…in the distance, I hear the voices of turian soldiers reporting that Garrus Vakarian is injured, checking the wound, preparing a transport to the nearest medical station…
…I know that voice…
…vaguely, I see Palaven flying past as the transport rushes to the medical station, turian medics racing to tend to the poisoned wound…
"…come back to me, Garrus…"
…like a dream, I notice my father and sister coming through the building to check on me, worried about me, worried they'll lose me…like I was afraid I would lose them…
…I see her again, reaching for me…I struggle to reach her but something is holding me back… "…Sara…"
…she needs me…I have to get to her…!
…I can feel her again…like I've wanted with all my heart since the day I lost her…
…but I can feel her slipping away…
…I try with all my strength to get to her…but something pulls me away…
…I gasp for breath as I start awake. I'm weak. Worse than I've ever been. My heart pounds, desperate to return to the void I was yanked from. Desperate to return to her.
Then I see where I am: a turian medical station, one of the rooms meant for intensive care. Slowly, the events of the attack come back to me. I remember waking in the night to find someone trying to kill me, fighting them off only to be stabbed with a poison blade, struggling to catch them and call for help…
…how did I end up here? What happened?
"You gave us quite the scare, Garrus."
I know that voice. I turn to face it in amazement. "Tali?"
The quarian places her hand over mine. "You always did know how to pick a fight."
"Looks who's talking," I banter back. Two seconds later, I feel a pain in my gut where the blade went through it and clutch my wound. "What happened?"
"You were attacked. We don't know who did it. Whoever it was stabbed you with a poisoned blade. It was really rare poison. It looks like it was tailored to turian physiology. Luckily, it was a poison that the Citadel hospital had a sample of, so there was data on it that we were able to use to synthesize a cure. You're stable for now, but I can't guarantee anything."
I finally pull myself up to a sitting position. "What about you? Come all the way from Rannoch just to see me?"
Tali sighs. "…Garrus…we don't think the assassin was working alone. They came after all of us, too."
I instantly know something's wrong. "Who's 'we'?"
"Liara. Wrex. Ashley, Grunt, Miranda—all of us. Liara was the first. She got word of what happened to you just before they came after her. Knowing what to expect, she was able to fight them off enough to get away. She came to find the rest of us and got there just in time to stop them each time. When we got word of your condition, we all came over to help."
"…Tali…how long was I out?"
Tali looks away, hesitant to answer, but forces it out: "Three weeks."
Now I'm in shock. "Did I miss anything important? Has anyone heard from my family?!"
"They're fine. They've been as worried about you as we were—they've barely left this station. The only thing you really missed was…well, all of us getting attacked."
I sigh in slight relief. "I'll be fine for a minute. Go tell them what happened."
"Of course," Tali nodded, walking off.
A few moments later, my father and sister come to see me. I can tell how hard the past three weeks have been on them the moment they enter the room. Their greeting is that of a family that's lost a piece of it and gotten it back slightly damaged. I can understand that. It's what we went through for Mom.
Two hours after they've left, I finally manage to convince the medical staff that I'm recovered enough to go. I pull myself to my feet and out of the room. It takes a moment to regain my balance after three weeks on my back, but I get to prove that I am recovered as I head out of the station. Every so often, my wound begins to hurt again or I receive a slight reaction from what remains of the poison, but, for the most part, I am back to normal, just with one more scar.
At that thought, I feel her hand over my scars again.
I shove the thoughts away. I can't afford to paralyze myself like that. If I'm a target again, I need to be alert at all times.
But, in my heart, I know she'll keep haunting me until the day I die.
At last, I'm stepping out of the medical station.
"Can't go for one day without us before getting yourself a new scar, can you?"
I turn in surprise.
Ashley stands there with Tali, Liara, and Wrex.
I smirk at her. "We're soldiers, Ash. Just part of the job."
She just shrugs. "True."
Liara smiles, stepping up to me. "It is good to see you again, Garrus."
"Yeah, yeah," Wrex sneers, "One big happy reunion. Are we doing this or what?"
"Doing what?" I ask.
"I believe I might have an idea who the assassins were that were targeting us," Liara answers, "We're going to track them down. Just like old times."
"Just like old times?"
"Hmm…might be the last chance we ever get to say that."
"And how do you expect us to track them down?" I ask, suspecting her answer already.
Liara responds by sending a message over her omni-tool.
Less than a minute later, the Normandy flies in, the door opening to reveal Joker inside with EDI.
"If we're ready to go?" Joker smirks, "Let's go crush some bad guys."
An hour later…
It was hard leaving my family after what we've been through. They understood that I had to go and finish this, like Saren and the Collectors and the Reapers, but they were still worried about me. Probably still are. I can understand that. I'm worried about them.
I look out the viewing glass of the observation deck as the Normandy once again flies through space to Liara-knows-where. I think over the events of the past three weeks that I have just received a brief explanation of—the assassins' attacks on each of us, how EDI managed to get the Normandy free for a new mission. In a moment, I'll be going in to the mess area that will act as our meeting hall until further notice and meet with the others to discuss our strategy.
How are we supposed to do this without Shepard? …the ship feels so empty without her.
This ship has been a second home to me, it seems. But it's not the same. Part of the reason why is because she was always there. Now she's gone. That doesn't just leave us with a power vacuum, it leaves a hole in the team.
I finally walk away from the "window" and out into the hall, approaching the memorial wall. As I come up to it, I look at all the names on it. Most of them are crewmen I met on the SR-1 during the fight with Saren, their deaths occurring in the subsequent Collector attack.
Then there's the people we practically considered family. Kaidan Alenko, the human biotic that stood at our side against Saren and gave his life defending the bomb on Virmire so that Ashley could survive. Legion, the one friendly geth I ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with, that sacrificed itself for the good of its people so that they would aid us in the war against the Reapers. Mordin Solus, the salarian doctor from the STG that was instrumental to defeating the Collectors and the reason the genophage was cured to garner krogan support for my people and Shepard's. Thane Krios, the drell assassin who lived in remorse for his actions until the day he died, not from his terminal illness or the suicide mission but from defending a Councilor held at gunpoint by a Cerberus operative.
And at the center of the wall, just over Admiral David Anderson, is the plaque marked "Commander Shepard." I remember the day I put it there. Just like I did then, I run my fingers over the markings in remembrance of the fallen it symbolizes. My heart aches as I do. Losing her hurt more than losing my squad on Omega. Just like them, I can't bring her back. Unlike them, I also can't take my anger out on the people responsible.
It makes me feel helpless. I don't like it.
I barely notice as Liara walks up to me. She gently takes my side, looking at the plaque I won't take my hand away from, as if letting go will make her be gone forever. I only give her a passing glance before returning my gaze to the memorial wall, but in that fleeting moment, I see the pain in her eyes. "I understand how much it hurts."
I don't bother debating her. She's actually right. Not only does she, more than anyone, know how much I cared about Shepard, but she doesn't have a family to go back to like I did. She lost her mother because of the Reapers and her "father" was out of reach. Really, she claims us as her true family, like most of us do. If anyone knows what I'm going through, it's her.
Liara stands at my side for a moment in silence, not moving or speaking until I lower my hand. When I do, she places her hand over my arm. "Come on. The others are waiting."
I follow her around the elevator to our makeshift meeting room.
It's true, everyone's here. Wrex, Tali, Liara, Ashley, Grunt, Miranda, Jacob, Jack, Samara, James, Joker, and EDI (who is clearly flying the ship at the same time she's standing here). We've only ever all been in the same place at the same time on one other occasion: the party on the Citadel. It's strange to see us all here. But at the same time, it kind of feels right.
"Alright," Miranda says, "let's get down to it: someone is attacking us and we need to know why."
"First things first," I ask, "has anyone even seen what they look like? It was dark when they hit me."
"Same for all of us," James answers.
"I was able to catch a glimpse when the biotics lit them up," Jack points out, "but they were completely covered in this black armor. Makes sense we couldn't see them in the dark. I couldn't even see their eyes past the goggles."
"I think I may have the answers," Liara steps up.
"As you all know, Garrus was attacked first. I received word he was at the medical station only an hour after his arrival there. I instantly began searching for news of the attack and discovered that a mysterious assassin had attempted to kill him."
"'Attempted' being the operative word," Jacob remarks.
I just smirk back. "We all said I'm hard to kill."
Liara smiles briefly. "Shortly after I began wondering what could have brought about the attack, one of them came after me. I used what knowledge I had against them, finally managing to take the data from their omni-tool. They're a private group known as the Black Shadows. As soon as I had the data, the Shadow attacking me tried again. I narrowly avoided hospitalization and managed to escape…taking this with me." She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a jagged knife that's entirely black. "As far as I can tell, it's an exact match to the one used to attack Garrus…only this one is treated with a poison tailored to asari physiology."
"How did they manage that?" Wrex asks.
"I'm unsure. But when I went through the data after my escape and realized they were attacking us, I began following their trail to find all of you, finally leading us to Joker and EDI and, ultimately, Garrus. Each time, the weapons they were using were treated with a poison made for their target's species."
"OK," Ashley groans, "what's going on? Why are these guys coming after us and how did they get their hands on these things?!"
"As I said, I'm not sure. But as to why they would come after us, there are only two things truly linking us in a way that would bring about making us targets: the Normandy and…"
I instantly know what she'll say is the second option: "…Shepard."
"It is suspicious that the first attack struck Garrus exactly one year after her death," Samara states.
"I have no information on the Black Shadows," EDI says, "but I do believe they are being employed by our true adversary, and that the contract is about Shepard somehow."
"Guess we should be ready for a fight," Grunt remarks, "Anything involving Shepard involves some big guns."
I sigh and step away. "Then I guess I better calibrate our giant gun again. I'm certain someone's messed it up somehow in the past year."
"That turian and his calibrations…" I hear Joker remark as I'm walking away.
"Go easy on him," I barely hear Tali as I open the door to the main battery, "We all know how much she meant to him…"
I quickly close the door and head to work. I pour all my focus into it. I'll only think about doing what I can to win this new fight. I won't think about how someone is abusing my love's memory to attack my second family. I won't lose myself in the grief again.
"…I don't know what I'd do without you…"