Chapter 10

Circa Waves: So Long

"So, you're saying I should take in someone we don't have a dossier on, and who's only here because she disobeyed your direct order?"

"It's not exactly like that," Garrus says, awkwardly scratching his fringe with a talon as he meets Shepard's eyes. Frankly, I'm just relieved to have them off me; while Shepard was obviously happy to see us return from our trip alive and well, the mood fizzled out once the idea of letting Mel onto the squad was brought up. "This is the only time in two years, otherwise she's been impeccable."

"Once isn't a good track record," Shepard replies, shaking her head. "Once is enough to get you discharged."

"She's not exactly military," I point out.

"That's supposed to encourage me to take her?"

"I just mean that she's not from the background of following everything to the letter, but she can learn," I sigh. "The SR-1 was pretty similar, you have to admit. Everyone fell in line eventually."


"You just picked up a convict, I'm sure there's more discipline concerns with them than with Mel. Garrus and I both vouch for her."

"Alright, point taken about the convict," Shepard admits. "Garrus? Anything to add?"

"She's an excellent operator," the turian says simply. "You've already said that Ian's improved, and it's all because of her."

"You have?" I ask, glancing at Shepard. "I don't remember that."

"I mentioned it to Garrus before you left. Don't let it get to your head," Shepard replies, giving me another stern stare before turning back to the turian. "This still doesn't solve the problem of a dossier."

I frown at that, before an idea hits me. "We don't have a dossier on Wrex, but if he asked to join up, what would you say?"

"Melanis isn't a former squadmate." She shakes her head. "Of course I'd say yes to Wrex, but I know him."

"And we know Mel."

"I'm aware, it's been almost your entire argument this whole time," Shepard mutters. "She knows this is supposed to be a suicide mission?"

"It came up," I nod. I reaffirmed the technicalities with Melanis on the shuttle ride back; the words 'suicide mission' came up a lot to avoid ambiguity. "She's prepared. I might've said that we've managed suicide missions before, though."

"And I intend to again, but it's good she's not under any illusions," Shepard nods. "And she's knows that she has to follow all orders? No questioning?"

"That came up too," Garrus says lowly.

"Alright," Shepard sighs. "If you and Garrus back her, we can see if she fits in. Trial period only. I'm not making any commitments."

"Thank you," I say, a smile slipping onto my face. "What does the trial period involve, though?"

"One on one interviews with me, evaluation on missions, a medical, psych evaluation, standard procedure," she replies.

"We do psych evaluations?" I ask. "How the hell did Zaeed get through that? Or Okeer?"

"They had dossiers, Cerberus had already checked them out."

"I think Garrus and I give better recommendations than Cerberus-"

"You're not qualified psychologists, and it puts me at ease," Shepard says flatly. "If she's as good as you say she is, it's nothing to worry about."

There's not much point pushing things; Shepard's obviously made her mind up, and I should be grateful she's letting Melanis on board. The precautions do make sense too, as hard as it is to get behind them, seeing as we've known her so long.

"Alright," I nod, backing off. "I'll just be glad you're giving her a chance."

"Good," she replies, but at least there's a smile this time. "I'll go and see her now."

"Perfect timing," Garrus nods. I look to the side, noticing the turian with his omni-tool open, reading a message. "Laet and Monteague are all set up for us to come and visit and get some less conspicuous armour."

The thought of Melanis saying something that irks Shepard is nagging away at me, but I get the feeling she wouldn't want me tagging along to her meeting with Mel anyway, so I keep my mouth shut for once. I already agreed to leave it alone. "Great, let's get back out to Ilium," I say. "How long do you think it's going to take?"

"It's mostly new paint and decals," the turian shrugs. "Maybe half a day. We should probably get your helmet changed too. The sliding design is conspicuous."

"Yeah, I was thinking that," I sigh. The blood dragon can be painted over, but not really much we can do about disguising the rather distinct design of the sliding mechanism. "Damn it. I love this helmet."

"And I'm sure you love not being recognised by mercs just as much," Garrus chuckles. "Come on. Wouldn't want Shepard getting impatient and leaving us behind."

"With the amount of 'personal time' you've already taken, I was starting to think you were looking for a way to escape," Shepard replies dryly, giving Garrus a pretend punch on the arm.


"There's no way you felt that," she chuckles. "Get going, Vakarian."

"You punch hard, I definitely felt that. You think Cerberus has a compensation scheme for this sort of thing?"

"Not for turians. Out," Shepard says firmly, but there's a smile playing on her face as Garrus eventually relents and turns to the elevator, with me following next to him.

"You two used to be so much cuter on the SR-1," I comment idly, as Garrus presses the button to take us up, releasing a flanging sigh as he does.

"Just wait until I get her up to speed on you and Melanis," he replies, glancing down at me. "We'll see who's got the funnier jokes then."

"I don't think there's much ammunition with us."

"Right. You two have an entirely conventional relationship."

"Expand on that?" I ask, folding my arms.

"No, no need," Garrus shrugs, looking straight ahead, but I can see his mandibles straining to disguise a smile. "Apparently there's not much ammunition with it."

I give a little groan, already regretting making a comment. "Nothing for me to worry about, then?"

"Nothing at all," the turian replies just as the elevator stops, stepping out the door before I have time to see his facial expression. By the time I've caught up at the airlock, he's managed to force it completely neutral.


Getting over to Laet and Monteague doesn't take a particularly long time, twenty minutes at best, thanks both to their proximity to the spaceport the Normandy's docked at, and the sheer efficiency of Ilium's public transit system. Garrus takes the time to explain that a couple of merchant contacts Laet has from his Citadel days told him about an open workshop and home available; a quick greasing of the Ilium wheels with their share of the Omega pot ensured a smooth move in, which means Laet's ready to get to work on some new armour. And more importantly, means we have time to catch up.

At least, that's what I thought. When we get outside the shop, I can at least admire the exterior; display windows, space for a sign above it, nice, spacious, modern looking interior with a counter, and an empty doorway leading into what looks like a workshop, given the various benches and tools I can see scattered around. It's located under another couple of floors; presumably the home part of the arrangement Garrus mentioned, and behind us, there's a nice view of the city skyline and the traffic filtering through out, a mess of blinking lights, lightly humming engines, and the dotted outline of skyscraper windows. Whatever people say about Ilium, it sure is something to look at.

I can't see any lights on in the workshop, though, nor does it look like Laet's ready to get working. "You sure this is the place?" I ask. "Looks dead."

"He mustn't have had time to fully open up," Garrus replies, glancing up at the windows above us. "He definitely said he was inside and waiting, though."

"Well, I don't see a doorbell," I start saying, at least until I glance to my right, noticing someone in my peripheral vision.

"The door into the house is at the side," Laet chuckles, striding towards us with mandibles spread wide. "Guests generally don't come in through the workshop."

"Right," I chuckle, returning the grin and stepping back away from the building. "We would've worked it out eventually. Just wanted to admire the place a bit."

"Uh-huh," the turian chuckles, looking between us. "Which part do you like most? The empty interior, lack of a name and sign, or a combination of both?"

"All easily fixed," Garrus says, smiling to the other turian as he reaches out a hand, giving him a firm wrist clasp. "Good to see you, Laet."

"Hey, I think I'm happier to see both of you in one piece," Laet laughs, shaking his head. "Monteague and I head back to civilised space and relax after Omega, and look at you two. Straight back into the shooting."

"Shooting was never your area. Or Monteague's," I point out, just as I see the drell heading out from around the corner too.

"I'm sure I could give you a good challenge if we went to a range," the drell smiles. "Not going to invite our guests inside, Laet?"

"We were discussing the storefront," the turian in question replies.

"It's empty," Monteague points out.

"That was the crux of the discussion," I say, giving Monteague a particularly warm smile as I walk over to him. With everything he's done for me since we met, it's hard not to feel an element of relief at seeing him. "How're you doing, Monteague?"

"Good, good," Monteague says, though his eyes drift to Laet. The turian returns the look, twitching his mandibles in a smirk.

"By good, he means he's fine, but doesn't want to be on Ilium."

"Ilium is perfectly tolerable," the drell replies firmly. "I just preferred it when we didn't have to worry about every asari with a datapad making us try to sign something."

"Those asari buy a lot more armour than the people on Oma'Ker," Laet replies, before Garrus gives a flanging laugh, causing both of them to look at him.

"What's the expression?" he asks, glancing at me. "Trouble in paradise?"

"That's the one," I nod. Laet looks confused, but Monteague seems to know it, sighing and shaking his head.

"It's a debate we're having," the drell says, gesturing for us to follow him and Laet inside their place. "A decision is yet to be made."

Makes sense. I'm not surprised Laet's keen on getting back into the armour business now that we're done on Omega, seeing as it's his passion; I'm also not surprised Montegaue would rather go for a quieter life back on Oma'Ker. Ilium doesn't exactly have the reputation of being the nicest place to live, what with the somewhat cutthroat business practices; it's not something I suspect Laet and Monteague couldn't handle, seeing as we've been dealing with literal cutthroats and more back on Omega, and they're not stupid enough to sign anything, but it's not exactly a quiet alternative to life. Trade-offs between the business and comfort, I suppose. "As long as you two are staying safe and away from mercs, I'm happy," I say, hoping to try and change the topic. "It's just really good to see you both in the flesh again."

"It's good to see you too," Monteague nods, as we head into the building, door sliding shut behind us. It's a spartan furnishing arrangement, so I'm guessing they only moved in recently. There's a few non-offensive bits of art; I can make out a kitchen from across the living room we're stood in, which has a couple of sofas and a screen mounted on the wall, a bookcase with some datapads and texts on psychology, but not much more than that. I guess since they're not sure about it being a permanent arrangement, there's not much point getting too cosy. "A little disconcerting to hear you're back into action so soon, though." He gives me a pointed stare at that, which largely goes unnoticed.

"Can't say no to saving the galaxy," I reply, trying to keep my tone casual. No point getting overly defensive with him; the concern's justified. "Things are a little more friendly without having to worry about Omega's locals. Almost relaxing." Garrus gives a little chuckle at that, shaking his head as the two of us flop down on their couch, while Monteague and Laet get chairs from their kitchen. "Besides, we're here so the best armoursmith around can fix up our gear, if that puts your mind at ease."

"I'd give you a discount for the flattery if I wasn't already working for free," Laet smiles. "Something a bit more inconspicuous, right?"

"It's mainly to get the decals removed," Garrus says. "I don't think we need entirely new designs, just resprays, change the distinctive features. Though Ian's helmet is going to have to be removed."

Laet gives a sigh. "I liked that helmet. One of my better designs."

"See?" I say, giving a Garrus a fake glare. "He understands."

"It was a big part of your image on Omega, good design or not," Monteague says, nudging Laet on the arm disapprovingly. "He will live with a conventional helmet."

"I suppose I'll have to," I chuckle. Joking on like this is making me realise just how much I actually do miss the Omega gang; as nice as some of the Normandy crew is, with emphasis on 'some', it's not quite the same. We were a dysfunctional bunch, but at least we had shared values. Now we're a dysfunctional bunch with some radically different goals, and it's not really made for particularly fast friendships amongst the group. "How long do you think it'll take?"

"They're minor changes, mostly cosmetic. I'd guess two, three hours. If this was back on the Citadel, I'd have you wait the day, but-" Laet waves his arm around the room for emphasis. "I don't have a customer backlog, so you get the express service. Are you in a rush?"

"We've been given the day, but we already took some personal time and they're waiting on us, so I think the sooner we get this done the better," Garrus says, standing up with his armour case, and grabbing mine at the same time. "Is the workshop set up?"

"There's a few things to put in place, but that shouldn't take long if you're helping," Laet says, giving Garrus a smile. "You can do all the heavy lifting."

"Great," Garrus drawls, drawing the word out. "Come on, then. Let's see if I remember all this from helping set up the Citadel store." He heads off towards a connecting door, presumably leading through to the shop, with Laet close behind. I debate following, but Monteague's not moved, and I don't really just want to walk off and leave him here if he's not planning on hanging around in the workshop. Before I can open my mouth to ask, though, he's already talking.

"We can give them some time, turian to turian. Laet's been worried about him," the drell explains.

"They do go all the way back to childhood, don't blame him," I nod, crossing my right leg over the other as I adjust position on the sofa to face Monteague. No doubt he's curious as to how I've been getting up to, so it'll be best to talk without them hanging around. "You're right, it'd be good to let them catch up. You looked at getting into any work yourself? I figured clinics would be wanting to snatch you up."

"I don't want to commit until Laet and I make a decision. It wouldn't be good to go through the recruitment process and then have to move halfway across the galaxy once I got a job offer, and I'm sure the clinics would appreciate me having that stability too," Monteague laughs. "But yes, it would be good to get back into it. Maybe in a department dealing with issues outside of combat."

"I guess you've seen enough of that on Omega?"

"It would be nice to broaden my horizons beyond gunshot wounds, broken bones and dislocations, yes," he replies, a small smile playing around the edge of his lips. "I did train for other areas, it might be nice to actually apply that knowledge."

"It's just a funny image, seeing you as a family doctor or something," I say, shaking my head at the thought. "Consulting a kid with a sore throat."

"It would be odd for me at first, but we have to adapt to our new circumstances. Omega's in the past, and I'm finding myself to be quite happy to leave it there," Monteague nods. "The return to normal life will be strange at first, but welcome, I think. I won't have to worry about people close to me getting killed. Yourself and Garrus excluded, of course."

"Yeah, sorry about that." I scratch the back of my head awkwardly, thinking it over. Could I go back to 'normal' life at this point? See if Pallin's still got my spot at C-Sec? If I survive past the Reapers, if there even is anything after the Reapers, I'll have to find something. Settle down. I'm not exactly looking for a way back to my time, nor do I want to, at this point, so...yeah. Find a place, start worrying about the rent again. Monteague's right, it is a strange thought. "We couldn't really turn it down, though."

"I know. How are you feeling about it?"

"Fine, I suppose," I shrug. "I mean, it's important, and I'm used to it. I don't really think about the danger at this point."

"You don't sound enthusiastic."

"I guess I've grown out of feeling like this sort of thing is an adventure," I chuckle, remembering how I felt when I first joined up with Shepard a couple years back. "I know what I'm doing is important, and I believe in it, but enthusiastic isn't the word. Determined works better. We've got a job to do, and no-one else is going to step up, so we'll get it done."

Monteague nods, though his expression doesn't give much away. "And how are you feeling about your stress issues?"

"Stress issues?" I ask, giving him a little smile. "That's what we're calling it now?"

"Just exercising some sensitivity," the drell says, returning the smile.

"It's...on and off," I admit, dropping the smile. I don't want to lie to Monteague. He's the one who's helped me get through these things, so I can't hide it from him. It'll not help anyone. "I'm not freezing up when I see krogan or fight them, but we had one join up with the ship recently. Really bad warlord, bad enough to get exiled for experimenting on his own people with Collector tech. We're keeping him around for the information he has, plus the obvious combat experience, but it's making me feel uncomfortable."

"Feeling uncomfortable seems entirely justified, given his background," Monteague points out.

"Feeling uncomfortable as in freezing up and not being able to speak to him one on one."

"I see," he nods, presumably having used that to get me to expand. "You're afraid he'll do something?"

"Yeah. I know it's stupid and he won't, especially not on the ship, but it's just that 'what if' scenario running over and over in my head. I guess that's why it's easier fighting krogan, I know I can kill them. I don't have to look over my shoulder and deal with the uncertainty."

"Do you still feel as bad as it was when he first came aboard?"

"No, not as bad," I sigh. "I'll probably end up talking to him at some point, that might reassure me a bit. I mean, the guy was around during the Rebellions, my rational mind would love to pick his brain. His really, really evil brain." I trail off during that last bit, before shaking my head and focusing again. "It's just the irrational bit picking away at me."

"And what about Garm?"

"Garm will hopefully just stay on that rock and let things go," I say, but feel a chill running through me at the thought of him. It's a good reminder that at least Okeer doesn't have a reason to hate me; Garm, however, has plenty. "And if he doesn't, then we'll make sure he stays dead this time."

"You aren't scared of him?"

I narrow my eyes at Monteague a little for that. "What do you think? Even if I wasn't worried about him catching me, I'd be scared of him." I pause, hostile expression fading as I run that over in my head, trying not to follow it down to the memories that come with it. "But I know that freezing up isn't going to do anything about it. If he comes after me, then I'll kill him. That as complicated as I need to make it."

Easy enough to say, at least.

The drell nods, meeting my eyes with his own deep, black pools, standing out from the light blue scales. "Just remember that you have people. You have Garrus on the Normandy, and I assume you're friends with Shepard, from the stories you told us. I'm only ever a call away, and so is Laet, and any of the other squad members. You've got people to watch your back."

"I know. That's always reassuring when I think about it," I say, feeling myself relax a bit from his words and the tone of his voice. He's right, after all, this isn't stuff I'm facing alone. There are people looking out for me. "I'll be fine. Everything's improved since Omega, trust me."

"Good. I only want to make sure," Monteague smiles, settling back on the couch. Presumably that means our mini-session is over. "You're my patient, after all."

"And I couldn't be in better hands," I reply, returning the smile gratefully. "The concern is appreciated, honestly. Sorry if I come off as a bit hostile."

"You don't. Running that Omega clinic changed my definition of 'hostile patient' somewhat, I can cope with a few glares and passive aggressive tone," Monteague laughs. "I get worse just living with Laet."

"Yeah, how's he doing?" I ask, frowning. "I was a bit worried I might've soured things with him after I mentioned Erash during our call."

"Good, most of the time. I think this relocation business has helped keep his mind off things, but there's the occasional mood swing when he has a spare moment to dwell on things."

"He regrets letting Erash go?"

"I expect he'd have regretted killing him a lot more, but yes, that's a part of it," Monteague sighs. "He's said before that he wishes he could just forget all about Erash even existing, about what he did. The fact you're still in contact with him isn't something he wanted to hear, particularly."

"I don't think it was Erash's fault, is all. If he'd known what would've happened, I don't think he'd ever have done it," I point out. The whole Erash and Laet thing remains a constant frustration; there's no way I'd ever stop my friendship with Erash, but at the same time, I know it makes it harder for Laet. And I can't blame him; as far as he's probably concerned, I'm still chatty with his brother's killer. The fact it was accidental is probably about the only reason we're still on speaking terms; Laet probably understands why Erash broke free from that cabal, but understanding it definitely doesn't mean he's going to forgive him. "And from the sounds of it, pretty much everyone else cut contact with him."

"That's not entirely true, I tried getting in contact a few days after he left," Monteague admits, though he does take a look around to make sure Laet isn't around to hear him before he says it. "No answer. I know Garrus has tried as well. He eventually sent a message back to say he was alive, but that was about it. Seems like he's only taking your calls."

"He never mentioned that," I mutter. "I really need to go and see him at some point."

"I suspect your commander might remove you from your mission entirely if you take any more time off, going off what Garrus said," the drell laughs, breaking the tension somewhat as he moves back towards the kitchen. "What was the 'personal time' for?"

"We picked up Melanis."

Monteague gives a blink of surprise, glancing back to me. "She's on your ship?"

"Yeah. She's being held back for assessment; it's not entirely clear if she'll be sticking around or not, so she couldn't come out and see you guys," I nod. "She was out fighting in a warzone, locals rebelling against a turian warlord that was running their planet."

"I suppose not everyone settles back into normal life as easily as Laet and I."

"That's pretty much what she said too," I nod. "This just seems like a much better use of her skills."

"I'm sure having her around isn't particularly unpleasant either."

"It has its positives." I laugh. "It's nice to have more familiar faces around the ship, at any rate."

"Of course. Familiarity is the main reason I'm still on Ilium, after all."

"You mean cos of Laet?" I ask. Monteague gives me a stare for a couple seconds, before smirking and shaking his head. "What?"

"I do struggle to believe you were a detective sometimes."

"I don't see what's so special about you and Laet." I start saying, before trailing off as I take a look around the apartment, trying to use some detective intuition now that Monteague's prompted me. Flowers propped in a bowl by the kitchen window, with what looks like a card attached, along with a oversized bow. The living room has the one sofa; Laet and Monteague had to grab their chairs from the kitchen, which seems odd, since I figured they'd sit individually. With a sofa that size, they'd have to pretty much snuggle up, or something. Come to think of it, they were always really close back on the Omega base, and this apartment isn't really screaming 'bachelor pad' at me, given how Garrus and I had our old place laid out. "Though now that I think about it, you two are awfully friendly, aren't you?"

"Getting warmer," Monteague replies, that smirk still fixed on his face as he lifts one blue scaled brow ridge, following my gaze around the room.

"Are you two a thing? Is that it?" I ask. Monteague breaks out into a full smile at that; it looks like he's about to applaud or something, but he settles for giving me a pat on the shoulder as he brushes past towards the living room, glass of water in hand. "Since when?"

"How long have people been laughing at you whenever something about Laet and I has been mentioned?"

"About a year?"

"There's your answer, then," Monteague says, clearly loving my expression as he settles down. "Any questions? I imagine you must be the only person on the squad who was actually shocked to find this out."

"Well, how'd you end up getting together? I mean, I guess you had all that time back in base when we were out doing missions,, this is great! Details!" I say, pulling up one of the chairs and taking a seat, looking at Monteague with rapt attention. Laet and Monteague are a couple of my favourite people, so the idea of them as a couple is really, really cool. "If I've been out of the loop on this for so long, you have to get me caught up. Compensation for laughing at me this whole time."

"Being laughed at was your own fault, but fine, I suppose we have a couple of hours or so while they work on the armour," the drell chuckles. "Alright, let's see. You're right, it was during some downtime while you were all out chasing after that red sand dealer. Laet was hanging around in the kitchen, and we got to talking about Omega and how we ended up with Garrus…"

"...and then we talked about it on the ride out of Omega. A few people were going to stick together, and it felt right. Now we're just trying to work out where to settle."

"I can't believe I didn't notice any of that," I say, repeating the words I've been saying for the past hour and a bit. Monteague threw some food together; thankfully the races of the galaxy have an appreciation for some Earth meats, drell included, so a ham sandwich worked out nicely. I ought to broaden my horizons, but given dextro risks, and the somewhat unappealing look of some alien foods, I always find myself drawn back to what I know. "And then the arrangement of the chairs in your apartment is what tips me off."

"I did give you some nudges in the right direction," he smirks, glancing over to Garrus and Laet. They finished up about fifteen minutes ago, armour cases in hand; dragon removed for a more generic steel finish, varren scratch mark all fixed up. There's still flashes of artistic inspiration, some white and red highlights between some of the plating, but it's still not quite the same. It might functionally be the same, but I'll miss the old set. Got me through more than a few scrapes, and had the marks to show it. Not anymore.

"I'm a bit disappointed you did, it was more fun when he didn't know," Laet laughs, giving me a pat on the shoulder. "Are you two staying for a bit longer, then? We could give you the Ilium tour, since the armour took a bit less time than I was expecting."

"I mean, I've never actually been around Ilium," I say, giving an enthusiastic nod. Seeing as next time we'll be here, it'll be to recruit Thane and Samara, it might be nice to get a look round without having to worry about shooting people. "So I'd be up for it, sure."

"We should really get back," Garrus mutters, but his tone relents as he looks over at me. "But we can probably spare another hour or so."

"An hour should cover everything worthwhile," Monteague says under his breath, earning him a glare from Laet as I get up and grab the armour case with my left hand, just as my omni-tool goes off at the same time as Garrus'.

"Urgent call from Shepard," the turian says, reading out the words I'm seeing on my screen as I open up the display and immediately accept. What the hell could've happened where she was that urgent to get in touch? Something with Melanis? Did Okeer do something-

"Is your armour done?"

Well, she's sounding serious, but not frantic. I doubt Shepard would be asking how the armour was going if there was an emergency underway right this second, so that's a relief in some senses. "Yeah, we just got it finished," I reply. "Everything alright? I didn't think an emergency would come up if we were gone for three hours."

"Well, it has." Laet and Monteague are just standing a touch awkwardly off to the side, looking a bit confused at the sudden interruption. "We've got a lead on the Collectors. An early lead. We might be able to intercept them."

I glance back over my shoulder at Garrus, who's exchanging a surprised look with me too. Horizon. Shit, of course; Shepard just grabbed Jack, and we have Grunt in storage. I haven't even had the chance to talk to Jack, though; I wasn't expecting it to come quite this soon! "Mordin's got his countermeasure ready?"

"Synthesised and ready to go. The only thing we're waiting on is you two."

"We're on our way," Garrus nods, swiping up his own armour case. I look up to apologise to Laet and Monteague, but they both immediately wave me off. Not exactly how I was hoping to say bye, but Horizon is urgent. Really, really urgent. If we miss the Collectors because Garrus and I were catching up on Omega romance, I'm not going to be forgiving myself any time soon. "Should be back at the ship in twenty minutes."

"Good, we should have clearance for take-off by then. The colony's called Horizon," Shepard explains, before pausing for a few seconds. "It sounds like Kaidan's there too. The Alliance sent him out to help with their defences."

"We'll get there before they do, Shepard, don't worry," I reply, forcing out the half-truth. The Collectors are going to be there before us, for sure, but we should be able to get Kaidan out. Should. Really big should. This isn't laid out in code; this relies on us moving fast, and Kaidan looking after himself. "Twenty minutes."

"Twenty minutes or I'm taking off without you," she warns, before closing down the line, leaving Garrus and I to look to our hosts.

"Sorry, guys," I say, even as Garrus is opening up the front door. "But we gotta run."

"Don't worry about it. Go save the galaxy, or whatever it is you two do," Laet chuckles. "We can catch up another time."

"You got it," Garrus nods, spreading his mandibles in a friendly smile at the two of them. Then he grabs me by the arm and practically drags me out after him, breaking out into a jog towards the transit stop. "Did you know this was coming?"

"Of course, I just didn't think it would be coming right this second," I say, falling into a rough stride with him. "Don't worry about Kaidan, we'll get to him. Just worry about fighting Collectors."

"They're bad?"

I take a second to think it over; Harbinger's warp powers, Scion blasts, Praetorian lasers, the fact the damn things can fly. All the various horrible killing methods that can't compare to anything we've faced before. Methods that I may well be trying to avoid within the next few hours.

"Yeah. They're bad."

A/N: Just read back a previous one of these where I mentioned 'getting a balance right' with university work, which is pretty funny with hindsight now.

Just so everyone knows; even if I don't have time to reply, I do read the reviews and messages (and I'm making the time to reply with this chapter). It's all really appreciated. University just remains as hectic as ever, and finding the time to write is hard; again, all I can do is reiterate the story isn't dead. It'll take me a long time to update, as you already know, but I'll get it done. Eventually. As much as I personally dislike some earlier MtM stuff, I still love writing the story, and I know you guys love following it, so I'll do what I can.

Again, thanks for your patience. Sorry it was a slower chapter too; I imagine expanding on Laet and Monteague post-Omega would've worked better if it hadn't take so long to write. Horizon should hopefully pick things up, then I can have a look at developing squadmates and bringing around some loose threads left over from MtM2 and 3.