Disclaimer: Mass Effect is the intellectual property of Bioware and EA. This is a not-for-profit work of fan fiction.

Chapter 13: The Soul of Tomorrow

"Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. "I am not afraid," the man said. "I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me." I honored his choice and went inside. The next day, the storm came, and the man was killed. The wind does not respect a fool. Do not stand before the wind, Gowron."

-Kahless, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Garrus glanced wearily at the sensor read-out one last time, idly making the course corrections and ship procedures necessary for contact with a Mass Relay. He'd been waiting in-system for nearly twenty nine hours before the shuttle finally departed that shit-heap of a station and catapulted itself across the galaxy. He figured it would be another two hours or so before he could pursue in order to avoid drawing suspicion. However, despite all that, he was grateful that it looked as though all his traveling thus far was about to pay off.

Not for the first time did he curse the circuitous nature of the Relay network, epithets that had been hurled for centuries of galactic civilization. There appeared to be no real rhyme or reason to how the ancient Prothean constructs were ordered and connected. Primary Relays might shoot a vessel tens of thousands of light years and cut otherwise impossible journey's to reasonable travel times, but a star cluster within the same quadrant or spiral arm might take several jumps across half the galaxy before arriving at a location far nearer their point of origin than the places they had been forced to visit. The only seeming exception of course being the Citadel, whose relay seemed to actually be a highly advanced version of a Primary Relay, able to connect to a number of different Primary Relays from each section of the galaxy. However, due to the Citadel prohibition against opening unexplored relays whose partner was unknown, it was generally agreed that there was probably some kind of as of yet undiscovered logic behind the placement and structure of the network.

Ultimately, however, all this boiled down to for Garrus was a sizable pain in the ass. After successfully requisitioning a small, one-man gunship barely worthy of the name but still FTL capable, he set out on his round-about journey. Despite all his protestations and seeming confidence in this course of action, the Spectre was not blind to the fact that the Primarch had been essentially correct when he told Garrus that he had almost nothing to go on. Of course, the qualifier almost existed for a reason, in this case to remind the Turian agent that he still had a vast network of contacts he had made all over the known galaxy. But, with time being the factor that it was in this little freelance enterprise, Garrus decided to head straight for the most likely source of a direct answer...

Six Days earlier, Dagnes, Talak System...

Two years. It had been nearly two years since he had spoken with his old associate. Longer still since he had actually traveled to the barely inhabited world this associate had chosen to make his home near the end. Looking back, Garrus realized it was probably not that great of an idea, given how briefly Salarians live, to let such a resource sit idly by. But Mordin had always put Garrus at ill ease. Oh, he was affable enough and could be entertaining when the mood struck him. But the twitchy Salarian professor had also cultivated for himself a reputation for a single-minded, ruthless sociopathy. A reputation, as Garrus once learned to his near-fatal dismay, that was not undeserved. On the other hand, there was absolutely no one in all the cataloged universe who was better at discovering things that were supposed to remained buried than the aged, former STG operative (save the Shadow Broker of course), and if memory served, he still owed Garrus a favor.

However, time remained a cruel mistress, particularly to the people of Surkesh, and Garrus knew more than most that it was a long shot that the old bastard still lived. But with nothing left to lose, Garrus had made the call on the abandoned STG frequency used nearly a thousand years back, and was surprised to receive an answer. Audio only, and the voice was disguised of course, but Garrus informed (what he assumed was) the Professor that he needed a favor. Apparently, memory of debts weighed as heavily in the minds of Salarians as every other piece of random data they came across, and the voice told Garrus to meet him at his safe house in the mostly-abandoned Talak system.

Garrus glanced out as the blast coverings lifted from the front of the translucent Neo-Steel view port following entry into the planetary atmosphere. Descending onto the refurbished landing pad, the only spot for a hundred kilometers that might be described as "well-maintained," he took in the stark, abandoned pre-fab buildings and dilapidated homesteads that stretched in every direction. Overgrown now with local fauna and most likely occupied by whatever creatures might be so "fortunate" to call themselves native to this swampy mess, it stood as a depressing reminder of how little even an advanced species could progress in the face on the universe occasionally being a total dick.

Decades prior, a thresher maw attack had completely decimated what at one point had been a real up-and-comer in what was to be a new period of Council Species expansion through the known galaxy, taking the Salarians completely by surprise and wreaking tremendous havoc before it was finally driven off. Eventually, the damned thing was hunted down and exterminated, but the losses, combined with the substantial start-up costs, had driven the colony's sponsors to either pull out or declare bankruptcy, leading to mass exodus from the planet once it was clear that no more money would be coming in to replace the shattered infrastructure or developing colonial industries. Worse yet, it had halted Salarian expansion for years (as well as adversely affecting the colonization efforts of other governments), with investors becoming skittish at the prospect of pouring money into what this incident demonstrated could easily become a costly failure. By the time the markets had calmed down and the Salarians were ready to consider rebuilding, the war between the Humans and Turians had already begun to takes its toll on the economies of the Citadel races, putting any hopes of reconstruction on the back-burner indefinitely. Bad news for Salarian nationalists, but excellent news for men like Solus, who had no compunction about using a cemetery of his people's hopes and dreams as a means of avoiding detection.

Stepping outside of his vessel, Garrus spared himself a moment to glance around, taking time to assess his environment and, if he were completely honest with himself, becoming acclimated to the thorough morbidity of his surroundings. While the Turian Spectre had never really been what you might call spiritual in any sense, there was something distinctly off-putting (if not downright creepy), about standing in such a place, as though his mere presence was a desecration of otherwise sacred ground. Once the shiver had successfully finished traveling up his spine, satisfying his assumption that there likely were no sleeping ghosts he was about to angrily rouse from their torturous slumber, Garrus pulled his pistol into a high-ready position and edged forward steadily towards the longitude and latitude coordinates he had been transmitted.

After about twenty minutes of slowly winding his way through the abandoned city, his eyes darting about in every direction for signs of predators or some kind of trap, he at last came to his destination. It was, what used to be anyway, the town square, right in front of the ornate fountain which dominated the center of the colonial capital. A revelation that did little to put Garrus at ease. Glancing about rapidly, he found nothing to indicate the presence of another sentient life form, only crumbling buildings overrun with plant growth and the remnants of a crushed statue, probably of whatever wealthy, austere asshole had founded this place. A slow panic building in him over the next several moments of waiting, and with his own experiences as a sharp shooter screaming insistently about how all those buildings might give a potential sniper an excellent vantage point of every last one of his vital organs, Garrus began to contemplate beating a hasty retreat back to his gunship and getting the hell off-world ASAP. However, right before he began to tuck his tail between his legs, he heard the unmistakable whirring of what sounded like large, imposing gears. Eying the fountain warily, he noticed how the decorative architectural affectation began to slowly fold into the earth, revealing a stone staircase leading into an unlit, underground corridor.

Now, while nothing about this situation screamed "good idea," Garrus was operating on something of a time constraint, and there was little point in turning back now that he come all this way anyway. With these rationalizations in mind, Garrus took a few calming breaths, held his gun at the ready, and entered the stairwell, moving as swiftly as he could, empowered by the night-vision mode of the holographic eyepiece that was practically synonymous with the man. Ten minutes of cautious descent through the surprisingly well-maintained inclined corridor, he came to entrance, covered by what appeared to be an ancient vault of some kind. A giant ellipsoid barrier blocked further passage momentarily before splitting apart, revealing what was presumably his final destination.

The interior was poorly lit, though this was barely a hindrance. The soft glow of dozens of holographic screen bathed the room in a miasma of dark tones, each receiving, analyzing, and collating vast quantities of barely comprehensible data. Near the center of the room, an alcove dominated by a particularly large holographic screen held a chair, presumably containing a figure, though far from a sure thing since the seat seemed larger than it's inhabitant. As Garrus approached, a hand emerged, Salarian, extending a single index finger upwards.

"One moment please Mr. Vakarian."

Garrus froze in his tracks, partially from the request, but partially from realization. That wasn't Mordin's voice. Fortunately, Garrus wasn't a Spectre for nothing, and in an instant he had his pistol pointing at the chair containing his (unidentified) possible foe. Unfortunately, an instant later, a series of VI-drones swarmed from the ceiling and surrounded him, each with a weapon trained on various vital organs. For several minutes, the room seemed to freeze, the Spectre's weapon and the drones' weapons trained on their respective potential threats before a ping announced the Salarian had completed his or her task and the chair rotated to face him.

Maelon! Garrus had met the man once before. Mordin had spoken highly of him in the old days. A real up and comer in the STG and a brilliant geneticist and statistician in his own right. However, it didn't explain why this strange little lair was in his possession and not Dr. Solus'.

"Vakarian, while I'm sure you have many questions, I assure you pointing that weapon at me will get you nothing but a variety of unnecessary new openings in various parts of your body."

Despite the truth in his words, Garrus refused to relent.

"Where is Mordin Solus?"

Maelon looked quite unperturbed at the undercurrent of accusation in the Turian's voice.

"Dead, Mr. Vakarian, for more than a year. He was in his early fifties and I'm fairly certain the brevity of my kinds' existence is common knowledge."

Though at no point lowering his weapon, Garrus mulled over the truth in that statement. He had recognized the possibility that Mordin was no longer around to fulfill his obligation to the Spectre before sending the message. Still, it offered no explanation as to why Maelon had responded, impersonated the Doctor, and drawn him to this abandoned relic on the rim of Salarian Territory.

"Even if that's true, it doesn't explain why you've taken to squatting in his lab and answering his calls."

Maelon just shook his head slightly and let out a long-suffering sigh of frustration.

"Mr. Vakarian, I promise to answer all of your questions, and even fulfill the debt owed to you by Professor Mordin. But this little situation is only going to resolve itself if you put away your gun."

Garrus considered his options for a second. Whether he or Maelon's drones pulled the trigger first, neither scenario was likely to end with him getting information (or keeping his vital fluids within his body for that matter). Seeing no other way out, the Spectre reluctantly lowered his weapon and put it back in his holster. Maelon gave what passed for a smirk among Salarians before pressing a button on the armrest of his chair, ordering the drones back to their hiding places.

"See? Isn't this so much more pleasant without the guns and flying death-bots?"

Garrus narrowed his eyes in irritation. Though for the moment there seemed no obvious danger, this situation was only increasing the number of questions running through his mind (the exact opposite of the reason he had come to this abandoned backwater). For a moment, silence reigned between the two, neither wanting to enter a position of weakness by speaking first. Ultimately, Garrus' curiosity and urgency won out.

"What are you doing here Maelon? Last I heard from Mordin, you were working as a geneticist for Sia'ri Corp."

For a moment, Maelon looked almost wistful (or what passed for it amongst Salarians).

"Ah yes, poor Sia'ri. A rewarding career for a middle aged, former STG scientist. Unfortunately, the company was forced to scuttle my department due to budget cuts. They had been hemorrhaging market share in the biotech sector ever since the Kar'Shan-based B'kai Corporation started flooding the market with their patented knock-offs of human medical technology. I believe it was the release of Medi-Gel that finally did us in."

Garrus still didn't look convinced. A believable enough story, plenty of other old Citadel companies had been going through the same situation over the past few decades, getting crushed by interests from the handful of species (Volus, Batarian, etc) that were actually benefiting from Earth and Palaven's perpetual dick-waving contest. But that didn't mean it was true.

"Even if I believe what you just told me, it still doesn't answer my question. Why are you here?"

Maelon raised his hand in a placating gesture, an infuriating little wave that just screamed 'I'm getting to it you simpleton.'

"After my position was terminated, I found myself at something of a loss. My time in the STG was behind me, and I had no real desire to entangle myself with that insanity again. At the same time, however, I was never really a creature of the private sector. No appreciation for proper method or meticulousness, those corporate types. To my fortune however, our mutual acquaintance and my old mentor, Professor Solus, contacted me. To the surprise of precisely nobody who knew him, he had caught wind of my recent lay-off and offered me a chance to join him on a personal project of his. Naturally, this being a circumstance that demanded the stifling limits of either government or corporate work, I joined him immediately."

Despite his best efforts, Garrus found his suspicions slipping up slightly. All of this sounded like the kind of thing Mordin would do. Going off the grid, dragging his protege into private experiments to the apparent interest of no one but himself. There had to be more though.

"And what was this personal project of his? And what possible reason could he have for doing this kind of work on the corpse of an abandoned Union Colony world? I doubt it was easy to have material or equipment delivered here, and it's unlikely that even Mordin's twisted sensibilities appreciated the ambiance of a deserted ruin."

Maelon waved that concern away as easily as the others though.

"Not as difficult as you might think. The complex is much larger than this one room. While the colony was officially being built to renew the expansion of the Union into new prospects for mineral wealth and commercial development, it unofficially had a tertiary purpose of expanding Salarian military projection capabilities into new vistas. This structure was originally going to be the nerve center of a far grander command center for local air and space superiority forces. An uncompleted hanger further in now holds a small ship for picking up shipments of needed material off-world. As for the reasoning behind the location, I would think the fact that you're the first visitor to this world aside from myself and the good Doctor in over forty years would make that obvious."

Garrus supposed he would have to take Maelon's word for it. It was unlikely he would be here long enough to check up on it.

"And the problem he was so consumed by?"

Maelon turned silent a moment, taking on a somber, momentous air before answering wearily.

"The only problem that matters anymore. The great problem of our age: the conflict between your people and the Humans."

Garrus felt a familiar, bitter ache enter his heart at those words. Everything for nearly fifty years came back to that. It was consuming everything, including the greatest minds of the era.

"The war had been going on for decades towards the end of the Professor's life. It became something of an obsession for him. Not overly surprising to be honest. Years of work in the STG with some of the best scientists and mathematicians, examining every last potential crisis in the known galaxy and running countless simulations had given them a misguided conceit of understanding. A belief that they could accurately track sociological and historical developments and analyze the most efficient way to deal with anything that might threaten the Union and the Citadel. Then the Humans came along, turned back the Turian advance, and stalemated them into a situation that no one could have predicted."

Garrus' eyes widened slightly at that realization. Now that was surprising. He, along with most in the galaxy, held the STG up as a kind of omniscient boogeyman. While in retrospect he figured it shouldn't really have been all that shocking, given the dire straits the Union was in, he had always chalked it up to failures in their leadership and the shear volume of crises they had to deal with. Not once had he ever considered the possibility that the STG had collectively just gotten too cocky for its own good.

"Now there's a revelation. I had always believed the STG had a solid understanding of the situation and was playing at some kind of long con."

Maelon's immediate response was a shock to Garrus. He actually chuckled! He didn't even think Salarians were capable of that!

"Normally, that would be the case. But Humanity represented a variable that could not be accurately accounted for. My illustrious mentor devoted nearly five years of his life to the problem. Examining everything he could: their cultures, their histories, as many pieces of art, literature, music and drama he could get his hands on for study. If I recall correctly, he even participated in a couple of theatrical productions after he discovered a fondness for human musical theater. Under an assumed identity of course, but I believe it actually won a few awards."

Garrus strained had to strain his memory a bit on that one. Not much in the way of new human art leaked out of their borders, but the information gleaned from captured human databanks during the early years of the war regarding their cultural heritage had been declassified and leaked to the wider galaxy at large, much of it proving extremely popular. The Asari had an affection that bordered on obsession with much of the collective culture of humanity: particularly the music of the classical era of 17th and 18th century Western Europe and the Terracotta statuary of the Mali Empire (among other things). The Salarians eagerly devoured every piece of American and British detective literature they got their hands on and followers of the O'kalas Faith had actually added the Baghvad Gita and Ramayana to their canon as examples of the universality of their "wheel of life" theology and the connectivity between the material and divine. Even the Turian Hierarchy had found joy in some aspects of the human past, reveling in the philosophies of Confucius and Sun Tzu and telling Turianized versions of ancient honor stories like the "Forty-Seven Ronin" and Homer's Epics. And of course, every species had a favorite Shakespeare play.

"Sounds like a classically thorough Mordin effort. What did he discover after all that?"

Maelon quirked his head, and smiled slightly. Like a kid about to reveal a long held secret.

"That the humans are insane."

To Garrus' credit, his double take was very mild and only smirked in response to this trite answer.

"After five years of research, that was the best the poster child of the STG could come up with?"

Mordin just turned back to his screens before pulling up some relevant files.

"That's a bit overly simplistic I'll admit. It's more accurate to say that their thinking simply deviates so far from the norm of Galactic sapience that were it to be found in a member of another species, it might be interpreted as madness."

Gesturing vaguely at a few holographic keys, he brought up a slowly rotating projection of a human brain. Rising from his chair, he walked casually towards the glowing image before stopping next to Garrus.

"The Doctor hypothesized a number of potential reasons for this deviancy, among them the uniquely varied genetics of their kind and the unusually diverse ecological geography of their homeworld. Apparently, an individual human is capable of holding multiple, contradictory beliefs simultaneously. In any other known species, be they Salarian, Volus or whatever, this would point to some kind of schizophrenia or other mental disorder."

Garrus, for his part, remained abnormally pensive, silently absorbing every detail of the explanation.

"This quirk of their psychology arises many times throughout their history and culture. Literature and myths implying belief in both luck and destiny. A variety of political philosophies arising simultaneously across their planet. Hell, their scientists discovered general relativity and quantum physics in almost the exact same year, and both were quickly accepted by the physics community, despite no Unified Field Theory at the time to bridge the seeming contradictions! But no matter the form this took, it made them a variable we could not anticipate. While no species is so simple as to be summed up with one concept, and individual variation within a people is substantial, general racial psychology makes it possible for each species to fill a collective niche within galactic society. The Turian mind thinks differently than the Asari mind, the Asari mind is different than the Salarian mind, and on and on. But the generalities can be predicted, understood to a degree. Not so with humanity. They are different."

Garrus would never claim to understand the full implications of what he was hearing, but he was clever enough to be filled with a growing sense of concern at what he was hearing.

"So, what are you saying? They possess some kind of inherently superior mind or something..."

A concern Maelon was all to quick to dismiss.

"Not superior of course, no functioning psychology can be truly said to be objectively superior to another, and their history reveals plenty of drawbacks to this method of thought. But it makes them beyond the capabilities of predictive modeling. More than that, it makes them capable of filling any niche required, a truly unique position to find oneself in. Even in the highly unlikely event that this war ended peacefully with their species integrating into Citadel Society, their presence would act as a fundamentally destabilizing force. Their introduction was bound to disrupt the galaxy, one way or another. It was just a matter of how."

The mood turned thoughtful for the moment. Assuming everything he had heard was true, it explained a great deal of what Mordin had been up to for the past several years or so. This is the kind of project the old Doctor would have subsumed himself in, an impossible task worthy of the full measure of his intellect. And apparently, it had been beyond even his capabilities. Every time Garrus confronted the question of the war, turned to those who experienced it and studied it, pointed down the same path: one way or another, it would be the end of everything the galaxy had known for a thousand years. Whether that was for good or ill was anyone's guess, but Garrus was a patriot above all else, and he was determined to see to it that his people would have a place in what was coming.

"Well, this is fascinating and all, but an exercise in predictive sociology was not my reason for coming here."

Maelon heaved a sigh. He had been enjoying discussing his work with someone. Oh well.

"Of course. What is it precisely you want then?"

Garrus glanced down at his omni-tool. Tapping a few keys, he brought up a holographic display, showing the footage from his fight with the human woman back on Illium.

"It's probably a safe bet to assume you know about my little skirmish on Illium. I'm convinced that this woman and her compatriots are members of the human terrorist group Cerberus, and that they're plotting a major action against the Hierarchy. I need any information you might have on recent Cerberus activities in the Terminus. And I mean literally ANY information, no matter how insignificant it might seem."

Maelon glanced at the screen with a look of practiced-disinterest.

"So then why come to Mordin? Hierarchy and Citadel intelligence has plenty of resources in the Terminus. Maybe not as extensive as my own, but it seems like a unnecessary use of a Mordin-favor."

As a Spectre, Garrus was well-trained in the art of not giving away facial or body cues that might give himself away. But even he couldn't help the brief shift of his eyes away from the screen at the question. Most wouldn't have even noticed it, but Maelon did.

"Ah, I see. Somebody's in trooouble..."

Now Garrus really couldn't help himself. Shutting off the projection, he turned face to face with Maelon with a glare that could burn through steel.

"Look, either help me or don't. I don't have time to entertain your bullshit right now Maelon."

Maelon matched Garrus' glare with his own professional disinterest. Garrus was hardly the first Turian to ever threaten him.

"You know, ever since Mordin asked me to fulfill this request for him, I've found myself a bit anxious to meet you. To see what kind of man could possibly earn the debt of the great Doctor Solus himself."

Not normally one to take obvious bait, but filled with irritation, the annoyed Spectre snapped back at him.

"Well then, what do you see?"

Maelon smiled cagily.

"I see a pebble trying to halt an avalanche. I wish you luck, it'd be a real shame to find you crushed."

Before Garrus could form an appropriately witty response. Maelon turned back to his screens, typing wildly on the holo-interface.

"I may have something for you. But, as you can plainly see, I am not Mordin. I don't feel an obligation to you for whatever favor you did for him. However, the good Doctor understood me better than I ever gave him credit for. There are some files of his that I have been trying to access since his death, but they are sealed under one of the most elaborate encryption-programs I have ever seen. And, as his final video log explained, the only way to open it is with you saying a particular key phrase while under biometric scan. The scan will instigate the system VI to ask you a question only you can answer, and will then unlock the encryption once you answer appropriately."

Appearing to arrive at last at the particular file set he was looking for, he turned his attention back to Garrus.

"So, I shall make a bargain with you Mr. Vakarian. Information for information. You say the key phrase I need to access the data, and I will give you the information you want."

At last, Garrus found himself back in a position of relative strength. Time to sweeten the bargain.

"First, give me the information I want. If, and only IF, I find it useful, I'll answer whatever question you need to access the last of Mordin's data."

Maelon seemed characteristically unfazed.

"Oh I think you'll like this Mr. Vakarian."

A few keystrokes later, the holographic display in the center of the room transitioned to a galactic map, before zooming into a sector of the Terminus. Several star systems within the H'ryuk Cluster glowed a faint red.

"The Cerberus organization might be regarded by a simple terrorist group by the Hierarchy, but anyone with a more than passing knowledge of the current political situation outside Council Space understands the truth is far more complicated. They represent an effective shadow-government for entire sectors of the Terminus, with whole planets under their practical control. Which ones specifically are anyone's guess, but to fund such a vast enterprise they have a number of lucrative front-corporations to fund their efforts. Each one of these systems houses a corporate headquarters strongly suspected of having ties to Cerberus, though nothing has been 'officially' confirmed with hard evidence."

Tapping another few keys, one of the planets highlighted became the focus of the display.

"Dirat'a serves as the homeworld for the Tollan Shipping Consortium. A little over a standard month ago, they put in an order for a shipment of a rare isotope called Ununoctium-290. But of greater interest, they specifically contracted the job to a small Quarian freighter."

This time, Garrus managed to just barely hide his interest. Most of the intelligence agencies of the galaxy had a general idea of the new relationship between the Quarians and Humans, and understood that pretty much every Quarian was uniformly dedicated to building their presence in their new home system, so none of their ships were in a position to be tracked by the Citadel races. Being specifically contracted by a Cerberus company to deliver a shipment somewhere pretty much screamed "Secret Plot!". Maelon wasn't through yet.

"Ready for the icing on the cake? They've been contracted to ship it to the Kiradon System."

And that was that for Garrus.

"Do you know when they're scheduled to arrive?"

Sensing that he had grabbed Garrus' attention, Maelon seized his chance.

"Ah ah ah. Before I tell you, I want to hear you admit that this satisfies my part of the deal. I know you Turians have your little 'honor code.' I want your word that this will lead to you living up to your half of the bargain."

Delay, delay, delay. Garrus was growing sick of these constant delays.

"Yes, yes. You have my word. Tell me when they're scheduled to arrive and I'll open the damned files."

Maelon smirked. He had what he wanted. A few omni-tool keystrokes later, Garrus had the stolen shipping schedule for the delivery. Garrus glanced it over. Perfect, he had time. One thing was still troubling though.

"Ununoctium-290? Any idea what they want it for?"

Maelon shook his head anxiously.

"None whatsoever. It has few commercial uses, though I know of some labs using it as a component in experimental alloy research. But that's your mystery to work out. Come, come."

Returning to his seat, he gestured through a number of GUI displays until finally coming across the User Interface for the bioscanner. A light shot from the ceiling, scanning Garrus to confirm his identity. Suddenly, a familiar voice spoke through the speakers.

"Hello Mr. Vakarian. Glad to see we can finally put this business behind us. I do so hate to leave personal matters unsettled."

The system VI's voice had shifted to Mordin's speech patterns to relay the pre-recorded message. Before either could register their surprise, Mordin continued.

"Undoubtedly, Maelon strong-armed you into helping him as a prerequisite for repaying my debt. Always predictable that one, no sense of duty to his old mentor. Ah well. Not my concern anymore. All I need from you is to complete the following phrase to unlock the encryption."

The Professor cleared his throat one last time, before bombastically stating the first half of the phrase to complete.

"My Xenoscience studies range from urban to agrarian...!"

Maelon couldn't halt his groan of irritation...


Garrus never found out what was in the files he opened, and he honestly didn't care to either. He doubted he would have even understood whatever data it contained, and for once he and Maelon were in agreement. The Doctor's final little joke had been groan inducing to the point of discomfort. At any rate, Mordin's protege seemed satisfied and he walked away without being shot by flying robots, so win-win overall. And now, with the self-imposed two hour limit now elapsed, he activated the gunship's engines and made best speed to the relay. Wherever that Quarian was heading, he hoped it would lead him to that woman. He had a civilization to save and an old score to settle...