Chapter Six: The Other Side
James stood out side the crew quarters, waiting for Kaidan's meeting with Shepard to come to an end as he eagerly held the Major's assault rifle in his hands, his fingers drumming upon it as he stared at the unmoving door.
Vega didn't get much sleep last night as so many scenarios went through his head about what Kaidan might have encountered down in that gully. The only thing he could think of that seemed logical is that he encountered Layna, and if he told everyone what he found, he would also have to explain how he got beat up by a girl, again. He could only imagine the embarrassment that would come from having to face your peers, and your Commander, in light of losing to some scrawny girl. For once, he actually felt sorry for the guy.
His thoughts were broken, however, when the door suddenly hissed open. James instantly straightened up as he noticed his Commanding Officer approaching him, acknowledging Shepard with a nod.
He managed to catch Shepard's attention as she turned and looked over at James with a smile. She couldn't help but notice he looked like he needed to go back to bed as she looked him up and down.
"You... really don't need to call me that. Just stick with Shepard, or Lola."
An awkward silence filled the air between them as they simply stood before one another. As much as he enjoyed speaking with Shepard whenever possible, Vega really just wanted to go inside, but Shepard was standing in his way. It seemed like she was beginning to look at him somewhat suspiciously as she folded her arms over her chest.
"So, how are you feeling? Cortez said you weren't feeling well."
James laughed a bit sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Yeah... I think it was just allergies or something."
Ziva raised her eyebrow, not remembering him having allergies in his file. This made her begin to wonder what exactly he was hiding, since it wasn't his style to just straight up lie to her. It made her think it was either something serious, and he didn't want her to worry, or it was something personal. In either case, she wasn't going to try and pry any answers out of him. If it was something she needed to know about, she trusted he would tell her.
"Right... Well, whatever the case, I hope you feel better."
Vega gave Shepard another nod before saluting his Commanding Officer. She returned it with a simple nod and a slight smile before making her way past James, and on about her business. Vega finally entered the crew quarters, there finding a less than enthusiastic Kaidan watching him as he sat at the table in the middle of the floor.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Vega?"
Kaidan asked, as though he was already annoyed.
"It's not what you can do for me, its what I did for you."
Taking a seat across from Kaidan, James placed the assault rifle on the table in front of him with a big smile on his face.
"Being the nice guy that I am, I decided to retrieve that for you."
Kaidan's eyebrow lifted slightly as he looked at the rifle presented to him. He couldn't tell what Vega was getting at, it seemed like any other Alliance grade rifle. Besides, James knew that Kaidan had lost his gun, so he didn't see the point of him bringing him this one.
Did Vega really just go out and find another rifle for him? It was then that Kaidan's eyes widened slightly. There, on the butt of the gun was an oh-too-familiar carving. "KA," his initials. He had purposely carved them into his gun after extensively customizing it to his own liking. He had originally done it to make sure everyone knew it was his, now it seems that idea just bit him in the ass.
"Where did you get this?"
"I am going to assume where you dropped it. Unless someone moved it then I got it where ever they moved it too."
Kaidan began to feel a sense of dread came over him as his mind quickly began to piece things together. His heart rate rapidly increased as it became obvious as to what James was getting at. No doubt he had found the rations Kaidan was trying to hide. The next logical step would have been for James to take this information to Shepard, but instead he came to Kaidan with it. Was this blackmail James was attempting? Or maybe, he simply wanted answers? Either way, Kaidan swallowed hard as he quickly attempted to gather his thoughts and tackle things the best way he could.
"Let me explain..."
Kaidan's mind desperately tried to put the words together in his head to attempt to plead his case. But, how could he justify his actions, and have James actually see it his way? In all honestly, his actions were somewhat selfish. But, before he could even begin, Vega cut him off as he held up his hand.
"There's no need to explain, I get it."
"You... get it?"
Kaidan was taken back as his sense of dread subsided somewhat, even sitting back in his seat as his face became puzzled. This turn of events was the last thing Kaidan had expected. But, now the question remained as to why James had come to him knowing what he did. Kaidan's eyes narrowed slightly as it would seem blackmail may indeed be Vega's plan after all.
"What's the catch?"
"Catch? There's no catch. I mean, come on, we are both grown men here."
Vega simply shrugged slightly as he too leaned back in his seat, as if he were getting comfortable, insinuating that they were going to be there for quite some time. All the while, giving the Major a knowing look from across the table as Kaidan simply arched his eyebrow at him.
"Well... maybe we could confide in one another? I mean, when I got my ass handed to me by Shepard it... hurt my manly pride a little. But, Shepard isn't an ordinary woman."
Kaidan just looked at James with nothing but confusion on his face. What did this have to do with anything?
"Then why would losing to her damage your ego at all? She is your Commanding Officer."
James leaned forward in his chair as he rested his hands on the tabletop, interlocking his fingers together.
"I am sure it put a hefty bruise on your ego when Eva got the better of you."
"She was a robot; an AI."
"Still, she was woman like, and I know it's never easy for a man to admit he's lost to a woman in any form. But, hey, it's happened to the best of us, so there's really no need in trying to hide it."
Kaidan couldn't help but tilt his head at Vega as he spoke. It never was a secret that Eva nearly cost him his life. He never tried to keep it under wraps. How could he have? He was laid up in Huerta Memorial Hospital for weeks after the incident.
"What are you going on about, Lieutenant?"
"I'm just saying, you weren't the only one who was bested by that forest ninja back at that settlement. She got in more than a few good knocks on yours truly."
It seemed the more Vega spoke, the more perplexed Kaidan became. What was he talking about; forrest ninja? It couldn't be any sort of Cerberus Phantom, if they were on the planet, there would have to be more than just a Phantom out roaming around. Vega quickly picked up on Kaidan's confusion as he shared his perplexed expression, he then pointed behind him with his thumb.
"You know, the blonde haired girl that was back at that old abandoned slaver settlement?"
Kaidan's expression instantly shifted from confusion to bewilderment as Vega mentioned a blonde haired girl. So, there were other people on this planet besides the crew of the Normandy? The possibility of this girl actually being a Cerberus trooper didn't immediately enter Kaidan's mind, as he found himself more fascinated by the prospect of there actually being other living sentient beings on this planet. The doors this could possibly open were near endless.
"There was no 'girl' when I got there, Vega. You're telling me that you encountered another human being on this planet? Who have you told about this? Does Shepard know?"
James began to blush slightly as he rubbed the back of his head. He had refrained from telling Shepard about Layna simply because he wanted to come to Kaidan with this news. While, as a member of Alliance military, reporting such a find to the Commander should be top priority, he really wanted to have something he and Kaidan could have in common, even if it was this one thing. Apparently that plan had quickly gone horribly wrong.
Kaidan's expression soured as Vega hesitated. His hesitation was all he really needed to hear before he could easily figure out Vega had kept this tidbit of information to himself.
"So, you found my rifle, and you found some girl, Is there anything else you want to inform me on?"
Vega's eyes moved around the room, wondering if he should mention the food bins. Again, it would be the best, the most logical step to take, but what if they were Layna's and her people's? He couldn't just say he found them. That would cause Shepard and Kaidan to go get them, and then that may cause some problems with Layna's tribe. Problems that they just didn't need.
"No, there wasn't anything else."
Kaidan leaned back in his chair, exhaling in relief. If Vega hadn't found them, then he must have hid them better than he had anticipated. That gave him a sense of confidence knowing that anyone could come and go as they please without discovering the food rations, and thus, his plan was in no danger of being derailed.
"Tomorrow, you, Shepard, and I will go to the abandoned buildings, and see what else we can find or discover. Hopefully that girl you ran into will be there, or anyone else for that matter, and maybe they can give us some answers. Hell, they might even be able to help us."
"I thought you cancelled any further scouting trips?"
"With half of the crew going to find some dextro plant we have to do what we can here. Maybe there could be dextro paste in one of those abandoned buildings, who's to say? We won't know until we actually investigate."
James was somewhat taken back by Kaidan's sudden change in attitude. It seemed the second he mentioned Layna, he went from edgy to more than a little curious. Why did he now just want to try and inspect the ruins? Especially since he wasn't actually ever attacked by Layna.
"Does Shepard know?"
He asked, wondering if he even included Shepard in this decision.
"She knows that I'm planning scouting expeditions again. Thats what we were meeting about, just before you came in. I'm sure you saw her on her way out."
Kaidan gestured his hand toward the door as he smirked at Vega.
"I have a sneaking suspicion that you want me to leave..."
"And here I thought I was being subtle."
Vega simply grumbled under his breath as he pushed himself away from the table and rose up from his seat.
"Alright, alright, I'm going."
Without another word, James simply turned and saw himself out. It seemed even when he tried to cut Kaidan some slack, the two were simply just not going to get along with one another. As Kaidan watched the door automatically close behind Vega, he let out one more sigh of relief. While the thought of how dangerously close James Vega was to discovering his real secret hidden within that settlement, he now felt confident enough that no one would accidentally stumble upon it if they were searching around.
This unknown girl presented a new kind of danger, however. If she were there for the food rations, that could bring his entire plan crumbling out from beneath him. The very thought of it just made finding this unknown person all the higher of a priority.
After her encounter with James, Layna didn't stop to make camp just in case he was still on her heels. The further the distance between them, the chances of him tracking her down dwindled. For some reason though, she couldn't get him out of his head. He was different than the men she grew up with. They always made themselves out to be superior, and they never wanted to get to know the women they were paired off with. James, however, seemed like he wanted to get to know her like he actually cared. What made it even stranger, is that not only did the two seem to come from two completely different walks of life, but they had just finished getting into a sparring match. The very thought of him trying to strike up a conversation despite her just nailing him in the crotch was amusing in itself. It made her want to find out more about this "James Vega."
As she leaned up against a rock wall that surrounded a waterfall, she began to examine James' tags in her hand. Smiling slightly, she almost forgot she had kept them as she began to walk towards the waterfall, placing the tags in her pouch, she knew that she had to return them. They weren't hers, after all, and she was far from being a thief.
As the veil of water passed over her, she couldn't help but grin as she laid her eyes on her home. A colony; littered with buildings similar to that of the abandoned settlement, although the forest hadn't claimed these buildings. They were in prime condition, and the slaver markings were even erased or otherwise removed from them.
Paths had been worn into the ground by the inhabitants of her colony from the constant walking between buildings, almost like a crude sidewalk. Out in the distance she could see fields of healthy crops blowing in the gentle breeze as she walked towards one of the bigger buildings where one of the elders lived. She had to tell him about the man she met in the woods and that there may be more of them. Hopefully she could convince them that they were peaceful, the last thing they needed was to move the colony or even worse start a war.
When she walked passed a group of buildings, Layna felt a quick grab on her arm as she was pulled in one of the dark crevasse between two of them. Before she knew it, she was pinned up against the wall as hungry blue eyes stared at her. Already, she knew it was Angra, one of the "purebloods". They were born with no blemishes, straight teeth, every thing was proportionate, they simply had no imperfections. She never envied them, however, since they were confined in the compound to be pampered by the defects. They never got to see how beautiful the world was, always confined to the same location; the same structures that they've seen their entire lives. They didn't get to see the lush vegetation, or the colorful wildlife that inhabit the world. Even encountering the hostile intruder from earlier was more of a life experience than any pureblood would get to experience. She was blessed in that sense, at least.
Angra didn't scare her though, they seemed to go through the same routine about once a week. It could be worse though. Some purebloods go against the elders wishes and just take advantage of the defects as they see fit, regardless of the possible consequences. Even if Angra were to do something though, and she were to go to an elder, it would be her word against a pureblood's, and sadly, things probably wouldn't go in her favor.
As he held her shoulders, he leaned forward, closing his blue eyes as he began to smell her hair. Layna didn't know what he liked about that, especially since she spent weeks, sometimes months in the forest.
Maybe he liked her smell because it was something different, because purebloods always smelled clean and like some flower. They even got to bath in space cow milk once a week. The elders say its good to keep the skin smooth, but to be honest, Layna just found it disgusting.
Finally, Angra opened his eyes and began to twirl one of Layna's blonde locks around his finger.
"You know, its a real shame, that you can't be categorized as a pureblood."
Rolling her eyes she sighed, she didn't understand why he would say such things, or even try to go after her when it was against their code. Purebloods were not allowed to bed with defects, and defects were not allowed to bed with anyone for the obvious reasons. The elders didn't want the defects imperfections to spread through other DNA strands.
"Even if I was, the elders wouldn't pair me up with you. They would pair me up with Tyros."
Tyros was a man highly respected in her colony. One of the few men that actually treated the defects as equals then as something different.
When she was growing up the elders had already made an agreement that Layna would indeed be paired with Tyros, but when she was ten, one of her blue eyes began to change color. It went from blue, to hazel, and then finally green. This alone caused her to be stripped of the pureblood title and be casted into the defects.
Angra tightened his grip around her arms as he pulled her off the wall a bit before slamming her against it once more causing her to wince in pain.
Catching her breath she coughed a bit.
"This is why they would pair me up with him...you're too violent."
He yelled in her face, obviously not being a fan of her sarcastic tone.
Of all the higher class citizens of the colony, Angra tended to be held in the highest of standards. Throughout their time on this planet, his bloodline was never once tainted. All of his family's offspring have been born as purebloods, never once did a defective child reside within their families, all starting back to Angra's grandparents. Attention like that could go to a person's head quite easily.
"Everyone knows that my blood line is the purest. It has a higher success rate in not creating imperfections like you."
"You know with how disgusted you are with me, you seem to like me quite a bit..."
Letting out a sigh, Angra let her go as he looked out of the tiny alley and out to the colony. He wasn't going to ravish her like most of the men would, thinking they had so much power over someone when in all honestly they had none. Even Purebloods had to abide by the rules the Elders placed in front of them, and the consequences were just as severe for anyone who broke them.
"It's because the Elders don't understand. my blood could fix your imperfection and it would show in our offspring. But instead, they just dangle you out like some forbidden fruit that no one can have."
"That's because you can't or that would lead to your death and mine, and I don't know about you, but I am quite fond of my life, so if you don't mind..."
Gritting his teeth in anger, Angra reared his fist back, acting as if he were going to strike her. Layna, however, didn't even bother to try and defend herself. God knows the consequences she would have to face for getting into a skirmish with a pureblood. But, as Angra went to swing at her, he was cut short as someone called out to him.
Turning around, Angra and Layna saw Elder Samus standing there with Tyros. Slowly Angra retreated his fist back as he now carried a look of being ashamed. Being a pureblood, one was expected to carry themselves with a higher standard than the rest. They were considered the prime of their society, and they were to act as such. They set an example to the rest of the tribe as to what appropriate behavior was, and Angra's was unacceptable at this moment. Simply because he was a higher social class than Layna didn't excuse him from the rules.
"That will be enough."
Layna walked toward the two men, but not before "accidentally" stepping on Angra's foot, putting all her weight on it and slightly twisting it just to add a little more zing to it. Angra inhaled sharply as he felt pain suddenly go rushing through his foot, even jerking back as he cursed under his breath, raising his leg up to clutch his foot as his eyes darted toward Layna as she simply continued to walk away from him.
As the Elder just stared at her with his gray narrow brows, Tyros just chuckled as he ran his hand through his short black hair. He always found Layna's antics to be comical, and well deserved. She never just went out of her way to purposely hurt someone just for shits and giggles.
"Layna, was that really necessary?"
Layna just rolled her eyes as she folded her arms across her chest.
"Well now his toes will match the bruises he placed on my arms. It's only fair."
Leaning over to her ear, Tyros put a hand over his mouth as though he was whispering in her ear, but his deep voice carried as he spoke.
"If you ask me, he got the better end of the deal. Because, while he gets bathed and pampered poor little Layna will be forced to gather us food and firewood while using those bruised arms of hers."
Tyros and Layna started to laugh amongst themselves as Samus was obviously not amused. Despite the twos engagement being broken off some years ago, the two continued to grow closer, regardless. Even after the elders had tried to keep the two as separate as possible, they still found ways to come together. The last thing the tribe needed was unauthorized fraternization. They had a system, and it was not to be trifled with.
"Tyros why don't you go check on how Angra is doing, I need to talk to Layne privately."
Tyros pursed his lips together as Samus ordered him away. With a simple nod toward his Elder, he gave Layna one last glance before making his way through the alley, Layna's gaze followed him before having her attention brought back to her Elder.
"You need to stop toying with that boy."
She couldn't help but sigh slightly as Samus began. She was sure this was going to be another lecture on how everything that transpired with Angra was her own doing. This seemed to be one of the many curses of being a defective: when compared to a Pureblood, the Purebloods can do no wrong. Even despite her minding her own business when all of this began, the blame would be pegged on her. It wouldn't be the first time this had happened.
"Well he needs to stop pulling me into dark alleys an-"
"Not Angra; Tyros."
Layna seemed instantly taken back by her Elder's comment. She didn't quite understand what he was getting at. Even if her and Tyros were no longer to be paired together, did that necessarily mean they couldn't have any form of communication with each other what so ever?
She couldn't help but feel somewhat annoyed by the entire situation as her gaze slowly drifted towards the ground.
"I'm sorry, if it would please you, I shall only talk to the Elders."
His brow furrowed further as she spoke. She should know by now that her sarcasm wasn't appreciated by him.
"So, tell me what you have discovered."
"I found that there are other occupants here, Samus, but they don't know this world as we do. I... met one of them and he revealed to me his name and that he was Alliance Military. I'm not sure what exactly that means, but I found this around his neck."
As she digged in her pouch, she pulled out the shiny piece and handed it over to the Elder. When he took it, he began to examine the shiny object closely. As he read the tags, his hands began to tremble, and he began to look pale. This concerned Layna as she placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you alright?"
She hoped that the appearance of these outsiders wasn't any sort of bad omen. She had already taken interest in the first of these foreigners, and her mind could only wonder if there were more, and what they were like. The only people she's ever seen were her own tribesmen, so the discovery of other people was exciting in of itself.
Samus handed Layna back the object as he cleared his throat and tugged on her cloak to bring her closer to him.
"I want you to tell no one about these other people, and make sure that they are not a threat."
She couldn't help but feel somewhat nervous about the task given to her. Sure, she managed to best just one of these strangers, but what if there were indeed more? Layna wasn't sure if she would be able to handle three or four of these gun toting "soldiers" at once.
"How do you want me to go about that exactly?"
"Get to know them, see what makes them tick, and for god sakes find out why they're here to begin with."
"But, what about my duties to provide? I mean..."
"Don't worry we will get Caleb to take over your duties for the time being."
her face twisted somewhat at the very mention of Caleb's name. Caleb wasn't a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, but he wasn't exactly the most competent of the tribe members. He was somewhat clumsy, and quite forgetful at times. He seemed easily distracted, and somehow managed to make some of the simplest of tasks so complicated. But, at this point, she couldn't really complain.
"As you wish, Samus."
Placing a fist over her heart she bends down slightly before leaving the Elder's side to gather some supplies for her newest adventure. To say she was excited at this point would be an understatement. Whether Samus knew it or not, he had just played into exactly what she wanted. Not only was she able to spend more time around these new settlers, but she was doing it with the blessing of the tribe Elders. She couldn't help but smile at the very thought of encountering James Vega once again.
Garrus looked over at Ziva, as Tali handed her one of the crates with supplies they would need for their expedition. He was somewhat upset due to Chakwas not being able to do the ultra sound like she promised, but she never gave a reason she couldn't do it. Or she did, and Shepard didn't feel like filling him in. When Tali was out of view, Garrus walked up to Shepard as he took the crate away from her noticing she was struggling with it a little.
Shepard smiled at him as she put her hands on her lower back, bending back slightly with a grunt while she tried to catch her breath. The crew of the Normandy had been working in a fever pitch ever since it was decided they would go through with the expedition. They had to, after all, considering they were operating on a very short amount of time.
Both Garrus' and Tali's rations were beginning to dip into the red zone, so the discovery of this plant was becoming all the more urgent. Looking over at Garrus, she simply gave him a smile, although it wasn't returned.
"Thanks. It seemed like they were getting heavier and heavier."
The Turian's expression became somewhat annoyed as he shook his head, setting the crate down with the others.
"From what I understand, you shouldn't be carrying anything over ten pounds."
Shepard instantly noticed the tone of his voice was a little less than positive. Straightening herself up, she couldn't help but inquire about his sour mood.
"Are you okay?"
"No, I'm not."
He scowled as he spoke, before turning his attention to taking inventory of the crates they had gathered.
"When I'm gone, are you going to continue to go against the doctor's orders, and putting our child in harms way?"
His foul attitude began to infect Shepard's somewhat as her brow furrowed in frustration, marching around him to get his attention, he looked up at her from the crates.
"This isn't about me is it?"
Ziva had a feeling that his bad mood wasn't because of anything she did. She just happened to be the one he was taking it out on. Examining his face, she let out a sigh.
"This is about Chakwas not being able to do the ultrasound today, isn't it?"
Garrus let out something of a groan as he simply nodded his head. It was funny how well she had him figured out. He paused for a moment as he exhaled deeply, attempting to calm his nerves for a moment.
"Did she even give a reason why she couldn't do it? Or is it because she just didn't want to?"
"The machine she uses to perform the procedure isn't functioning at the moment. She said she would get it up as soon as she could."
"Oh really? Is that why she is taking a walk with Adams?
Garrus asked as he pointed behind them so Shepard could look at the two just taking a stroll. To him it seemed like Chakwas was taking every opportunity to avoid her responsibilities, but to Shepard she was doing what most were doing in these dire times, and that was enjoying the little things.
Sighing, Ziva looked back over to Garrus.
"Garrus, everyone deserves a break, even if their not calibrating..."
He let out another growl of frustration as he threw his hands up. He wasn't sure if she was attempting a joke to lighten the mood, or if the calibrations comment was sincere. Either way, he wasn't in the mood for excuses.
Letting out a groan as he took a seat on one of the crates, hunching over as he pinched between his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.
"It's just... aggravating. Here we are going to risk our lives to try and save them... us, and the only thing I want to do is see my child. Is that so much to ask?"
Ziva's expression softened, taking a seat next to him as she rested a hand on his shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze. As Garrus finally raised his head up to look at her, she gave him a soft smile. She could understand his frustrations, he definitely had more on his plate than anyone else at this point. As much as he was putting his neck out simply for the sake of the crew, she couldn't blame him for being slightly agitated at denying him the one thing he had asked for in return.
As she went to speak, however, she was suddenly cut off by the every growing noise of someone yelling. Both of them couldn't help but turn their attention to the approaching Gabby and Kenneth as they marched along the grounds, arguing the entire way.
"DAMN WOMAN! I'm going and there is nothing you can do about it."
"Keneth you can't be serious. We need you down in that enginering room or... or..."
Gabby just stared at Ken with her mouth gaped. She honestly couldn't think of any consequence that would lead him to change his mind. Closing her eyes she folded her arms across her chest and stomped her foot on the ground.
"Or, I'm just going to have to go with you."
Gabby finally managed to march her way in front of Kenneth, standing in front of him in defiance as she managed to stop him in his tracks. Ken could only roll his eyes as he let out a heavy sigh at this point.
"You can't be serious."
"And why not?"
"Cause you are a woman, and you'd be distracting."
Ken's remark caused Gabby to look at him somewhat oddly. She couldn't help but wonder in what sense being a woman would be a distraction in this situation. It didn't seem to be a distraction in any other aspect of their duties, why would it matter now?
"But Tali is a woman and she's going."
"Is she? I mean sure her suit presents her as such but you never know what could be under there."
Gabby seemed caught off guard by his comment, even stuttering for a moment as she attempted to respond to him. Kenneth, however, took her moment of hesitation as an opportunity, and simply turned and walked back the way they had just came.
With Kenneth continuing to march off unimpeded, his place was soon taken by Commander Shepard as she approached the distraught engineer with Garrus in tow.
"Gabby, this is probably one of those men things where they have to do it to prove something to themselves. I mean come on he was pretty much a shadow in that enginering room. Tali was better then him, you're better then him, Adams is better then everyone."
Ziva could understand the girl's distress. Basically having the one person she's been with and working around for all these years to suddenly be put in direct danger is never an easy thing to cope with. The feeling of hopelessness that comes with the situation was none the more comforting either.
"He just wants this one moment to himself you know?"
"Shepard, usually men prove themselves through combat, not by-"
Just as Garrus began to speak up, he was suddenly cut short by a sudden piercing pain searing through his sternum as Shepard quickly stuffed her elbow into Garrus' chest. He let out a bit of a groan as he took a step back, knowing when to take a hint and deciding it be better to keep his opinions to himself in this case.
"You don't think they will see any action?"
The hope in Gabby's voice was already evident as her eyes seemed to light up slightly. Shepard couldn't help but smile at her as she simply shook her head.
"I'm sure the worst thing that they will come across are Ontarom Beetles."
With hope seemingly restored in Gabby, she simply nodded toward Shepard before she took off on her own, following after Kenneth. Shepard couldn't help but laugh slightly as she watched her go, and couldn't help but take notice of the slight spring in her step. It warmed her heart slightly knowing that hope hadn't been completely lost amongst the crew during their time being stranded.
As Shepard became lost in her own thoughts, however, she hadn't even noticed Tali approaching her as the Quarian followed her gaze while Gabby continued on.
"Shepard, why did you lie to her?"
Shepard seemed to be snapped back to reality by Tali's voice, instantly turning her attention to her as she stammered slightly, seeming somewhat caught off guard by her sudden appearance.
"Tali, you have to understand. Sometimes saying what someone wants to hear is better then telling them the truth. Besides for all we know that is exactly what's out there."
Garrus finally managed to recover enough to return to the conversation with a groan, rubbing his chest a little as he approached Shepard, and Tali as well.
"Did you really have to elbow me?"
Shepard simply gave him this innocent look as she shrugged at him.
"Well if I put my hand over your mouth that would be a little too obvious now wouldn't it?'
"Ziva there are others way to keep someone quiet."
"Oh I know, but none of them were appropriate."
A silence quickly filled the air surrounding the three as Garrus simply stared at Shepard for a moment, his mouth slightly agape as she returned his stare with somewhat of a raised eyebrow. His eyes soon began to wonder around as he seemed to be at a loss for words. If a Turian could blush, Shepard was sure he would be now. Tali, on the other hand, couldn't help but feel to move the conversation along in another direction.
"I have to ask, who's having a baby?"
Tali's attempt at breaking the silence seemed to have failed miserably as now both Shepard and Garrus found themselves speechless, staring at each other with jaws hung open.
The first obvious question that sprang to mind was how had Tali even found out about something like that? The only people that knew she was pregnant were herself, Garrus, and Chakwas. Furthermore, how was she to even answer Tali's question? Should she just outright tell the Quarian this secret they had been keeping from the crew? Would this be the best time to reveal something so monumental while their situation was on such a shaky foundation? If the information had already leaked out, however, how much longer could they keep it under wraps anyhow?
Ultimately, Shepard decided to handle the situation the best way she knew how: telling the truth. But just as she began to reply to Tali, she was once again cut off by an intruding voice, this time by one she never thought she'd be so happy to hear calling after her.
Shepard was almost smiling from ear to ear in relief as she looked over to see Kaidan trying to wave her over in his direction.
"Coming! Excuse me..."
Without any further hesitation, Shepard began to make her way over toward the Major, moving as quickly as she could without taking off in a mad sprint away from the entire situation. She was stopped rather abruptly, however, when she felt someone grab at her arm, turning to see Garrus with a look of pure desperation on his face.
"You can't just leave me here to-"
She didn't even let Garrus finish before she managed to worm her arm out of Garrus' grasp and continue on her way towards Kaidan.
Garrus almost reached out to her as she strutted away, almost as if she was his last fleeting hope in some dire situation. Turning his attention back to the curious Quarian, who was now facing Garrus as her glowing eyes stared at him through the foggy purple glass of her visor.
All Garrus could do was stare back as more of that awkward silence hung in the air. Tali seemed as if she was some thirsty beast, her thirst for knowledge only to be quenched with the answer to the bombshell she dropped only moments ago. Instead of answering, Garrus chose to do what any good soldier would do in a moment where he knew there was no possible good outcome: retreat.
"I'm going to see what Kaidan wants."
Without another word, Garrus turned his gaze back forward, seeing Shepard was long gone at this point. So he chose to follow in her footsteps, leaving Tali standing by herself, feeling a little bit more than puzzled.
When Shepard caught up to Kaidan, they began to walk away from the compound, Kaidan obviously wanting some privacy for this supposed conversation they were going to have.
With everything else among the crew growing somewhat hectic as they prepared for the excavation, she couldn't help but wonder what would be so urgent. By this point, Ziva usually had an idea of whatever business Kaidan had with her, but this time, she felt completely in the dark.
"What's going on?"
Shepard asked as she matched Kaidan's pace.
"Apparently we're not the only ones on this planet Shepard."
Kaidan's bluntness seemed to catch Shepard off guard, even causing her to step back a bit as she just tried to absorb what he had just said. Undoubtedly, he meant more than just the natural wildlife that was inhabiting the planet.
"There are... "others?""
Garrus had just managed to hear the tail end of the conversation as he came walking up to the duo, taking his place next to Shepard as he decided to insert himself in on the discussion.
"How exactly do you know about this Kaidan?"
Kaidan hesitated for a moment, more contemplating on how he should answer their questions.
An obvious option was to simply be upfront and tell her about how Vega had snuck off and encountered a girl while investigating a unauthorized part of the planet. But, Vega had actually managed to be useful to him for once. The least he could do was keep him out of hot water. Just this once.
"I sent James on a secret expedition last night. Down to a gully we had discovered before I canceled any further scouting."
When the words came out of Kaidan's mouth, Shepard and Garrus both looked at him oddly. They were both under the impression that James was under the weather, though Shepard had something of a hunch that it was all a ruse, but to hear that it was actually true didn't sit quite well with either of them.
"So, he wasn't sick?"
Garrus asked curiously as he looked over at Kaidan. James Vega would exaggerate, but to up and lie, especially to him? It didn't sound like the James Vega he knew.
"And why wasn't I told about any of this?"
Ziva folded her arms across her chest as she spoke. It was Alliance military rule to report any findings to your commanding officer, so despite this being a direct disobey of the Major's orders, keeping something to oneself in this situation isn't a good way to ensure their survival. Kaidan, however, simply shrugged as he responded.
"Why tell you if there wasn't anything to tell?"
Garrus' brow furrowed slightly at Kaidan's response. It came off somewhat sarcastic, if not downright disrespectful. Even if the abandoned settlement seemed like nothing at first glance, the discovery of these structures was monumental in of itself, to hide or to simply shrug it off as if it were unimportant simply didn't rub Garrus the right way.
"So I'm guessing during this expedition James ran into some trouble?"
"He encountered a human female and she seemed to be hostile from what I could understand, but for all we know James could have egged her on to attacking him."
"By doing what?"
The tone in Shepard's voice sounded somewhat offended as she asked. She knew that James had a bit of a lip on him, but she never would have pegged him to pick a fight, especially with a girl.
"Shepard, when I first met James, he even got under my skin, but in time he grew on me. He's just someone that takes some time in getting use to. So, there is no doubt in my mind that he said something stupid, or inappropriate, even offensive."
Garrus couldn't help but let a small laugh pass as he shook his head slightly. Thinking back on some of the things Vega said to him simply in their early days of knowing one another. It was irritating back then, but now, he could look back on such things fondly.
"True... so did he find anything usefull?"
Kaidan looked away from them a moment as he rubbed the back of his neck. He was tempted to tell her about the food bins he had found, but ultimately decided against it as he displayed a some what disappointed look.
"Unfortunately no, all he found out was that the buildings used to be where slavers kept their prisoners until they could be sold."
"So what do you propose we do?"
"I think that maybe you, James, and I go back down there tomorrow see what else we can dig up. If that girl decides to show up again maybe we can get some answers."
"Unless she brings more people with her then what?"
Garrus was beginning to grow impatient with Kaidan, especially with how lackadaisical he seemed to be handling this entire situation. This was an unknown entity on an unknown planet, every bit of cautionary action was necessary here.
"From what I could piece together, the girl wasn't even armed so the chances that these people actually have fire arms are unlikely."
"Kaidan, she was probably a scout. They aren't going to arm something that is suppose to just bring information back. It's just like when I was cornered at Omega. They sent mechs out just to see how strong my force was before attacking. If I were you, I would be prepared."
Despite Garrus not knowing how much of a mountain he was making out of this molehill, his tone still irked Kaidan. More, due to the fact, that Garrus seemed to be talking down to him, somewhat, as if Kaidan didn't understand basic military strategy. He didn't achieve his rank through luck, after all.
"Garrus, I honestly don't see why this even concerns you. Did Shepard bump you up in rank when I wasn't looking?"
Garrus snarled as his temper began to get the better of him, his mandibles even twitching slightly as he didn't hesitate to immediately step right up to Kaidan, nearly nose to nose with him as he began to poke the Major in his chest.
"It's my business when-"
"Alright you two, that's enough."
Shepard was smart enough to nip this situation in the butt as she forced her arm between the two and forced Garrus away from Kaidan. Anyone with eyes could see that tension has been running high between the two for quite some time now, and letting the situation continue would most likely have just ended in a boxing match.
Instead, Shepard decided to keep the conversation rolling back on track.
"Kaidan, make sure we are prepared for anything tomorrow. I want you, and James to make as good as a map as you can fathom of this place. That way, we can know the layout of the land, and plan accordingly. Garrus, lets go back, and make sure your team is ready to dispatch tomorrow."
"Aye, Aye, Ma'am."
Kaidan saluted his superior, and with nothing more, Shepard and Garrus simply turned and began to walk back the way they had first approached. Garrus couldn't help but let out a sigh after departing, looking over at Ziva as they walked.
"Who's going to be left protecting the ship Shepard?"
"Well there is Liara, Cortez, Joker, who has pretty good aim if I remember right. Then there is my Fenris Mech."
She couldn't help but give Garrus the biggest smile she could. She was quite fond of her robotic pet, and would gladly remind him of that fact at any opportunity she got. Garrus, however, couldn't appreciate the humor in this situation.
"That makes me feel a whole lot better."
Her smile softened slightly as she could hear the concern in his voice. Funny how he was going out into the vast unknown in what a possible suicide mission while she was simply going to investigate some crusty old buildings, yet he was the one more worried about her. Reaching over, she rested her hand on his bicep, rubbing it a little as she gave him a reassuring smile.
"Garrus, everything is going to be fine I promise. Nothing is going to happen. You should realize by now that I can survive anything, even death."
"Well I hope our child has that same determination, because apparently he's going to need it with you carrying him around."
Sliding her hand down his arm, she grasped his hand with her own, coaxing him to stop as he turned to face her. Taking his other hand as well, she continued to give him that reassuring smile as she closed the gap between them, the two eventually resting their foreheads together.
She attempted to soothe his nerves as she gently ran her thumbs across the back of his hands, Garrus' eyes being a bit dodgy before his gaze finally found hers, returning her smile ever so slightly.
"Everything is going to be okay, I promise."
Unbeknownst to them, Tali had began to re-approach the couple as she had seen that they had become free of Kaidan. Unfortunately, as she drew nearer, she found them in this rather intimate moment.
Deciding to make her presence known, Tali decided to clear her throat as she continued forward.
"Are you guys going to..."
Tali's voice began to trail off as those gears in her head began to churn. Gradually, she began to piece things together for herself until she had the entire picture in front of her. Within the haze of her visor, her illuminated eyes grew wide as she gasped slightly, her arm raising up as she pointed at the Commander.
"Shepard you're... you're pregnant?"
The twos eyes simply grew wider as Tali voiced her realization. They hesitated to answer her at first, and that was all Tali needed for confirmation, even gasping a little as her suspicions were proved to be true.
Shepard and Garrus now found themselves between a rock and a hard place as Shepard finally turned to face Tali, deciding to tackle this the only way they could at this point.
"Tali, you can't tell any one. Not until we know everything is alright and the baby is healthy."
"Oh, I won't say anything, but I would like to know who the father is."
As Tali inquired, she suddenly drew close to Garrus; almost intimately close in fact, now only mere inches away from his face. Garrus' eyes shifted back and forth for a moment, not quite sure how to react. beside the fact that she was a little too close for comfort, he couldn't understand how incredibly dense she sounded even asking about the father.
Seeing an opportunity, Shepard quickly stepped in, placing a hand on Tali's shoulder as she led her away from Garrus for a moment, now beginning to walk her back toward the compound.
"Tali, I really need all available hands getting ready for this expedition, and that includes you."
"Thats an order, Tali'Zorah Vas Normandy."
Shepard's tone became somewhat stern as she issued her order. Tali simply let out a dejected sigh as she continued on her way back toward the compound. Shepard let out a sigh of relief herself, even a small laugh passing her lips as not even she could believe how she managed to dodge that bullet. By the time they were done getting everything prepared, Tali should figure out who the father is, if not then finding the plant may not be the only thing plaguing Garrus for the duration of the trip.