Thank you for reading!
Back at the apartment, EDI and Tali started working with Brooks on the data drives from Khan's computer. Shepard and Wrex and Javik went over her guns, getting ready to go after this mysterious person who seemed to have a vendetta against her. Normally, Garrus would have been hovering over her shoulder, making sure every piece was in better than perfect condition, and he caught Shepard glancing at him as he went passed the pile of weaponry piled on the kitchen counter, wondering why he wasn't helping, he imagined.
In the room with the big TV, the four human males were all watching some sporting event. Apparently it was a recording of a classic game, but they were all into it, rooting for their favorite team, even though they already knew the ending. Humans were odd, Garrus concluded.
Liara leaned against the bar, and he was glad to see she'd had the same idea he had—this was the loudest room in the apartment, and the farthest from the situation room where Brooks was. He went back to the glass of water dodge. "So?" he murmured to Liara.
"All her files are legitimate."
Liara smiled. "Too legitimate. Alliance files before a certain date all have an error in the code, from their initial upload into the galactic system. Hers don't. The recent files look fine, but the ones setting up who she claims to be …"
"Does that help us?"
"No. She's no one I can find. And that's saying something." Liara glanced over Garrus's shoulder. "She seems to have appeared on the Citadel not long ago. Not long before the takeover attempt."
"Well, that would explain a few things." If Brooks was Cerberus, it would answer a lot of questions. "Illusive Man?"
Liara shook her head. "Too clumsy. And he wouldn't have needed Khan's backing."
"Ex-Cerberus?" Garrus said in some surprise. Most people didn't survive leaving Cerberus. "What does she want with Shepard?"
"Nothing good, I imagine. We'll have to watch Shepard's back."
"Oh, I do."
Liara frowned at him. "I didn't mean it that way."
He chuckled, but he was still bothered by the whole set-up. It was too complicated. Why the restaurant? And the casino? Stalling tactics? Searching for information?
Just then EDI called them all back to the war table to listen to a communication they'd decrypted. Garrus stood behind Shepard, one hand on her shoulder. She smiled up at him before turning her attention back to Brooks' presentation.
Brooks was stalling again—at least, that's what it felt like to Garrus. She was gushing at them for being legends to the Alliance, which was downright laughable. Shepard and Kaidan and Cortez and Joker, maybe, but Vega was a bit of a screw-up; tenuous alliances with the asari, quarians, krogan, and turians hardly qualified the rest of them as legends; and EDI appeared to be widely regarded with guarded caution, at best. Had Brooks said the galaxy, then maybe. Commander Shepard's crew was more famed outside the Alliance than in. But legends to the Alliance? No. Out of the corner of his eye, Garrus could see that several of the others felt as uncomfortable with the fulsome praise as he did.
Shepard mostly skipped over this kind of thing. She accepted the praise she got from people politely, but it didn't interest her, and she would always rather get down to business. Whoever Brooks was working for hadn't primed her particularly well for how to deal with Shepard, it appeared.
"Legends." Wrex grunted skeptically. "Then how come everyone's always shooting at us?"
"To be fair, that's mostly you, Wrex," Tali told him. "The bigger the target, the bigger the … target."
"You're saying I've gained weight?" At the tone in Wrex's voice, Vega and Cortez on either side of him shifted away. It was never good to be too close to an angry krogan.
"It just means that there's more of the legend to love," Liara explained, her eyes twinkling.
"The better to sire half the next generation of krogan, eh?" Garrus suggested.
"Heh. Good point." Wrex subsided into silence.
Brooks had been watching this exchange between the non-humans with barely disguised impatience, and now she jumped back in with some effusive commentary on their camaraderie.
Garrus could feel Shepard getting restive. She'd been patient with Brooks this long, taking her at face value as in over her head, but it was time to get moving. "It's all just part of the job," she said.
"'Job'?" Garrus echoed. "You mean the rest of you are getting paid?"
"Oh, you get paid, Scars," Vega said. Shepard gave him a look, and he hastily backpedaled. "I mean, I'm sure there's a … uh, financial compensatio—ah, I mean … Yeah, I got nothin'. Sorry, Lola."
"Be careful, Lieutenant."
Brooks finally called up something on the screen. "Wow. Those mercs who were after you? They bought a lot of weapons. Like, big ones."
"No better kind. Walk softly and carry a really big gun," Garrus said.
Kaidan was frowning at the screen, where an image of a mech was rotating. "Mechs? What do they need with that kind of firepower?"
"Takes a lot to take down Shepard. She's an honorary krogan, after all," Wrex pointed out.
From behind them, Glyph appeared, hovering over the table. "I have just monitored the Commander's Spectre access code in use at the Citadel Archives."
"The Archives are going into emergency lockdown," EDI said.
Brooks gasped. "Commander, whoever's hacking your records is there right now!"
"What do we know about the place?"
Before Brooks could answer, Garrus spoke up. "The Council keeps sensitive information there. Real hush-hush. Even my old C-Sec clearance never got me in."
"Then we'll find our own way in," Shepard said. She turned, heading for her weapons. "Gear up, and let's—" She stopped short, finding a volus standing in front of her holding up a pizza box. "What's with the volus?" When she looked over her shoulder, her gaze went straight to Vega, who cleared his throat uncomfortably.
"I, uh, got the munchies."
"Double pepperoni," the volus explained.
While Shepard frowned at the volus, Brooks chose the moment to jump in again. "Those Archives are huge. Too bad you can't take everyone."
"Who says?" Shepard demanded. "All hands on deck for this one!"
Amidst the whoops from their companions, Garrus's eyes met Liara's. Why did Brooks want them all to go?
While everyone was getting ready, Garrus couldn't help going over it again and again in his mind. What did Shepard have that someone could want, other than her self? No one was capturing Commander Shepard with all of them along, so what good did it do— He stopped short. The one companion they could never take anywhere was the ship itself.
As everyone got ready to troop out the door, Garrus said, "My gun!" He turned to Shepard. "Forgot my favorite gun. You go, I'll be right behind you."
"You and your guns," she said affectionately.
Dashing back in, ignoring the perplexed volus who was still standing there with the pizza, Garrus caught up with the one person who could not go with them to the Archives. "Joker. Get to the Normandy. Disable it. Some way that's subtle but impossible to fix easily. Make sure no one can take it without you in that pilot's seat. You got me?"
Say what you would about Joker, where his ship was concerned, he was damned quick on the uptake. "Got you. Garrus?"
"Careful is my middle name."