Time to play another game of "What Took DinoJake So Long This Time?"

Well, one probable reason why this chapter took so long is because I've recently been busy with another nerdy passion of mine. A cursory glance at my tumblr blog should reveal what I'm talking about. It's hard to write about one thing when your mind is preoccupied with another thing. Frankly, you should all be happy that I was able to exercise enough self-restraint NOT to put a 300-foot-tall atomic dinosaur somewhere in this chapter.

Also Minecraft.

….

1218 Hours, March 15th, 2683

Glorious New Destiny

Undisclosed Location in the Argos Rho Cluster

….

Jondum Bau rubbed his chin as he looked through the glass into the cavernous room below. His eyes darted to and fro across the room, observing all the different parts and mechanisms, analyzing them, as if trying to figure out how they work. He knew it was a futile effort. Bau was no physicist or engineer. Still, he couldn't really help it. After all, he was only Salarian.

The Spectre was currently deep in the bowels of the Glorious New Destiny's engineering decks, looking out on the super carrier's drive core. He watched as Huragok floated around the room checking thermal pipes, mending circuitry, tightening any loose screws, anything and everything one could imagine doing to keep the ship's goliath drive core in optimum operating condition. A few Sangheili wearing EVA suits observed the Huragok as they carried out their work, a few double-checking their adjustments to make sure.

By all rights, this shouldn't be possible. A thirty-kilometer-long ship simply cannot be driven by an eezo core. The amount of power and eezo needed to move a ship increases exponentially with the size of the ship. It's why no Citadel race has ever built a ship longer than one kilometer in length. Any larger would require a ridiculously large engine and a ridiculously large amount of element zero just to power it.

Of course, that was before the 314 races came along.

The 314 races were named such after Relay 314, the mass relay that a Turian patrol caught Human research ships tampering with one fateful day over twenty years ago. They hailed from the Forerunner Cluster, named such because it was the only place in all the galaxy one could find the remains of an ancient space-faring race that pre-dated even the Protheans; the Forerunners. Studies showed that the Forerunners were almost incomprehensibly advanced, capable of feats that would make, again, even a Prothean's head spin. The 314 races learned a great deal from studying whatever Forerunner artifacts they could dig up. One such artifact was something the Sangheili called the divine crystal.

Jondum Bau's eyes then darted towards the Glorious New Destiny's divine crystal. He could see it floating in a glass chamber located above the drive core itself. Particles of element zero dust and jolts of electricity danced around the fist-sized blue crystal as it slowly spun in the chamber, the facets along its centerline folding and shifting like pieces of a puzzle.

Divine crystals were Forerunner artifacts with extremely unusual properties. Specifically, they had the ability to bend space and time. From what scientists on Sangheilios could tell, the Forerunners used the crystals to augment their already incredibly advanced slipspace drives. Scientists also found that, under the right conditions, the crystals can also be used to augment eezo drive cores, making the mass effect fields they generate more powerful and allowing behemoth ships like the Imperial Supercarrier to operate with a reasonably-sized drive core with little trouble.

Like many new technologies that came out of the Forerunner Cluster, the divine crystals were the subject of controversy. Some Citadel races expressed an interest in the crystals, wishing to study them themselves and utilize them in order to build larger ships and more powerful mass effect fields. However, the Sangheili were unwilling to share, mostly because all the crystals they had were only salvaged from Forerunner ruins and not actually manufactured by the Sangheili themselves. The only other species to have some amount of access to the crystals were the Sangheili's long-time allies the Humans, and even with them they were notably stingy. Jondum personally suspected that limited supply wasn't the only motivation the Sangheili had for refusing requests for more access to the crystals. The concessions made to the Council were no more popular on Sangheilios than they were on Earth. It may have been the Empire's idea of payback.

Deciding that he had seen enough of the Destiny's engine, Jondum turned around and started walking through the corridor, heading back the way he came. He soon arrived at one of the ship's numerous elevators, the two Sangheili soldiers guarding the elevator door watching him wearily as he stepped into the thankfully empty elevator. He pressed the button corresponding to deck five, and the doors closed.

He sighed. Everyone on the ship had been giving him wary looks like that ever since he came aboard. He sensed that it wasn't just because he was a Salarian. It was probably also because he was a Spectre. The owner of the vessel, a Kaidon by the name of Vato Tyrannai, made clear to Jondum his disdain for Spectres on the first day, and that same disdain was no doubt carried by at least half of the crew of this massive ship. After four years of being a Spectre, having every other person you bump into not trust you was seriously getting old.

When the doors opened once again, Jondum headed out. He walked down the cavernous hallway, brightly lit with bluish-white lights on the ceiling and on the edges where the walls met the floor, and abound with activity as crew members walked to and from their duties or breaks. No small amount slowed down to spare a glance at the Spectre, putting Jondum ill at ease. He hated sticking out. He continued walking down the corridor with purpose.

By now Jondum knew that the Arbiter liked to occasionally visit the cargo bay as a means of relaxing whenever he had a few free moments.

….

'The spotlight,' as the Humans called it, lost its charms quickly. Thel didn't mind it much during his first few years as the Arbiter. His people were lost and in need of guidance, after all. Thel needed to be in the spotlight, because that is where he would get noticed, where his words were most likely to be heard. But as the decades went by, the babbling of Unggoy insisting that they were not worthy to be in the Arbiter's presence became grating, as did the constant bowing of younger Sangheili. Things have gotten especially bad in the last thirty years or so. He has become something of a celebrity in Citadel Space, swarms of cameras awaiting him every time he paid a visit to the Citadel.

The Arbiter did not mind being honored or even admired. Being publicized was far more detestable.

It was why he liked spots like this, a catwalk located high above the Glorious New Destiny's massive cargo bay, high above the notice of the Sangheili below. Many of the younger Sangheili, Squidheads in particular, had taken to lounging in the cargo bay as a makeshift recreational area whenever they were off-duty. Thel enjoyed watching them, unseen high above, their antics subtly reminding him of his own rambunctious youth.

He spied one young minor and his squad of four Unggoy sitting around a crate that they were using for a table, the minor wearing not his helmet but rather an odd green visor of sorts. They each held cards in their hands, numbers and symbols, a large pile of chips in the center of the table. It was a Human game known as Poker, and though Thel was not terribly familiar with the rules, he did know that it was a game that demanded great cunning from its players. The minor laid down his hand, and three of the Unggoy immediately folded, seeing a battle that they could not win. The fourth Unggoy however, revealed his own hand, shocking the minor. With a giggle that Thel could hear even from his perch on high, the Unggoy collected the chips on the table.

It was moments like these that reminded Thel of just how much has changed in just half of a Sangheili lifetime. When he was a minor, it was unheard of for a Sangheili to fraternize with his Unggoy underlings in such a manner. After all, why would a master bother to befriend his slaves? Friend or no, the slave would still obey. These days however, the Unggoy are hardly slaves. The separatist Unggoy who fought with the Sangheili in the Great Schism were granted emancipation as reward, though most chose to stay in Sangheili space, not knowing where else to go. Most of the Unggoy that served on board this ship were descended from those very same freed slaves.

Thel turned around and saw a minor standing in front of his own Unggoy squad. This one was more in line with the minors of Thel's time as he held his head high and his hands behind him as he inspected each Unggoy with an appraising eye. His was the gaze of a commander making sure that his warriors were ready for battle. Failure to meet the commander's standards would result in dire consequences.

Though much like with everything else, the Squidheads put their own creative twist on the role of the stern leader.

"Alright, children." the minor began. "I know your shifts are over and you're all excited to go back to your bunks for some shut-eye, but first we're going to play a little game called 'answer the question correctly or run laps around the cargo bay until I tell you to stop.' You. Tippup." he said as he pointed to one of the Unggoy. "What is the average kill radius, in meters, of a type-1 antipersonnel grenade?"

"Three….point…eighty-nine?" Tippup tried to answer.

"Close. But no ciggie." the minor said. "You're going to run laps around the cargo bay until I tell you to stop." He turned to another Unggoy. "Didja think that was a little too mean?"

"…No?" the second Unggoy tried.

"Wrong. It damn sure was. You're running laps around the cargo bay until I tell you to stop. And Canyup, can yup answer me this; is it even possible to give the right answer in this game?"

"…No?" Canyup tried.

"Correct!" the minor replied with false excitement.

"Yes!" Canyup hissed with a celebratory fist pump.

"Unfortunately, you're still going to run laps around the cargo bay until I tell you to stop. My game. My rules. YAH YAH YAH!" the minor suddenly bellowed. With fear now powering their legs, the Unggoy took off and proceeded to run laps around the cargo bay, as per the minor's instructions as the minor watched. Thel nodded in approval. Though unusual, this squidhead's methods for keeping the Unggoy in line were effective. Discipline is an important part of any military, after all.

"There you are." said a voice. Thel turned and saw the Salarian Spectre Jondum Bau approaching him.

"I take it you looked all over?" Thel asked.

"No. This was the first place I thought to look." Jondum replied.

"It would seem that I need to find a new place to hide from you." Thel responded.

Unlike many others on the ship, Thel harbored no ill will towards Spectres. It was mostly because their role was not all that dissimilar to his own. He did not even hold their relative lack of accountability against them. Their power was like a potent blade; it is the wielder, not the blade itself, that determines whether the blade does good or ill. As far as Jondum Bau goes, he is about as honorable as Salarians get, meaning that though some of his actions still border on heresy, he does it all for the galaxy's greater good and would most likely not drive a dagger into Thel's back, at least not of his own volition.

"You suited up?" Jondum asked. "We'll be reaching the Hydra system in just a few minutes."

Thel nodded and turned around and splayed out his arms, displaying his weapons to the Spectre. A type-56 carbine on his back, a type-25 plasma rifle on his right thigh, and the hilt to his energy sword on his left thigh. His usual load out. He turned back around. "You?" he asked.

Jondum turned around and jerked a thumb to the assault rifle and sniper rifle on his back. "HMWA Master X, and HMWSR Master X." he said.

"And the shotgun?" Thel asked as he eyed the odd piece of white equipment on Jondum's lower back.

"Venom Shotgun. An old favorite from back when I was in STG." Jondum replied. "It's not really a shotgun, by the way. We just called it that because it's commonly stored in the shotgun slot. It's actually more like a grenade launcher." The Spectre turned back to face Thel.

"Sounds heavy-handed for a Salarian weapon." Thel noted.

"It is." Jondum replied with a shrug. "It's mostly issued to extraction teams whenever undercover agents get compromised and need a speedy exit strategy, most often while under heavy enemy fire. However, I find it much more useful as a Spectre. I find myself on the front lines a lot more often than I did in STG, so a weapon that can efficiently blow things up is much more useful."

The Salarian whipped out his pistol, a Kessler X. "Plus I have Dellina here."

"Dellina?" Thel asked.

"My pistol. First weapon I ever bought as a Spectre. Named it after a dalatrass I had a successful reproduction contract with. Very charming woman. She liked painting in her spare time." Jondum explained.

"We are coming out of FTL." a voice announced over the ship's intercom system. "All hands stand by."

"Come." Thel said as he began walking down the catwalk. "We will be needed on the bridge."

….

The Glorious New Destiny had already come out of FTL on the edge of the Hydra system by the time Thel and Jondum arrived on the bridge. When they entered, the shipmaster's chair swiveled, revealing Vato Tyrannai. Like every other Sangheili Kaidon, Tyrannai was a high-ranked commander in the Imperial military. Specifically, he was a supreme commander. His golden armor glinting and shining brightly under the bridge's fluorescent lights, he regarded the Arbiter and the Spectre with appraising eyes.

"Arbiter." he regarded Thel with a nod. He turned to Jondum. "And the Spectre." he added half-heartedly. He turned back to the Thel. "We have just arrived in the Hydra system and already we have stumbled upon something most interesting."

"What is it?" Thel asked.

Vato turned to one of the comm specialists. He nodded. The comm specialist nodded back and pressed a few buttons. A message began playing over the bridge's com system. It was plagued by static, obscuring many words and syllables, but enough went through for Thel to make sense of it.

"General distress call….Sacred Angel medical transport…..critical system failure…..losing power…..emergency landing…..Argos…..communications failing…all sys-…..life support…emergency transpond-…won't last….please hurry."

"The message is on a loop." the com specialist said.

"How long has it been playing?" Thel asked.

"Hard to say." the com specialist replied.

"Remember the patrol report." Jondum reminded Thel. "Shipmaster 'Hrovash detected unusual energy readings in this system, and now we're detecting a distress signal."

Thel nodded, knowing what Jondum was implying. He turned to Tyrannai. "This is no coincidence."

"I do not doubt that." Tyrannai replied. "The signal originates from the surface of the planet Metgos."

"Then that is where we must go." Thel resolutely said.

"Tread lightly, Arbiter." Tyrannai warned. "Metgos is a furnace world so hot your blood would boil in your veins without sufficient protection. I will have rangers accompany you to your destination. May our lords guide your hand."

….

Three phantoms were deployed from the Glorious New Destiny to the surface of Metgos, each carrying a lance of Sangheili rangers and their Vorcha underlings. Unggoy were highly impractical for deployment to a pressure cooker world like Metgos; a single hole in their methane packs may be all it takes to set them alight.

Accompanying the Arbiter as always was the Dama pair, Cadavu and Bysoti. They had to wear EVA armor, which was much the same as their regular armor except with high-grade armor plates covering the parts where their worms were normally visible. The two Mgalekgolo shifted uncomfortably where they stood. Neither of them liked having to wear EVA armor, as it was not as flexible as the kind they were normally used to. Jondum Bau was also there, donned in his own EVA armor. Truthfully, the Arbiter wasn't sure how well he would do in a fight. On the one hand, he was a Spectre, one of the finest soldiers in all the galaxy. On the other hand, he was a Salarian, a species that prefers fighting with a veiled dagger rather than a glistening sword.

Lining the seats of their phantom were roughly half a dozen Sangheili rangers, all wearing the EVA suits they were famous for. Painted across each of their shoulder pads was the ranger mantra; Glory and honor guide our ascension. Also riding with them, unfortunately, were a dozen Vorcha. The Vorcha troopers were fully decked out in pale blue EVA armor, and were equipped with type-55 directed energy rifles, better known as the storm rifle, a weapon infamous for its use in the Sangheili Civil War. While the Sangheili sat stoically, ready for combat, the Vorcha were much twitchier by contrast. More than one had bouncing feet and shaking hands. They were eager for battle.

Technically, this was a rescue operation, a mission to provide aid to a crew in desperate need of it. However, the Arbiter was no fool. They originally came to this system under the assumption that they may find, at the very least, a clue to what the Geth were plotting. Upon coming here, the first thing they find is a distress signal. There was no doubt in the Arbiter's mind that the Geth had some kind of hand in this.

"This is Phantom-Acroli. We have a visual on the surface." the pilot reported. Thel walked through the phantom's passenger cabin and into the cockpit to get a good look himself. The surface of Metgos was hellish, the ground made up of black and dark red dirt, the sky above covered in a thick blanket of black clouds. The three phantoms continued their descent into a rocky valley amidst the Gods-forsaken hills. Eventually, a small white shape stuck out agains the blackish ground.

"Phantom-Acroli here, we have a visual on the target." the phantom pilot reported. "Transponder signal is coming from that escape pod."

"Escape pod?" one of the other phantom pilots asked. "I thought we were looking for a whole medical ship."

"I've got a bad feeling about this….." the other pilot replied.

"Alright. Phantom-Bekan and Phantom-Chavam, run a sweep of the area." the Arbiter's phantom pilot ordered. "We'll head in to investigate-"

His sentence was lost as the whole phantom suddenly shook, knocked to the side as if struck. "Contacts!" Cried one of the other phantom pilots. "It's a trap!"

"Bekan and Chavam, break off approach run and regroup!" the pilot ordered. Numerous screens in the cockpit began flashing red as an alarm started going off. Thel could not help but notice that the phantom was quickly approaching the ground. "Acroli has been hit! Acroli has been hit! Preparing for crash landing!"

The pilot turned to the Arbiter. "Might wanna buckle up, your holiness." the Arbiter nodded and rushed back to his seat in the passenger compartment.

"Brace yourselves!" the Arbiter bellowed as he secured himself in his seat. Everyone held on tight, uttering prayers, as the phantom went down.

Were it not for their safety harnesses, everyone would've surely been tossed about as the phantom met Metgos's surface in a great crash. The Arbiter could hear the high-pitched screech of scraping metal as the ship skidded across the planet's surface, no doubt leaving a scar in its wake. The screech eventually slowed to a stop, as did the ship itself. A red light began slowly turning on and off in the passenger compartment.

"Is everyone alright?" Thel asked.

"I think so." one of the rangers replied.

"What the wort just hit us?" another asked.

It was then that the door to the cock pit open. The pilot stepped through. "Okay, we're in trouble folks." he began. "For one, our comrades are being pursued by bogies. Geth rocket drones, from what they've told me."

"Geth…." growled one of the Vorcha. "Vile, unholy machines! They will pay for this insult to our honor!"

"Worting hell, we walked right into an ambush didn't we?" one of the rangers asked.

"Looks that way." the pilot replied with a nod. "Also, just checked the motion trackers. We got a few dozen Geth ground troops coming our way, and until Phantoms Bekan and Chavam shake off those drones to come assist, we're on our own."

"So now what?" a ranger asked.

It was then that the Arbiter undid his safety harness and stood. "We fight." he growled.

"Phantom's crashed adjacent to a hillside. Left hatch is blocked." the pilot added.

"Then open the right hatch. Warriors; prepare for battle!" the Arbiter barked as he took out his carbine. The Sangheili rangers and the Vorcha undid their harnesses and readied their own weapons. The dama pair warmed up their fuel rod guns, their spines already crackling with biotic energy. Jondum stood up as well, making ready his assault rifle. "The dama pair shall be the first ones out. They will punch holes in the enemy lines. The rest of us shall provide covering fire." the Arbiter instructed. As everyone nodded, the two Mgalekgolo got into position just in front of the hatch while the pilot brought up his omni-tool.

"Now!" the Arbiter shouted.

With the press of a button on the pilot's omni-tool, the phantom's right hatch popped open. As planned, Cadavu and Bysoti were the first ones out. They turned to their right and saw Geth soldiers marching towards them, their weapons already raised. The Mgalekgolo raised their shields to block the incoming fire and fought back with their fuel rod guns. As the Geth troopers exploded and flew into the air from the explosions, the rangers and the Vorcha, followed by Jondum and the Arbiter, all poured out of the phantom and took cover behind some nearby boulders. Once they were in cover, they all immediately began providing the dame pair with support fire.

The Arbiter quickly noticed something off in the distance; a pair of Geth armatures were marching towards their position. "Cadavu! Bysoti!" the Arbiter yelled over the Imperial battle net. "Destroy those armatures before they get close enough to target us!"

"Your will be done!" Cadavu replied. Blue auras briefly surrounded the two Mgalekgolo before they disappeared, reappearing in front of one of the armatures, smashing into each of its front legs. The walker immediately faltered, falling to the ground without its front legs to support it. Bysoti then pounced on walker's head and pounded it to pieces with his shield while Cadavu used the pointed end of his own shield to gut the armature's torso.

The other armature was fifty feet to the right of the downed one's position. Registering the Mgalekgolo pair as a priority threat, it turned towards them, two Geth rocket troopers trotting up to its side to assist. One rocket trooper that is, as one of them fell to the ground with a large hole neatly drilled into its torso. The other rocket trooper tried to track where the shot came from, but it too fell before it could even get a shot off.

"Just took out the two rocket troopers." Jondum said over the battle net from his perch atop the phantom itself, his cloak active to conceal his position but his sniper rifle cooling down. "Shields around that remaining armature are strong though. Doubt I can one-shot it. Cadavu, Bysoti, you two might want to take cover while it's charging its main cannon."

Cadavu and Bysoti took cover. Of course, the Mgalekgolo's definition of 'taking cover' is to raise its shield and stand its ground. The two bond brothers stood side by side, raised their shields, and dug their boots into Metgos's steaming dirt. Their spines crackled with biotic energy once again, this time wrapping themselves in biotic barriers. The armature fired its main cannon, the pulse blast exploding on impact with the bond brothers, kicking up huge amounts of dust.

Fuel rod blasts roared forth from the dust cloud, impacting against the armature's kinetic barriers, draining them in seconds. The two Mgalekgolo charged out of the dust, no worse for wear, their cannons belching out fuel rods at the armature. Eventually the onslaught proved too much for the walker as its armor boiled away, eventually exploding before its carcass fell.

"Incoming!" a ranger yelled. A rocket flew through the air towards the phantom. Jondum barely had time to jump off before the rocket impacted and detonated. By then, his cloak had run out, sending the Salarian scrambling into cover right next to the Arbiter. The Arbiter peeked his head around the boulder, then pulled back to avoid incoming pulse fire.

"More Geth troopers are coming!" he shouted.

"I know how to fix that!" yelled one of the rangers. "All Vorcha! Activate over shields! Then, sic 'em!" he yelled over the battle net.

With that, each Vorcha trooper there tapped a command into their omni-tools and were suddenly wrapped in overshields. The Vorcha then charged out of cover towards the Geth, their rifles blazing plasma. Many of the Geth in front fell instantly, but there were more in the back that kept firing their pulse rifles. Unexpectedly, they then put away their weapons and snapped on crude-looking plasma blades from their wrists, two curved blades on each wrist that vaguely resembled claws. With howls of bloodlust, they charged at the Geth, their overshields successfully absorbing most of the incoming pulse fire. The Geth made sounds that almost resembled screeches of pain as they were lacerated by the Vorcha, the ground stained by the stark white hue of Geth hydraulic fluid.

It was then a looming shape appeared over the far-off hill and flew towards them; a Geth dropship. "Pull back! All Vorcha, pull back!" the ranger commanded over the battle net. Having no desire to get shot, the Vorcha retreated from their slaughter and made a break back to the rocks, a few of them even running on all fours. One unlucky Vorcha wasn't fast enough and was killed by a pulse blast, kicking up dirt and a flying corpse. The ship then dropped off yet more Geth troopers as well as one of the much dreaded Geth colossi.

After it completed its drop however, it suddenly came under fire. The Arbiter heard the familiar hums of phantom engines and looked up. Their two comrade phantoms had arrived and were firing on the Geth ship with their plasma cannons. "This is Phantom-Bekan and Phantom-Chavam." one of the phantom pilots reported over the battle net. "Sorry we took so long, Acroli. Took us a while to shake off those rocket drones. We miss anything?"

"Just a whole lotta Geth killin'." the Acroli pilot replied. "We could use some support here though. That colossus in particular looks nasty."

"Can do." the phantom pilot replied. The Geth dropship, realizing that it was outnumbered, retreated back over the hill from whence it came. "Chavam, drop off your payload by the Arbiter's position then chase that sucker down. I'll deliver a special surprise to that colossus."

"Affirmative." the pilot of Phantom-Chavam replied before lowering to about fifteen feet off the ground and opening its hatch doors, allowing more rangers and Vorcha to hop out. With its payload delivered, it sped off in pursuit of the Geth ship. Phantom-Bekan approached the Geth colossus and opened fire on it, lending Chavam covering fire as it disappeared over the far-off hill.

Bekan's side-hatch opened, revealing a Vorcha manning a plasma turret. With a snarl, he opened fire on the colossus, supplementing the phantom's own plasma cannon. Standing off to the side of the hatch with his energy sword at the ready was a zealot. The colossus tried to return fire, but the phantom's pilot knew better than to hold still. It circled around the colossus like a vakir bird circling a lone kooshim before swooping in for the final blow. Eventually, the colossus's shields flickered, then died.

It was then that the zealot's body was suddenly wrapped in a blue aura. He leapt out of the phantom, even as it was still fifty feet in the air, and disappeared out of existence. When he reappeared, he did so by crashing right into the colossus's face, or at least what passed for a face with Geth. With a mighty roar that was heard even through his helmet, he plunged his sword deep into the single eye of the colossus.

The zealot then pulled out his blade and skillfully flipped his body onto the top of the colossus's head like an acrobat. He then slid down the back of the walker's neck and onto its back. Some Geth troopers tried to fire at him, but his biotic barrier protected him from the shots. Once he was on the creature's back, he used his sword to slash open a wound, exposing the machine's inner workings. He pulled out his plasma grenade, primed it, dropped it in, and finally hopped off the goliath's back. The colossus shook and stuttered as blue smoke and blue fire erupted from the automaton's back in a huge blast. Lifeless, it collapsed.

The Geth would not take the loss of their most powerful machine lightly. As most of the Geth platoon continued advancing towards the crashed phantom's position, several stayed behind to close in on the zealot. The zealot would prove to be no easy target, however. He threw his energy sword at one of the troopers, the blade slicing the Geth in half at the waist as it spun horizontally, the blade mysteriously emanating a blue aura of its own as it flew. With another gesture, the zealot knocked down three more Geth with a biotic shockwave. Two more approached from the front, but they too were cut in half by the flying energy sword as it flew around in a circle, coming back to the zealot like a biotic boomerang. Turning towards another Geth, this one trying to sneak up on him, he pointed his sword at the synthetic, then pulled it into the sword with a biotic pull, impaling the Geth. After kicking the dead body off, the zealot turned and saw a Geth rocket trooper aiming its rocket launcher at him. Thinking quickly, the zealot biotically charged at the Geth, knocking it down. He then stuck his blade into the Geth's torso, ending its stuttering and screeches.

The Arbiter took in the situation. With the zealot and the other phantom acting as a good anvil, Thel was in a good spot to bring down the hammer. He grabbed his sword hilt and snapped it on, the energy sword crackling with energy, demanding blood. He held it aloft so that all may see. "This is the Arbiter, the Blade of the Holy Empire!" he shouted over the battle net. "We have the Geth surrounded! Their greatest weapon has been felled! Now is the time to strike back, brothers! Let fly a volley of tech grenades, then charge!"

Obeying the Arbiter's orders, the rangers threw every last tech grenade they had left, disabling the majority of the Geth's shields and even outright killing a few, EMP's being far more deadly to synthetics than to organics. They then abandoned their cover and charged forward, guns ablaze. The Geth tried to fire back, but with their shields fully charged, the Sangheili and Vorcha could not be stopped. By contrast, the Geth troopers quickly fell one by one, their shields drained from the grenade volley. In addition, the phantom far above them fired upon the Geth, further thinning their numbers. Not to mention the biotic zealot attacking them from the rear. With so many warriors attacking from all sides, the synthetics' fate was sealed.

The Arbiter was the first one to charge into the mass of Geth, running past the ones that had already fell and into the ones that were lucky enough to still be standing, yet unlucky enough to face down an Arbiter. With an upwards slash, the Arbiter impaled a Geth and held it aloft in the air for a second, before throwing it off his blade with a mighty swing, sending the body flying into a compatriot. With a downward slash, the Arbiter decapitated another Geth, which then proceeded to panic like a chicken in the same predicament. He then booted the headless Geth to the ground with a mighty kick. The Arbiter then turned to another approaching trooper and swung his sword in a wide, horizontal slash. He sliced the Geth's pulse rifle in twain, sliced off both arms at the elbow, and opened a gash in the machine's belly from which white hydraulic fluid gushed forth. He took out his plasma rifle and fired it into the Geth's torso, silencing its pathetic screams. One by one, the Geth fell to his blade. The ones who did not fall to him fell to his brothers either on the ground or in the phantom.

Finally, the Arbiter plunged his sword deep into the torso of the last Geth trooper on the field. When he drew it back out, the Geth fell. He then looked around at all the fallen machines, bits and pieces and puddles of white liquid everywhere.

The Arbiter roared to the sky. The other soldiers joined him. They were victorious this day.

….

Several more phantoms were sent down by the Glorious New Destiny to sweep the area in case there were more Geth around, which there likely was. That Geth dropship had to have come from somewhere, after all. The search phantoms found nothing yet, but they would keep searching. The Sangheili would not rest until all traces of the synthetic infestation were wiped clean.

As for the Arbiter's group, they had begun piling the Geth bodies in one spot. He watched from afar as a pair of rangers were carrying a Geth body over to the pile, one holding it by its hands and the other by its feet. Suddenly, the one holding the Geth's feet yelped and dropped his load. "Holy wort!" he shouted as he whipped out his plasma pistol and fired several bolts into the corpse. This prompted the other ranger to drop his half of the load as well and jog away, not wanting to catch any of the plasma.

"The hell, man?!" the ranger who ran out of the way demanded.

"It twitched!" cried the one who panicked.

"I didn't see it twitch."

"Well I did! I say once we get all these bodies together in one pile, we set the pile on fire. You know, just to make absolutely sure they're dead."

"They're synthetics, 'Nolarom. Not undead."

"Same thing! They're heartless, soulless, and they're the main bad guys in so manypost-apocalypse vids that it's seriously getting old! Plus, that stuttering noise they make is just plain creepy! I'm gonna have nightmares about that shit all week, man."

"Don't worry, 'Nolarom. When we get back to the ship, I'll take you down to the galley and get you a big tall glass of shut the wort up. My treat. Now pick up its damn feet and get back to work!"

The Arbiter shook his head. Those rangers were young, and were probably just promoted into the ranks they hold now. They were want to argue over the littlest things, as was the way of youth. He looked over to their still-crashed phantom. The pilot was standing outside, under orders to wait for Huragok to arrive and repair the dropship. Most of the Vorcha were inside, a ceremonial burial sheet covered over the body of the one unlucky Vorcha who was blasted by the Geth dropship, the heads of his still-living compatriots low in mourning.

The Arbiter nodded his approval. He was skeptical of the Vorcha at first; had been for a long time. His opinion hadn't changed much to be honest. They were brawlers more than warriors. Still, they did their part today. And seeing the Vorcha praying to the Forerunners to guide their fallen friend's soul into paradise made Thel think that perhaps Tyrannai really can mold them into something honorable, or at least useful. The Sangheili did the same for the Unggoy and Mgalekgolo many centuries ago.

"Arbiter." came Jondum's voice over a private battle net channel. "You might want to head down to the transponder. There's a bit of a situation going on here."

"I am on my way." the Arbiter replied. With that, he began walking towards where the transponder was. Once the thrill of victory wore off, Thel was disheartened when he realized that this so-called lead was essentially a dead-end. The medical ship Sacred Angel had, most likely, crashed on this planet a long time ago. The Geth merely salvaged the ship's distress beacon and used it to lure well-meaning organics to their doom.

According to Jondum Bau, this may have even been a 'false lead' of sorts. A lying clue created by Saren to keep others from finding his real trail. There could very well be countless other false leads like this one scattered across the Attican Traverse. The notion made Thel's blood boil. Such deception and dishonor. Saren was almost as bad as Cerberus.

Almost. Say what you will of Saren, but according to the Eletania report, he at least has enough courage and honor to occasionally fight alongside his own warriors. More than could be said of the Beast.

Thel walked over to the small gully where two Sangheili were bickering, three Vorcha awkwardly watching the argument from the gully's edge. A ranger was standing by the transponder, specifically between it and a zealot. Thel recognized the zealot as the biotic who slew the colossus during the day's battle. He joined Jondum on the edge of the gully as he overheard the argument.

"It's been tainted by the vile hands of the Geth!" the zealot argued. "What you're proposing is heresy!"

"I'm proposing we use it to our advantage and track down the Geth." the ranger replied. "If that makes me a heretic, then brand me with the mark of shame."

"What is going on here?" the Arbiter asked as he walked down into the gully. The ranger and the zealot turned towards the Arbiter and saluted.

"I caught this ranger in the act of heresy, your holiness." the zealot darkly explained, casting a dirty look at the ranger in question.

"Heresy, you say?" the Arbiter asked as he examined the accused with a critical eye. "What is the nature of this heresy?"

"Examination." the ranger defended. "Ranger Minor 'Zkra Macham, sir." he introduced himself with another salute. "I was taking a look at this transponder and found something interesting. The Geth have actually modified it. It's not just a distress beacon anymore. It's also a radio that taps into a cluster-wide comm relay. It looks like they've been up to a lot of shady things in this sector. I'm thinking we can use it to find other Geth bases in the Argos Rho cluster. Maybe even find a clue that'll get us closer to Halo."

"Which is heresy!" the zealot insisted. "It is Geth technology! It is unclean! We should destroy it on principal! To use it ourselves would be to make our hands filthy!"

"Look I got news for you, sword-jockey." 'Zkra replied. "Sometimes, you have to get your hands filthy to get the job done. And if you don't like it, you're free to wash your hands after the fact, but if defeating our enemy means getting our hands dirty, then just slather me up in mud and call be Bubba."

"Wretched squidheads, you're all alike!" the zealot continued to rage. "All that Human entertainment has poisoned your minds! It made you forget the color of your own blood!"

"Hey, I remember the color of my blood just fine." 'Zkra argued as he crossed his arms over his chest. "It's a nice healthy shade of purple. Some say it's orchid or amethyst, but I've always thought it was a nice shade of floral lavender, myself."

The zealot roared in anger.

"Are you gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?" 'Zkra quipped.

"Enough! Both of you!" the Arbiter bellowed, silencing the bickering. He then walked up to the transponder and examined it himself for a few moments. "As distasteful as using this to our advantage may be, it is necessary. A phantom carrying several Huragok are on their way to repair the crashed phantom. I will see about getting one to examine this transponder. Once it has served its purpose, it will be destroyed." He turned to the two young Sangheili. "Am I clear?"

Neither one daring to argue with the Arbiter, they nodded. 'Zkra climbed out of the gully towards the crashed phantom. The Vorcha walked off in the opposite direction. Jondum also walked away. Only the zealot remained bold enough to stay in the Arbiter's presence. "Are you sure of this, your holiness?"

"As disrespectful as he was to you, 'Zkra had a point." Thel said. "When an opportunity presents itself, it would be foolish not to seize it."

The zealot sighed. "Foolish. I humbly ask that you never again use that word in my presence. I have heard it used against me far too often for my liking."

"…What is your name, swordsman?" Thel asked.

The zealot puffed out his chest. "Jorik Zerimar." he proudly replied.

"How old are you?" Thel asked. Jorik was a biotic, which meant he had to be a very young zealot, given how recent a discovery biotics were for the Sangheili.

"Thirty cycles." he replied, confirming Thel's suspicion that he was very young indeed. "I know I am very young your holiness, but I am strong."

"I noticed." Thel replied. "I saw you in the battle today. You are very skilled with both your blade and your biotics."

"Thank you, Arbiter." Jorik said with a bow.

"Why would anyone call you foolish in spite of such strength and skill?" Thel asked, deciding to end the small talk and strike at the heart of the issue.

Jorik huffed. "It's the damnable squidheads." he growled. "They mock me for staying true to our people's roots, as they mock all zealots. 'Sword-jockies,' they call us. They see the honor that we must live our lives by each day as an inconvenience. They don't understand that it is not something to be tossed aside."

It was then that Thel and Jorik heard something off in the distance. Music. They looked and saw a couple of rangers setting up a radio. "You sure we'd be able to pick up a rock station all the way out here?" one asked.

"Sure, man! I custom-made this radio myself!" the other replied.

"That actually makes me even more skeptical about it working." quipped the first.

"Oh wait! I got somethin'! I got somethin'!" the other said. He turned the dial and sure enough, noise faintly resembling music started playing. "Oh wort man, oh wort! FRANKENSTEIN JOE!"

"And it's off the new album FLAMING PICKAXE! 'Nolarom, I will never doubt you again!" The two Sangheili then began to head-bang to the flip music.

Jorik shook his head as he took in the sight. "It didn't always used to be this way." he said. "My maternal uncle told me and my brothers of our race's history. Our holy crusades against heresy and filth. Now look at us." he said as he gestured to the head banging squid heads. "The old ways are dying."

Thel sighed. This was a subject that he had thought about more than once. "If there's one thing I have learned in my time as the Arbiter, it is that life never stands still." he said. "Times change. And if we are to survive and prosper, then we must change with them. It is often better to embrace that change rather than fear or deny it."

The two squidheads continued to headbang. "I will still never understand the appeal of this 'Frankenstein Joe.'" Jorik said.

"With that, I will wholeheartedly agree." Thel said with a nod.

"Arbiter, this is Phantom-Delinam. We've got a situation over here." a phantom pilot reported over the battle net. Thel sighed. An Arbiter's work is never done.

"What is it? More Geth?" he asked.

"….Not exactly." the phantom pilot replied.

….

Phantom-Delinam came and picked up the Arbiter, as well as Jondum Bau who was also interested in what the phantom had discovered. The dropship flew for a few miles until arriving at the foot of another hill. The phantom lowered its altitude and the Arbiter and Spectre hopped out once it was a reasonable distance off the ground. They walked towards the perimeter that the rangers and Vorcha had set up, supervised by a zealot.

The lance of Imperial soldiers stood in a semi-circle around a small group of LOKI mechs, a YMIR mech, and what looked like a vehicle with a drill on the front, all of which were shut down. Next to the vehicle was a neatly drilled hole in the hill, filled with an odd silver-white metal. One of the rangers approached the two. "We found her in the middle of mining out this thorium deposit. She's not a licensed miner either. She won't say, but we're guessing she's a scavenger from the Terminus Systems."

"She?" Thel asked, looking around and seeing nothing but machines.

"You weren't told?" the ranger asked. Thel shook his head. The ranger chuckled and turned to Jondum, oddly enough. "You in particular are in for a shock, Spectre." He then turned to the drill vehicle. "Alright, come on out!" He kept his hand on his plasma pistol. "Nice and easy!"

The door to the vehicle opened and distinctly female Human shape climbed out. She wore a hardsuit, but wore no helmet, not even in the unholy heat of this hellish planet. As she slowly walked closer, the Arbiter and the Spectre could see why. It was because she didn't really need to wear a helmet. Her skin and short-cut, slightly spiky hair were made from silver meta and black metal respectively, while her eyes glowed green. She was an android, likely 'piloted' by a Smart AI from the Terminus Systems.

She came to a stop in front of the Arbiter and Spectre, and crossed her arms. "An AI." Thel observed.

"An Arbiter." the AI replied in an odd accent. British, if Thel had to guess. "Looks like I'm in trouble, aren't I?"

"Indeed you are." Jondum sternly said. "As an AI, you're taking an awful risk being this close to Council Space. In fact, there happens to be a Council-owned military training facility in this very cluster."

"You gonna rat me out?" the AI asked.

"Am I going to have to?" the Spectre asked back.

The android rolled her eyes. "Look mate, I'm not hurting anyone." she gestured to the mechs. "My boys and I were just here to mine some thorium."

"Illegally." Jondum pointed out. "You're a scavenger."

"I prefer 'resourceful entrepreneur.'" the machine woman replied.

"What do you even want with thorium?" the ranger asked.

"To sell it. Doy." the AI replied.

"What use is money to an AI?" the ranger further questioned. She looked at the Sangheili and leaned on one leg with a hand on her hips.

"You think these gynoid bodies are cheap?" she asked.

The Arbiter shook his head. He turned to the Spectre. "We should probably let her go. I doubt she has anything to do with the Geth."

"Geth?" she asked. "What's this about Geth?"

"There was, and could still be, a Geth presence on this planet." Thel explained. "Did you not hear the battle just a few miles away?"

"I thought that was just Eclipse and the Blue Suns trying to kill each other over a mercury deposit again." the android replied. "But if this planet is a Geth hotspot, maybe I oughta pack up and head home."

"Don't count on that." Jondum said. "An artificial intelligence illegally mining on the outskirts of Council Space? I've got half a mind to arrest you."

"Arrest me?" the AI asked as she looked at Jondum up and down. "Who do you think you are? A bloody Spectre?"

Jondum just paused as he crossed his arms.

"…Oh, hell." the gynoid said as she smacked her hand against her forehead.

It was then that a thought suddenly occurred to Thel. As he told Jorik earlier; when an opportunity presents itself, it would be foolish not to seize it. "Excuse us for a moment." he said as he took Jondum aside and walked a dozen feet away from the AI. "I have an idea. I think we would do well to recruit the AI." he told the Spectre over a private com channel.

"….I'm sorry, you're going to have to repeat that. For a minute, I could've sworn that you suggested that we invite into a high-priority mission an artificial intelligence." Jondum replied.

"Hear me, Spectre." Thel began. "The Master Chief's exploits on Halo are well-documented, but so too were the exploits of the AI Cortana. It was she who was truly able to decipher the secrets of Halo. We may need to bring a similar AI of our own, should the ring guard yet more secrets."

"Even if I would agree with that, which I don't, Cortana was a highly sophisticated infiltration and cyber-warfare AI." Jondum pointed out. "Our new friend here is just a scavenger looking for ill-gotten goods. She's the synthetic equivalent of a hobo digging through trash for a half-eaten sandwich. We don't even know if she's capable of interacting with Forerunner technology the way Cortana did."

"You are right. We don't." Thel replied. "Come. Let us find out." With that, he walked back to the android, Jondum shaking his head as he followed. "AI." he said.

"Priscilla, please. Friends call me Priss." the AI replied.

"Very well. Priss."

"Don't call me Priss. We're not friends."

"….How familiar are you with Forerunner technology?" Thel asked.

"Funny question." Priscilla said as she crossed her arms. "I've bought and sold some Forerunner stuff on Omega's black market."

"Have you studied any of it?" Thel asked.

"Sure I have." Priscilla replied. "I'd be a piss-poor trader if I didn't know my product like the back of my hand."

"How well are your translation and interpretation programs?"

"Top of the line. Gotta be if you wanna do as much business as I do."

"Electronic warfare?"

"That, and this body knows how to shoot a gun. I'd pull one out right now, but I'm surrounded by Sangheili and Vorcha with guns. Doesn't really seem like a good idea at the moment."

"Software infiltration?"

"….Yeah, I've done some corporate espionage on Illium once or twice, why are you asking me all these questions?" Priscilla asked, suddenly suspicious of the Arbiter's motives.

Thel turned to Jondum. Jondum looked back. The Salarian sighed. "You're going to do whatever you want regardless of what I say, aren't you?" he asked over the private comm line.

"Most likely." Thel admitted.

"Well, get it over with then." Jondum said.

Thel turned back to android. "Priscilla. The Spectre and I are on an important mission. We are searching for a Forerunner installation. However, the Geth are searching for it as well, and it is imperative that we find it before they do. An AI with your talents would be of great aid to our cause. Would you join us?"

"….Depends. What's in it for me?" she asked. Thel was taken aback by the AI's blunt question. "Oh, what? You didn't think I'd help you for free, did you? 'Enterprising entrepreneur,' remember?"

"Well, I for one was thinking that in exchange for helping us, I wouldn't arrest you." Jondum said.

"Well, that's a good start, but I'm gonna need more than that." Priscilla replied. "How about this; if and when we find the Forerunner installation, I get a few trinkets to take to market."

"Heresy!" the ranger barked.

"No physical artifacts." Thel said. "However, you are free to make personal copies of any Forerunner data we find and use it as you see fit." The Arbiter hoped that would be enough to assure her cooperation. The promise of new data to an AI was like the promise of meat to a starving varren.

"Tempting." Priscilla replied as she took a few nanoseconds to think it over. "I suppose I can work with that. And I'm free to go as soon as the job's done?"

"Indeed you would be." The Arbiter replied.

"But I for one had better not catch you in Council space again." Jondum sternly said.

"Yeah, yeah." Priscilla waved off Jondum, dismissing his threats. "Alright then, Arbiter. You've got yourself an artificial intelligence."

….

"Well well well, what do we have here." Priscilla said as she touched the hologram of an ice-covered planet. She was no longer in her mech body and was currently 'plugged in' to the Glorious New Destiny's navigational computer in the CIC. Thel, Jondum, and Kaidon Tyrannai all surrounded the massive hologram. Priscilla's holographic form had green skin with code flowing on it much like Cortana's, along with short black hair. Unlike Cortana however, Priscilla's avatar wore clothes. She wore a black leather jacket, black boots and fingerless gloves, and even black eyeshadow. The only piece of clothing that wasn't black was her jeans, which were instead a very dark green. According to the squidheads, she was dressed like something they call a 'punk rock chick.'

"I've tapped into the Geth comm network and let me tell you right now boys, there's a lot of chatter on that planet right there." Priscilla said as she pointed to the ice planet in question. "Tornaq. A miserable little snow-ball that is pretty much the only planet in a system on the distant edge of the cluster. Turian Hierarchy surveyed it a few centuries back, deemed it not worth the rock it was made from, and no one has payed attention to it since."

"And you say the Geth are clustered on that planet?" Tyrannai asked.

"Possibly. Could even be their main base of operations in the Argos Rho if we're lucky." Priscilla said. "But main base or not, there's definitely something about that world they're real keen on."

"We shall see why the Geth find it so important." Tyrannai ominously said. He turned to the chief navigator. "Plot course for Tornaq in the Irin system."

"We're not too far from the Phoenix system." Jondum pointed out. "It wouldn't hurt to call Pinnacle Station to see if we can get backup. It's probable that they'll have at least one high-level special operations team training there willing to help out."

"No." Tyrannai said with a firm shake of his head. "Their assistance will not be necessary. This is our fight, and our fight alone."

The Kaidon then turned back towards the various computer operators in the CIC. "We shall go to the home of the Geth, break down their doors, and plant our flag in their corpses!" The Kaidon earned a few roars and snarls of approval from the other Sangheili, ready for yet more battle.

Tyrannai turned to Priscilla. "Thank you for your aid, AI. You may withdraw from my ship now."

"I dunno. I kinda like it in here." Priscilla said as she looked around the room, her fingers on her chin. "Not really designed to accommodate an AI, but I -"

"You may withdraw from my ship now." Tyrannai repeated, much more firmly this time.

"Okay okay. I'm withdrawing." Priscilla said before her hologram disappeared. Her then once-inactive body, oddly enough wearing the same sort of clothes as her avatar, whirred back to life. The mech then looked around. "So where do I stay?"

"Arbiter. Find a place for her to stay." Tyrannai dismissively ordered. "And take the Spectre with you."

The Arbiter nodded in reply and lead Jondum and Priscilla out of the CIC and into a corridor, the door shutting behind them. Tyrannai looked at the holographic image of the planet. Text appeared next to it, the codex entry. According to the codex, the AI spoke truth. Tornaq was an unremarkable ice planet with little more than a scant few cobalt deposits that had long since been mined out by the Turians and then deemed no longer useful.

So why was this world so important to the Geth? Was it because it was so ideally remote and out of the way that it would make a perfect base of operations? Most likely. But Tyrannai had other suspicions. He knew now that Forerunner installations could in fact be found outside the Forerunner Cluster, provided one knew where to look.

Perhaps, unlike the Turians, the Geth dug deep enough to find something truly worthwhile…..

….

Codex Entry (Technology): Divine Crystals

The Fall of Reach was one of the most devastating defeats suffered by the UNSC during the Human-Covenant War, not only because of the massive loss of life and the loss of a major Human military installation, but also because it dealt a heavy blow to Human morale back on Earth. While the Covenant invaded the planet to wipe out the Human populace as they always have, their other objective was to seek out and secure various Forerunner artifacts from the surface of Reach. One of those artifacts was something the Covenant called the Fragment of Divinity.

The Fragment of Divinity was an artifact that seemingly spat in the eye of known physics of the time. It was a crystal that demonstrated a capability of warping energy, gravity, and even space-time. The artifact was thought lost after Spartans secured the artifact and escaped Reach with it. However, shards of the broken crystal were found amongst the ruins of the then-recently destroyed Covenant battle station Unyielding Hierophant. The shards were then stored in a vault deep in the Covenant Capital High Charity. When High Charity fell to the Flood, the shards were thought lost with it. However, a single Sangheili soldier was able to break into the vault during the outbreak of the Great Schism and escape the station with the crystal.

In the years following the war, the Sangheili studied the remains of the crystal carefully, and even found additional crystals in Forerunner ruins during what was later called the "Forerunner Ruin Rush," a period immediately following the war when Humans and Sangheili were in tense competition with one another for Forerunner artifacts. It was only in the last thirty years that they have truly made headway in the study of these crystals.

During the early 2650's, the Sangheili Empire was experimenting with then-newly discovered element zero, exposing it to what they were now calling a divine crystal. Upon initial exposure, element zero had little to no visible effect on the crystal's functions. However, when subjected to an electrical current, the crystal releases dark energy which can be manipulated into a mass effect field, just as eezo itself does. However, the crystal's properties warp the dark energy that is released, strengthening the resulting mass effect field.

One of the weaknesses of eezo drive cores is that they put a limit on how large a ship can be; regular cores can only move a ship roughly one kilometer in length. This is because the amount of eezo and power required for a drive increases exponentially to the mass being moved. However, divine crystals virtually do away with such limitations, a property that the Sangheili take full advantage of by installing divine crystals into the drive cores of their infamous super carriers and other gargantuan starships. The reason this technology is currently not more widespread across the galaxy is due to the extreme rarity of divine crystals, which have thus far only been located in Forerunner ruins. The Sangheili Empire currently maintain a tight stranglehold on access to this resource, which has been a point of diplomatic tension between the Sangheili and the Council Races.

.

Yeah, I came up with the divine crystal concept after a fan pointed out to me in a PM how, according to Mass Effect canon, a thirty-kilometer long ship that runs on eezo shouldn't be physically possible. After realizing that I had written myself into a corner and subsequently spending no small amount of time tearing my hair out and crying myself to sleep as I lamented my inadequacies both as a writer and as a human being, I remembered the crystal from Halo: First Strike, and how it had surprisingly little impact on the games in the grand scheme of things, which no doubt disappointed some Halo fans. So I decided to bring it back for this fanfic.

See 343? I pulled the trigger on that Chekhov's Gun so you wouldn't have to. You can thank me later.

And yes, I know what you're thinking, and you're right. It is an extremely blatant ass-pull. But hey, I've been writing this fanfic for three years. I have a few things planned for the future, but more often than not, I make this crap up as I go along.

Also, new original character! Everybody meet Priscilla! Shout-out to Zgamer for coming up with the name when I couldn't come up with a good one. And yeah, she's got her own sexy mech body ala EDI from Mass Effect 3. Some people are going to call bullshit on that, citing the rarity of such androids in the Mass Effect universe, but how rare are they really? From playable Infiltration AI's in ME3 multiplayer to mention of Organic-on-Synthetic porn in the Citadel DLC, there are a few hints in Mass Effect 3 that gynoids might not be so uncommon. Hell, the reason Joker was able to smuggle EDI onto the Citadel was because he was able to pass her off as a synthetic assistant, which implies that synthetic assistants are a thing, possibly even sexy female ones. Make of that what you will. Throw in the fact that, in the TLS universe, AI's are still totally legit in the Terminus Systems and are practically their own race in a few ways, and of course mech bodies would be fairly common amongst AI's.

That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

All-in-all, writing this chapter was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I'll give details later on my tumblr later this week. Right now, I'm kinda drained.

Speaking of my tumblr, those who follow it should be well aware that I have something very special planned this Halloween.

Don't touch that dial.