A Spectre's Tale

Author Notes: I know this has been done a few times now but I thought what the hell and decided to have a go at doing my own novelisation of the first Mass Effect game. While I will be using the events of the game as key plot points, I will be expanding upon them and surrounding scenes to hopefully show a more in-depth look at the amazing world and characters Bioware created in the Mass Effect series.

The version of Commander Shepard that I'm going to use is based off the version of Shepard I use in the game but with a small twist. In background, this Shepard is a colonist and a war hero as well as having the vanguard military specialisation. However, unlike in the game I've not imposed a limit on the kind of weapons he is trained to use.

Brownie points for anyone who can guess exactly who Shepard is named after.


Prologue

Systems Alliance Embassy

Citadel Presidium

March 2nd 2183

Admiral Steven Hackett waited with well-concealed impatience on the embassy balcony for the meeting with Ambassador Donnel Udina to begin. He did not appreciate being dragged here to the Citadel for the meeting, it wasn't necessary to meet in person after all with modern technology allowing instantaneous communication – be it audio, visual or holographic – with anyone, anywhere in the known galaxy. He could have easily stayed on board his flagship – the dreadnought SSV Everest – or on Arcturus Station and had the conversation but no Udina had insisted on having the conversation in person – officially because he didn't want to risk a team of Salarian hackers getting wind of the discussions and broadcasting them all over the extranet. It was a reasonable security precaution, it was the only reason he'd agreed to come, though privately Steven believed Udina had really dragged him here just because he could.

Then to add insult to injury Udina was making him wait.

Quietly Steven glanced over at his companion who was gazing out upon the peaceful landscape of the presidium while they waited. Captain David Anderson's features were calm and controlled but Steven had long ago perfected the art of reading people. He'd had to learn as being the commander of the Systems Alliance Navy Fifth Fleet based at Arcturus Station he had to deal with politicians and reporters more often than he would have liked. That developed skill let him know that he wasn't the only one who was beginning to be frustrated by the little political power game Ambassador Udina was playing with them.

To distract himself from his mounting annoyance Steven gazed out over the presidium's interior. Despite his position he'd never really come to the Citadel before – there was little reason after all for Systems Alliance Navy admirals to visit the vast Prothean-built space station that was the political and economic hub of the galaxy, at least for those races who had agreed to abide by the rules set out in the Citadel Conventions. He had to admit that the view was impressive with the wide strip of green parkland filled with small streams, lakes, statues and ornamental fountains curving away into the distance – with the sleek embassy buildings, apartments and commercial facilities where the elite of galactic society lived, worked and played on the opposite side of the parkland. All of it lit from above by a holographic sky that totally concealed the fact that they were on a gigantic space habitat floating in the middle of the Serpent Nebula. A habitat whose scale and complexity was far beyond the ability of any race living to construct and maintain, like the mass relays that made rapid interstellar travel and commerce possible the Citadel was a monument to the engineering skills of the long since vanished Protheans.

Like many people in the known galaxy, Steven couldn't help but wonder what the Protheans had really been like. They knew so little about them fifty millennia of neglect had reduced many Prothean relics in this galaxy to ruins that had been picked over repeatedly by generations of scavengers. Even when they hadn't been looted, surviving Prothean facilities had been ravaged by the elements proving repeatedly that nothing truly lasted forever; time destroyed everything in the end. Practically all they knew about the Protheans was that they had had an understanding of mass effect technology that no current race – even the Asari – possessed as evidenced by their creation of the station and the massive network of mass relays that crisscrossed the galaxy.

The sound of the door opening drew him out of his thoughts and he glanced over his shoulder to see Ambassador Udina – dressed in a cream coloured, immaculately tailored business suit – come in.

"Sorry to keep you waiting gentlemen," Udina replied smoothly, convincingly though Steven wasn't fooled. "My last meeting with the council went on far longer than I'd anticipated. Councillor Velarn can really talk; it took ages for the other councillors and myself to get him to withdraw his objection to our proposal. I appreciate your patience."

"It's quite alright ambassador," Steven replied blinking a little as he began suspected that for once Udina hadn't deliberately made them wait. He knew that the Turian Councillor Valus Velarn had been outspoken in his objection to the proposal that the Systems Alliance Parliament had put before the Council. Though relations between the Systems Alliance and the Turian Hierarchy had improved a lot in recent year's there were still some holdouts like Nakverran who still carried a grudge from the pounding the Turian expeditionary forces had taken at Shanxi during the First Contact War - or the Relay 314 Incident as the Turians called it – twenty-six years earlier.

"I take it that the council has agreed to our proposal," he continued.

"They have," Udina, answered, "They were reluctant given what happened the last time we tried this," as he spoke he gave a Captain Anderson a pointed look that the younger officer ignored "but they've agreed to allow a Human to join the Spectres. I take it you've brought the list of candidates I asked for admiral?"

"I have," Steven, confirmed taking an OSD out of a pocket in his uniform. "I've looked through the criteria with Captain Anderson and we've chosen a number of possible candidates. I already have an idea which would be the best one."

"Let me be the judge of that, admiral," Udina answered taking the OSD and popping it into his computer before pressing a few of the holographic keys. A list of names immediately appeared on an orange tinted holographic screen. Calmly Udina scanned the list and one immediately jumped out at him, one that was near the top of the list but which resonated in his memory from events that had taken place several years earlier.

"What about Shepard," he said after a moment manipulating the controls to bring the files on one Lieutenant Commander Aldrin Shepard up on his screen. "He was born in the colonies, joined the military when he was eighteen."

"He knows how rough and unforgiving life out here can be. He lost his entire family when Batarian slavers attacked Mindoir," Anderson added familiar with the man in question as he'd been assigned as his XO when the Normandy was finally finished. Vaguely he recalled the yard dogs assembling his ship telling him that would be sometime within the next fortnight.

"It says here that he's a marine," Udina commented though he knew in the case of the Alliance military the distinction between naval and marine personnel was next to zero with no real friction between them. Certainly there was nothing like the inter-service rivalries that there were in the increasing understaffed and downsizing military forces maintained by the old Earth nations, these days young men and women looking for adventure – and who thought the military was a good way to get it – tended to join the Alliance military instead of one of the old national militaries.

"That's correct," Anderson confirmed. "When he joined the military there were no places available in the navy training schools so he was rotated into the marines. Graduated at the top of his class and went through N7 training. Though still technically a marine he's been acting more and more like a naval officer in the last few years."

"He certainly proved his skills during the Blitz held off an entire army of slavers and mercenaries single handed," Steven added with a smile of admiration. Shepard's strategic use of scarce military resources, the terrain of Elysium and an excellent grasp of military guerrilla warfare tactics had held off the slavers and mercenaries long enough for Alliance naval and marine reinforcements to respond to the colony's distress call. Respond and give the Batarian backed renegade forces the very thorough pounding they'd deserved.

"He's the only reason Elysium is still standing," Anderson agreed. "He's as close to a true hero as anyone we've got. Certainly he's seen more action than most of the people on that list."

"We certainly can't question his courage," Udina replied frowning thoughtfully as he carefully read the rest of the file. "Hmm interesting, it says here that he's a biotic."

"He is. He's wired with an L3 series implant and an evaluation of his abilities when he joined the military classified him as a high end vanguard," Anderson, confirmed bracing himself to argue on Shepard's behalf if Udina turned out to be one of those people who didn't like biotics either because he was fearful or jealous of their abilities. Somehow he didn't believe Udina was one of those people, politically ambitious and somewhat abrasive he maybe but he doubted Udina would have gotten his position here if he had something against biotics considering most species had them or in the case of the Asari were all natural biotics.

"Interesting," Udina commented his thoughtful frown deepening. There was no denying that Shepard was a hero in a true sense of the word, one was not awarded the Star of Terra – the SA's highest military honour – if you weren't.

Going strictly on his military record Shepard would be an ideal candidate for the Spectres, and the fact that he was quite a powerful biotic would be politically advantageous back home. Pro-biotic groups is the Systems Alliance Parliament and the general public throughout humanities domain had been increasingly vocal recently about how biotics were seemingly being institutionally shut out of high-level positions due to a lingering popular prejudice against them. Prejudice that they argued was increasingly without foundation especially with the development of the L3 series implants that had corrected the physical and psychological problems caused by the old L2 series implants. Getting Shepard into the Spectres would throw those groups a bone and calm things down a bit in Parliament – at least until the next general election came around.

"Humanity needs a hero," Anderson added breaking into Udina's thoughts. "And Shepard is the best we've got." True, Udina thought, getting him into the Spectres should be easy enough assuming he passes the trial missions they'll put him through, which between his N7 training and his biotics should be easy enough for him.

"I'll make the call," he said at last. "Where is Shepard now?"

"Earth at the moment," Anderson answered. "The Normandy won't be ready for her shakedown run for another week or two so the crew are enjoying a bit of extra shore leave."

"That will give me plenty of time to arrange things," Udina said. "I'll arrange for one of the council's spectres to join you on Earth prior to departure."

"Understood," Steven, replied.

"Any other business," Udina asked glancing at the two military men and seeing that there was nothing else for them to talk about, the purpose of this meeting had been fulfilled. "Then I must bid you good day gentlemen. I will contact you once all appropriate arrangements have been made."

Steven Hackett nodded glad that this meeting was coming to its end, he would be happy when he got out of the office. He had a good few hours to kill before his ship finished its FTL drive static discharge and refuelling operations, which would let him enjoy some of the sights of the Citadel. Not as many as he would like obviously – the Prothean space station was far to vast to see even a fraction of in a few hours – but enough to relax. Maybe I'll go and see the Asari Consort I've heard so much about, he thought.

"Good day ambassador," he said. "Come along captain, lets leave the ambassador to his work."

"Aye sir," Anderson acknowledged secretly glad to be leaving the office himself he never liked coming here; it brought back to many bad memories of his own failed attempt to join the Spectres and the faces of all the innocents Spectre Saren Arterius had murdered in cold blood on Camala. Though it had been nearly twenty years since the events in question, he still sometimes still had dreams where he saw the faces of the victims and heard their screams. It was one of the worst of the nightmares he got from all the things he'd seen and done in the course of his career.

"Good day gentlemen," Udina said before turning his full attention to his terminal in clear dismissal.

Resisting the impulse to sigh in relief Steven left the office, with Anderson a few steps behind him. As the doors closed, he allowed the sigh to escape as the acoustic barriers that let diplomats talk confidentially in their offices would prevent Udina hearing it.

"Thank god that's over," Anderson said as they started walking heading towards the embassy lobby area.

"Indeed I hate dealing with politicians though at my level you can't really avoid it," Steven agreed. "Well then captain we have a few hours to kill before our ship will be ready for departure. You've been to the Citadel before do you know anywhere where we can go and relax for awhile."

"That depends on what kind of relaxation you want sir," Anderson answered. "If you want a drink and possible play a few rounds of quasar then the place to go would be Flux on Teysiri Ward. If you want dancing and drinking then there's the Dark Star Lounge on Zakera Ward. However if you want something a bit more… erotic shall we say then Chora's Den on Datura Ward would be the best place to go."

"Hmm," Steven muttered thoughtfully. "What about this Asari Consort I've heard so much about."

"No disrespect intended sir but it would be best to forget about going to see her," Anderson advised. "Sha'ira has a waiting list for her many services that is months long."

"I see. Is there anywhere quiet that I can go to for a drink, preferably one that is non-alcoholic?"

"The embassy lounge just across this lobby," Anderson explained as they came out into the main lobby area for the building that housed the Systems Alliance, Elcor and Volus embassies. "They sell non-alcoholic drinks as standard. Nice enough place though the lack of any real entertainment beyond background music makes it somewhat boring. Also doesn't help that it's full of bureaucrats at any given time."

"Place to avoid like the plague then," Steven commented prompting a slight chuckle from the other man.

"They do sell some non-alcoholic drinks in Flux," Anderson added as he brought himself back under control and marshalled his features back into their normal stoic expression.

"Sounds like the best place to go then. Lead the way captain."

"Aye aye sir follow me," Anderson replied before leading the way out of the embassy lobby towards the closest Citadel Mass Transit station where they would be able to get a car to Teysiri Ward and the access corridor to Flux.


Archaeological Dig Site

Eden Prime, Utopia System, Exodus Cluster

That Same Time

Doctor Alice Warren looked up from the mountain of electronic paperwork on her desk when she heard her trailer door opening. A second later, an excited looking young man that was helping with the dig came in, with her assistant Doctor Orin Manuel following behind with a big, big grin on his face. A grin that she knew well as it was the grin that said they had found something.

"Doctor you need to come down to the dig," the younger of the two men – Mathew she thought he was called – said. "We've found something that you really, really need to see."

"I guessed that you'd found something," Alice replied. "The fact that you were both beaming and practically bouncing when you came in here gave the game right away. So what is it?"

"Words would be inadequate to describe it doc," Mathew answered. "You'll need to see it to believe it."

"He's right, Alice," Manuel added with an uncharacteristic eagerness and enthusiasm in his voice. "You really need to come and see what we're starting to uncover. If it is what we think it is then the repercussions are absolutely extraordinary."

Alice raised an eyebrow, her curiosity becoming more than a little piqued. For a moment, she considered ordering the two men to tell her what had been found; after all as leader of this excavation, they could hardly ignore her. However, after a moments thought she decided to go along with them. At the very least, it would get her out of the office trailer – and away from her virtual mountain of paperwork – for a while and anything that got her away from the extremely bureaucratic forms would be well worth it.

"Alright, I'll play along," she said before saving the file she was currently reading and closing it with a few quick taps of the computers holographic keyboard. Then she got up from behind the desk. "Lead on then gentlemen. I have to admit that I am curious about what's got the pair of you so worked up."

"Believe me, Alice you won't be disappointed," Manuel replied still grinning like an idiot before leading the way out of the trailer. Fighting down a smile at her assistant's unusual enthusiasm Alice followed him out of the air-conditioned comfort of the trailer into the balmy heat and brilliant sunshine of what was early summer here on Eden Prime.

The walk to the earth and gravel ramp to the dig site was not a long one. As they started down the ramp towards the dig, Alice thought back to how they'd been alerted to this site in the first place. As she recalled colony engineers had been planning to start construction on an extension to the colonies monorail network had been analysing the ground so they would know how deep to put the foundations for the raised track. The engineer's ground scans had quickly picked up a very faint energy signature several metres beneath the surface, an energy signature that practically every Human learned to recognise in school, as it was one that four decades ago had changed their species destiny forever.

The energy signature had been Prothean.

Alice clearly remembered the excitement that she'd felt when she'd been told and excavation work had begun after they set up camp. Finding anything relating to the Protheans was rare and the fact that whatever they'd detected was still working – it had to be given it was still giving off energy – was even more so. Though she had no idea, what it was they'd detected – for all she knew, it could be the Prothean equivalent of a toaster. However, the very prospect of recovering working technology was worth getting excited over. Somehow, now though she doubted that the find would be something mundane like a toaster or some other domestic appliance. The way Manuel and Mathew were behaving suggested that whatever they had found was far, far more impressive and important than that.

It was at that moment that they reached the bottom of the ramp and Alice came to a stop her jaw dropping open in complete and utter astonishment. Standing in the centre of the clearing – its base still two thirds buried in the ground was a slender pillar of greyish-white metal. A slender line of softly rippling pale blue-green light ran up its centre and a number of glyphs decorated it surface. Though she had never seen one up close before she'd seen enough holograms of the devices she knew precisely what it was. It was one of the rarest of all possible finds. It was something that archaeologists of all known spacefaring species dreamed of uncovering but very rarely did.

It was a Prothean beacon.

"Is that…" she started to say, "am I dreaming?"

"No your not," Manuel answered, "or if you are then we all are."

"Is it… is it intact," Alice asked moving slowly around the beacon and noting with awe that the metal still gleamed brightly in the sun, for all its millennia underground the beacon appeared to be completely unmarked, a metallic monolith that had somehow escaped the ravages of time.

"All our tests so far indicate it is doc," Mathew replied. "We still have to dig the lower part of the beacon out of the ground but all our scans indicate it's intact. You realise what finding this means right?"

"More than you know," Alice, answered dragging her eyes away from the incredible find and looking at her assistant. She knew precisely what they had to do now, the guidelines and regulations for finds such as this were clear. "Manuel I need you to speak to everyone on and around this dig site, anyone who could have seen the beacon. Make sure they don't tell anyone what we've found."

"But doc we need to…" Mathew started to object.

"I know you want to announce this discovery all over the extranet, Mathew. So do I but there is a procedure to follow," Alice answered. "Before we make any official announcements we need to inform both local and intergalactic authorities. Both the Alliance Parliament and the Citadel Council have to be told what we have found here, this find is bigger than you can possibly imagine."

"Do we have to tell the Citadel," Mathew moaned. "This is a Human world we should be the ones to handle this. I mean we deciphered the data cache on Mars quickly enough."

"Yes we did but when we deciphered the Martian data cache there were a lot more resources available to divert to the effort," Alice reminded the younger man. "They were able to divert a lot of time, resources and computer power from practically every government and higher learning institution in the Sol system to divert to the task. Even so, it took over a year to translate, defragment and convert even that relatively small amount of data into a format we could understand. Even if we tied in all the colonies computers we wouldn't have even a tiny faction of the processing power we'd need to start tapping the beacons secrets."

"I suppose so," Mathew admitted. "But why not just ship the beacon back to Earth?"

"Its not that easy anymore," Alice informed him. "Since the Alliance signed the Citadel Conventions all archaeological finds connected in anyway to the Protheans have to – by law – be reported to the Council. I can understand why, the secrets this beacon might contain could potentially have a profound impact on not just humanity but on every species in Citadel Space. Its in nobodies best interest for one species to have exclusive control over it."

For a moment Mathew looked like he was about to argue further but reluctantly he nodded in acceptance, though he still did not look happy. Alice could understand it, as she was aware of the fact that there was a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the Citadel Council in all circles of the Systems Alliance, but especially amongst the younger generations. She was aware that many believed that the Council was trying to hold there species back, that the Council races were scared of humanities potential and the fact that they'd accomplished in a mere four decades what took most species centuries.

It was quite a change for how the Council had been viewed when she'd been a child, then the Council Races - in particular, the Salarians and Asari – had been viewed with awe and respect. Especially as they'd prevented the Turians from escalating, the First Contact War into an all out interstellar conflict after the Second Fleet sent their expeditionary force retreating to the Hierarchy – with combat boot printed backsides.

Pushing aside her thoughts, she took one last look at the beacon knowing that this was a find she was going to remember for the rest of her life. It was literally the find of a lifetime after all. Then she turned away and began walking back up the ramp towards the encampment. Behind her she heard Manuel calling all the dig site personnel together to brief them on what would happen next, but she paid it no mind. Instead her thoughts turned to the report that she was going to have to make to both Eden Primes parliamentary representative and the Citadel. It would be the most important report that she had ever filed.

A report that she knew would probably prompt the Council to send at least one of its elite Spectre operatives here to secure the beacon. At the same time every Prothean expert in Citadel Space worth their salt would certainly begin to gather on the Citadel, ready to begin probing the beacons secrets. Alice hoped that she and Manuel would be among them, after all, it was there team that was unearthing the beacon, and it would be only fair for them to be there when the extraction of data from the beacons memory began. I wonder what information the beacon contains, she thought, what long lost secrets of the Protheans will it reveal? Maybe it will contain the answer to the age old puzzle of the Protheans disappearance all those millennia ago.

She supposed that only time would tell.


Author Announcement: Before anyone says anything I've not forgotten about any of my other fics, I've just got writers block with most of them right now. Only my thirdspace halo spin off is cooperating right now though its slow going.