Disclaimer: not mine

Chapter 17

Riku stood beside the Captain as the Normandy flew into the Citadel, heart racing. He hadn't been back since resigning, facing the man who had pinned a medal to his chest scared him which was just stupid. It wasn't like it was Hackett, who's opinion he actually cared about. He…he should have contacted him when he resigned but he hadn't been able to, even when he'd received a message from him accepting the resignation and telling him to call if he ever needed something. He'd never answered because he couldn't bear the disappointment in him joining Cerberus.

It looked like a lot more repair work had been finished since the last time he was there, though he figured the wards were still being worked on by whoever had time and ability to do so. It was weird for the Normandy to dock in the civilian area when she should have pride of place in the Alliance docking area.

And then they were heading for the security check points, still at the heightened levels they'd been after the attack even two years on. Not like the Geth had been attacking anyone lately and the Council didn't believe the Collectors were an issue, so why? It had to cost them a fortune to maintain. Though…there were a lot more humans in C-Sec uniforms. That was very interesting, though he supposed with the losses in the attack it made sense.

The security sweep didn't make a sound even as his and Miranda's weapons registered, but it had a fit when it came to Shepard. The poor Turian on duty was staring at Shepard in shocked confusion before looking down at his console. "Shut it down," he called over his comm and the alert went silent. "What do you seriously think? Yeah, OK…" the Turian looked up at Shepard. "Sorry for the inconvenience, sir. Our scanners are picking up false readings. They seem to think you're…dead." He seemed abashed by that, though since it was technically the truth, well it wasn't his fault.

"I was listed as missing in action a couple of years ago," Shepard offered.

"Would you mind checking with my captain? He can reinstate you in our system. He's just past the scanners on your right."

It was good though, that the scanners identified him as Captain Shepard, even if they did think he was dead, there had been some concern due to the amount of cybernetics apparently.

"Thank you," Shepard nodded and the door opened to let them into Zakera Ward.

They headed through and found the Captain at the desk, talking over comms to someone so they waited for him to finish. "Yes, I see the problem already, Captain Shepard. My console says you're dead."

"And you're not, you know, worried I'm some impostor claiming to be me?"

"We have the best screening equipment in the Galaxy. Those scanners can sample DNA from skin flakes. Hell, if you have unregistered gene mods, they can even figure those out."

If that was true, then why not ask about the cloned organs and cybernetics? Did he not care so long as the rest read as Captain Shepard?

"Your sergeant said you could help with that."

"Usually, you have to go through the station Security Administration to reactivate your IDs, then to customs and immigration to regain access to the Citadel itself, and probably a stop by the Treasury. Spending a year dead is a popular tax dodge. But I can see you're a busy man, so how about I just press this button right here and we call it done?" Bailey asked.

Was it really that easy? Was that even legal? Riku glanced at Miranda who looked almost bored.

"Couldn't one of us, both of us, get into trouble for that?"

"There's no way to fool the DNA scanners in that tunnel. Why wait in long lines and fill out a massive, useless hardcopy paperwork to get to the same place? The Council does everything by the book. They had thousands of years to write it. Sometimes things need to get done without a committee vote," he shrugged.

"Big on formalities, are you?" Riku couldn't help asking, Baily looking over his Cerberus armour, and he wished they had some that didn't so clearly announce their allegiance. What was the point to a semi-secret organisation when they marked their armour and ships now? They didn't used to mark everything but apparently it was a thing now.

"I'm with them right up until they keep people from doing their jobs," the man answered, still working at his console. "There, I just saved you about nine days of running around. That said, you should head up to the presidium and tell them you're still alive. The Council probably wants to talk to the one who saved their scaly asses."

"Thanks for the help."

"Don't mention it."

They headed for the transports and Riku took a deep breath, tempted to remain in the Wards and let Miranda accompany Shepard alone.


As they moved through the Presidium, John could feel more and more attention on them, many Alliance members doing a double take when they saw him or Riku. Obviously, they recognised him from the post-battle ceremonies, something it had taken time for John to do, but he had just woken in a war zone after two years out of commission. It was also obvious the attention was making Riku uncomfortable, especially once those watching realised the symbol on his armour. So much for a covert organisation, they hadn't worn marked armour two years ago, what had changed? Was the Illusive Man trying to make the group more legit? Possible, and it gave another reason for bringing him back. Wonderful.

Hopefully, Anderson had answers for him.


Sora grinned as she saw the report that had come in. John Shepard had been spotted on the Citadel. Liara would be so relieved to have confirmation that he was alive and well. As far as they could tell, the base where John had been healed was gone, though Liara hadn't been able to find out if it'd been an attack from within or out. And…there was the footage, she ran it, seeing John Shepard at a security desk in the Citadel, standing to his sides and behind him were two figures in Cerberus armour…though on the woman it was hardly armour with how skin-tight it was. It also made it obvious who it was, Miranda Lawson. Sora had met her during the handover of Shepard's capsule.

The young man tugged at her memory, that hair colour…ah! The young man who had caught her attention that time at the Citadel docks…and at the ceremony after the battle. What had his name been? She wondered what had driven him from the Alliance and into the arms of Cerberus. She didn't like the organisation at all, despite the fact they had brought Shepard back. They'd done it for their own purposes after all and seemed intent on isolating him from everyone who cared about him.

The footage wasn't long, but there seemed to be no trouble which was good. Why did she keep looking at the silvery haired human?


David fought back his frustration as he faced his fellow Council members. He'd heard that a ship that looked like a bigger version of the Normandy had docked in the civilian docks, knew Shepard was on his way. It was strange, to think of seeing his old XO again…was it really him? Surely no one would be fooled by a VI running his body or a clone.

He heard the door behind him and turned, seeing John lead in two others. But his eyes focused on his subordinate and friend, looking him over, seeing the strange scars on his face…unhealed cybernetics.

"We were just talking about you, Captain," he greeted cautiously.

"Long time, Anderson," Shepard responded, and it sounded like him. "How have the last couple of years treated you?"

"I can't complain, there have been some rough spots. It's good to have you back," he admitted, extending his hand, and Shepard shook it firmly.

"We've heard many rumours surrounding your unexpected return. Some of them are… Unsettling," Tevos spoke up before David could say anything else. He'd almost forgotten they were still on the line.

"We called this meeting so you could explain your actions, Shepherd," Valern snapped.

"We owe you that much. After all, you saved our lives in the battle against Sauron and his Geth," Sparatus was the most understanding of the three, and David wondered how much pull within the Hierarchy a certain retired Ambassador still had.

Shepard turned to face them. "Considering I only woke up a few days ago, what actions would those be Councillors? The last thing I remember is shoving Joker into the escape shuttle and launching it, then I woke up in a lab under attack."

That made them shut up which was nice…and not really a nice thing for David to think considering he worked with them but sometimes he just got so frustrated. He let Shepard deal with them, glancing at the two with him, eyes widening as he realised, he recognised the young man in Cerberus armour.

"Mr Yamada," he greeted quietly.

"Admiral," the ex-soldier greeted, and David was sure he heard a thread of nervousness in his voice.

"Admiral Hackett would appreciate hearing from you," he offered, seeing the flash of surprise.

"Even," he motioned slightly at the Cerberus insignia.

"Yes, he has been worried about you since you seemed to vanish," David explained.

Joining Cerberus explained that, and he wondered what the group had told him to get the boy to sign up. The armour was top quality, and it looked like it'd been modified a bit too. He looked healthy and looked mostly calm, nothing fanatical that David could see. He'd read his share of reports on just how zealous many Cerberus operatives were. And he had to wonder, had Yamada been recruited to be a sympathetic figure for Shepard.

He really wanted to speak with Shepard, alone, tell him what Sora had told him about what had happened to him after he died. See what Shepard had learned so far about why Cerberus brought him back.

"You are working for Cerberus, an avowed enemy of the Council. This is treason, a capital offence."

David grimaced, seeing Yamada shift uncomfortably at Valern's words.

"That's too far, Shepherd is a hero. I'm on this Council too, and I won't let this whitewash continue," David stepped up beside Shepard.

"Maybe there is a compromise, not a public acknowledgement, given your ties, but something to show peripheral support," Tevos offered.

"Shepherd, if you keep a low profile and restrict your operations to the Terminus systems, the Council is willing to offer you reinstatement as a Spectre," Sparatus offered.

"What does that mean? I need to start filing reports?"

"That won't be necessary. This is a show of good faith on our part. We cannot become involved in an investigation regarding the missing colonies in the terminus systems, but Spectre reinstatement shows we are supportive of you personally."

"I accept your offer, it's good to have the Council on my side," Shepard thankfully agreed without arguing.

"Good luck with your investigation, Shepherd. We hope for a quick resolution and a quick end to your relationship with, well," Tevos glanced at Yamada and the woman and then the connection ended.


Sora opened her eyes, staring at the ceiling of her room, breathing faster than normal, able to feel the warmth in her cheeks. What…that was…she sat up and ran a hand over her eyes, groaning softly. That was different to her usual strange dreams at least but…why?

Maybe getting Liara to look up Yamada's file hadn't been the best idea, though it was good to learn about who was with Shepard. Why had he suddenly found his way into her dreams? The voice who called her name…now there was a person who looked a lot like Yamada. He looked at her with such sad eyes that it hurt.

It just didn't make sense.


She observed the group as they moved about the Citadel, curious. Everyone had heard of Captain Shepard and how he'd died two years ago. And yet there he was…walking around with two Cerberus members. She wasn't sure about signing on for what could be a suicide mission, but…to get her price it could be worth it. And all those colonies that had already vanished…so many people lost likely forever. Well, she might be a thief but she wasn't heartless or a murderer or anything.

Well, she better introduce herself.


Riku had to admit, he wasn't sure about the team the Illusive Man was putting together. He'd been surprised when Shepard gave him a copy of the dossiers just because he had asked but going over them…he could see why someone like Kasumi or the doctor could be useful. But Jack? She was more likely to slit their throats while they were sleeping than help.

He shook his head but headed for the medical bay to find Dr Chakwas.

"Ah, Mr Yamada, what can I do for you?" she asked when she saw him.

"I'm due for bloodwork?" shouldn't she know that?

"Oh?" she turned to the computer. "Hmm…well, that is very strange," she murmured.

"Doctor?" he asked, confused. It was Cerberus policy since they worked around all kind of weird things, had to make sure they didn't pick anything up.

"Do you know why you're the only one listed for such frequent tests?" she asked, and he blinked.

"I thought it was standard?"

"I'll have a look into this, do I have your permission to speak with the Captain about this?"

Riku was very confused, what was going on, what could…no, no way, the Alliance had cleared him before he ever even went to Grissom. There was no possible way for that stuff to still be in him, right?

"There's nothing but some rather interesting drug allergies in your medical file, unless Cerberus hasn't fully updated it. Do you have a recently diagnosed medical condition?"

"Not that I'm aware of ma'am."

"Well, I'll draw the blood and run it, but for now I won't send it on until we get some answers."

Riku nodded and moved to sit on the bed, letting her take the necessary samples, mind spinning.


John frowned as he went over the message from Dr Chakwas. It was strange, why would Cerberus be running so many tests on Yamada? They had plenty of members with biotics and they were hardly a new field. He could try pressing Miranda for answers, but she might not know either. The Illusive Man seemed to like compartmentalising everything.

One of the recruits on the list was a Salarian doctor, if he proved trustworthy maybe he could work out what Cerberus was after. He knew Dr Chakwas was not impressed by some of his own results, she'd also made it clear that his emotions would affect the continued healing and integration of the cybernetics that now ran through his body. He tried not to think about that very much though.

He'd never been to Omega before, but he'd heard many things about it over the years. It was not a place he was looking forward to being for very long, but they had two, possibly three, recruits to pick up there. Hopefully, they wouldn't all have some kind of job as part of their payment, being warned in advance before Goto sprung that on him would have been nice.


He went over the latest test results, frowning and talking through them, trying to work out what was going on. The plague made no sense. The only unaffected species were human and Vorcha…genetically they were very different so a disease one was immune to should be able to affect the other. It was most puzzling. He didn't blame Aria for ordering a quarantine of the area, it was the right thing to do to stop the plague spreading, it just made finding a cure more difficult. But he would do it.

Hearing a commotion, he sighed and grabbed his pistol. They always underestimated him just because he was a Salarian.


Steven Hackett looked up as a message arrived, opening it and staring at the screen. He sighed in relief at finally hearing something of Riku. After two years he had feared the worst. It wasn't from Riku himself but Anderson – Riku was with Shepard. And wasn't that a mess. He was fighting to keep Shepard from being arrested for treason. He'd read Anderson's forwarded report from T'Soni; Shepard had been dead and Cerberus had brought him back. He was working with them, not for them, to find out what was happening to the colonies. No one else was willing to, beyond sending Alenko to snoop around. Still, he didn't trust Cerberus, but Anderson was positive it was really Shepard and he'd passed through Citadel security.

He'd been sad but understanding when Riku resigned. But to join up with Cerberus? What had they offered him…or threatened him with? He would keep it quiet, so long as he didn't act against the Alliance, he could keep him off the list of known Cerberus operatives and therefore safe from Alliance justice. He just hoped the kid didn't do something stupid.


"I'm not afraid of the Darkness…Riku, it's Riku…Riku's here...I'm no one, just a castaway…Don't be stupid…Don't chase the dreams…I'm what Nightmares fear!...You don't believe that, I know you don't…"

Riku's snapped awake, panting. Those voices…he sat up, rubbing his hands over his face. Those couldn't be memories from that place, they made no sense. Who was that boy? And…some of it…sounded almost like him? What was wrong with him? Was this why they kept running tests? Was there something wrong with his brain or something? Had that concussion caused damage the hospital missed, or maybe his implant was faulty? But surely, they'd affect him when awake.

Should he tell the doctor…but he didn't want to be kicked off the mission. He couldn't go back to a base, not when he didn't know why they kept running tests…he'd felt safe in Cerberus before but now? At least on the ship he had the Captain and Doctor Chakwas… Joker too he guessed.

Why did it feel like he was missing something very important?