Amala worked in the cabin of the ship. Not that there was really anything to do, but she double-checked anything she could think of. Overhead, she could hear the thunk of boots as their owner paced along the roof. Finding nothing else to check, she settled into the pilot's chair.
"How long until that ship arrives, EDI?"
"Based on the transmissions, it is nearing perigee above our location. It is, however, too large to land directly."
"Wow, they are bringing that many back?"
"Yes, this ship was used to collect those being held at two different camps. One moment. Shuttles are being deployed now."
Garrus must have seen the arrival of the large vessel, because a loud rap overhead echoed through the ship.
"Amala, it's here!"
She shoved her helmet back on and exited the craft. Looking overhead through her own pair of glasses, she spotted the ship. It was too big to be a cruiser and didn't appear to have any guns. On either side of it, she picked out what looked to be Alliance cruisers. They must have used a civilian freighter to carry the refugees. That made sense if there were that many to retrieve. Ground vehicles approached the field, obviously coming to meet the shuttles. However, one veered away from the group and headed for their ship. Decian hopped out of the back of the truck and several other turians jumped out with him, each carrying a box of supplies. At least the guys would have enough food from home for several months. Amala waved to them.
"Just in time," she said. She handed her field glasses to Decian and moved to carry the food inside. "You can help Garrus look for his parents. I'll bring the boxes in since I can't really help him with that."
The soldiers waved and climbed back into their truck and it headed off to join the others waiting for the shuttles. Decian took the glasses and climbed up on top of the ship alongside Garrus. Shepard glanced up once and spotted metallic glints dropping down into the atmosphere. Shouldering the crate, she carried it into the mess area. It didn't take her long to bring in the other two boxes. However, she wasn't sure if any of it needed to be kept cool, so one of them would have to put the stuff away.
She returned outside just as the first of the shuttles was just touching down. She watched as the doors swung open and turians stepped out. Various colors and marks still covered their faces. The soldiers moved up and offered assistance to any who had trouble walking or just directed them to an area where another soldier sat. As soon as the shuttle had been emptied and the area around it cleared, it rose gracefully back into the air and a new shuttle took its spot.
The scene that was unfolding before her fascinated Amala. The turians formed neat and orderly lines, all seemingly on their own, as they waited for their turn to talk with a soldier at one of the tables. Several other soldiers moved among the refugees and handed out food and water to them. She looked over at Decian.
"Do you have family to look for as well?"
Decian put down the glasses and shook his head. "No, I'm an only child and my parents died in an accident before the war."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"I'm not. At least they weren't rounded up and/or killed like some of us have been. Besides, the Vakarians always treated me like family, even before I started seeing Sol."
The parade of shuttles seemed to be never ending. Decian's hand shot up and he pointed to the latest arrival.
Garrus swung his glasses around, looking for what Decian had pointed out.
"They're alive," he said, his voice soft, and even Amala could hear the amazement in his words.
He leaped off the ship and started to jog towards the crowd of milling turians. Decian looked over at Amala; he flicked one talon towards the turian moving steadily across the field.
"Should we follow him or wait here?"
"I guess follow behind. We can always hang back if he wants some time alone with them, but if he needs us to run interference with some of the guards, we will be nearby."
Decian nodded before he too leaped down. Amala joined him and they walked across the field. Garrus had already reached the edge of the group of turians. They parted before him as he approached two turians. Their plates were a darker grey than his were, but their faces bore the same markings as his. It was something that the others around them took in as the small group embraced one another. Amala couldn't hear what was being said, but it obviously concerned her and Decian, because Garrus's head twisted about looking for something, or someone.
"Amala," he shouted as he waved a hand urgently towards where she stood with Decian. "Come meet my parents."
Crap, now they were delving into a realm she was uncomfortable with: meeting the family of someone she was sleeping with. Well, she hadn't backed away from any other challenges before, so she took a deep breath before she moved towards the small group.
"This is my mother, Ilista Vakarian, and that's my father, Telryn Vakarian. Mom, Dad - this is Spectre Amala Shepard. She's the one who rescued me."
Amala inclined her head towards the pair. "Ma'am, Sir - I'm pleased to meet you."
His mother took Amala's hand in her own, her mandibles flaring into a smile. "I can't thank you enough for saving him."
Amala shook her head. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
"Ilista is right. Knowing one of our children made it is more than we could have hoped for. Thank you. However, I am curious as to how one individual managed to pull off what seemed impossible?" Telryn asked, his eyes watching Amala closely.
"Some luck and being able to get General Arterius in front of those who could do something," Amala said with a shrug of her shoulders.
"We did have a backup plan," Garrus added.
"Attempting to free a camp on our own was more of a last ditch effort."
"I'm glad it didn't come to that," Telryn said.
"Decian!" Ilista exclaimed upon spotting the turian standing quietly alongside the human.
Decian ducked his head and strode forward to receive the woman's embrace with a smile. "It's good to see you and I'm glad you are safe at last, Mrs. Vakarian."
He released her and turned to nod towards the male at her side. "Mr. Vakarian."
Ilista turned towards Garrus and must have just noticed he wasn't completely unscathed. His mother's hand crept up and gently touched the broken ends of Garrus's fringe.
"Oh no! Did they do this to you?"
Garrus shrugged. "Yes and no. They didn't cut them, if that's what you are thinking. A gunship was shooting at the ledge I was on; they broke in the landslide I was caught in. We weren't able to find the bits afterwards."
His mother pressed her forehead against his with a soft hum. "I didn't think I would ever see either of my children again, but here you are safe and sound."
Garrus leaned into his mother's touch. "We will find Sol."
"We have to accept that she's gone," she said. Her hand gently traced the edge of Garrus's cheek.
Garrus shook his head. "I was taken away and they planned to make an example of me, but here I am. They said there was no hope for us to win, and here we are," he proclaimed as he threw his hands outstretched. "We are in control of our world because we found allies where we thought we had none. You can't give up now."
"Son, you and I both know the longer someone is missing the less likely you'll ever find them again," Telryn said.
His head bowed under the weight of his words. The grief that must have been an underlying current in his words had his wife pressing into his side with a soft cry of distress.
"I can't promise I will find her, or even what condition she will be in. But I will promise I will use every resource and ability at my disposal to find her and the others just like her," Amala said. She took a step towards the couple, wishing she could offer more.
Telryn inclined his head towards Amala. "I thank you for the offer -" he began.
"And we won't stop looking," Garrus added.
"We?" his parents echoed back at him.
"You can't mean to leave us?" his mother asked.
"You belong here and are needed on Palaven," his father said.
"I've already been out there," Garrus replied with a hint of exasperation.
"I am going as well," Decian announced. "Why else would we be here, armored and fully armed? Her ship is sitting over there, loaded and ready to go."
The nearby turians, who had tried to pretend not to hear the personal discussion going on, were now drawn in by the declarations of the turians with the human. Several moved towards the little group.
"You mean it? Someone is really going to try and find those that were taken from us?" a female asked.
Amala turned to the newcomer and nodded. "The Primarch gave us a list of those still not recovered and will be in contact with us to update that list as needed."
The female grasped Amala's hand in her own. "Please, my son was taken-" she began.
"Ma'am, I'm sure the soldiers at those tables will have a list of those taken and now recovered. You should check in with them and put him on the list if needed."
"Of course. Thank you."
Those around her resumed their place in the lines, but rather then tempt fate, Amala touched Garrus on the arm.
"We should get going and let these soldiers take care of these people."
Garrus nodded and turned once more to his parents. "I love you. I've got to go."
He gathered his mother into his arms, pressing his face against her neck even as she did the same. He seemed uncertain how to deal with his father, but his father took the lead. He pressed his forehead against that of his son.
"I'll make you proud of me, Dad," Garrus said, his voice soft.
"Son, I've always been proud of you. It took you being taken away from us for me to realize that you have to find your own way. Just remember the things that make you turian and hold true to yourself."
"Thanks, Dad," Garrus said. The belief in his father's subtones meant more than he could form words to say properly. His own answering sub-harmonics was the only way he could voice his feelings.
He followed Amala and Decian as they walked back towards the ship. He turned and found his parents still watching him, so he lifted his hand in a salute to them. The three of them climbed aboard the shuttle. Once they were settled, Decian looked over at Garrus.
"I noticed you failed to mention to your Dad about being nominated as a candidate for the Spectres as part of our plans."
Garrus snorted. "Yeah, I couldn't think of any way to say it that would make it agreeable to him."
Amala raised a questioning eyebrow at him, a signal he now understood. He had quickly learned that humans relied on body language versus turians using sub-harmonics.
"My Dad would hate the notion of someone in authority who had so little oversight or rules to follow. My Dad is a big one for the rules."
"Ah, I guess I can understand that. Although, if not for my status, it would have been a helluva lot harder to pull off what we just did."
"We have clearance for departure. We will reach the relay in approximately sixty-five minutes," EDI announced.
"EDI, can you give Garrus and Decian a crash course in common species found on the Citadel while we travel?" Amala asked as she quickly buckled herself in.
"Of course; where would you like me to start?"
"Most common to least common, and give an overview of basic facts and how to interact with them. At least we don't have to worry about getting Decian a translator implant immediately upon our arrival."
A soft laugh escaped from Decian. "Yes, well, you did practically threaten that poor supply guy into making armor for us along with the implant for me. Would you really have used your gun on him?"
Amala grinned at him. "I deemed I could get my way without it, Spectre authority and all that. But there was no way in hell I was going to take you two off-world without decent armor."
A picture of an asari flashed on the console. Both Decian and Garrus ground their teeth at its appearance.
"Most of the asari on the Citadel are not soldiers and I would wager most were unaware what their government was up to. You will have to interact with them at some point. It might be handy if you know how to do so in order to make them look like the uncivilized ones. Remember, most of the galaxy was led to believe your people are not intelligent. Use that misconception to your advantage when you can."
Amala closed her eyes as EDI began going over the basic information from their history to their biology before switching to a new species. They were nearing the end of the lecture when she heard a soft gasp from beside her that had her opening her eyes to find Decian's gaze locked onto the sight of the relay that they were fast approaching.
"Spirits! I've seen pictures of it, but never like this! Is it supposed to be moving and glowing?"
"Don't worry, that is totally normal. It means it's activated and ready to throw us across the galaxy."
Decian's fingers tightened on the arms of his chair. "That image is not reassuring at all."
"How do we dodge those rotating circles?"
"Entering the relay," EDI said. "I have made exactly four hundred and five relay jumps without a single casualty."
Whatever Decian was about to say was swallowed as he gasped as the ship shot into the relay and down the corridor it created and out the other side. As the vessel cruised out of it, they passed by numerous ships patrolling the area. The little ship weaved between the larger ones until the Citadel itself was the most prominent object in their view. The sight had even Garrus leaning forward to study the massive structure.
"That's it? It's huge!" Garrus said.
"That's the Citadel, the jewel of the Galactic Community. Millions live and work there, all different species."
"Will we find any of our people still being held there?" Decian asked.
Amala shook her head. "I would expect those would be some of the first returned. No, I think you two will be the only turians there, unless the Primarch already sent an ambassador and his retinue to the station."
"Wildcat, this is Citadel Control. You are cleared to dock in your usual berth. Welcome back, Spectre Shepard," a male voice announced.
"Thank you, Citadel Control. Preparing to dock," Amala answered. She flicked off the comm and turned back to the turians.
"I know it will be hard to not gawk at everything going on, but be prepared for trouble."
"Guns?" Garrus asked.
"Never rule them out, but don't start shooting unless I do."
"You expect trouble?" Decian asked even as his hands checked his weapons.
"I'm sure whoever was in charge of the mission to control Palaven will be wanting some revenge. And this is one of the few places they know I have to show up on a regular basis. Which is why I'm hoping to get in and get out before they can mobilize an attack. So stay close and keep your eyes open."
They both nodded. Amala did her own quick check before exiting the ship.
"Oh, and EDI, if anything goes wrong - get out of here."
"And exactly where could I go?"
"Palaven - the turians haven't officially joined yet, so they have no rules on A.I.'s. I'm sure Saren and Nihlus would appreciate having you help them."
"Understood, Amala. But I would rather not train another organic, so watch yourself out there."
Amala laughed. "Thanks, EDI. I'll do my best." She turned to Garrus and gave him a grin. "Welcome to the Citadel, guys. Hope your stay is pleasant."
Garrus laughed as she parroted back the words he had said to her not too long ago. "Thanks, I'll be sure to look for some souvenirs. Think I can find an asari head or two?"
"More than that, but let's leave them attached for the moment at least."
Amala opened the hatch and stepped outside. Garrus and Decian shared a look before they too followed her out and into a very new world.
~Thanks once more to Mordinette for her work as my beta, thank you! And another thank you to the readers, thank you!~