Sound the Clarion
Five Years Later
They'd christened it the Normandy. A concession to the human half of the design team, after the Alliance had bowed on the unorthodox (for humans) bridge design the turians had pushed for. Shepard thought a name in exchange for something that might make or break this experiment was a poor trade, but she hadn't been consulted. She hadn't, in fact, even been made aware of the ship's existence until the press release announcing its construction was underway a year ago. She'd watched the morning news feed, coffee in hand, as they played a clip of that year-old announcement right before showing the completed vessel's grand unveiling.
Precisely five minutes later, Anderson had come knocking on her door, invitation in hand.
Well, the Alliance brass called it an invitation. But the number of stars and bars involved told her it was the fanciest set of orders she'd ever received. Printed on good linen-pressed paper, signed with fountain pens worth more than her monthly salary.
"It was one of the conditions the Council agreed to, in lieu of the Alliance demanding reparations from the turians," Anderson explained over coffee in her drab little kitchen, watching her absorb the words on the paper. She hadn't been involved in that discussion, either, despite having been lauded post-briefing as a (unknowing) key player in ending the First Contact War. Her career in espionage had ended that day she'd seen those two shuttles approaching, though she hadn't known it until she'd been released back into the galaxy and seen her face plastered on every vid screen from Earth to the Citadel.
Her undercover antics, the anti-war movement on Palaven, the 'redirecting' of a nuke away from the planet's capital to a 'harmless' region of jungle had all been wrapped up in a neat package and laid at her now sanctified feet. No mention of blue-veined thralls, a Spectre's brother gone insane, or said Spectre's attempt to murder dozens of captive turians and humans, along with herself and half the Vakarian family, to cover up said brother's insanity. No mention of a suspiciously capable quellen.
The Vakarians were hardly mentioned at all, except to say that Vakarian senior had been instrumental in coordinating the peace proceedings, taking over from where his son had left off in their governmental arena. As for where Garrus Vakarian had gone after his father had taken up the family duties, the media either didn't care or had been paid not to care.
Shepard dropped the heavy paper and leaned back in her chair. She picked up her cup, sipping at the black drink gone cold.
"I'd ask 'why me,' but that seems pointless," she said finally. She was torn, and she knew Anderson saw it. This new mission was...huge. Bigger than huge. Historical. She'd never wanted anything so high profile as this was guaranteed to be, but after having her name and face toted as the poster-Marine for peace over the past few years, she'd been fighting against having her career reduced to dinners, interviews, and PR stunts on behalf of the Alliance. It had almost been enough to get her thinking about not re-signing when her contract was up, like she'd always planned.
This...as watched and paraded as she'd be, at least she'd be doing something.
"When do I leave? And whose my new CO?" she asked, and Anderson grinned.
"Think you can handle this? You're barely out from under my wings, Vakarian." The green-eyed turian's tone was part bait, part sincere. He glanced to his blue-eyed companion beside him, took in the younger Spectre's posture and stance. Controlled. Very controlled. He only saw his former protege hold himself this carefully still when he was trying to conceal something. Or reign in his legendary temper. All reports said Vakarian was a relatively easy going turian, almost too relaxed by society standards, some said.
Except when he wasn't. He recalled a particular incident a few years ago, the first mission he'd let his friend take point on. The ringleaders of the Traders had begged for death before Garrus Vakarian had been done with them. After that there had been no more rumors of his father pulling strings to get his son at the top of the list of potentials.
"You know I can, Kryik. If you thought otherwise, you wouldn't be here."
"I'm just curious why you insisted. I've never seen you pull familial rank before."
"Curiosity killed the cat," Vakarian murmured under his breath.
"Oh no, that was something." Nihlus Kryik looked more fully at Garrus, the aforementioned curiosity spiking. "Another human saying? And people call me overly fascinated with them. If only they knew about you, my friend." Garrus only snorted.
Their conversation was halted by the arrival of the lift they stood in front of. The ship had docked ages ago, but something had delayed the ambassador's party considerably. When the lift doors slid apart and the two turians took in the collection of persons within, they understood why.
"Spectre Arterius," Nihlus greeted his old friend and mentor.
"Nihlus, my friend," Saren's voice was smooth and polite as he greeted his former pupil. He acknowledged Vakarian, a full Spectre, with hardly a nod. Such was their way, Nihlus had learned. Attempting to foster conversation between the two always proved fruitless if he was lucky, volatile if he wasn't.
"We shall speak later, you and I. For now, however, I think it best if not all of us keep the Council waiting. Perhaps I'll be able to talk them around to sense before it's too late."
"Humanity has earned the right to enter one of their own into your super police," a voice snapped from behind him, and Saren stiffened while the other two turians looked to the human ambassador.
"Ambassador Udina, glad you could make it." Nihlus pressed friendliness into his voice with a will. He liked humans well enough, more than most turians, but this one grated on even his last nerve. Saren strode past them without another word, heading up the wide, sweeping stairs towards the long, slender walkway that would take them to the platform before and below where the Council would see them. The turian, salarian, and asari Council members were already there.
"Spectre Kryik, Spectre Vakarian. May I introduce humanity's candidate to the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance Task Force, the Alliance's hero of the First Contact War, Commander-"
"Kastanie Shepard," Garrus filled in, taking one measured step towards the female human who stood beside Udina. Nihlus looked sharply at his friend- the humans would not have heard it, but to turian ears there had been...something in his voice. Something Nihlus couldn't place, but made that insatiable curiosity of his flare. He noticed that behind the Commander another, darker toned human looked wary, also. Anderson, Nihlus was pretty sure his name was.
The female, the potential Spectre, gave Garrus one measured nod. Inexperienced as he was with those malleable human faces, Nihlus thought she looked...guarded. Understandable, given what she was walking into.
"Spectre Vakarian. I understand you're to sponsor me to the Council?"
"I am," was Garrus' only response. Nihlus wasn't sure he'd ever heard his friend's subvocals so tightly regulated. This was getting better and better.
"Don't let his reticence fool you, Commander. He pulled rank on me to get you." Nihlus put in. The Commander turned her gaze on him, and he felt the flicker of a grin spread his mandibles at her. Oh, this was going to be good.
"If you want a boring shakedown mission to a backwater human colony for some Prothean museum piece, you're welcome to come along," Garrus drawled out.
"I think I might," Nihlus agreed. "Who knows? Might end up more fun. Maybe we should invite Saren along and make it a real party."
"Shall we? The Council is waiting." Anderson broke the sudden tension, and gestured past them all to where Saren was gesticulating grandly.
Nihlus and Garrus stepped aside, and by silent agreement the Commander stepped ahead of them all. They fell into step behind her, and together the three humans and two turians headed up the steps to see if they could make history without shedding blood, blue or red.
This was a long time in coming- pun intended. I think this was my record for longest awaited update ever. My only excuse is yet another cross-state move, my husband going back to school for his Masters, getting a new job, and working my to-be-published novel (which is almost done! OMGOMGOMG).
There's a lot of people to thank for sticking around, new and old, more than I can reasonably fit into these notes. Suffice to say, if you came back to read this conclusion, I love you. Seriously. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you had a hand in making someone smile. That counts for something in this messed up world.
Melodrama aside, this was fun to write. The story changed so many frickin times (I'm so paranoid I missed a major plot point even though I went back and reread my own story couple dozen times), made friends with a few characters I didn't even know existed in the fluff I call a brain, and learned a lot about my own writing along the way. All in all, I'm glad I wrote it, flaws and all, even more glad I FINISHED it, and most of all- glad you guys enjoyed it enough to read, critique, message, complain, and come back for more.
I have a feeling it'll be awhile before I do fanfiction again, but know that when I'm (eventually, maybe, crossyourfingersanddoaraindance) published, I'll post an announcement to my account, so add me to your 'author watch' list if you want that notification. If I ever get an author's blog going (been meaning to for awhile) I'll post that here too.
Stay safe and happy and nerdy!