Oh, better to die to a thresher maw,
Than to play ambassadorial games,
with the blood of Shiagur in her veins
– Mordin Solus
“Ah Captain,” Cyrus said when Sync brought him up on his omnitool. “Maybe you can sort this out. I suspect your ship ‘engineer’ may not not worthy of the title. My med bay door has been stuck for two minutes now and I’m fast running out of cookies.”
“This one would like to remind you that there is a rack of cookies in the kitchen,” Anar said. “This one saw them earlier today before leaving the ship.”
“Which would be great, if I could get to the kitchen!” Cyrus snapped.
“Drimi’s working on that,” Sync said.
“In the meantime, perhaps you could help us with a few things,” Cicepia said.
“Yes, perhaps you can,” Anar said. “Otto can you pass the cookies this one asked you to bring along?”
Taking a peanut butter cookie from the krogan, Anar started eating as noisily as possible, and Arkara shook her head.
“You know, Protheans used to eat hanar. Said they were crunchy. I have a recipe here. Always wanted to try it.”
“Before or after your historical course of flies?” Anar asked.
“Ha ha,” Cyrus said. “In all seriousness Captain, I demand you send someone more competent to deal with this situation. The Med Bay is clean room. I would like it to stay that way.”
“Sure,” Sync said. “We’ll get that door open as soon as we get some information from you.”
“Ah,” Cyrus said. “So the door being locked is not a malfunction. I should have guessed. I’m surprised you did not simply ask first.”
“It’s a precaution,” Sync said. “Normally I would, but I love my ship, and I’m not about to set you loose on it after what we’ve just found out.”
“And what’s that?”
“The krogan say you’re the one who gave them the cloning technology they’re using in an attempt to beat the genophage,” Elias said.
“And what if I was? That was shut down a long time ago and—”
“It’s still running,” Elias said.
“What? That’s impossible. I took all machinery and notes when the Chief decided to misuse the technology. He wanted an army, not a cure. No krogan could have started the facility up again.”
“Arkara, would you mind showing Dr. Lennox where you are?” Elias asked. “Do a quick tour of the building.”
“Interesting,” Cyrus said, scratching at his temple as Arkara showed him the ladies with her face. “Someone has dug up my work. Implications unsettling. The cloning technology was…imprecise.”
“In all seriousness, this one is surprised you tried to help the krogan,” Anar said. “You’ve never mentioned it before.”
“To what point?” Cyrus asked. “I failed. I hoped for a better resolution.”
“When did you do this? This one finds it hard to believe Eclipse authorised this.”
“They didn’t,” Cyrus said. “They just put me in a position where I could steal cloning technology from Cerberus which I used here.”
“We need to get inside and shut down that facility,” Anar said.
“And how can I help you with that? I haven’t been back to Tuchanka in years.”
“Dig out the facility blueprints,” Elias said. “We need to find a way in.”
“I can send them over, but this is Tuchanka. Unless there’s a hole in the wall there is only one entrance to facility. No secret doors, no hidden passages. Will send over the file now. I trust that will be sufficient to have my door unlocked. I also want two dozen macaroons. No. Three dozen.”
“Proudly: I can make those.”
“One other thing,” Elias said. “If they are using your technology, what’s the best way to shut it down? You know, aside from a bomb or airstrike.”
“Pull the power or destroy the generators,” Cyrus said promptly. “Bearing in mind doing so will kill any clones growing in tanks at time.”
“We’ll deal with that when we get there,” Arkara said. “Was your facility located in the clan compound?”
“No,” Cyrus said. “Given your current coordinates, the facility was off to northeast. I can send you exact location, but there’s no guarantee the krogan would be using same place.” He sniffed, “They’re traditionalists, so it’s entirely possible, but potentially a waste of time.”
“We’ll have to deal with the Targev either way,” Arkara said. “He’s not going to let us out without a fight.”
There was a ping on Anar’s omni tool. “Schematics sent. I recommend caution. I destroyed all local copies of my research and wiped all computers before leaving with the hardware. Only way for facility to be restarted is with Cerberus intel. Many possibilities. Mostly bad.”
“Thanks Cyrus,” Sync said. “I’ll get your door sorted.”
“And there really are more cookies in the kitchen,” Anar said.
“We’ll talk later, Anar,” Cyrus said. “Or not. I might just lace your next meal with something interesting. I have some research on mindfish active compounds that need testing.”
Arkara left the dormitory just after dawn, along with the other women, and met up with the others outside. The temperature was already climbing towards scorching, and even with the cool of the night Sync seemed to be in trouble.
“You need to drink some water,” she told him.
“Ran out,” Sync said, keeping to Anar’s shadow. “Let’s just go, all right?”
“Sure. Where’s Otto?”
“Not here,” Cicepia said.
“We need to find him,” Arkara said, but the turian laid a hand on her arm.
“We don’t have time,” she said. “If we don’t see the Clan Chief now, we’re risking a fight with all the krogan warriors here.”
“I’d like to see them try,” Arkara muttered.
“I wouldn’t,” Elias said.
Arkara grunted. “Where are your guns?”
“This one has them on a rack in its mech,” Anar said, “along with your armour.”
“I don’t think I can put it on now,” Akara said, glancing around at the stares of the male krogan. “You’ve got my assault rife, Anar?”
“Then let’s go. You’ll have to do the talking once we’re there.”
Targev’s throne was just as she remembered it—heavy, crumbling and sat on a dais ringed by towers that had probably once been part of the defensive walls of a fortified bunker. Whatever roof had covered the area had been ripped off years ago, and now only protruding lengths of rusted metal suggested that there had once been a structure overhead. The giant statue of himself behind the dais was new, although unsurprising. It was hewn out of rubble, and Arkara fancied she could see the rough, blocky joins where piece had been cobbled together. Shoddy work, even by krogan standards. Targev himself lazed on his throne, one leg thrown carelessly over an armrest. He was flanked by two bodyguards, and Arkara saw the flash of metal in one of the towers above.
“Two krogan the the towers and two o’clock and ten o’clock,” Elias’ muttered softly as they walked into the centre of the room “Also one behind us at four o’clock.”
“I’ll deal with him,” Cicepia said quietly. “These collars are unlocked, right?”
“Just yank them off whenever.”
“What took you so long?” Targev said impatiently. “You arrived yesterday.”
“She underwent the rite of purification,” Anar said. “Taking a new clan is not something done lightly.”
Targev grunted and turned towards Arkara. “And what’s your name?”
“Our female is mute,” Anar lied quickly. “She does not speak.”
“And how did she become mute?”
“She’s always been mute,” Anar said. “I think it makes her more appealing. You don’t need to speak to have babies.”
Rising from the throne, he strode over towards her, eyeing her as he might eye a prized varren. “She certainly looks strong,” he said. “She seems…familiar somehow. Where is she from?”
Targev turned his glower towards Anar. “Which one?”
“One you don’t know.”
“I know all the tribes, clanless scum,” Targev said and slammed his forehead into Anar’s mech. Arkara tensed as Anar’s helmet rotated nearly a full one hundred and eighty degrees.
A thick oppressive silence descended as everyone stared at the krogan who by rights should have fallen to the ground with a broken neck. Reaching up, Anar twisted his helmet back into its normal position. “This one’s kid hits harder than you,” he said.
Targev roared, and went to headbutt Anar again, when Arkara barreled into him, yanking his shotgun out of his hands and pointing the weapon at him. Behind her, she heard the the now familiar hum of Cicepia’s biotics and an exclamation from a now airborne krogan, and another tumbled down from the tower wall, landing on the floor with a bone crushing thud. The crack of bullet fire rent the air and shots punched their way into Anar’s mech and carved new scars into the rubble pile Sync had ducked behind.
“Hey turian lady, do more of that!” At the back of her mind, the voice was familiar, but Arkara shoved it aside and fired the shotgun at Targev’s head, only to have him duck out of the way and lash out with his foot, sending her stumbling backwards, right into the sights of one of his bodyguards, who had his rifle trained on her. The guard squeezed the trigger and the thermal clip ejected into his face, a hiss of superheated air blasting outwards. Finding her feet, Arkara glanced over at Elias, who had ducked down behind Anar and was tapping away at his omni tool. He gave her a thumbs up and then grabbed both his sniper rifle and his sub machine gun as Anar’s suit opened up.
More gunfire rang in the air and she felt a shot graze her shoulder, and she roared, more in anger than anything else and rushed forward, using the butt of the shotgun to knock Targev upside the head, and heard shot hit one of the nearby bodyguards, releasing the smell of pepper, chilli and something hotter. The bodyguard sneezed, which was promptly followed up by a second sneeze and a third as more of the spices entered his nasal cavities. As the krogan shook his head to clear his nostrils—or waited for them to shut down—a field of blue energy crackled across Targev’s armour, causing it to buckle. A spray of blood splattered her face as Anar unloaded six shots in rapid succession into Targev’s chest, and the clan leader keeled over, gasping.
Glancing around, Arkara saw only the other of Targev’s bodyguards was still in the fight. The krogan in the tower behind them was still struggling in the grip of Cicepia’s singularity and the third warrior had been pulled helplessly into the air by another biotic field, only to fall to the ground moments later, a bloody hole punched through its helmet.
She felt the cool touch of medigel settle over her shoulder, and looked over to see Sync beside her.
“Thanks,” she said.
He nodded woodenly, and she could see his face was flushed and his synthetic implant lights were glowing an ugly maroon. She thought she could just make out a voice repeating the phrase ‘Critical heat levels detected. Engaging survival mode’, but as she raised the shotgun to fire at the still remaining bodyguard, she saw the doctor step forward, his pistol in hand and aiming down at Targev’s skull. It would have been a point blank shot. It would have blown the man’s brains out. Sync moved as a robot, and then he paused, a burst of electricity crackling over his body, and she glanced towards Elias, who had his omni-tool back up again. Then a burst of gunfire sounded and she saw two holes punch their way through Sync’s chest. The human hit the ground like a sack of meat, and while the return fire from Anar brought down the krogan it appeared they were too late.
The mopping up was clinical—Elias finished off the floating krogan with a shot from his sniper rifle and Arkara used Thek’s shotgun to down the man’s last remaining bodyguard. As the dust settled, Cicepia was already trying to staunch the blood flowing from the doctor’s wounds.
“How is he?” Elias asked, running up.
“Bad. I think it punctured a lung.
“No,” the turian said. “But his systems are failing.”