Author's Note: I would like to thank V-rcingetorix for his great ideas. Several of his suggestions have made With Lions a thousand times better! Now for everyone else, please secure your seatbelts as we climb onto the feels train.
Chapter Seventy: Wilted
"My father betrayed me and tried to kill me here. It was long time ago now. His own son," Wrex sounded disconnected. Shepard had no idea if Krogans were close to their parents, but either way that must've been tough. "So I killed him. Right over there," he pointed to an open area near an octagonal platform. They stood in a similar building to the one where Shepard nearly turned Wreav into a stain. Except this one didn't have cracks in the ceiling where Tuchanka's light beamed in, and the concrete making up the pillars, seats, decorations, and sides was mostly intact. "The genophage did that; reduced us to animals. Made us no different than Kalros or a varren...but today? Today you've changed that Shepard," Wrex's voice sounded like it was close to cracking. It was hard to remember that the Krogan king had anything but a cheerful past.
"Today and from now on we'll be fighting for our children, not against them," Eve stepped next to Wrex and gave him this intense, meaningful look that was meant for a private setting. Shepard didn't think he was supposed to see that, so he started to observe a piece of concrete. "Thank you, Shepard," Eve said after a few seconds.
Shepard loved praise, but only when he was deserving. "I didn't do anything," Shepard spat, "Thank Mordin. He actually made the damn cure and died to disperse it."
"It's true that this victory would've been sweeter if Mordin had lived, but make no mistake, Commander, this is still a victory," Eve countered, "He wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Wherever he went, I'm sure he's putting in a good word for us." Colt hoped with all his heart that Mordin had found somewhere with seashells and anything else the salarian had ever wanted.
"We'll name one of the kids after him," Wrex said gesturing to Eve and himself, making it clear what that intense look from Eve was. "Maybe a girl," Wrex was the only one laughing at his comment. "Tell the turians I'll be deploying troops to Palaven immediately. And Shepard, when you're ready to kick the Reapers off Earth you let me know. The Krogan are back!"
Colt nodded at his friend. At least some things were coming together, maybe. "Goodbye Commander," Eve shook his hand with a new vigor. She looked into his eyes, narrowed her own in thought, and then started to speak, "I'd never really met a human before and never thought I would. Luckily for me, I got to meet the best. My time on the Normandy has been something of an epiphany, turned my unsure assumptions into concrete truths. And a big part of that I owe to you. When I first heard of the great Commander Shepard, I didn't believe the stories. Now I know everything that I've heard is the absolute truth. I haven't heard anyone talk about you without uttering praise or amazement. My story, our story, will just be one of the thousands added to the long list of lives you've impacted... I expected to come out of this with a cure and not only do I have that, but I also have a whole ship of people I can easily call friends."
Liara hung back from Shepard, Wrex, and Eve. They needed space to say goodbye. Eve hugged Shepard after her long and extremely accurate speech. Then she whispered something in his ear that left a surprised look on Colt's face. Liara tried to creep forward to perhaps catch the tail end of Eve's comment but politeness driven into her for decades overcame her curiosity.
"What're you going to do now?" Shepard asked Eve, his expression coming back to something more neutral.
"I'm going to keep the hope that you've created alive and I'm going to spread it. You just gave us a future and I intend to use it correctly. Already there are clans gathering in the Kelfic Valley. That's where I'll go. When I get there, I'll speak to them and make sure this gift isn't squandered. Thank you, Shepard. Know that Urdnot Bakara calls you a friend," she bowed her head at him. Liara was under the impression that Krogan never bowed, like ever. This subtle little gesture meant more than words could ever express; she hoped Colt knew that.
"Commander," Wrex said while also bowing his head. Shepard nodded at him and turned with superb grace to her and James.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Not to one of his friends. Not so close to home. It wasn't allowed or even remotely fair. Hadn't Shepard suffered enough?
The only death Shepard had ever considered a possibility was his own. His careful calculations and analyzations were wrong. In hindsight, it shouldn't have come as a shocker. This was war and people died. Shepard knew that, but he thought the people who died would remain as nameless statistics. He thought that he would never know their stories, that somehow he would be protected from the Reapers. The galaxy took it upon itself to mock his comfortable assumptions.
"Smile," James interrupted the silence in the shuttle. A few seconds later the click of his omni-tool camera went off but it's flash didn't go. "We needed a picture Shepard. Now we'll remember this day forever. The day of one of your most important achievements," James tried to smile at him, but Colt was already back to thinking,
Maybe someone or something was telling him to stop being so egotistical and selfish. Or maybe they were making him pay for past mistakes. Or maybe it was trying to convey the message that he had a talent at completely and irreversibly messing up great people. Or maybe he had just pissed off the wrong person. Or maybe … The list could wrap around the galaxy five times.
Shepard wasn't a stranger to this feeling, but for years now he had been an observer of grief, not a participant. Things weren't supposed to get so messed up. Mordin shouldn't have decided to throw his life away in the spur of the moment. Shepard should've gotten his act together quicker and stopped Mordin. It was the perfect storm. In any other situation, Colt wouldn't have been so thrown off and he would've been able to save his friend.
"Are you worried about the Krogan?" Liara's voice made him jump a little. He turned to watch Tuchanka's surface getting smaller and smaller from the shuttle's window.
He didn't even have to think about his answer, "No, they're in good hands."
"Commander Shepard is onboard. XO Adams stands relieved," EDI's usual introductory phrase was no different this time around. That was comforting to Shepard considering how much things had changed in a matter of hours. At the moment, he needed the false reassurance that nothing else would change.
Shepard was putting his guns away when he heard a whimper behind him. Rosebud. He turned and found her sniffing around the shuttle. The blue stripes along her back were paler than usual, the prongs lining her back drooped, and her violet eyes seemed to question Shepard. She poked her magnificent head in the shuttle and let out a low howl when Mordin wasn't in there.
"Rosebud," he called out softly. She walked stiffly up to him and without warning lept into his arms. Her prongs lay flat on her back, allowing her to lay on her back in his arms. Despite Rosebud's staggering weight, Shepard easily carried her. He sat down heavily with Rosebud and received a varren kiss across his entire face.
"Commander, Hackett and the Dalatrass wish to speak to you immediately," EDI said. This time her words weren't so comforting. There was no rest for Shepard.
He put down his varren down, got onto the elevator, and rode it to the CIC. After getting scanned, he arrived in the war room where the Dalatrass's hologram was already waiting. Rosebud trotted by his side through it all.
"Commander, what did you decide?" The dalatrass asked. She was lucky that she was a hologram. Shepard was looking for someone to take his grief out on. Ryncol would have to suffice.
"I sabotaged the cure. I hope you're happy with yourself. Dooming the Krogan's future for some petty dispute is real classy," lying to her did make him feel a little better though. He couldn't wait to see her face when she realized he had actually cured it. What a dumb bitch.
"I knew you'd see reason. I expect to see samples of the sabotaged cure and Krogan tissue," she sounded condescending. The dalatrass was an expert at getting under Shepard's skin. It wasn't what she said, but how she said it. Her likability was on par with Khalisah al-Jilani.
"Of course. I'll be around to your office in a couple solar days with all my evidence," Shepard nodded his head respectfully. At his very core Colt was a politician and he knew the importance of friendship, or at least mutual respect, when making allies and deciding the fate of an entire galaxy. If he did his job correctly, the dalatrass would never know his hate for her.
"Thank you Commander. I'll be sending salarian resources to the Crucible ASAP," her image faded out. Colt stared at the place where her hologram had once been and started laughing. It was the temporary relief of long pent-up emotions, a quick and hideous insight into how plagued Colt's mind was. To the common observer this laugh should've been one coming from a madman, not the person holding the entire galaxy up. But in that moment, a madman and Commander Shepard were one in the same.
He walked into the War Room still laughing. With each passing second the laughter got more frenzied and nonsensical. Eyes were on him and watching with concern. But he could care less. After a few minutes of this laugh, EDI cut in, "Commander, Hackett is still expecting to speak with you."
"Right," Shepard turned back to the hologram room and somehow got himself to stop laughing. His feelings were once again shoved to the back of his mind, where they would fester and simmer.
"Hell of a thing you just did Commander," Hackett sounded impressed. Shepard hated that people kept telling him that. "Curing the Genophage? I never thought I'd see the day," Hackett's scars were twitching as he spoke. It almost started the laughter up again.
"Wrex has agreed to send troops to Palaven Admiral. We should get their full support," Shepard allowed a genuine smile to ghost across his features.
"So how'd you manage to get salarian support? I just got a message from the dalatrass outlining all the resources she is sending to the Crucible," Hackett put a hand on his chin thoughtfully.
This started the laughter as he was reminded of the horrible lie he was playing with. However, Shepard got it under control in a few seconds, "I'm a pretty good diplomat, sir."
"I have no doubt about that. Good work Commander. Hackett out," the admiral's image went out. Now Colt could crawl back to the Commander Cave for the next few hours or decades.
"Commander, mind if we talk?" Victus asked. Holy fuck. Shepard wanted to go to his cabin. Seriously, that's what he was looking forward to. He couldn't remember wanting something so badly in his entire life. All this praise and talking was twisting the knife.
"Not at all Primarch," Colt said. Garrus was standing next to Victus; he looked a little awkward. Typical Garrus.
"Please just call me Victus, Commander. We've lived on the same ship for a few weeks now, so I think we've moved past formal titles," Victus flared his mandibles in a turian smile.
"Only if you call me Shepard," Colt grinned.
"Deal," Victus smiled again. "Shepard, the moment I think that there's nothing more you can do, you somehow manage to pull off some brilliant plan." There it was-the praise. Every compliment seemed to bury Mordin deeper and deeper into memory. But Shepard would remember even if no one else chose to.
"Thanks," Shepard scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably.
"Krogan troops are at Palaven as we speak. You held up your end of the bargain nicely and now it's my turn," he held his hand out, which Colt took readily, "The Turian Hierarchy will stand with humanity against the Reapers." They had agreed that the turians would send support when the Krogans relieved and helped turians on Palaven. The Krogans would only help the turians and stand with humanity against the Reapers when the genophage was cured. In one mission Colt had gained two powerful allies. Scratch that, three races if all his deception with the dalatrass went accordingly.
"Ain't this a little slice of heaven? Turians and humans standing together. Looks like there is a silver lining to our supposed extinction. Would you have ever thought this would happen?" Colt leaned on the metal bar circling the center island.
"No," Victus admitted. "If someone had told me thirty years ago that I'd be spending a few weeks of my life on a human vessel, I wouldn't have believed it. If they had told me that humanity would be our greatest ally, I would've laughed in their face. Strange how that reversed so dramatically. How I went from blind hate to trusting your kind, how I feel no ill feelings to humans. It's like I've lived two separate lives."
"I know the feeling," this earned a chuckle from Victus and Garrus, but Shepard was dead serious. "I'm glad I was able to change your mind."
"Me too," Victus said. "We're also supplying a few dry-dock ships to help with the Crucible. Garrus will be supervising them."
"Yes sir," Garrus puffed out his chest and nodded. Shepard had to suppress a laugh.
"And when it's time to deploy it," Victus was referring to the Crucible, "the full measure of the turian fleet will be there to back you up. In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in a spot where you need a few turian ships I'll be happy to oblige."
"Thank you Victus," Shepard turned and started to walk out of the War Room.
"Shepard, before I leave for Palaven I would like to get a drink with you," the Primarch's request made Shepard's carefree grin appear, if only for a second.
"Luckily I know the location of all the good Citadel bars. What's your poison?" Colt said. Shepard's definition of a 'good bar' might be a little different than the Primarch's.
"Turian brandy. You?" Victus's mandibles clicked together. Drink choice said a lot about a person.
"Ryncol," Shepard loved watching people's reactions when he told them his drink of choice. Victus's face was pure gold.
"That stuff will kill you," Victus said. Shepard had to give the Primarch credit for actually looking concerned.
"No more so than running under a Thresher Maw and a Reaper fight," this comment reminded Shepard that he still had his combat armor on. All sorts of blood caked his pitch-black outfit.
"Good point. I look forward to it," Victus smiled one last time before getting back to work. Garrus came up on his right as Colt made his way to the CIC.
"I'll start coordinating turian resources immediately," Garrus sounded too serious. They were supposed to get funnier as things got worse.
"My little Gar Bear is growing up so fast. Why can't they stay as little calibrating machines forever? It's just not fair," Shepard rubbed at his face to imitate tears.
Garrus and the two chatty Ensigns scanning them cracked up. Once they were in the CIC, Garrus's voice turned serious again, "Colt?" Garrus's use of his first name caught him off guard. Not that he minded, it was just weird.
"Yes?" Shepard was starting to unfasten the buckles on his armor. It was a melted mess because of its close proximity to the Reaper's laser. Shepard would have to get a new set when they got to the Citadel.
"If Victus becomes your new favorite turian, I'll have to kill him," Garrus grinned at him, then his expression changed, "You've got to be exhausted. I mean Mordin dying and going toe-to-toe with a Reaper... It can't be easy. We both know that you need a clear head to win a war. There can't be any mistakes. You should catch some shut eye. I'll make sure nothing crazy happens," Garrus put his hand on Shepard's shoulder. Colt stepped away and got onto the elevator with Rosebud in tow.
Shepard managed to say, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," before the elevator's doors closed.
"If you ever defy my orders again...," Chakwas shook her head and tensed her jaw. She had been silent up till this point. She had called him down to the med-bay to start the cure Mordin had found. Her silence and preparation of needles freaked him out. Plus, the whining outside the med-bay made Colt's heart sink further.
"If I had listened to you, I would've bled to death. We both know that," Shepard really didn't want to fight.
"That's true. This time. What happens next time when you decide to ignore me and I'm right?" Chakwas shot back. Couldn't they fight about this later?
"Then you'll get to say 'I told you so' over my dead body," Shepard's voice had no bite.
Chakwas's eyebrows pulled together angrily but she remained silent. A very bad sign indeed. A few minutes later she responded quietly, "That's kinda what I'm trying to avoid." She rubbed something on his arm before the needle went it. It took all of Shepard's willpower to stay still.
"Listen to Chakwas. Medically proficient with sound advice," Mordin walked into the med-bay and stood a few feet from Shepard. Mordin was standing there. Mordin Solus. What the fuck? "Too bad about Wrex and Eve leaving," he scratched his arm.
Chakwas continued talking but Shepard was paying her no heed. It was kinda hard to focus on things when your dead friend was talking. "Samples for dalatrass are ready. She'll find out in week or two," Mordin walked towards a bag with a biohazard inscription on it.
"Ohhhkay, I think that's my cue to get some sleep," Colt jumped off the table and stumbled for the med-bay door. Chakwas called after him but he wasn't stopping now.
He somehow managed to get to his cabin through his daze. He was just sleep-deprived, not crazy. It was lack of sleep, not insanity. He wasn't losing it. Colt kept telling himself these things over and over again; trying to rationalize what he had seen.
Sleep-that's what Shepard needed. "Rosebud," he called. The enormous varren leaped on the bed and curled up next to Colt. She licked her paw blissfully while Colt scratched behind her ear and waited for sleep.
"Unless you're Liara or your head is on fire, get out," Shepard had drifted off before the whoosh of his cabin door made him wake up.
"I meet some of the criteria," Liara's cool voice brought his stupid grin back. Rosebud promptly ruined the feeling by kicking Colt in the face, making him open his eyes. "I think she's dreaming about running," Liara stood at the top the stairs and laughed.
"Yah or she's studying to be N7. Shit, what a kick," Shepard muttered and rubbed his face, "What's up?"
"Do I need a reason to visit?" She made her way down the stairs and over to her desk. She was turned away from him and sorting through something.
"Of course not. Plus it's not really visiting if you sleep here. You just seem like you have an agenda. Anything I can help with?" Colt sat up a little and noticed that he was wearing his uniform, not his sleepwear.
Liara turned around and walked up to the side of the bed Shepard had been shoved to by Rosebud. She examined his face while concern radiated from her, "Chakwas is worried about you, so I was sent in to make sure all is well... You know that you can tell me anything, right?"
He sat up fully this time, slightly alarmed. "I know and I do tell you everything," Shepard was well aware of his lie, but he was also quite aware of how manipulative he was. With any luck he would make her believe that he told her everything.
"But you don't. Remember the cybernetic issue that you managed to hide for weeks? Or how you've never really said anything about your past?" She said gently while taking his hand.
He ran his thumb over her knuckles. She loved playing with his hands, so he tried to distract her with it. She needed to be thrown off while he tried to rewrite history regarding his cybernetics; she was way too sharp to do so otherwise. The cybernetic thing was fair game, but his past? He didn't talk about it for a reason. Liara was stirring up dangerous memories. And memory was the source of all unhappiness in man.
"You were under a lot of stress, still are, and I didn't want to add more," Shepard meant this. That was his main reason for keeping his condition a secret. "Plus, I knew either Chakwas or Mordin would cure me. Why worry you when everything was going to turn out just fine? Besides that, I've told you everything." This wasn't true. Shepard had been convinced he was going to die of cybernetics. Colt added a smile to try to convince her of his sincerity. He carefully avoided the topic of his past.
Liara narrowed her eyes at him. Hopefully she hadn't realized what he was trying to do. She was always superb at getting through all his sugar-coated truths and false words to see the real story. "Manipulating politicians and military officials may come easy to you. Seeing it first hand has shown me how incredibly effective you are at that particular skill but you cannot do the same to me. I know you too well. So let's try this again."
He remained silent. Colt pulled his hand out of her grasp and folded his arms over his chest. His eyes were set on Rosebud's sleeping form. After a few minutes of crushing silence, Shepard said quietly, "I know I can tell you anything, I try to, and maybe one day I will ...When it isn't so painful."
He felt the mattress compress by his legs as she sat down. The two had been dancing around the elephant in the room quite efficiently, but ultimately their efforts would be wasted. "I could've saved Mordin. Convinced him, made him think it through, stopped him. If he hadn't fucking thrown me off, this would've turned out so differently. He would be sitting in the med-bay right now, probably singing and I wouldn't feel this way," Shepard felt a single tear fall cling to his eyelashes before it fell.
Liara refused to look at him, instead staring at the wall, "When you," she took in a ragged breath, "went away. I couldn't fathom how unfair the whole situation was. My best friend, my lover, wasn't allowed to die when he was twenty eight. That was one of the worst things about it. You had so much potential left, so much more to give the galaxy and then you...couldn't. You had decades left. Decades full of brilliance, and life... I mean Goddess, it was awful. There was so much left for you to experience, so much left for us to do. You were too young Shepard."
The lump in Shepard's throat was too big to speak over, not that he could find the right words anyways. Liara's voice had caught a few times and it was getting more strained as she went on. She was trying to make him feel better, he understood that, but it was making him feel a thousand times worse. Colt thought that he was at the part where he couldn't feel any more misery, that his heart had come to full capacity. That, like a sponge, he had reached the point where no more grief could be absorbed. He was wrong.
"This situation is nowhere near that one. Mordin was old by salarian standards. He was in the STG, he helped attack the Collectors...I mean he did so much. He couldn't have done better. He lived a good, long life...a great life. He put in a lot of living. He sacrificed himself to right his wrong. If only we should be so lucky to do the same. Don't feel bad, Colt. Mordin knew what was doing and I think he'd do it again," this time Liara's words were comforting, "He was capable of making his own decisions. He will save millions with that choice."
Shepard hadn't cried in a long time. He didn't even remember the last time he did. Colt fought, drank, and found company in women as a substitute. He didn't cry, especially not in front of someone he had to motivate and reassure. But things were falling apart so spectacularly that it seemed only appropriate that old norms fall to pieces as well.
It started off as a few droplets that increased to a whole faucet. Tears he had repressed for years sprung forth and soaked his face. Colt was acutely aware of his tears dripping onto his uniform. He buried his face in his hands, the skull splitting headache already setting in. Not even movement on the bed could make him look up.
"Colt," his name was whispered in his ear. An arm snaked around his shoulders. Liara must've moved Rosebud and climbed next to him.
"I'm supposed to protect everyone," he cried, "I failed. So badly." Liara's other arm came around him. Colt took his head out of his hands and buried it in her shoulder. He fell asleep nestled against her.
"Doctor T'Soni?" Admiral Anderson shimmered slightly before the picture cleared up.
"Admiral, I'll get the Commander for you," Liara started to turn around, thinking that this was a simple slip-up on EDI's part.
"Actually I wanted to speak to you," Anderson's words stopped Liara, "It's about Shepard." Liara should've known that EDI never made mistakes, even simple ones.
"Okay," Liara was uncomfortable talking behind Colt's back.
"I just wanted to ask you to keep a close eye on him. He...ah…well Shepard, he...he tends to self-destruct when something like this happens," Anderson finally got out. It was safe to say that Liara was utterly confused at this point. "He just stops everything. He doesn't eat, he doesn't sleep, he gets into other dangerous behaviors. Commander Shepard isn't the greatest at coping with loss, shall we say. Actually, that's kinda putting it lightly. Watch him like a hawk. Maybe he'll be able to deal Mordin's death with minimal support...but probably not," Anderson sighed tiredly. "This is one of the few times I regret not getting back on the Normandy...Since I can't be there, you'll have to be double the support. Also, you may want to let some of the others know what he's like...But...uh, keep the circle who knows small. No need for the entire galaxy to find out, hmm? The last thing we want is a scandal. Chakwas absolutely needs to know, maybe Garrus, and whoever else you think might help."
"I'm going to go see that Hanar play," someone said. Shepard was only half paying attention. That feeling of something being out of place was too prominent in his mind, making his interest to an easily forgotten conversation low at best.
"A Hanar play? Are you serious? Please tell me this is a joke. There are other, more productive ways to get bored out of your mind. Filling out paperwork would be rewarding, cuz' at least you feel slightly accomplished at the end," another replied. Shepard would rather watch a four-day Hanar play than fill out paperwork.
"How about Mr. Vakarian?" Asked a voice probably belonging to Doctor T'Soni.
"Me? Hmmm, the great Commander and I will probably inspect bars. You know, find health violations and that sort of thing," Garrus's voice had a thoughtful twang that didn't match his words. Colt did not care.
"No doubt inspecting the Ryncol's quality," an Ensign said with a laugh.
"That's Shepard's job, not mine," Garrus had an impressive alcohol intake but it was nowhere near Colt's; plus Ryncol wasn't dextro friendly. With a sigh, Shepard remembered that he couldn't get drunk. This was going to be a rough shore leave.
"Traynor, your turn," Mordin said. Shepard whipped his head to look at the speaker. Mordin was dead. Private Campbell was the speaker, not Mordin. What the hell was wrong with him?
"Well, I'll be supervising repairs and upgrades," Traynor replied. There was a collective sigh at her reply. "But," she held up a finger, "Shepard and I are going to this great little arcade we stumbled upon during an adventure." Colt remembered the place. They had come across it after a long discussion regarding tactics. They had agreed to visit it during the next shore leave. He had almost entirely forgotten about it.
"Sounds like a party," Garrus said, "Chakwas's turn."
"I'll be helping at Heurta," her answer was almost as enjoyable as Traynor's.
"Do you have any fun?" Joker called back from the cockpit.
"On occasion. I'm sure I'll find myself in the company of the Normandy crew at some point," she said with a smile. Shepard tried to pay more attention to this conversation, maybe it would distract him.
"Well, I'm going to Purgatory. Meet a couple chicas and see where it leads," James threw in his own plans. What a classy guy. Except Shepard couldn't think too badly about James' life style, after all he had been the exact same way in his twenties. "I expect to see Esteban and Shepard at least. The rest of you are welcome to come as well." The younger members of the crew nodded their heads enthusiastically. "What about you Doc?" James turned to Liara.
This was the first speaker that Colt half focused on. "I'll probably just hang out with Shepard. Then we'll probably do boring old people stuff," she said. This earned a hearty laugh from everyone, especially from the members in their twenties who reminded the older members almost daily how ancient they were. If he hadn't of been so numb to everything, Shepard would've laughed too.
"I thought shore leave was supposed to be a break from me," Colt muttered coldly. Seriously, how weren't these people sick and tired of him? Hell, he was sick and tired of himself. That's precisely why he was going to be someone else for the duration of this shore leave.
"What did you say?" Traynor asked pleasantly. Luckily, none of them seemed to have heard him.
"What are your plans?" This simple question turned all the attention to him. What was he supposed to say? Telling them the truth seemed like a bad idea. Was he supposed to tell them that he planned to lock himself in his room so he wasn't tempted to get back into red sand? Of course he would leave for a little, but that time period would probably have its fair share of bar fights, swearing, and alcohol. He didn't want to getting dragged back into that sort of thing, it was a horrible life, but he couldn't stop himself from returning. Fighting was a better escape than red sand...right?
The only thing he heard was a low ringing. Colt was messing around with the deformed, blackened skin on his right arm absentmindedly. He couldn't quite believe the situation he was caught in. He hadn't lost someone under his command in a long, long time. He wasn't supposed to let that happen. Worried voices pulled him out of his reverie, "Shepard? Commander? Shepard?"
"Hmmm?" Then Shepard remembered that someone had asked him a question. He decided to just start talking and hope for the best, "Well-."
"Commander, I need you up here," Joker saved him. Shepard practically sprinted to the cockpit, leaving his crew in the CIC.
"Citadel Control isn't responding," Joker looked worried. That was rare. Shepard took the microphone out of his pilot's hands.
"Citadel Control, this is the SR-2 Normandy of the Human Systems Alliance. We are requesting docking permission," Shepard waited for a response before repeating the same message. No reply. Citadel Control always responded.
Joker took it back, "Alliance control this is the Normandy. We're docking at bay 1-4, Zakara Ward. Are we cleared to descend?" No response. "Even if there was a station malfunction they'd have backups online." At these words, Shepard flew into Commander mode with incredible speed and ease.
"EDI, I want us primed for FTL travel. I want kinetic barriers at full strength and I want our weapons at the ready. Let engineering know that we may need to engage stealth mode. See if you can intercept any signals being broadcasted from the Citadel," Shepard barked out orders before jogging back into the CIC.
The fun atmosphere still surrounded his crew. They were lounging around, joking, and patiently waiting for the Normandy to dock. He hated to shatter such a scene, but it was absolutely necessary. "Where is Garrus?" He looked sharply around. A tentative talon shot up from the crowd and made him feel a little better. He didn't want Garrus in the forward battery while the turian's beloved gun was firing.
Shepard's simple, harsh sentence changed the mood from playful to serious. At least ten pairs of eyes followed his every move. Not a word was spoken. An intense blue flared around their ship, Shepard smiled in satisfaction that their kinetic barriers had increased so quickly. A mechanical whirring noise sprung to life and hummed, while a rumble ran through the floor. This was the Thanix Cannon heating up and prepping. Soon after, a low pitched wail followed, indicating that their Tantalus drive core had come online. Now they were prepared to fight or fly.
Shepard walked onto the platform in front of the Galaxy Map and turned to the concerned observers, "Everyone, we've got a bit of a problem. Citadel Control isn't answering our hails, so at this time I would like everyone to get to their combat posts." At his order, the CIC flew into commotion. The ground crew stayed put in their seats, as their combat roles on the Normandy mostly involved staying out the way.
"Corporal Rodgers please start scanning the area for Reapers. Private Harris, you help him. Traynor try to access anything from the Citadel. Lieutenant Matthews, track movement to and from the station. Private Andrews please…," Shepard kept barking out orders until the ten or so people that worked in the CIC were completely busy.
"Give me that headset," Shepard pointed to a visor type thing. One of his people handed it to him and he started to call the Citadel again. This time he hailed the emergency channels. He received a transmission playing on loop. "To all incoming ships: The Citadel is under attack-do not attempt to land, Cerberus is controlling all the docks. Please notify the Citadel Fleet. Send any reinforcements to C-Sec headquarters. If that falls, the whole station falls."
Colt could feel his jaw on the ground. Holy shit. Cerberus would have to have a LOT of troops to even compete with the Citadel and all its securities, let alone over power them. His small team would have to make their way through that. How could he possibly protect them when they were up against those kinds of numbers and firepower?
"EDI, bring Hackett up on the QEC. Quickly now," Shepard started to jog towards the cockpit again. "Joker, it's Cerberus. They have control of all the docks, so we'll need to use the shuttle. Get the Normandy close to C-Sec headquarters." His pilot's astonished face mirrored Shepard's own.
Shepard was already jogging out of the cockpit when Joker answered,"Aye-aye Commander."
"Garrus, get your amour on. EDI be ready as well," Colt turned to the people typing and working diligently at the main interface in the CIC, "You may stop now. Cerberus has attacked the Citadel." Some let out a sigh of relief when they realized it wasn't the Reapers. Bad enough though.
Shepard was already making his way to the QEC before anyone could say anything. Hologram Hackett was already standing there by the time Shepard reached him. Colt skipped all formalities and dived right in, "Sir, the Citadel is under attack. It's Cerberus."
"What!?" Hackett never seemed like he was thrown off-guard, this was the exception. He turned slightly and said something to someone out of sight.
When he turned back, Shepard said, "We're going to need reinforcements, Admiral."
Hackett eyes showed more emotion than he had ever seen. It was mostly worry. He said, "I know. I'll be sending ships and personnel your way but it'll take some time. Hopefully no more than a few hours at the most. Can you hold on till then Shepard?" Anderson asked him the exact same thing during the Skyllian Blitz.