A Spectres Tale Version 2
Authors Notes: This is a rewrite of my previous A Spectre's Tale story. This story will bridge all three mass effect games with the goal of weaving all three into a cohesive story of Shepard's adventures as a Spectre and the battle against the Reapers and their various pawns. I'll also be throwing in some twists and turns as while the events of the games will be major plot points I'm also going to do a bit of my own thing.
Biotic powers in this story have been set to reflect the revised version as shown in Mass Effect 2 though I will be adding some aspects of what we know of the improvements being planned for Mass Effect 3 and how I believe some biotic powers would evolve. Also all characters are in line with their classifications for example Kaidan Alenko as a Sentinel can use tech armour, Tali can use combat drones and so on. I'm also going to incorporate some of the known about features for Mass Effect 3 like the Omni-Blade as personally I think it's a cool idea.
Shepard in this background is a male with the colonist background and primarily belongs to the vanguard classification there are crossovers with the soldier and infiltrator classes in that Shepard as a N7 is trained to use sniper rifles, assault rifles and has a tactical cloak. The reason I've done this is it would make sense for a special forces operator like Shepard to have that kind of training in my opinion.
Widow System, Serpent Nebula
March 12th 2183 CE
Admiral Steven Hackett waited with well-concealed impatience on the embassy balcony for the meeting with Ambassador Donnel Udina to begin. He did not appreciate being dragged here to the Citadel for the meeting, it wasn't necessary to meet in person after all with modern technology allowing instantaneous communication – be it audio, visual or holographic – with anyone, anywhere in the known galaxy. He could have easily stayed on board his flagship – the aging dreadnought SSV Everest – or on Arcturus Station and had the conversation but no Udina had insisted on having the conversation in person – officially because he didn't want to risk a team of Salarian hackers getting wind of the discussions and broadcasting them all over the extranet. It was a reasonable security precaution, it was the only reason he'd agreed to come, though privately Steven believed Udina had really dragged him here just because he could.
Then to add insult to injury Udina was making him wait.
Quietly Steven glanced over at his companion who was gazing out upon the peaceful landscape of the presidium while they waited. Captain David Anderson's features were calm and controlled but Steven had long ago perfected the art of reading people. He'd had to learn as being the commander of the Systems Alliance Navy Fifth Fleet based at Arcturus Station he had to deal with politicians and reporters more often than he would have liked. That developed skill let him know that he wasn't the only one who was beginning to be frustrated by the little political power game Ambassador Udina was playing with them.
To distract himself from his mounting annoyance Steven gazed out over the presidium's interior. Despite his position he'd never really come to the Citadel before – there was little reason after all for Systems Alliance Navy admirals to visit the vast Prothean-built space station that was the political and economic hub of the galaxy, at least for those races who had agreed to abide by the rules set out in the Citadel Conventions. He had to admit that the view was impressive with the wide strip of green parkland filled with small streams, lakes, statues and ornamental fountains curving away into the distance – with the sleek embassy buildings, apartments and commercial facilities where the elite of galactic society lived, worked and played on the opposite side of the parkland. All of it lit from above by a holographic sky that totally concealed the fact that they were on a gigantic deep space habitat floating in the middle of the Serpent Nebula. A habitat whose scale and complexity was far beyond the ability of any race living to construct and maintain, like the mass relays that made rapid interstellar travel and commerce possible the Citadel was a monument to the incredible science and engineering skills of the long since vanished Protheans.
Like many people in the known galaxy, Steven couldn't help but wonder what the Protheans had really been like. They knew so little about them fifty millennia of neglect had reduced many Prothean relics in this galaxy to ruins that had been picked over repeatedly by generations of scavengers. Even when they hadn't been looted, surviving Prothean facilities had been ravaged by the elements proving repeatedly that nothing truly lasted forever; time destroyed everything in the end. Practically all they knew about the Protheans was that they had had an understanding of mass effect technology that no current race – even the Asari – possessed as evidenced by their creation of the station and the massive network of mass relays that crisscrossed the galaxy.
The sound of the door opening drew him out of his thoughts and he glanced over his shoulder to see Ambassador Udina – dressed in a cream coloured, immaculately tailored business suit – come in.
"Sorry to keep you waiting gentlemen," Udina replied smoothly, convincingly though Steven wasn't fooled, he knew the politician wasn't sorry at all. "My last meeting with the Council went on far longer than I'd anticipated. Councillor Valern was as intransigent as ever it took ages for the other Councillors and me to get him to withdraw his objection to our proposal. I appreciate your patience."
"It's quite alright ambassador," Steven replied blinking a little as he began suspecting that for once Udina hadn't deliberately made them wait. He knew that the Turian Councillor Malinus Valern had been outspoken in his objection to the proposal that the Systems Alliance Parliament had put before the Council.
Though relations between the Systems Alliance and the Turian Hierarchy had improved a lot in recent year's there were still some holdouts like Valern who still carried a grudge from the pounding the Turian expeditionary forces had taken at Shanxi during the First Contact War - or the Relay 314 Incident as the Turians called it – twenty-six years earlier. The Turians hadn't taken there defeat at the hands of the Second Fleet during the Reclaiming of Shanxi well at all as it had been there first major military defeat in over a thousand years. It had only been through the intervention of the Council that the Turians hadn't responded to what they'd seen as a humiliating defeat with overwhelming force. Under tremendous political pressure from the Asari Republics and Salarian Union the Turian Hierarchy had reluctantly agreed to first a cease fire and then a permanent truce. As a result of that lingering resentment Valern was not the easiest of Turians to deal with, though he at least did his best to stay polite – most of the time anyway.
"I take it that the Council has agreed to our proposal," he continued.
"They have," Udina, answered, "They were reluctant given what happened the last time we tried this," as he spoke he gave a Captain Anderson a pointed look that the younger officer ignored "but they've agreed to allow a Human to join the Spectres. I take it you've brought the list of candidates I asked for admiral?"
"I have," Steven, confirmed taking an OSD out of a pocket in his uniform. "I've looked through the criteria with Captain Anderson and Spectre Nihlus Kryik and we've agreed on a number of possible candidates. I already have a good idea which one would be the best choice for our first Spectre."
"Let me be the judge of that, admiral," Udina answered taking the OSD and popping it into his computer before pressing a few of the holographic keys. A list of names immediately appeared on an orange tinted holographic screen. Calmly Udina scanned the list and one immediately jumped out at him, one that was at the very top of the list. A name that resonated in his memory to events that had taken place several years earlier, it had been the first major crisis that he'd dealt with after replacing the retiring Anita Goyle as humanities ambassador to the Citadel and the largest single attack on humanity since the First Contact War.
"What about Shepard," he asked his hands dancing across the holographic haptic interface bringing up the files of one Lieutenant Commander Aldrin Shepard and began reading through them. "He was born in the colonies."
"He knows how tough life can be out here," Anderson replied being very familiar with the man in question. He'd met Shepard a few times in the last few years and seen for himself how he'd changed from a terrified, emotionally scarred teenager reeling from the dual hammer blows of loosing his family and his home to Batarian slavers into a confident young man and one of the best N7 soldiers the Alliance had. At the look Udina gave him, one that invited him to explain his words he explained. "He lost his family when Batarian backed slavers hit Mindoir. The whole colony was destroyed Shepard was one of the few to survive and escape capture."
"It says here that he's a marine," Udina commented though he knew in the case of the Alliance military the distinction between naval and marine personnel was next to zero with no real friction between them. Certainly there was nothing like the inter-service rivalries that there were in the increasing understaffed and downsizing military forces maintained by the old Earth nations, these days young men and women looking for adventure – and who thought the military was a good way to get it – tended to join the Alliance military instead of one of the old and increasingly downsizing national militaries. Indeed many believed it was only a matter of time before the old national militaries went completely the way of the dinosaurs.
"That's correct," Anderson confirmed. "When he joined the military there were no places available in the navy training schools so he was rotated into the marines. Graduated at the top of his class and went through N series training. Though still technically a marine he's been acting more and more like a naval officer in the last few years."
"He certainly proved his skills during the Blitz held off an entire army of slavers and mercenaries single handed," Steven added with a smile of admiration. Shepard's strategic use of scarce military resources, the terrain of Elysium and an excellent grasp of military guerrilla warfare tactics had held off the slavers and mercenaries long enough for Alliance naval and marine reinforcements to respond to the colony's distress call. Respond and give the Batarian backed renegade forces the very thorough pounding they'd deserved.
"He's the only reason Elysium is still standing," Anderson agreed remembering the Blitz well, though he'd not been there himself. It had been only the second time a large military force had penetrated deep into Alliance space, though it hadn't been for long as they'd soon sent the Batarian funded army of slavers, pirates and mercs fleeing back into the Terminus Systems with tails firmly tucked between there legs. "He's as close to a true hero as anyone we've got. Certainly he's seen more action than most of the people on that list."
"We certainly can't question his courage," Udina replied frowning thoughtfully as he carefully read the rest of the dossier. "Hmm interesting, it says here that he's a biotic."
"He is. He's wired with an L3 series implant and an evaluation of his abilities when he joined the military classified him as a high end vanguard," Anderson, confirmed bracing himself to argue on Shepard's behalf if Udina tried to use the issue of Shepard being a biotic to exclude him from Spectre consideration.
Udina frowned thoughtfully considering the options before him. The fact that Shepard was a biotic could be politically problematic in some circles back home. There was still a lot of ignorance and mistrust of people like Shepard who'd survived in utero eezo exposures and developed the dark energy generation and manipulation abilities the races of the galaxy called biotics. Older generations especially found the idea of there being Humans with what were basically superpowers uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst. They would not react well to the idea of a biotic being the first Human Spectre.
On the other hand young people exposed to the extranet and the realities of galactic society were far more accepting of biotics as were many of the politicians that they were now voting into places of power both in the old Earth governments and in the increasingly powerful Alliance Parliament. Indeed he was aware that the youngest son of Michael Donahue the leader of one of the main opposition parties in parliament – a party that many believed would sweep to power when elections took place next year – was known to be a biotic and had been enrolled in the Ascension Project.
"Humanity needs a hero," Anderson added breaking into Udina's thoughts. "And Shepard is the best we've got." True, Udina thought knowing that Shepard being chosen to be a Spectre would go down well with the bulk of the general public across the Alliance as Shepard was very popular due to his heroism during the Skyllian Blitz, heroism that had earned him humanities highest military honour the Star of Terra as well as making him a household name, getting him into the Spectres should be easy enough assuming he passes the trial missions they'll put him through, which between his N7 training and his biotic abilities should be easy enough for him.
"I'll make the call," he said at last. "Where is Shepard now?"
"Earth at the moment," Anderson answered. "The Normandy won't be ready for her shakedown run for another week so the crew are enjoying some additional shore leave."
"That will give me plenty of time to arrange things," Udina said. "I'll arrange for one of the Council's Spectres to join you on Earth prior to departure."
"That won't be necessary ambassador," a flanged voice abruptly said making Udina visibly jump and spin around, to find himself looking at a young male Turian in a red and black combat hardsuit with the wing-like symbol of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance office on his shoulder. He immediately recognised him as Nihlus Kryik – the Spectre who'd been the most enthusiastic about the idea of a Human joining there ranks.
"Nihlus how did you get in here," he demanded.
"I've been here all along, ambassador," Nihlus replied his mandibles moving slowly back and forth and mouth opening slightly in the Turian equivalent of a grin. Of course the light of mischief flicking in the Turians unusual green eyes also gave the game away as some expressions crossed species easily enough, even species as different as Humans and Turians. "I simply used my tactical cloak to follow you in here. I'm pleased to see you agree with my first choice candidate I've watched Commander Shepard's career for sometime, he would be a valuable addition to the Spectres. In fact I can say with reasonable certainty that the Council would accept no other candidate – Shepard has impressed them, particularly in his defence of Elysium during the Skyllian Blitz."
Udina scowled at the Turian and considered opening his mouth to unleash a particularly barbed statement about being manipulated but after a moment thought better of it. Shepard was certainly more than qualified to be a Spectre so did it really matter if Nihlus was basically saying that the Council wouldn't accept anyone but the biotic marine? Though he didn't like being manipulated he supposed he couldn't complain about Shepard's candidacy now when he'd already said he would support it. It would look bad in front of Hackett and Anderson.
"I see. Then you have no problems with Shepard as a candidate?" he asked.
"Of course not," Nihlus replied. "As I've said I've watched his career for sometime. He interests me and certainly has all the qualities we look for when searching for someone new to join our elite group. As long as he can do the job then the fact that he's Human is irrelevant – at least as far as most of us are concerned."
"So there is some resistance," Anderson asked.
"There is in some parts of the Spectres yes. Some like Saren and others of his generation aren't convinced that it's the right time for Humans to be considered." Anderson snorted as Nihlus spoke, Shepard could be the best soldier in the galaxy and he knew Saren would still find fault with him and go out of his way to do to Shepard what he'd done to Anderson twenty years ago.
"But they are a minority now," Nihlus continued moving his mandibles in a way to convey amusement at Anderson's reaction to Saren's name. He was aware there was a history between the dark skinned Human naval officer and his Spectre mentor, though Saren had never gone into details about what had happened between him and Anderson twenty years ago on the Batarian colony of Camala. For which he was actually somewhat grateful as while Saren was a great Spectre many of the older Turians methods tended to leave a sour taste in Nihlus' mouth, which was why he'd gone out of his way to forge his own path with the Spectres and do things his own way.
"I see," Anderson replied making a mental note to advise Shepard to be careful when the time came to formally tell the younger man the honour he was being considered for. Who knew how far the sceptic Spectre's would go to keep a Human out of their ranks. Saren certainly hadn't hesitated to blame him for over five hundred innocent deaths and heavy environmental damage to Camala twenty years ago. He still periodically had nightmares about those events even though he'd seen worse things in his career as an elite N7 operative climbing up the ranks to become one of the most respected officers in the entire Alliance military.
"If there is nothing else gentlemen," Udina said breaking the silence that had descended on the office. When there was no response he spoke again. "Then if you will excuse me I will go and speak with the Council, informing them of our choice of candidate."
"I will accompany you ambassador," Nihlus added knowing that Udina's words would be taken much more seriously and that Councillor Valern especially wouldn't raise any objections if he was present at the meeting. Fortunately Udina seemed to know that as well.
"Of course Nihlus," Udina replied before nodding politely to the other two of his own species in the room. "Admiral, Captain, we will speak again later as I am sure we will have some issues to discuss before you leave the Citadel, until then good day to you gentlemen."
With that Udina turned and left the office with Nihlus following along behind him. As the career politician left the room Hackett and Anderson both visibly relaxed. Both of them absolutely hated dealing with politicians, especially ones like Udina who would smile and be nice to you even as he was figuring out the best time and place to slip a proverbial knife in your back.
"Thank god that's over," Anderson said as they stood up and left the office themselves.
"Indeed I hate dealing with politicians though at my level you can't really avoid it," Steven agreed. "Well then captain we have a few hours to kill before our ship will be ready for departure. You've been to the Citadel before do you know anywhere where we can go and relax for awhile."
"That depends on what kind of relaxation you want sir," Anderson answered. "If you want a drink and possible play a few rounds of quasar then the place to go would be Flux on Teysiri Ward. If you want dancing and drinking then there's the Dark Star Lounge on Zakera Ward. However if you want something a bit more… erotic shall we say then Chora's Den on Datura Ward would be the best place to go."
"Hmm," Steven muttered thoughtfully. "What about this Asari Consort I've heard so much about."
"No disrespect intended sir but it would be best to forget about going to see her," Anderson advised. "Sha'ira has a waiting list for her many services that is months long."
"I see. Is there anywhere quiet that I can go to for a drink, preferably one that is non-alcoholic?"
"The embassy lounge just across this lobby," Anderson explained as they came out into the main lobby area for the building that housed the Systems Alliance, Elcor and Volus embassies. "They sell non-alcoholic drinks as standard. Nice enough place though the lack of any real entertainment beyond background music makes it somewhat boring. Also doesn't help that it's full of bureaucrats at any given time."
"Place to avoid like the plague then," Steven commented prompting a slight chuckle from the other man.
"They do sell some non-alcoholic drinks in Flux," Anderson added as he brought himself back under control and marshalled his features back into their normal stoic expression.
"Sounds like the best place to go then. Lead the way captain."
"Aye aye sir follow me," Anderson replied before leading the way out of the embassy lobby towards the closest Citadel Mass Transit station where they would be able to get a car to Teysiri Ward and the access corridor to Flux.
Archaeological Dig Site
Eden Prime, Utopia System, Exodus Cluster
That Same Time
Doctor Alice Warren looked up from the mountain of electronic paperwork on her desk when she heard her trailer door opening. A second later, an excited looking young man that was helping with the dig came in, with her assistant Doctor Manuel Cayce following behind with a big, big grin on his face. A grin that she knew well as it was the grin that said they had found something.
"Doctor you need to come down to the dig," the younger of the two men – Mathew she thought he was called – said. "We've found something that you really, really need to see."
"I guessed that you'd found something," Alice replied. "The fact that you were both beaming and practically bouncing when you came in here gave the game right away. So what is it?"
"Words would be inadequate to describe it doc," Mathew answered. "You'll need to see it to believe it."
"He's right, Alice," Manuel added with an uncharacteristic eagerness and enthusiasm in his voice. "You really need to come and see what we're starting to uncover. If it is what we think it is then the repercussions are absolutely extraordinary."
Alice raised an eyebrow, her curiosity becoming more than a little piqued. For a moment, she considered ordering the two men to tell her what had been found; after all as leader of this excavation, they could hardly ignore her. However, after a moments thought she decided to go along with them. At the very least, it would get her out of the office trailer – and away from her virtual mountain of paperwork – for a while and anything that got her away from the extremely bureaucratic forms would be well worth it.
"Alright, I'll play along," she said before saving the file she was currently reading and closing it with a few quick taps of the computers holographic keyboard. Then she got up from behind the desk. "Lead on then gentlemen. I have to admit that I am curious about what's got the pair of you so worked up."
"Believe me, Alice you won't be disappointed," Manuel replied still grinning like an idiot before leading the way out of the trailer. Fighting down a smile at her assistant's unusual enthusiasm Alice followed him out of the air-conditioned comfort of the trailer into the balmy heat and brilliant sunshine of what was early summer here on Eden Prime.
The walk to the earth and gravel ramp to the dig site was not a long one. As they started down the ramp towards the dig, Alice thought back to how they'd been alerted to this site in the first place. As she recalled colony engineers had been planning to start construction on an extension to the growing colonies maglev train network had been analysing the ground so they would know how deep to put the foundations for the raised track. The engineer's ground scans had quickly picked up a very faint energy signature several metres beneath the surface, an energy signature that practically every Human learned to recognise in school, as it was one that four decades ago had changed their species destiny forever.
The energy signature had been Prothean.
Alice clearly remembered the excitement that she'd felt when she'd been told and excavation work had begun after they set up camp. Finding anything relating to the Protheans was rare and the fact that whatever they'd detected was still working – it had to be given it was still giving off energy – was even more so. Though she had no idea, what it was they'd detected – for all she knew, it could be the Prothean equivalent of a toaster. However, the very prospect of recovering working technology was worth getting excited over. Somehow, now though she doubted that the find would be something mundane like a toaster or some other domestic appliance. The way Manuel and Mathew were behaving suggested that whatever they had found was far, far more impressive and important than that.
It was at that moment that they reached the bottom of the ramp and Alice came to a stop her jaw dropping open in complete and utter astonishment. Standing in the centre of the clearing – its base still two thirds buried in the ground was a slender pillar of greyish-white metal. A slender line of softly rippling pale blue-green light ran up its centre and a number of glyphs decorated it surface. Though she had never seen one up close before she'd seen enough holograms of the devices she knew precisely what it was. It was one of the rarest of all possible finds. It was something that archaeologists of all known spacefaring species dreamed of uncovering but very rarely did.
It was a Prothean beacon.
"Is that…" she started to say, "am I dreaming?"
"No your not," Manuel answered, "or if you are then we all are."
"Is it… is it intact," Alice asked moving slowly around the beacon and noting with awe that the metal still gleamed brightly in the sun, for all its millennia underground the beacon appeared to be completely unmarked, a metallic monolith that had somehow escaped the ravages of time.
"All our tests so far indicate it is doc," Mathew replied. "We still have to dig the lower part of the beacon out of the ground but all our scans indicate it's intact. You realise what finding this means right?"
"More than you know," Alice, answered dragging her eyes away from the incredible find and looking at her assistant. She knew precisely what they had to do now, the guidelines and regulations for finds such as this were clear. "Manuel I need you to speak to everyone on and around this dig site, anyone who could have seen the beacon. Make sure they don't tell anyone what we've found."
"But doc we need to…" Mathew started to object.
"I know you want to announce this discovery all over the extranet, Mathew. So do I but there is a procedure to follow," Alice answered. "Before we make any official announcements we need to inform both local and intergalactic authorities. Both the Alliance Parliament and the Citadel Council have to be told what we have found here, this find is bigger than you can possibly imagine."
"Do we have to tell the Citadel," Mathew moaned. "This is a Human world we should be the ones to handle this. I mean we deciphered the data cache on Mars quickly enough."
"Yes we did but when we deciphered the Martian data cache there were a lot more resources available to divert to the effort," Alice reminded the younger man. "They were able to divert a lot of time, resources and computer power from practically every government and higher learning institution in the Sol system to divert to the task. Even so, it took over a year to translate, defragment and convert even that relatively small amount of data into a format we could understand. Even if we tied in all the colonies computers we wouldn't have even a tiny faction of the processing power we'd need to start tapping the beacons secrets."
"I suppose so," Mathew admitted. "But why not just ship the beacon back to Earth?"
"Its not that easy anymore," Alice informed him. "Since the Alliance signed the Citadel Conventions all archaeological finds connected in anyway to the Protheans have to – by law – be reported to the Council. I can understand why, the secrets this beacon might contain could potentially have a profound impact on not just humanity but on every species in Citadel Space. Its in nobodies best interest for one species to have exclusive control over it."
For a moment Mathew looked like he was about to argue further but reluctantly he nodded in acceptance, though he still did not look happy. Alice could understand it, as she was aware of the fact that there was a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the Citadel Council in all circles of the Systems Alliance, but especially amongst the younger generations. She was aware that many believed that the Council was trying to hold there species back, that the Council races were scared of humanities potential and the fact that they'd accomplished in a mere four decades what took most species centuries.
It was quite a change for how the Council had been viewed when she'd been a child, then the Council Races - in particular, the Salarians and Asari – had been viewed with awe and respect. Especially as they'd prevented the Turians from escalating, the First Contact War into an all out interstellar conflict after the Second Fleet sent their expeditionary force retreating to the Hierarchy – with combat boot printed backsides.
Pushing aside her thoughts, she took one last look at the beacon knowing that this was a find she was going to remember for the rest of her life. It was literally the find of a lifetime after all. Then she turned away and began walking back up the ramp towards the encampment. Behind her she heard Manuel calling all the dig site personnel together to brief them on what would happen next, but she paid it no mind. Instead her thoughts turned to the report that she was going to have to make to both Eden Primes parliamentary representative and the Citadel. It would be the most important report that she had ever filed.
A report that she knew would probably prompt the Council to send at least one of its elite Spectre operatives here to secure the beacon. At the same time every Prothean expert in Citadel Space worth their salt would certainly begin to gather on the Citadel, ready to begin probing the beacons secrets. Alice hoped that she and Manuel would be among them, after all, it was there team that was unearthing the beacon, and it would be only fair for them to be there when the extraction of data from the beacons memory began. I wonder what information the beacon contains, she thought, what long lost secrets of the Protheans will it reveal? Maybe it will contain the answer to the age old puzzle of the Protheans disappearance all those millennia ago.
She supposed that only time would tell.