AN:- So here is the first major revision to this story I'm going to do. Basically when I started this back in 2010 I was a much more inexperienced writer, who had even less idea about how to do a novelisation. Now I've found my voice a lot more, and hopefully I should be able to give this story the quality it deserves. I'm going to leave my original author's notes pretty much intact, though I may add a note or two for the revisions as well.

/So yes, I'm back. Now that I'm back at university I will have a lot more time for writing, and for viewing the sorts of things which get me writing. As part of a Fresher's Week thing I'm basically playing a whole lot of videogames, something I haven't had a lot of time for in the last four months, and I've started with Mass Effect. Just before I started, I decided I was going to write the entire thing, as I was playing it, so it was fresh in my mind. This is the first chapter, and sort of giving myself a clue as to whether this will even be possible. It took about three hours to write, and thus far has had very little editing.

I hope you enjoy the story of Maia Shepard, because I know that I'm going to!/

Prologue 1: Lieutenant Commander Maia Shepard

Maia Shepard looked out the viewport, wondering quite where she was going to be stationed next. It wasn't as if she had been given any hints from the higher ups, and after the nightmare on Akuze, she wasn't entirely sure if she even wanted out of the little R&R break she was taking.

It had been three years, and still the Alliance military didn't seem to trust her with anything more than milk runs and escort missions. She was so sick of watching a bunch of scientists fidget as they were catapulted from one end of space to the other, the next time she saw a white coat she was liable to start breaking things.

Her private comm terminal blinked as a new message arrived. She tapped it open and read the new assignment briefing. It didn't look too exciting. She knew Captain Anderson's name, but the ship was fresh out of the docks. Checking her calendar, she was surprised to see she had only two days to report in. Normally an assignment was given at least two weeks in advance. Someone was trying to keep her new mission quiet, for whatever reason.

The ship was called the Normandy, not one she had known was in development. As she settled in she wondered why that was. It was clearly a top of the line vessel, with several enhancements and improvements on current model frigates. Someone was definitely trying to keep details private. The briefing had been for yet another simple shake-down run, this time out to Eden Prime, but for some reason there was a council Spectre on board.

Like most soldier she knew there was very little information she had about the Spectres. They were some sort of special alien task-force, somewhere between Special Forces, spies and cops. This one was called Nihlus, and he was turian. She had met aliens of course, no member of the army hadn't, but something about him gave her the creeps. The first day she was on ship he seemed to be following her around. In the mess hall when she was eating, in the gym when she was working out.

Just one more strange thing on a mission already overloaded with strange things.

They shipped out twenty-four hours after she had arrived on the ship. While she was reading a report at the mess hall table she felt the subtle shift as they moved from planetary gravity to eezo generated gravity, signalling that they were finally underway. She checked the chrono on her omni-tool. About an hour of in-system travel before they reached the relay, but she definitely wanted to be in the cockpit for that if she could. Over a decade of space travel and she still couldn't get used to the sight.

She arrived in the cockpit just as the pilot was bringing them up to the relay, the swirling blue sparks catching their ship and hurling it far into space, the inertia cancelled by the on board eezo. She tuned out the pilot's running commentary as the stars in front of them seemed to stretch into beams of light and the ship entered that strange nether-place of FTL space.

Nihlus was next to her in the cockpit of course, though at least this time it had been her who came on him rather than the other way around. Once the pilot had finished his number checking Nihlus gave a short nod. "Fifteen hundred is good, your captain will be pleased." He turned on his heel and marched out and down towards the CIC, leaving the humans alone in the cockpit.

"Man I hate that guy," the pilot grumbled the second he was out of earshot.

"Nihlus gave you a compliment, so you hate him." She had barely noticed the other man, he was focused on his task. She recognised him as the Lieutenant, part of the ground team she would be commanding. Normally she would have liked to get to know him before going out on a mission, but he had arrived during her off-shift, when she was asleep. Apparently he was an L2 biotic. She had worked with one before, a long time ago.

The pilot was still going. "You remember to zip up your jumpsuit on the way out of the bathroom? That's good. I just jumped us halfway across the galaxy and hit a target the size of a pin, so that's incredible!" He shuffled in his seat a little with a smug grin on his face. "Besides, Spectres are trouble, I don't like having him on board. Call me paranoid."

"You're paranoid," the lieutenant responded with a grin. "The Council helped fund this project, they have a right to send someone to keep an eye on their investment."

"Yeah that is the official story, but only an idiot believes the official story." He glanced back to Shepard, clearly expecting a response.

She shrugged a little. He had a point. "They don't send Spectres on shakedown runs."

Triumphant the pilot turned back to the LT. "So there's more going on here than the captain's letting o-"

The intercom cut him off. "Joker, status report." It was Captain Anderson. She had met him briefly when she came aboard. He was a natural spacer if ever she had seen one.

"Just cleared the Mass Relay Captain. Stealth systems engaged, everything looks solid."

"Good. Find a comm buoy and link us into the network. I want mission reports relayed back to Alliance brass before we reach Eden Prime."

"Aye aye Captain. Better brace yourself sir. I think Nihlus is headed your way."

"He's already here lieutenant." The captain's tone had turned noticeably frostier. "Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing."

Joker looked back again. "You get that Commander?"

"He sounds angry." She wondered what Nihlus could have said to make him so annoyed. "Something must have gone wrong with the mission."

She turned leave, hearing Joker and Alenko start up again. "Captain always sounds like that when he's talking to me."

"Can't possibly imagine why."

She hadn't had that long to get acclimated to the Normandy, but she at least knew where the comm room was. Heading back through the ship she could overhear the ship's navigator arguing with a fellow crewmember over the intercom. It sounded like he was having a few problems with the Spectre's presence as well, but she didn't have time to stop and chat.

Outside the comm room she met one of the corporals, who was talking with the doctor. He was overexcited, and very green, she could see immediately. He might have rank, but he didn't have experience. She winced a little internally when he mentioned Akuse. That was not something she wanted to remember, and she told him so. She at least managed to get a little more information about Eden Prime out of him. Things were really beginning to get suspicious. Taking a fully armed crew into a supposed safe zone, and with a Spectre on board as well?

Outside the comm room she bumped into Corporal Jenkins, another one of her ground team, as he was talking to the ship's medic.

"I grew up on Eden Prime doc. It's not the sort of place Spectres visit. There's something Nihlus isn't telling us about this mission."

"That's crazy." She hadn't met the Doctor, and was slightly surprised to hear a British accent. Most of the crew she had met had either been colonials, whose accents were hammered out of them in basic, or born spacers, with that same flat bland accent. "The captain's in charge here," the doc went on. "He wouldn't take orders from a Spectre."

"What do you think Commander?" Jenkins said. "We won't be staying on Eden Prime too long will we? I'm itching for some real action."

"I sincerely hope you're kidding corporal. Your 'real action' usually ends with me patching up crew members in the infirmary."

Shepard nodded. "You need to calm down corporal. A good soldier stays cool, even under fire."

He at least made an effort to stop moving around so much. "Sorry Commander, but, this waiting's killing me. I've never been on a mission like this before. Not one with a Spectre on board."

"Just treat this like every other assignment you've had and everything will work out."

"Easy for you to say. You already proved yourself on Akuze." She winced a little, feeling the sudden surge of adrenaline that hit her every time she heard that name. She felt the doctor's eyes on her, but Jenkins didn't seem to have noticed. "Everybody knows what you can do. This is my big chance I need to show the brass what I can do!"

She had seen his like before. There was nothing particularly dangerous about bravado, and in the field it could save a life, but it could also lead to unnecessary risk taking. "You're young Corporal, you have a long career ahead of you. Don't do something stupid to mess it up."

"Don't worry ma'am. I'm not gonna screw this up!"

"You're from Eden Prime aren't you Jenkins?" It was a simple tactic to cool him down a bit. Remind him of home, and maybe get some more intel. "What's it like?"

"It's very peaceful Commander. They've been real careful with development so you don't have any city noise or pollution. My parents lived on the outskirts of the colony. At night I used to climb this big hill and stare across the fields back at the lights. From the main settlement. It was gorgeous." He shrugged, looking a little self-conscious. "But when I got older I realised it was a little too calm and quiet for me. That's why I joined the Alliance, even paradise gets boring after a while."

That ratcheted up the paranoia a little more. "The captain wants to see me," she said. "Stay cool Jenkins, be ready to drop."

He saluted. "Yes ma'am."

She nodded and carried on to the comm room. It was time to get some answers. Nihlus was in there alone, and she couldn't help but feel she'd been ambushed.

"Commander Shepard. I was hoping you'd get here first. It will give us a chance to talk."

"The captain said he'd meet me here." Her tone was carefully neutral.

"He's on his way. I'm interested in this world we're going to. Eden Prime. I've heard it's quite beautiful."

"They say it's a paradise."

"Yes, a paradise. Serene, tranquil, safe. Eden Prime has become something of a symbol for your people hasn't it? Proof that not only can humanity establish colonies across the galaxy, but also protect them." He finally turned to look at her. "But how safe is it really?"

It was difficult not to react. He was being deliberately antagonistic for some reason she couldn't figure out. Almost threatening. "Do you know something?"

He began to pace in front of the display. "Your people are still newcomers Shepard. The galaxy can be a very dangerous place. Is the Alliance truly ready for this?"

Okay now there's definitely something going on here. That was about more than Eden Prime.

"I think it's about time we told the Commander what's really going on." Captain Anderson's voice came from behind her and he marched past even as she turned to salute. He gave her a terse smile and came to a halt in front of the display.

"This mission is far more than a simple shakedown run," Nihlus said.

"I figured there was something you weren't telling us."

"We're making a covert pickup on Eden Prime. That's why we needed the stealth systems operational."

"There must be a reason you didn't tell me about this, sir?" She managed to keep most of the accusation out of her voice, but the situation was doing nothing for her paranoia.

"This comes down form the top Commander. Information strictly on a need to know basis. A research team on Eden Prime unearthed some kind of beacon during an excavation. It was Prothean."

Ah. That explained the secrecy, and the stealth systems, and the Spectre. Prothean technology was the most hotly sought after commodity in the entire galaxy. And if the humans had managed to find some then it would have caught the attention of every notable race out there.

"What else can you tell me?"

"This is big Shepard. The last time humanity made a discovery like this it jumped our technology forward two hundred years. But Eden Prime doesn't have the facilities to handle something like this. We need to bring the beacon back to the Citadel for proper study."

Nihlus chimed in again. "Obviously this goes beyond mere human interests Commander. This discovery could affect every species in Council space."

Her sarcasm was rising as well. "It never hurts to have a few extra hands on board."

If he noticed the condescension he didn't comment on it. "The beacon's not the only reason I'm here Shepard."

"Nihlus wants to see you in action Commander. He's here to evaluate you."

"Guess that explains why I bump into him every time I turn around."

Anderson seemed to notice her hesitation. "The Alliance has been pushing for this for a long time Shepard. Humanity wants a larger role in shaping galactic politics. We want more say with the Citadel Council. The Spectres represent the Council's power and authority. If they accept a human into their ranks, it shows how far the Alliance has come."

"Not many could have survived what you went through on Akuze." She tensed a little. To be rewarded for that was not something she had ever wanted. "You showed a remarkable will to live, a particularly useful talent. That's why I put your name forward as a possible candidate for the Spectres."

She looked to Anderson. "I assume this is good for the Alliance?"

He nodded. "Earth needs this Shepard. We're counting on you."

Nihlus spoke again. "I need to see your skills for myself Commander. Eden Prime will be the first of several missions together."

Wonderful.

"You'll be in charge of the ground team." Apparently her actual consent wasn't required. "Secure the beacon and get it onto the ship ASAP. Nihlus will accompany you to observe the mission."

There was no way she could say no to this. Her adult life had been dedicated to the service of the Alliance. She couldn't just abandon that when a bad situation came her way. "Just give the word Captain."

Anderson nodded, and she thought she saw understanding for her feelings in his eyes. "We should be getting close to Eden-"

Joker's voice cut him off, lacking any trace of jollity now. "Captain, we got a problem."

"What's wrong Joker?"

"Transmission from Eden Prime, sir. You better see this."

"Bring it up on screen."

The viewscreen flickered to life and at once the speakers popped with gunfire. The video was shaky, a blurred tableau of greens and browns, the occasional flash of blue light from an assault rifle on full auto. A marine charged into view, grabbing something just offscreen and pushing the camera down into the dirt.

"Get down!" She yelled, and Shepard realised that the feed had to be from another marine's helmet-cam. They watched as the female marine fired a short burst, then sprinted away again.

Shepard turned to observe her companions. Nihlus's face was unreadable of course, the species barrier keeping her from knowing his feelings. Anderson's was an expert poker-face as well, but she could see the lines of tension which had crept in around his eyes and at the corner of his mouth.

A man raced into fame and knelt by the camera. "We are under attack, taking heavy casualties, I repeat heavy casualties, we can't." An explosion showered dirt over them. "Argh, get evac, they came out of nowhere, we nee-urgh!"

Blood sprayed from the side of his helmet and the marine dropped to the deck. The cameraman followed his fall and in a momentary lull they could hear his laboured breathing as he struggled to rise. Out of the corner of the frame she glimpsed flashes of what had to be the enemy, spindly legs that couldn't have belonged to anything human. But the man turned the other way, looking up into the sky as an unearthly noise blasted through the speakers, making them feedback. She thought she saw an outline of a strange shape in the sky but the camera was already turning away to follow the retreating backs of his teammates.

The video went dead.

"Everything cuts out after that, no comm traffic at all. Just goes dead, there's nothing."

Captain Anderson rubbed a hand across his jaw. "Reverse and hold at thirty-eight point five."

The video skipped to the appropriate time code and Shepard saw that strange shape again. Frozen in still image it was easier to make out. Her first thought was of a gigantic hand reaching out of the sky, bulbous fingers outstretched to ensnare the ground itself. It had to be a ship, but it was massive, bigger than anything she had ever seen. Tried to find a reference point but there were none close by. It could probably have outclassed a dreadnaught though.

Into the dead silence Anderson spoke. "Status report."

"Seventeen minutes out Captain. No other Alliance ships in the area."

"Take us in Joker, fast and quiet. This mission just got a lot more complicated."

Nihlus finally moved again, turning to face the two of them. "A small strike team can move quickly without drawing attention. It's out best chance to secure the beacon."

Of course. She shook herself out of the horror of what they had just seen and focused on the mission again. For all that an unprovoked attack on a colony world was terrifying, if an enemy force got hold of a Prothean beacon it would be a whole lot worse. Nihlus left and Anderson turned to her.

"Grab your gear and meet us in the cargo hold. Tell Alenko and Jenkins to suit up Commander. You're going in."

She saluted and marched from the comm room, the metallic screech still ringing in her ears.

/|\

Down in the lower deck they were given more orders she didn't like.

"Your team's the muscle in this operation Commander. Go in heavy and head straight for the dig site."

Alenko voiced her question for her. "What about survivors Captain?

"Helping survivors is a secondary objective, the beacon is your top priority."

Although she understood the need for such an order it still rankled her to put some ancient technology ahead of the lives of civilians. She was saved from making any comment when Nihlus strode past them, double-checking the draw speed on his pistol.

"Nihlus, you're coming with us?" Jenkins of course. There was a case of hero worship if she had ever seen one.

The turian shook his head though. "I move faster on my own."

The door to the hanger opened to reveal the scenery of Eden Prime racing along below them. Even out as far as they were there were signs of destruction caused by the invading troops. Shepard's stomach clenched at the familiarity of the scene. The ship slowed for the briefest of moments and Nihlus stepped from the cargo bay to drop a good six feet to the grass below. Her own insertion point would be a little less dramatic.

"Nihlus will scout out ahead, he'll feed you status reports throughout the mission. Otherwise I want radio silence."

She nodded. "We've got his back Captain."

"The mission's yours now Shepard. Good luck!"

They slowed again, this time for drop zone two, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the main settlement. She wondered what had to be going through Jenkins head, after what he had said about his childhood. Her own thoughts were racing hard enough. A colony world, called a paradise, invaded by some unknown foe. Images rose unbidden in her mind, plasma torches cutting down colonists, hazy half-remembered flight through tall grass fields to get away from the slavers who destroyed her family.

She shoved those thoughts away as she stepped off the Normandy and drew her pistol, sweeping it left and right to clear the insertion point. Jenkins was a step behind her, his assault rifle out as he moved a short distance down the hill towards the colony. Alenko was the last man out, a pistol in hand as well. The Normandy swept away in a haze of dust and they were alone.

As she led her team up into the path to the colony they came across some floating balls of gas. She took a moment to check with Jenkins but he confirmed they were non-hostile. Their path took them up again, to a small outcropping strewn with rocks. She gestured Jenkins ahead to scout while she and Alenko covered. Just as she was wondering why it seemed so quiet a drone appeared from the tree line ahead, bullets spitting from a rifle attached to its underside. Jenkins grunted in pain as the slugs hit him, and even as she was bringing her pistol to bear her mind was whirling. Not again, not again.

Recoil bucked up her arm as the pistol cracked, the bullets sparking off kinetic barriers. The drones twisted in mid-air and now their fire was concentrated on her and Alenko. She ducked behind a boulder and switched to her sniper rifle, seeing Alenko's omni-tool opening as he keyed something in. When she stepped out to fire the drones were sparking, their shields overloaded. Within seconds they were all down.

The design was familiar, half-recognised from some military history class, but there were more pressing concerns. Alenko raced to check Jenkins but she already knew from the unnatural stillness what he would find.

"Ripped right through his shields. Never had a chance." His voice was low and she could hear the sadness in it.

Unfortunately, she had seen much worse. Her voice was steady as she replied. "We'll see he receives a proper burial once the mission is complete. But I need you to stay focused."

He pulled himself to attention and nodded. "Aye aye ma'am."

Returning her rifle to her back she nodded him forwards. "Scout on ahead, I'll cover you."

As he moved from boulder to boulder it gave her the second she needed to find her own calm. Only two minutes into a mission, her first real mission since Akuse, and already she was a man down. She looked down at Jenkins and bit her lip hard enough to break skin. I'm sorry.

Her comm clicked, signalling that Alenko had encountered something, and she drew her pistol and moved up alongside him to see more drones floating between the trees ahead. Now they were prepared she and Alenko were able to take them down with ease though. Nihlus radioed in about the dig site, but she was barely listening. Ahead she could hear gun shots, and the sounds of people dying. Moving fast, she crested the ridge just in time to see one of the colonial militia stepping out from behind a rock with her assault rifle raised.

Ahead there were two robots of a distressingly familiar design. What the hell are the Geth doing outside the Veil? She opened up her sniper rifle and fired twice, blowing the eyepieces off the geth and shutting them down for good. She stepped out from behind the rock to find a very scared Gunnery Chief waiting for her,

"Thanks for the help Commander. I didn't think I was gonna make it." She managed a salute. "Gunnery Chief Ashely Williams of the 212. You the one in charge here ma'am?"

She nodded Alenko to scout ahead for potential threats before turning to the Chief. "Are you wounded Willams?"

"A few scrapes and burns, nothing serious." Her shoulder slumped and her voice went hollow. "The others… weren't so lucky." She recognised the look on the Chief's face, and a moment later William's entire body slumped. "Oh man. We were patrolling the perimeter when the attack hit. We tried to get off a distress call, but they cut off our communications. I've been fighting for my life ever since."

"Where's the rest of your squad?"

"We tried to double back to the beacon, but we walked into an ambush. I don't think any of the others… I think I'm the only one left."

"This isn't your fault Williams. You couldn't have done anything to save them." Empty words. She had heard them herself after Akuze and they had felt just as useless then. Williams did seem to take something from it though, and straightened a little.

"Yes ma'am, we held our position as long as we could. Until the geth overwhelmed us."

That made her look down to the bodies they had left. "The geth haven't been seen outside the Veil in nearly two hundred years. Why are they here now?"

She had been talking almost to herself, but Williams came back with an answer. "They must have come for the beacon. The dig site is close, just over that rise, it might still be there."

Shepard appraised the young woman. She was holding together remarkably well after what she had been through. That sort of courage wasn't common enough that she could let it slip by. "We could use your help Williams."

"Aye aye ma'am. She unfolded her assault rifle and nodded. "It's time for some payback."

They rejoined Alenko and the three of them moved off, Shepard more than a little worried by the bright colours of Williams' armour. I don't even know if the geth see colour, she reasoned with herself. The Threshers didn't, and that didn't stop them. Ahead were a couple of outlying geth soldiers, but nothing more where the beacon should have been. More distressingly were the spikes to the left of the path. One of the marines had clearly been impaled on the spike.

Why would the geth do that? She wondered as she examined it. Displaying trophies seems like a very human thing to do.

She put it out of her mind as they came to a stone plinth. "This is the dig site," Williams confirmed. "The beacon was right here. It must have been moved."

Alenko knelt to check the tracks in the dirt around the plinth the beacon had been on. "By who? Our side or the geth?"

Williams shrugged. "Hard to say. Maybe we'll know more after we check out the research camp."

There was no sign of bodies. "You think anyone got out of here alive?"

"If they were lucky. Maybe hiding up in the camp. It's just on the top of this ridge, up the ramps." She gestured with her assault rifle, and Shepard could just see the roof of a pre-fab shelter up the hill.

"Let's move out."

As Alenko and Williams scaled the hill ahead her comm unit crackled and Nihlus' voice came over. "Change of plans Shepard. There's a small spaceport up ahead. I'm going to check it out. I'll wait for you there."

She double checked the map of Eden Prime uploaded to her omni-tool. The spaceport was just past the research camp, barely ten minutes, assuming they didn't encounter anymore resistance. They reached the top of the hill and came across one of the colony outposts. Alongside them were more of the spikes, and on top there seemed to be bodies. But they didn't resemble anything human. They had arms and legs and a head all in the right place but they were little more than shells, with circuitry running up and down their bodies. Why bother putting electronics into a dead body? Even as her mind was processing this fact her gun arm was already rising, far more aware of the danger than her conscious self.

The husks were dropped to the floor, but they didn't fall, pulling themselves off the spikes to advance on her team. They went down, but it wasn't easy, and when one of them got in close it released an energy pulse which fried her shields for a moment. Thankfully Williams put it down before it could take a bite out of her, but it was harrowing nonetheless.

They swept the camp and found a couple of weapon mods. Shepard had never been the biggest fan, but she knew some soldiers swore by them. She attached it to her sniper rifle just as a single shot rang out from the direction of the space port.

Nihlus?

She hadn't heard him firing yet, but she hadn't exactly been listening for it either. Either way she gathered her squad and set out again, the monorail now in sight. As they came over the hill they saw something in the distance, rising through the clouds. A foghorn blast sounded and it felt like something was drilling into the back of her jaw. Forcing herself to ignore the pain she watched it disappear and saw what looked like thick fingers clenching into a fist.

It's that ship. What the hell is it?

There were a few more geth and husks at the port, but for once they were far away that her sniping ability came in handy, and she was able to put most of them down before they even realised there was someone shooting. Surely Nihlus couldn't have been there with that many enemies around though.

Alenko nodded to her as she folded her rifle up. "Good shooting Commander."

She didn't respond, shooting was second nature to her, and in the three years since she had left Akuse, she had spent every hour putting more and more practice into her already formidable skills. Nowadays, as long as she was behind a scope, and the enemy a good mile away, she was completely in control.

The area was a wreck, and they found a small group colonists hiding in one of the shelters, who apparently had been smuggling weapons. She took their contraband, tossed the pistol to Alenko, and led them down to the structure. That was where they found Nihlus.

Dead.

He was lying facedown in a pool of his own blood and brain fluid. The lieutenant knelt to check him and found pistol wound to the back of the head. Someone had executed him. With his kinetic barriers and the angle of the wound it had to have been from close range, which ruled out the geth. There should have been no way a Spectre could have been snuck up on like that.

Williams' shout broke into her thoughts. "Something's moving! Over behind those crates."

They snapped their guns up and trained them on a humanoid figure that emerged from out of the shadows, arms up and shouting. "Wait! Don't- Don't shoot I'm one of you, I'm human!"

She dropped her gun and let out a huff of frustration. "Sneaking up on us like that nearly got you killed!"

"I, I'm sorry, I was hiding, from those creatures. My name's Powell." The smuggler's contact. "I saw what happened to that turian, the other one shot him."

Other one? "I need to know how Nihlus died."

"The other one got here first. He was waiting when your friend showed up. He called him Saren. I think they knew each other. Your friend seemed to relax. He let his guard down." The man's voice shook a little, she thought it was from fear. "And Saren killed him, shot him right in the back. I'm just lucky he didn't see me behind the crates."

"Why were you behind the crates exactly?"

"I… sometimes I need a nap to get through my shift. I sneak off behind the crates to grab forty winks where the supervisor can't find me."

"You survived because you were lazy?" Williams obviously thought very little of the man. Shepard didn't blame her.

"If you hadn't snuck off for that nap you'd probably be dead like all the others." Her tone could have implied luck, or it could have shamed him. He chose the second, hanging his head and rubbing the back of his neck.

"Yeah. Yeah I guess. I don't really wanna think about it."

"You're Cole's contact here on the docks, for the smuggling ring."

His head snapped out and he recoiled. "What? No! I mean, what does it matter now? So I'm a smuggler, who cares? My supervisor's dead, the entire crew's dead, it doesn't matter now does it?"

She kept her tone as level as possible despite the anger started to seep in. If he had hidden weapons, weapons that the marines had desperately needed… "Anything you have hidden that could help us against the geth?"

"A shipment of grenades came through last week." Her jaw tightened. Grenades could turn the tides in a battle so often. "Nobody notices if a few small pieces go missing from the military orders."

Williams got there before her. "You greedy son of a bitch. We're out her trying to protect your sorry ass and all you can think about is how you can rip us off?"

"I never thought you'd actually need those grenades. Who'd wanna attack Eden Prime? We're just a bunch of farmers! How was I supposed to know?"

She snatched the box of grenades he was holding. "Forget about him," she said to Williams. "He's not worth it."

"You're lucky the Commander's here pal."

"My smuggling days are over I swear."

She passed the grenade box to Alenko and turned back to him. "You'd better not be holding anything else."

"Yeah okay there is something else I was holding. Experimental technology, could be worth a fortune. Top of the line." He held out another weapon mod and she took it. "Take it. I don't need it. I didn't want anyone to get hurt, I'm sorry."

"Marines died here Powell. Marines who could have survived if they had access to these weapons." She wasn't feeling particularly merciful to his feelings. "We were told a Prothean beacon was brought to the spaceport. What happened to it?"

"It's over on the other platform, probably where that guy Saren was headed. He hopped on that cargo train right after he killed your friend. I knew that beacon was trouble. Everything's gone to hell since we found it. First that damn mothership showed up, then the attack. They killed everyone."

She had little time for anything else he had to say. Saren. She committed the name to memory. Williams was still seething as they turned towards the monorail, but before she could say anything a hail of bullets hit their shields and forced them to cover. A small squad had obviously been left to guard the monorail. They went down easily under the combined fire of the three of them. Williams was proving to be a very good addition to the team.

They stepped onto the monorail and activated it, taking a moment to kick aside a couple of the geth bodies. Williams was back under control, and she leaned back against the railings, letting out a long sigh. "Sorry Commander, I just..." She stared back. "Maybe we could have done more."

"You still can."

Even as they pulled into the opposite station Shepard could see yet another complication The geth had planted bombs. Shepard spared two moments, one to thank her trainers in defusing explosives, another to thank some deity that Williams and Alenko were there to cover her, then set about defusing them. Four bombs, along with a squad of geth to protect them. In under two minutes they had defused all of them, and were sprinting for the beacon. It was in sight now, and there were only a few husks left.

The beacon was mesmerising. A tall thin structure with waves of green energy swirling around it, patterns and shapes barely visible within the vortex. She activated her comm and signalled the Normandy. "Normandy, the beacon is secure, request immediate pickup." Williams and Alenko moved closer, also transfixed by the beacon.

Joker acknowledged the pickup and she signed off. "Roger Normandy, standing by."

Turning back she saw that Alenko had been seized by the green energy somehow, and was being dragged towards the beacon, his boots scratching for purchase as he was dragged closer. She charged forwards without thinking, grabbing him and yanking him out of the way. The energy enveloped her and she felt her arms and legs moving without her command, turning her back to face the beacon.

Weightlessness. She left the ground and hung before it, the energy coalescing and becoming almost solid. A sharp pain hit her behind the eyes and images assaulted her. Worlds burn. Alien creatures writhe in agony as flames consume them.

She wasn't even aware of blacking out.

AN:- What surprised me most, writing this, was how much I could remember without even having to play it (Even as I post this I'm only up to the defusing bombs bit). Something tells me I may have played this game too many times. Anyway. Assuming I play through at my usual speed, and will ignore a lot of the sidequests (Some I will write for obvious reasons) then this entire story should be finished in about thirty hours (Or a bit more as I switch from playing to writing and posting)

I'm playing on easy difficulty (Because it's more fun and I really am just playing it for the story this time) with a Female Shepard named Maia. She has the Colonist and Sole Survivor backgrounds, because I think those two combined would make for the most traumatised individual which is something I wanted to explore. I've never liked the portrayal of Shepard (even in game) as some sort of immortal badass wonder-woman. Someone with that much emotional baggage would be pretty messed up, which I want to explore. While most of what I write will have taken place in game, a lot of the deeper characterisation moments will be outside of canon (like the monorail conversation), though still plausible. For me Shepard is someone thrust into greatness, doesn't want it, but is unwilling to let other people down. This is because she witnessed not only her whole familiy dying, but also her entire unit getting wiped out, and it's given her a deep desire not to ever let it happen again.

As you can probably tell from some of the sentences, I will also be attempting to keep some of the Bioware tongue in cheek humour in this story (things like including the upgrade systems as an entirely reasonable addition to the world, etc.) Expect some fun Mako scenes, since I will be basing this story off stuff that happens to me directly in game.