Wild Effect 07

Nihlus took a deep breath to calm himself as the communications channel to Ranma went dead. The fact she had just disobeyed an order wasn't so surprising to the turian, after-all it was one of her best and worst traits he had observed over the last month. She would definitely go out of her way to help people, even if it meant ignoring the mission's primary objective. For a moment Nihlus felt a strange pride in Ranma's choice, but at the same time he felt annoyed at her ignoring the main objective.

'I expected her to do something like this, just not so soon.' he thought and remembered his own early days of ignoring orders to do the right thing. 'Damn, now I know how my commanders felt to be on the receiving end of this that trick. Karma eh?'

"I don't believe it. She's cut comms." Shepard sounded scandalised. "Do we go after her?"

"No. Ranma can handle herself and is most likely helping those survivors back to the Normandy or to safety. For now, we'll continue with the mission. I'll have to have words with her later." Nihlus said as he rechecked his weapons before jogging off. "Let's move."

"You get that Captain?" Shepard asked.

"Yes Commander." Anderson's voice came over the comms. "This is just what I was afraid of. Stay with Nihlus for now. As he said, Ranma can take care of herself."

"Aye Captain. Let's double time it guys." Shepard said taking off after the Spectre.

They quickly moved through the forest, following the wide path and carefully scanning the area for any sign of the attackers. The only things that moved were the weird floating bug things that Jenkins happily described as Gasbags and assured them they were harmless. Soon they exited the forest and reached a flat area before it sloped down towards the dig site at the bottom. Nihlus was waiting for them there.

"These are the co-ordinates." Nihlus said while glancing around the empty area. The central pedestal was exposed and devoid of the beacon. He ran his palm along one of the exposed white walls as he moved around it. 'Definitely prothean.' he thought recognising the designs. Then he saw the two bodies.

"What are those things?" Jenkins asked as the group gathered to examine the metal bodies lying on the ground. Nihlus dropped to one knee.

"Geth." He stated as he rolled one onto it's back to examine it. The shattered head flopped loosely and was unmistakable.

"Geth? But they haven't been seen outside the veil for nearly two hundred years." Kaiden stared at the body with a look of disbelief.

"They have now." Shepard remarked.

"Aren't they why A.I. research is banned?" Jenkins asked.

"Correct. The geth turned on their creators and forced the quarians to flee from their own home world. They are a warning to all organics on the dangers of A.I." Nihlus confirmed.

"You think we'll get praise for taking these things out?" Jenkin's wondered.

"Council law states they should be destroyed as soon as discovered." Nihlus stood back up as he spoke.

"Sweet! Let's go kick some A.I. butt!" the rookie cheered.

Kaiden gave Shepard an apologetic glance as she turned to Jenkins. "We're not here to engage the enemy, Corporal. If we have to fight them we will, but we're here for the beacon first and foremost. I don't want anyone charging into a fire-fight just to collect trophies. Understood?"

"Of course, Commander." Jenkins had to visibly force himself to calm down.

"But why would the geth suddenly attack one of our colonies?" Kaiden wondered.

"My first guess is they're here for the beacon. But the question is, what do they want it for? And where is it now?" Nihlus thought aloud.

"Who do you think moved it? Our side or the geth?" Kaiden wanted to know.

"Doesn't matter. We need to find it." Shepard said. They moved away from the dig and up along the outside slope dug around the site. At the top they took in the sight of the small research area, with its portable cabins in ruins. Doors had been ripped off and the place looked like a bombsite with metal and plastics strewn around the area. They took cover by some larger rocks.

"Perfect place for an ambush." Kaiden remarked quietly.

"Jenkins, check out those huts." Shepard indicated the cabins. Jenkins nodded happily and vaulted over the square rock he was behind. The young marine quickly crossed the area to the cabins and flattened himself to the outside wall before he edged over to the shattered door. On a quick mental count of three he pivoted around the door into the cabin. He did a quick sweep of the cabin with his weapon held ready. Nothing. Then he exited and repeated the task for the other cabin. It too was empty.

"Empty. Whatever happened here, we missed the party." Jenkins said as he stared at the knocked over chairs and equipment. After Jenkin's confirmation the area was devoid of hostiles, Shepard and Kaiden followed Nihlus as the turian climbed to his feet and moved into the area. Nihlus glanced down as they passed a burnt body. He almost dismissed the sight as just another victim when a thought tickled the back of his mind.

"Shepard, how long ago was that transmission we received?"

"It can't have been much more than twenty minutes. Why?" Shepard turned to the turian. Nihlus crouched down and picked up some of the ash around the body. He let it trickle from his digits.

"Judging by this, it's been here longer than twenty minutes." Nihlus stood again and brushed his hands clean.

"This feels too much like a trap." Shepard let her thoughts be known.

"Or the signal could have been set to repeat every thirty minutes." Kaiden supplied another reason.

"Whatever it is we'll deal with it." Nihlus stated striding across the area. As they walked around the rocky ridge the small spaceport came into view in the distance. It sat at the bottom of a steep slope and they saw the bridge down was destroyed, probably hit during the initial attack.

"Holy shit." Jenkins breathed in amazement as they caught sight of the massive ship squatting far in the distance beyond the spaceport. Even from how far away they were they could see how big the ship was. They stood on the shattered bridge and stared, getting their real first good look at it.

"That thing's impossible!" Kaiden remarked, his voice filled with awe. "For a ship that size to land on a planet it would take more energy than every city on Earth uses in a whole month! And taking off is another matter entirely...there's no known materials capable of taking the stresses required to keep something that size together during landing. Unless it's capable of reinforcing its body's internal structures down to the atomic level to withstand the landing and taking-off stresses. And that's not possible."

Nihlus pulled his sniper-rifle off his shoulder and looked through the scope at the ship while Kaiden talked. Red lightning crackled across the shell as he watched and a foreboding sense of dread filled his mind. He slowly lowered the rifle as what Kaiden had just said made something click into place in his head.

"No. It is possible. You've just described Ranma." Nihlus's statement caused the humans to turn to him with looks of surprise or curiosity.

"What?" Kaiden blinked.

"Ranma seemingly produces unknown quantities of energy from nothing. She can reinforce her body to take blows that would shatter a normal human. Use that energy to produce plasma..." Nihlus trailed off as the ship in the distance crackled with plasma once more. He narrowed his eyes as his thoughts went somewhere dark. 'She can't have something to do with this? Could she?'

"She did appear from nowhere on the Citadel with odd memories...and then disobeyed a direct order while cutting comms." Shepard must have been thinking the same thought.

"That can't be right. It's got to be a coincidence." Kaiden didn't sound one hundred percent convinced.

"A wise turian once told me, never ignore coincidence." Nihlus stated.

"Shepard to Normandy. Come in Normandy." Shepard felt a disquieting feeling as static came back as the only answer. Nihlus quickly checked his own comms and Kaiden finally confirmed what they suspected.

"We're being jammed."

"Err guys...there's someone down there." Jenkins pointed towards the spaceport as lone figure could be made out, sitting on a crate. Nihlus quickly placed the sniper scope back to his eye and sought out the lone figure. He felt his mandibles flare in surprise as he recognised the turian below.

"Saren..." Nihlus's jaw also fell open as for once he was caught by surprise. But when Saren glanced up at him, directly meeting his gaze through the scope, Nihlus flinched away in total shock. He stared down at his former mentor as he lowered the rifle.

"Friend of yours?" Shepard asked.

"I'm beginning to have my doubts." Nihlus replied walking to the edge of the ruined bridge and dropping to the ground. Shepard and her team followed after the turian as he made his way down the steep slope to the small spaceport. As they climbed the steps up Saren watched them from the corner of his eyes.

"Nihlus. I'm afraid you've missed the action." Saren raised his head as the group approached. Nihlus indicated with his hand to Shepard's team to stay back as he moved closer to where Saren sat, not taking his eyes from the other Spectre.

"What are you doing here, Saren?"

"The Council thought you could use some help on this one." Saren lied smoothly while clicking his safety to off for the final time. "I'm surprised you left the girl alone in the forest with those survivors."

"Have you been listening in on our comms?" Nihlus asked as their eyes met, not missing the fact Saren had removed his safety.

"I can feel her energy from here." Saren answered and held Nihlus's gaze.

It took all Nihlus's skill to keep his face neutral as all the past oddities between Ranma, Saren, the massive ship in the distance and the attack began making a strange kind of sense. 'Are they working together? But for what reason?' Nihlus wondered.

"Why am I not surprised you can sense her ki? Though I find it odd that you would know of it." Nihlus stated. "Answer me Saren, did you do this?"

"There's a great darkness coming Nihlus. Eden Prime is only the beginning." Saren ignored the question. "If you could only feel Sovereign's power you would know we are all nothing compared to them. Take a look behind me." he indicated the impaled husks with his free hand. "That will be all our fates, to be harvested, processed and ultimately discarded unless we can prove our usefulness."

Nihlus felt a chill at Saren's words. Not at what he was saying but the fact that Saren of all turians was sounding like some religious cult nut-job. He held the older Spectre's gaze for a moment, then took a quick glance towards the impaled husks. At that moment Saren raised his weapon. Shepard shouted out a warning even as Nihlus fired his rifle at almost point-blank range. The force of the impact sent Saren flying backwards over the crates and he disappeared out of sight. Nihlus lowered his weapon, saddened at having to have put Saren down like a rabid animal.

"Damn! I thought you were a goner." Kaiden remarked as the humans rushed up the steps to stand with the turian.

"You took a big risk there." Shepard looked up at Nihlus.

"A calculated risk. Saren hasn't been acting like himself since meeting Ranma. I needed proof...I never expected it to be something like this though." Nihlus replied.

"I think you've gotten it." Shepard turned her attention to the grisly sight of the impaled bodies. "Why'd he do this?"

"Saren's always hated humans." Nihlus answered, but even he wasn't sure that was all there was to it.

While the others were discussing motives, Jenkins wandered over to the nearest towering spike and stared up at the body in morbid fascination. For a moment he swore it twitched, but quickly discarded the notion as fantasy. He turned away from the spikes and his eyes rested on the empty ground where Saren's body should have been.

"Guys! I think we've got a prob-"

Jenkins was cut off as a pair of powerful turian hands grabbed hold of his helmet and gave it a sharp twist. There was a sickening crack/crunch noise.

"One down." Saren stated as he let the corpse drop.

"Jenkins!" Shepard exclaimed in horror before opening fire on the supposed dead turian. Kaiden and Nihlus immediately joined in. Saren leisurely turned to face them, completely ignoring the flashes from his kinetic barrier where the impacts hit and reached for a grenade. With a casual flick of his wrist he sent the explosive device at his three opponents, aiming to scatter them.

"Grenade!" Kaiden warned as he saw the round object spinning towards them. Saren strode forward as the grenade hit the decking and exploded. Kaiden and Nihlus dived to their left while Shepard rolled to her right as the explosion went off. She came out of her roll onto one knee, already bringing her weapon back to bare only to receive a turian foot to her mid-section. Shepard had the air forced from her lungs as she was launched away by the forceful blow. For a moment she was weightless then she hit the decking in a tumble until a pile of crates broke her rough bouncing tumble.

"Commander!" Kaiden was back on his feet and shooting again. Nihlus had dropped to one knee and used his sniper-rifle to take a shot at Saren which was blocked by his shield as easily as a normal shot.

"What?" Nihlus exclaimed but kept shooting every two seconds.

Saren strode over to the human female as she groaned and coughed while struggling to her hands and knees. He grabbed her by the throat and dragged her off the ground. He held her easily with one arm and stared at her in disgust while tightening his grip, cutting of her air supply. Shepard reacted by throwing a punch into Saren's face, which landed with barely any reaction, aside from a narrowing of his eyes.

Saren's head was suddenly knocked forward as a gravity distortion impacted the back of his head. He dropped Shepard by reflex and spun around to see his attacker. Shepard scrabbled away.

The other human was a biotic Saren realised in annoyance. The pest just moved up the threat ladder. Saren raised his arm and sent a blast of red crackling energy at Kaiden, who yelped and dived out of the way, taking cover behind a support. Then, taking his time, the Spectre moved in Nihlus and Kaiden's direction.

Nihlus realised the rifle wasn't touching Saren as the older Spectre stalker towards him. He discarded the sniper-rifle and switched to his assault-rifle and opened it up on full auto. Saren just continued to ignore the hail of bullets as he closed in on Nihlus, who began backing away. Finally Saren grew tired of toying with the other turian and lurched forward, grabbing the weapon and twisted it out of Nihlus's hands.

Nihlus immediately went for his pistol, but before he could reach it Saren threw the rifle, hitting the other turian in the face and knocking his head back. He yelped in surprise and reflectively reached a hand to cover his face from further damage. Saren seemed to blur forward and the next thing anyone saw was Saren holding Nihlus bent double as he held a pistol to the other turian's mid-section while holding onto Nihlus's armoured collar.

"Hold your fire! You might hit Nihlus!" Shepard shouted as she aimed at Saren with her own assault-rifle. Kaiden swore and backed off. "Let him go!"

Saren took that opportunity to lean in close and whispered sarcastically in Nihlus's ear. "How odd that humans would hold their fire to save a turian."

"That's because they're not all the monsters you make them out to be." Nihlus replied while attempting to pull away from Saren's impressively strong grip. He found it was impossible.

"It's a shame you had to come here with them. Unfortunately I can't let anyone who's seen me leave this planet alive. Not you. Not her." Saren stated.

"Why are you doing this?" Nihlus wanted to know.

"I'm protecting the galaxy. That's all you need to know." Saren paused. "And here comes the guest of honour now."

From where Saren held him, Nihlus saw a flash of white burst from the tree's lining the cliff face in the distance. He stared in growing dread as the pigtailed martial artist plummeted towards the spaceport and landed in a crouch with enough force to dent the decking. Nihlus remained silent, praying the thoughts of Ranma having played him for a fool would not be proven true.

"Saren." Ranma stated as her eyes confirmed what her senses had felt from deep in the forest. Her eyes narrowed as she saw Nihlus held at gun-point.

"Finally. I thought you would never show, girl. I've been looking forward to this moment ever since you humiliated me on the Citadel." Saren looked back over his shoulder as Ranma stood up.

"Which time was that? I have trouble remembering them all." Ranma smiled a sickeningly cute smile as she feigned ignorance.

"Ranma! Don't upset him! You could get Nihlus killed!" Shepard shouted a warning.

"Oh don't you worry. I kept count for you. After all, you're only a human." Saren replied.

"So you're challenging me to a one-on-one?" Ranma asked and cracked her knuckles.

"Yes I am. Just you verses me." Saren rumbled. "And to make things interesting..." Saren's gun went off and Nihlus shouted out as white hot agony ripped through his abdomen. The younger Spectre would have collapsed if not for Saren still holding him up. Blue blood dripped to the decking as Nihlus clutched his mid-section and hissed. Ranma made to move but Saren's voice froze her in place as he continued in a mocking tone. "Don't worry. He'll not die from this...not for another five or so minutes."

Saren then dragged Nihlus one way before throwing him away in the other, like a ragdoll. The younger turian yelped again as he hit the decking and rolled to a halt.

"You-" Shepard went to fire at Saren but a heavy impact right into the side of her rifle knocked her aim out. "Ranma?" she stared at Ranma with a look of betrayal.

"Don't interfere in a man to man fight. Protect Nihlus." Ranma said, her voice like ice and Shepard found herself surprised by the serious tone. Saren gave an under eyebrow-plates stare as he and Ranma glared at each other. The air between them seemed to grow heavy and for a moment Shepard was sure her eyes were playing tricks on her as the light seemed to dim and phantom shadows began to dance around the two warriors.

"Commander?" Kaiden asked, looking for guidance as he stared down the sights on his pistol.

"Cover Nihlus." Shepard commanded as she herself moved back, making her way to the injured turian.

"You have five minutes, girl." Saren stated.

"I only need one." Ranma promised.

For once Ranma didn't wait for her opponent to make the first move. She charged forward quicker than anyone but Saren and herself could follow. Saren stood still until the last moment and took a shot at the incoming martial artist. Ranma was already gone when the shot hit the decking as she moved aside while still closing in on the Spectre.

With a primal cry Ranma pulled her fist back and slammed it towards Saren's face only to find it halted with a crackle of red and white energy when she hit Saren's kinetic barrier. She frowned at her blow being stopped, knowing from testing her attacks against such barriers on Earth she was capable of shattering them with a single blow.

Saren gave her no time to plan her next move as he re-aimed at her head. Ranma moved her head to the side, avoiding the super-sonic bullet before Saren had even pulled the trigger and spun into a round-house kick with more force than her first punch. Again the shield held at the point of impact.

"Something wrong?" Saren gloated as he grabbed a second pistol with his other hand and aimed both towards Ranma. She raised both her arms to the side of her head, blocking Saren's arms to prevent him getting a good shot and then pushed his aim away as they went off, bullets whizzing past her ears.

What followed next was a seemingly perfectly choreographed deadly dance as Saren tried to shoot Ranma and she prevented him by either slapping his aim out or dodging. In between Saren's attacks she would occasionally throw another punch at his shields, only to be blocked by the crackling barrier. Behind her the decking was peppered with holes from Saren's weapons.

"We're sitting ducks here!" Shepard shouted to Kaiden as her own kinetic barrier sparked from an off course shot hitting it.

"We have to move him!" Kaiden stated as he moved around the injured turian. He hooked his arms through Nihlus's and began to drag the turian towards cover. Shepard moved with them, putting herself in-between Nihlus and any stray shots, while hoping her own shield would hold out. Nihlus groaned at the fresh waves of pain that being moved caused.

"You're slowing down." Saren remarked as Ranma's attempts at breaking his shield became slower. "Getting tired?"

Ranma ignored his jibe as she redirected another shot.

"Of course, that's to be expected really. Despite your power you're still an organic and get tired. Unlike myself, who has been upgraded to be the perfect combination of organic and synthetic." Saren sounded as if he were having a civil conversation with Ranma, instead of trading super quick blows as he tried to kill her with a bullet to the brain.

Ranma's fist suddenly landed right in his gut, catching the Spectre by complete surprise. Spittle flew from his open jaws as his brain tried to wrap itself around the fact he had been hit. Then Ranma's fist was pulled back and her foot lashed up, catching Saren under the jaw and lifted him off the ground. His vision filled with static for a moment and the next thing he knew he was falling backwards. He dropped his guns in surprise and hit the decking with a bounce before settling still.

"What?" Saren hissed as he struggled to catch his breath.

"Moron." Ranma smirked. "I wasn't tiring. I was finding how fast I could attack without being blocked by your shields. Nihlus did explain how they work you know."

Saren rolled to one knee and held his mid-section. He stared up at Ranma in a new light as he realised she had outsmarted him. A deep rumble grew in the back of his throat.

"You might be able to access your ki but you can't use it properly." Ranma bent down and picked up one of Saren's pistols and began twirling it around her finger. "Your ki is powerful but you're leaking it all over the place. You're about a hundred years too soon to beat me." She gave him her most infuriating smile.

Saren growled and took stock of his position. His eyes moved over the decking to the second pistol, which lay close to him. He could reach that in one dive. Ranma noticed he had glanced away from her and looked over.

'Now!' Saren thought as Ranma glanced at the other weapon. He grabbed another of his grenades and dived towards his weapon while simultaneously throwing the explosive at the pigtailed girl. A shot went off and the grenade exploded in mid-air.

"Moko Tabisha!" Ranma's voice called out as a blast of ki slammed into the pistol, shattering it. Saren rolled out of the blast's impact and turned to stare at the pigtailed girl somewhere in-between surprise and awe.

"Did you see that?" Kaiden exclaimed.

"What's happening?" Nihlus groaned as Shepard broke open a medi-gel container and slapped a blob of the thick gel over the wound to slow the bleeding.

"She just shot a grenade out of the air and blasted Saren's pistol to pieces with that ki stuff of hers." Kaiden explained.

"You!" Saren growled as he climbed back to his feet. Ranma suddenly vanished from view and reappeared right in front of him. Before he could react she kicked him in the chest. Saren stumbled back and tried to put up a defence, but Ranma seemed to weave right through it to land blow after blow onto him. The turian fell back, desperately trying to avoid the whirlwind of blows that was Ranma. Finally his back slammed into a massive metal container with a thud.

In desperation, Saren raised his hands and sent a crackling blast of energy at Ranma. It caught her by surprise and knocked her away. Ranma flipped around in mid-air and landed a few metres away from the heavily breathing Spectre, who looked worse for wear.

"Not bad." Ranma muttered poking her blackened and steaming breastplate. "Interesting use of ki. I'd like to know how you're powering your armour with it."

Saren glared at human with renewed hatred. He was now sure exactly why Sovereign had wanted her destroyed. Her skills were beyond even those Sovereign had granted him, but he still had a trump card he could play. He activated the ezo-implants Sovereign had added to his body and gestured at Ranma.

"What you...doing?" Ranma blinked as she suddenly became weightless and began floating above the decking. "Hey!" she exclaimed as she cartwheeled her arms in a comical attempt to regain control of her floatingness.

"Did you think using my life-force was the only ability granted to me?" Saren growled. He turned to the large container behind him and noted the warnings about weight stamped on the side. With a grunt he made a lifting movement with both arms and the container floated up above his head. He turned to Ranma and gave her a smug look as she realised what he was going to do.

"Oh crap!" Ranma tried to turn, her legs began bicycling, joining her arms.

"Die!" Saren shouted and with a final powerful burst of force made the heavy container race towards the helplessly floating girl. The container slammed heavily into Ranma, flattening her to the side and continued to slide across the dock. Sparks and a loud squealing noise from metal grinding on metal trailed after the container as Saren rushed forward, hands held out as if pushing the container even though he wasn't touching it. Finally the container ran out of dock to cross and Ranma and it slammed into the safety fencing which gave way in seconds to the massive forces being applied to it. The container tilted precariously for a second on the edge before gravity pulled it over. It hit the ground six feet down with a thud and buried Ranma under it.

Saren took a moment to catch his breath before he stared over the wrecked edge of the dock. For a moment he was filled with elation that he had succeeded, but then he realised he could still feel her life-force, strong as ever.

"What does it take to kill you?" Saren muttered and prepared to try and push the container as far into the ground as he could.

Without warning the area rumbled and a deep throbbing noise grew. Saren immediately whipped his head in the direction of Sovereign. He recognised the noise as Sovereign powering up his mass effect core.

"What's going on?" Kaiden shouted over the rumbling.

"It's moving!" Shepard pointed over the high wall at the furthest end of the dock, where the top of Sovereign could be seen slowly moving up. More arcing plasma discharges were seen as the massive ship lifted into the air and continuing upwards, gaining speed as it went.

"Sovereign?" Saren stared up at the ship with the expression of someone who vaguely thought they were being pranked as the Reaper began to leave. "What are you doing?" Saren took a surprised step towards the direction of Sovereign as he continued to accelerate up towards the clouds. Sovereign did not reply.

Saren's eyes widened as he came to the only conclusion he could at the Reaper's sudden vanishing act. He forgot about the human he was supposed to defeat and ran, crossing the dock and vaulted over the barrier to access the train platform with one thought on his mind. Betrayal.

Shepard and Kaiden exchanged a surprised but relieved glance before their comms crackled into life.

"Commander Shepard please respond."

"Joker, that you?" Shepard replied quickly.

"Commander!" Joker's relieved voice came back. "Thank god. When the comms went offline we began to worry."

"Status report!" Anderson demanded, cutting off whatever else Joker might be going to say.

"Two men down and Nihlus needs immediate medical evac." Shepard replied standing up and moved over to the dock edge where the large container went over. "It was an ambush. A turian named Saren-"

"Saren! Ranma was right then. Where is she now?"

Shepard stared down before replying. "Under about three tonnes of container, Sir. Saren crushed her with it."

"Shit!" Anderson's tone of angry, depressed and upset said it all. Shepard could already imagine the chewing out they would receive for her loss. "And Saren? Did you at least get him?"

"No Sir. He just upped and left-" Shepard cut off as the container shifted slightly.


"Sorry Captain. I thought the container moved for a second."

The unexpected explosion of energy that smashed out the side of the container and shot into the air caught Shepard by surprise and she leapt back. Pieces of metals, plastics, grains and packing material rained down over the area. Blinking, Shepard recovered from her surprise and once again looked over the edge in time to see a battered and dented Ranma climb out the hole she was made in the container. Ranma pulled herself from it and quickly spotted Shepard.

"Where'd Saren go?" Ranma asked as she poked the cut on her forehead that was still trickling a little blood.

"Commander?" Anderson tried again.

"Sorry Captain. Change of report. Ranma's a little bruised and scraped but fine." Shepard shook her head in wonder, but didn't make too much out of it. She herself had caused a few displays like that with her own biotics.

"Err, Commander? I can't land the Normandy where you're at. They *really* did a number on the landing area. Looks almost like my room actually." Joker cut in as the sounds of the Normandy's engines approaching were heard.

"Joker, bring us in as low over their position as you can and open the cargo bay doors. Shepard, get Ranma to bring Nihlus onboard. Then find the beacon. Be careful, Saren's dangerous."

"Yeah. I kinda saw that." Shepard replied as the Normandy flew in over head. She shouted over at Ranma. "Ranma! Get Nihlus onboard! We're going after Saren!"

"What? You don't stand a chance!" Ranma shouted back over the noise and wind.

Shepard surprised Ranma when she closed in and grabbed her battered armour and leaned in close. "Listen! Nihlus will die unless he gets medical treatment onboard! The Normandy can't land here and we can't jump up there!"

"But Saren-"

"We have to get the beacon. Even if we only slow him down enough for you to get back out here, we have to stop him." Shepard let go of Ranma. "Now save Nihlus."

"Right..." Ranma didn't want to let them go after Saren. He was too strong for them, but also she didn't want Nihlus to die, and keeping Nihlus alive won out over beating up Saren. Ranma rushed over to the injured turian and took over supporting him from Kaiden.

"Lieutenant, with me." Shepard took off for the train platform.

"Aye, aye ma'am." Kaiden followed.

"Hold on Nihlus." Ranma said as she helped him drape his arm over her shoulder. Nihlus hissed in pain at being moved. Once he was on his feet Ranma pulled him over her shoulders in a fireman's carry. "Sorry if this is rough." she apologised at the further winces Nihlus made as she looked up at the Normandy. Anderson was in view, standing on the extended ramp and holding onto the safety railings along the side, watching on with concern.

Ranma took two steps back before running forward and jumped up the three story height to land as lightly as she could on the ramp.

"Bring him in!" Anderson moved back himself towards the gurney where Dr. Chakwas was waiting. Ranma moved quickly over with the Captain and together they eased Nihlus onto the gurney.

"I've got him from here." Chakwas said as she began examining the wound. She looked up at one of the other crew members with her. "Let's get him to medical."

"Will he be okay?" Ranma asked with concern in her voice as they rushed Nihlus away.

"The doctor's one of the best. She's extensively studied alien biology. Don't worry, he'll be fine." Anderson assured her.

"Good! Now I've got a score to settle with an ass of a turian." Ranma growled and rolled her shoulder. The armour plating caught halfway round with it being bent out of shape. Ranma frowned at the new restrictiveness.

"No. You've done enough. Let Shepard deal with the situation." Anderson tried to convince her it was unnecessary. "You don't need to place yourself in danger again."

"Saren's using ki. They can't beat him without me." Ranma stated while simultaneously gripping the armour plating she wore and pulled on it. The armour held for a moment before it tore down the middle, revealing her white vest almost as if she were some sort of superhero changing into her hidden identity. The small kettle necklace around her neck glinted in the light as she pulled her legs free from the wrecked armour.

"What?" Anderson was surprised by the statement and was also reminded just how powerful Ranma was. He knew he couldn't stop her going after the Spectre if she wanted to. He didn't want her placed in further danger, but at the same time part of him relished the thought of siccing Ranma onto Saren. "Are you sure he's using ki?"

"Positive." Ranma replied as she crossed over to her locker and grabbed her pants. She pulled them on. "He's wasting massive amounts of it, but that just shows how much he has. Only I can beat him."

Anderson thought for a moment, weighing up everything. Then he activated his comms. "Joker, can you get a lock on Saren? Look for a turian heat signature."

"Give me second Captain...come on where are - Ha! Got him! He's on the second platform."

"Take us in, Joker."

"Aye Captain." Joker replied. "Just a heads up though, they've taken out all the landing areas."

"I don't think that'll be a problem, Joker." Anderson smiled deviously at Ranma. "I think we can treat this as a bombing run."


Saren raced alongside the tracks, foregoing using the basic moving platform that served as the tram between the two platforms as he could move faster on foot, especially now. His mind was focused on one single question. Why had Sovereign left?

He soon jumped up to second platform, landing lightly by the stairs that led up to the right-hand side of the station and the pair of bridges across to the other side. A pair of identical geth turned to regard him with their flashlight-like eyes.

"What's going on here?" Saren demanded stalking towards the machines. The geth answered by raising their weapons and firing at Saren. The turian growled, angered by the geth's actions confirming one of his thoughts. He blasted the closest one apart with a crackling red energy, ignored the continued fire and grabbed the second by its throat. He twisted the head to the side, ripping corded cables which spurted white fluids. Saren held the body long enough to take the geth's weapon for himself and glanced behind them at the compact nuke. The control panel was torn out, but a small panel further to the side showed a countdown. He had less than four minutes.

"Damn you Sovereign! Why?" Saren snarled as his fears were confirmed. 'Of course. I understand now.' Saren thought already turning towards where the beacon had been sent. 'You never expected me to beat her did you? You only upgraded me to keep her busy while you set this up to eliminate her yourself.'

He took a running leap across the tracks and up to the higher platform which joined the bridges. There weren't any more geth. Sovereign had only sacrificed two to stay behind and guard the bombs, showing how confident the Reaper was in none of them being able to escape the blast zone in time.

He raced through the opening to a small set of stairs down to the main loading bay and vaulted over the edge. Landing with a thud he was surprised to see the beacon was still there. Knowing time was short Saren rushed over, his only thought to get the beacon data for himself. He needed to know what it contained. Even if it was useless to him, he'd die knowing.

He slowed to a walk and discarded the geth weapon before standing still before the active beacon. He spread his arms as the beacon lifted him into the air and welcomed the incoming images as they were burned into his mind. The process was painful and the images confusing, random, but he did make out a Reaper from his familiarity to them.

The next thing Saren was aware of was being flung backwards as the beacon overloaded. He struggled to remain conscious as his vision swam in and out and his head throbbed, his ears rang, and his stomach wanted to vacate north. Forcing himself to focus, he raised his head and almost regretted it as his vision doubled.

Using every last ounce of willpower he pushed himself to his hands and knees, before stumbling to his feet and clutched at his head while turning. His scrambled thoughts urged him to run as far and as fast as he could. A loud noise, sounding like a ship and a shadow passing overhead made him glance up. The Normandy shot past and a dark shape fell towards him.

"Saren!" Ranma bellowed as she dropped towards him with a leg extended, aiming to plant it right through his head.

"No!" Saren had enough sense of mind to dive forward, barely avoiding the impact of Ranma's attack. The pigtailed girl shattered the decking, going right through it and crashing into the ground below. The decking Saren was lying flat upon, bowed inwards under the impact and he found himself scrabbling to hold onto it as he slid down towards the hole Ranma had created. His claws managed to catch in between the grooves and he hung there wondering what had just happened.

A shadow passed over him as Ranma leapt out of the hole she had made and somersaulted to land in front of the dangling turian. A pair of small but impossibly strong hands grabbed the front of his armour and dragged him up to eye level with the girl, leaving his feet dangling into the hole. She looked angry.


The train, little more than a moving platform with safety rails came to a shuddering halt in the station. Kaiden stepped off first, glancing around and spotted something that sent a wave of shock through him.

"Commander! They've set nukes." Kaiden informed Shepard as he rushed over to the device. He crouched and began checking the bomb over to see if he could deactivate it.

"Can you disarm it?" Shepard wanted to know.

"Not in time." Kaiden shook his head. "If the panels still worked maybe, but like this I'd need to disassemble the casing to get at the controls. We've got just under three minutes to get out of here."

"Shepard to Normandy. Saren's rigged the place with nukes. The whole area's going to go up in less than three minutes. Requesting immediate evac."

"Oh hell." Joker exclaimed over the comms. "Commander, I can't get the Normandy close enough to you. They've taken out all the landing pads and the nearest clearing is more than two minutes out at a full on sprint."

Shepard glanced down at Kaiden who closed his eyes in regret. They both knew what that meant. "Joker. Get out of here." she said quietly.

"Belay that command." Anderson entered the conversation. "I'm not leaving my crew behind. Ranma's near you on the loading platform. She took a dive to get to Saren. Get over to her and we'll bring the Normandy in close. Hurry!"

"Aye, aye, Sir!" Shepard replied with renewed hope and the pair of them raced up the step and across the bridge towards Ranma position. They passed through the opening and down the steps to the loading platform and noticed the impact crater Ranma had made. They slid to a halt at finding Ranma holding Saren up over the hole with both hands.

"Ranma!" Shepard shouted. "We have to move it! The area's rigged to blow any minute!"

"What?" Ranma glanced back to Shepard. Saren took her momentary distraction to lash out without thinking. His fist slammed into her, just above her breastbone and something shattered.

"Ow!" Ranma exclaimed and dropped Saren as something sharp cut into her skin.

"Oof!" Saren hit the ground with a thud. He laid stunned for a moment, then he remembered his situation and forced himself to his feet. He stumbled before loping off as fast as he could manage.

Ranma grimaced and reached for the area where something sharp had cut her. Her fingers felt the wetness she had instantly assumed was blood from the feeling of something sticking in her skin. They came away wet, but it wasn't blood. "Huh?"

For a second Ranma was confused then with a glance down at a flat chest he froze. Ranma quickly snapped out of his surprise and ripped the remains of the kettle necklace from his neck and looked at the shattered and hollow glass ornament. He then patted his chest to make certain, you couldn't be too sure in his experience and then grabbed his pigtail to check the colour. Black.

"Bwhahaha!" Ranma crowed doing a little jig. "Akane you're brilliant! Never gonna be a girl again! Never gonna be a girl again!"

"What the HELL!" Kaiden exclaimed as he and Shepard both saw Ranma instantly grow a foot in height and his frame fill out with lean but hard-packed muscle.

"Hey guys! I'm a guy again!" Ranma laughed, forgetting Saren for the moment.

Shepard squinted at the boy Ranma had become. The hair was the same style, if the wrong colour. The clothes were the same, though a little tighter on him. He had the same way of speaking. She had seen plenty of odd things in space but spontaneous gender changing wasn't one of them. "Ranma? Is it really you?"

"Yup! I'm cured!" Ranma grinned. "Isn't it great?"

"Not to hurry you guys," Kaiden reined in his surprise and just accepted the situation at face value for the moment, as there was more important things going on. "But we need to get outta here! This whole place is rigged to blow remember?"

"Joker! Where are you?" Shepard said urgently into her comms as she to forced the transformation to the back of her mind.

"Sorry, traffic was hell." Joker's reply was punctuated by the Normandy's shadow swooping in as low as Joker dared bring her.

"What about Saren?" Ranma pointed in the distance as the silver-grey armoured figure leapt away, crossing a large distance with each jump.

"Forget him! Get up here!" Anderson's voice shouted over the noise of the Normandy's engines. The Captain was on the ramp and waving at them to hurry. Ranma wrapped an arm around Shepard's waist. "Hold on." he stated while grabbing Kaiden and lifting the surprise man over his other shoulder. Shepard grabbed hold of Ranma's neck as the pigtailed boy burst into a full-on sprint, making the scenery blur. Then with a powerful leap Ranma shot into the air towards the Normandy and landed on the ramp. He quickly threw Kaiden inside.

"Punch it Joker!" Anderson shouted.

"Aye, aye, Sir!" the Normandy was moving even before Joker's reply came over the comms. Ranma took hold of the safety-rail as the ship accelerated to escape velocity speeds. He and Shepard glanced back, looking out the slowly closing cargo-bay doors as four huge explosions went off, one after the other and quickly joined together into a massive glowing ball of death. The Normandy's cargo-bay door finally closed on the sight as they left the atmosphere of Eden Prime.

"And another successful save by your pilot. You can thanks me later ladies." Joker laughed over the comms. "Just want to point out if this had been any other ship in the Alliance we'd be dead right now."

Shepard let out the breath she was holding and for a moment stared at Ranma, who stared back.

"You can let go now." Shepard stated evenly and Ranma realised how he was still holding her.

"Ehheheh." Ranma laughed nervously stepping away and rubbing the back of his head. "Sorry about that."

Anderson took that moment to look Ranma up and down. His face showed his confusion. Ranma noticed. "Hey old man. My curse is cured. Told you I was a guy." Ranma smirked.

"Ranma...how...oh forget it. With you anything can happen." Anderson gave a put upon shrug.

"I'm sorry Captain. We lost the beacon." Shepard stated. "Saren did something to make it blow. And the colony..."

"Doesn't matter right now. We got out alive. We'll deal with the fallout later." Anderson told her. He turned to Ranma and stared for another few seconds, before shaking his head and continuing. "Could Saren have gotten away in time?"

Ranma thought for a moment then shook his head. "I couldn't of got out in time. How's Nihlus?"

"Sleeping. Dr. Chakwas had to sedate him to operate. He'll be out of action for a few days, unless he decides to be stubborn."

"That's good." Ranma nodded.

There was a sudden creaking noise above their heads, before a stream of hot water sprayed out of the ceiling right on Ranma.

"Ya! Hot!" Ranma yelped jumping out of the way. She glanced down. "Oh drat..."

"Hey Captain?" Joker's voice came over the comms. "You know when you said to keep an eye out on things going wrong during the shakedown run? Well I just want to say we've just had a break in the hot water system."

"Yes...we've just noticed." Anderson boggled at the suddenly female again Ranma. "You will be explaining this...I hope?"


Saren pushed himself harder than he had ever done before. Pushing all his life-force into the muscles of his legs, he covered a massive distance in a short time, but he knew it wasn't enough to escape.

"Sovereign." Saren growled landing and taking deep breathes. He wobbled unsteadily, his balance still not right. His head continued to ache from the beacon and he turned to face the way he had came, not in resignation, but in sheer, unadulted rage. He had been discarded. After everything he had done, everything he had sacrificed, it had made no difference.

The explosions began. They swelled up strangely silent as he watched, his cybernetic optics capable of adjusting to not be blown out by the brightness that swept towards him like a tidal wave of made of dust, debris and fire.

He raised his hands in defiance and bellowed his hatred to the oncoming onslaught as his power crackled around him. "Sovereign!"

The noise arrived in time to swallow him in fire and his world vanished in white.


The gently flickering glow of the many holographic haptic displays before him was soothing he reflected as his glowing electric blue eyes studied the various images, data and graphs shown. He sipped the expensive bronze liquid in his glass carefully but his eyes never left the displays, taking in all the wonderful data. The Illusive Man's face cracked into a pleased smile as he lifted his leg from over his knee and put the glass down carefully on the edge of his chair.

He reached out and dragged one of the screen closer to himself. It showed a nude girl or woman of unknown age strapped into a metal chair. Her face was obscured by a large array of metal equipment covering her entire head. Various tubes ran to and from her thin and underdeveloped body. Wires were taped to her skin at various points, skin so pale the veins could be seen as a dark network under it. Beside the live camera feed, various readouts constantly updated. For a moment he marvelled at what they had achieved with this one.

Reaching out he pressed finger to a area of the display and dragged it to become the main image. The contact details and image of a Doctor Jacob Stein.

"Record message." The Illusive Man stated, then began talking. "Congratulations are in order Doctor, your theory on inserting a quantum entanglement communications device into the genetic structure of a live human specially grown has proven very successful. The test subject is sending tremendous amounts of potentially unlimited in value information back to her twin, without even being aware."

He took a moment out to sip his drink again.

"I've just approved a doubling of your research budget. I expect you'll spend the money wisely and give us further breakthroughs in this emerging field. On that note, I would like you to investigate into a true two way system, the potential for two minds to experience the same data or a single mind to operate two bodies at once is exciting and opens up many information gathering opportunities and even military uses." He added a dramatic pause for effect. "With a doubled budget I expect results at least one point two five times or quicker. Cease recording."

The Illusive Man pondered something for a moment before tapping the send button. He made a shooing gesture and the display flipped away and moved to the back of the pile. The next nearest screen gave him a moment to pause. His smile faded as he reached and dragged it closer.

The screen played four video images, each of a different point of Ranma's confrontations with Saren. Two from the citadel and two from the recent attack on Eden Prime. They were all from Ranma's viewpoint. Graphs showed various levels of energy, temperature and anything else The Illusive Man thought might be interesting. The most interesting one to him was the one labelled ki. Whenever the repeating battle scenes showed Saren attacking, they spiked. Extremely high.

Now he was conflicted. Amazed to find another ki user in this day and age. Angered that it was an alien of all beings. Annoyed at his death preventing further data gathering than what he had already, but also glad to be rid of the dangerous alien. He reached for his glass and took a bigger sip and then held it against his lips in thought. He put the glass down and pulled up his contact list on another screen.

"Record message. Ms. Lawson, I have a job for your skills. I require all Alliance intel and the Council's data on the turian Spectre Saren Arterius. I wish to know everything about him, right down to what he has for breakfast. I expect it within a week. Cease message." he hit send and then scrolled through his contacts once more.

"Record message. Doctor Kuno, some fascinating data has come into my possession that I believe will be of big assistance to you and your team. Your experiments so far with the...pigtailed girls, have been interesting but ultimately useless, however I believe with careful analysis of this data you may gleam some insight into how to finally produce what we both desire. It seems somebody has already successfully achieved your theory of using ki and biologically produced energy to power mass effects as well as armour systems. The results are impressive and don't seem to require the creation of plasma and the resultant power losses from conversion to use."

He added another of his pauses to let his point sink in.

"As soon as you are able, begin work on developing this system. For now I'm allocating you a budget of four billion credits. Make this investment worth my while or you'll have your...toys taken away. End message."

The Illusive Man then shooed away the screen with Saren on and pulled the one forward that he had the greatest interest in. He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers before his face. A frown of intense thought wrinkled his brow. The massive, dark shape of Sovereign filled the screen. All the graphs to the sides where showing full bars, basically meaning they were off the charts.

This was just the sort of thing he desired. The power that he wanted under his control. A ship of immeasurable power. Something that had remained hidden for who knew how long by the geth. He assumed it was a geth creation, at least for now until further data proved the assumption either true or false.

'Who would have thought that that one whim, that one moment of emotion clouding my judgement would lead to all this data. Letting that unfinished defective prototype live was perhaps my greatest move so far.' he thought staring at the ship on the screen with undisguised lust. He lowered his hands and his eyes glowed brighter as he smirked a downright sinister smile.

"I must have you. And I know who is able to track you down."


He was in pain. His entire being ached in burning agony. Even parts of him he never knew existed ached. He didn't know how long he lay there, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear while the pain ran through him.

He had been consumed by fire and still lived. Or did he? The pain was enough to make his mind suspect he was in hell, being tortured for all his sins. In his delirious state he saw faces of the long dead taunting him, mocking him, belittling.

He drifted, somewhere been life and death, awake and sleep. His throat no longer worked from crying out his pain to the world. Dry and raw. Only one thought kept him from fading completely. Revenge.

For a moment he thought he heard something move. But that was impossible. Then it came again. Footsteps? And voices, coming through to him like that of two cans on a string. Far, far away the voices called to each other.

More muttering. Becoming closer. Something vibrated near him and dirt fell on his face. It felt strange, too close. The blackness suddenly lifted sending his world into searing light and he made a soundless scream in horror as the flames engulfed him again...but they didn't.

"Holy shit! I found a survivor!" a male human's face appeared in his blurred vision.

"Go away!" Saren tried to shout at the face taunting him. No sound came out from his swollen throat. He didn't recognise this as one he had killed, but then again, he probably couldn't remember them all anyway.

"Jesus H. Christ! What a mess!" Another face. Saren tried to bat it away. His pathetically weak arm was caught easily by the human as he took his fingers within his own in comforting gesture. "Calm down. Medical attention is on its way!"

"Let me die! I don't need a human's help!" Saren wordlessly shouted.

"He's freaking!" another voice stated. "Hold him down while I sedate him!"

"Nooo!" Saren called out in a silent scream as they held him down and something sharp was stuck into his arm. As his vision faded once more he heard their voices fade away.

"We need immediate airlift. Survivor is a Caucasian male, forties, roughly six three, two twenty pounds. Serious burns to body."

End Chapter and the first story arc.

And so I finished the first story arc of this. Lots of outright reveals here, some hinted reveals and I'm sure a lot more questions. This Ranma's curse is flipped now, so he/she might be a little more at ease with it as hot water is less likely to be encountered. The Ranma/ Shepard thing was a joke. don't take seriously :P

And we have a Kuno introduced by name and a few hints at his personality. A very sick Kuno, but that's for later...

I'm planning on writing this fic in arcs so I have some fixed points I can take a break from it if I ever decide to, without leaving it in the middle of something interesting.

I'll come out and say on pairings, I like the idea of Ranma / Tali. So there :P