I have returned! Merry Christmas to all my readers and reviewers out there; this is my gift to you. The start of something new—the foundation for a very promising fanfic.

My only caution to you is that this story represents many firsts for me. First time with a beta reader. First time posting a story that hasn't been completed yet. First time really taking the time to get into a romance. I'm understandably nervous about pulling it all off—and that's where you come in. Assuage my fears, and let me know if you like it!


We all know the hero of Mass Effect—Shepard—a man (or possibly woman) of varied backgrounds based on our choices, but always a man that can be counted when the galaxy's at stake. The man with all the cameras looking at him, all the publicity, all the fame.

This tale will move beyond this man, and focus instead on a humble, brash Systems Alliance soldier. She stands shadowed and quietly behind him, an integral part of the reason he is considered a successful hero to all races. She isn't publicly honored for her sacrifices. She has no notoriety. She's down to earth; she's real; she's trying to make it through a difficult time in human history... And she has a story that can be just as powerful and thought-provoking as any other...

Warnings: Rated M, alternate reality, adult themes, brief language, femslash
That's right, a few details will differ from the game itself. I will promise, however, to keep everyone in-character even as a few things change around them (for the better, I hope!).

My eternal thanks and gratitude are extended to LadyHawke Legend, a beta reader like none other. I couldn't have done it without her. You're awesome, and such a trooper! Heck, you're a legend.

My Cause and My Love

Written by

Edited with assistance from
LadyHawke Legend

Mass Effect and related names belong to Bioware Inc.
This original work of fiction was written for nonprofit purposes.
Original characters and plotline elements belong to the author.

© AblatedCrayon 2008

Chapter 1

Private Nirali Bhatia reached down and grabbed her small vidmail player from a sack near the head of her bunk. I watched her in the dim light as she manipulated it, the light from the player's interface making her facial features more distinguishable than before. A moment later, the player began reiterating its stored message from Samesh once again. I knew it was part of her process, reminding her of home. She really loved her husband. Sometimes, I was jealous of their relationship. Of course, I had my sisters. We were really tight, and I loved them all to death. It'd be another 102 days until my next week-long leave. In some ways, this was the most removed we got during a given year: long time since the last leave, and long time until the next. I missed them terribly, so I didn't begrudge Nirali's nightly ritual. She just missed her loved one.

Samesh's voice came over the player, the volume set to low so as to afford some privacy and avoid bothering the others in the camp. Nirali let the entire message play through once before shutting it down. I closed my eyes, laying prone on my bunk, tired from the day's efforts. I let Samesh's voice roll over me, the words too quiet to be distinct and recognizable, but the gentle droning of his voice still serving to relax me. I didn't know her husband, but she was lucky to have someone. Someday, I wanted to have the same ritual.

It didn't seem to be happening any time soon. Here I was, stuck at another backwater rear garrison on Eden Prime, one of humanity's safest colonies. There were no altercations to speak of here, at least, not very violent ones. The peace wore on me. I wanted action; I wanted to ride in like the cavalry and save the day on the frontier worlds. I was so jealous when James left, reassigned to a ship. Every single time I requested a shipboard posting I was denied without comment. I knew why. I knew their opinion of my family wasn't likely to ever change. I did it anyway, every chance I got. Stubbornness is one of my most obvious traits. Their prejudice was wrong; my grandfather was a hero, not a failure. At any opportunity afforded me, I made sure to subtly point that out. Well, as subtly as I could be, anyway.

Everyone I met on Eden Prime seemed simple and boring. I'd been here eight months without a single "relationship" with a civilian. Most were simple farmers. The whole colony had the feel of a small, closely-knit town; where everyone knew most everyone else. It made it difficult to get excited about dating.

So I channeled most of my frustrated energy into working. I wanted to be the best damn non-comm officer ever. My unit often complimented me in private, face to face. I had no idea what their official reviews of my leadership said, but most seemed honestly impressed, so I assumed the majority was probably positive. Another log to fuel the fire, proof that I was being discriminated against by the brass.

Of course, the brass had nothing to do with why Shanxi went south. The blame belonged squarely with the turians who invaded the planet and destroyed entire city blocks just to force a couple of my grandfather's garrison troops to surrender. He had to give in before the civilian causalities racked up even higher; he had no choice. The turians controlled orbit. Until help came, he was only going to cause more innocents to die by holding out against them. So he became the first and only person to surrender to an alien force.

My heart burned with such an intense hatred for that turian general and his invasion force. He was the reason my family suffers social stigma. Every one of my CO's eventually finds out my relation to General Williams, and that's the shadow that holds the Williams family back. It isn't fair, and I will never stop fighting for our family. Eventually, they'll all realize their mistake.

The room was finally darkened as the last few marines climbed into their racks. I heard the creaks and groans as they got comfortable. From my point of view, I could see Nirali was lying on her back, head on her pillow, unmoving. She was always good at getting right to sleep; like she had a light switch on her that she could just flick any time she wanted. I wasn't expecting to go to sleep right away when I closed my eyes; I wasn't so fortunate. However, as a child I'd always been told closing them would still help my body recharge even if I couldn't sleep.

I wondered what trouble James would repel at his new posting. He'd probably stop a few batarian slavers from capturing civilians on a frontier world; be a part of the charge that rescued civilians from certain death. He'd probably make a difference.

It didn't matter who protected Eden Prime; there was nothing to protect it from. Tomorrow, I'd be protecting some scientists as they finished excavating the beacon. There was a good chance the Systems Alliance would send a ship for it; surviving Prothean technology was quite rare. That would be as close as I got to a shipboard posting: watching one pop by and pick up some tech I was guarding. Would it even make a difference if I wasn't here, but some other nobody was? Of course not.

The next morning my unit rose bright and early, got suited up and ready, and then joined the scientists at the dig site, relieving the unit that had been "protecting" them for a couple days straight. Along with my unit, the 212, the 202nd was also guarding the camp and dig site. It seemed overkill on an utterly silent world, but on the other hand, today was not your typical day. Prothean beacons were extremely rare. I ordered a perimeter set up around the beacon. I stayed by the beacon and the scientists themselves, helping out a little where I could.

Manuel muttered to himself while working alongside Dr. Warren. I began to suspect the guy was a little off his rocker; he made me uneasy. I kept away from him when I could, but I never lost track of him, constantly monitoring him from the corners of my eyes.

"Chief, this is Bhatia! I've got unknown contacts south of the beacon!"

I opened up my radio to the entire unit. "212, converge on Private Bhatia's position immediately. Let's go see what's going on." I turned to Dr. Warren. "I've got to check something out. All of you should stay here with these marines, they'll keep you safe."

"What's wrong? Is there something out there?" Dr. Warren looked frightened.

"No, don't worry. It's probably nothing, we just have to be thorough." I turned and checked that the 202nd's commander knew what was going on.

He did, acknowledging me with a nod. "Don't worry, we'll stay here with them. You go check it out."

"All right. Keep those scientists safe," I answered almost in jest, turning and heading south into the woods. It took my unit and I a few minutes to convene on Nirali's position. Once we were assembled, I ordered, "Move out," and lead the way towards the south-east where Nirali had detected her unknown contacts. We moved in silence, not speaking, everyone with eyes and ears open.

We couldn't reacquire Nirali's contacts, so we spent most of the morning just patrolling the area as a unit. It was noon before the 212 found new unknown contacts. I held up a fist and fell to one knee at hearing something in the distance ahead of us. Everyone froze, assault rifles at the ready, sweeping them back and forth, looking for a visual contact. As we searched, I heard an increasingly loud, high-pitched whine. Suddenly, breaking through the dense forest into our field of vision, came half a dozen flying drones with small machine guns mounted to them. "Cover! Cover!" I yelled, bringing up my own weapon to fire on the drones. They were unlike any design I'd seen before. They were round, tiny, and white, and they hovered much higher than the typical support drones the Systems Alliance used. My unit opened fire as they quickly covered behind the nearest available trees. The hailstorm of exchanging fire turned the space between us and them into an instant kill zone. The drones were not well-shielded, and we dispatched a few of them in short order.

I heard the whine of more drones coming. "Fall back to the beacon!" I ordered. Another drone was ripped up by our weapons fire and burst into a small fireball as it crashed on the forest floor. We fell back in stages, keeping up the fire on the drones, taking time behind cover to allow our kinetic barriers to recharge before exposing ourselves to fall back again. As we reached the edge of the forest and entered a clearing, still firing on the drones, we were under a hundred meters away from the dig site, which was located behind some hills that made it impossible to see from our point of view.

I heard some otherworldly chirps and whistles from behind me. Turning around, I spotted what looked like blue flashlights atop bipedal bodies, who were taking aim at us with automatic weapons. "Contacts on our six!" I yelled to the others. "Bunker up in the forest!"

Most of my unit was already out of the forest, driven back by the scores of flying drones. We'd been lead straight into an ambush, and now we were flanked. I knew we were fucked, but I refused to give up so easily. I noticed the barriers wink out on some other members of my unit. Instantly, they were cut down and collapsed to the ground, unmoving. Screaming with an inhuman rage, I concentrated my efforts on the flanking foot soldiers. There weren't enough of them to take us, thankfully. I cut down the last one just as I heard Nirali scream out in pain. I turned around, immediately noticing no one else was left standing with me.

Two more flying drones remained, turning their attention on me so I had to dash away. You weren't fast enough, Ash. You could have saved them if you were faster! I had to force my second-guessing to the side and concentrate on the moment now. The drones pursued; with my low kinetic barriers I couldn't afford to stay and fight. I sheathed my assault rifle on my back mid-run, and then set off at my fastest running speed, arms pumping back and forth in perfect opposing sync to get me going as quickly as I could. The drones were fast; they were hot on my trail even as I ran, and I was desperately looking for better cover where I would have a chance at recharging my kinetic barriers.

I heard the deep bawhump of my kinetic barrier failing as I stumbled over uneven ground. I pulled my pistol, knowing this was my only chance. I launched forward, turning myself around in mid air, and taking aim as I landed hard on the ground, feeling the pain in my rear end from the landing immediately. I kept my aim as steady as I could, and three, then four shots later, the drones were in pieces at my feet. I breathed heavy in utter amazement as I looked at their computerized remains scattered over a square meter or so. As I got back to my feet, I could see the edge of the dig site. Two flashlight heads were wresting a human overtop a purple tripod. Suddenly, a large spike came out of the tripod, impaling him through the chest. I gasped.

The soldiers turned around and spotted me. I turned away and scrambled back to my feet and ran for a rock formation not far from where I'd fallen. Pistol sheathed, I pulled the assault rifle again, feeling it expand into its combat form in my hands. I caught my breath, and then leveled the weapon, preparing for another fierce fight. I had no time to think about my odds of surviving; I had to live in the moment, attempt to get a step ahead of the flashlight soldiers before they outmaneuvered me.

Flashlight soldiers. Wait. Didn't I hear about the geth having lights on their "faces"? Are they geth!? I couldn't spare any more time to think on it. I spun around from behind my cover and opened fire, lighting up the barriers of the nearest soldier. They were caught outside of cover, giving me the upper hand at first. I spotted movement and checked behind me as I covered up behind the rock, fearful I'd been flanked again. Instead, two marines came rushing towards me, joining me at my cover and firing on the geth soldiers.

I breathed a sigh of relief and joined back in the fight, engaging the geth. The CO ordered, "Kaidan, lift that last one!"

Kaidan didn't answer, but swung out from behind our cover and instantly his body was sheathed in a purple—cloud? I hadn't met many biotics, and never seen them in action before, but I was reasonably sure that's what he was. The purple energy lashed out and surrounded the last geth, who began to float up helplessly into the air. Amazed, I watched as the other two finished it off in midair, killing it before it hit the ground again.

I turned to the CO to introduce myself, trying to appear as in control as I possibly could. I was utterly shaken by the sudden dramatic events, so I wasn't so sure how well I pulled it off. "Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams of the 212. Thanks for saving me, Sir."

"Commander Shepard of the SSV Normandy. What happened here, Chief? What are these things?"

"I think they're geth, Sir." I answered.

"Where's the rest of your unit, Chief?"

I looked past him towards the direction of the forest where we'd been cut down. I couldn't see it physically, but it was all too real replaying in my mind. "We were ambushed, Sir. I don't think—," I stopped, emotions choking me and threatening my thin veneer of calmness. I forced myself to swallow and finish what I was saying. "I'm the only one left."

"We're here for the beacon, Chief. Where is it?"

"Behind me," I gestured. "Not far."

"Good. Williams, you're coming with us." When I didn't answer, he added, "Move out."

I nodded and took point, leading them to the dig site. The place was trashed and had several of the purple tripods set up. I warned the Commander to keep his distance from them. We secured the site, but the tall Prothean beacon was no where to be seen, confounding me. "It was right here, Commander. It must have been moved!"


"The camp is up ahead. Maybe the geth haven't hit it yet. Any scientist still there will know."

"Let's go." Shepard ordered, wasting no time. I nodded, beginning to lead the way up the hill.

I saw the smoke before we got there. I exchanged an uneasy glance back to Kaidan as we reached the top. Part of the camp was on fire and had collapsed. Only a couple prefabricated trailers were still standing relatively unharmed. Both had their blinds closed, preventing us from seeing inside them. "It looks like they hit the camp hard." I was distraught. Eden Prime was supposed to be a safe world. How did everything go so wrong so quickly?

Kaidan lock-picked one of the trailers to look for supplies we could use. I told him there might be a blasting charge or two left that could act as a grenade if used properly. As the door opened, I heard the startled gasp of Dr. Warren. "Humans! Thank the Maker!"

I didn't say anything, but I was surprised to discover that Warren was religious like myself. In my dedication to my work, I'd really not talked a lot with the civilians on topics beyond the excavation. I kept my mouth shut and let Shepard handle interrogating them about the beacon and the attack. Briefly, I heard Manuel driveling on about our destruction being at hand. I hadn't liked him much before, but now I was practically certain he was insane. Perhaps this attack pushed him over the edge. I didn't know, but I didn't care to find out either. I couldn't escape Nirali's scream in my head, followed with my hasty retreat and near-death.

"The beacon was moved to the spaceport earlier today," Dr. Warren explained. "For extraction." Shepard accepted this and reassured them they were safe. He had Kaidan lock them inside once again and I lead the squad towards the spaceport.

I was the first to top a hill and spot something huge and vaguely resembling a metallic squid begin to take off from the ground in the distance, near the spaceport. "Whoa!" I whispered to myself, awed at its incredible size. Is that really a ship!? I could hardly believe my own eyes. It had to be the biggest ship I'd ever seen, and despite its bulk, it was capable of take-off and landing on a planet!

I couldn't watch it for long because there were geth all over the spaceport. Shepard ordered us to advance on their position and take cover. We launched a surprise attack and killed them before they had a chance to give much in retaliation. We advanced on the spaceport. My every sense was on full alert as we approached the dead body of a turian the other two apparently knew from their ship.

I heard something move nearby. "Something's moving, over there, behind those crates!"

"No don't shoot don't shoot, I'm human!" A greasy-looking dock worker appeared from his hiding place. He confessed to seeing Nihlus killed by another turian he referred to as "Saren." Shepard let him go, warning him the area was still dangerous. Thankful, the dock worker added, "Take the cargo tram; that's where the other turian went." Then he disappeared into the garage.

Shepard knelt next to the Nihlus' body. I watched him turn the head and looked at the back, forcing me to fight the urge to throw up. He activated his omni-tool and began taking photographs like a dispassionate medical examiner. I tore my vision away and looked at Kaidan instead. "Who was he, and why are we gathering evidence of how he was killed?" I asked.

"The first question answers the second, Gunnery Chief. He's a Spectre. The Council assigned him to the mission." The Lieutenant answered.

"Spectre?" I asked, lacking any comprehension of the term.

"The Council's elite agents—they report to no authority other than the Council itself. They're given full authority inside Council space, too. The Council is going to want to know what happened to their agent, and they're not just going to take our word for it, either."

I shook my head. A united alien attack I might expect, but different agents killing each other amidst the attack? It was totally unexpected. As Shepard joined us, I asked him, "Turians killing other turians, Commander? What's going on here? What are we in the middle of here?"

"It's got to deal with the beacon," Kaidan suggested. "I'd bet my life on it." I said nothing and instead moved ahead towards the tram. The geth were swarming over the whole area. I decided it would be best to keep the high ground and engage from the top of the catwalk before taking the ramp down to their level. I sheathed my assault rifle and pulled the sniper instead. Commander Shepard nodded his approval silently, and then motioned that he and Kaidan would move down to engage more directly. I would be their support.

As soon as they were in position, ready to pop up over their cover and engage, Commander Shepard gave me a signal. I quickly popped over the solid wall that formed the catwalk's railing and took sight on the first geth. Meantime, Kaidan and Shepard engaged the geth, drawing their attention. Moments later, I downed one of the foot soldiers with a shot straight through its flashlight head. It collapsed in a heap and silver "blood" leaked out over the floor all around its head. I pulled back on the bolt, expelling the used shell and loading a new one as I returned it to the firing position. I kept myself in motion, planning for the next target: aim, fire, pull away from the edge for slightly better cover while operating the bolt, and then lean forward again to repeat the process.

In short order, we routed all geth forces defending the tram and took it to the spaceport's far end. As we stepped off the tram, Kaidan immediately noticed a large device near the ramps up to the next level and the catwalk. "Demolition charges! The geth must have planted them!"

"Shit!" I swore, quickly agreeing with his assessment. Shepard said nothing, bending down to a squatting position and activating his omni-tool.

"We can disarm them manually, but we've only got five minutes!" he informed us. I scanned the area with my sniper rifle up and ready, covering Shepard while he deactivated the bomb. As soon as he finished, he ordered, "Up the ramp. There's more where that one came from."

Kaidan lead the way this time. As we reached the top and began to cross the catwalk, his barriers were lit up by incoming fire from across the chasm. I brought the rifle up and fired without hesitation on one of the geth. I missed the head shot, but caught it square in the chest, knocking it backwards. There were far more geth up there, however, and they all joined in. Our squad raced the rest of the way across the catwalk and behind cover before our barriers gave out. Sheathing the sniper rifle, I switched to my assault rifle. Then, popping up over my low-lying cover, I squeezed off a four second burst at the nearest geth before being forced back behind cover.

Kaidan biotically shoved half a dozen advancing geth off their feet and back away from us, preventing them from flanking us. Together, the three of us cleared the way, disabling three more high-yield explosives as we advanced.

Finally, we came up to the beacon, guarded by a token force of remaining geth. They were quickly routed and the beacon secured. Shepard turned away and radioed the Normandy that he was ready for extraction.

Kaidan and I stared at the beacon itself. It reminded me of a thin pillar, sticking up quite high in the air. I wondered why it was designed like some kind of monument when it was actually some kind of communication technology from what I'd heard the scientists talking about once before. Kaidan seemed suitably impressed, saying, "Amazing! Actual working Prothean technology!"

I nodded, sheathing my assault rifle. "It wasn't doing anything like that when they dug it up... Something must have activated it." I approached it curiously, my brow wrinkled in confusion. When I'd last seen it, it'd been dark, dormant. Now, it looked powered up: green light flowed up and down its entire length in an uneven pattern. Why does that look like a waveform to me? Almost like water, actually. It's pretty.

I closed within three arms' lengths or so of the beacon, trying to make out what looked like writing along the pillar. Suddenly, a green flash shot out in a large radius, encompassing me. I felt the tug of gravitational forces pulling me towards the beacon. I backpedaled, trying to break free of its grasp, but it was pulling me so strongly that my feet merely slid on the metal grating before they left the floor entirely. Two arms encircled me as Shepard pulled me back down from behind. He threw me clear of its grasp, but the beacon merely switched to Shepard, pulling him half a meter into the air and holding him there. I heard him give a surprised yelp before going quiet.

"Shepard!" I yelled, attempting to get back to my feet and grab him.

Kaidan held me back. "No, don't touch him! It's too dangerous!" I thought I could have broken him free if I really tried, but I listened to a superior officer instead.

Suddenly the beacon exploded, completely shattered, and the force threw Shepard back, causing him to land in a heap not far from us. I ran over and began checking him for injuries as Kaidan radioed in a medical emergency. The Normandy arrived a few minutes later, landing on a pad at the spaceport. Together, Kaidan and I carried him aboard and straight to the medical bay.

Dr. Chakwas began working on Commander Shepard immediately, shooing us out. After fifteen minutes, she emerged from sickbay and greeted myself and Captain Anderson. She detailed the Commander's condition. "He's been knocked cold by the explosion, but there doesn't seem to be any permanent physical damage. I won't know for certain until he wakes up, but I'm cautiously optimistic about his situation."

"Good." Anderson answered. "And you did well, Gunnery Chief. Alenko told me you kept a cool head and helped get him aboard ship for treatment. How would you like to join the Normandy?"

Dumbstruck by his offer, I couldn't answer him at first. When he raised a questioning eyebrow, I berated myself for getting flustered and quickly stammered, "Uh-Y-yes, Sir! Thank you, Captain!"

He smiled. "I'm glad to hear it. We'll be leaving Eden Prime soon; the Council will want to hear about what happened to the beacon. I'll make sure your CO gets your transfer papers as soon as Eden Prime is sorted out, backdated to cover from now forward. Welcome to the Normandy, Chief Williams."

"It's an honor, Captain. Thank you." I managed to collect myself, utterly ecstatic and barely holding my excitement back. I felt like hugging my new CO, but went with a winning smile instead. He nodded and politely excused himself to get back to the CIC. I turned to Chakwas, who smiled, sharing a portion of my enthusiasm, perhaps. I remembered the Commander's condition and instantly my excitement dwindled. "Can I see him?" I asked, worried.

"You can sit with him if you like, Chief. Just don't try to wake him up. His body needs to heal on its own; it will decide when to bring him back to us. Clear?"

I nodded. "Thank you, Doctor." My stomach rumbled and I reached into my pouch on my right leg to grab an MRE I'd stored there. Not feeling it, I looked down, confused. I saw a ragged tear all along the pocket's bottom, completely opening it up; the food was gone.

Chakwas asked, "Looking for something?"

I blushed, slightly embarrassed. "Looks like I lost my MRE. I'm pretty hungry, I haven't eaten since 0600."

Chakwas looked past me to the wall chronometer. "It's 1650 now. Have you really gone without food for that lo—," She stopped herself. "Of course, ship time. What time is it on Eden Prime now, more like noon?"

I checked my watch. "1350, Ma'am. Is there somewhere I could get some food?"

"Of course, right this way." Chakwas led me to the mess hall, grabbing us each some food. We returned to sickbay to eat. After she finished her early dinner, she started working on reports at her desk. I sat on the cot next to Shepard's, laying back against the monitors set into the wall as a makeshift chair back. It was uncomfortable, but hardly the worst thing I'd ever endured. Chakwas came by a little later and offered me several very plump pillows to use instead. I thanked her and piled them up, leaning back into them to watch Shepard's still form. His chest rose and fell slowly. At first, the rhythm was repeating. After a while, it became more random. I mentioned it to Chakwas as she passed by, she quickly started doing some tests, asking for my assistance in holding the sensory equipment over him while she read the results and manipulated the device's settings.

Sometime later, she determined it was abnormal beta waves. I'd heard of them before, but I couldn't remember what they meant; if they were abnormal, that didn't sound good. Chakwas must have read the concern in my face, because she explained quickly, "It's all right, Chief. He's dreaming."

"Ok." I said, feeling sheepish. The man was in this condition because of me. I didn't realize until right then how much I'd been letting it get to me. I returned to my own bed and tried to rationalize my guilt, but it didn't work.

() () () () ()

Using a portable tablet, I accessed the Normandy, and through her FTL comm system, the extranet. The Normandy VI ended up being extremely helpful in getting everything set up. Once I was online, I began a few half-hearted searches for information about my new CO's, Captain Anderson and Commander Shepard. Anderson was a highly regarded figure in the Fifth Fleet. He'd been in a lot of battles and survived them all; and very often he did better than mere survival. He was probably a tactical genius and a hell of a leader, if what I read was anything on which to go. Apparently, Shepard's first name was Daniel. He was an N7, the highest proficiency that could be awarded for special operations. However, there seemed to be some dissent about his decisions throughout his career. Some called him 'the Butcher of Torfan' because he lead the attack on a pirate base that ended up killing every single pirate too slow to escape and got the majority of Shepard's unit killed. I wasn't sure the source was reliable; it wasn't exactly a reputable paper. Still, if there were some truth to it; well, I would have to be aware so as not to be caught off guard by it.

I heard stirring and moaning from the bed next to mine. I quickly closed out the tablet and let it power down, coming to Shepard's bedside. "Doctor? Doctor Chakwas? I think he's coming around!" As I looked at his face, he groaned miserably and blinked several times before managing to keep his eyes open.

"What happened? He asked. His memory seemed to come back to him, and he inquired, "Williams? What are you doing here? Ahh!" He grabbed his temples with each palm and trembled briefly, putting intense force against them. "Dammit Williams!" he growled.

"Settle down, Commander. Take it slow," Chakwas cautioned. "You've been out for almost 15 hours."

"My head is killing me, Doc." His voice was filled with anger. "Dammit!" He hunched over slightly. I felt extremely guilty now.

I tried to apologize. "I'm sorry, Commander. The beacon must have had some kind of security field. I must have activated it when I got too close, and you had to push me away—"

"Out. Now." He said curtly. I knew an order when I heard one. I gulped painfully and nodded, swiftly walking out, feeling smaller than a microbe. I heard Chakwas defending me as she examined her patient. It didn't make me feel any better; he had a right to be angry.

I stopped just outside the mess hall and took a few steadying breaths, reining in my emotions before they could break past my defenses. It wasn't easy, and I felt like I was on the verge of tearing up regardless, but my pride kept the eyes dry. I shuddered involuntarily, but began to feel a little better. The worst had passed.

Captain Anderson nodded to me on his way into the med bay. He and Shepard talked for quite some time. I wanted to be anywhere else when he came, but responsibility kept me rooted in place. When Shepard finally emerged, he looked considerably better. "Sorry about earlier, Chief. That was one wicked headache." Despite wanting to think he genuinely meant what he'd said, I could tell his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. I forgave him regardless; I was deeply religious and forgiveness came second nature to me.

We exchanged a few words about Jenkins, the soldier who'd been killed before they came across me. The soldier whose spot I'd filled. I wasn't particularly happy about what it'd taken to get me aboard a ship. The crew was obviously affected to a degree by the death, and everyone was rather neutral or cold towards me thus far.

"I have to get Joker to bring us into a dock at the Citadel." Shepard excused himself.

"Joker?" I asked.

"Our pilot. It's his nickname. Everyone calls him that."

"Oh," I offered lamely. Shepard moved to depart.

"Sir, if I may, what happened down there with the beacon? Are you really ok?"

"Yes, I'm fine Chief. The beacon—reacted somehow. It put images into my mind—a vision. It's not really clear what it was trying to say right now, but I think it was trying to communicate directly with my brain. Chakwas wants me to write down everything I can remember several times over the next week or so to see if I can remember more." With that said, Shepard spun around and walked up the stairs to the bridge.

Curious to see the Citadel myself, I headed up after him a minute later. The only portals were tiny window slits near Joker at the helm, where Shepard was. I hung back with the marine posted to the door between the stairs and the CIC. I could see the holographic interface easily from here. Anderson had it zoomed into short-range active sensors, giving him holographic representations of the hulking Citadel structure and all the ships in the vicinity. The Citadel—I could still remember learning about it as a child—was even more impressive than I remembered. It was at least twenty-two times longer than any dreadnought in existence. It housed thirteen million people—well, aliens and people.

As the Normandy docked, Shepard came back to speak with Anderson. They agreed to take the full ground team from Eden Prime to see Ambassador Udina. Shepard looked in my direction. "Suit up, full armor, Williams. Get Alenko."

"Aye, aye," I answered, turning and heading down the stairs to deck two. I found the Lieutenant and together we suited up in our armor and entered the interior of the massive space station, heading for the human embassy. Shepard, Kaidan, and I exchanged a few words with our ambassador before he departed for the Council chambers. He told Shepard to attend the hearing before the Council, hoping it might make it harder for the Councilors to reject humanity's accusations out-of-hand.

"Big place," Kaidan observed, looking up at the sky above the Presidium and the embassies.

I kept quiet. They probably didn't know, but I'd never seen an alien before. With all my previous assignments, I was definitely out of my element now. I watched turians and salarians shuffling past below where I stood on the embassy's balcony. The asari caught my attention the most—their bald, blue heads looked like they had tentacles that slicked back and came off the scalp at the back, sticking out into the air by the merest inch. I noticed one asari reach up and scratch her head. I noticed these "tentacles" as I'd first thought of them were in fact not actually muscular nor capable of movement; it was just the way their heads looked. I was considerably less weirded out knowing I hadn't found the Medusa's of the universe.

As we left the human embassy heading for the Citadel Tower, a well-dressed man of Indian descent intercepted us. "Commander Shepard! A moment of your time, please!" That voice seems awfully familiar to me...

"What do you need?" Shepard asked, not paying a great deal of attention.

"I am Samesh Bhatia."


Aha! What have we in store for this encounter!? Should be interesting!

We've starting off slow with some mostly-canon work on Eden Prime. Don't worry, I have far more planned than mere regurgitation. However, this fic will have a slow beginning and build-up across the first couple chapters, so be patient!

My updates will be slower than they were with previous stories, but I will attempt to keep a regular update schedule. It's hard because I tend to write longer chapters than your typical fanfiction, and thus the development process is much longer. I hope you understand and bear with me.

Please leave me a jingle in the reviews page, letting me know what you think! I'm very excited about this fic—but are you?!?