Garrus, Jack, and I made our way back to the Normandy, leaving Joker to do whatever it was that he did to get aboard when no one was looking. He must have some secret cloaking abilities because he turned up in his seat without anyone being able to say how or when he arrived. At times I suspected Cerberus had installed a secret passage between the bridge and his bunk. No one wanted to know how he relieved himself considering how rarely he was out of that seat while on duty. I mean, would you ask him how he peed without ever leaving his leather chair? I left calls of nature between him and EDI, hopefully not literally.
I delivered the goodies I’d picked up on the Citadel to muster morale and loyalty among the crew. As I’d be relying on them for the foreseeable future I wanted to make sure they had no reason to distrust me or sabotage my ship. Donnelly in Engineering was excessively grateful, not at all to my surprise, but I let him down as easily as I could while holding down my lunch. Sure, he was attractive, but he came on awfully strong.
While meandering around the bowels of the ship I was reminded of another piece of waste that I’d forgotten: Zaeed still occupied his spot by the trash compactor. As we’d already left dock I resolved to deal with him on our next vaguely-civilized stop. He’d not actually performed any service other than riding around the galaxy and eating my food so I hoped he wouldn’t insist on my completing the agreed mission before he’d leave. I’d hate to have to jettison a cube of bounty hunter regardless of how convenient the machinery to his bunk.
I returned to the CIC and the galaxy map, intending to get something useful done before Miranda started making noises about spending too much time in Citadel space. I had one more dossier, for a krogan warlord named Okeer. The details were sketchy as ever but I knew it was too much to hope that he’d be as much fun as Wrex, the Krogan who’d traveled with my old team. Wrex had been exceedingly unusual, a progressive member of his species that looked forward to creating a stable society rather than giving in to the desire for war and conquest that had been genetically enhanced in them by the Salarians so many generations earlier. He’d also had a sense of humor so sharp and dry it could cut you and stop the bleeding all at once.
Garrus didn’t know where Wrex had gone after I’d died. I hoped he wasn’t working with some mercenary band and we’d end up killing him. I had enough on my plate without that sort of guilt. But, whether Okeer was funny or cruel, his redundant organ systems meant that he would take punishment like no other species and his powerful, squat form and warlord training promised that he could dish it out as well.
As always, things moved at the speed of molasses between actual missions. We dropped dozens of probes, picking up raw materials to use in upgrading the ship, our weapons, and our armor, and to help Mordin research a way to keep the swarms of bugs from freezing us whenever we finally caught up with the Collectors. TIM said it was only a matter of time before he figured out where they would strike next.
I presumed that meant that he’d milk them for whatever information he wanted and then turn us loose on them like the snake he was. Cerberus was certainly not above selling off humans wholesale if they thought there was an end to justify their means. I couldn’t guess what TIM’s level of psychosis could find to be a reasonable excuse for kidnapping thousands of human colonists, nor could I believe that they still lived. Until I knew I’d have to go along for the ride and let saner minds in on the situation in the hope that we could save some lives in the long run.
We finally arrived. The shuttle landed in the crumbled remains of a city, rusted metal and gritty stone tumbled into a maze from repeated explosions. Yet again, the intel was so incomplete as to be useless. It was a war zone where no war had any business being.
The upshot? Some power-mad woman—there seemed to be so many more of them in the galaxy than when I’d died and I hoped it hadn’t been my influence—had arranged this world as live-ammunition training for mercenary troops. I can only assume that she got off on watching inept recruits getting killed. We intercepted a scout who’d been shot in the leg. It wasn’t a fatal wound but he was too green to know it so I dangled a pack of medi-gel in front of him and extracted some more information. Okeer’s role in the whole mess was unclear, even to someone supposedly on the inside but he did know that the warlord was breeding Krogan to fight the trainees.
That made sense on no level, considering the genophage the Salarians had also given the Krogan. Their live birth rate was barely high enough to sustain the population. I’d destroyed the base where Saren had been breeding thousands of them because he’d been using the mind control abilities of Sovereign to make them his slaves. I’d had to nuke the damned place and lost my gunnery chief in the process. It was really going to piss me off if some Krogan was acting against the best interests of his entire species and I had to glass a whole city again to make him knock it off.
At least this one wasn’t as beautiful as Virmire had been. I still had nightmares about that lush, kilometers-long beach getting flash fried as the Normandy had blazed away with the half-dozen salarian special forces guys we’d managed to save. But why would a Krogan find a way to breed without being concerned with the genophage and then send the results out to get killed by trainee mercs?
We fought our way through the newbies, using their confusion at our presence to our advantage. I’d brought Garrus and Jack, of course, and we took a few opportunities between skirmishes to consider our objective. Even when we weren’t fighting the chatter of gunfire sounded all around us. This had to be the stupidest idea for a training camp ever conceived. I’d be surprised if one in thirty recruits managed to come out alive. Dead things of every sentient species littered the landscape, an appalling waste of life. This wasn’t going to do Jack’s impression of how people in the galaxy treated each other any good.
Hell, who was I kidding? Nothing we were likely to see in the pursuit of the Collectors was likely to make the impressionable young lady believe that beings were inherently good. As a rule, the people we encountered sucked, no matter the home world. I suspect it may have affected my own sunny disposition along the way.
We came to a spot where a lone Krogan was picking off a string of people with rocket launchers who had the high ground. We picked off the trainees, Garrus and I using our sniper rifles to good advantage and Jack simply throwing her biotic powers at them to crush them against walls or topple them from walkways. Mordin had given me some fun ammo that froze the idiots solid, negating any concerns about return fire and causing an almost musical tinkle of ice as we cracked them one by one.
The Krogan showed no interest in killing us so we fought beside him until whoever commanded these troops stopped throwing them at us. When it quieted down, I asked him his name but apparently he didn’t have one. He explained that he’d been grown in a tank but that the mental programming he’d been given had failed in some way. It was a confusing conversation but apparently the poor thing was only a week old and had spent the entire time hanging around in this courtyard of death waiting for something that he couldn’t articulate. I’ve never wanted to hug a Krogan before but this baby deserved much better. It was only a matter of time before it was overwhelmed and killed or simply starved to death.
Garrus looked as sad as I felt and Jack just looked angrier than usual. The Krogan showed us how to get to the lab where Okeer waited. When we arrived I found the same Asari idiot who’d been helping Saren breed Krogan lingering in the vestibule. She tried to justify her presence at yet another slaughterhouse but I wasn’t about to listen to her again. I shot her out of hand and opened the door.
A scarred, reptilian face peered out of battered armor beside a tank with a full-sized Krogan inside. A brief chat revealed that this tank was his crowning achievement and that he’d come with us only if he could bring it along. No sooner had I agreed than the moron running the place said she’d decided to abandon the whole project and blow the tanks of all of the embryonic aliens. That mentally deficient bitch was going down no matter what else I did here.
I rushed Garrus and Jack up to the roof and found her, blew her ass out of the water, and ran back downstairs. The room we’d left was filled with poisonous fumes and Okeer was dying, having stayed to preserve this one tank. I called Joker to fetch us and the tank before I decided to nuke the stupid place out of principle. Thanks for the great squad members, TIM, I thought, a giant baby Krogan to help me save the galaxy.