A/N: And now for something completely different. Possible one-shot but may continue depending on interest. AU Mass Effect/Sins of a Solar Empire crossover.

CADMUS VAKARIAN, PALAVEN'S SHIELD, APRIL 5 2185

It was fair to say that Chief Gunnery Officer Cadmus Vakarian was having a very bad day. The Reapers had his dreadnought cornered, their FTL drives crippled and their kinetic barriers utterly useless against the Thanix weapons of the invading synthetics. How stupid the Council had been, to have ignored the warnings of that Asari archaeologist, Liara T'Soni, initially dismissed as insane and now, if she was still in one piece, probably engaging in the most epic bout of I Told You So ever seen by the galaxy.

The galaxy really was going down the can. First the Reapers showed up, pouring through the Citadel relay and instantly decapitating the combined fleets. Forced to fend for themselves, each race was isolated by the Reapers to be crushed sequentially with overwhelming force. Desperate attempts had been made to present something of a unified resistance to the Reapers, but the Turian envoys had come back with steadily more and more disturbing news.

The Batarians had been utterly obliterated by the Reaper onslaught, to the point where they were tentatively declared an endangered species, with estimates showing that at most 100,000 individuals remained alive and non-indoctrinated.

The Asari were faring worse than the Turians, their usual tactics of hit and run rendered ineffective by the numbers, speed and durability of their Reaper foes. Thessia was being depopulated rapidly, thousands upon thousands of Husks being created by the synthetics.

The Reapers weren't even bothering to land on Sur'Kesh, Kahje and Irune, instead content to bomb the Salarians, Volus and Hanar into oblivion. The Elcor thus far hadn't been hit but it was only a matter of time.

The most disturbing was possibly the fate of the Krogan, the Quarians and the Geth. They were gone. As in, disappeared into thin air. The scouts returned from Tuchanka with holos of abandoned Krogan camps, supplies and arms stockpiles vanished with their owners. Scouts that had ventured beyond the Perseus Veil had reported that Geth space was completely empty, all ships gone, any static installations destroyed, and of the Migrant Fleet there had been no sign in almost two years.

His attention was drawn to the small holo he kept on his console. His wife, Carissa, smiling for the camera, her Vakarian blue paint freshly applied and cradling baby Solana, his son Garrus standing beside her with a slightly goofy grin on his face as Solana gripped one of his talons. Yes, he reflected, he had a damn fine family, a family currently cowering in the dreadnought's cargo bay, the refugee extraction mission gone horribly, horribly wrong. If he had to die now, at least he had a good life behind him. But it wasn't fair. Garrus was twelve, Solana six. Why did they have to die?

He looked out of the window at the Reaper, its firing chamber already glowing red, and closed his eyes as the beam stabbed out, silent in the vacuum of space.

Carissa, I'm so sorry. I couldn't protect you, couldn't protect our children.

It took him a good five seconds to realise he was still alive. Then three things happened at once.

The Reaper started blindly flailing, turning in twisty, erratic courses.

The clunk of docking shuttles resounded throughout the dreadnought.

And ethereal, alien music filled his head.

URDNOT WREX, PALAVEN'S SHIELD, APRIL 5 2185

The Turians were definitely not expecting the white-armoured Krogan to be in the shuttles that had just forcibly docked themselves onto the Palaven's Shield, in some cases boring holes in the hull to gain access. He stormed onto the ship, winding up in the main cargo bay, and bellowed at the top of his lungs.

"Turians! Get your asses in gear! Onto the shuttles, children first, move!"

The authority in his voice started them into motion, forming an orderly group as the children, along with their mothers, were gently urged into the nearest shuttle. As they were boarding the entire ship shuddered as the engine core finally gave up, causing a series of small explosions to shoot along its spine.

"Dammit! Evac teams, comb the ship! I want your asses back here a full minute before the blinding-song ends! Move!"

With that, he thundered off in search of more idiotic Turians to pull off their pathetic excuse for a dreadnought.

Before long, his headlong sprint through empty corridors brought him face to face with a very startled twelve year old Turian boy.

"What's your name, kid?"

He managed to stammer out a reply.

"G...Garrus Vakarian, sir."

"Where are you going, Garrus?"

"To get my father, sir. He's the chief gunnery officer."

"Chief gunnery officer? He sounds important. Come on, let's go get him. Which way?"

He points one clawed digit.

"That way."

"Alright then."

Without further ado he plucked the boy off the ground and settled him on his hump before sprinting through the corridor.

Eventually he came to a heavy bulkhead, sealed and secure. Theoretically the bulkhead should be able to withstand a concerted pummelling from a Krogan, but Urdnot Wrex was no ordinary Krogan. When his species had left that wasted chunk of rock Tuchanka behind they had discovered gene mods. Now Wrex, and all his species, could regenerate five times faster than a normal, unaugmented Krogan, his muscle fibres were far denser, greatly boosting his strength, speed and endurance, and his biotics were far stronger thanks to a mod that replaced his eezo nodules with a spread of eezo grains in every single one of his mitochondria, whatever the hell a mitochondria was. So when he aimed a biotically charged shoulder barge at the bulkhead it really didn't stand a chance.

The Turians in the gunnery control centre turned around, startled as an enormous armoured Krogan barged through the door. Then ...

"Dad!"

Garrus jumped off his back and ran over to who he assumed to be his father.

"Get hustling, Turians. We can't keep that Reaper blind forever."

"Who the hell are you?"

He grinned behind his helm.

"Colonel Urdnot Wrex, TEC Marines, Ascension programme. Now that Reaper is going to get its shit back together in less than five minutes so let's get a fucking move on!"

Garrus tugged at his father's hand.

"Come on, Dad. Mum and Sol are already on their ship."

The five Turians in the gunnery control centre look at Wrex.

"Lead the way, Colonel."

GARRUS VAKARIAN, PALAVEN'S SHIELD, APRIL 5 2185

Garrus had no idea what was going on. He had fully understood the situation - they were going to die at the hands? claws? tentacles? whatever of the Reapers. He had understood right up until white armoured Krogan had shown up like guardian spirits and started hauling people onto their shuttles, and that strange alien music had started playing in his head. He had run off to find Dad, ask him what was happening, but then he had been found by Colonel Wrex. For a moment there he thought the enormous Krogan was going to kill him but then he had spoke to Garrus, helped him find Dad. And now Wrex was helping Dad and his crew get away from the Reaper, despite all the horror stories he had been told about Krogan in his childhood.

He noticed he was starting to fall behind of the sprinting Turians so he put on some extra speed, but before he caught up he felt himself get yanked off the ground and moments later he was settled on the Krogan's neck, his back resting on the armoured hump.

"Okay, kid. I want you to keep a lookout for me. If you see anyone who might get left behind, you shout for them to follow me, got that?"

"Yes sir!"

He noticed that Wrex's voice was perfectly calm and level despite the fact that he was sprinting full tilt through the corridors of a dying dreadnought.

There was a bright flash and before Garrus knew what was happening his dad spun around and was slammed back against the wall, a support beam speared through his shoulder.

"Dad!"

The rest of the gunnery crew stopped and turned back and Wrex waved an arm at them.

"Go! Get to the cargo bay! I'll haul the Chief's sorry ass out of this one!"

After a brief moment of hesitation the gunnery crew sprinted towards the cargo bay and Wrex turned his attention to the impaled Turian, activating what looked like a blue version of an Omnitool and waving it over the support beam.

"Siri, how far into the wall does the support beam penetrate?"

A strange voice that sounded like a very masculine Asari spoke up from the Omnitool.

"About one metre, Wrex."

At this the Krogan growled.

"Siri, open the iBlade app."

"Yes, Wrex."

A sixty centimetre glowing blue blade appeared out of his Omnitool thing and he swung it, neatly slicing through the support beam about five centimetres past Dad's shoulder and then again just five centimetres past the opposite wall. The section of support beam dropped to the floor with a clang and Wrex slowly slid Dad off the beam, drawing a cry of pain from him and an answering cry from Garrus.

"Don't worry kid, we'll take good care of your dad. Siri, open the iMed Dextro app."

Wrex used his Omnitool to spread a thick blue gel substance over the wound on both sides.

"There we go. That'll keep you alive until we can get you into a tissue regenerator."

And with that, Wrex scooped up the groaning Turian man and thundered off towards the shuttle.

TALI'ZORAH NAR RAYYA, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 5 2185

The last shuttle was just departing as Tali watched the proceedings from the window of the Akkan-class battlecruiser TON Karamazov. The Akkan-class was designed to carry a full civilian population in case the worst happened and they needed to flee and rebuild their civilisation in an unknown corner of the galaxy, but the civilian population was always a concern when in a combat situation. At three kilometres end to end, an Akkan physically dwarfed a Reaper but that didn't mean it was the match of one in combat. Designed for speed over defences, the Akkan relied primarily on deflectors and energy shields for durability and since Reaper Thanix beams couldn't be mitigated by the deflectors that left the energy shield as the only form of defence available to the battlecruiser. Their only offensive weapons were two fighter squadrons, a handful of light autocannons and a few Geth plasma turrets. They could handle destroyers in combat, but nothing like the blinded, stumbling Reaper currently wandering around wondering what was going on out there.

Tali curled her hand around her best friend's as the last boarding shuttle finally docked and the Captain gave the order to, as her friend so aptly put it, GTFO. Her friend squeezed her hand in return and looked out at the starscape as it shifted, pointing their ass towards the fumbling Reaper as the phase engines charged. Ash really was a great friend. She was thirteen to Tali's twelve and always knew how to take care of her. Two years ago she had never even heard of this strange new species, these Humans, but the kindness they had shown to the Migrant Fleet when they integrated them into their government, the Trader Emergency Coalition, was amazing. And the tech! Even at the age of eleven, she was a massive tech-head and the fact that the TEC used tech she had absolutely no clue where to start with was no hindrance at all. In fact, she threw herself into her studies of TEC engines, weapons and shields with gusto.

She felt someone grab her from behind and lift her into the air with a big, booming laugh and she turned around in his grasp, squealing happily.

"Uncle Wrex!"

The Krogan Battlemaster put her down before ruffling Ash's hair.

"How're my two favourite girls doing?"

It was then that Tali noticed the Turian boy peeking out from behind the Krogan.

"Who's that, Uncle?"

Wrex put an enormous hand on the boy's back, propelling him forwards.

"This is Garrus. Garrus, this is Ashley and Tali. They'll keep you company while I go and find the rest of your family. Won't you?"

Tali nodded enthusiastically, her black bangs flopping down over her face as Ash also nodded, though slightly more reluctantly.

"Hey Garrus. Want to come play zero-G?"

He briefly frowned.

"What's zero-G?"

"Come on, you'll love it."

As Tali jabbered excitedly to Garrus about zero-G, Ash opened up her iTool and sent a message.

From: ASH

To: KAIDAN, JACOB, JAMES, THANE, KAZIMIR, KARINA, MORDIN, KASUMI, JACK

Hey, you guys want to come play zero-G? We've got a new player, a Turian guy called Garrus, so we've got even teams again.

-Ash W.

Moments later she received nine replies in the affirmative. Time to show this Turian kid what kids in the TEC do for fun.

KARINA SHEPARD, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 5 2185

Karina was one of the first to the Zero-G arena, along with her twin brother Kazimir. The two of them were both tapped for the Sigma programme just like their parents and so the gene mods had already started for them, making them bigger, stronger and faster than all their friends. Of their friends, they weren't the only ones marked out for a supersoldier program - Tali, Ash and James were also on the list for the prestigious Sigma programme, Ash having just started her course of gene mods, James and Tali waiting for their thirteenth birthdays before starting their own mods. Thane and Kasumi were both slated for the N7 programme and Jack, Kaidan and Jacob were all in for the Ascension programme. Thinking about it, Mordin was the only one of their friend group that wasn't in for a supersoldier programme but everyone knew he was headed for a high end military research posting for TEC Command. That left the only outstanding one being the new Turian kid, but perhaps he'd get in on one too, as soon as the research corps finished cooking up their Turian gene mods.

She looked up as Tali entered the room, jabbering about the rules of Zero-G to an utterly bemused looking Turian. Kazimir stepped up to him and offered his hand.

"Kazimir Shepard. That's my twin, Karina."

The Turian kid looks suspiciously at the hand for a moment before shaking it.

"Garrus Vakarian."

At almost six foot six, Kazimir towered over Garrus, who apparently was used to being one of the tallest kids in the class. Karina got up to shake his hand, easily matching her brother in height.

"Before we go play Zero Gee or whatever, would you mind telling me exactly what's going on? One minute I'm on a dreadnought about to be obliterated by a Reaper, and the next ..."

He waves his arms, valiantly trying to encompass the Karamazov and her crew in one gesture.

"Spirits, I don't even know what species you are!"

Karina chuckled and gestured at the seat next to her.

"Take a seat, Garrus. We've got a lot to talk about."

URDNOT WREX, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 5 2185

Wrex forged a path through the Turian refugees milling around in the Karamazov's cargo bay.

"Anyone know where I can find Carissa Vakarian?"

After about the fifth time hollering, a female Turian towing a small child approached him.

"That's me. What do you want?"

"I have some news about your husband and son."

The suspicious cast of her face instantly dissipates, replaced by one of pure dread.

"Cadmus? Garrus? Are they ..."

"They're both alive and on board. Cadmus took a bad hit on the Shield and he's currently getting very bored sitting in a tissue regenerator, and I left Garrus with my nieces Ashley and Tali."

The tension seems to drain out of her form and she slumps in relief.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

"Follow me, I'll take you to them."

Carissa fell into step beside him, beady eyes roving over his white armour with the insignia on his shoulders.

"Mummy, who that?"

"That's a friendly man who's taking us to see Daddy and Garrus."

"He big."

Wrex turned and picked up Solana, settling her on his shoulders. Carissa smiled as she grabbed onto his crest and cackled gleefully.

"Wheeeee!"

"So what do these symbols mean?"

Wrex glanced down at the black triangle on his shoulders with the two gold pips below it.

"Colonel, Ascension corps. One of the TEC's three supersoldier programmes."

The female Turian frowned slightly.

"Supersoldiers?"

"Yeah. We have the Sigma programme, the N7 programme and the Ascension programme. Ah, here we are."

As the door opened, Solana calls out.

"Daddy!"

Wrex bent down, allowing the little girl to scramble off his hump and leap onto her father.

"Daddy Daddy Daddy!"

"Hey Sol." He grunts. "Be careful. Daddy got hurt."

The little Turian's face fell into a picture of dismay.

"Daddy hurt?"

He gave her a one armed hug.

"Yes, but its okay. Colonel Wrex over there brought me back to this ship and now that machine is making it better."

"Okay Daddy. Wrex nice!"

Carissa sat down beside him and took his hand, her expression giddy with relief.

"I'd better go find out what my nieces did with Garrus."

He ducked out of the room, unable to stop a grin from spreading across his face. What is it about little kids that never fails to turn me into goop? he thought.

THANE KRIOS, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 5 2185

"Amonkira, Lord of Hunters, grant that my hands be steady, my aim true and my feet swift. And if the worst comes to pass, grant me forgiveness."

"Jeez Thane, it's just a Zero-G game. You're not going to die."

Thane looked up at Jacob, Kaidan and James and grinned.

"Like Major Massani always says."

The four boys exchanged a snigger as they recited in unison, putting on a gruff voice.

"It's like a condom. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."

Thane stood up and clapped his friends on the shoulders.

"Come on. We've got a Zero-G match to win."

The four of them glance out through their gate, the three metre by three metre square inviting them to take the plunge into the spherical Zero-G arena.

"Remember, the enemy's gate is down."

Whenever they played Zero-G, Ender's Game references came thick and fast. Jacob cuffed Kaidan round the back of the head.

"Be original for once in your life."

Then the four of them lined up beside the gate and Kaidan started briefing them.

"Okay. As soon as we're out, Jacob cover the gate. I'll split for Kazimir's gate, James go for Karina's gate and Thane go for the javelin. Ready?"

The gate light buzzed green and the four of them hurled themselves out into the Zero-G chamber.

Zero-G took place between three equal teams in a gravityless spherical chamber. The objective was to hurl a javelin through the enemy's gate whilst simultaneously preventing the javelin from going near your gate. Since they were just playing casually they were using a lightweight aluminium javelin with rubber ends but professional players used a sharp-ended lead javelin and consequently needed to wear energy shields to play. As the two N7 candidates in the room, Thane and Kasumi were easily the most adept at zero-G manoeuvring and so had been elected to go for the javelin in the centre of the room. To his surprise Kazimir had elected to send the new kid, Garrus, at the javelin.

Thane and Kasumi got to the javelin at almost exactly the same time, briefly wrestling each other for it before Garrus hit them with the force of an express train, not bothering to check his momentum as he slammed the three of them along with the javelin towards one of the walls highly rapidly. Unwilling to get crushed between the hard metal wall and an over aggressive Turian, Kasumi broke off, kicking towards the wall a little way away. Garrus flipped the javelin end for end, using his superior strength to knock Thane away. Then moments later he hit the wall, springing off again in the direction of Karina's gate. To everyone's surprise it was Kaidan's gate that buzzed and flashed red, indicating the javelin had passed through that gate.

The twelve of them all heard slow applause as Wrex casually drifted out from Karina's gate.

"Damn kid, those were some moves you pulled there. You'd make a fine Sigma."

It took Garrus a couple of seconds to realise the sound he was hearing was everyone chanting his name.

"Garrus, Garrus, Garrus ..."

"Come on kid. Your mother and sister are waiting in the medbay for you."

Karina drifts over to him.

"Let's all go see them. I'd like to meet your family anyway."

They all drift into Karina's gate. As they are about to head up to the medbay Wrex straps something to Garrus's wrist.

"What is this?"

"It's an iTool. Welcome to the TEC, kid."

RAEL'ZORAH VAS KARAMAZOV, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 9 2185

"Dad, can I ask you a question?"

Rael ran a hand through his messy black hair, a habit he had fallen into after the Quarians finally got rid of their suits two years ago upon their induction into the TEC.

"Of course, Tali."

"How do you tell when a boy likes you?"

Rael almost choked on his pasta. He had always thought twelve was a bit young to have The Talk but after spending so much time around Humans these past two years he supposed some of it was rubbing off on her. Based on his observations there wouldn't be much more than hand holding and going to movies together until she was a little older, at least. He didn't exactly relish the prospect of his little girl growing up but it was inevitable.

"Well ..."

He wasn't really sure.

"If a boy likes you ..."

Um. What to say?

"Well ..."

Son of a bosh'tet! Think, Rael!

"If a boy likes you then he'll treat you with respect. He'll always want to do things that you like doing, and he'll take good care of you if you're sad or hurt."

Tali frowned briefly, then nodded.

"Okay, Dad."

She took another mouthful of pasta.

"Would this boy by any chance be Kazimir Shepard?"

Now it was her turn to splutter on her pasta.

"Dad!"

He grinned at her cheekily.

"Just asking."

"Um ... Maybe?"

Rael nodded and smiled.

"He's a nice boy. I'm glad it's him, not that awful James kid he hangs around with."

"Dad! You're just saying that because you don't like Zaeed."

The animosity between Rael'Zorah vas Karamazov and James's adoptive father, Sigma Major Zaeed Massani, was legendary.

"The boy's coarse, brutish and vulgar just like his dad."

"Yes, sometimes he can be a bit, well, rude, but he's a really nice person if you get to know him."

Rael frowned, but didn't pursue the subject. Tali was usually quite a good judge of character, as shown by her instant dislike for Henry Lawson's stuck up daughter, so perhaps she was right about James.

"So, what have you been up to recently?"

As the captain of the Karamazov, Rael was a very busy man and as a result didn't have nearly enough time to spend with his daughter as he would like. He had secret hopes that one day she would be a battlecruiser captain just like him, but he was nevertheless proud when she was accepted for the Sigma programme on her eleventh birthday. Even if it meant she might one day serve under that son of a bitch Massani.

"Uncle Wrex introduced us to this new person they pulled off that Turian ship called Garrus. I think Wrex is going to tag him for the Sigma programme like me."

"That's a bit quick, isn't it? We're not even back in TEC space yet."

"I know, but you should have seen some of his moves in the Zero-G ring. He managed to out-grapple Thane, of all people."

"That's Krios's boy, right? The N7 candidate?"

"Yeah, him."

"Do you have any plans this evening?"

"Movie night in the Shepards's cabin, remember?"

"How could I forget? I need to get back to the bridge in half an hour anyway. Just enough time for a shower."

"Shotgun first!"

He sighed, and grabbed Tali just long enough to plant a kiss on the top of her head as she ran past. He really needed to make more time to spend with his daughter.

CADMUS VAKARIAN, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 10 2185

When Cadmus came into his cabin he was surprised to see Colonel Wrex sitting at the table along with Garrus and Carissa.

"Ah, Cadmus. Have a seat."

He looked askance at Garrus as he sat down.

"What's this about?"

"Well now you're all here I'll tell you. As you all know, all children in the TEC go through three years of military training when they reach the age of fifteen, which is compulsory, similar to your Turian boot camp if I'm not mistaken. What you may or may not know is that certain candidates that show promise at an early age can be invited to join one of three programmes. When we entered your son's details into his citizen's registry he was flagged as a potential Sigma recruit."

At this, Garrus's jaw drops and his mandibles hang slack in amazement.

"You're serious?"

"Completely."

"Oh wow! This is ... I mean ... Wow!"

Cadmus frowns.

"What does this Sigma programme entail?"

Wrex glances at his iTool before answering.

"Sigmas recieve extensive genetic modification that greatly increases their speed, strength, stamina, agility, reflexes and visual acuity, and are trained in all forms of weaponry as well as advanced hand to hand combat, marksmanship and the use of advanced battlefield tactics including counter-biotics and ship boarding operations. At the end of the program a typical Sigma is equal to twenty of our regular military academy graduates. Sigma training takes seven years and commences on the intake year after an individual turns fifteen. Sigmas, along with our other two programmes, Ascension and N7, get the most prestigious postings and operations and, statistically speaking, have a three hundred percent higher mission success rate than mil academy soldiers and a two hundred percent lower mortality rate, despite the fact that their missions are far riskier."

All three Turians are gaping at Wrex now.

"I won't pander around. Sigma training is the hardest seven years of your life, but even being short listed for the Sigma programme is a great honour. We don't need a decision until your thirteenth birthday. If you have any questions about the programme, you should look for Major Zaeed Massani. He's the highest ranking Sigma currently on the ship. I think you've already met his adopted son, James Vega-Massani, and his adopted daughter Jack Massani. And remember kid, this is your decision and yours alone. Your family and friends can offer you advice but nobody has the right to make your decision except you. If you decide either way drop me a message by iTool."

Cadmus watched the enormous Battlemaster leave, then turned to Garrus.

"What do you think, son? Your thirteenth is twelve days away so you don't have very long to decide."

"I ... I dunno. I think I want to, but I'm not sure."

"Well, it's good you're thinking about it instead of just blindly leaping. Do you want to go and speak to this Zaeed guy?"

ZAEED MASSANI, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 10 2185

When Zaeed got back from his jog, he found two Turians waiting for him outside his cabin.

"Whassup?"

They blinked, startled by his appearance.

"Are you Major Zaeed Massani?"

"So what if I am?"

The older Turian clears his throat.

"My son Garrus has been selected for the Sigma programme and has some questions."

"Sigma, eh? Come inside, we'll talk."

He keyed open the door and gestured the two of them inside before sprawling on an armchair. Garrus and his father sat down on an old beat up sofa.

"I'd offer you drinks but I ain't got anything dextro."

The thunder of feet heralded the arrival of two Human children, James and Jack. Zaeed looked at them with pride as they flopped down on the opposite sofa.

"My brats, James and Jack. Proudest two damn days of my life when he got into Sigma and she got into Ascension. So, what do you want to know?"

Before Garrus can say anything, James piped up.

"You got into Sigma too? That is so cool!"

Garrus thinks about it.

"Who else is a Sigma candidate aboard the ship?"

Zaeed scratched the back of his neck as he thought about it for a second.

"Think you met all them already. There's James here, the Shepard twins, that Zorah kid and her buddy Williams, and you make six. Congrats, by the way."

"How'd your face get messed up?"

The older Turian immediately turned to scold Garrus but Zaeed, James and Jack all started chuckling.

"You know, of all the kids who ever asked me that, you're the most goddamn direct. You'd make a damn fine Sigma, kid. Funny story actually. Me and my buddy Vido were pretty much the original supersoldiers. I was the first Sigma, he was the first Blue Sun. So anyway, the damn Blue Sun programme was a catastrophic fuck up right from the start. They all went goddamn insane and Vido got six of his buddies to hold me down while he shot me in the face. If I hadnt'a been Sigma I would be six feet under right now instead of sitting here discussing it with you. So anyhow he shot me in the face and I played dead till his buddies let me go, then I jumped up and killed his buddies with my bare hands. See, Sigmas can regen faster than a Krogan, so one bullet didn't do much more than mess up my beautiful face. Then it was just me and Vido left, and the crazy son of a bitch had a goddamn flamethrower, which ain't too healthy even for a Sigma. I pretty much spent the next minute or so jumpin' about trying not to get incinerated till he ran out of fuel for his fire squirter, then I jumped on his back and gave him a Massani Haircut."

"What's a Massani Haircut?"

Jack filled in the details enthusiastically.

"Dad grabbed him by the chin with one hand, top of the head with the other, twist 360 degrees and pull."

She mimed the action, straddling an invisible person, grabbing, twisting and pulling.

"My dad's fucking badass."

JACK MASSANI, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 12 2185

"What is it now, Jack?"

Kaidan eyed her warily as she stormed in, fists clenched and muttering darkly under her breath.

"Why in hell does my dad have to be so pally with Henry Lawson?"

He put his head in his hands and sighed.

"Miranda again?"

"I fucking hate that bitch! Little Miss Perfect. Goddamnit!"

Jacob shook his head, nonchalantly leaning against the window.

"Come on, she's not that bad."

"Not that fucking bad! She spends her entire time waltzing around in that tight fucking full body condom thing wanting guys to check out her ass!"

Jacob sighed and rubbed his forehead.

"Okay, she's a bit of an exhibitionist but that doesn't constitute a reason to hate her."

The door slid open and Kazimir and Karina Shepard walked through the doors, closely followed by Tali and Garrus.

"What's going on?"

Kaidan sighed again and glanced up at them.

"Jack vs. Miranda, round seventeen million."

"Oh, whoopy doo. Garrus, I don't think you've been introduced to Bitchy McThunderthighs, the leader of the Ascension Programme Cheerleader Squad?"

Garrus looked at Kazimir in confusion as everyone else sniggered.

"Keelah, she's such a bosh'tet. I don't know why nobody's turned her head into nutrient paste yet."

Karina chuckled and nodded to Tali.

"Can you imagine the poor son of a bitch who gets Miranda's head in his field rations?"

The room erupted into laughter.

"Now that would be something to see."

Jacob shook his head again.

"Come on, she's not that bad. Just get to know her, you'll see."

Jack let out a short bark of derisive laughter.

"Fuck that Jacob. The only reason you give her the time of day is because your dad had his tongue up her dad's ass since you were two."

The room went silent.

"Sorry Jacob. That was too far."

He blinked and dissipated the faint biotic field around his arms.

"Apology accepted. How about we talk about something else now?"

Karina nodded and propelled Garrus forwards.

"Our newest buddy has some news he'd like to share."

Garrus grinned and proudly gestured to the white shirt he was wearing with the Sigma logo on the chest. Jacob and Kaidan immediately got up and went over to slap his shoulder.

"Hey, Sigma! Alright!"

"Congrats, man!"

Garrus nodded cheerfully.

"Yeah, and my thirteenth is in ten days."

Once again the room went silent. Eventually Jack piped up.

"Well why the fuck didn't you say anything about it? We've got a party to plan!"

RAEL'ZORAH VAS KARAMAZOV, TON KARAMAZOV, APRIL 17 2185

"All systems check. Phase fluctuation within optimal parameters. Prep for realspace transition in five minutes."

The Geth unit in question turned its eyepiece back to Rael.

"Thank you, XO Legion."

He tapped a button on the arm of his command chair.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will be arriving in the Sol system in approximately four and a half minutes. Thank you for travelling with Karamazov Spaceways. Welcome home. All hands, prepare for realspace flight."

He turned his attention to the view out of the bridge, looking out over the technician pits on the lower level of the bridge and into the strange flickering purple of interstellar phase space flight.

"XO, polarise all windows."

"All windows polarised, Captain Zorah."

"Helmsman, prepare to lay in a course for Earth starbase."

"Preparing course, Captain Zorah."

"Engineering?"

-We sing readiness-songs, Sings-Commands.-

Keelah, having a Rachni chief engineer was weird. But then again, Sings-to-Metal-Wings was one of the best engineers he'd ever encountered, his own dearly departed wife included.

"Thank you, Chief Engineer."

Two years ago if somebody had told him he'd be the captain of a three kilometre long battlecruiser with a Geth XO and a Rachni Chief Engineer he would have tested them for hallucinogenics. It's funny how quickly things could change. The Migrant Fleet had been blindsided by the Reapers, losing almost a thousand ships, including one of the Liveships, before the TEC had shown up. They had lost twelve capital ships and literally hundreds of cruisers and frigates but they had bought time for the Migrant Fleet to escape the ambush by towing them into their own bizarre version of FTL called Phase Space. Every Quarian alive today owed the TEC their lives, and they started to repay that debt by becoming some of the most valued of the TEC's subjects. Despite the physical fragility of an unaugmented Quarian, a higher proportion of them were accepted into the Sigma and N7 programmes than any other of the TEC's many races, and Quarian engineers and captains had donated their old, battered ships to be broken down into resources, in turn becoming captains and engineers of Javelis LRM Frigates, Kodiak Heavy Cruisers or Kol Battleships. For the first time in his life, Rael had felt glad to be a Quarian. And then, as if it was nothing more than an afterthought, the TEC had given them a little yellow pill that fixed their immune systems.

"One minute to realspace transition, Captain."

"Thank you, XO."

Ah yes, the Geth. Now that was a sticky one. The TEC had brought them in about a month after saving the Migrant Fleet. The first Rael had heard about it was when a Geth platform showed up with a crew transfer, claiming to be his new XO. After the new Sigma transfer, Major Zaeed Massani, had got him to, in his own words, "put the goddamn gun down and let the Geth on the ship, ya crazy bastard," he had very grudgingly permitted the Geth on the bridge. Things had been incredibly tense for the first month or so before he and the Quarians on the bridge crew had started to relax around Legion, but it had taken almost a full year and an awful lot of vitriol from Zaeed Goddamn Massani before they had finally fully relaxed around the platform.

"Thirty seconds to realspace transition."

"Broadcast the IFF. I have no interest in being phase locked today."

The first line of Sol's defences was the Stasis Net, a network of phasic inhibitors around the system that would essentially put any ship that arrived in the system without broadcasting the correct IFF in a kind of stasis effect. They had run into the stasis net when the Migrant Fleet was brought back to Sol - the entire fleet was put into stasis, and since the stasis net physically couldn't be deactivated the Quarians had to wait for the stasis to wear off before they could move again. Which took seven hours.

-We sing identity-songs to the sleep-singer net, Sings-Commands.-

Ah yes. The Rachni. Now there was an interesting one. The Rachni were effectively the reason the TEC existed. A single queen fled the end of the Rachni Wars, eventually coming to settle on the planet Venus. First contact between the Humans and the Rachni had occurred in the Human year 1976, and together they had built the Trade Order, the joint Human-Rachni mercantile empire that had been reformed into the TEC during the Advent Wars of the 2130s and 40s. Every capital ship in the fleet had a Rachni Queen aboard, who was able to sing what they called 'blinding-songs' to the Reapers, essentially scrambling their ability to interpret sensor input. Regrettably, however, firing at a blinded Reaper always seemed to make it snap out of the blinding-song, meaning it was most useful during snatch and grab raids like the evacuation of the Palaven's Shield.

"Realspace transition in five ... four ... three ... two ... one ... Now."

The purple ripples of interstellar phase travel disappeared, replaced by a very close view of the star Sol. Good thing Rael had polarised the viewscreen.

"Welcome back TON Karamazov. Please proceed immediately to dock C17 for refugee transfer and resupply."

Rael tapped the reply button.

"Solid copy, setting heading for dock C17. Nice to be back, Earth Control. Request permission to comb refugees for crew replacements. My gunnery chief is going on maternity leave."

"Solid copy, Karamazov. Permission granted. Earth Control out."

Rael smiled and leaned back. Tali had mentioned her new friend's father was the CGO of that Turian dreadnought. Perhaps he could stay on. But he'd deal with that later.

"Any plans for shore leave, Captain Zorah?"

"Mm, yes. I'm taking my daughter to the beach. And you, XO?"

"We have purchased tickets for an exclusive exhibition of the Human painter Van Gogh."

"Van Gogh? I've heard good things about ... Wait, how many tickets?"

Legion's headflaps shifted ever so slightly.

"One thousand one hundred and eighty seven."

Rael put one hand over his face as his shoulders shook with silent laughter.