Chapter 47: The Ultimate Sacrifice

Shepard entered inside the comm. room as three holograms appeared above the table.

"Commander, we have not received word that you have reached Thessia yet," Velarn stated in an irritated tone.

"That's because we haven't gone there yet," Shepard replied. "We had to stop a war from breaking out between the quarians and the geth. Luckily we managed to bring peace between the two people. We also destroyed a reaper base on Rannoch along with its reaper overseer."

"You certainly know how to make the most efficient use of your time, Commander," Katlyo commented. "Having the quarians and geth fleets will really boast the war effort in taking back Earth."

"Though this isn't why I'm calling," Shepard interrupted. "I wanted to confirm these coordinates I've received. If I'm right, then this places your research facility-"

"Right under an Ardat-Yakshi sanctuary," Tevos finished.

"Why there?"

"Who wants to go near a building filled with Ardat-Yakshi. These people still face a great amount of fear from the asari population. Viewed similarly as succubae in human lore. To be fair, they do share a great amount of similarities. So the public stays away from the sanctuary. The STG stay away for similar reasons."

"We didn't believe you would hide anything under that sanctuary," Katlyo said.

"Where is the entrance?" Shepard asked.

"It's through a staff entrance on the building," Tevos answered. "You'll have full access to the facility. Also, someone will meet you outside of the sanctuary's parameter."

"Who?"

"I believe you already know the justicar Samara."

"Samara will be meeting us there. It'll be good to see her again."

"Though the reunion may not be pleasant, a situation has arisen."

"What happened?"

"She has reported in that some soldiers have infiltrated the sanctuary. According to her description, there were at least a few dozen, likely more. She needs your help to take back the sanctuary and facility."

"Cerberus," Shepard muttered.

"Yes, your old friends," Velarn added.

"They are no friends of mine," Shepard growled. "And I would appreciate that you stop your damn snide comments about me working undercover months ago. I did what I did to harm them further while you take any opportunity to criticize me you racist bastard."

"Watch your mouth, artician," Velarn hissed. "You need me to have the hierarchy back you."

"Do I? Maybe you should speak to Septimus or the millions of other turians who watched me save your world. Do not put so much importance into yourself without knowing what your limitations are."

"As should you," Velarn said while barring his teeth.

"I know my limitations. I will contact you three when I activate the temple. Have your forces ready when I do. The exions should be finished upgrading the quarian fleet when I'm done on Thessia. I want to take back Earth as soon as we are able to."

"Very well, Commander," Katlyo said. "Good luck on your mission."

VVVVVV

A thunderstorm had formed over Terni'a, the capital of Thessia, and its surrounding areas. Rained pounded the landscape and lightning struck in intervals. The view from the shuttle viewport was obscured from the rain.

"Our mission is more straightforward this time," Shepard assured his team. "Samara has reported that Cerberus operatives have infiltrated the Ardat-Yakshi sanctuary. Lethal force is authorized against all Cerberus personnel. Watch your sights as there may be some innocents in the building."

"Isn't this building filled with succubae?" Jack asked for clarification.

"They were born that way, but they choose to isolate themselves to protect themselves and others," Liara chided. "They are innocent."

"We watch our sights," Shepard reiterated. "We will be landing outside of the sanctuary's parameter where we will meet with justicar Samara."

"Samara's here?" Tali asked.

"Who's Samara?" Ashley asked. "And what is a justicar"

"She was on our team when we took down the collectors," Garrus answered. "And a justicar is basically a religious spectre that works within asari space."

"A crude explanation, but fairly accurate," Liara said. "Just be polite when you meet her. You don't want to upset her. A justicar will kill you if you go against the code in any way. Spectres including."

"You can't be serious," Vega said.

"She is very serious," Tali said.

"We are approaching drop point," the pilot declared.

"Everyone ready yourselves," Shepard said.

The shuttle flew in close to the ground. It then hovered about ten feet above the ground and then slowly lowered to land. The side door opened and the crew got out. They all wore helmets to allow them to see in the dark. Jack just wore a pair of goggles as oppose to a helmet. As soon as Grunt, the last person on the shuttle, jumped out, the shuttle took off leaving them in the clearing.

"So where is this sanctuary?" Grunt asked.

Lightning flashed through the sky lighting the area up and allowing them to see a fortress not far from their position.

"There," Shepard answered.

The fortress looked like a grey futuristic version of a Romanian castle. The building was smooth made from material similar to the buildings in the city, but the architecture was at least eons old. The fortress was a pentagram. Each corner was a spire with a wide base that curved inwards and upwards to create a tower. The walls that connected each spire were fifty feet tall. The fortress' lights were out all over making it look more intimidating.

"Is there any way they could have made it look more like a horror movie set?" Jack asked rhetorically.

"You sure there are no monsters in there?" Ashley asked jokingly.

"No monsters, but many tortured souls," a voice said behind her.

Ashley jumped and turned while pulling out her pistol. The figure behind he went in close and grabbed her hands quickly putting her into a lock. The others reacted by taking a step back and reaching for their weapons.

"No weapons," Shepard ordered. Everyone complied and stopped. "Easy Samara, we need her in one piece."

Lightning flashed revealing Samara in her black outfit.

"You really should tell your friend here to be more sensitive," she said.

"Are you going to let her go?"

"Of course, Commander." Samara released Ashley from her grip.

"Samara this is Ashley Williams and this is James Vega," Shepard introduced the two. "Ash, Vega, this is Samara."

"A pleasure," she said while smiling.

"You just attacked me," Ashley accused.

"After you reached for your weapon. I merely put you into a lock. Nothing harmful compared to what I usually do to those who try to pull a weapon on me. But you are a part of Shepard's crew and I am bound by my oath to him."

"What's the situation?" Shepard queried.

"I observed Cerberus dropships come in dropping off soldiers," Samara replied. "I estimate there are no less than three dozen soldiers. They were also carrying in equipment. I could not get a good view of what they were bringing in."

"Why didn't you go in?" Ashley asked.

"I have faced large forces before, but Cerberus is unlike any enemy I have faced before, other than the collectors. They were well armed and I have heard reports from other forces fighting Cerberus that they have deployed assassins who are able to negate dark energy attacks. Now that you are all here, we need to get inside that sanctuary and repel Cerberus."

"Then let's do it," Shepard said.

"Though before we head out, there's something you should know. I have two daughters in there."

"Two other daughters?"

"Falere and Rila. They were sent here when it was realized that they were Ardat-Yakshi. Morinth, my youngest daughter, was the one who escaped. I... I haven't spoken to them since I took the Oath of Solitude."

"How long ago was that?" Liara asked.

"Over four hundred years ago."

"Four- Four hundred years?" Ashley gasped.

"I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must have been for you," Tali said.

"The life of a justicar is not an easy one. I became a justicar to erase the darkness I inadvertently brought into this galaxy. In taking the Oath of Solitude, I gave up my old life. Samara isn't even my true name."

"We'll find them, Samara," Shepard assured her. "We shouldn't waste time here."

"Right, Commander. Lead the way."

Shepard moved ahead up the rocky hill to the sanctuary. The thunder masked any sounds from their movement, so they worried little of detection. Shepard went prone on the ground as he reached the top of the hill. He glanced over the top and saw two Cerberus centurions guarding the front door.

"Garrus, Ash, I want you two to take those Cerberus soldiers out at the same time," Shepard ordered. "I want to stay hidden from them as long as possible."

"Why not we just charge in there?" Grunt asked impatiently.

"Because there may be some innocents in there," Garrus replied. "Ashley, take the one on the right. I'll take the one on the left."

Ashley pulled out his sniper rifle and took aim. "I have him in my sight."

"On three. One... Two... Three!" Garrus pulled on the trigger. Thunder masked the sound of the two sniper rifles firing. The two Cerberus soldiers went down at the same time.

"Good shot," Shepard congratulated. "Move up."

The squad moved up to the entrance way where the two Cerberus troopers lay. Garrus and Vega pulled the bodies out of the way to slightly cover-up what they did. The bodies were hidden behind a fallen tree. The blood was quickly washed away by the rain.

"We go in by two. Vega with me."

Shepard and Vega went inside the sanctuary. It was relieving to be out of the rain in the warm building. The lights were all out.

"They cut the lights," Vega muttered. "Why would they do that?"

"The disguise their attack," Shepard answered. "Those helmets uses infrared, so they can see through those smoke grenades they use and in the dark. Doesn't your eye piece do the same?"

"Right," he said while sliding the eye piece over his right eye and turning it on.

"What do you see?"

Through the eye piece, Vega saw the room with orange splotches all over the floor and walls. Vega went on one knee to get a closer look at one of the splotches. "What the hell?"

"What do you see?" Shepard asked again.

Vega touched the liquid on the floor. He lifted his hand up to examine the fluid. Shepard was on one knee with him. Lightning flashed revealing what he was looking at. The fluid was dark blue and thick and ran down Vega's finger.

"What do you two find?" Ashley asked.

"Asari blood," Shepard answered. "Everywhere. It looks like we were too late."

"No..." Samara muttered solemnly.

"It's not your fault Samara. You couldn't have done anything."

His words did little to ease her guilt.

"I can still make these Cerberus soldiers answer to the code."

"Where are the bodies?" Liara asked. "There's blood, but no bodies."

"The Illusive Man was interested in having his people examine an Ardat-Yakshi's body after we took care of Morinth," Shepard answered. "The Cerberus soldiers likely put them away until they were done here."

"Then we find the temple," Garrus said. "The entrance to the facility is ahead and through the doors outside the chapel."

Shepard and his team went down the corridors to the chapel. Walking through the building while lightning flashed through the sky made it feel unwelcoming. There was no other Cerberus soldier that came between them and the chapel.

"Why aren't there anymore Cerberus soldiers?" Jack asked out loud.

"They're probably inside the facility and temple," Ash replied. "They would only need a look out at the top."

"Stay cautious nonetheless," Shepard said.

Shepard slowly opened the door to the chapel.

"I see something," Vega announced in a whisper.

"What do you see?"

"There's someone at the back of the chapel," he answered. "It's a woman, likely asari. She sitting next to the podium facing away. Though my infrared readings are... odd."

"What do you mean 'odd'?"

"I have heat signatures coming from her, but they are too high in compared to Liara or Samara here."

"Team, weapons ready and proceed with caution," Shepard ordered.

They went inside the chapel and slowly approached the crouched asari. Shepard had his pistol aimed at her. "M'am?" he called out to her. He inched closer and closer. "M'am are you alright? We're here to help."

Shepard was close enough to tell that the woman was definitely an asari. She had no clothes on, tubes around her shoulder, longer fringes and was in a fetal position. She was breathing; in fact it looked like she was weeping. Shepard signalled his team to stop in place.

"M'am?" Shepard tried again.

The asari looked up and slowly got to her feet. Her breathing was louder and raspier. The asari was tall. Very tall. She was at least a foot or two taller than Shepard. The asari turned around and faced the group. Lightning flashed giving the group a true view of the asari.

She had tubes all over her thighs and arms. Along with her fringes, the asari abomination had several horns giving it a demonic appearance and her face resembled a skull. Her ribcage was visible under her skin and her stomach was bloated. Its arms were long enough that her hands went past her knees. The asari husk's fingers were elongated and clawed at the ends. Its body had several lights on it such as over her third-eye and a light to replace each nipple. These lights became brighter as she was more active.

The asari breathed in with a raspy noise and screamed loudly. It was loud enough to make everyone cover their ears. Dark energy flowed around its body.

"Husk!" Shepard yelled.

The dark energy filled pulled Shepard inwards towards her. Shepard wasn't able to break free from it.

"John, break out of it!" Tali cried out.

Shepard's biotic abilities seem to be temporarily disabled inside the dark energy field. He pulled out his sword and swung it. The blade went right through the banshee's neck decapitating the husk. Shepard was dropped to the ground where he landed kneeling on one knee. The banshee's lights went dim as its body fell to the ground.

"Sure showed that bitch who's boss," Jack commented.

"Jack that was a reaper victim!" Liara scorned.

"You alright, Shepard?" Garrus asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Shepard replied. "That energy field just drained me of my power, made it near impossible to do anything." He noticed Samara crouched by the husk's body. "Samara?"

"It's Falere," she said. Samara picked up her daughter's head. "My daughter... What have they done to you?"

"We will make Cerberus answer for what they have done," Shepard assured her. "I know this is hard, but we have to keep going."

"I know, Commander. Falere, may the goddess accept you into her embrace." Samara got to her feet. "I haven't spoken to or seen her for over four hundred years. I only wish I could have seen her at least one more time."

"I wish there was something I could say to help you feel better, but I know the feeling," Shepard said. "You feel that there might have been something you could have done or maybe something you felt you should have done before tragedy has struck. We can't know what fate may bring, but we can try to make the best of the time we do have with those we love. We keep the memories of those lost to us in our hearts and minds and live on in their name. We can make sure that what happened to Falere will not happen to anyone else. So as long as we keep fighting for them."

"You're right, Commander. Please lead the way. Falere's burial can wait till after the temple is activated."

The squad exited the chapel where they saw the door that Tevos told them about. Shepard approached the door and waved his omni-tool over the panel. The panel hologram turned from red to green granting them access. They went inside.

Shepard activated the flashlight on his pistol. He took point, leading his team into the facility.

"Have you gotten any word from Mike or Tim?" a voice ahead asked an unknown person.

Shepard stuck to the wall and disabled the flashlight on his pistol. He signalled his team to do the same as he slowly and quiet moved along the wall to see whose talking.

"No word," the other person answered. "They haven't checked in. I'm not liking it."

"We should check it out," a third person said.

Shepard peaked around the wall and saw half a dozen Cerberus troopers idling in the corridor. He saw a room divider that was roughly chest high. Shepard went into cover behind the divider.

"No real reason to," a fourth said. "We're underground next to that temple. We're likely getting interference. If we were under attack we would have heard something. They would have to get through Mike, Tim and that reaper thing. Those damn things give me the creeps."

"They obey us so what does it matter," the sixth said. "We're here to get the data and make the necessary modifications to the temple."

Shepard popped out of cover and used a pull field to launch the Cerberus troopers into the air.

"We have been infiltrated!" one of the soldiers warned over the comm. "It's Shepard!"

Shepard fired his pistol and the rest of his team joined him in taking out the floating Cerberus soldiers. Once the last Cerberus soldier was dead, Shepard released the field letting the dead bodies flop to the ground.

"They know we're here so we need to hurry. Move!"

They quickened their pace down the hallway to the temple. With the facility aware of their presence, stealth was no longer necessary. Grunt had no complaint.

They entered a lab where a sniper round was fired at Shepard. He took cover behind a lab table as did his team. "Cerberus has deployed some snipers," Garrus observed.

"How many do we have?" Shepard asked.

Vega glanced around the corner to see four lasers sights moving around. He also saw two banshee's moving towards them Vega pulled behind cover just dodging a sniper round that hit the table. "Four snipers and two of those asari husks."

"Liara use a singularity at the sniper's cover to bring them out," Shepard ordered.

"Got it, Commander," Liara said as she quickly popped out of cover. She formed a singularity over the sniper's cover, but it was having no effect. Liara saw that their bodies were surrounded by dark energy. One of the asari husks had its hand pointing towards the snipers. Liara went back into cover before the snipers had a target. "The husks are protecting the snipers with a barrier. We'll need to take it out if we wish to eliminate the sniper."

"Ashley throw a grenade at the husk," Shepard ordered.

Ashley took out a grenade and threw it at the husk. It exploded taking out its legs. The banshee still continued keeping the barriers up. "It's still doing it," she groaned in frustration.

"Grunt, use your inferno rounds to incinerate it."

"With pleasure," he said while firing a concussion round. The round was infused with flames which coated the banshee in fire burning it into a crisp in seconds. "Husk is down."

"Quickly use singularity before the other can bring up their barriers again!"

Liara popped out of cover and used singularity again. This time it was successful. The snipers were pulled out of cover giving the squad the chance to take them out.

"The other husk seems to be protecting something else," Samara said. "But what?"

Four individuals ran out from the back of the lab towards their location. Each of them baring swords.

"Take them out!" Shepard yelled.

The squad fired, but each of the assassins were coated in the barrier.

"Grunt, the banshee!"

Grunt fired another inferno concussion blast at the banshee incinerating the abominations. But once the barriers were down, the assassins were close enough to attack.

One of the assassins struck at Shepard with her wakizashi. Shepard blocked the blow with Asha Bel. They exchanged blows only to have one another block. Shepard blocked another blow and felt the assassin really press down on him with her sword. While holding the sword with both hands, he slammed the crystal end of his swordstaff hitting the assassin in the head.

Shepard spun Asha Bel in one hand and then swung it slashing the assassin across her chest. She clutched her chest from the wound. With her stunned, Shepard motioned his left hand in a clutching motion. Dark energy surrounded her head and her helmet is crushed along with her head inside.

The second assassin went for Samara. Samara launched a warp attack at the assassin only to watch it dissipate in the assassin's left hand. The assassin swung her sword. Samara deflected it with her assault rifle. She slammed the butt of her rifle into the assassin's face knocking her back. Samara moved in and fired several rounds at close range into her chest.

The third assassin charged at Tali. Tali summoned her drone to give the assassin an obstacle. The drone shocked the assassin stunning her briefly. It gave Tali the time to switch to her shotgun. The assassin recovered and sliced the drone in two. She looked up and saw the quarian fully charged geth shotgun aimed at her face. "No one harms Chiktikka vas Paus and gets away with it!"

"Fuck-" was all the assassin could get out before her head was vaporized by the shotgun round.

The last assassin went directly for Grunt. Grunt didn't even bother keeping his weapon raised. The assassin swung her sword only to hand her hand grabbed by Grunt. "You shouldn't bring a sword to a gun fight, unless you're Shepard." Grunt grabbed the assassin's head and lifted her up while taking her sword from her hand. He stabbed the sword through her chest right through her heart. Grunt tossed her body aside. "I believe we still have a temple to activate."

"According to the layout, the entrance to the temple is just ahead," Shepard said as he moved ahead.

The security door that led to the temple was wide open showing that Cerberus had already entered inside the temple. They went through and continued through the temple's corridor.

"It's Shepard and his team!" an approaching Cerberus trooper yelled.

"Take them down!" Shepard ordered.

Shepard's advancing team fired at the defending Cerberus soldiers. With so many weapons firing at once and the narrow corridor, Cerberus soldiers were unable to get within attacking range. Eventually the team made it to the main chamber. A husk stood at the center of the chamber. This asari husk looked different from the previous banshee they have faced while fighting their way into the temple. This asari still wore clothes and her body frame was not as bony.

"I was beginning to wonder when you would show up, mother," the creature said.

"Rila," Samara gasped.

"After leaving us for four hundred years, you finally return."

"You know why I left."

"We were your daughters! You left us in a facility that barely treats us as asari. Speaking to you was all I had that made staying here bearable, but you took that away. If Falere wasn't here I would have killed myself. We weren't allowed to leave this sanctuary, ever, and we were forced to make marinades for people who would never speak to us."

"Your condition can lead to an addiction. I watched as your sister became more and more addicted to dominating other minds and absorbing their life essence. This was not a life I wanted you to have."

"But those are my choices aren't they? Either stay here for the rest of my life or become a beast. Thanks to the reapers, I now have a third option. To rule over others. The reapers like that Ardat-Yakshi have an apt ability to dominate minds. My sisters were not strong enough to accept the gifts of the reapers, but I was. I will begin my role as the avatar of the reapers and dominate the minds of the enemies of the reapers."

"The reapers are just using you, Rila! You have to stop this." Samara pleaded.

"She's not your daughter anymore, Samara," Shepard said. "You will not stand in our way, Rila. Stand aside and let us activate this temple."

"I will not let you go against my masters," Rila told him.

"The reapers don't care about you. They are using you to fulfill their goals, Rila. You are nothing more than a tool to them."

"Funny that you of all people would say that, artician."

"What do you mean? Desolas said the same thing."

"It doesn't matter as each of you will become slaves of the reapers." Rila's eyes glowed purple. "Embrace death."

Everyone fell to their knees as the asari exerted her will on them. Shepard crawled forward towards Rila.

"Stop trying to resist, artician. It will be much easier."

"No," Shepard grunted. Alpha energy surrounded his body. "I refuse to give in."

Rila watched as the alpha energy from Shepard's body connected to each member of his team. The energy surrounded their bodies and allowed each of them to get back up to their feet.

"That's not possible..."

"I will not stop fighting until every single one of the reapers has been destroyed!" Shepard charged forward and stabbed her in the stomach with his sword. "I am sorry for the life you had, but the reapers are not the way."

Rila choked as she bled internally. "The- The reapers told me many things... Secrets." The alpha energy flowed off of the sword and started eating away her body. "Tell me, artician. Do you really think it's a coincidence that the humans look like your people?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Shepard demanded. "Tell me!"

Rila laughed. Before her body completely disintegrated she said, "Ask the Oracle." The powder remains of her body drifted to the floor and fell into a pile of ash.

Samara walked up to the ash remains. "Be at peace with the goddess, Rila."

"What was she talking about, Shepard?" Ashley asked.

"I don't know," Shepard answered. "All I know is that I'm going to have a damn long conversation with the Oracle when we get to the temple of light."

Shepard approached the center of the chamber and inserted Asha Bel into the slot. As he did, the group heard more banshees approaching their position from down the corridor. They could see the light glimmer in the hallway as they ran and scream. An energy wave came forth from the pedestal. It went through the walls and ground. They saw the banshees turn to dust as the energy wave passed through them.

Shepard pulled his sword from the pedestal and sighed with relief. "It is done." He held his omni-tool to the pedestal and allowed the information to transfer to his omni-tool. Shepard held his omni-tool in front of his chest and looked to his crew. "With this information we can find the temple of life and initiate the final stages of eliminating the reapers." Shepard walked up to Samara and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I am sorry for your loss."

"Thank you, Commander."

"If there is anything I could do for you, just let me know."

"If you would have me, Commander, I would like to rejoin your team."

"I would be honoured to have you back in our team again, Samara."

"I'll send the information to Feron so we can get the location of the temple of light, Shepard," Liara said.

"Alright," Shepard said. "Everyone back to the ship and prepare yourselves. Once we're done at the temple of light, we'll be making the assault on earth."

VVVVVV

As this would be the last bit of knowledge they needed to find the temple of light, everyone on Shepard's team was in the comm. room waiting for Feron to give them the location. His hologram stood above the table.

"Do we have a location?" Shepard asked him.

"We do," Feron answered. "It's incredible, your people took into account fifty thousand years of planets shifting their location."

"Location, Feron," Liara reminded him.

"Right, right. The planet is Klencory. The coordinates are in the Normandy's systems. I did some digging into and found some interesting information about this planet. There's a volus billionaire by the name of Kumun Shol excavating there."

"What for?" Shepard asked.

"This is the interesting part. He claims he had a vision of a higher being telling him to seek the 'lost crypt of beings of light'. Beings born at the beginning of time to protect organic life from synthetic 'machine devils.' Sounds familiar?"

"The reapers," Garrus thought aloud.

"And the higher being has to be the Oracle," Tali concluded.

"This isn't the first time that the Oracle has communicated with someone of this galaxy," Shepard said.

"I have already contacted Shol and got him to allow you access to the temple he dug up," Feron said. "In fact, when I told him who you actually were, he was more than enthused to give you access. Or as he said, 'an... qush... honour.' His mercenaries set up a landing pad for your shuttle and he'll be waiting there."

"Thank you, Feron."

"Anytime, Commander. And good luck." Feron's hologram blinked out.

"Joker, I want you to set a course for the coordinates that Feron set," Shepard ordered over the ship's comm.

"Aye, aye," he replied.

"Time to destination with warp drive will be ten minutes," EDI announced.

"Make it so," Shepard said.

VVVVVV

The shuttle flew in through the planet's atmosphere. The landing pad was obvious as it was the only structure in the valley in the center of a large rocky mountain range. Everyone inside of the shuttle wore protective gear as the surface of the planet is very toxic and freezing.

As the shuttle approached the landing pad, Shepard could see Shol waiting at the base of the stairs. The shuttle landed and the doors opened. The team stepped out and went down the stairs towards Shol. The volus bowed as Shepard approached.

"It is... qush... kesh... an honour to have you here, my lord," he greeted. "We have uncovered the entrance to the temple, but the doors will not open. It has some sort of slot that may be a keyhole of sorts."

"I have the key right here," Shepard said while pulling out Asha Bel. "Can you take us to the entrance?"

"Of... qush... kesh... course. Follow me."

The volus turned and walked towards the cave just ahead. "Since the Oracle came to me I have been hard at work... qush... kesh... trying to uncover the temple. Many thought I was crazy... qush... kesh... But the machine qush... kesh... devils are here now. And you... qush... kesh... a being of light are here... qush... kesh... to save us."

"I appreciate everything you have done for our cause," Shepard said. "I ensure your name is remember for your efforts."

"qush... kesh... Thank you."

It was a short walk through the cave tunnel before they reached the temple door.

"This... qush... kesh... is it."

The doorway was a similar design to the other temples before. In the center of the two doors was a slot for Shepard's sword. He placed the blade inside, turned the slot and pulled the sword back out. A squealing sound came from the door and it slid apart.

"Finally a chance to... qush... kesh... see the inside."

Shepard walked through the doorway. Before anyone else could join him the doors slammed shut.

"John, are you there?" Tali called him through her omni-tool. "Are you okay?"

"I'm here and I'm fine," Shepard replied. "I can't seem to get the doors to open again. It looks like I'll be heading forward and activating this temple. Just wait there and I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Alright. Don't be long."

The chamber had featureless walls unlike the previous temples. A pillar of light highlighted the pedestal in the center. Shepard approached the pedestal and inserted Asha Bel into its respective slot. Alpha energy surrounded the sword. The energy struck Shepard and he was lifted into the air. Everything went black.

Shepard opened his eyes and found himself back in the spirit plane. Ahead he saw the Oracle form in front of him.

"You have finally done it," she said. "You have activated the relay system. All you have left to do is the activate the control station-"

"Stop!" Shepard said in a firm tone. "Before anything else, I want the truth. I want to know everything that you've been hiding from me. I want my questions answered. No more riddles or dancing around the issue."

"Very well. After everything you have been through, you deserve all of your answers to be answered."

"Who and what are you really?" he demanded. "What is your connection to the reapers? What do the humans have to do with anything?"

"I am part of the very first race that inhabited this galaxy," she answered. "I am also... I'm also the one responsible."

"Responsible for what?"

"I was the one who created the reapers."

Shepard was speechless at that revelation. "W-Why? Why did you create those abominations?" Shepard demanded in anger.

"To answer that I must reveal much more to you. I must show you what I really am." The Oracle's purple form started to change to be less like a spirit and more like a living being. Bright light emitted from her form as she did. The light soon became too much for Shepard to look at so he covered his eyes. He held up his arm to blot out the light. Soon the light died down and Shepard could finally see what the Oracle really looks like.

Upon removing his arm, Shepard could only gaze in horror at the Oracle's form and muttered in shock, "No... That's not... That's not possible."

"I am artician," the Oracle declared. She was fair skin with pure black hair and indigo eyes.

"The articians are responsible for the reapers?" His very psyche was on the brink of ruin from this revelation.

"Not as a whole, no," she answered. "Please listen, my lord, and I will explain. This universe, this galaxy is an alternate future of your own. I no longer remember my name, but I remember the events that led to our destruction. Over a billion years ago, the Artician Empire was at its apex of its glory. There was peace throughout the galaxy among your people and the people of the galaxy. You served as king, Jon'ison Tivos."

"How was this peace disturbed?"

"A new evolutionary trait. An artician developed a new power that was the opposite of what any tiven'vian has ever been capable of using. Omega energy manipulation. I can't remember the individuals name or even if it was a man or woman, but I do know the name that being now goes by."

"Harbinger."

"Yes. This individual saw their power as reason for them to take over the artician empire and direct down a new pathway to continue their evolution. While alpha energy can be used to heal and protect, omega energy was used to destroy and dominate. That is what indoctrination is. The use of omega energy to dominate minds, change them. Harbinger's followers grew quickly in number as more minions were added to its army. War eventually broke out that span the entire galaxy and lasted several hundred years, killing billions. This army, that strived for ascension to higher beings, struck a deadly blow against the forces of good, when they assassinated your queen thus killing you as well."

"I was killed...?"

"Yes. Without your direction and inspiration, the war quickly turned in favour of Harbinger. The forces that opposed Harbinger turned desperate and turned to me: a science officer. I was tasked with creating a weapon that would win us the war. But things didn't go as planned."

"This vision after earth," Shepard muttered.

"I was trying to give you more information about the reapers, but their arrival prevented me from doing more. I was that woman in the vision. You can see that Cerberus now sports armoury similar to what Harbinger's forces equipped."

"What type of weapon were you trying to create?"

"I was trying to create a ship that would fuse many of our people together so they could act as one will creating an army that was purely focused. Research that was forbidden under your rule, but again we were desperate to win. Harbinger learned of my research and dispatched a team to capture me. They took me to their base to continue my work. I-I didn't want to but his indoctrination wouldn't allow me to deny Harbinger's orders. I was a slave to his goals. Eventually my research finished and Harbinger had exactly what it wanted. Unity under one will. The remainder of the galaxy was broken down into the genetic paste that would create the reaper ships for his army."

"If the reaper ships were created using artician technology why don't they have a warp drive?"

"That technology was all but destroyed during the war. Harbinger wanted another way to power his ships and to allow FTL travel. Element zero was the answer. As a reward for what I have done, or punishment for my sins, I was added into the second reaper that was created: Sacrosanct. My mind and soul was trapped in that abomination for hundreds of millions of years. For all intents and purposes I was stuck in hell."

"How did you escape?"

"You have already visited the reaper that I was once a part of," she said. "Over 37 million years ago, a race put up a good fight against the reapers. They created a weapon that crippled the reaper I was trapped in. The section that the round destroyed was where my essence was stored. I was freed but the other beings stayed trapped there for millions of years. At least until you destroyed the reaper by sending it into the brown dwarf. You put millions of souls to rest when you did that. After I was freed, it took thousands of years for me to regain my sanity from being trapped within the reaper. But once I did, I worked to seek redemption for what I have done. I've tried for million years trying to get this galaxy to listen to my warnings, but as I have said before, they went unheard, or I was listened to too late. Eventually I discovered a wormhole that connected to your universe. Imagine my surprise when I find it goes to an mirror universe in an alternate past."

"What do the humans have to do with anything?" Shepard asked. "Rila on Thessia said that it isn't coincidence that they look like articians."

"She is correct. The humans were part of a long term plan. A plan that is close to two million years old. Getting an entire race to fight back against an enemy that they have never seen is impossible. Every race always progressed at a certain rate and is usually around the same level of technology when the reapers do arrive. The reapers planned on this. They wanted order in terms of how each race progresses. Disorder had to be injected into their formula. With samples I have had members of this galaxy acquire from your race two million years ago, I led scientists on a mission to try and recreate the articians in this galaxy. The lab for our experiment was earth. We found primates similar to our own ancestors and we believed them to be suitable test subjects towards controlling their evolution. It was a success and a failure at the same time. Without constant control, their evolution quickly deviated from the pathway toward artician in the tens of thousands of years in between check-ups. Biggest factor that changed their evolutionary pathway was the climate of earth. It was too moderate in climate in comparison to Artice. This resulted in a specie that's just related to the artician specie as oppose to being artician."

"Then the vision I received on that one mission on Eletania..."

"Was the protheans fulfilling my goals. While we failed to recreate the articians, we were successful in creating a race that changed much in the universe. Humans have the same restless nature as your race does. Technology has changed rapidly and new perspectives gained. Though even this was not enough. So with the last surviving members of the protheans and the last Tiven'Vian, we constructed a plan to wipe out the reapers once and for all. They created a network of temples which emits alpha energy. The same type of energy that can negate omega energy. This would cause the reapers to fall apart. Once all temples are activated the Citadel and master control station on earth can be activated to spread this energy throughout the galaxy."

"What does the Citadel have to do with this?"

"The Keepers were not the only thing modified on the Citadel. With my help and the last Tiven'Vian, the protheans modified the Citadel would have as a concentrator for the signal that would be emitted from earth's master control temple. This signal would coordinate the temples around the galaxy to go off all at the same time. This has to be done within a nanosecond of precision or else certain parts of the galaxy can remain untouched by the signal leaving the possibility of reaper taint being left behind."

"Why is the master control temple on earth of all places?"

"Two reasons. We had to ensure that it would be well defended, and knowing the nature of articians and humans, I knew that humans would put up a large enough fights against the reapers that it would delay their search."

"And the second?"

"We had to concentrate the reapers as best we could to make sure that they are wiped out when the network is activated. We knew that humans would be of interest to the reapers."

"So you used the humans as bait?" Shepard said in disgust.

"Millions are sacrificed in order to save trillions. I don't like it any better than you, but we had no choice. All we can do is ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain."

"How do we activate the Citadel?"

"In the room next to the one you are currently in is the last surviving member of the prothean race. He has been tasked to activating the Citadel to put it into orbit around earth."

"Another prothean?"

"Yes. Not like the collectors, as he has not been touched by the reaper's experimentations."

"And how do I activate the master control temple on earth and where is it?"

"The temple is located under the city which the humans call London, England. This temple will supply you the exact coordinates of the temple. But there is something else you should know. When you insert Asha Bel into the pedestal in the master control temple, it will drain you of all your essence. Each temple you have encountered mostly drained your stamina. This temple will be different in that it requires your body and soul to activate its vast power."

"Then why allow me to love?" he demanded. "If I am destined to die to end the reapers why allow me to love another? Why?"

"You deserve some comfort before you die."

"I was better off not loving at all! It just seems so damn typical. I don't have a happy life and now I won't even get a happy ending to my story. I'll just die and that will be the end of that. Though even my death will damn me to the void as my soul will be destroyed by this machine." Shepard fell to his knees and screamed in pain. "Damn it!"

The Oracle walked up and tried to put a hand on his shoulder. Shepard smacked it away and got to his feet. She could see the tears in his eyes.

"I will fulfill my duty as a Tiven'Vian. I will save this galaxy, but... I never want to see you again."

"My lord..."

"Go! Leave me!"

"I am truly sorry..." These were her last words before she faded from his sight.

Shepard found himself inside the same featureless room. He was on his knees and felt tears run down his cheeks. Shepard willed himself to his feet and approached a section of wall that started to shift as soon as he was conscious of his surroundings. When the door opened up fully, he entered the room. The room was blocky and grey, with each block stacked in an uneven order. In the center of the room is a structure, like the walls of the room, consisted of blocks. As oppose to the gray colour of the walls, this structure glowed orange. It was tripod shaped with one support structure that connected to the ceiling. In the center of the structure was a orange and red sphere with the silhouette of someone inside.

As Shepard approached the sphere, the sphere lowered to the ground. He touched the sphere and it vanished revealing its occupant. The first thought that came to Shepard's mind was that the original protheans looked nothing like the collectors. The prothean before him looked like the statues he saw before on Ilos.

The prothean struggled to get his footing. He was still woozy from being in stasis for close to fifty thousand years. The prothean opened his eyes and looked at Shepard. He stared at him as his eyes adjusted. Finally the prothean could see Shepard clearly. He stood up straight, bowed his head and greeted, "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, artician. I am Jarvic."