Garrus leaned heavily against the wall of his fortress, his body sore and aching with exhaustion. His soul ached with his body after moving the corpses of his fallen comrades. He'd been so stupid. His entire squad was dead, all because of him. He trusted Sidonis, they all did…but Garrus was the one who truly killed them. If he had been there it would have been different. He could have saved them…
No you couldn't, don't be so arrogant… Shepard's voice echoed in his head. He let out a sigh as he remembered his scolding after gunning down Saleon. He was certain he could have saved those people if he had reached his lab sooner, kept him from fleeing. You can never control how people will act, but you can control how you respond. That's what really matters.
But she was gone now. She couldn't help him out of this mess he'd created, pull him back from the deep waters he'd sunk to. He was back on Palaven, undergoing a rigorous test in his Spectre training when Joker sent him the message:
Letting everyone know… The Comman-…. Arri's gone. She went down with the ship cause she stopped to save my ass. Typical. It's all my fault, hate me if you want. We are having a memorial here on the Citadel…closed… we couldn't find her…But, I know she would have wanted you there. See ya
He couldn't believe it, the great Commander Shepard, dead. She'd pulled his head out of his ass, got him to believe in himself then just up and disappeared. He'd been so angry. He almost didn't go to the memorial, still almost wished he hadn't. Liara was so heartbroken; her first close friend in who knows how long forced her to abandon her on a burning ship. Who was he kidding? They were all heartbroken, she dove in and became the core of their existence for an entire year, they all trusted her, depended on her, then she left them all to fall.
He loaded his rifle, he knew the Blood Pack couldn't be too far behind and he needed to keep his mind focused. As soon as Garm was done tending his wounds, they'd be after him. They knew his hideout now. He had it all locked down, and with the mangled bodies of his friends still fresh in his mind, sleep wasn't on the agenda any time soon.
She woke gasping for air, the world around her spinning, everything hurt. Explosions were going off as the world shook beneath her feat as she tried to get her bearings, following the voice on the intercoms command.
I've heard this voice before… She thought groggily, snapping on her armor, almost remembering a face before she lost it, ducking behind cover to get away from a mech. She took it out quickly but stayed behind cover, her head still spinning. What the hell had happened? Last thing she saw was the Normandy going down in flames and for all she knew her crew was still on it. Had everyone made it? Did Liara follow her last command and get to the pods? And Joker, did any of his bones survive impact?
Another mech charged and she went into kill mode. Quick, clean, and precise she made her way past a few other mechs, occasionally stumbling by some credits or a creepy holo-journal about a 'subject'. She was getting pretty freaked out before coming to a clearing where she found her first human. She was starting to think the machines had taken over.
The man obviously knew her, but seemed very surprised to see her. Using her accuracy and his biotics, they took care of the mechs quickly. He opened the floor for questions, easing her worries as she found out most of her crew had survived. Her heart ached for Pressley, grizzly old man that he was, he really was kind. She looked at the emblem on Jacob's chest. Where have I seen that before…
"Hello!? Hello is anyone on this frequency!?" A panicked voice piped on Jacob's omni-tool.
"Wilson, it's Jacob, I'm here with Shepard, what's your status?"
"Shepard!? How the hell… nevermind, I need help, the mechs have me surrounded!"
Jacob closed transmission and motioned for her to follow him down the path Wilson had instructed. Wilson seemed a bit too surprised to hear that Shepard was alive, the small hairs on the back of her neck stood, she'd have to be on her guard. She rubbed her jaw gently, feeling the bones crunch. She shook her head, won't be doing that again…
They pushed past the remaining mechs before making it to Wilson. She was half tempted to interrogate him then and there, but Jacob seemed like a nice guy and he seemed to trust Wilson, so she applied the med-gel. Jacob opted that this would be the best time to inform her he worked for Cerberus, and that this was an entire Cerberus station dedicated to bringing her back, no matter what the cost.
She couldn't help but laugh. "If this is how Cerberus treats it's enemies, I'd love to see how it treats it's friends." She crossed her arms against her chest, "I appreciate you telling me Jacob, but I still don't trust either of you. Takes more than that."
They finished off the mechs and made it to the docking bay. The door flew open and there stood a woman, her pleasant face turned to an ugly sneer as she pulled a gun on Wilson and shot him in the throat, leaving him to drown in his own blood. Arri and Jacob jumped back, but only Arri reacted.
"Was that your idea of due process?" She trained her gun on Miranda, who had lowered hers.
"Wilson was a traitor and got what he deserved, now if you don't mind we should get off this station." The patience in Miranda's voice was strained.
"No, we have to go back and look for survivors." She turned to head back down the hall when Jacob grabbed her arm to stop her.
"If they were going to survive they would have been here already. We all knew the risks coming in, this project has only one priority and only one who needs to survive." Miranda turned to leave.
"And who is so damn special they are worth the lives of an entire station?" She snapped.
Miranda turned and gave her a sickly smile, "You."
"Two years?" Arri's breath escaped her and she looked out the window of the shuttle. "I've been gone that long?" How bad were her injuries?
She answered their questions, though entirely personal. Her head was swimming. Yes I'm a colony kid, yes I lost my parents, yes my unit died on Akuze… I couldn't save them…, Virmire…
Ash….I couldn't save you either…
"We'll just have to hope that our little field test was good enough."
Her meeting with the 'Illusive Man' was agitating to say the least. Yes she was happy to be back but for what? Her crew had moved on without her, seeing her again would just open old wounds. Besides, he was trying to tell her who to trust, who to have waving high powered guns around behind her. It made her skin crawl. A pilot I can trust… yeah right.
"Just like old times, 'eh Commander?"
Arri whirled around to see Joker standing before her. She couldn't help it. She rushed forward and wrapped her arms around him. "I thought you were dead…"
"Heh same to you, though if you keep squeezing me like that my dying is still a possibility." She let him go. "C'mon, there's something you gotta see."
The lights reflected off the hull of the immense ship, the glint on her hull promising adventure, danger and freedom. Home. She thought as she smiled softly down at her.
"They only told me last night." She could hear the excitement in Joker's voice. She braced a hand on his shoulder as they stared down at her.
"Well… I guess we'll have to give her a name."
The new Normandy set off into the Galaxy, their first stop, Freedoms Progress.
Arri took the chance to get to know the new Normandy. She was much like the old, though she was distraught to see the stairs had been replaced by an even slower elevator. She sighed, exasperated as she headed up to what EDI, the cool little AI, told her was called the 'Captains Loft'. The door slid open and revealed a luxurious room, it made her very uncomfortable. She outfitted her armor to the dull grey and greens she used, buffing off the Cerberus logo and replacing it with N7. She may not be accepted by the Alliance, but she sure as hell wasn't accepting Cerberus.
She found herself staring into her fish tank, her depressingly empty fish tank. Her mind wandered. The Turian disappeared… Where did he go? He said he was back at Spectre training, surely Cerberus could find him there. Did something happen? She shook her head and felt her cheek, a large scar was easily felt. She stood and made her way to the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. Her hair was the same wavy auburn, let out of it's bun it settled to her waist. She could see the cybernetic implants behind her eyes if she looked close enough, the red light contrasting with her aquamarine eyes. She stretched and something popped, she shook it out. She'd have to be a bit more careful with this body.
She froze as she looked at the underside of her chin, there used to be a scar there, from Mindoir when a slaver held a blade to her throat. She ripped open the clasp of the long sleeved shirt, exposing her bra. They're gone. She pulled the top the rest of the way off and turned to see her back… and only perfect clear skin greeted her. No sign of her tattoo, no scars, nothing. Her heart pounded in her chest. All of her memories, all of her reminders; she touched the area where her tattoo had been, her light and dark. She stripped naked and eyed herself all over, every last scar, every imperfection that spoke of her past had vanished and smooth, creamy skin had taken it's place. She slammed her fist into the wall.
Son of a bitch…
"Commander, ETA to Freedoms Progress two minutes"
Her hand stung, a bone had cracked with the impact, it's initial fracture still not fully healed. She blocked out the pain and loaded up onto the drop ship, Miranda and Jacob in tow.
Freedoms progress was eerie to say the least. They made it through and she was ecstatic to see Tali, and the feeling seemed mutual. They teamed up and took out the mechs, making it to Veetor first. The Quarian was obviously terrified, and Shepard almost punched Miranda for demanding to take him for interrogation. He was obviously injured and no Cerberus operative was going to give a damn if one neurotic Quarian died. She snapped at Miranda that Veetor was going with Tali, and if she didn't like it she could stay behind. They took the data and left he forsaken colony.
After a brief chat with the Illusive Man, she headed back up to the CIC, selecting Omega, where two of her dossiers resided. She may as well kill two birds with one stone. She wasn't too thrilled about going, she'd heard some real horror stories about the 'ruler'.
She met up with the mercenary Zaeed in the hallway, at least this one was easy to find. He was abusing a Batarian, she almost didn't want to stop him. After a quick chat she made her promise to help him, taking out a major gang leader would work for her too. He joined up and drug the now unconscious and bleeding Batarian to his ship.
Her initial meeting with Aria was less than pleasant. Having the two goodie-goodies in tow didn't really help either. She could see how Miranda visibly tensed as the situation escalated. She wasn't made for a real situation, just simulations where she knew she would get out ahead. Shepard was impressed by Jacob, typical true Alliance marine, he stayed calm and collected under pressure. Aria directed her two goons to take the guns away from her throat and began her dramatic introduction.
"Yes I can see you are very powerful here and quite content in your little fantasy of queen." Shepard crossed her arms, "But I have no intention to pay any homage to you, your grace. I need information, and then I'll let you get back to your subjects."
Aria looked light she might kill her for a moment, but then chuckled and grinned. "I like you, Shepard." She motioned for her to take a seat beside her, and she did, "What information?"
"I need to find Mordin Solus. Any ideas?"
"I always liked Mordin, just as likely to heal you as he is to kill you. He's down in the slums…"
Aria informed her all about the plague, the internal gang wars, and her own people posted outside to protect the slums from looters, and to protect the looters from the slums. Shepard was genuinely impressed, Aria seemed to truly care about her people.
"Anything else you wanted to ask me?" Aria smirked.
"One other thing, I'm looking for Archangel." Shepard had read over his dossier. This vigilante had not only dropped the crime rate in this star cluster, but had decreased the average death toll on Omega, which was usually through the roof. Looking at his Dossier, he'd also viciously, and slowly killed a Batarian who lead the attack on Mindoir. She needed to thank him.
"You and half of Omega, you want him dead too?"
"Why is everyone after him?" She leaned back in her chair.
"He thinks he's fighting on the side of good, there is no 'good' side on Omega. Everything he does pisses someone off and it's catching up to him. But he seems to know well enough to stay away from me."
"Just the kind of man I'm looking for." She grinned. She waved a surprisingly fond farewell to Aria, ignoring her comment of finding a man to keep her warm. She sent Miranda back to the ship and took Zaeed, if Miranda was uncomfortable with a few relaxed thugs, how would she look moving through hordes of them? She jammed some kids gun, so she wouldn't have to kill him later; then followed direction and boarded the transport ship.