"One Shot, One Kill"
These two words were the only thing on Commander Shepard's mind as she sprinted across a ground littered with wreckage and debris. Her heart hammered in her chest as her lungs screamed for more air. Years of intense training and combat experience had not prepared her for the devastation wrought by this new type of enemy – the geth. These synthetic beings had some grudge against organics and they used every sadistic means at their disposal to wipe out those of flesh and bone. But she was a spectre, one of the most highly skilled and deadly operatives in Citadel Space, and one damn geth was not going to kill her.
Shepard darted left, then right, trying to throw off the enemy's aim. Just before she zipped behind the cover of a mangled concrete block, she heard the crack of air shattered by the shockwave of a rifle round. Something sizzled by her head – a near miss. Without looking, she changed directions again.
Hurry up, dammit. It's getting the range on me.
The commander had placed her life in the hands of the turian, Garrus Vakarian. During his time in C-Sec he had a reputation as being one of the best snipers in the outfit. She'd seen his work first hand during the rescue of Doctor Liara T'Soni on the planet, Therum. She knew that turians, especially C-Sec trained ones, had steady hands and cold hearts and Garrus could put a round through a flea's behind at over 100 meters. Still, it didn't stop her from praying with every step that she took.
There was another crack in the distance and a puff of dust erupted only a few centimeters from her leg. She shifted directions again as her muscles strained under the abuse they were getting.
I'm running out of luck…and time.
Was she right to trust Garrus? She'd thought about putting Ashley Williams behind the trigger, but the turian was clearly better with the sniper rifle. Ash was more of a close combat expert, deadly with the Tsunami assault rifle. The krogan, Urdnot Wrex, liked fighting even closer, favoring anything from the shotgun to his bare claws. So, it had to be Garrus.
Of course, Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko lodged his protest before she started off on this suicide run. He volunteered to be the rabbit, but the commander would have none of that. There was no way that someone was going to take a bigger risk than her. Not while she was in charge. He didn't look happy at all when the decision was made. "My kinetic shields will hold," she told him, "and besides, I run a heck of a lot faster than you." True, personal shields gave excellent protection, but one direct hit….
Shepard noticed that Kaidan had become a bit overprotective of her as of late and she wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted. During the last mission, on Noveria, he'd stepped in front of her to take a massive biotic blast from Matriarch Benezia. In retrospect, it was the right thing to do as Kaidan was a biotic himself and knew how to take the hit. Still, it nearly fried his L2 implant, which would have been fatal.
I'm not going to die on this cruddy little world.
Determination drove her now. She'd come to drive the geth off of the colony and failure was not an option. The synthetic life forms had invaded Feros, wiping out much of the ExoGeni corporate colony. After the mission on Noveria, Shepard had a particular irritation at corporate politics and Feros only reinforced that view. The corporations cared nothing for the people that risked their lives to bring them immense profits. Sticking it to the corporation on Noveria had brought her immense pleasure.
Now the geth had taken positions in the tower overlooking the camp of Zhu's Hope, one of the last surviving strongholds. Ragged bands of colonists had retreated from their homes and offices to make a last stand against the geth. Under their leader, Fai Dan, they held out valiantly for days under waves of assaults. The arrival of the Normandy turned the tide and there was talk of an offensive to drive the enemy from the surrounding buildings. However, one geth sniper now threatened to destroy the entire camp.
From the tower the sniper could pick off the entire compound. Assaulting the tower would mean vicious, close quarters combat, room to room. Losses would be high. It was Shepard's plan to draw them out and avoid the quagmire of urban fighting, but the plan was unraveling quickly. Now, more than 100 meters from safety, she began to question this suicidal course of action. With their mechanized limbs and computerized targeting, it was not often that the geth missed.
Then, she heard the crack of another shot and her kinetic shields flashed.
The young turian was proud that she had chosen him over the others to take the shot. He had really come to respect the commander lately, in spite of her holding to the rule of law in the field. Initially, when he resigned from C-Sec and joined the Normandy crew, he thought he had left the bureaucracy behind. His father was a C-Sec man through and through and took it hard when Garrus broke the news. Feeling free of the political insanity, Garrus thought that it would be a wild ride through the galaxy, taking down the bad guys without restraint. But Shepard always told him to do it the right way for the right reasons just like his father did. Even when she had gone out of her way to help him hunt down the warped Doctor Saleon, it was by the book. They had to kill the doctor in the end, but Garrus learned a valuable lesson – you can only control your own reactions, not the actions of others. Integrity was the key and it struck a chord within his turian heart.
Turians were known for their cold professionalism and sense of duty. They were unlike the rampaging krogan in their outlook on combat – it wasn't just about fighting and killing, it was about honor. Garrus had become so frustrated with the bureaucracy of C-Sec that he had lost touch with that. Somehow, in all of this madness and death he hoped to regain the feeling of pride that he once had.
He watched as Shepard darted back and forth in the shadow of the tower. He listened to the regular crack of the sniper rifle and saw the puffs of dust from near misses. Now, he began to have doubts. Was he up to snuff? Was she right to have brought him along on this quest to take down the renegade, Saren? Could he make the shot that would save her?
He settled down, cradling the Naginata sniper rifle in his hands, pulling the stock into his lean shoulder. The optics adjusted for range and windage, giving him a clear picture of the battlefield, but all he could see was Shepard sprinting from cover to cover. He couldn't let her die.
Where is it? It's got to be up in the tower somewhere.
He'd once been a C-Sec officer, sworn to uphold the law on the Citadel, the center of politics and culture in the known galaxy. For a long time, he reveled in the action, but the last couple of years were trying. It had been nothing but regulations and meaningless paperwork for far too long now. All sense of accomplishment and service were lost. What did it all mean? Why was he even trying to uphold the law? None of it mattered before he joined her crew. Now, his whole life and honor came down to one press of the trigger. His eye roved over the face of the tower, looking for any sign, any clue as to the location of the sniper. Lieutenant Alenko hunkered down beside him, trying to get a vantage point of what was happening. Garrus suspected that the lieutenant had a thing for the commander. In the month that he had spent with the humans he was getting a feel for them. Strangely, despite his initial misgivings, he found that humans were a lot like turians…good, bad, happy, sad, and loving. Food for thought.
Alenko kept fidgeting around, obviously afraid for Shepard. The man's anxiety would throw off Garrus' aim. "Keep still please," the would be sniper said without taking his eye from the scope. "Make yourself useful and spot for me."
There was a sigh, but then Alenko became still. Garrus instantly felt the calmness of spirit return. "Lieutenant, take that spotting scope and scan the tower. I'm looking for anything…a muzzle flash, a bullet trail, anything."
"You got it." It was a win-win. Alenko would stop all of this moving and sighing and Garrus would have a second pair of eyes.
There was another crack of the sniper rifle and Garrus saw the commander's shields light up. She staggered for a moment. Had he failed? Had he missed the chance for that one shot?
Kaidan was about ready to bolt from cover, but Garrus grunted. "Keep your post, lieutenant. Where did that shot come from?" The Turian wanted to see what happened to Shepard. Did she fall? Was their mission now a failure? He knew he couldn't. He knew he had to keep his eye on the scope.
"Ten degrees elevation," said Kaidan through gritted teeth. "Twenty degrees right windage."
Garrus smoothly slewed the rifle up and right and saw a window. There was movement. A geth sniper was taking careful aim at someone below. Through the scope the turian could see its synthetic finger applying pressure to the trigger. Garrus would have one shot. His whole life would come down to one shot.
She was hurt bad. The last round went clear through her kinetic shields. Something sizzled through her armor, through flesh, and then out the back. Warm, sticky fluid poured down her side, coating her uniform underneath. Shepard staggered, but kept going. There would be time to die later.
Dammit Garrus, take the shot already!
Whatever the outcome, she knew she made the right choice to bring the turian along. She made the right choice to let him take the shot. He was quite a hothead when they first started out – eager to bend the rules and be free of the bureaucracy. After they had taken down Doctor Saleon though, he seemed a changed turian. The salarian doctor was the embodiment of evil, experimenting on hapless victims in the name of science. When they caught up with the doctor, his shuttle was nothing short of a charnel house. Shepard knew that Garrus wanted blood, but she made him do it by the book. It wasn't about her or the Turian; it was about the victims and the integrity of the officers. It seemed to sink in with Garrus in the days following the raid. Yes, she made the right decision.
Shepard changed directions again. Her legs were all she had now as her shields overloaded and snapped off with a flash. One more hit and she'd be dead. The wound was draining her though and her vision began to blur. In a moment of inattention, she tripped over some concrete debris. She knew this was it. The geth would not spare her this mistake. There was a distant crack of a rifle and she winced. At least it wouldn't hurt for long.
The turian took in a long, deep breath and then slowly let out half of it and held it fast. He could now feel his heart beat…his blood pump…his muscles relax. His eye was lasered in on the geth. Nothing else mattered. The range finder told him his target was at 500 meters, a challenging shot for even the best snipers. He could feel the 10 knot wind on his face and knew that he would not have time to adjust his sights. The shot would be entirely on "feel."
I can do this.
With mental focus alone, Garrus slowed his heart rate. Thump thump…thump thump…. The shot would need to happen between beats. At 500 meters, the pumping of the heart could mean up to five meters in error. That was an unacceptable miss. Thump thump…thump….
His finger acted on its own. Slow backward pressure, building tension on the trigger until the shot broke. The recoil upset his sight picture and he lost the image of the geth for a moment. It was up to fate now.
With skill born of years of training, he reset the rifle and found the window. There was nothing there. Did he miss?
Kaidan let out a whoop that nearly deafened Garrus. The turian pulled his eye from the scope and saw a figure tumbling down the face of the tower. The shot found its mark. The geth sniper crashed onto the debris below. Garrus sighed with relief, letting all of the tension flow out of him. He felt faint for a moment; so much had ridden on this one shot. Alenko bolted from cover, rushing towards the commander and the turian snapped back to reality.
Garrus turned and pointed at Chief Williams and Wrex. "Cover us! We're going to retrieve the commander."
They sprinted ahead, covering the debris strewn ground with amazing speed. Kaidan ran like a madman, oblivious to any danger and leapt down to cradle the commander. In one swoop, he hoisted her over his shoulder and began running back.
Garrus covered their retreat and soon, they were back behind the barriers of Zhu's Hope. Kaidan laid the commander down gently. Her eyes were a little glazed over, but she was conscious. "Medigel, please," she said in her abrupt and stern manner and the lieutenant ripped off her breastplate to apply the pack. There was a lot of blood on her uniform, but the medigel worked wonders and Garrus knew she'd be back in action shortly. She never seemed to rest.
He felt bad that he couldn't take out the sniper sooner and knelt down beside her. "Commander, I…I'm sor – "
She took his hand, holding his three turian fingers and shook her head. "No apologies, Garrus. That was one hell of a shot."
He had to smile. That was quite a compliment coming from a spectre. He wanted to be a spectre at one point, but life led him down another road. Spectre snipers were the best and they had a motto that summed up their skill.
"One shot, one kill," he said quietly and she nodded at his words.
Obviously in pain, Shepard rolled over and pulled her own sniper rifle from her combat pack. Garrus had always admired it as it was a thing of beauty and elegance – the HMSWR X, the finest personal long-range killing tool in known space. He had seen the commander make impossible shots with that weapon. What was she doing with it?
"This is for you, Garrus. You earned it."
What? He couldn't believe his ears. This was an honor beyond words. He dared not touch it at first. It would be like sacrilege for his grubby hands to touch such a work of art. Shepard seemed to sense his hesitation and pushed it out to him again with a rare smile. Slowly, with unsure fingers, he took the weapon. It was light with just enough weight to give it perfect balance. He had read everything there was to know about this rifle and it was like he had already fired a thousand rounds with it. The trigger action was so fine that it seemed like you only had to think and the round would fire and there was next to no recoil. Garrus' breath was stuck in his throat for a moment or two as he wielded the weapon, taking aim against nonexistent targets. He didn't know what to say.
Shepard rose to her feet, the medigel having taken effect already. The healthy pallor had returned to her cheeks and she patted Garrus on the shoulder. "Don't thank me yet. This mission isn't half over."
There was a time when he found her abruptness rather rude, but it had grown on him. He had to smile. "You lead, commander, I'll follow," he said, realizing that he had found his honor again with one, perfect shot.