MASS EFFECT 3: ANDROMEDA SERIES

CHAPTER 30

The Kodiak's rough landing into the station's hangar jolted Garrus in his seat, throwing his head back. He began to ponder on what kind of comment he should make to Cortez, but then discarded the idea when he saw Shepard and EDI making a beeline towards the door. Grabbing his assault rifle, Garrus was the last one off and bolted towards a cargo crate for cover as a barrage of gunfire erupted everywhere. EDI and Shepard took up similar positions several feet ahead of him.

Cerberus troopers were swarming on all fronts to welcome their uninvited guests. Counting inside his head to time when the hostile trooper near him would run out of a clip, Garrus took a breath and then heard the satisfying "click" of a gun ahead. "Now!" He yelled out loud to himself as he unleashed his own spray of rounds tearing down the trooper's kinetic shields instantly and allowing the ammo to pierce the suit exposing blood and pulpy flesh. The now dead Cerberus soldier's body slumped down and Garrus wasted no time as he pivoted on his left foot to confront his next target.

"We got them blocked in one of the hangars-"The trooper was unable to complete his transmission as Garrus selected him to be his next prey. Luckily for him, Garrus chose armor-piercing rounds and aimed at his head, giving the poor unsuspecting trooper a quick death.

"Headshot!" Garrus cheered but then cursed under his breath for allowing himself to be exposed too long and felt a couple of hits to his shields. Ducking back down, he did a quick scan on his omni tool; the shields were at eighty-five percent. A few more rounds whizzed over his head and collided with some of the structure around. Peering over the crate's top, he noticed a door at the front of the hangar. That was where they needed to go! The only task for him to do was to clear a path of Cerberus Centurions that blocked his way. Switching to his M-29 Incisor, he engaged the incideniary rounds and took aim. Lining up his first victim, he wasted no time and quickly took the guy down.

However, the Centurions were no hired mercs on Omega, they were smart. Seeing their comrade's brain exposed from the headshot, the three remaining jumped to each side giving Garrus no clear line of sight. "I love target practice," Garrus smirked as he quickly find his mark on the next Centurion. The remaining fell to EDI's barrage of rounds from her Locust SMG. Perfect! The path was clear. "Shepard! Up ahead!" Garrus bolted over the crate and pumped his legs to make it over to where the door was.

"Garrus! Watch your ass!" Shepard yelled out as he watched his squad mate run out from cover.

A tremor shook the flooring and to the Turian's left was an Atlas-Mech. "Aw….great," Garrus quickly looked around and saw that he mistakenly didn't look for outlets before running out like that. The pilot of the mech caught onto his deadly mistake and aimed both of the mech's cannons on him.

"I got him," EDI spoke out as she aimed her omni tool at the Atlas and used overload to jar the weapon systems temporarily and bringing the mech's shields down. Garrus was given a reprieve and after looking one last time at the door, he ran back towards where his squadmates were and slid into next to them.

"Garrus, that was foolish! What the hell were you thinking?!" Shepard growled as he lifted up to shoot at the Atlas to try to get the shields go down even more.

"I-I..I'm sorry, Shepard..I thought-"

"Shields at twenty percent," EDI interrupted as she launched another overload attack on the Atlas. "Commander, shields down at zero, continue fire."

"We'll talk about this later. Don't make me regret taking you with us," Shepard gave his Turian compatriot one last look as he charged at the Atlas rentlessly, aiming directly at the cockpit. The glass shattered and red splotches splattered up on the glass as the pilot was shot up. The mech stopped once the pilot was dead.

Seeing that the area was secured for now, Garrus stood back up and looked around. "That was easy."

"Initiating Achilles protocol." A female voice said over the hangar's PA.

"Initiating…what?"

"Shepard, Cerberus tends to vent the hangar bay." EDI answered for them. "I need a console to stop it."

"Then let's head up and see what we can find."

Looking over at the door one last time, Garrus joined up with his comrades as they made their way up to the bay's second level. "Hold on, Andromeda, I'm going to find you."

A hard jolt shook the station from where they were slamming Kai-Leng to the floor and Andromeda against the wall. Luckily for her, she still had her footing. Hearing him groan softly on the floor, Andromeda decided she needed to have more of the upper hand and darted out of the room, shutting the door. Finding herself in a long hallway, she determined that there was no way for her to run too far without him gaining on her quickly. She had to hide somewhere …and find some clothing. Choosing to go to the left, she went about three doors down and managed to slip into the room that was labeled "Supply Room."

Looking up from where he was, Kai Leng immediately took notice that Andromeda managed to escape him. Yelling out in aggravation, he opened the door and darted out into the hallway. Both ways were clear and he knew she didn't have enough time to get down to the end…even if she was as fast as him. She was nearby. Standing perfectly still, he listened for a few seconds but could only detect the muffled sounds of explosions outside the station to where the Alliance fleet was engaging the Cerberus fighters.

"Give me a status report," Leng barked over his ear comm.

"We have intruders in the hangar level. Achilles protocol has been engaged." A voice crackled over the line.

"Shepard.." Leng spat the name as if it was poison. "Take him down. He is not to get past you, do you understand?"

"Understood…we have turrets setup."

"If you fail, I expect you to be dead. Leng out." Kai Leng refocused his attention on Andromeda's whereabouts. "So you want to play this game again….let's go."

Following Shepard and EDI around the maze of pipes and crates in maintenance, Garrus couldn't believe how erratic the soldiers were becoming. They were coming at them at full strength and there were so many of them! "Shepard, turret up ahead!" Garrus noticed an Engineer setting one up a few yards in front of them.

"Take it down, EDI. Garrus, focus on the shield generator. Let's make sure these guys don't have anything on us." Shepard directed as he rolled into cover.

Setting sights on one of the generators up ahead, Garrus squeezed the trigger on his assault rifle and ripped the mechanized equipment apart until it finally exploded next to a trooper standing nearby. "Scratch one!"

"Turret also down, Shepard," EDI added after completing her task.

Dead Cerberus bodies all around them showed just what kind of battle they went through. It was long and becoming tiresome both physically and mentally. "That was ugly…they are wasting a lot of troops trying to stop us." The Turian pointed out.

"Let's keep moving..I don't care if I have to kill every Cerberus person on this station, we are going to find the Illusive Man and the Catalyst." Shepard moved ahead and climbed the ladder that led out of maintenance.

Andromeda now was up in the ventilation duct, clothed in a spare Cerberus uniform that she found. She peered down through the grate to the room's interior. Her mind still clouded with the drugs that Cerberus gave her for the experiment. She fought down the urge to throw up and closed her eyes for a few moments to hopefully make the sickness go away. As predicted, she heard the room's door slide open and slowly entered Kai Leng below.

Leng stopped a few inches from the door and looked around. It appeared nothing had been touched but he knew that looks were always deceiving. This game of cat and mouse was intoxicating to him and he loved every second of it. It brought back sweet memories when he first had to track down Andromeda on the Citadel inside her apartment. She hid from him in the bathroom's closet, very quietly until he let his guard down. "So this is where we come to again…is it, Andromeda?" He called out to the room with a satisfying grin. "You think you are strong with your biotics yet you hide…why don't you face your opponent?" He moved the palm of his right hand down onto the handle of his blade and stepped over to the clothes closet where the uniforms were kept.

Andromeda watched him move towards the closet. She saw his hand gripping the blade tighter as if he was ready to attack whatever foe he believed to be in there. He paused for a few seconds and then opened the door, poised to attack.

Leng frowned when he noticed that no one was hiding in the closet as he predicted. She changed their game which he didn't mind. It would make things longer and more interesting. He knew she was there, he could almost smell her but his tactics about taunting her didn't seem to work. So what if he changed it up as well? "So let's talk about your friends on Horizon…shall we. I watched the vids you know..the two humans were husks…and that Batarian…became the grotesque monster that his kind is. They snarled and howled like beasts, Andromeda…I can let you watch the vids before you die. Would you like that?"

Pain shot through Andromeda's heart as horrific images flashed in her mind of her friends as husks for the Reapers. Bile rose up in her throat and she gripped the duct's floor with her fingertips, suppressing all natural urges to cry.

Moving towards another door near the end of the room, Leng continued his banter, hoping to strike the match on the head. "Shepard killed them…without hesitation I may add. Your Turian boyfriend will share the same fate when the Reapers are through with him. Would you like to watch that too?"

Glaring hard down at the grate with hot tears in her eyes, Andromeda had enough. Maneuvering her body, she forced the grate cover off and jumped down in front of the assassin with a death look on her face. "I will kill you, you sick son-of-a-bitch."

The room they were in was a complete wreck with small fires burning, datapads strewn about and damaged monitors. The entire hall seemed to have the same appearance but luckily no unfriendly fire. "Incursion team, you still with us? We are eliminating fire as best we can." Hackett's voice came over their comm system. Garrus paused at the terminal he was going to inspect and glanced over at his commanding officer.

"Admiral, we're in deep and the Prothean VI will be in the safest part of the station," Shepard answered. "Don't hold back."

The order made Garrus tense up and apparently noticeable to EDI. "She will be fine, Garrus."

"I'm sorry?" He was a bit caught off guard by the statement.

"She has survived numerous situations before that placed her life in danger. Her chance of survival is high." Garrus could almost detect sincerity in EDI's voice if there was such a thing for AI's.

"This isn't Elysium, Shepard, I don't need a hero." Hackett replied, interrupting the two.

"I'll be fine. Just take Cerberus down…please." Garrus hung his head hearing Shepard's request and said a small prayer as Hackett jumped back on the line.

"Understood, Commander. All ships, you're free to fire."

Not giving her a chance to attack first, Leng came at her hard, but Andromeda managed to dodge and shot out a warp counter-attack, pushing him back. She could feel the adrenaline pumping in her veins as her heart pounded inside her chest. "This is more personal," Leng retook his stance to see what she would do next.

"You got that right and I will make sure you have a slow death," Andromeda said through gritted teeth as she debated about what attack would be more effective against him next.

"All you're doing is delaying the inevitable." Her time was up and he ran towards her from the right then jumped quickening his distance from her. Slamming his hand down on the floor, he created a biotic sphere that pushed her away and slammed her against the wall hard.

The impact to her head jarred her senses some but she managed to stay on her feet. "Why to have Reaper tech like you?"

"We evolve or we die, those are the options," Unsheathing his weapon, he came at her quickly to make the killing blow to the neck.

Seeing him coming at her fast, she knew that one simple biotic attack wouldn't stop him. Gathering dark energy quickly, she waited till he was about to slash down and screamed out as she purged the energy from her body. The wave picked Leng up as if he was a doll and threw him against the wall hard. The attack completely stunned him and he looked up at her with a memorable shocked expression. He misjudged her…but unfortunately all the energy she used completely drained Andromeda.

Collapsing some to her knees, she panted hard to catch her breath. "That the best you can do?" Leng mocked her as he easily stood back up to approach her.

"Why? You getting tired?" Andromeda shakingly got back up on her knees and clenched her fists.

"No, but you are," Leng grinned.

Suddenly several explosions shook the station violently causing Andromeda to fall forward and slam against Kai Leng's body.

Garrus was the last one to climb up to the top level after going through waves of Cerberus forces around the dead proto-human Reaper the Illusive Man managed to scrap from the Collector base. They were getting close, he could feel it in the scales on his body.

"Shepard, I found another terminal with video footage we can access." EDI up ahead called to them.

"Let's see what we got. Play the first log." Shepard instructed as he stood in front of them to view the contents.

"Accessing files now."

The video showed a female Cerberus scientist and the Illusive Man in what appeared to be some sort of lab room. "Grayson's brain is a mess. He must have been completely under Reaper control by the end." The woman spoke up.

"And the physical enhancements?" The Illusive Man pried.

"Extremely impressive. If we can avoid having entire neuro-pathways rewritten in the process."

"Grayson's failure was due to lack of resolve. He wasn't loyal to anything but to his next dose of red sand."

"You like to try it again, sir?"

"I want to make sure we keep Shepard and his team focused…give me his crewmates' dossiers again…we'll need an ace up our sleeve."

"Play the second entry, EDI."

The next video was the similar setting with the same woman and the Illusive Man, Garrus noted, but this time, it was several weeks later.

"You were right, sir. The red sand does amplify Andromeda's biotic ability. However, her willpower still remains strong and she's refusing to eat."

"As I expected..any word from the Turian that she was involved with?"

"None, sir. The message was sent to him a few days ago as you instructed."

"Good…please proceed with the procedure, doctor. Time is too valuable for us now."

A pit formed in Garrus' stomach as he watched on. Tests? Message? The horrifying thought of Andromeda being captive by Cerberus while he simply believed she left him gnawed at his mind like a hungry Varren. Was Andromeda going to be the Illusive Man's next test subject? If so, just how far did he go? As far as Garrus knew Andromeda was mentally fine and no evidence of indoctrination at all when he was with her, but then again, he wasn't even expecting her to be installed with any Reaper tech.

"EDI, last message," Garrus choked out as he desperately fought to keep it together.

The last video showed up but this time it was displaying the woman and the Illusive Man engaged in a conversation about doing some kind of test on him. Seeing that it didn't portray to Andromeda at all, Garrus walked away from the console and stared at the door ahead. If the Illusive Man lost her before as a test subject, what hesitation would he have now to not finish the work? Unable to keep himself restrained to his commanding officer like a good military soldier, Garrus bolted towards the door and ran up the ramp in the middle of a large open room towards another door at the top. His mind bent on killing the Illusive Man.

Grabbing Andromeda roughly by the hair when she was within distance, Leng raised up his free hand to make the killing blow; ready to end the game. However, she was given a reprieve when the Illusive Man contacted him. "Leng, Shepard made it to the console. Where are you at?!" His boss' tone was calm but hinted a strong sense of disappointment.

His eyes wide, Kai Leng realized that while he was bent on finding her and killing Andromeda that he failed his task on keeping Shepard away from the Catalyst. He looked down at his captive who smiled up at him, proud to know that she thwarted him from stopping Shepard and his team. "On my way, sir." He decided against admitting to what he was doing at the present time. "Who is with him?" The question was a bit unusual but the Illusive Man granted his answer.

"Unknown on one, but the Turian is with him."

Looking down at Andromeda, he replied, "I will deal with it. Leng out." He ended the call and smacked her across the head just enough to make her lose consciousness. Her body slumped down onto the ground as he scooped her up and held her over his shoulder. "It's better that I kill you with an audience."

The room at the end of their journey onlooked the large sun in the system they were in. In the center were control panels, a vid communication system and the Illusive Man's chair. Garrus remained silent as Shepard engaged in a heated conversation with the Illusive Man and then with the Prothean VI that alerted them that the catalyst they were searching for wasn't on the station but was in fact the Citadel. Garrus stared out through the windows as ships flew all around shooting at one another and then he let his eyes slowly scanned the room once more. A lump formed in his throat as there was no sign of Andromeda. "EDI, get me Hackett. He needs-" Shepard ordered their AI squadmate but suddenly an attack blew up the controls in front of them.

There behind them stood Kai Leng with one arm poised up from where the attack came from and in his other arm was Andromeda slowly coming to. "Not so fast." The assassin's eyes looked over at Garrus victoriously.

Glancing at his troubled Turian friend, Shepard glared at Leng. "You."

"He did warn you to not overstay your welcome."

Raising his rifle up instantly, Garrus took aim through the scope. "Let her go right now," He hissed.

"I wanted to kill her in person for you before I do the same to you." Leng grinned as he pulled Andromeda closer to him.

"Garrus.." Andromeda gasped for breath as she tried to move her head and neck away from his arm. "Shoot him now. Remember your C-Sec training." She looked directly into his eyes, seeing the hesitation in him as his finger rested on the trigger. He knew she was right; she was an officer and considered not a civilian. Taking down their target was the main priority not her safety.

"You dare hide behind a hostage?" Shepard aimed his M6 pistol at Kai Leng as he stepped to match Leng's to keep him in the center.

"Garrus, please…" Andromeda begged. "You have to stop the Illusive Man."

Seeing Garrus not making any motion to fire, Leng chuckled, "He won't do it. He's too weak."

"Garrus, shoot her." Shepard looked over at Garrus while he kept his weapon positioned at their foe.

"Shepard?" Garrus was completely caught off guard by the direct order.

"Shoot her or I will," Shepard looked back at Leng.

Leng gritted his teeth hearing Shepard, Andromeda took notice and then looked back over at Garrus. "Garrus, I love you." Initiating the attack, she felt Kai Leng letting his guard down as he listened to the two and slammed her foot right back hard against his knee cap. By reaction, he cried out in pain, leaving more of his body exposed. Taking the opportunity, Garrus opened fire and found his target as the rounds penetrated Kai Leng's barrier. Stumbling back, losing his footing, Kai Leng angrily threw Andromeda hard on the ground and charged at Shepard, unleashing a biotic purge that undid some of the flooring from the room exposing the cables and shafts underneath.

"This will be better than Thessia…" Leng ran at Shepard with his sword.