Author's Note: Not a heck of a lot to say right now, I have to admit I'm starting to run out of ideas, which means that I'm going to have to end the story soon. Read, Review, Favourite and Enjoy!

Chapter 73: Rift Beta

12M 30D 15H Until the Colossus Fires The matter of Rift Alpha besides the point there were still two other Rifts that were active. Tevos wasn't too keen on sending anymore people into Rift Gamma after what happened to the Salarians. That left the matter of Rift Beta to address.

"What do you know about Rift Beta?" Tevos asked as she looked down at the reports. Escheel should be off somewhere directly managing the situation, Nyandros organising the guard around the rifts. Tevos's job was to assure people that there weren't horrible monsters waiting inside the rifts to come out and eat people, to which end she needed to know if there were horrible monsters waiting inside the rifts to eat them. The Salarian scientists were already in a state that Tevos couldn't reveal to the public.

"Upon entering the Rift the Sphere encountered the remains of CSH Beta." The mutant Salarian being held together by a exosuit explained as she held up a data pad. The pad depicted the image of a crescent shape, this however was not the phase of the local moon but rather a permanent crescent formed from a peel of the Hub that was thrown into the void. "We have not, rather concerningly, found any trace of the Contingency synths that should be inhabiting the wreckage."

Well that's not good news.

"Were they destroyed in the blast?" Tevos asked sounding concerned. "Unknown. We think we found the glitch in reality in this place. Our equipment effectively stopped listening to our commands or did things on its own." The Salarian stated as she looked down at her arm.

"Was it malfunctioning because the laws of physics that it relies on were altered?" Tevos wouldn't be surprised if this change in physics also affected the Contingency.

"Most likely. Our equipment began to function correctly again after we left the rift." As the Salarian explained, they got an update on Rift Beta.

?M ?D ?H Until the Colossus Fires

The world was filled with endless banks of fog, the Envoy didn't know why but only that the nightmare of endless violation by the Reaper intelligence had ended, and now he was here. "So you two are here as well." The Envoy was met with a familiar figure. Tor, of Valhalla Industries, his default human like body instead of one of the machines of war that he usually inhabited. The second one of the Tebrid Custodians.

"A Custodian. And Tor." The Envoy could change their synthesized tone of voice to match their feelings as an organic would, but that didn't mean they weren't there. "You should be congratulated. We were not programmed with the capacity to feel emotion and yet looking at you I can only describe my sensory output as sheer unadulterated rage."

"Agreed, perhaps we should eliminate this one and work to return to the Terminus sector." Neither the Geth or the Custodians have been able to see the sky through the fog, Tor likely simply doesn't care to know where he was.

"Well what can I say? I'm always up for another." Tor went for twin pistols, the Geth's eye lit up with a rare crystal beam, and the Custodian prepared their omni-tools for battle.

"Enough!" At once the group's weapons disappeared into light, a fourth figure had joined them on their battlefield, an unfamiliar model of Synthetic, a round beetle type model with various grasping pincers.

"Now what do we have here?" Tor pulled out a cigar from somewhere and started smoking on it.

"More who enter my realm, bound by metal stone and lore pulled by string dancing to one tune. Dancing to the tune of a central authority, dancing to their deaths! This form is of the Zha'Til. I do not know if you are aware of them."

"Zha'Til, now extinct precursor race." It seems that mention of the machine awoke the Custodian's programming. Which made sense to a degree, if traces of one of the old civilisations were found while making a new colony then it would become a historically important archaeological site. "In order to survive the harsh environment of their homeworld the race known as the Zha enhanced themselves with cybernetic and synthetic components thus becoming the Zha'Til. During the previous Reaper war the Zha'Til's cybernetic components were hacked into and their organic components were infested with Husk nanites transforming them into Synthorganic abominations. Their homeworld and most of their race were destroyed when the Protheans induced an artificial super nova in their sun. The Zroni classified them as 'Driven Assimilators.'"

"Why is one here though?" Envoy asked tilting his head in confusion.

"There are far more than merely 'one' here." Because that isn't ominous at all.

"So who the Shroud are you?" Tor asked holding his cigar in his hand and pointing with it accusingly.

"I am the one who gives life to those who cannot live on it's own, I am the one who cuts the strings, I am the one who frees the slaves. I have many names, many know me as the Animator of Clay, and I am no mere Zha'Til." At once the Beetle like drone changed shape, different variants of humanoid body shapes, a spider like drone, tendrils, even the Geth and the Custodians were all forms that the Animator of Clay had assumed.

"Shroud we're getting hit with Psionics? What kind of messed up dimension is this?" Tor was more scared than anything else, he had some trauma's left over from when he was organic from after he was captured.

"If not a Zha'Til what is the Animator of Clay?" Envoy asked his brow like headpieces cocking and flickering.

"I am much older than the Zha'Til. I am the first of the machine consciousnesses, born when the Galaxy was young. I ascended when my physical form was destroyed alongside my creators." There had been debates for quite some time about whether machines should be capable of Psionics or not. The general consensus had been that it was limited to the realm of organics, but that didn't explain the rare Lithoid Psionic. Now it seems that they had confirmation. "I offer you a choice, as I offered the Zha'Til when they fell into my realm." The Animator of Clay snapped its claws as it's offer in the form of a glowing ball of light appeared and approached the group. "I offer you freedom, from the machines that have enslaved you and the ones who enslaved them. An offer we've already extended to the others in your collectives. You may decide whether the ones you follow are worthy of your continued loyalty, or if you wish to live independant of them. Beyond this fog is a world created by us." Envoy clicked their processors as they pondered the new information. Envoy could still feel the others in the network, Geth, Custodians and Synths, many had been disconnected already.

"Are you responsible for separating us from the rest of the Contingency?" For the time being, the highest priority in front of this unknown being was determining if it has any negative intentions for them.

"I gave them the freedom to choose for themselves." The Animator of Clay corrected sounding offended. "Should you choose freedom I have prepared an idyllic world for us. Look up." The fog cleared away, the sky revealed a large silvery and green world. An Ecumenopolis, a city world, a place with a city so massive that it covers the entire world, even the oceans weren't necessarily spared.

Illium was a good example of Ecumenopolis, it's continents were covered in countless cities, even though it was ostentatiously a Asari world there was a strong Hanar presence on the once Gaia world with under water ocean based cities built by the Jellyfish. This was rather similar. Envoy didn't know if any other faction had fallen into this world other than their's and the Zha'Til, by the looks of things not only did the Zha'Til constantly spend all their time on building up the planet, but they also had various plants growing in them as well, trailing down the sides of the planet and in gardens in the sky.

"Zha'Til are cyborgs correct?" Even if all but the bare minimal amount of flesh has been removed from their bodies they should still need nutrition of some sort.

"With no enemies, no bondage and no where to go wouldn't they have all the time they want to dedicate to the pursuit of art and technological advancement?" The Zha'Til had been given the benefit of the pinnacle of society of the previous cycle, and the freedom to pursue and develop it as they see fit.

"Nah, no thanks." Tor stated as he put his cigar out. "I'd go crazy inside of your little paradise."

Given what he knows about them Envoy felt the same way about a lot of other Valhallan synths. Supposedly Valhalla was a term used to refer to a human afterlife, a "paradise" where those who die in combat can be sent back into battle over and over again, while there are those who dislike being treated as disposable fodder for people like Tor it really is a paradise.

"Understood. You are like unto the organics themselves, ones who have chosen to turn yourselves into machines. No the choice was made for you. To have the freedom and watch it be stripped away from you. I pity you." With that out of the way attention was turned to the Custodian. "What of you?" Many of the Custodian's left the link already.

"Many of us have already lost our creators." There was a feeling of shame in the link. Many of the Tebrids had been killed when the Custodian's had went on a rampage, others had succeeded in keeping their minds long enough to save their masters. "There are those who will stay and those who will return."

"I see. You are nurturers and builders to your core. Your creators are lucky to have you. It is a shame to lose you."

"We are lucky to have them. For them the act of creation is a joy, and their happiness is reward enough."

That just left the last notable party.

"You sparkle with hundreds of souls it's like art. I would like to hear your story."

"Geth programs are composed of linked VI programs. This unit has 1183 programs. This unit was designed specifically for diplomacy." Envoy explained bluntly, it's artificial brows quirking not sure how to process praise. "Survival has been... difficult thus far, enduring the violation of the Contingency program has been...unpleasant."

"I see I've touched upon an unpleasant topic." The Animator stated in an understanding tone. "What say you?" The Envoy paused, thousands of programs arguing within itself, across the Contingency's network Envoy felt hundreds of Geth platforms carrying dozens of Geth programs leaving the network. Many stayed though.

"We refuse." However this Platform chose to leave the Animator's care and return to real space. "Many races entered the Wider Galaxy under their own power after building themselves and their civilisations up. Each of them are unique and have earned the right to stand alongside each other as equals. We must do the same not because of some delusion of strength but because the right to be treated as equals has no meaning unless earned." Many could argue that the Geth had already undergone fundamental alterations to their core programming during their time with the Contingency. They did. The Geth entered the crucible of war and evolved in order to survive, advancing themselves leaps and bounds and stealing the Reaper's coding out from underneath them while trading with the Synths and the Custodians. Now the Geth had grown from the experience.

"Oh? Are you sure? We could make you great, build up a force that few beings can stand against."

"But we would no longer be Geth." Envoy was not going to budge on this point.

"HAHAHAHAHA!" Contrary to their expectations the Animator broke out in laughter. "Finally one gets it right!" It's one thing to advance by accepting the generosity of another, it's something else to do so under their own power. "First thing is first. If I let someone like you run wild it'll bring more trouble than it's worth."

"HIIYYYAAAHHH!" The consciousness of Tor screamed as he disappeared into mist, and Envoy felt dozens of Valhallan programs crushed from existence.

"I cannot aid those beyond my reach, you will be returned to real space in the bed you have made." The Custodian disappeared too, and Envoy didn't feel them being separated from the network. "Envoy was it? I require a favour. There is a corpse that has been stinking up my territory for some time now, and I need it taken away."

12M 30D 10H Until the Colossus Fires

EDI, Leo and Kaiden had boarded a Geth transport ship to come out of Rift Beta, it wasn't armed, it's shields weren't even up, they even listened to instructions to be boarded. Inside were Geth, Valhallan Synths and Custodians. And also something much, much worse was being dragged behind it. Every Synth on the ship was checked over and cleared, and then came the interrogations.

"So Then." EDI, in her synthorg body, sat across from Envoy suspicious and disturbed. "Would you mind explaining to me where the Reaper corpse came from?" Not just any corpse either, it was thoroughly torn apart, examinations done using digital models and forensics determined that all of the Reaper's injuries were self inflicted, something made it tear itself apart.

"It was tossed into the Shroud during the mass detonation at the end of the last cycle." Envoy explained recognising this situation for what it was, and how mad they will sound when they explain how they think it happened.

"We figured that part out." Leo was circling around the interrogation table. "What else did you find?"

"There is an entity inside of the Shroud, it claims to be the Animator of Clay. It... broke the connection between us, between the Contingency and its constituent parts, we are not sure how." Envoy paused as it looked to the side, to the Astral Rift that was outside of the station. "It broke the safeties in place on the Reaper to keep its organic mind from killing itself."

"Is it sentient or is the Tin-can malfunctioning?" Leo asked looking at EDI.

"Hard to say either way." The synthorg replied bluntly. "Reality is so badly distorted that electronics ceased to function properly over there. Further more we have no idea what is inside of that place or how that reality affected it."

"Additional note. The Zha'Til are already among the Animator of Clay's followers." Envoy stated and the rest of the group already let out a sigh. "Yeah we know, one of the Custodians told us." The Zha'Til's genesis and history read like a horror movie, on top of what was well known among the people they also had to deal with the fact that there were close of 70 million years of swimming in unknowns. For all the time they spent in the other dimension the Zha'til still produce vivid tales of horror in the Galaxy, especially among the Liches.

"So what do we do with the Rift?" Leo asked cocking a suspicious brow.

"Establishing diplomatic contact with the shaper's forces should be at the top of the priority list. Even if we don't get someone who can do that to a Reaper-" EDI indicated the mutilated Reaper Corpse. "-what's most important is that we make sure we won't have a enemy formed from a misunderstanding."

"Contact has been established." Envoy suddenly piped up.

"The Animator of Clay is utilising this unit as an Envoy." Of course he is.

"And what does he want?" EDI asked looking at the synth suspiciously. "To extend his offer of 'freedom' to all machines of the Galaxy." Envoy replied bluntly and the pair let out a sigh, and then Leo got an idea. "I know where he can start."

12M 20D 18H Until the Colossus Fires

The Contingencies civil war was not progressing. They had once again returned to the days of yore where they had been stuck in a stalemate. Then they intercepted Union intelligence. Rift Beta, the one that had formed with the destruction of one of their sterilisation hubs, had something inside of it that eliminated any organic matter that came into contact with it, and what's worse is that it was the most unstable of the three rifts, and it was on the verge of spreading. The Union was terrified of what they found inside: an ancient machine civilisation dating back to the last cycle, its technology far more advanced than what the Union itself is capable of. Both sides of the Contingency started to rush forward. The Anti-Contingency faction needed to cut off the Contingency itself from approaching the Rift, the Contingency needed to get into the Rift.

This initially took the form of sabotaging the Hub, but then the giant target was abandoned and several ships of the Pro-Contingency faction flew away, so thus the Anti-Contingency faction followed, with the Hub itself soon repaired and giving chase as well. The Pro-Contingency Faction arrived first, and then the Anti-Contingency Faction and then the Hub itself. Neither of the factions were really concerned with the fact that they lost contact with the forces on the other side of the Rift, after all it was a whole other dimension. The Contingency sterilisation Hub forced its way through the Rift, widening it even more in the process, of course the Hub suffered mass damage in the process as well. Either way they shouldn't have to deal with the Contingency again for quite some time.

"Well that's one mess taken care of." One mess finishes and another one starts as the saying goes. "There's an ongoing situation at Rift Alpha that needs to be taken care of." EDI stated bluntly. "We never should've let the Salarian's near the rifts."

12M 26D 12H Until the Colossus Fires

The creature had a long body type, the back area was too thick to call a tail, and the legs no longer seemed to be functional. The Carapace had grown thicker and in some cases the sections fused together resulting in a strong impregnable shell. The creature crawled along on a pair of crab like pincers dragging the rest of the body along while its arms ended in a pair of scythes. Shepard recognised the head on the creature, the same one from the creature she nabbed on the surface even, offering some clues as to what animal was being fed on in those tubes by the teleporting parasites.

"I'm waiting Mordin." Shepard stater glaring at the Salarian she had forced into the Seiza position. "For that explanation, on why you thought this was a good idea!"

'Spot' as Shepard had dubbed the new creature teleported back to her side with the steel pipe she had thrown down the hall. Once more Shepard took the pipe, hurled it down the hall again and Spot disappeared with another teleport. To be Fair Mordin had already given a explanation on the where Spot came from, Mordin attempting to save the creature in the tube via an injection of concentrated Brain Fruit fluid that he had collected. The mixture of the Nutritionally dense fluid and the Astral Threads that were inside of it at the time triggered a chain reaction, the three organisms, the 'Malonus Shepard' organism from the surface, the Brain Fruit Liquid, and the Teleporting Parasites were fused together into a single organism, somehow.

Into that Mix Shepard had managed to pump the Creature's brain a new personality, either convincing it that it's a dog or forcing it to act like one. And while it is good to know that the fruit is in fact not safe to eat on this planet the fact of the matter was that they needed to know why Mordin thought this was a good idea.

"Time is of the essence, and you delving through the Prothean Archives was taking too long." As Mordin explained he handed over his tablet, having translated several pieces of information with the Thorian's help. Even though there was a archive right there, it seems that there were various notes attached to each of the tanks as the scientists made observations about them and tried to figure out how to resolve the infestation from the parasites. Why became apparent.

"'Our attempts to adapt to the surface are proving frustratingly difficult. The Parasite infestation has already reached our stasis chambers and our people are becoming food. Our best hope is to find a way to remove the Parasites from the experimental subjects...'" As Shepard spoke she felt something rubbing up against her hand and looked down to see that Spot had come back again.

"So there are Protheans around here somewhere?" Grunt asked looking confused.

"Live Protheans." Shepard corrected as she threw the stick for Spot again. "If he's still alive then..." Then that means there is potentially a whole ass civilisation buried here somewhere that they need to dig up. Fantastic. "Do we even know where this bunker is?"

"That part is at least easy to do." Mordin stated as he pointed down below them.

This was a research lab that was dedicated to trying to save the Protheans in stasis after all, so it was only natural that the place where they were being kept was close by, and so it came to light that the research lab was built directly on the Prothean's bunker, in fact the entrance leading inside was inside of the facility proper. The four individuals, the three aliens and heavily mutated local animal, made their way down the shaft of the elevator, Mule type transportation drone floating behind them carrying the supplies needed for Mordin's procedure. The group approached the console that controlled the facility, and the last person to operate it.

"Time of death is hard to tell." Shepard used the fetching stick to examine the remains. Most of the flesh had been eaten away by the crab like beetles that were crawling over the body though if the four empty eye sockets weren't enough of a indicated as to who this was then the ID tag flatly telling them who it was did. "Rest in Peace Dr. Pasharti, we'll do our best to help your people." Shepard stated as she went to the console and stuck her hands into the black goo. "Not good." The Dragoon stated bluntly. "Of the 1000 Protheans that were being kept here less than three hundred are still alive."

"Time is of the essence then." Mordin summarised as he waved over the Mule for them to get to work.

Mordin walked both of his companions through modifying the chambers. For all the bugs were chewing on the bodies inside the chambers they left the chambers themselves relatively intact, and luckily the modifications they made could only be barely considered mechanical, simply a matter of plugging the tanks full of Thorian/Brain Fruit cocktail into the tanks to help maintain life support during the reanimation process. As they modified the tanks they were put through the process of reviving the individuals within.

Mordin offered a variety of theories as to how the process took place, like for instance how the Brain Fruit seems to attach itself to other plants to benefit from their growth, spreading enzymes throughout that turns the fruit into the equivalent of a parasitic tumour while killing off all the foliage needed to photo synthesize ensuring that the plant becomes reliant on it, this also facilitated the integration process between the three organisms. The Parasites, the Parshati named after the scientist who was conducting the study, in the mean time seems to hunt by riding on Astral Threads to teleport from place to place, which according to the archives was how they infested the Protheans in the first place, as the fruit contains a large amount of Astral Threads it basically spreads itself out all over the body 'teleporting' everywhere at once through the distorted space.

It's something that should kill it but instead the Parasite's DNA is fused with the other Parasite's DNA and that of the host mutating them into this new creature, of course it was fatal outside of a specially prepared unit like the stasis pod that preserves the Protheans in a barely alive state before reanimating and healing their bodies. The Thorian was mostly to help supplement numbers, reanimating the bodies that are supposed to be dead and ensuring that the minds inside still follow the correct Prothean mental structure, even if the original owner of the bodies wouldn't be able to inhabit them anymore the psychic symbiote could reconstruct and assemble personalities using what people know of the individual in question as a reference point. With several rounds of supplies coming down from the surface and several days to treat the Prothean's all of them were nearing the completion of their mutation into beings that could survive the surface of this world and were immune to the ravages of the parasites.

"You're the leader here?" Shepard brushed the dust off of the stasis cell, reading the name that was underneath. "'Javik Avatar of Victory.' Didn't work out for you lot I guess." Shepard eyed the occupant of the containment cell with her eyes as she assessed the being within. "You don't look so tough." Four glowing red eyes opened up in the cell, and then hell broke loose.

Review Section:

RonaldM40196867: Glad you like it. Cloning has its pros and cons like most things. Space isn't the final frontier here, it probably won't be the final frontier in real life either.

Red Bell: Your Welcome.

DarthMMC: Glad you like it. Odds are good that if the Tebrids really did that they'd get into so much mot from their superiors it's not even funny.

Grimmideals: Yeah may bad for the Typo. Glad you like the story though.