No one outside of my team knew that Garrus had for a time been Archangel, vigilante extraordinaire, but I thought that the three of us had enough in common to make a formidable trio no matter who the contract target. My whole team had been trained to kill in one way or another but I thought we three were the most stable of the group. I should probably have found that frightening but having reliable firepower had repeatedly been critical to our success. These were my two closest friends, now, and I wanted to do this right for Thane.
We waltzed through security despite being heavily armed. My name and Garrus's connections eased the way. We stopped at Sergeant Bailey's desk just inside the checkpoint. I'd met him on my first stop here. I had been declared dead a couple of years earlier, probably because I had been, and Bailey had been thoughtful enough to notify the computers that I was not after all. He'd waived the red tape for me out of respect for my title and my history, which made him a weak point in the bureaucracy no matter how much I appreciated the help. He glanced up from his paperwork.
"Garrus Vakarian. Holy crap!" Bailey exclaimed. "How many other dead people are going to come through this checkpoint? I should have known you’d be with Commander Shepard." The two exchanged greetings and Garrus asked after the organized crime groups they'd both pursued. Thane shifted impatiently from foot to foot but the schmoozing was important.
Finally, Garrus sketched out why we had come. Bailey was immediately sympathetic, having kids of his own. He confirmed that a Drell had come through security and pointed us to a contact that might be able to give us more information. I noticed how Thane had narrowed his eyes when Bailey mentioned a man named Mouse. When we were in the taxi on the way to see him I asked if he knew the man.
"I do not believe that it could be the same person. The Mouse I knew was just a boy, and one whose life made it unlikely that he would live this long."
I exchanged a glance with Garrus in the rear view mirror and the two of us probed, insistent but kind. Both of us had histories that left little room for judgment, and we made sure Thane knew that, but we needed to know what was bothering him if we were to work as a team. Thane told us how he had used a network of street children as informants, providing them with treats and money that they would have had no other way to get.
I'd been a street rat myself, as a child, and I knew how thrilled I would have been to help a handsome young stranger and pick up a little money. Garrus had spent time working with those same kids as a Citadel cop. Life meant a lot less to kids who saw each other die of hunger and disease or join gangs to kill each other every day. While we could understand his guilt over what he now saw as corrupting innocents for his work, Garrus and I tried to help him understand that these kids weren't like young Drell, raised in a community where they were valued and looked after by everyone. Thane had likely been the only adult who had made the children in his network feel useful or rewarded them for anything.
We arrived and stepped out into a bustling and congested thoroughfare. As we looked around, trying to decide our first move, a young man crept up hesitantly despite the wide berth most gave our intimidating crew.
"Thane? Thane Krios?" he asked. The rough look of his clothes and his dirty hands made the quaver in his voice all the more noticeable. Thane turned and immediately recognized the man. "Mouse," he said, his voice almost a sigh. To my surprise, he held out his arms and they hugged tightly. It seemed that Thane had felt more for those children than he had let on. I guessed that, because he had been neglecting his own son to be with them for various jobs, he’d seen them as a substitute, a way to make up for how little time he could give his own boy. I wanted to hug Thane too, just then, but I settled for a meaningful glance at Garrus. It seemed that Bailey's information on Mouse’s location was accurate, at least.
Thane broke away and looked sternly at the young man. "I need your help again, Mouse. I’m looking for my son."
"Sure," Mouse said eagerly. "When I saw that he had that holo you took of me when I was a kid I knew you’d want me to help him. You must be proud that he s carrying on the family trade!"
"No, Mouse," Thane said sadly. "I cannot let him make the same mistakes I did. I need you to help me to stop him."
Mouse looked confused and agitated. "I recommended him to my boss, Thane. If he doesn't perform it's my ass on the line. The name Krios still carries a lot of weight in some circles but it was my recommendation that got him the job. You’re gonna get me killed!"
"That is not my intent," said Thane. "If necessary I will complete the job myself. But I cannot allow Kolyat to follow my path."
With the assurance that the contract would be carried out Mouse relaxed a bit. "If you say you'll do it then I believe you," he said, "No one has to know who pulled the trigger." Thane shook his head slowly. "Everyone must know, he countered. “My son cannot be known as a killer. I will not allow people to think that he can be hired to bring death to their enemies. That life is not for him."
"What," cried Mouse, "you're too good for us now? It didn't seem to hurt you so badly. You always had fancy clothes and plenty of money to throw around and you don't look any worse off now."
Uh-oh, I thought. This was going nowhere good. Thane was being torn between his own past and his hopes for Kolyat while Mouse was defending his entire life. I decided to step in before either of them could say anything more hurtful. I was yet again cast in the role of the heavy so I steeled myself and stepped forward. I shoved Mouse back into an alcove where we weren't on display for the whole district. I drew my pistol and shoved it into his woefully thin belly. I hated this crap.
"Look, Mouse," I growled, "you can tell us who hired Kolyat and worry about the consequences later or you can worry about me right now. We don't have time for this shit."
If Kolyat had taken the contract days ago then time must be running out on it. People who hired killers didn't generally have a lot of patience waiting for results. I could feel Thane's gaze on my back as I made threatening noises at and generally abused this boy for whom he had once felt so much. I hoped we would have a chance to talk about it, later, and that he recognized why I had taken over the conversation. Garrus casually stood behind him, keeping watch for any untoward interest in our little meeting.
Finally, Mouse folded and gave us the name of the man who'd hired Kolyat. "Thank you," I said. "I'm sorry I had to do that. If we can protect you we will." Unsurprisingly, Mouse looked doubtful and ashamed. I imagined never having joined the Alliance and living the same life on Earth that he was here on the Citadel. It was likely that we had caused irreparable damage to his reputation and destroyed his livelihood. We may be able to keep him alive while we were here but I'd shortened his life expectancy considerably no matter what happened. Thane and Garrus must know that, too. Some days I hated myself.
I couldn't take the time to wallow, though. Thane, Garrus, and I headed back to C-Sec to ask Bailey about the man who had hired Kolyat. The taxi ride back was nearly silent as all of us absorbed the implications of my latest "good deed".