redfirelight: (awkward!turian)
That Red Firelight ([personal profile] redfirelight) wrote2008-06-18 02:16 pm

Adventures On The Citadel: Head Shot

“And what’s that?”

“Public extranet terminal.”

“Did you see—”

“They’re called elcor, Allen, you saw one yesterday.  Don’t stare, he’s an ambassador.”

“How do you tell them apart…?”

“Ambassadors all have the same ‘I’m important’ look.  It’s universal.  Come on, keep up.  We’ve got an appointment.”

To emphasize that statement, he set a hand on the boy’s shoulder, propelling him with a practiced ease through the milling throngs of the Wards.  Much to everyone’s relief the Council had called a recess, enabling both officers and refugees to finally have a day to where their brains weren’t constantly being taxed for solutions and upset by memories.  Ordinarily, that would have entailed him wandering up to the docking ring, and slipping off to the Normandy’s engineering bay to fix the stabilizers on the damned mako once and for all.  Probably with Tali hanging over his shoulder, absorbing everything and adding her opinion exactly where he did not want it. 

However, today the curious quarian’s attention was fully on a man called Tony Stark, one of the many refugees who had thrown in with Shepard and managed to escape.  There’d been no prying them apart after their discovery of a mutual love of all things mechanical and technological.  Chances were Stark had charmed—or bullied--his way into one of the machine shops, with Tali ever-present, and they wouldn’t be seen until well into the next Council meeting. 

Alenko had promised Shepard some much needed downtime, and it was better for all involved if he kept his mind off of what those two were up to.  He had no idea where Wrex and Liara had gotten to—though he’d seen the asari speaking with Mustang earlier.  Chances were the Colonel was as taken with the young doctor as most human, and turian, men seemed to be.  If he saw the other man again, he’d have to wish him luck.  As it turned out, he and Liara had similar fixations as far as their nonexistent love lives were concerned.

As for himself…

He was busy hauling a half-grown boy around the Wards on a mission of sorts.  You would think that a full two weeks on the Citadel would be enough to accustom people to the level of technology, and the denizens.  Apparently no one had informed Walker of this assumption.  Every few minutes, he had to tighten his grip on the boy’s shoulder to keep them moving, or avert his eyes from a particularly… embarrassing advertisement he’d never bothered to notice before.  At this rate, they were never going to make their appointment, and, special circumstances or not, they couldn’t miss it.

“Garrus?  Where are we going anyway?” Walker finally asked, after he’d hauled his attention away from a rapid transit landing of all things. 

“Meeting an old friend,” was all he had time to say before he had to coax Walker that no, the escalator was not going to hurt him. 

Marching through the all-too familiar doors of the C-Sec academy was a lot easier than he’d thought it would be.  There weren’t a whole lot of faces he had to avoid now.  The attack on the Citadel had seen to that.  But the layout, right down to the pair of salarians on guard duty beside the doors, hadn’t changed a bit.  He felt Walker move closer to him as they entered, probably a bit uneasy with all the hardware the officers carried.  It was one thing to move through a crowd of alien civilians, and another thing entirely to be surrounded by those who were trained in the use of deadly force—and who carried the right weaponry to carry out said force.  Hardly noticing the ebb and flow of so many busy men and women, he headed unerringly for the lower parts of the sprawling complex, checking his stride so Walker could keep up. 

The more floors they went down, the quieter it got.  Odd—he’d have thought there would be more recruits and officers down here, getting in some practice.  It was probably for the better though, he reflected, turning down familiar corridors.  He didn’t want to scare Walker too badly.  Stopping outside a pair of double doors, he motioned Walker in first. 

“Where are we?” the boy asked, cautiously edging forward.

“C-Sec ranged weapons training, boy,” said a new voice, inside the room.  “What are you doing in here?  Looking for a job?”  

Startled, Walker whirled around, just in time to see the doors hiss open automatically, revealing the neat rows of what looked for all the world like cubicles inside, as well as a uniformed turian officer.  The officer regarded the boy coolly, arms folded, before his mandibles worked into a much more friendly expression.  Walker visibly relaxed, although his face showed much more irritation than it did relief. 

“Still like scaring kids, Chellick?”

Now the officer’s expression schooled.  “Still watching out for the helpless humans, Vakarian?”

Moving to stand reassuringly behind Walker, he retorted, “Well, someone has to.”

“Maybe it should be someone who’s got two good legs.”

“Says the blind man.”

Chellick broke character first, smirking again and holding out a hand.  “What took you so long?” he asked.  His good eye gleamed wickedly in the overhead lights, while the other had a much duller sheen.  Their color didn’t even match anymore.  One was brighter than the other by far—the price Chellick had paid for surviving the Citadel attack.  “You’ve been back over a week and you’re just now making the rounds?”

“It’s been a busy few weeks…” Garrus answered, shaking the offered hand gladly.  “They finally let us out.  Thought I’d drop by and blow off some smoke.”

The other turian rolled his eyes pointedly.  “Even I know that one—‘steam’.  Not smoke.”

Mandibles flared, Garrus pointedly ignored the correction, instead calling attention to the overlooked human.  “I told you about this already on the message,” he said awkwardly.  “But, anyway, this is him.   Allen Walker.  One of the refugees I worked with.  I’ve been named his guard while he’s here.  Allen, Detective Chellick.”

“We worked together,” Chellick said, now moving to shake the boy’s hesitant hand—and thankfully overlooking any and all oddity thereof.  Though he did shoot Garrus an inquisitive glance.  To which the younger turian just shook his head slightly.

“Nice to meet you,” Walker murmured, obviously wondering just why he was being brought here of all places. 

“I heard you showed some impressive skills back there,” Chellick continued, moving towards one of the cubicles.  “So…” he added slyly, glancing over his shoulder at them.  “Come to see what your friend here can do when he’s not playing Executor to a bunch of lab rats?”

“Actually,” Garrus cut in.  “I wanted to see what he could do…  I--”

The detective snorted.  “You’ve been out of practice too long, Vakarian.  Off-force or no, it’d be a waste to let skills like yours rot.”  He removed a weapon from an otherwise unseen rack and tossed it to his former co-worker.  “C’mon, Walker, I’ll take you to the good seats while Captain Headshot gets himself set up.”

Walker stared, hopelessly confused.  He looked between the two turians before finally settling on the more familiar of the pair.  “What’s going on here, Garrus?”

Busy with the weapon, Garrus didn’t look at him when he replied.  “I was going to teach you how to shoot—like I promised, for the poker game,” he said.  His mandibles flicked when Walker sheepishly looked away, but didn’t comment.  “But apparently the detective has another idea…”  He trailed off, staring at the rifle that now sat unfolded in his hands.  Even though it was just a training tool, he couldn’t keep down the familiar thrill of excitement that came from holding a real weapon.  And damn, did it feel good. 

“Go on,” he advised Walker, giving him a careful shove in the right direction.  “Chellick’s bound to have some good lines up there in the booth.  I won’t be long.” 

Slinging the sniper rifle over his shoulder, he headed for the nearest cubicle.  It was intimately familiar.  He’d been there so many times before, he could have drawn a schematic for the place in his sleep.  Moving to the center of the room, he smartly snapped the rifle up into position, letting the targeting systems take over one eye, while he sighted along the scope with the other.  It wasn’t long before the room disappeared, and he crouched atop a building on some unidentified planet.  He was briefly thrown, trying to figure out just where the hell he was. 

“Commander Shepard mentioned you wanted a look at Earth,” said Chellick over his com-link.  The detective sounded smug. 

“Thoughtful,” was all he said in response. 

The target’s image flickered over his eyepiece, and the device lit up, scanning every face that meandered down the narrow streets below.  Thankfully, Chellick had enough tact to program in nonhuman targets.  Neither of them thought Walker should see his reluctant guardian unloading rounds into the heads of holographic humans, apparently.  Locating the target—a salarian holding a few hostages in some kind of vehicle—he turned all of his attention to the scope, settling himself on the “edge” of the “building”, barrel pointed slightly downwards, tracking the target’s erratic motions.  Only a block away.  Not the furthest shot he’d ever made, but not the easiest either, with the wind and milling civilians.  He lined up, aiming for the space between the salarian’s horns, where the shot would cause the most damage.

Still, he didn’t fire.  The hostages were jostling the vehicle too much for all but the steadiest hand.  He waited, purposefully taking deep, even breaths, feeling the slowing of his heart rate.  Even the smallest of twitches could knock the angle off.  And those people couldn’t afford that.  Everything but the view inside the circle of the scope faded.  For the first time in weeks, his head was clear, mind not thinking of anything, except the moment he was clear to fire.

In the space between breaths, between heartbeats, the salarian moved his head clear.  Not hesitating, Garrus squeezed the trigger.  Bracing himself against the kickback, he didn’t budge until he saw the target’s head erupt in gore, and the body slump to the ground, lifeless.

“Neat as ever, Vakarian,” said Chellick, approvingly.  I’d have waited until he was clear of the transport, though…”

“Just give me another.”

They ran through several more drills, each taking less time than the last—save for the krogan warlord, who had to have the regular rounds swapped out for a fast-acting nerve agent, due to the situation.  And when he dragged himself out of the cubicle, pleasantly fatigued, he was shocked to see how much time had gone by.  It was a lot later than he’d expected.  Still, he’d promised the boy he’d teach him something today.

“I’m sorry that took so long…” he said, addressing both the detective and Walker as they approached. 

The boy looked a little… uneasy, and Garrus mentally cursed for letting himself get so carried away.  This wasn’t a side to him he’d really wanted Walker to see—the cold, calculating officer who did what he had to in order to get the job done.  Sure, he accepted it, embraced it even at times, and was surrounded by people who understood and did the same.  Walker wasn’t one of them.  He’d have thought Chellick had more sense than to let the civilians see the dirtier side of the job.  Then again, Chellick was also the one using a waitress as an informant for Chora’s Den of all places.

Before he could say anything, or apologize further, the boy looked up at him, breaking into a smile.  “You’re good,” he said.  “I… those targets were… pretty far away.”

Mandibles working, he glanced at Chellick, who just shrugged, swapping the rifle for a pistol.  “You didn’t input the video feed?” he asked.

“What video feed?” the detective shot back, smirking knowingly.  Before any further accusations could be made, he’d changed the subject.  “Your boy still interested in getting some training in before I have to close up?”

Much to their surprise, before either of them could ask again, a human hand closed around the grip of the pistol.  Both men looked down, and Garrus noted with smug satisfaction the brief look of surprise on Chellick’s face when he met Walker’s eyes.  The boy wore a look he was all too familiar with—one that said he was doing this, and you would have to be crazy to try and stop him. 

“I am.”

So, back into the cubicle they went.  Chellick stayed out, as before, going back up to the programming station.  A short time later, the regular walls were replaced by a long, rectangular hallway that caused Walker to start, gawking at the change.  Garrus didn’t even notice.  He handed Walker the protective ear-wear, and, once the boy was properly prepared, moved closer to set him up.

“Both hands,” he advised, watching carefully.  “It’s got a kick, small as it is.  Brace yourself with your feet.  Sight along the barrel.  Just like that—no, up more.” 

“Like this?” Walker asked, holding the weapon gingerly, almost limply, in hand. 

“No, here.”  He stepped behind the boy, reaching around to position his hands on the grip.  His talons were long since clipped, and he had no reason to hesitate in putting his hands over his charge’s.  “Right like this.  Hold onto it.  It’s not going to hurt.  Now plant your feet.  Sight…” 

The target rose into view, nothing more than concentric circles projected into the air.

“And squeeze the trigger.”

Predictably, Walker hadn’t braced enough, and would have staggered backwards, had Garrus not been standing behind him.  The target lit up, indicating the shot had hit the mark, near the center.  He stared, mandibles working.  “Good shot,” he said.  “Very good shot.”  Looking down at Walker, the stunned expression turned into one that was far more… well… gleeful.  “Ready to try another?”

Craning his head upwards, Walker met his gaze, nodding.  “Okay.”  He didn’t look unhappy with the results either, not really.  But there was still some hesitance there. 

That hesitance didn’t stick around long.  They ran through the basic drills, with Garrus gradually backing off his assistance, until Walker was firing on his own.  He couldn’t help but feel some amount of pride when the boy pegged a target square in the center for the first time, and then several more.

“Kid’s good.”

Knowing Chellick could probably see them on the monitors, Garrus just nodded, not wanting to throw off Walker’s concentration.

“Then again…  You said he was something like a soldier didn’t you?  Against something like geth?”  The pause that followed that thoughtful question suddenly made the younger turian uneasy.  “I’m not surprised he’s good.  Think he’s ever fired a weapon before?”

He shook his head, stepping in to correct his charge’s stance—Walker was pulling his shoulders up too far again.  To his knowledge, Walker had never mentioned using firearms against the things he fought.  Something about the boy’s hand.

“Now you’ve got me wondering, Vakarian….”

Confused, he cupped a hand over the com-link, wondering if he hadn’t caught all that.  A startled yelp drew his attention back to the boy, to where the harmless target had suddenly become an awfully familiar shape, right down to the mechanical chattering of a language from an inorganic larynx. 

Metal gleaming in the light, the geth moved smoothly towards them, powerful limbs clutching what had to be an assault rifle.  The light in its head did not waver from its focus—Walker—as it marched, its steps far too even for anything natural.  Synthetic muscles, nothing more than bunches and clusters of cabling, rippled fluidly beneath too-shiny skin.  Garrus instinctively went for his own assault rifle, only to belatedly remember that this was no real threat—this was a simulation. 

But Walker didn’t know that.  He tore his gaze away from the synthetic, focusing on the boy, who had seemingly frozen in the face of the new danger.  At this angle, Garrus couldn’t see his face, just the sudden tension in the boy’s body.  “Fire!” he ordered.  “Calm down, breathe, and fire—”

The snap of the pistol went off before he finished.  His head whipped around, attempting to follow the flight of the slug as it tore into the geth’s slender throat, ripping through vital cables and circuits.  Pale, gleaming fluid bubbled out, coolants probably, and the creature toppled with a metallic whine.  It hit the ground about the same time the pistol did. 

“What the hell, Chellick?” Garrus snarled into the com-link.  “A geth!  What were you thinking!”

Abruptly, he shut off the link, putting a steadying hand on Walker’s shoulder, just in case the boy was going to faint.  This wasn’t how he’d wanted this adventure to go.  Not by a long shot.  He pried the boy out of the cubicle, heading for the door without another word to the detective.  They didn’t stop moving until they reached the elevator—Walker in numb silence, and he in anger. 

“Are you all right?” he asked, once the elevator doors slid closed behind them.  The boy’s head was bowed, and he leaned against the wall, his shoulders hunched.  “I’m sorry about that, really.  I didn’t think Chellick would be that stupid.  He should have known not to push you.”

When that failed to illicit a response beyond a wordless nod, Garrus awkwardly forged ahead, folding his arms over his chest.  “I don’t know what I was thinking, taking you there,” he admitted.  “I guess…  I don’t know.”

“You told me… you were doing that when you were my age too.”

Blinking dumbly, he nodded.  “Yeah…  Basic training at fifteen.  That’s our majority.”

He was surprised when the boy looked up, finally, giving him a vague smile.  “I know what you were thinking, Garrus,” Walker said.  “Thank you.”

Still mildly confused, he only nodded, crossing the elevator to stand beside the boy.  “Glad one of us does,” he said mildly.  “You’re a damn good shot, you know?”

“Next time… I’ll do better.”

 Next time?  Stifling a laugh, he rested a hand on Walker’s head, protectively.  “I believe that,” he answered.  “I honestly do.”   


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