Previously in Stones: Wrex and Jack Harper interfered with Shepard's timeline, resulting in the batarians attacking Mindoir 6 years early. Instead of hiding like she did in her first life, Shepard fought back. She was taken and has been turned over to a turian fight trainer. The krogan/quarians/geth/drell have been granted an embassy, and are now working with the humans to bolster the positions of all their races.
Qadin: (pronounced kah-dihn) Female after undergoing the rite of passage (female version)
Qisan: (pronounced kee-sahn) Male after undergoing the rite of passage
Birinc Qan: (Mirror Effect and Stones 'verse) The monthly ritual battle that takes place in huge, amphitheatre-like temples. The intention is to keep krogan in touch with their warrior nature while functioning within a civilized, peaceful galaxy.
Hinah - (Asari) Mother. The bearing parent.
Makah - (Asari) Father. The non-bearing parent.
Kaika - (Asari) Daughter.
March 20, 2164 (The Citadel)(The same day Shepard woke up)
Wrex punched the door control, unleashing enough rage to make all his knuckles screech and crack. The control didn't seem to care, merely beeping as it opened the door. He restrained the urge to assault the annoying green panel again, barely. Urgency had replaced his earlier despair, insisting that he continue the search for his lost family member. When they analyzed everything they found inside the varren, they discovered a couple pounds of muscle; chunks of rib, femur, and clavicle; and the chunk of scalp: no entrails or organs.
Varren always ripped open the belly and went for the tender bits first.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Urdnot Wrex." The qadin behind the desk looked small in the center of the massive office … until she looked up. No one could accuse Urdnot Mellir of lacking for presence, particularly when pissed off. The moment her gaze met his, the room shrank into a closet, pressing in on him from every side. "How kind of you to acknowledge my summons."
He chuffed, a deep guttural sound that clawed its way up the back of his throat. "You know where I've been." Wrex stabbed a cocked brow ridge at Urdnot Mellir. "You know the batarians attacked Mindoir and snatched Shepard. I've been hunting down the slavers." Refusing to enter the room, he hunched and balled his fists, meeting her almost-parental disapproval with a glower worthy of Meeka at her most petulant. Had the krogan ambassador called him all the way to the Citadel just to scold him? The fire flared again, its flames all that had kept him warm since he left his ladies on Mindoir. "You're wasting precious time."
"No, you are. Now, sit down, and stop growling at me." She pointed to one of the chairs across the desk from her. When he didn't move, she shoved herself out of her chair, lunging toward him with enough fury to back him up a step. "I said sit, Wrex." When he didn't leap to do as she ordered, her fist pounded into the wooden top. "Don't test me, whelp."
Grumbling loud enough to let her know he obeyed grudgingly, Wrex stepped forward and sat in the chair. It let out a vicious complaint as it bowed under his weight. "What do you want?"
"The method of your investigation is why I called you here, idiot pup." Mellir growled and slammed her fists against the top of the desk again. "I should have known that all your perfect ideals for the krogan people's future would fly straight into the sun at the slightest test of your patience." She threw herself backwards into her chair.
It was Wrex's turn to hurtle forward and pound the desk. "You'd leave her to the batarians? Just forget that she's supposed to sav …." He let that sentence die. Mellir didn't know what Shepard meant to the galaxy's future. He'd never trusted her with his secret.
Mellir sighed and nodded toward his chair. "Sit down, Wrex."
After staring the qadin down for another few seconds, Wrex grumbled and lowered himself back into the massive armchair. He didn't need to be on the Citadel being scolded, he needed to get back on the slaver's many, dead-end trails, tracking Shepard.
"The council called me in to ask me why a people determined to earn a place within their august ranks would declare war against another race." Her hand sliced the air, cutting Wrex off before he finished taking the breath to fuel his argument. "Even the batarians," she said, her words cutting like razors. "They've called the attack on Mindoir a response to provocation."
"Cowards." Wrex shifted in his chair once, squirming a little beneath her glare. Leave it to the council to cling to the safe, peaceful status quo rather than doing the right thing. For all they blathered on about justice, they did nothing unless it served their purposes. What did they care about a small child surviving unimaginable torture when saving her might disturb their precious status quo?
"Batarian and slaver attacks have increased two hundred percent since the batarians closed their embassy and left the Citadel. The council wants to bring the batarians back into the fold," Mellir continued, "and work on changing them through peace and cooperation."
"Wasted air," he said on a grumpy sigh. "They'll cling to slavery and their caste system to the last stinking one of them."
Mellir sank into her chair, her posture declaring defeat while her stare warned him not to test her. "Stop being a stubborn welp! The council is offering the krogan everything you've fought to get us."
He chuffed hard enough that spittle flew from his mouth to splatter on his thigh. He stared at it for a moment before swiping it away. "And the price?" Only a moron believed the council presented gifts. They made bargains and haggled over the details until they'd turned everything upside down and inside out.
"We bring all the willing batarians in, give them a place in our alliance." She perched her elbows on her desk and wove her fingers together in front of her mouth. "My contacts say the humans are going to receive their own embassy for the technologies they've shared." She rumbled, low and deep in her chest. "After their introduction of medigel, I'm certain that a hefty donation of war ships will win them a place on the council and that the timeframe that will make the volus explode inside their suits."
Wrex watched the elderly qadin for long moments. The news about the humans didn't surprise him. Jack Harper had introduced his people in the way most likely to grab humanity a council seat in the least amount of time. Wrex hoped to ride their wake, not expecting the council to welcome the krogan without a great deal of leverage pressuring them to do so. He didn't care, so long as they ended up council members, but the batarians? That felt too much like turning his hard-won alliance into a catch-all prison for undesirables.
The quarian-geth alliance showed the potential of AI and the drell were making agricultural advancements that promised to allow farming on planets currently too harsh to support fruit and vegetable production. They did not deserve to be lumped in with slavers.
He shook his head. "Not the batarians. The hegemony will never set aside slavery and the caste system, and I won't have them turn the krogan into slavers." An inferno igniting in his blood, he strode to the wide balcony, his footsteps heavy enough to rattle the objects on her desk, and looked out over the presidium. "The council will take less than a minute to forget they asked the krogan to do this. Once they start blaming us for every slaver in the Terminus, all we've bled for will die."
Mellir chuffed, a growl-like sound, its ferocity calming the fire in his belly. "I agree that we have little chance of changing the batarians, and I'd sooner ally with the vorcha, but if the council asks this of us we need to cooperate, Wrex. That means no official campaigns of terror against batarian targets."
Wrex's chuckle rolled from his mouth, so heavy with malice that he swore he heard it hit the tiles. Official. Damn, that was the best censure a krogan could ask for. Very little about the krogan people fell under the heading 'official', and he knew just how to apply Mellir's warning to finding Shepard.
"Fine," he said at last, making sure to keep his tone as sour and brittle as possible. If the council listened in, which he'd guarantee they did, he needed for them to think him beaten. "Leave the batarians alone." He stomped to the door. "Can I go?" Glancing back, he caught the amusement behind the qadin's stare and answered it with a sneer.
"Please." She turned to her computer as if to show him how completely he'd already been forgotten.
For a half second, the picture she painted—the krogan beaurocrat hard at work—struck him as so impossible and ridiculous and remarkable that he froze in place and stared.
"Unless you're suffering a brain hemorrhage, I suggest you either stop staring at me, or make a breeding request." One corner of her mouth twitched, taking the sting from her acidic humour. "Oh, and Clan Leader Uta also requests that you stop gawking. It makes her uncomfortable around your bond-mate."
"A breeding request for either of you could only follow a massive brain bleed," he shot back before he stepped out the door. He grinned as he headed down the stairs toward the street: he had unofficial batarian persecution to plan. "It's a strange, new galaxy, Urdnot Wrex." he muttered as he slapped the last door control. He fled the embassies, paying little attention to his path until he looked up, Urdnot Bakara's statue reaching into the false sky above him.
He stared up at her for a few seconds, his two lives blurring inside his head. He missed her. Not specifically the young warrior who'd saved Urdnot or the shaman and her quiet wisdom, but some combination of the two. Her memory lived in the twilight between the two.
A rough, derisive cough blew the track out from under that train of thought. Shepard didn't need him to stand around sobbing into his oversized hanky about the past. She needed him kicking ass and shooting heads until he found her … unofficially. He grinned, the expression a frozen gash across his face. He knew just the unofficial pair to bring in.
March 23, 2164 (The Citadel, Lower Zakera Ward, Kurdan's Filthy Cup)
"Hmph." The voice cracked Wrex's relatively peaceful envelope, it's rumble very like boulders breaking away from the mountain to form a rockslide. "Your taste in bars hasn't improved in three hundred cycles, kid."
"I haven't been a kid in a lot longer than that." Wrex chuffed, low and guttural, and sank a little deeper into his chair. He thrust his chin at the chair next to him, inviting the other krogan to sit down. "Since when have you been too classy for anywhere?"
Wrex took another long swallow from his batarian spiced ale. He didn't need to turn to know the intruder's identity or how heavily armed he was. He paused, listening through the seedy bar's ambient chaos. No, make that how heavily armed they were. He should have known Nakmor Drack wouldn't go anywhere without his shadow.
The huge krogan stepped into Wrex's line of sight. "Me? Never. I'm just worried about my ru'shan. She's still impressionable."
Behind Wrex, the aforementioned ru'shan laughed, the sound deep and welcome. "He's just worried about running into everyone he's ever paid for sex." Nakmor Kesh circled behind her grandfather to sit opposite Wrex. She met his stare with an open, jovial one. "Asari have good memories, especially when it comes to their most crushing disappointments."
Wrex grunted. Nothing had changed in the century or so since he'd last seen the pair other than Drack's retirement from working the underside of the law. The qisan remained huge and loud, the center of attention, while Kesh stayed back, her keen mind dissecting everything into patterns and equations, her humour biting with grinning varren fangs.
The trio met thanks to Drack embracing Birinc Qan with an enthusiasm that dragged along a great many followers. Nakmor counted among the first clans to join Urdnot. They had little to lose, being a small clan living in the Kraddack Wastes, a miserable stretch of radioactive dust and death even by krogan standards. Anyway, Wrex owed Drack's wild tales a great deal. They'd pulled in the first competitors and livened up most nights, half the old bastard's time spent fighting, half boasting.
"Why are we meeting with the Urdnot clan chief in the ugliest dive on the Citadel?" Drack asked, his yellow-green eyes narrowing as they fixed on Wrex. "Don't you stick to the Presidium these days?" Despite his words, the old timer's tone registered nothing but approval. While not as vocal as other clans, Nackmor had stepped up behind Urdnot early and remained a silent but staunch supporter of Wrex's agenda.
"I need someone found," Wrex said, his voice pitched to remain between the three of them. "A human child taken in the batarian raid on Mindoir."
Drack's eyes narrowed further, but it was Kesh who spoke. "I heard a human child being praised as the savior of her community."
A massive hand closed around Wrex's throat for a moment, leaving him only enough air to grunt to the affirmative. He took a long drink from his glass, the burn of hot peppers and ale opening his airway enough to speak. "Her final count was twenty-three dead slavers; a battle worthy of her Rite of Passage."
Kesh grinned, as much ferocity as wonder in her expression. "Worthy, indeed." She lifted a hand, signalling to one of the batarian waitresses. "Three Warrior's Pyres," she ordered when the woman stopped next to them.
"I heard that child died on Mindoir," Drack said once the waitress moved on. The qisan leaned back and stretched out his legs, his joints popping loud enough for Wrex to hear them over the music. "Didn't you find her remains?"
Wrex chuffed. Once he left Mindoir's stormy skies and electric air behind him, the clan chief found the evidence of Shepard's death less convincing. Despite his best efforts, hope began to creep in; hope seeded by the child's missing sikah and rooted in batarian guile and greed. They'd found only survivable levels of meat and blood left behind, and he didn't place a batarian slaver above carving Shepard up a little if the bastard believed it would halt a search.
"There's room for doubt," he replied simply.
When the waitress placed three flaming glasses of ryncol on the table, Kesh picked one up. "Then we'll make this a salute to a warrior's first victory." She held the shotglass out, the blue light from the flame dancing across the smooth curve of her headplate. "May she fight and win many more."
Wrex met the qadin's toast, the heavy glasses clunking together with a satisfying solidity. "If I know Shepard, she's not giving up without a fight." He swallowed the burning alcohol in a single splash, the flames skating along his tongue before he closed his mouth, smothering them.
"Either way, you've been pissing off the batarians." Drack saluted Wrex with his glass. "That's something I can get behind." He swallowed the ryncol, letting out a long sigh on the exhale. "It can't be popular with the council."
Wrex gave the old krogan a knowing sneer. Wrex didn't need to tell Drack anything about his reasons for hiring them. "It's not. I've been ordered to officially keep the peace."
Kesh leaned forward, her armour ringing slightly as she braced her forearms against the table. "And thus the call to us." With a single, deep breath and a nod, she flipped jovial reunion into business discussion. "Do you have anything to get us started?"
"Her sikah," Drack answered, cutting Wrex off before the words made it past his throat. "I assume that the batarian saw her use it on his men. He knows she can fight, and he took it with her. My guess is that he intends to throw her into the pits … novelty fights. We're going to need contacts on the hegemony's A-list"
Drack's immediate grasp of the situation crushed the last of Wrex's misgivings about turning the search over to anyone else. Few people lived as long or saw as much as Nakmor Drack—even krogan. In his nearly fourteen centuries, there wasn't very much that Drack hadn't done or dealt with, including piracy. Kesh, though Raxi's age, possessed a sharp intelligence and a unique perspective that made her the big brain behind her grandfather's prodigious brawn. If Wrex couldn't rip the hegemony and the Terminus apart, he couldn't think of anyone better than Drack and Kesh to take over.
If his gut-deep belief in Shepard's survival proved true and her spirit held out as he believed it would, one day Kesh would call with good news. Yes. He couldn't believe in any universe where Jane Shepard—any Jane Shepard—allowed some batarian-slaver-scum to beat her down. Still, until that happy day, he didn't need to spark hope in her family's hearts. Better surprised later than disappointed and worried every day until.
Wrex leaned back, finishing off his spiced ale as Kesh began organizing a list of places and people they needed to reach out to. Once he picked up his family on Mindoir, he'd plant his feet back on Tuchanka and fight to stay there as long as the galaxy allowed. The time passed too slow one day, and the next it flew by far too quickly. With Shepard's base covered, he needed to prepare his people—all of them—for the day Sovereign came out of hiding and the war began.
March 30, 2164 (Krogan Freighter Maw's Bane in orbit of Mindoir)
"David Anderson and Alec Ryder have been forwarded to the council as humanity's first Spectre candidates." Jack Harper paced to the rear of his QEC pad once, his hands steepled in front of his face. "They tried to place Anderson with a turian, but after meeting with Councillor Tevos and lauding the asari race, philosophy, and military expertise, Goyle convinced her to pair him with an asari huntress, a matron named Shar L'Saat."
Harper tapped at his omnitool's interface. "Ryder is paired with an ex-STG operative, Galon Tapik. With the council in humanity's corner, I'm not concerned about their success."
"No mention of Saren?" Wrex chuffed at the sly grin that tried to bully its way onto his face. While he'd kept a casual watch on the turian Spectre, he knew Harper never took his eyes off Saren or his brother, Desolas. While Harper's back stiffened a little, he showed no other sign of being jabbed about his surveillance obsession.
After Harper allowed the attack on Mindoir, Wrex stopped letting things pass unnoted or remarked on. Nothing the human said convinced Wrex that the Illusive Man hadn't been aware of the oncoming raid, counting on it buying humanity leverage with the council and on Jane needing some grand tragedy to shape her into Commander Shepard.
"No." Harper's voice tipped Wrex away from a deepening rage spiral. "Without the First Contact war and their confrontation over the Arca Monolith, Saren and Desolas Arterius remain steady on their paths: exceptional but reaper-free trajectories so far." Harper stopped at the console and lowered his hands to press to the surface. "Saren continues to mentor Nihlus Kryik, although after a year, it's safe to say partners rather than mentor/protege. They're an effective team. I wouldn't be surprised if they find Shepard before you manage to provoke the batarians into war."
Wrex's turn to stiffen, any chance of a productive meeting heading straight down the crapper. "Did you vacuum up the tech that indoctrinated him to begin with?" Wrex shook his head, a narrow-eyed glare pinning the human straight through his giblets. "How much reaper tech have you kept safe from innocent hands?" His turn to pace. "A couple of reapers—damaged but intact—some pieces here and there … the base on Ilos …." He grunted. "What am I missing, Harper? You tried to get through the Omega IV relay yet?" Despite knowing the answer, Wrex couldn't help but jab the man. "How much are you hiding from the coalition?"
"I'm not hiding anything. Don't push me, Wrex, my affection for your family is nothing to be toyed with." Harper bristled, but remained the eternal businessman. "We're not ready to provoke the collectors. Their ships will tear through anything in our fleets even without the complication of Sovereign taking the field."
"You can't fault me for wondering." Wrex stepped up to the console. "We know the Citadel leads to dark space and that all those reapers are just waiting out there for you to take control of them. You're already building the Crucible." When Harper opened his mouth—to deny it, no doubt—Wrex just chuckled, low and threatening. "As a good friend once said, I may have been born at night, Illusive Man, but it wasn't last night."
Harper's stare turned even icier than usual at the old title, but he didn't rise to the challenge. "We can't go through the Omega IV relay or retrieve the prothean work-around on Ilos until we're prepared to deal with the reapers en masse." The long breath that followed the man's words finished off Wrex's concerns. For the moment. Maybe, and just maybe, the Illusive Man's desire to take control of the reapers hadn't followed him into his current incarnation.
Still, Wrex needed to get someone close to Harper.
"The krogan need to propose two Spectre candidates as well," Harper said, changing the topic back. Despite the man's eyes focused on his, Harper's stare didn't connect, turned inward, studying all the machinations swirling around inside his head. "We also need a drell and even a quarian if you can find them. Competent agents out preserving galactic peace will get us closer to council seats and allow us to keep watch out there. Sovereign is moving."
Wrex's scowl deepened. The perfect candidates happened to either be dead or his not-technically-krogan daughter. He shook his head, trying to imagine Barl dealing with the council's bullshit. The only image that appeared was the salarian councillor's head flying the length of the chambers. Twenty biting remarks slammed themselves against the back of his teeth. Instead, he grunted.
"Bring this up with Mellir. She'll know better than me who the council will accept. All my candidates wouldn't play the politics." Strange that he hadn't thought to press for Spectre appointments a century or two ago. No, not strange at all. He'd spent too much time bringing the krogan together to think about turning them into super-mercenaries and then handing them 'break all the laws you want' cards.
Harper made a note on his omnitool but remained silent. The longer it lasted, the higher Wrex's brow ridge climbed. Must be something massive to give the air so long to clear.
At last, the man took a breath. "I called to ask you a favour, Wrex." A faint grimace followed the announcement. "Henry Lawson has been delaying turning custody of his daughter over to me." The grimace deepened, but even across the QEC, Wrex could tell it wasn't about admitting he needed help that time, but dread.
"Considering the project Lawson is running lead on, it's important to make sure Miranda isn't at risk." Harper shook his head. "It's important to our entire coalition."
Bracing himself back on one hip, Wrex dropped his arms across his chest, bulwarks against bad news. "He's heading up research on the reaper corpses." Why in the name of Kalross's cloaca would Harper put that sadistic piece of rahat in charge of anything let alone the corpses?
"I couldn't put anyone of importance in that role," Harper said, answering the unspoken question. "I put a bullet in Lawson's brain, it's doing the galaxy a favour." He shrugged that aside with a twitch of one shoulder. "Miranda is important, however, and I can't just send my people to get her off that station. I need neutral parties of sufficient skill to force the issue."
Wrex understood. Harper wanted Samara and Raxi. Still he asked, "Who are you sending?"
"Ms. Obikwelu, my security chief, and a squad of shock troopers are accompanying Eva Core, Patricia, and the girls. I'm hoping the troops will remain invisible for the duration." Harper took a step back from the console, his posture screaming everything he'd never say.
I wouldn't risk your family without risking mine.
Wrex nodded. Message received.
Miranda Lawson, while not likely needed to put Shepard's dead body back together, was a valuable asset to the war effort. Her genius and diplomatic skills couldn't be lightly cast aside.
"I'll discuss it with Samara and Raxira when I pick them up in … " He glanced at the chrono on the console. "... forty minutes. Their risk, their decision."
"Fair enough." Harper's hand twitched, a reflexive movement from the man's old life and old habits. "Unless there's need, I'll contact you in a week."
Wrex nodded once then closed the channel, sending a quick text to Barl to make sure the shuttle was ready to go when he arrived.
"Makah!" Meeka raced out Hannah Shepard's hospital room door and leaped through the air to cling like a pyjak around Wrex's neck. "We've missed you!" She smacked a rough kiss against his cheek. "Guess what? The doctors said Hannah could come home with us. Hinah and Raxi are at their house packing her things."
The clan chief wrapped one arm under his kaika's back side and strode to the door, knocking and waiting for a reply before entering.
"Now I know why Jane spoke so little," the Shepard matriarch said, a smile drifting across her face like a passing cloud.
Wrex nodded. "She couldn't get a word in." He hugged Meeka and set her down. A quick glance at the woman revealed much-healed physical wounds, the invisible ones beneath still bleeding. "They tell me that you're coming back to Tuchanka with us."
"I made my husband and daughter a promise," she said, the simple words spoken with steel behind them. "Samara began teaching me meditation to speed my healing."
"She's proving to be a fine student," the justicar said from the other side of the threshold. "I have no doubt that she will move effortlessly into the more martial of arts." Samara brushed a kiss across Wrex's jawline as she passed by, moving to help Hannah shed her blankets. "But first, we must ensure you're completely fit."
Raxi wrapped her arm around Wrex and pressed into his side. "She's far too eager to start trading blows. Not that I blame her. Sometimes you just need to unleash some serious violence."
"That's my girl." Wrex head butted her gently then turned to meet Samara's gaze. "Everyone checked out and ready to go?" After so many days apart, he craved the simple pleasure of his family's company … the peace of their presence. Strange how he craved it, or maybe not so strange since the solitude of his previous life never faded, a ghost never laid to rest.
"More than ready," Hannah answered. She lifted a cane from the foot of the bed and started for the door. "I've never been more ready for anything." She led the way through the corridors of the hospital, limping with a resolution that spoke volumes about both her physical and mental states.
Only when they crossed the threshold into the parking area, did she stop, looking up into the troubled sky. "This was always John's dream. He wanted to give Janey a life of fresh air and wide, open spaces, not a skyscraper in sight." She took a deep breath. "As much as I loved this place and our life here, I never need to return." Another deep breath and she glanced back, meeting Wrex's stare. "New chapter."
The clan chief rested a hand on her shoulder. "Have you considered becoming a Spectre?" He grinned and nodded toward their shuttle, meeting her doubt with a shrug. "Be a hell of a new chapter."
(A-N: And now Stones gets its update! I am cooking! hahahaha Thank you for your support during my downtime. I can't express how much it means.)