.
"Wait. Sir." Shepard turned to Anderson. "Vakarian was with me the whole way on Eden Prime. He saw what I saw. And if we can't trust a C-Sec officer to do what is right in all this… well…he might help us clear Vega's name."
Vakarian paused, glanced back at the two humans with an expression of surprise. Anderson paused thoughtfully.
"Please, sir. Give him a chance. He knows how these guys operate, and I reckon has reason to make sure the real killer of Nihlus is found."
"That is true." Vakarian nodded. "Whether Vega or someone else, I would like to bring the correct person to justice."
"Very well." Anderson rubbed a forefinger over his lower lip. "Lieutenant Commander Vega was not the first human candidate for the Spectres."
"Sir?" Shepard leaned back on her gurney.
"I was. I was sent with Saren on a mission and it went very, very wrong because of his actions. He lied about my role in the deaths of several civilians and I was removed from contention for the Spectres and until last week, I had never heard more from Saren Arterius when I was ordered to take him on board."
Shepard straightened, her eyes widening. "I had no idea, sir."
"It was kept quiet, but now seems relevant to the situation. Saren has made no secret of his dislike for humans, but the council persists in using him for assessments, on the theory that if a human candidate were to impress him, then they would have truly earned their place in the ranks." Anderson paced to the viewing window, staring out into the starry skies.
Shepard glanced over at Vakarian. She had to give it to the turian, he seemed to be listening intently. When his bright blue gaze met hers, she had the sensation of a sharp intelligence assessing the situation.
"In your opinion, Captain, could the Spectre have … lied about Vega?"
The Captain turned a grim expression upon his XO and the turian C Sec officer. "Yes. He is capable of it."
Vakarian squinted thoughtfully. "I would like to return to Eden Prime and investigate, Captain."
Shepard rubbed the back of her neck. "We can't."
The turian scowled. "I would have thought you would wish this cleared up?"
"I do." Shepard nodded. "Like nothing else. But we have to go to the Citadel. The geth. The Council have to know about the geth."
"And the ship." Vakarian said.
"What ship?" Shepard glanced back and forth between the two men.
"You have some catching up to do, Lieutenant. Come to my quarters when you are ready." The Captain nodded to them both.
Shepard rubbed the back of her neck as they were left alone. "Look. Thank you. I know Saren is a Spectre and ..you know..." she waved her hand at Vakarian.
"A turian?" Vakarian replied, his voice cold. "I can assure you, that I plan to investigate thoroughly. If he is guilty, he needs to be brought swiftly to justice. If he is innocent, I would rather the investigation take place quietly so that his name is not sullied."
Shepard's bright green gaze was firm upon his own. "Vega did not kill Nihlus. I want in on the investigation."
"How much experience have you had?" Vakarian's mandibles flared. "With investigations?"
"None," Shepard replied flatly.
"Then you will only get in my way."
Shepard's hand clenched. "You are out of your juristiction, C-Sec. Out here is a little dirtier than your clean and pretty Citadel."
Vakarian paused, the only sound the huff of an irritated breath. "I assure you, Lieutenant, I am more qualified than you to undertake the clearing of Lieutenant Commander Vega's name."
"He's one of mine," said Shepard.
"He outranks you, Lieutenant."
"That's just titles. He's a friend. One of mine."
Vakarian dropped his chin and his eyes shuttered briefly. "Very well. Once we are done with the Citadel, we will return to Eden Prime."
Shepard strode toward the door of the med bay and met Chakwas coming back the other way.
"Everything alright, Shepard?" Karin rose a pale brow.
"Just fine. I'm discharging myself."
Chakwas glanced over at the turian. He uncurled his own clenched fist, nodded to the doc and headed for the door.