Disclaimer: The Mass Effect realm doesn't belong to me. I'd've found myself a nice turian otherwise.
Part One: Decisions
No honor if the mission fails. No honor. Honor.
For just a heartbeat he wondered if the Commander knew the effect her words would have, but then he realized just how ridiculous the question was. 'She's Commander Shepard, for Spirits' sake. The very Spectre who talked Saren into repenting and killing himself. Of course she knew what to do and say!'
And she was shorter than he'd imagined.
Tarquin held back the bitter laugh that threatened to escape – mostly out of self-preservation – the mood his men were in, it'd take very little to toss him out of the moving shuttle.
He also wasn't unaware about the effect of Advisor Vakarian's silent presence beside the Commander when it came to quelling the squad. If Vakarian hadn't relieved the Lieutenant of duty, there was little to be done while stranded on Tuchanka without facing court-martial for insubordination and mutiny. That was probably the only reason they accepted to follow through.
I doubt it was because of my speech.
He wouldn't shy away from responsibility, but it wasn't easy. Being the son of Adrien Victus was enough pressure without a war on – even before his father became the Primarch. He knew he didn't have his father's creativity or ingenuity. He knew that and wasn't trying to imitate his father by improvising – no matter what the others thought. He was just trying to accomplish that mission and protect his men the best way he could.
Except, the apparently safer route in this case had damned them, instead of saving them.
And now there were fifteen strong capable soldiers – half his unit – dead because of him. 'How does one cope with this kind of failure? With losing so many people over a mistake? And a foolish mistake at that...'
"Lieutenant Victus, we're closing in the LZ," the pilot warned, taking him out of his reflections. "There's a lot of activity down there."
He stood up and looked at the monitors. "What do the readings indicate, Nihil? Any idea about how close they are to unearthing the bomb?"
"Hard to say. The numbers don't make sense," said Nihil. "That's really old tech down there." He shook his head. "There's no way to be sure unless we get closer."
"Not an option," He turned towards another soldier. "Marnek, try and hack into Cerberus' comm. channels. We'll need every upper-hand we can get."
The officer in question stared at the Lieutenant for a couple seconds before nodding and getting to work. Tarquin knew Alaris Marnek to be one of the most unhappy with his command between what was left of the platoon and, for a moment, he thought the other would refuse to follow the order.
Turning back to Nihil, he added: "Keep circling the perimeter, but let's not get too close till we hear from the Commander," he pulled out his omni-tool and started reading again on the specs for the device. 'There'll be time for second guessing myself later. Now, focus! There'll be no do-overs, no second chances here.'
As he went through the data for the thousandth time he couldn't help but wish they had more to go with. That was not nearly enough. Just a navpoint and a instruction manual for an outdated mass destruction device that was planted on the krogan homeworld more than a thousand years ago.
He wasn't really concerned about dealing with the tech. He was an Engineer, after all – which was one of the reasons his father passed that mission on to him – but that thing was ancient. If he went out of commission, they'd be doomed. And that led him to think of something else that was bothering him, though he had tried not to.
The Commander's surprise when he told her about the bomb was not a good sign in the least. That probably meant that she was flying even blinder than him.
Of course he could understand the reasoning for not telling her. It was all on a need to know basis. The bomb's very existence was as secret as secrets could get – how Cerberus found out about it still concerned him and that was one of the reasons he was on this mess, to begin with – but what if Shepard hadn't been able to extract him and his men alive, and never found out about the bomb? It'd be all lost. As things stood now, the chances of success were pretty slim already. He needed her to know exactly what were the stakes at risk, but giving out top-secret Hierarchy military information was high treason.
'Maybe I could tell Vakarian,' he considered, but there was the question of why his father hadn't shared the intel with Vakarian himself. The only answer he could come up with was that knowing about the bomb would put the Advisor on a conflicting situation while serving with the Commander and everybody knew that victory on that war was hanging on the Normandy's success. Either way, he'd be revealing classified information if he said something, but the idea of keeping Commander Shepard on the dark just didn't feel right. 'Damn, dad! What were you thinking?'
He was stuck between the claw and the fang and couldn't see a way out.
"Lieutenant," Marnek called him urgently, his subharmonics trilling. "Cerberus has reached the bomb, and are attempting to arm it."
"Dammit!" He stood up; his own subvocals dire. "Marnek, any word from the Normandy yet?"
"No, sir," the soldier answered. "Should I-"
The pilot interrupted them. "Oh shit, prepare for evasive maneuvers!" The shuttle tilted to the right and then upwards just as the sound of mortar fire started breaking loose outside.
"Well, now they know we're here, might as well try and get closer." Tarquin ordered the pilot.
"I'm reading a lot of enemy shuttles on that direction!" Nihil contested, not even trying to hide the distressed thrumming in his voice.
And the lieutenant knew exactly what he was thinking. His own thoughts were pretty much the same. 'Two crash landings on the same day would just be fucking great!'
"Victus," Marnek called him. "The Normandy shuttle is hailing us."
"Patch them through!" He, then, turned to Nihil. His voice stark. "Keep us out of range, but try and get closer to that dig site!"
He turned to the monitor, seeing only static. "Normandy shuttle, this is Lieutenant Victus with the Ninth Platoon. Do you copy?"
After a few more seconds, a distorted face with dark hair showed up on the screen. "We hear you, Ninth Platoon."
"We're approaching the bomb site, Commander," He had to hold out on the bench in order not be tossed out of his seat. "Getting bounced around pretty bad."
"This is as close as we get, Lieutenant," the woman stated. Her voice carried such strength. "Look for someplace to set your platoon down."
Tarquin allowed himself to wonder – for just a heartbeat – how could such a small creature be so commanding before answering: "Copy that."
"Talk to me about this Cerberus bomb."
'Cerberus bomb, huh?' Tarquin had to hold back his scoff.
It'd be so easy. To just go along with that and let the blame remain on Cerberus. Let that human remain in the dark. Let old mistakes remain forgotten. 'Never mind that the human was fighting to protect the galaxy. Never mind that that mistake could cost them their planet.'
"It's not... Cerberus', Commander," he said at last. He'd probably be court-martialled for that too. At the corner of the monitor he saw Vakarian stop beside Commander Shepard and came to a decision. "It's... turian."
A/N: Hi, there! Here I am again with the tenth chapter of Outsider's Looks. Bringing Tarquin Victus into the spotlight. Hope you people liked it.
Thanks for reading, faving, following. Please, R&R.