Chapter 23: Escape from the Citadel


Shepard slumped against the lockers in the Normandy's crew quarters in defeat. After everything that he had put into this mission, he had been defeated. Not by Saren, but by politics. Ashley probably would have laughed at that.

At the thought of his gunnery chief, Shepard let out a yell of frustrated rage, smashing his fist against his locker door, the sound echoing through the quiet, empty ship. It wasn't just the galaxy at stake. He had to save Ash. He had lost enough people already.

And what about Ratchet? There was no way that the Council wasn't going to try to milk him for every last scrap of technology he had. And now he was virtually being held prisoner by the Council.

He felt so lost, so small, and so insignificant in that very moment. As he sank to the floor, Shepard noted how empty and lifeless the Normandy felt, completely powered down, her crew vacated.

"Shepard, is that you?"

Shepard's head whipped up at the unexpected voice to see Garrus making his way down the stairs.

"Garrus? What are you doing back here?" Shepard asked, too drained to even pull himself off the floor.

"Aside from getting frisked by your 'pals' outside?" Garrus retorted with a dry chuckle. "Why is C-Sec following you around?"

Shepard forced a brittle laugh. "Yeah. Sorry about that. The Council's afraid I might run off with the Normandy."

Garrus shook his head. "They still don't believe us about the Reapers?"

The commander sighed. "There's more to it. They found out about Ratchet."

"Oh… Well, shit."

Shepard nodded. That about summed it up. "The Council revoked my Spectre status, and assigned C-Sec to keep an eye on me. They locked down the Normandy, so they're keeping me on a short leash."

"Damn." The former C-Sec officer clicked his mandibles in aggravation before settling down next to Shepard. "How are you holding up?"

Shepard shook his head in disgust. "I'm angry. We need to find Saren as soon as possible, and any delay just gives him more of a lead to finding the Conduit!" Shepard blew a sigh, before releasing all of the tension in his body, making him seem to sink into the floor even more.

"No," Garrus interrupted gently, "I meant, how are you? You've had a ton of crap hammer into you recently. I'm worried about you."

Shepard turned to his companion, and saw the worry and care in Garrus' eyes. This was a man who had risked life and limb to follow him on a mission to save the galaxy. He had given up his previous life to follow him. And that in itself spoke volumes of Garrus' loyalty.

Throughout the entire journey, Shepard had spent a lot of time presenting himself as The Commander, a confident and capable leader. And suddenly, all of that was stripped away and he found himself just speaking as a friend to another.

"To be honest, Garrus, I'm at the end of the road. I feel like the Council has been opposing me at every turn. Not only that, but they found out about Ratchet, took him prisoner, and still refuse to believe me about the Reapers! They're damned idiots! And now, not only is Saren getting closer to the Conduit, but he has Ashley too!" Shepard clenched his fists and struck the floor. "Maybe it's time to give up. I've failed."

Garrus was speechless. After spending a few weeks traveling with Shepard, chasing after Saren, he thought he knew the commander better than most. He was a strong soldier, with strong morals and a steady trigger finger. But the commander he was seeing now was not the soldier, but the man. Unfortunately, comforting people was never his strong suit, but he owed it to Shepard to try.

After a moment of silence, Garrus slowly pulled himself to his feet. "Well, I should probably get to what I wanted to do when I came back here."

Shepard looked up at the turian with a grim chuckle. "And what was that?"

Garrus smirked. "Calibrating the Mako's guns and shields. After all, when we go after Saren, I want to make sure we're ready for him."

Shepard quirked his eyebrows. "Garrus, didn't you–"

"I heard you, Shepard. But I'm going to go on record to say that when I decided to leave C-Sec to follow you, I was skeptical, both of you and the mission. But after seeing you lead us into overwhelming odds and lead us – out more or less intact – I've learned to never bet against you."

Garrus and Shepard shared a chuckle. "Nothing a little medi-gel couldn't fix," Shepard defended himself.

"I think I meant less intact," Garrus retorted. "But I believe that you'll find a way. To save Ratchet, to get us off the Citadel, to beat Saren to the Conduit, to rescue Ashley, and to stop the Reapers." The loyal turian offered his hand. "So, what do you say commander?"

Shepard looked at Garrus' proffered hand, before clasping it in his own. As he was pulled up, he put a hand on Garrus' shoulder to steady himself, looking into Garrus' eyes. "Let's kick Saren's ass, and bring Ashley home."

"Aye, aye, Commander. Now I should get to that calibration."

IIIIIIII

Shepard sat down at the table across from Captain Anderson. The bass in the club was so heavy, it made his chest vibrate with each hit. He could barely hear anything else going on in the club. He glanced over his shoulder and grimaced with distaste at the two C-Sec officers, a turian and asari, standing a few feet behind him.

"Want a drink?" Shepard asked them, to which both officers gave him confused looks. The asari leaned in closer to get a better listen. "Do you want a drink?" Shepard nearly yelled, to which the officer shook her head angrily, indicating she still couldn't understand.

Finally, Shepard pointed to his drink and held it up to his mouth, and then pointed to the officers. "Drink?" He shouted again.

This time, both officers understood and shook their heads, before stepping back and resuming their positions. They were on duty after all.

Turning back to Anderson and making it look like he was shouting, mouthed to Anderson, "They can't hear a thing we're saying."

Anderson's face broke into a smirk as he laughed, before mouthing a reply, "That was the idea commander."

"It's a good thing you still remember your N7 training, Captain," Shepard shot back with a grin. "So what's up?" Shepard asked, before leaning in and turning away slightly, but making sure to keep Anderson's lips within his immediate peripheral vision.

Matching Shepard's stance, Anderson mouthed, "I'm sorry for what happened to you. I wanted to warn you, but I couldn't get you a message before you docked."

Shepard shrugged. "It happens. It doesn't mean we can give up yet. The fight's not over. I'm assuming you've found a solution?"

Anderson chuckled, gaining a renewed admiration and respect for his subordinate's grit. "One step ahead of the game, as usual, Commander. I like it. Citadel Control's locked out all of the Normandy's systems, but it wasn't under Alliance orders. It was under Udina's."

Shepard smiled and laughed uproariously before taking another swig from his drink. He slyly glanced at his guards to make sure they weren't getting suspicious. "So we just need to override the ambassador's orders, and then they'll release the Normandy."

"Exactly," Anderson said, before taking another liberal sip from his drink.

"One problem, though. If we hightail it out of here, you're left holding the bag," Shepard pointed out.

"And if Saren finds the Conduit, everything is lost," Anderson shot back. "It's up to you now, and I'll do everything necessary to get you off this station."

Shepard nodded. "One problem, though. The Council found out about Ratchet, and have him locked up. I don't even know where he is."

Contradictory to the expletives Anderson wanted to shout, the Captain laughed and downed another swig of his drink. "Damn them. This does complicate things, but you still have to get off of this station, with or without Ratchet."

Shepard grimaced internally. "I know, but I don't like it."

"While I don't like the Council, they're not about to illegally imprison and torture Ratchet just to get to his technology." Seeing that Shepard was still hesitant, the captain implored, "I know you don't like this, Commander, but Saren is top priority right now. And I will do everything in my power to find Ratchet. Trust me."

Shepard sighed, and nodded. Anderson was right. He didn't like it, but they had to leave as soon as possible. "I do," He mouthed. "Let's do this."

Anderson grinned. "I'll go after Udina's office. He's made this personal. Send your crew back to the Normandy in handfuls to avoid suspicion, and wait for my signal in 30 standard minutes."

Shepard returned Anderson's grin, despite the bad feeling he was getting in the pit of his stomach. "See you on the other side!" He yelled as he stood up and turned to his guards. "You two sure you don't want a drink?"

IIIIIIII

After making Ratchet reactivate his hologuise, the two C-Sec officers, a salarian and asari led Ratchet up what appeared to be a private elevator before opening a door to a large suite area.

"You want me to go in there?" Ratchet asked. "Doesn't look like any prison I've ever been in," He quipped.

Both officers narrowed their eyes, before the asari pointed into the room. "It's not a prison. The Council just wants to make sure you're comfortable."

"And the door isn't going to lock behind me when I walk in?" Ratchet asked amusedly. "Please. I know how this goes."

"You're not a prisoner," The salarian reiterated. "The Council just wants to keep you isolated."

Ratchet grinned wryly as he walked into the room. "So that's what they're calling it nowadays." Turning to his guards, who were cautiously waiting to see if he would make a move, Ratchet shrugged before deactivating his hologuise. "Are you guys coming in or not?"

At that, the salarian's curiosity seemed to kick in, as he lowered his gun and walked in, followed by his significantly more tense partner. "I'm beginning to see why the Council asked us to come in for this, Dara."

The asari, presumably Dara, turned to her partner and gave him a glare. "Shut up. You know we're not–"

The salarian laughed, cutting her off. "A bit late for that. Besides, I'm curious, and you should never get in the way of curiosity." He continued, this time addressing Ratchet, "I'm Corlaf. What's your name?"

The young Lombax grinned, hoping to further lower the guard of his guards. "My name's Ratchet. I'm a Lombax."

"You're a new species, aren't you?" The asari asked. "The Council's made first contact, haven't they?"

Ratchet quirked his head. "Is this how they treat new species? Placing them under armed guard and locking them up?"

Corlaf's expression mimicked that of an eyebrow raising. "Most new species we encounter are in the infancy of space travel, much less the advanced holography technology you just displayed. So I think a little force is understandable, wouldn't you say."

"For little old me?" Seeing both officers stare back cooly at him, the young Lombax shrugged. "If you say so. So what now?"

"I was hoping I could get a look at some of your weapons," Corlaf asked. "They look pretty heavily modified."

Ratchet raised an eyebrow. "You want to see my weapons? Or you're going to confiscate them?"

Corlaf smirked cooly. "I just want to examine your sniper rifle."

Ratchet raised a brow dubiously, but nevertheless tossed his rifle to Corlaf, who caught it with a grunt, not expecting its weight. "Whoa, this thing is heavy!"

Dara clicked her teeth in disappointment but said nothing, gripping her gun just a bit tighter, a hint of biotics flaring around her hands.

Corlaf, meanwhile, was absolutely fascinated by the new weapon, as he scanned it with his omni-tool. "You've outfitted the scope with a biometric scanner and environmental auto-corrector. I don't think I've ever seen algorithms like this in a rifle scope."

Now Dara was becoming interested. "Did you modify all of your weapons?" She asked Ratchet, who nodded in response.

"How did you squeeze such a small, but powerful energy core into this rifle?" Corlaf asked, as he examined the read-outs on his omni-tool.

"A little nanotechnology, and some heavy modification of your technology," Ratchet explained vaguely, not wanting to reveal his arsenal of hidden weapons. They were his trump card against the Reapers. And the Council if things went south.

"Nanotechnology? Fascinating," Corlaf whispered to himself. "These readouts shatter the Sur'Kesh Projection by decades, at least."

"Can I see some of your other weapons?" Dara asked the Lombax, her own curiosity piqued. The Sur'Kesh Projection was a prediction that Salarian scientists had made regarding the advancement of compact energy sources, and the time it would take to achieve those achievements. That Corlaf suggested Ratchet's technology beat the projection by decades was extremely significant.

"Sure," Ratchet agreed amiably, while at the same time, staying on guard. "The only other weapon I modified was my pistol, but here, take a look," He said as he tossed her the gun.

Dara deftly caught the weapon and ran her own scan on it, amazed to see that the gun had modified explosive and tracking rounds. She was more amazed that everything was so clearly labeled. Ratchet clearly took time to follow the Council's standardized weapon nomenclature, but that didn't make sense. Most government sanctioned mods weren't even properly labeled. It was like he was trying to make his modifications easily replicated. It's like he's trying to share his technology with us, Dara suddenly noted.

But that implied intentionality, and begged the question, why? Was there something to Ratchet and Shepard's claims about the Reapers? Putting those thoughts temporarily aside, Dara finished her scan and walked over to Ratchet, handing the gun back.

"Thanks for letting me scan it."

"Sure, no problem," Ratchet said with a nod, taking the weapon and holstering it. Dara was still standing there, a hesitating look on her face. "Is there something else?" Ratchet asked, becoming impatient.

"You said that you're from another galaxy, called Polaris. Your advanced weapons mods seem to support that, but surely you have other technology from your galaxy?"

Ratchet's ears twitched. Did they think he was stupid? With a whir, Ratchet's helmet collapsed and folded into his suit. "Maybe if you're looking into my eyes, you can see my annoyance. Are you finished with your scan?"

Dara was surprised that Ratchet knew she was trying to scan his armor, but adopted a confused expression. "Scan?"

Ratchet made eye contact with both Dara and Corlaf and narrowed his eyes. "I'm not naive. You guys are Spectres, aren't you?"

Corlaf smirked in amusement. "Spectres? I wish. Why would you think that?"

Ratchet was impressed, even after the sudden confrontation, neither Dara nor Corlaf gave anything away. "Well, a few things. One, Dara's been scanning me since she stepped within three meters of me. Nice try, but you're going to have to do better if you want to try to steal my tech."

Dara crossed her arms, but didn't move or cease her covert scan. "We're not trying to steal your technology," She protested. "Just gain a better understanding of it." How had Ratchet detected her scan?

Impressed that he still wasn't getting much of a reaction from either Spectre, Ratchet continued. "Second, you guys aren't your run-of-the-mill cops. You hold your guns like warriors." Ratchet recalled the deadly ease that accompanied the gladiators he fought in the Dreadzone.

Dara raised an eyebrow. "You think we're warriors?"

The Lombax scowled. "You're definitely not C-Sec Officers, and the Council, which is probably watching and listening to us right now, sure as hell wouldn't entrust a secret like me to anyone else but their best," Ratchet shot back. "So the Council can stop playing games and come in here if they want to talk. Otherwise, I'll walk out of here right now."

Dara and Corlaf shifted subtly, but the message was clear. Ratchet would have to do a lot more than walking if he wanted to leave this room. It was an impasse as all three stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity. Finally the door to the suite opened, and Tevos, the asari councilor swept in, her poise and regality calming the tension. "Ratchet, hello," Her even, diplomatic tone giving nothing away. "Dara, Corlaf, thank you."

"Councilor," Ratchet greeted, turning to the asari. "Where are the others?"

Tevos waved the two officers back and gracefully took a seat at the central table. "We thought you would be most comfortable with fewer people present during your interview."

Ratchet narrowed his eyes, but cautiously took a seat across from the Councilor, eyeing the two officers standing guard behind her. "Interview? I think you're more interested in my technology, if my 'pre-interview' with your Spectres was any indication."

Tevos shook her head. "While it wouldn't be the truth to say that we're not interested in the advancement of your technology, it would be remiss to overlook our interest in your claims of coming from another galaxy," She answered, purposefully overlooking the presence of Dara and Corlaf.

Ratchet hummed thoughtfully. He didn't really buy what the Councilor was saying, but he couldn't just blast his way out of the room either. Moreover, every second spent talking with her meant another second that Saren was using to find the Conduit. But the Normandy was still grounded, and convincing the Council might be their best bet in getting off the Citadel. Seeing no other option, Ratchet sighed. "I'll play your game, but after this, you have to answer my questions."

Tevos leaned forward. "Fair enough. Why don't you start from the beginning. Tell us about your home, and how it was you made it here to our galaxy?"

IIIIIIIIII

After leaving the club, Shepard walked around the Upper Wards, taking in the sounds of the city around him. He was reminded of life on Earth, where he grew up before joining the Alliance. Compared to the dirty alleys where he had his fair share of fights, the Upper Wards felt too clean, sterile almost.

And yet, there was life here. For millions, this was home. Again, he was reminded of the stakes, and what would be lost if Saren succeeded. Realizing that he could be a labeled a fugitive after this, Shepard's stomach tightened into several knots, but steeled his resolve. He had to do this.

With a sigh, Shepard hailed his lieutenant on his omni-tool.

"Yes commander?" Buzzed Kaidan's voice on the other end.

"Alenko, gather any willing crew members back to the Normandy within the half hour. Be discreet."

There was a hesitant pause at the other end before Kaidan responded. "Aye aye, commander. Alenko out." And the line went dead.

Shepard subtly glanced back at the two C-Sec officers tailing him a distance behind. They looked like they were making a regular patrol, but their eyes were fixed on Shepard. A quick glance at his omni-tool told Shepard he had about 20 minutes before Anderson would be ready. Seeing a store advertising hunting gear, Shepard decided to lead his tails around the area for a little bit. He had some time to kill.

IIIIIIII

Anderson's stomach was tight with tension, but his walk was proud and unfaltering. This was it. He was laying everything on the line. Briefly, he noted that this was all based on Shepard's word, and grimly, he hoped that the commander really wasn't going crazy.

He nodded at some passing dignitaries, and paused outside of Udina's door, making sure the outside hallway was deserted. He didn't hear any other voices inside, so the ambassador was probably alone. As he stepped forward, the sensors on the door activated, and they slid open automatically for the captain, who strode forward purposefully, powerfully.

Upon hearing the swish of the doors, Udina turned from his console, pausing his furious typing with a furrowed brow. "Anderson? What are you doing here?" The ambassador asked cautiously, sensing immediately that something was wrong when the captain kept walking towards him with a vindictive gleam in his eye. Udina quickly began to get up. "I didn't send for you–"

Before he could finish, Anderson closed the gap and smashed his fist into Udina's face, sending the politician flying out of his seat. He landed on the floor in a heap, knocked out cold.

Anderson smirked, a little disappointed that it only took one punch. "Talk your way out of that one, Udina," he muttered under his breath. Anderson sat down in front of Udina's terminal which was still open, and started looking for the right commands to unlock the Normandy.

IIIIIIIII

Shepard was riding up the elevator to C-Sec's docking station, where the Normandy was sitting right now, with hopefully a large enough crew to fly out of there. His two C-Sec "pals" were standing at each side, neither moving so much as a muscle. Shepard suppressed a sigh. Elevator rides were so boring when you didn't have any conversation.

After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator dinged and let them off at the top level of the docks. Shepard worriedly noted that the ship was suspiciously quiet. He wondered if any of his crew had decided to defy the Council with him.

As the three walked towards the Normandy, the asari C-Sec officer gripped Shepard's arm. "Wait. Why are you going back to the Normandy?"

Before Shepard could respond, his omni-tool beeped to life. The officer's eyes were immediately drawn to the flashing device, and Shepard seized the moment, swinging his fist at the asari's head.

His fist smashed into the officer's chin, sending her spinning to the side with a grunt of pain, but to Shepard's surprise, the asari rolled with the punch, and using the momentum, spun low and kicked his legs out from under him.

Falling onto his back with a grunt, Shepard rolled away to avoid the asari's leg from smashing his face. Springing back up, Shepard immediately bolted towards the Normandy. Surprising him a second time, the asari chased after him and used her biotics to launch herself above his head and land in front of him, blocking his path to the Normandy. Looking behind him, he saw that the turian had closed the distance and had his Assault Rifle drawn.

"Nice moves," Shepard commented dryly to the asari officer, shrugging his shoulders to work out the sting in his back and pride.

The asari smirked. "Trying to make a getaway, Commander?" She asked. "You humans are so predictable."

Out of the corner of his eye, Shepard saw Kaidan peak his eye out from the docking bridge to the Normandy. "Is that so?" The commander asked, as he gave Kaidan a subtle hand gesture. "So I guess you saw this coming too?"

With a yank, Kaidan pulled the turian off his feet and directly towards Shepard, who immediately spun around and clotheslined the poor turian, who went out like a light.

Hearing a battle cry, the asari whipped around and gasped in shock as she came face to face with Wrex charging straight at her, yelling his battle cry as his biotics flared furiously around him. With a shout, the asari whipped a throw field towards Wrex, who simply batted the ball of energy aside, his momentum undiminished.

Realizing quickly that she had made the wrong decision, the officer tried to erect a barrier around herself, but too little, too late. Wrex was on her, and with a savage head butt, the asari crumpled to the ground.

"Don't you think that was a bit overkill, Wrex?" Shepard asked as he approached the krogan, eying the bruising that was already forming on the asari's forehead.

Wrex chuckled. "She'll have a small headache when she wakes up, but that's what redundant organs are for."

"Yeah, asari don't have those," Shepard pointed out.

"Huh. Well, she'll probably have a concussion then." And with that, Wrex turned around and headed back to the Normandy. "Let's go, Shepard. I hate being kept waiting."

Shepard just shook his head as he followed behind. As he passed by Kaidan, he gave his lieutenant a bro hug. "I'm glad you brought Wrex along."

Kaidan chuckled. Wait till you see everybody else, he thought.

As the Normandy VI decontaminated the airlock, and the doors slid open, Shepard was shocked to find the entire Normandy crew present when he rounded the corner. Every single soldier that had started this mission with him was standing there in that room.

"Wha–?" Shepard asked, slightly dumbfounded, causing most of the crew to laugh and giggle.

"Shepard, you better close your mouth before a bug flies in there," Liara teased gently, eliciting a few more laughs from the crew.

After a while, Shepard couldn't help but join in. "I can't believe you're all here. I told Kaidan to round everybody up, but you all know that this isn't an order, right?"

"And we all want to be here," Tali pointed out to several agreements.

Shepard shook his head again. "And you all know that the Council ordered us not to go after Saren? You'll all be fugitives if you leave with me."

Navigator Pressly stepped forward. "Commander, I think I speak for everybody here when I say that we know what's at stake here. You've led us from the beginning of this mission, and we wouldn't have anybody else at the helm of the Normandy."

At this, there was a wide assent from the assembled crowd. Wrex, seeing that Shepard was still slightly flabbergasted, decided to have some fun with the commander. "So Shepard, it sounds like we're in. Are you?"

Everybody chuckled at the joke. Shepard, grinning, gave the order. "Stations everybody! We're blasting out of this station in five minutes!"

As everybody dispersed, Shepard headed towards the cockpit, where Joker was waiting. "So looks like we're doing this thing," The flight lieutenant noted.

Shepard looked over at the pilot with a bemused look. "It's not like you to point out the obvious, Joker. What's up, nervous?"

Joker scoffed. "Nervous? Please. Anderson's taking his sweet time disengaging the magnetic locks. I'm just getting impatient."

Shepard shook his head in amusement. "Just give it a second. Anderson will pull through." And after a few seconds, the lockdown indicator flashed green, signaling that the locks had been released. "Hit it, Joker!" Shepard ordered.

"Aye, aye," Joker responded determinedly. "Let's go catch this son of a bitch."

As the Normandy pulled out of the dock, and streaked through space towards the mass relay, the turian C-Sec officer was slowly reentering the world of the conscious. Rubbing his head, he slowly pulled himself up, and glanced to his left. Something was wrong. Wasn't there supposed to be a ship there?

He then looked over and saw his partner sprawled on the ground, massive bruising on her forehead. His eyes widened. "Oh crap," The officer muttered under his breath.

IIIIIIIII

Ratchet resisted the urge to scream out. He had just finished giving a brief summary of how he had arrived in the Milky Way, and was trying to redirect the conversation towards the Reapers, but Tevos kept trying to talk about the technological innovations from his galaxy. Finally, he had enough.

"Ok! Let's stop talking about me and my technology for a hot second," Ratchet burst out, "And let's talk about the Reapers!"

Surprised by the outburst, and recognizing Ratchet's frustration, the asari councilor decided to try a different tack. "Ok. What about these so-called Reapers?"

Ratchet glared, but sensing that he finally had a moment to speak, continued. "How about your 'so-called' defenses?" He shot back, throwing the councilor's words back in her face. "I saw them on the way in to the Citadel, and Saren and Sovereign are going to slice right through them." The blockade was minimal at best. It was clear that the Council didn't truly believe Shepard.

"Saren's flagship was sufficient against small human colonies, but against equipped and capable Citadel naval vessels, he will be much more vulnerable," The councilor responded with an even, almost arrogant tone, which only aggravated Ratchet further.

Before he could respond, though, Dara, the asari spectre stepped forward and whispered something in the councilor's ear. It was something important, since her eyes widened with clear surprise.

Ratchet's eyes narrowed with curiosity. After a brief exchange between the two asari, the councilor turned to the young Lombax, a new edge in her demeanor. "We've just received word that the Normandy has broken lockdown and left the Citadel. Would you care to explain?"

Upon hearing this, Ratchet was very pleased and let it show. Leaning back in his chair, the Lombax responded smugly, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Tevos narrowed her eyes. It was her turn to be annoyed. "Shepard and his associates assaulted a diplomatic ambassador and several C-Sec officers. Those are serious crimes."

Ratchet stared back coolly. "I think history will say differently, when they find out that you refused to take our warnings about Saren and the Reapers seriously."

A brief glare flitted over Tevos' face before she impressively placed her emotions under control again. "Perhaps you don't understand, but Shepard's very presence on Ilos could spark a war with the Terminus Systems. I suppose that Shepard's obsession to stop Saren is worth a war that could cost thousands of lives?"

Ratchet paused. It did sound bad when she put it like that. Wiping the smugness from his expression, Ratchet responded in a more even voice, "It's not just about stopping Saren. It's about stopping the Reapers, and saving millions of lives."

"But where are the Reapers? Where is the evidence of their destruction? How do you know Saren isn't just playing with your minds? Shepard has shown himself to be something of a loose cannon." Tevos shot back.

A frown creased Ratchet's face. "Because we've seen Sovereign."

The asari councilor shook her head. "And again, that's not good enough for the Council to act on behalf of half the galaxy."

Ratchet growled. "What about the possible threat of galactic wide extinction? I get it. There's not a lot of evidence, but if one of your Spectres brings you information about machines powerful enough to wipe out life in the galaxy, I'd think you would investigate it thoroughly before dismissing it."

"Do you hear yourself?" Tevos asked. "Machines powerful enough to wipe out the galaxy? That's absurd. We are the pinnacle of evolution in our own galaxy."

"And what about the Protheans?" The frustrated Lombax asked. "Do you think a bacteria killed them? What could have not only killed the Protheans, but wiped their civilization clean from the galaxy except a technologically superior military force?"

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Dara and Corlaf were eyeing each other. He sensed that maybe they could be convinced.

Tevos sighed. "No one knows what led to the Protheans' demise."

"Exactly," Ratchet said. "You'd think a collapsed civilization would leave behind more than the handful of ruins across the entire galaxy."

"But what about the Mass Relays?" Corlaf suddenly asked, surprising everybody in the room.

Before Tevos could reprimand her Spectre, Ratchet answered, "The Reapers created them, and left them here not just for us, but for the Protheans too. Think about it! An enemy that develops using your technology is controllable and predictable."

Corlaf and Dara shared a look. That made sense. "And that could explain why nothing but the mass relays remain from the Prothean civilization."

"If you stop and think about it," Ratchet said, "It makes scary sense. The Reapers are real, and we have to get ready."

An experienced diplomat, Ratchet's language hadn't escaped her notice. "You keep saying 'we' instead of 'you,'" She pointed out.

Ratchet looked at her confused for a second, and then upset. "Just because I'm not from here doesn't mean that I want people to die! If I didn't care, do you think I'd even be in this room talking to you? I need to get back and find Clank, but the Reapers need to be stopped too."

Seeing an opportunity, Tevos seized it quickly. "Then show us. If the Reapers are indeed as technologically advanced as you say, you can help us prepare against them."

Quickly sensing Tevos' ploy, Ratchet scowled. "Trust goes both ways. If I help you develop technology to fight back against the Reapers, you need to show me that you're taking this threat seriously."

There was a long silence as it seemed that Tevos was thinking. Finally she stood up. "Let me discuss this matter with the other councilors. Excuse me." With that she swept out of the room, but not before giving a meaningful glance to her two Spectres.

Ratchet was left staring at the door as it swished closed. Finally he looked at Dara and Corlaf, who stared back with hard eyes.

Corlaf's eyes suddenly twinkled. "Let's hope she comes back with good news. I'd like to keep this sniper rifle," He joked with a laugh before being silenced by Dara's harsh glare.

Ratchet just chuckled. "Keep it." He looked over his shoulder at the couch. "You can protect me while I take a nap."


A/N: Sorry this was so late, guys! I rewrote this chapter so many times, and I simply could NOT get Ratchet's scenes right. I think this is as close as I'm going to get. I tried to have everybody say things and make decisions that make sense contextually, but not having any experience in galactic leadership is certainly a drawback. Hopefully some of the Council's previous decisions and thickheadedness make a little more sense. I didn't have Shepard romancing anybody, since I'm still not sure who he should end up with. Or if he should end up with anybody at all...

Also, as an apology for such a long delay, and since I know some of you (including a small part of me, haha) wanted this version, enjoy the little "deleted chapter" below, which replaces just about this entire chapter.


Outtake 1:

Ratchet nearly stumbled as he was pushed forward, into the small room. The Lombax turned just as the door was slammed on his face. He fell backwards, rubbing his nose. "Jerks," He muttered.

The Lombax thought about his situation as he looked at the sterile, white walls enclosing the room. There was nothing in the room except for two cameras in opposite corners, which commanded a view of the entire room. Prison cell, Ratchet amended himself sourly. He didn't think that the Council would stoop so low as to try to capture him for his technology, but he should've known better.

They didn't believe Shepard, and even grounded him on the Citadel. What was kidnapping and illegal experimentation added onto that? Suddenly, the room was flooded with gas. Ratchet was immediately glad that his hologuise was still on. The cameras wouldn't be able to tell that his helmet was still on and filtering the toxins.

Staggering around, as if he were woozy, Ratchet whipped out his shotgun and fired at the door several times for good show. As expected, the pellets left small holes and dents, but were unable to compromise the door's integrity. Throwing aside his shotgun in disgust, Ratchet collapsed, and faked passing out.

Making sure to keep his breathing regular, they were monitoring his vitals, he kept his muscles relaxed, as he glanced at the door periodically through the corner of his eye.

Soon enough, the door to his cell swished open, and two turian C-Sec officers walked in. They rolled what looked like a containment chair behind them. The door remained open behind them. Perfect.

"Ok, you get his legs, I'll get his arms," The first officer said as they moved into position. As they moved away from the door, Ratchet suddenly tensed every muscle in his body and used his arms to launch him towards the containment chair. With coiled legs, he shoved the chair. It slid across the floor and jammed itself between the door and wall with a wailing crunch of metal.

"What the?!" Shouted one of the officers, reaching for his stun baton.

"He's still conscious! Call for backup!" The other responded, reaching for his own stun baton.

But before either could use their drawn batons, Ratchet gripped their baton arms, and pulled them forwards. Off balance, neither could stop the Lombax from crisscrossing their arms and slamming their weapons into each other.

Both officers shook violently, as Ratchet held the batons in place, before dropping them unceremoniously. The groan of the chair as it struggled against the hydraulic pressure of the door regained Ratchet's attention. Leaping forwards, he twisted in midair, flying through the small opening between the door and wall just as it sliced through the containment chair with the screech of metal against metal.

An alarm klaxon began to ring out throughout the hallway, and looking around, Ratchet guessed that he was in C-Sec headquarters. Perfect. Picking a random direction, Ratchet started to run.

Pulling up his omni-tool, Ratchet tried to raise Shepard over the radio. After a few harrowing seconds of static, the commander picked up, although strangely, he was breathing hard. "Ratchet? Is that you? What's going on?! I can hear alarms in the background!"

"The Council tried to knock me out and take my tech!" Ratchet puffed as he rounded a corner. He saw a set of stairs leading up. Crap. That was not the direction he wanted to go. But before he could turn around, he heard the shout and clatter of C-Sec Officers running after him. Up it was. "I escaped, but now I'm trapped in C-Sec Headquarters, and C-Sec is hot on my tail!"

"I'm on my way!" Shepard responded urgently. "Send me your coordinates!"

"No!" Ratchet said immediately. "I can handle myself. You need to get off the Citadel and get after Saren!"

"The Council locked down the Normandy. There's no way we're getting off. But I can still help you. Send me your location! I'm on my way!" Shepard retorted.

"I'm not going to get you caught too, Shepard!" Ratchet shouted. "How can we unlock the Normandy?"

Shepard hesitated before responding, "C-Sec control probably controls the lockdown on all boarded vessels. If you make it there, you could probably unlock the clamps holding us in place."

"Noted." With another huff, Ratchet bounded up another set of stairs. They were never-ending. "Also, why are you breathing hard?"

Before Shepard could respond, Ratchet faintly heard Liara's voice in the background. "Is Ratchet in trouble? Should I get dressed?"

"Ack! Forget I asked! Just get everybody on the Normandy and ready!" Ratchet shouted.

"Eh, ok," Shepard responded somewhat embarrassedly. "Are you sure you're going to be ok?"

"Yeah," Ratchet said as he leapt to the top of the stairs, only to find himself face to face with a line of C-Sec Officers all pointing their weapons at him. "More or less. Just get to the Normandy," He said before abruptly closing the link and jumping to the side, dodging the wall of stun rounds shooting towards him.

"No more mess duty for the officer that takes down the fugitive!" The sergeant yelled.

Flipping around, Ratchet tried to land behind some cover, but a stray shot smacked him right in the chest and sent him skittering to the ground. To his dismay, his weapons dislodged from his armor.

"He's unarmed! Alpha Team, move in with stun batons!" The sergeant ordered. "Beta Team, keep firing stun rounds!"

Ratchet growled as he pulled himself up to his feet and rolled into cover, his tail tingling from the voltage running through his system. He was glad his armor absorbed most of the stun round. "Alright boys and girls. Play time's over," He growled.

With a thought, his Tornado Launcher manifested in his hand as his hologuise dropped, revealing one armored, angry, and armed Lombax. With a stunning leap, Ratchet flipped over the small cover and launched a mini tornado right into the group of rushing C-Sec Officers. They were all bowled off of their feet as Ratchet expertly directed the funnel of devastation.

Turning his attention to the second group of C-Sec Officers, he manifested his Shock Ravager and began to duck and weave, closing the distance while dodging the stun rounds whizzing towards him.

"Shoot him! Shoot him!" The sergeant yelled urgently, his voice becoming more and more shrill.

A few meters away, Ratchet flicked his arm forwards, the Ravager unleashing a devastating field of electricity all around him. The bolts arced across each officer, as they immediately dropped their weapons and fell to the ground, writhing in pain. A second later, they all collapsed onto the ground, unconscious.

Ratchet approached the sergeant, who was far back enough to not have been affected. He was the last one standing.

"Stay back!" He shouted, raising a pistol, which Ratchet suspected had live rounds.

"You're pathetic," The Lombax responded. "Grow a spine, like the officers you're supposed to lead."

"Alien bastard!" The sergeant shouted, shooting a round at Ratchet's head.

But the Lombax was too quick, and having already predicted the action, easily dodged. Manifesting his Mag-Net Launcher in the same move, Ratchet captured the sergeant in a debilitating field of electricity.

As the sergeant fell to the ground, smoking and unconscious, Ratchet knelt down and scanned the officer's omni-tool. "Be glad I set it to low," He muttered. Finally, he found what he was looking for. A map C-Sec Headquarters.

Docking Control was that way. Away from the sound of shouting officers. Perfect. Running towards the stairs, Ratchet thought about grabbing one of the officer's Assault Rifles, but decided against it. He needed to be serious.

As he finished climbing the stairs, he turned and fired a tornado down the narrow passageway. Any pursuing officers would be in for a nasty surprise.

In a few minutes, he had reached C-Sec control, and to his surprise, he found the door locked down. Hacking the door would take too long. Manifesting his wrench, he tapped the door. "Get out of the way!" He yelled.

Hopefully they took his warning. Ratchet manifested his Alpha Disruptor, and took a few steps back. With only a half charge, Ratchet unleashed the destructive beam of energy at the door, blasting a whole through the reinforced metal, and severely burning and warping the wall behind it. "Nice," Ratchet commented to himself as he leapt through the Lombax-sized hole he had just created.

"Put your weapons down, and I won't make you dance!" Ratchet ordered.

"Dance?" One of the officers asked fearfully, as he stepped back. Did he hear that correctly. This criminal who had just blown a hole through reinforced iridium threatened to make them dance?

"Three, two, one, time's up," Ratchet said with a grin.

"Wait!" One officer shouted, while others shot at Ratchet. But the Lombax was already in motion. Flipping away from the line of fire, Ratchet tossed a Groovitron at the group of officers guarding the control room. Suddenly, the room lit up red, green, and blue lights as the Groovitron ball lifted into the air and began thumping its catchy tunes and bass lines.

As one, the officers in the room threw down their weapons and began dancing the Cha Cha Slide. "What's going on?!" One asari shouted in panic.

"I can't control my movements!" Another salarian screamed. But before long, they were all entranced by the lights and sounds emitted by the little Groovitron ball. By the end of the song, all of the officers were getting into the dance, and Ratchet himself was bopping his head in time.

"Sleep tight, officers," The Lombax said, smirking, before thrashing them all with his Shock Ravager. With a collective groan, the officers all fell to the ground. Ratchet then quickly made his way to the console, and pulled up the docking manifest. He quickly found the Normandy, and with a few swipes, the lockdown was remanded.

"Shepard," He said into his omni-tool. "Lockdown is lifted, and you're good to go!"

"We just undocked," Shepard responded a few seconds later. "Are you ok? You didn't kill any officers, did you?"

Ratchet smirked. "Kill? No. Knock out? Yes. Took dancing? Yes."

"Dancing?" Shepard asked curiously.

"I'll tell you later," Ratchet replied. "I have to get out of here first. Find Saren and make that son-of-a-bitch pay!"

He could faintly make out the sounds of C-Sec Officers echoing up the stairs to the control center. They'd be here soon. Turning towards the window overlooking the Presidium, Ratchet manifested his Shard Reaper and blasted the reinforced glass several times. After the fourth shot, it shattered.

The outside atmosphere was surprisingly calm, but it was probably quite thin. Leaping up to the sill, Ratchet looked down. It was a mind-boggling drop. Probably the highest distance he had ever free fallen before.

But before he could gather his nerves, a titanium plate swung over the shattered window, sealing the control room, and inadvertently pushing Ratchet out into thin space.

"Oh crap!" Ratchet said as he began to spin around uncontrollably in midair. Using his tail to slow his spin, Ratchet eventually settled into a relaxed fall. Now he wasn't going to die of nausea, but the landing would still be tricky. Unless he could land in the Presidium's waterway!

Maneuvering himself, Ratchet navigated until he was over the water, but suddenly, he realized that air traffic was blocking him from the water. Dodging to the side, Ratchet imagined that the air cars were honking at him, but he was rushing past them so fast, it was hard to hear anything.

Finally, he broke clear of the traffic, but just as he thought he was clear, a low flying car zoomed in out of nowhere and clipped him in the leg. It was enough to send Ratchet into a tail spin.

"Oh no!" Ratchet shouted as he tried to get his bearings straight. Manifesting his wrench, Ratchet tried to slow his turn, but he knew it wouldn't be enough. Praying for luck, Ratchet hurled his wrench when he thought he was facing the water, hoping it would be enough to break up the surface tension.

Closing his eyes, and bracing himself, he slammed into the water a second later, the breath being driven clear from his lungs. Coughing inside his helmet, Ratchet took a second to right himself and gather his breath. He was glad that his suit included underwater breathing. Looking around, he saw his wrench sinking beneath him, and he weakly pushed his limbs outwards to propel himself towards his wrench.

Grasping the handle, Ratchet stowed it, and not a moment too soon, as a riptide took ahold of the Lombax and began to whisk him away. Ratchet wished again that Clank was with him. The Hydro-Pack would have been useful right about now.

Letting himself get swept away, Ratchet found himself being drawn into what looked like a large drain. He wondered if people ever swam in the Presidium, and if they ever got sucked up by this thing. Then he looked up, and realized how far down beneath the water they were. If it weren't for his helmet's internal optics, he probably wouldn't be able to see anything.

Suddenly, everything turned into a rush, as Ratchet was sucked through the tunnel, and deposited at the other end into a still pool. Swimming up to the surface, Ratchet climbed out of the edge of the pool and looked around. "Where am I?" He asked himself.


A/N 2: So what'd you think of the outtake? Pretty crazy, huh? The Council would probably never commit a crime like that, which is why I threw this scene (my first attempt), away, but hope you guys enjoyed it nevertheless. Also, people who've played Mass Effect 3 probably know where Ratchet ended up, but I'm not going to spoil anything! You can spoil it yourself if you want to ;)