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Mass Effect: Hunters

I hesitated outside the doors to the main battery. I had ensured that all of Cerberus' tracking devices had been turned off, both beyond and within adjoining room where Garrus Vakarian worked tirelessly on the Normandy's weapons systems.  I was about to propose something very questionable, arguably morally reprehensible, and definitely something that could get us charged with treason in every system we passed through.

Garrus was tough, no doubt, and dedicated to justice. We’d carried him onto the Normandy from Omega after a gunship nearly blew him in half. He’d been up and running a few hours later.
I opened the doors and once again found Garrus hard at work. He turned when he saw me. “Shepard.” He greeted cordially, “Need me for something?”

"Just keeping my skills sharp."

“Have you got a minute to talk?”

Garrus turned back towards the new Thanix cannon and then looked at me. “Can it wait for a bit? I’m in the middle of--”

I held up a hand to stop him. “The calibrations can hold, Garrus. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important.”

Garrus shrugged. “Must be serious. What’s on your mind, Shepard?”
I took a seat on a storage crate to the right of the power modulator that kept Garrus so occupied. “You got me thinking, Garrus. About your team on Omega.”
Naturally, Garrus became apprehensive. “What about my team, Shepard? They’re all dead.”
I nodded. “I know, Garrus. I meant the work you guys did.”
“Lotta good it did; you saw how Omega was. Not a damn thing changed.”

I would never tell it to him, but I felt bad for Garrus. Even after killing Sidonis, he’d had a hard time finding peace. He’d been a cop on the Citadel when we met two years ago and hadn't had to deal with much loss. 
Like him, I'd lost my entire team in what had been a Cerberus trap on Akuze. Later, I would lose an eager young soldier on Eden Prime and Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko on Virmire. I knew what Garrus was going through. He'd have to come to peace with it on his own terms, but for now, he was still beating himself up.

“Garrus, the Reapers are coming. We both know it.” I wasn't speaking to him as a commanding officer, but as a fellow soldier, “And we know they’re using organics.”
Garrus looked back at me, folding his arms and laying back on the weapons console.  “Shepard, where are you going with this?”

I stood up, began pacing. The soles of my shoes echoed throughout the metallic chamber. 
The hum of the Normandy’s massive batteries suddenly seemed amplified. “Dr. Kenson got me thinking.” I started, “If Hackett hadn’t asked me to rescue her, the Reapers would be here now. She wasn’t like the other indoctrinated we’ve come across, Garrus. She wasn’t babbling or incoherent. She was fully aware of what she was doing and worse, she was okay with it.”

Garrus rose. “It’s like that VI on Ilos said; the survivors welcomed the indoctrinated into their homes, but by the time anyone knew what was going on, it was too late. It’s how the Reapers were so successful.”

The cycle continues

I nodded, smiling. “Yeah, Garrus, exactly.”

I paused; the next moment was crucial. “We’ve eliminated the Collector Base, we’ve taken out the batarian relay…but a key threat is still out there and I want to take them out.
Garrus took in a breath as he spoke. "You want to hunt down the indoctrinated."

I nodded.

“And then what?" Garrus asked, "You think Mordin can come up with cure to reverse the process?”

“At that point, they’re too far gone. I’m not interested in curing them. I want to put them down.”
Garrus hesitated before rising. I could almost hear the Turian's wheels turning as his mind processed what I'd just told him. 

"Shepard," Garrus began, stepping towards me, "Indoctrination isn't an exact science. We can play hunches, sure, but there's no sure-fire way to tell that a target has actually been indoctrinated."
He went silent for a moment before continuing. "What if we're wrong? What if we end up killing an innocent?"

I had already pondered what Garrus was asking, but I had yet to reach an answer that would let me sleep at night. "What if we're right, Garrus?" I countered, "What if we cripple the Reaper's ability to operate covertly?"

Garrus said nothing.

"What if we keep governments from turning over their population to be harvested? What if we limit the Reaper's access to raw materials?"

Garrus looked away. I capitalized and said; "A C-sec officer once told me that it shouldn't matter how he took a suspect, as long as he did it. This same officer was willing to blow up a ship full of hostages in order to keep a butcher from escaping the Citadel. His order was countermanded by the Citadel and those hostages died anyway, didn't they?"

Garrus smiled dryly. "You made your point, Shepard." He looked back at me. "I'm in. I'm here if you need me...but you need more than you and me. We don't even know how to track the indoctrinated."

I was ahead of him on this one. “I've already spoken to Thane about this. He's the best tracker I know, and no one gets closer to a target undetected better than he does."

"And should the worst come to pass, grant me forgiveness."

"I'm surprised Thane agreed."

"He'll take any opportunity he can get to make amends for his past."

“You have thought of everything.” Garrus replied. “Shepard..what about the others? The Cerberus people? Jacob and Miranda?” He hesitated before saying, “What about Tali, Shepard?”

“This isn’t a Cerberus operation. Miranda and Jacob don’t need to be in the loop on this one. Tali…she doesn’t need to know about this.”
Garrus paused and said, “You’re worried about running into indoctrinated Quarians.”

I nodded. “Yes, I am. And if we do…”

“I know, Shepard.” Garrus interrupted, “Don’t worry, I won't hesitate.”

I smiled, extending my hand. Garrus took and shook; Turian grips were much stronger than human ones; more muscles in less fingers.  “One more question.” He asked, “You didn’t see Dr. Kenson coming until she had a gun at your head. How do you propose we find the indoctrinated?”

Again, I smiled. “Our new Shadow BRoker.” I replied easily. “She's got dossiers on every important person in the galaxy, and even a few nobodies. She'll give us our targets.”
Again, Garrus smiled. "Liara."

The new Shadow Broker

I nodded.

Garrus chuckled. "The Alliance disavowed us, the Batarians are hunting us, the Reapers took the destruction of the Collector Base personally..." He mused, "I guess it couldn't hurt to have a few more enemies. Let's do this, Shepard."
"Thank you, Garrus."
He turned, returning to his calibrations. I exited the main battery feeling better than I had when I entered. We would run as long as we could, damage the Reapers as best as we could, and then I'd turn myself into answer for all of it.

But for now, our next stop was Illium.

The preceding is a work of fiction based on “Mass Effect” by Bioware and Electronic Arts. I in no way own any of the characters or places in this story. This is an original idea based in an existing universe. Images and characters are copyright of Bioware.


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