Chapter 1 Hunt
"Someone should learn how to drive," Garrus Vakarian thought shaking his head while he investigated the damaged Mako in the cargo hold of the Normandy. He held a great deal of respect toward Commander Shepard, but her driving wasto put it mildlyreckless. Mako was designed to be used in extreme conditions, but at times he thought that Shepard was asking too much from the vehicle and it was his job to fix anything her driving broke. "Next time she comes around, I'll tell her to stop driving like mad, I sure will," Garrus thought.
"Hi there," Shepard's voice jarred him out from his thoughts. "How's she looking?"
Garrus started to turn to face herhe fully intended to speak his mind about the matterbut she was standing much closer than he had expected and for a reason he couldn't understand her hand, which was resting right next to his, gave him a pause. He had never really paid any attention to her hands beforemost of the time he remembered seeing them glowing with biotic power or expertly gripping the handle of a gunbut now her hand was bare and he noticed that it looked rather small compared to his.
"Uh..." Garrus stammered, trying to kick his brain back into gear, but he wasn't able to force his eyes away from those five tiny fingerswhy did humans have so many digits, anyway? "She's perfect, ma'am. Just perfect."
Desperately Garrus wished that Shepard wouldn't realise he had found himself talking about her hand instead of Mako. He wanted to take her hand into his and find out what human skin felt like, but Commander Shepard was still his commanding officershe always treated him with friendship and spoke to him as she would speak to any comrade, but the basic military doctrines forbid any intimacy between a superior officer and a subordinate.
And all of a sudden the whole encounter was over.
"I won't take up more of your time," Shepard said nodding. "Just wanted to check in with you, Garrus."
"Yeah, no problem," Garrus said talking to Shepard's back as she headed toward Urdnod Wrex, who was standing on the other side of the cargo bay. "I'll be here if you need me, Shepard."
He leaned on the Mako stopping his repairs for a moment, he let his eyes rest on Shepard's form that seemed almost minuscule compared to the large krogan with whom she was talking. Wrex appeared agitated about something and was gesturing violentlyfor a second Garrus wanted to hurry there to protect the commander in case the angry krogan would get out of controlbut Shepard stood her ground and talked to the alien calmly. After nodding to the krogan for a final time Shepard turned and headed toward the lift that would take her back up to the command deck or where ever else she would go on board the Normandy.
Garrus turned away, but got the eye of Ashley Williamshow long the human woman had been watching him?who was doing rifle maintenance not too far away from him. He knew the woman didn't like him, nor did she trust him, for the simple reason that he was a turianhe had overheard a part of conversation between Williams and Shepard earlier, when she had been telling the commander something about her family's history with his people. Her attitude toward him had gradually turned milder as she had seen him accompany Shepard on some of the most dangerous missions they had performed, but she still held some reservations about him. He really didn't think he was good at reading human body language, but the way Williams now looked at him made him feel uncomfortablehad she noticed something odd between him and Shepard?had there even been anything worth noticing? Or was he just becoming paranoid?
Turning back to the Mako he realised that he had completely forgotten about all the complains he had prepared for Shepard about the way she was driving. But the fact remained that he needed to fix the damaged vehicle before they would start their next mission, so he firmly put all disturbing thoughts out from his mind and concentrated on his work.
"Two hours to target," Joker's voice announced though Normandy's intercom.
"Sooner than I thought, damn it," Garrus thought as he pulled out his tools. "But I'll get it done."
One and half an hour later, when Garrus had just finished his repairs, Shepard returned to the cargo deck accompanied by Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, both of them in full armour and carrying weapons. If the two of them hadn't been from two different races Garrus would have thought of them as sisters, Shepard seemed to place a lot of responsibility on the young techthe quarian and Garrus himself had been with the commander when she had tracked Saren down on Ilos, they had been with her when she battled the rogue Spectre on the Citadel. While Shepard had been adamant about sharing all the credit of their victory with her entire crew, Garrus knew she kept a special photograph taken by captaincouncilorAnderson which featured only the three of them.
"You and Mako about ready to go, Garrus?" Shepard asked as the two women walked up to him.
"Yeah," Garrus said. "Just let me grab my gun."
"Fifteen minutes," Joker announced. "I'm scanning for a landing site."
"So?" Garrus asked as he came back and crawled inside the vehicle with Shepard and Tali. "What are we after? A downed probe or something more violent?"
"A smuggler OP," Shepard said. "So be ready to use your gun."
"I thought they were sending us after the geth? This is waste of time," Garrus said before he could stop himselfit wasn't his place to question the orders, but hunting smugglers after learning about Reapers didn't sit well with him.
"I know, Garrus," Shepard sighed and he knew she understood even the things he had not said. "But we can't force them to see reason in this matter if they don't want to see it. Anderson is doing what he can, but..."
"Drop in ten," Joker interrupted. "Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, GO."
And with that they were on their way again, Mako lurching under them as it fell through the atmosphere of yet another planet. All three of them pit their teeth hard and kept their tongues back so that they wouldn't accidentally bite on it when the vehicle would make contact with the surface below.
Mako stopped bouncing and Shepard pushed few loose strands of hair behind her ear before grabbing the controls and heading straight toward their targetGarrus glanced across to see scanner readings scrolling in front of Tali's stationthat was located on the other side of a mountain range. Shepard was going to do it again: drive across unnecessarily hard terrain hoping to sneak up on their enemies, who would expect them to come through one of the openings. Garrus admitted that the tactic had its merit, but often Mako took as much damage from the rough travel as it did in a fire fight.
The fight against the guards of the outpost was brutal but fast: falling Mako took down three of the smugglers' mechs before the machines even noticed their approach and Garrus gunned down four smugglers while Shepard simply drove over the remaining two mechs.
"Scanner is clear," Tali reported from her post.
Garrus turned to look at Shepard and noticed that the stray hair had fallen across her face again. His hand was suddenly itching to reach out and pull the hair back behind her ear, but she did that by herselfthe movement was careless and somehow impatient. She pulled out her helmet and put it on as the air outside Mako was not breathable, and they would have to cover the ground between the outpost entrance and the vehicle by foot. Garrus put on his own helmet and readied his rifle.
Taking out the few smugglers that had been inside the outpost was as fast as the battle outside had been. Shepard's well-placed grenade took out nearly half of their enemies, while a biotic burst send the other half flying, where they were easy pickings for Garrus' precise shots.
As the last of the enemies fell Tali hurried to computer console and started scanning it with her omni-tool. Garrus covered the tech while Shepard moved around the room to see if she could find something usefull.
"Find anything?" Shepard asked coming over to the console with several ammo clips and two new rifles.
"Nothing usefull," Tali said shaking her head. "I'm starting to think Garrus was right. This mission is waste of time. As far as I can tell these smugglers didn't even know about those missing ships. Or geth."
Garrus stared at the quarian as did ShepardTali had never before questioned the work they were doing.
"Let's head back to the Normandy," Shepard said as Tali turned off the computer. "There is still one more system in this sector we should check. If that turns out to be a dead end too, we head back to the Citadel."