It was only a while before the Normandy reached Arcturus Station. Amber ordered a few of her crewmembers to escort the Blue Suns merc to a medical facility for treatment. While Joker stayed behind with his crew to inspect the Normandy, Saren and Amber sat on a bench within the station. Anderson had been on Arcturus at the time and was coming to meet them after the Alliance commander messaged him. For now, she simply browsed for wedding dresses while she waited. One had caught her eye, and she saved the image of the design. It was a simple, red dress that had a maroon bust and straps. At the center was a rose underlined with white beads separating the maroon from the bright red. With one task completed, she started browsing for accessories to go with it. She came to the idea of a silvery choker with a red stone embedded at the front and an armband to match. The silence broke when Anderson appeared from around the corner, catching the Spectres' attention.
"Shepard, bring me up to speed," Anderson requested, "I was just having a small conference with high command, so I didn't have time to read your full message."
Upon cue, Saren and Amber stood to their feet.
"We just relocated the Rachni," Amber told Anderson, "and we found a Blue Suns merc left for dead."
Anderson raised an eyebrow.
"Is that all?" Anderson paused.
Amber shook her head.
"Yesterday," Amber added, "Saren and I decided we want to tie the knot."
He nodded and slowly sat down beside them.
"I see," Anderson mused, "how long has this been on your minds?"
Saren and Amber exchanged glances before the former nodded at the latter.
"A while now," Amber answered, "and we have the Council's approval on this matter."
A spark of curiosity appearing in his head, Anderson tilted his head sideways.
"Uh-huh," Anderson asked, "anything you need from me then?"
"We can handle wedding plans on our own," Amber shrugged, "but if you want to attend, I welcome it."
"I'd be honored," Anderson nodded, "just keep me in touch as to when it's happening."
Amber gave Anderson a salute before he turned to leave. Both Spectres made their way back to the Normandy. One they were onboard, they strolled through the corridor and passed by Miranda, who was reading something in her omni-tool.
"Commander, you have a minute?" Miranda said all of a sudden.
Amber paused in her tracks and glanced over her shoulder.
"What is it, Lawson?" Amber asked.
The Alliance commander slowly stepped towards Miranda and tilted her gaze at the agent's omni-tool.
"Nothing too important for now," Miranda shrugged, "but something I have had my mind on."
Giving Miranda a confused stare, Amber sat down next to her. By then, Saren glanced over his shoulder.
"What are your interests in the Yahg, anyways?" Miranda asked.
Amber couldn't help but blink twice.
"I'm…sorry?" Amber blurted.
"Yahg, hostile predatory species, communications have been barred with them. I'm surprised you know of the Yahg," Saren explained.
Miranda made a brief glance at Saren.
"I'd prefer not to go over the number of hoops I jumped through."
"So," Amber asked, "why bring up this Yahg issue?"
"Specifically, it ties into the Shadow Broker," Miranda clarified.
Out of curiosity, Saren raised a browplate.
"Really? How so?"
"I did ask him to help me with recovering my files from my old office," Miranda admitted.
Saren brushed a talon along his mandible.
"So what does the Shadow Broker have to do with the Yahg?" Saren asked.
Miranda leaned her head back and sighed.
"Before I was kicked out of Cerberus," Miranda said, "I think I remember the Illusive Man considering a plan to round up the Yahg and make them into weapons. He didn't give specific details, though."
"That would be a potential, seeing their…capacity for improvement," Saren commented.
"If I could convince the Shadow Broker," Miranda added, "maybe I could stop the Illusive Man from getting his hands on them."
"Still, the Shadow Broker is a loose cannon," Saren warned, "I don't think we could really convince him to help unless one of us would be willing to stand up and continue to barter with him."
During a moment of silence, Miranda rubbed her chin.
"Simply put," Miranda continued, "Cerberus is too deeply rooted into the Alliance for the Alliance to deal with them alone. We'll be fighting fire with fire in this regard."
Both Amber and Miranda stood to their feet.
"Would you like some backup?" Amber offered.
"In a couple days," Miranda nodded.
After waiting a day, Saren and Amber stopped by the medbay in the station. They stopped at the receptionist's desk.
"I assume the message regarding our patient is correct?" Saren asked.
The receptionist nodded.
"Yes, he's conscious. He initially reacted with hostility to the staff, but he's stable now. Go right in."
Saren and Amber took this as a cue to step through the door. Towards their destination were a couple of C-Sec officers, ready to run interception if the patient got any ideas. Inside, the Blue Suns merc was without armor and his head was still heavily bandaged. The instant the Spectres stepped into the room, the merc tilted his head towards them.
"Who the bloody hell are you?!" he demanded in a weak tone.
Both Spectres cautiously approached the merc.
"We're the guys who picked your bleeding ass off some barren wastes. What's yours?" Saren snarked.
The merc groaned as he nestled his head into the pillow.
"Oh, I see. So what are you here for, then?"
"We just want to ask you some questions," Amber replied, "first off, what's your name?"
"What's it matter to you?" he spat.
"It's a place to start, John Doe," Amber asserted.
"Fine," he rolled his eyes, "Zaeed Massani, now former founder of the Blue Suns. Ring any bells?"
Amber nodded as she sat down in a chair.
"Now it does," she said, "why the sudden demotion from what I can only presume should be a prestigious position in your organization?"
"It's not my organization anymore," Zaeed grumbled. "my cofounder bastard started bringing in Hegemony loyalists to the ranks. I didn't want those animals in, and he paid a bunch of my guys to hold me down while he shot me in the head."
"Batarian Hegemony loyalists?" Saren raised a browplate.
"My vision was for a primarily human security service for the highest bidder," Zaeed explained, "Vido Santiago wanted more manpower and to expand our list of available goods and services to start rolling in the big bucks. I made it apparent to the fucker I wanted no part in slavery and the fact he even considered it means he should check his priorities."
Saren hummed as he folded his arms.
"Extra manpower, huh?" Saren mused, "does that mean that the Blue Suns will be a problem in the future?"
"Relax, spiky," Zaeed insisted, "they will be an issue, but I want to be the man who drills a hole through Vido's head."
Amber nodded before she stood to her feet.
"Very well," Amber told him, "we've got our own objectives to finish and we can talk about Santiago more when you've recovered."
Zaeed returned his glance at Amber, softness in his eyes.
"Fine," Zaeed sighed, "I'll be here, then."
Amber and Saren said nothing further as they stepped out of the room. Neither spoke a word as they continued out of the hospital. Once they reached the dock, Amber pulled out her omni-tool and began scrolling through news feeds. To her disappointment, nothing of interest caught her eye.
"At least we got to know him," Amber sighed.
"Yeah, I was hoping he'd be the more talkative type," Saren responded.
It didn't take long before they boarded the Normandy. Down in the lab, Amber found Tali conversing extensively with Legion. She eventually decided to ignore it before she and her mentor made their way to their quarters, leaving the quarian and the Geth unit be. Tali glanced at the door to look at the visitors before going back to her conversation.
"Because my father worked in R&D with Geth technologies," Tali continued, "I initially wanted to follow in his footsteps…at least until the humans entered the galactic scene."
Legion tilted his head slightly.
"What were you hoping to achieve?"
"Maybe sneak into Geth space, steal a unit and bring it back," Tali shrugged, "but it turns out that I didn't need to."
Legion flapped his head plates with amusement. Tali wasn't sure why the Geth unit reacted that way until she saw a vid that just started playing out of the corner of her eye. She turned to follow its gaze and saw what it was watching. Seeing the vid of a litter of kittens taking their first steps on their makeshift nest gave the quarian warm and fuzzy feelings.
"Keelah," Tali whispered, "are those kittens like Shepard described?"
"Affirmative. These recordings are fascinating."
With not much else to say, Tali and Legion continued to watch the vid, mesmerized with what the kittens were doing. It was strange for Tali that something so conceptually mundane from Earth's ecosystem could be so admittedly entertaining. She did hear of the humans among the Normandy crew enjoying a kitten vid every once in a while. Now she was starting to see the charm in such tiny critters.
Back in Virmire, Dr. Okeer was still in the middle of making progress with his research.
"Thanks for the tissue core. You're free to go," Okeer said.
"Thanks," Wrex mumbled, limping from the lab.
Outside the door, Jack leaned her back against the wall waiting for him. The instant the krogan, emerged, she tilted her head towards him.
"How was that one?" Jack asked.
"Equally painful," Wrex grumbled.
"Don't the krogan have redundant organ systems?" Jack mentioned.
"That doesn't make me completely impervious to pain," Wrex objected.
"Yeah, that," Jack remarked.
Jack and Wrex started meandering through the corridor. They left through the front storage bay onto the beach head and walked along the sand. Once they reached enough distance from the facility, they sat down near the shoreline and stared beyond the horizon, the sound of waves and the scent of the sea mesmerizing them.
"Well, I'll at least give this place the compliment of having a decent view," he sighed.
"Yeah," Jack nodded in agreement, "feels like home."
The instant Jack said those words, she found herself noticing some form of longing on the inside. She couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly. It was still undefined, formless, drifting in her mind. Was it nostalgia?
"So how do you feel about this operation here? Despite the Genophage experiments?" she asked.
Wrex tilted his head towards Jack.
"I'd say it's not bad," Wrex shrugged.
Jack smiled as she leaned onto the krogan. He put an arm over her shoulder and smiled, staring out into the distance.
"Have you ever," Jack began to ask, "played at a beach?"
Wrex raised his browplate.
"No," he admitted, "what'd you have in mind?"
Jack slowly stood to her feet and slipped off her boots.
"Just a light wade into the water," Jack suggested.
Upon cue, Wrex stood to his feet as he and Jack made their way towards the shoreline. The human biotic didn't hesitate to take her first steps into the water. He followed close behind, feeling the salt water rush over his toes. Smiling, Jack glanced over her shoulder.
"Feels nice, huh?"
"Well…not sure if nice is the word," Wrex blurted, "but…it's…well, maybe nice is the way to go, since I don't know how else to describe this."
As they continued wading through the water, they felt the sand underneath their feet. Jack stopped at a height where she was roughly knee-deep.
"Wrex?" Jack called over.
"Yeah?" Wrex blurted.
With a light kick, she splashed some water onto his pant leg. Wrex yelped for a moment, but after coming to terms on what she was thinking, he couldn't help but grin.
"Ok," he mused, "now I see where this is going."
He splashed back to elicit a similar response from her. Jack yelped, only to burst into laughter a split second later. They continued to splash water against each other, enjoying bouts of laughter. At one point, they started pretending Wrex was a Thresher Maw and Jack would playfully go after him as some sort of game of tag. Ignoring their soaked clothing, they continued to rush through the ocean water, laughing as the two ran along. By the time half an hour passed, hints of tiredness began to show among both of them, so they stepped out of the water to rest from the energetic moment.
"Hey, Wrex," Jack panted as she kneeled on the ground, "want to know what's also great about the beach?"
Wrex caught his breath as he knelt next to Jack.
"Yeah, what?" he quipped.
"Building sand castles!" Jack chirped.
A confused glance returned to his face.
"Sand castles," Jack repeated.
Jack sauntered over to the damp sand and kneeled down before she started gathering some damp sand with her hands. Following her example, the two continued to mold the vague shape of a fortified structure further up on the beach. In a matter of minutes, Jack and Wrex took a step back the instant they finished before they examined their handiwork.
"We did awesome," Jack gave Wrex a gentle nudge, "didn't we?"
Wrex chuckled as he placed his hand on Jack's shoulder.
"That was actually a good time," Wrex admitted.
Leading into the evening, the two sat down onto the beach, watching as the sun dropped lower onto the horizon. Gradually, they were forced further up the beach head as the tide came in. Still, it was worth spending the free time outdoors.