Chapter 2 of The Suicide Mission
Garrus hated to admit it, but he only started feeling the absence of the human crew now that the Normandy finally got a taste of true action. Shepard had assigned the other specialists to various posts best suited to their abilities, and he was to operate the weaponry on his own.
Lightning fast, the image of her soft, pliant body writhing in his arms passed through his mind eclipsing everything and his stomach stiffened all the way down. Garrus wondered, and not for the last time, if sleeping with her just before this crazy run was such a good idea after all. But instead of sobering him up, the thought threw more images at him, things he’d hardly been aware of at the time but now they were coming back to him, setting his face on fire.
Tell me what to do.
He shook the memory away, trying to focus on the immense accretion disk shimmering from the holo on his console, the distant central object blinking suspiciously through the debris. Of course he had EDI run a spectral analysis as soon as they fell out the relay, but the spectrum was dominated by disk continuum and lined with artificial emissions, which were of far greater interest than some astrophysical rarity.
The Collectors were hiding on the edge of the disk. Garrus hated to admit it, but that was a brilliant idea, and the plentiful flotsam dancing in barely directed motion wherever EDI’s scanners turned testified to it. Joker was doing a damn good job evading the debris but as superior as the inertial dampeners of the new Normandy were, every now and then Garrus had to latch onto the railing to keep his balance.
“We’ve got company,” Shepard said through the common channel and Garrus had a split second to register how alien the familiar voice sounded to him now, after he had heard her undertones. But then something hit the ship and he listened to the sounds, he knew what the sounds meant even before EDI streamed the status report to the visor of his helmet. It wasn’t a projectile so the kinetic barriers were useless; but the upgraded plating held. There were no cracking noises, no hissing noises, and indeed, EDI confirmed the pressure in all compartments was still optimal.
He fought for balance over the console. “Tactical!”
As soon as the overlay blinked over the visual, he tapped into it, ignoring EDI’s selection of primary targets. A flood of adrenaline took him for a ride; it had been a long time since he’d felt this strong, this effectual. EDI confirmed the firing solution and the deep rumble of the secondary cannons agreed with his mood. One red dot blinked out; two. Nice work, Vakarian. Still, there were many more left, and they were smart enough to attempt to hide in the Normandy’s blind spots. Another shot reverberated through the plating, and again, failed to make a dent. Nice work, Normandy.
“Hold on, people,” Joker said. “Starting evasive maneuvers.”
Garrus clawed into the railing just in time for a series of nauseating drops, decelerations and seemingly random turns. The Normandy took more shots and there it was, finally, the sound of a hull breach somewhere below, in their underbelly. That shook the ship alright and he lost his footing.
“Shit,” he muttered, getting on his feet and struggling to find a stable position next to the gunnery console. EDI was taking the drones down at a good pace, but Garrus had ideas of his own. He overrode her solution, recalibrating the secondary cannons for increased precision at the cost of targeting speed and it gave results. “Yes!” he hissed as another pair, no, a triplet of red dots vaporized from the tactical.
“Someone’s having fun,” Shepard’s voice said into his earpiece, followed shortly by a deafening outburst from her assault riffle. He had forgotten that the comm was open. A quick glance at the status report told him there was an intruder in the cargo hold.
“Not as much as you, by the sound of it,” he smiled, alarmed to discover that an extremely inappropriate number of seductive subharmonics had stolen into his voice. It was disturbing, this lack of control, even more so than the idea that he was perfectly capable of thinking about the rhythms and noises of their lovemaking in the heat of the battle. Thank the Spirits for hard human ears! She probably caught none of it. “Be careful,” he added.
“You too,” the reply came, over the background of shooting and shouting and finally, an explosion. Garrus smirked: things always ended in explosions with Shepard. Oh yes, they did. He knew from some firsthand experience.
“We’re sitting ducks out here,” Joker said. “I’ll have to try and lose them in the debris field. Hold on!”
A fair warning, as not three seconds later, the ship hit something massive and the shock rippled through everything inside, entering a sickening resonance with Garrus’s vocal cavity. “Shit!” he grunted, holding on to the console with all his strength. The Normandy’s kinetic barriers weren’t designed for this kind of punishment and in the midst of his bewilderment, Garrus tried to calculate how many hits it would take to strip the ship naked. Not many! More sudden maneuvers and collisions followed, and then the status stream blinked red again, announcing another intruder alert.
“That thing again,” Shepard said. “Watch it! We’ve been spotted!”
Garrus could feel the exact moment when EDI took over the helm. They must have cleared the debris field.
“Need some help down there?” he said, only half-joking. After so many months of fighting back to back, it was strange and uncomfortable to witness Shepard engaging an enemy without his support. He scrolled through the security feeds until he found the cargo hold. It was chaotic. There was a drone in there, a huge, humming bumblebee with a great red eye shooting some kind of particle beam at Shepard. They were playing hide and seek around the assembly line, with Thane sniping at the thing from the entrance, and Zaeed trying to aim the missile launcher at it, but holding back because Shepard was too near.
“Come on, Shepard. Move it,” Garrus drawled.
“Fuck you.” She was laughing, but hearing her say the word shot a spike of desire through him. Open channel, he remembered, and bit into his tongue before delivering a very personal reply, chuckling for himself instead. And just as he did, Shepard saw an opening and rolled into cover, allowing Zaeed to take the drone down.
“Nice work,” Garrus said, then turned off the feed with some hesitation. He could watch her work all day. He could watch her all day, period. Preferably naked, now that he’d learned the true meaning of the word soft. Holding him. Enfolding him.
God, that feels good.
Yes. Do that with your hand.
He had to work hard to drive the thoughts away. Talk about a bad time!
“There it is,” Miranda said, and Garrus turned his attention to the holo, streaming from EDI’s visual sensors. “The Collector base.”
“See if you can find a place to land without attracting too much attention,” said Shepard, already back on the main deck, judging from the background noises.
“Too late,” Joker said, and Garrus saw it too. A familiar signature. Too familiar. “Looks like they’re sending an old friend to greet us.”
The Collector ship took the shape of a yellow triangle on tactical, and just like before, it fired the primary weapon at them without much ado. Joker danced around the beam, wrenching at Garrus’s guts, but he was so high on battle-induced endorphins by now that he didn’t even notice. His fingers were twitching above the weapon controls. Come on, Shepard, he urged from within. Give the word.
“Garrus,” said the voice, and he relished the sound of it, because it shaped his name into a threat, an ultimate word of death. “Fire the main gun.”
Time slowed down. He smiled and tapped into the interface. After so many months of careful adjustments and painstakingly precise calibrations, the controls of the Thanix cannons felt like a natural extension of his talons, the warm buzzing of their engines like the rippling of victorious laughter over the corpse of a fallen enemy, the thunder of their fire like the rumble in his chest when he’d cried out her name, the ultimate word of victory.
Something quite akin to arousal washed over his senses in an exhilarating rush as the yellow triangle blinked; it did not disappear at once, though. Joker’s maneuvers threatened to dislodge him again, but Garrus held fast and delivered another solution, this one perfect, finally bringing about the explosion, the deserved release. He gasped out the overwhelming feeling of closure into the comm for everyone to hear, but it got drowned amidst their cheers.
Damn, that felt good. But now EDI plotted the blast radius of the Collector ship in a luminous red, and for a good reason, as they were close, they were too close! The shockwave sent the Normandy flying and spinning out of control. Garrus didn’t need to consult the status report to know that the mass effect core had gone offline, the sudden absence of its humming told volumes about just how hard they’d been hit. They collided with something massive, still spinning, and as the inertial dampeners gave, Garrus lost his grip of the railing and hit the bulkhead behind him. Damndest things went through his head as he lost consciousness. Fruit, cards and hanar liquor. Heh. If only Shepard could hear him now, she’d…