Mass Symphony

Chapter 1:


"Hmmm...yes, Commander?" He turned to look at her where she sat near the front of the Mako, arms crossed over her chest, seemingly asleep with her head resting on the tank's hull. Her eyes were tiny slits, irises glittering under her unruly mop of auburn curls.

"What is that you're humming?"

"Does it bother you, Commander? I can stop..." His words trailed off as an unfamiliar expression flickers across her usually impassive face. Damn, I wish i knew more about human humming somehow offensive to humans?

"No, please don't. It's actually quite...soothing." She resettled herself against the bulkhead, regarding him with a frankness that unsettled him.

Garrus cleared his throat, feeling uneasy. Not since he first met her has he been the focus of her complete and utter attention. But gone was the calculation, the cold assessment of that first meeting. Just a sort of tight, intimidating focus. Her face was locked in an inscrutable mask. Rubbing the back of his neck, he tried to defuse the tension, drawling, "Well, if you want me to sing you a lullaby, I can."

Is she actually smiling? There was the tiniest of curling at the corners of her mouth as she settled back once more, green eyes shutting. Garrus wondered if she knew how uncomfortable she made him.

"Commander, we're almost there." Kaiden's face popped around the divider between driver's seat and troop compartment.

"I should let you drive more often, Alenko. Almost caught a little nap, the ride was so smooth." Garrus suppressed a snort as the Lieutenant's face broke into a smile. Kaiden's eyes returned to the road. Her praise came so rarely that Alenko latched onto it with the enthusiasm of a varren snapping up scraps.

Shepard stood, swaying easily with the Mako as it rumbled over the terrain. Garrus returned to wiping his rifle down with an oiled rag. From the moment he saw her at the base of those stairs on the Citadel, he knew this mission would be the best thing to ever happen to him, or the worst.

Commander Shepard had integrated him quickly into her crew, despite the fact that most of the humans aboard the Normandy still gave him a wide berth. Well, all the nonhumans aboard, really. Wrex, Tali, Liara and he usually hung out below decks to avoid any problems.

Efficiently and seeming without effort, she put them in roles where all their abilities overlapped seamlessly. So seamlessly, that the others on her ground crews never needed to second guess her direction when the bullets started to fly. But there were things, small details that niggled at him, made him hesitate more than once on the battlefield. And the one time he'd openly questioned her, she shut him down with a few pointed words and ordered him to comply. And being the turian that he was, he had obeyed, despite his misgivings.

What had bothered him most about that encounter was the utter lack of reaction. Garrus remembered clearly what invoking the wrath of his other CO's had done, KP being the least of his worries. But no, her voice had not raised above its steady monotone, her eyes had not glared. She merely stated what he was going to do. And he'd done it. That was all. And they'd survived, though he didn't know if it was her ability or just luck.

Slowly, he became aware of a soft sound, he strained to hear it above the thunder of the Mako. Shepard was humming.

It was the tune he was humming not a moment ago. Well, mostly. It had a complexity that was lacking in the simple melody he had produced. But it was definitely the same song, a song his mother used to hum before the sickness took away her voice. It was, well, eerie, how she was able to reproduce the song so quickly. He was sure he'd only been absentmindedly humming it for maybe two minutes.

An orange glow lit Shepard's features as she fiddled with her omnitool, suddenly engrossed in some task. His curiosity was piqued, but he stayed silent, sure that asking a simple question like 'What are you doing?' would bring that terrible regard around to bear on him again. All her fearsome concentration focused intently on the little screen. He didn't know what to make of it, only that awe and terror were a little mixed up in his head in regards to Shepard.

As he watched her, he started to notice a definite softening around her eyes. He hadn't realized that impassive could be a facial expression that could be held like that, almost tensely, until now. It was alarming to see a little flush creep across her cheeks. A fierce little light shone in her eyes as she relentlessly pecked at the keys on her omnitool.

Garrus was fascinated, his eyepiece was telling him that her pulse was elevated. Whatever she was doing, she was attacking it like he'd seen her attack so many enemies in the last few weeks while they were chasing Saren across the traverse.

She swung around to him and his guts just about dropped into his feet as her cold and diffident mask split open, her mouth a perfect little 'O'. All reason fled her eyes, nothing there but pure, mad exultation.

One frozen moment and it was gone, her face as cold and impersonal as before. He wondered for a moment whether he'd actually seen it at all. Only the evidence of her still racing heartbeat on his visor saved him from an embarrassing existential dilemma.

Spirits! What was that? They stared at each other across the compartment, neither willing to break the silence. The rag, forgotten in his hand, drifted slowly to the floor. Garrus' head spun as he tried to make some kind of sense out of what he just witnessed. That wasn't...sanity, I just saw there.

Her eyes flicked away first, to the small window in the side of the Mako, "Get ready."

Only then did he notice a tremor in the ground that had nothing to do with the terrain's rockiness , "What is it?"

There was that light again in her eyes. He forced himself to hold steady in the face of it. Lips pressed in a grim line, she said, "Thresher maw."

An earsplitting shriek filled the air as the monster burst from the ground a few feet behind them. Kaiden's voice followed nearly as piercingly, "HOLY FUCK!"

"Move over, Lieutenant. Vakarian, on the gun." Shepard slid behind the wheel, her calm words washing over them, galvanizing them into action.

"Acid! Starboard!" Alenko's voice rang out as he scooted behind the missile launcher, cranking it around to face the thresher maw. Shepard veered to the left sharply, turning completely around. Now they were driving towards the behemoth.

Garrus almost panicked until he saw that the Commander's seemingly haphazard driving made them nearly impossible for the thresher maw to hit. Glob after glob of acid failed to hit them. Not a deathwish, then.

"Commander, sometimes I think you have a deathwish!" Alenko shouted, nearly echoing the turian's thoughts.

"S'matter, LT. Too pretty to die?" she said, as though they weren't plowing headlong towards a thousand foot worm.

"Gun's starting to overheat, Commander." Garrus tried to reflect her calm back at her, though he was anything but. Kaiden shot him an incredulous look.

"Give me two missiles right down its throat, Alenko. You have ten seconds." With that, she veered port again, lining the Mako up with a rocky spur of mountain jutting away from them over the plain.

Garrus groaned as he saw what she was about to do, gave up on the overheated gun, dropped down and strapped himself into the closest seat. He heard the lieutenant shout triumphantly as the two missiles fell right on target. The shout turned into a rather undignified squawk as the tank lurched sickeningly into the air.

Through the starboard hatch, Garrus watched amazed as Commander Shepard leaned out of the Mako's door, shotgun leading. His imagination painted an insane tableau inside his head, denied by a mental shout of, Surely, she wasn't going to pepper that beast with a SHOTGUN!

His perception of time slowed as he watched her offhand flick a grenade almost lazily into the thresher maw's gullet, her finger tighten on the Hurricane's trigger-

"BLAM! BOOOOOOOOM!" Kaiden's hands gestured wildly at the climax of his story, his eyes shining from adrenaline and possibly the meds. There were bandages around his bare chest and shoulder from being flung around the Mako's turret. It amused Garrus to see the crew gathered at the Lieutenant's feet, as though he were proselytizing to the masses.

Garrus leaned against the mess hall wall, arms crossed in front of his chest. He grimaced as he recalled how the resulting explosion had spun the Mako midair, rolling the tank gently until it landed upside down on the plain's floor, skidding to a halt in the dirt.

The confusing aftermath, prying himself out of the inverted seat, vaguely hearing Alenko being violently ill somewhere outside the tank. Shaking the last bit of dizziness out of his head, he looked toward the cab. No sign of Shepard.

"Commander?" He called, biting back the sudden wave of nausea that rolled over him. He didn't smell blood, well only his own anyway. A few cuts and bruises aside, it was starting to worry him that he got no answer.

"Comma-" He cut off as she came strolling around the nose of the tank, hands loosely clasped behind her back. Her eyes alighted on him, flickering with some unknowable emotion though her face remained serene.

"Garrus." Her voice was low, devoid of inflection. She drew closer and Garrus fought the urge to step back, recalling the madness she seemed possessed by moments before the thresher maw attacked.

She was really close to him now, alarmingly so. He nearly jumped out of his skin when she laid a hand on his shoulder. Something close to consternation came into her eyes, "This will not be an easy ride...for any of us. I can't have my crew not trust my judgement if this mission has any hope of succeeding."

"Can you explain what-"

"No." She cut him off, hand slicing through the air between them. Her eyes closed for a moment, a faint crease appeared between her brows, "Someday, maybe. Is that enough?"

He paused, watching her, thinking about what the consequences might be if he said no. He didn't think she would kill him on this rock, plus even though he'd only known her for almost two weeks, his gut was telling him that she was worthy of following. Into hell if need be.

Garrus nodded, and she turned away to regard the Mako.

Lost in his own thoughts, he barely heard most of the crew depart for various parts of the ship. Ashley and Kaiden were by the lieutenant's station, she was prying details out of him about how Shepard did this or that, shooting a few envious glances his way.

Rolling his shoulders out and pulling at his armor's cowl to resettle it comfortably, he headed to the elevator, maybe a few hours repairing the wrecked Mako would help him sort out his thoughts and doubts.

He'd just stepped in when he heard a voice yell, "Hold the elevator!"