If only this place wasn't so cold! Shepard thought as she continued moving up the mountain. Even with her suit on she could feel the bitter freezing wind trying to get in. She had been walking up to the crash site now for 30 minutes since ordering Chief Michelle Edgars to take Private Seaborg back down the hill. Based on her calculations, Michelle and Seaborg should be, if not already there, just a few steps from the Mako and that meant that Michelle would be calling her. As Shepard readjusted the DX emergency pack that she was carrying she made a decision that would not make her buddy too happy. No, Michelle would not be too happy when Shepard instructed her to stay there. No, my friend … you are going to really hate me, Shepard thought as she stopped and leaned against a rock. But hell, it's not like you're missing anyth-, Shepard stopped mid-stream as she felt something move past her in a hurry and as she turned to see what had pushed passed, her feet were knocked out from under her. She slammed down onto the ground and as she looked up she could see a turian over her. Shit! Now what? She thought as she remained on her knees acting wounded as she carefully pulled out her Bowie knife. In times of stress or of the utmost importance Shepard had always found her quoting scripture that her mother had taught her … today was no different. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, Shepard prayed as the turian moved in on her. He reached down and as he grabbed her by the throat she pushed the knife up and into his gut with all her strength. Had the turian not been wearing a helmet she would have seen the look of absolute shock, shock that a human could do this to him.

In one last attempt to overcome her, the turian squeezed even harder cutting deeper into her neck as she once again used all her strength and shoved the knife even farther into him. As the enemy dropped to the ground Shepard grabbed her throat. The turian had torn not only into her suit but also into her skin leaving Shepard exposed and bleeding. She could feel the burning wind snake into her suit and she felt tears of anger threatening to escape. Don't you dare frickin' cry like some girl, Shepard ordered herself. You are an N7 soldier and a Lieutenant in the Alliance … now act like it!

Once she had put herself back in line she started looking for identification on the dead turian and she found a type of steel wallet that had the turian's face, a fact she confirmed by removing his helmet to compare … unfortunately the writing was in turian so she needed to upload it. "Let's see who you are," Shepard said as she scanned the information into her omni-tool to translate. Lers Wrylhilm, General popped back to Shepard. "General?" Shepard frowned, "What is a turian General doing out here?" Shepard wiped her blade clean as she focused on getting her bearings. She knew that now with a torn suit she needed to get out of the cold and she needed to do it quick. She had to limit her exposure or risk losing parts of herself to frostbite. She quickly moved on, trying to not panic when she almost jumped as Michelle came over her earpiece sounding panicked, "Shepard, are you there?" Shepard trying to calm herself before responding began to focus on her breathing as she moved forward. Michelle not getting a response quick enough repeated a little more loudly, "Please Shepard, please tell me that you are there!"

Shepard very quietly responded, "I'm here Michelle … what's wrong?"

"You need to get back here," Michelle answered. "We aren't alone."

"I know," Shepard was straining trying to see past the storm. "What's going on down there?"

"We are trying to stabilize Private Seaborg," Corporal Ludlaw said. "He was shot and wait ... How do you know?"

"I'm sorry, Shepard," Michelle said right on top of Luddy, "I missed the hole until we were back on the Mako. He was shot in the back … the kid is pretty tough. And here I kept calling him seme-"

"Shepard, you need to get back here," Luddy cut her off. "After we realized … well, that we weren't alone, I took a reading and there appears to be a small aircraft … probably a drop shuttle to the west of us."

Shepard knew that she couldn't be more than twenty paces from the crash and that even if she tried she wouldn't make it back to the Mako with the breach in her suit, "Luddy … protect the Mako and let me know if anything changes."

"What?" Shepard heard Michelle say in almost disbelief. "Shepard, these are not friendlies … they shot Seaborg and maybe at all of us. Hell, with that visibility up there I'm surprised they could see us."

Shepard started carefully moving forward when she saw flashes of light and a few more steps she could finally start to make out three figures in the mix of the lights. She was glad now for the rocky terrain and pulled herself around a large boulder as she kept it between her, the shadow figures and the craft. As she drew almost on them she could now see that there were three turians and one was using a type of torch to get the aircraft door open. "Luddy, I have a visual on three turians," Shepard said softly. "They are at the downed craft and they are definitely trying to get in."

"I guess it is safe to say that the craft did not fall apart on impact," Luddy said. "Can you see writing on the craft?"

Shepard squinted as she looked over the side but there was nothing, "Sorry … the sides are clean."

"Shepard," Luddy came over her earpiece as Michelle could be heard yelling at her to get away in the background, "There has to be more. There is no way-"

"I know Luddy," Shepard shifted on her left leg as she slowly brought her weapon up. "That's why I need you and Michelle to keep alert. Okay? Anyone come to your door other than two guys in suits on bikes …"

"I should have never told you that I was raised Mormon," Luddy stopped her.

"Sorry," Shepard laughed, "On a more serious note, why would a ship have no markings?"

"Pirate?" Luddy guessed.

Shepard thought of the dead General and shook her head, "No … This ship is not illegal. Or at least not in the traditional sense … But it is concealing its identity. Maybe it is carrying someone or something that does not want to be tracked?"

"Possible." Luddy's voice came back. "But whatever it is, be careful."

"That is the plan," Shepard said as she continued to monitor the activity, "Luddy, I'm about to get busy so I'm not going to be available to chat for a while. But you can clearly see my vitals so listen … if I flatline I need you to leave this place post haste … do you understand?"

"You are not allowed to flatline," Michelle answered from the background. "Do you hear me Lieutenant? No flat, straight or missing line … not today!"

"Yes sir!" Shepard teased her friend. While Shepard seemed light hearted in the banter it did not match what she was really feeling. She felt the freeze attaching itself to her as her body felt a type of tingling burn as every sense was on high alert. She had her weapon aimed in the direction of the shadow figures as she watched them working the soon to be open entrance. She didn't see a need to stop them from working on gaining her easy access or testing the waters. After all, Shepard realized that there could be a very unwelcoming group inside the downed craft. It took another ten minutes before the three had removed the door and once they had access and no resistance came from the shuttle Shepard took aim and before she pulled the trigger whispered, "When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted."

The three shadow figures were quickly put down by the accuracy of Shepard's aim and before she headed to the opening she tried to see as far as possible in all directions. "Well, here goes nothing," she said to herself as she headed for the entry. As she made her way carefully into the ship she saw at least twenty dead turians scattered throughout the aircraft. "Luddy, how are you doing out there?" Shepard asked as she began to check bodies for any survivors as well as identification.

"We are okay down here," Luddy came back. "You?"

"A lot of dead turians here," Shepard said as she looked around the craft trying to see any type of logo or writing. "This shuttle is a clean slate. I can't find any markers or identifications anywhere." Shepard then saw a turian in a leather seat wearing a high end suit. He had been shot in the head and Shepard knew that he had been the mark. She looked through his clothes and found what she was looking for … a quick scan of the document and the words Villos Carthaana popped up.

Shepard then looked away from the target and while all the other turians were dressed in standard clothes only one was in full armor and helmet. She slowly moved forward and as she bent down next to the shooter he suddenly reached out to her before his hand dropped and he passed out.

"Shepard?" Luddy called out worried.

"I have a live one here," Shepard answered. "He … well, I think it's a he … He is fully armored and wearing a helmet. He has a deep wound, maybe gunshot … I'm not sure. Did you know that there blood is dark blue?"

"Really?" Luddy whistled. "So it must look like a bunch of smurfs threw up there?"

"Yeh, it's weird," She said almost absentmindedly as she continued to try and see what was wrong with the turian. "Keep an eye out in your area."

"Yes, Shepard." Luddy responded. "Please be careful up there."

As Shepard pulled the DX emergency pack off her back she began to attend to the turian's injuries. It was clear to Shepard that the craft went down as a result of a massacre inside and looking at this creature she quickly determined that he was the cause. I'm not sure that healing you is wise, Shepard thought to herself as she began wrapping the wound, I may just regret this. As if the turian read her mind he pulled out a HMWP Master Pistol and as he went to fire she used all her strength to push his arm away. Her quick response surprised the turian and as she tried to get to her knife he grabbed her thigh and tore into it, causing her to cry out in pain. As she fell forward but still on her knees he swung the weapon around again and as they struggled he shot her in the shoulder.

The blast knocked her across the room and into the wall leaving Shepard nauseas and blurry-eyed. The turian stood up and checked his wound. Shepard still on the ground watched as he moved about the room switching on orange boxes that she quickly determined were bombs. Get up! She told herself, you cannot die today! Not like this! Get up! Shepard refused to stay down as this creature continued to flip switches. She struggled to get back on her feet and her determination caught the attention of her enemy. He stopped what he was doing and watched her struggle to stand on her own. As Shepard finally made it up she went to pull up her rifle, wanting to scream as her left shoulder that was blown open rebelled ... the turian kicked her back down and at the same time went to pull her rifle away ... As he took a hold of it she swung her knife out and caught him by the arm slicing deep into him. The turian angrily brought his pistol over her and as she looked up at him, her face hidden under her helmet, he squeezed the trigger but instead of it ending Shepard's life they both heard just a click.

Shepard hearing the click thrust her knife into his leg, ripping her own shoulder more in the act, and as he came down on his knee she tried to crawl away. The turian caught her leg, pulled her back to him and as she fought he began to choke her. Shepard struggled as she felt herself getting lightheaded and then when she was almost passed out she felt a searing pain in her side. What Shepard did not know was that the turian had grabbed her knife as he strangled her and had pushed it into her. As she lay on the floor he slowly got up amazed at the human's determination.

As Shepard lay passed out and bleeding on the floor the turian checked his own injuries and then turned his omni-blade on, "Alastair, are you on-line?"

"Yes, yes." Came a quick response. "I am waiting just north-east of where you are. Was the mission a success?"

"Yes," the turian responded. "I will update the council once I am back onboard."

As the turian left the shuttle he saw the bodies of the three turians at the entrance which made his respect for the human go up, she is skilled with a weapon, he thought as he saw the bullet wounds to each turians head. Clean and precise, impressive. But he had a timetable to stick to so he continued on being careful not to walk into anyone else.

Shepard struggled to get up and in her first three tries she came crashing down again. I can't die like this! she had angrily cried out. Not like this! She felt her body hurting, her chest pounding, her shoulder throbbing ... Get up Shepard! Don't you die today! Not today! She pushed herself up and she called out to Luddy ... to Michelle. There was no response and she knew that in the fight she had lost contact. Move Shepard! she had told herself. She began stumbling for the door, stumbled over bodies ... stumbled out of the craft into the bitter cold. Do not die! Not this way! Just keep moving!

As he moved forward he thought of the human ... He admired her but he would have left the human there to die either by her wounds or the inevitable explosion when he came upon the body of General Lers Wrylhilm of the turian military. "General?" the turian looked at the bloody body and thought, "Who are you, human?"

The turian turned back to the shuttle, and as he got closer he saw her stumbling down the mountain ... he watched her as she fell to the ground and continued to crawl another few feet and then drop in the snow. He hurried over, checked her vitals and without hesitation threw her over his shoulder. He then carried her to the shuttle waiting for him and once onboard placed her on the ground. "Fix her," he said to the turian Alastair.

"Fix her?" Alastair looked confused. "Who is she?"

"A very determined human who shows promise," he answered.

Alastair opened her suit to see the extent of her injuries when he found her Alliance tags, "She is a Lieutenant E.W. Shepard." He said.

"Shepard?" The turian knew that name but why. "Ah, yes. Shepard … butcher of children her kind called her."

"Butcher of children?" Alastair questioned. "She butchered children?"

The turian ignored him as he bent over Shepard, removed her helmet and then held her tags, "You are a great example of military tactician and strategist during dark times … You will do what is needed to ensure success and with limited resources. This is an honor, human. "

"But Nihlus we aren't set to heal a human," Alastair said as he saw the SpecTRe Nihlus Kryik slowly inspected Shepard's injuries and damaged suit. "We would need to get her to that ship off-world and no one can know that you were here. No one must know that you or the council was tied to the elimination of the Admiral Carthaana. No one."

Nihlus looked at the face of the human and shook his head, "She does not know what she found. And even if she figures out who was on that ship … she never saw me. I will give this human a chance. Take us towards the Alliance vehicle."

As Shepard's body was left just fifty feet from the Mako with a rescue beacon set off next her … Nihlus looked out the window of his shuttle and watched as two Alliance personnel raced towards the unconscious female. "I could teach you so many things and the galaxy would be the better for it with you in our ranks."

"A human SpecTRe?" Alastair said as she maneuvered the craft away.

Nihlus ignored his companion as he continued to watch the human get picked up, "I give you my oath that if you survive, we will meet again Shepard and I will teach you to be stronger, quicker and a SpecTRe."

Author's Final Note:

Thank you to everyone who took time out of their lives and read this story. I am deeply grateful for all your comments, feedback and encouragement in the crafting of this story. Thank you all so much!

PM Canales

Chatsworth, California - Tuesday, December 13, 2011