Author Note: Hi readers! Double Trouble is a collaborative story between two authors – written by myself (Musicalrain) and Gamer-Otaku Takara! :) We will be taking turns writing the chapters – I'll write the first one, Takara the second, then I'll write the third, etc. This story takes place in ME2 and will include AU elements. I'll include more notes at the end of this chapter. I hope you enjoy! :D
The woman sitting at the corner table in the mess, the table barely large enough to sit a single person let alone two, hits her head softly on the metal surface for what must be the third time at least.
"You're gonna hurt yourself," her male companion half chuckles around his mug of coffee.
She immediately raises her head and crosses her arms on the small table. She glares at the too-smug looking man with her steely-blue gaze for a moment, before sighing and placing her chin on her folded arms. "Why didn't they tell me she started waking up sooner Joker?"
"Probably because they knew you'd take it bad." He shakes his head.
"This isn't taking it bad." She sits up again and gestures at herself. "If it was the other way around and Averil was in my shoes, she'd have warped the nearest table... or person," she grimaces.
"This is you taking it bad, Miss Smarty-Pants." He pauses, "I think you're getting wrinkles."
"No I'm not," she gasps and brings a hand up to lightly touch her freckled forehead and nose. "And don't call me that," she sniffles. "I'm your commanding officer, in case you forgot."
"We're not on the SR-2." Joker takes a drink of his coffee. "Do you think they're telling the truth? That Averil should be ready to go by next week?"
She sighs heavily and leans back in her metal chair. "I hope so Joker – she's my baby sister... Do you know how many pings I've gotten from mom? And I can't even tell her any of this," she gestures widely with her arms. "And she's pissed about me leaving the Alliance to top it off."
"Well you were a commander of your own vessel. Even before the SR-1, when you were trying to keep your Super-Spectre sister from beating the crap out of idiots while we chased down Saren like crazed chickens with our heads cut off."
"Thank you for that wonderful summary of my life." She sighs and rakes a hand through her short reddish-blonde hair. "It seems I'll always be trying to keep Averil out of trouble... I'll even join Cerberus to make sure she's alright. Never thought that would happen."
"Same here, Audrey," Joker replies. "But I owe your sister one. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her."
She frowns at the pilot, "I would've done the same thing Joker. It's just how we Shepards are wired – no one gets left behind if we can help it."
His fingers flutter on his mug uncomfortably. "Yeah. Still. If I can help Averil at all I will. And you too of course," Joker's quick to correct himself. "I'm not picking favorites or anything."
Audrey shakes her head the same time a soft beep is heard from her omni-tool. She quickly opens it only to groan.
"Is that mama Shep?" Joker asks.
"Sure is. With a complete lecture on my life choices too," she replies with pursed lips. "Maybe I should hack into her account and block all outgoing messages?" She stands as she closes her omni-tool. "Either way, I'm going to my room."
She turns to leave from the mess hall as Joker calls out, "Have fun!"
"Goodnight Joker," Audrey replies exasperatedly.
Audrey sits heavily on her narrow bed and opens her omni-tool again. When she signed up with Cerberus, after throughly checking that they were telling the truth about reviving her sister, she had maintained her rank – and there were benefits. The narrow bed in the just-as-narrow private room were proof of that. Except she didn't have as much freedom. There was surveillance – everywhere. She herself had killed half-a-dozen bugs from her room with a shock of the overload on her omni-tool. And as far as she knows, they weren't replaced. Cerberus is monitoring her call logs, her incoming and outgoing messages, her extranet searches, and even her playlist – she knows since she herself wrote the programs installed in her omni-tool to counteract third-party tampering with the device. The only problem is, the third-party programs monitoring her device are more efficient than her own programs. Sure, if she had high-powered processors and unlimited creds at her disposal she would be able to counteract the programs, but she doesn't. And so now the whole of Cerberus knows that her mother thinks she should 'quit being irrational and settle down'. And 'wasn't that Alenko boy nice, what's wrong with him?'
I can assure you that I'm not being irrational. There's something bigger at stake here – I know it. And, no, you don't need to worry about my sanity. I have friends. I see them daily. I'm sure they would tell me were I crazy. Also – please quit trying to set me up. Kaidan's dating a doctor, last I heard. And he's not even my type. You know that. It didn't happen before, and it won't happen now.
Love, Audrey S.
She sends the message with a little too much force on the 'send' button before flopping back onto her stiff mattress. The 'something bigger at stake' she had mentioned in her message are the Collectors and their kidnapping of human colonies. The whole reason her baby sister is being brought back from the dead. The Illusive Man is convinced that Averil could make people listen – that the Reaper mumbo-jumbo in her head combined with her Spectre-Extrodinaire status would be enough to nip the Collectors' schemes in the bud. Audrey thinks that he's making her sister out to be some kind of super hero. But if he'll bring Averil back from being dead as dead can be, then she'll throw her lot in with them. Cerberus or not. She knows her duty. She's still the Commander of the Normandy – and big sister to the most impulsive biotic she knows. She still thinks it's a little... abnormal that her sister can make people float with her mind. Needless to say, the more cautious daughter of Hannah Shepard is not a biotic herself. Both sisters inherited a love of all things electronic from their mother, but Audrey more so. When Averil started to glow blue from eezo exposure, Audrey started to glow in the light emitted from her self-modified omni-tool. She's a natural engineer.
Audrey groans on her bed, and without looking kicks off her heavy Cerberus-issued boots. She has to gain the willpower to get out of her silly looking Cerberus-commander uniform before she can comfortably curl up to sleep. When she finally does, her last thoughts for the day are: I hope Averil will be better soon.
She wakes up groggily to an insistent beeping and buzzing of her omni-tool at... 0435 hours. Twenty-five minutes earlier than she usually wakes. With the time and the combination of annoying sounds from her omni-tool, the cause can only be one thing – a vid call from Garrus Vakarian.
She quickly runs her fingers through her hair to make herself mostly presentable. One of the benefits of her short 'pixie bob' haircut was that it was easy to fix, even after prolonged helmet wear. Her sister, however, liked to keep her hair more 'stylish'. Audrey rolls her eyes at her own thoughts before connecting to the vid call.
"Audrey. Good... I didn't wake you did I?"
She couldn't see much on the screen, just Garrus' blue-painted face in front of a rather plain-looking wall. The same wall that she always sees when he calls. When he calls, which isn't very often. He's the only one from the old SR-1 that she still talks to, other than Joker and Dr. Chakwas – since they've both joined up with Cerberus for Averil too. The former C-Sec officer went off the grid long before she did, but she's never questioned it. If anything, Garrus knows how to take care of himself. At least, she hopes he does.
"Nah," she shakes her head as she lies. "Just about to get ready for the day."
"Oh." His mandibles flutter, "Did you get a chance to look at the spy program I sent earlier? I'd ask Tali, but... I haven't had much contact with her."
The mention of the quarian engineer makes her stiffen a little bit. She knows that Garrus' subtle hint that her own technological skills are not up to par with Tali's is just a slight to try to get her motivated to do what he wants. It makes her squint her eyes at the turian and adopt her 'commander' face. "Yes. I did. Though I haven't had a chance to test it, as... something came up yesterday." She fights a wince at her own excuse. She can't very well tell him that it was because she had gotten word that Averil started to come to... and then had a minor freak-out in Joker's company. She types on her omni-tool to send the program to him. "I fixed a few of the sub-programs and runtimes. It was pretty good already."
"Thanks," he nods and she sees him type on his own omni-tool with his three-fingered hand. "One of my... friends has some information on illegal weapons trafficking and I'd like to see if I can get any of the smuggler's logs."
She snorts, "If they're like any smugglers I know, that program should take care of it." She smiles a little, "Doing good work?"
He rubs the back of his neck, "I'd like to think so."
"You've been at it for awhile." She frowns a little. "What's this – a year? Year and a half?"
"About that long," he looks briefly at his lap. "I have a good team though. We're making progress."
"Good. There's been progress over here too. I should be out on the field soon."
"Been cooped up too long?" He chuckles as his mandibles spread in a turian smile.
"Something like that." She sighs, "I should really get ready. It was good talking to you Garrus. Stay safe."
His mandibles flicker a little, "You too," he says before he cuts the vid call.
Every time she chats with him, she can't help but worry. It's difficult to see the signs of stress and fatigue on a turian, but once you know what to look for it's easy to spot. And Garrus has all the signs – the slightly watery eyes, drooping mandibles, and flecks of dry skin between his plates. She's concerned about her long time friend. He was one of the few people that helped her cope after Averil's death, even if the coping was sparring and weapons drills. Anything to get her mind off of the trauma of realizing one's only sister and biggest responsibility in the universe was dead. And that she couldn't do anything about it. That feeling of helplessness... of emptiness was not easy to adjust to. And she still doesn't think she has, even if Averil is supposed to regain her life due to Cerberus. In the end though, it didn't really help. The way her sister's image was slandered... the rumors. They still got to her. They got to everyone who was close with the Spectre. The feeling of helplessness prevailed eventually. That feeling of helplessness and a sliver of hope led her to join Cerberus.
She finished her morning ritual in record time – a quick set of crunches and push-ups, shower, grooming, uniform changing and a quick scan of messages. She was just about finished with her bowl of instant oatmeal in the company of Joker and Dr. Chakwas when a monotone Cerberus official's voice sounded over the overhead speakers,
"We have received reports that the Lazarus Research Station is reporting anomalies with their security mechs. They have sounded alarms for a security breach. We have noted that 62% of the facility is now deemed hazardous. All survivors will be redirected to this facility. We will update at standard time intervals. All personnel please be on standby."
Audrey felt her heart lurch into her throat. The Lazarus Station is where Averil is being held. It's where she's being rebuilt. The entire facility was created for that purpose. If the facility is being attacked, her sister could be in danger. Her sister could die – again.
Author Note: So! My Shep will be Audrey – and so my chapters will focus on her, whereas Takara's chapters will focus on her Shep Averil. They're both very different characters, as I'm sure you will see. We aim for updates every other week, and we will be publishing two chapters at each update (one written by me and the other written by Takara). Also! The cover image was painted by me – and you can find it on my deviantart account (Musicalrain0). Thank you all for reading! :) And feel free to drop us a review with your thoughts! - Musicalrain