Good Timing

Chapter 15 of Ghost in the Machine

Wrex could smell the shithole called Chora’s Den from the other end of the gallery. He leaned over the railing, his gauntlets screeching in contact with the smooth, matte metal, and glanced at the light sky-car traffic below. None of the cars would be bringing him company: that much was clear from the message he’d just received from his so-called support. Fucking amateurs. Held at the docks for trying to smuggle weapons through customs. What did they do – hide them in their pants? Fucking idiots.

He hawked up a gob, then spat, hitting the antenna of a nice green cab with surgical precision. Made him feel a little better. Straightening up, Wrex flexed his shoulders, rolled his neck, cringed at the familiar dull pop.

“Too old for this shit,” he muttered, running a thumb over the stock of his shotgun.

The club was every bit as dirty, stuffy and constricted as he remembered, looking only slightly worse for wear. It had been a decade since his last visit to the Citadel but not a lot had changed. More humans everywhere, that was the main thing. At least a dozen pale, featureless faces turned in his direction when he stepped inside, pausing at the entrance to let his eyes adjust to the smoky half-dark. The salarian bartender looked hypnotized by his presence, but Wrex didn’t miss the hurried movement of his skinny little arm, probably signaling the security.

Signal all you want, Wrex thought, and gave the salarian a sideways growl as he went past the bar and around the stage, glancing at the ass-shaking asari dancers with no more interest than he had given the slack-jawed patrons sitting at the sticky, littered tables. Two bored-looking humans were guarding the entrance to the back: one was chewing something and when he yawned, Wrex caught the artificial fruity scent from two meters away; the other was smoking a stinking white stick. Cigarette, he recalled after a second of rummaging through recent memories. It reeked of burning fields. Wrex kinda liked it.

Just as he was about to step closer and introduce himself, a familiar turian voice rang out behind his back, rising over the clamor and the slow thrum of the music.

“Wrex? That you?”

He turned around and saw a couple of turians walking his way. The closer one had his face covered in war paint that looked reddish in the dim light and it took Wrex a second to recognize Nihlus Kryik, the bright young Spectre, who once upon a time, had saved his guts. Literally. Shrapnel through a weak spot in the armor just above the right hip, depleted biotics and drained kinetic barriers, and a fucking turian, of all people, stuffing his entrails back into his stomach. Ha! Good times.

“Well, well. Look what the varren dragged in,” he said through a wide smile, then took Nihlus by the shoulders and gave him a good shake. “Glad to see you’re still breathing, kid.”

Nihlus laughed, trying to wriggle out of the grip. “Me too, old friend, me too.”

“What’s with the cop?” The other turian had C-Sec stamped on his forehead, standing with his arms crossed over his chest, watching them like some oversized bird of prey.

“Garrus is a friend of mine,” Nihlus said, putting one hand on Wrex’s shoulder and the other on his friend’s. “He might be a cop, but he’s a damn good cop. Garrus, meet Urdnot Wrex.”

“Let me guess,” the friend said. “He might be a krogan, but he’s a damn good krogan?”

“Good is not the word I’d choose,” Wrex grumbled, but took the friend’s hand and squeezed. He didn’t flinch, and Wrex smirked. “Let’s have a drink.” Fist can live a few more minutes.

They made their way to the bar. “Last I heard from Clan Urdnot was that Dorema had twins,” Nihlus said. Probably meant well, but it was like a punch in the chest.

Wrex looked away. “Dorema is dead,” he said. And none of the babies in her last five litters had ever drawn breath, but he kept that fact to himself. Wreav had no business multiplying anyway. “Killed in a raid by fucking Clan Gardash.”

Their drinks arrived, but no one seemed inclined to make a toast.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Nihlus said at last. “She was a great woman.”

“She was a great warrior. Took five of them with her, in that last dance.” He drained the glass in a single gulp. “And she was tired of life anyway. Seven hundred years, kid. I bet you can’t even imagine. Eh.”

“What will happen to the Clan now?”

Smart kid. Always hits the fucking spot. Without Dorema to keep that fool of his brother in check, the Clan would fall apart in a matter of years, if not sooner. Wrex tucked his head deeper inside his hump, pushing back the familiar rise of guilt, but it was becoming more difficult to ignore with each fertile female lost to mindless infighting. Perhaps after this job, he promised himself. Perhaps after this job.

“It’ll go to hell,” he said aloud. “It’s all going to hell anyway.” He waved for another round.

“So what brings you to the Citadel?” Nihlus said after a while.

“The only thing that can: credits.”

Nihlus nodded, sipping his drink. But the friend had gulped his down, and his fidgeting was making Wrex nervous. “You in a hurry?”

“Not really…” said Nihlus.

“Yeah, pretty much…” said the friend at the same time, and Wrex snorted.

“What’s up?”

“Heard about the geth?” Nihlus said. Wrex nodded. He had seen it in the news. Not that he gave a shit. “I’m on the case. And… I need your help. I need it now.”

“Now as in, this very moment?”

Nihlus nodded and Wrex swallowed the rest of his drink. Shit. He studied the empty glass – a pathetic little piece of crap made for civilized little hands and not for krogan fists – then looked up at the turian to whom he owed his life. “At your service, kid,” he said, but didn’t even attempt to make it sound like anything but the giant pain in the ass it was at this moment. It was bad enough that he had to do the job alone, but to delay when he was this close… Shit.

Nihlus smiled in that strange way of his, communicating anything but joy. Creepy little bugger. He leaned closer, and whispered, “I need to get to Fist.”

“No shit,” Wrex grunted, than laughed from the bottom of his belly, making the bar shake and the glasses on top of it clink. Nihlus was looking at him quizzically, so he added, “Do you need him alive?”

Nihlus cast a look at his friend. They both seemed to think for a moment, then the friend shrugged, and Nihlus shook his head.

Wrex smiled. “Well you should have said so right away.”

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