Commander Shepard made his way through the SSV Normandy's second deck, maneuvering around the crew as he approached the cockpit. When he had finally reached it, he could see Joker, the pilot of the Normandy, in his usual pilot seat, with Nihlus, the Spectre that was a guest aboard the Normandy, standing behind him.Shepard never had any problems with Nihlus; it was an honor to have a Spectre on board, and being able to work along side him was quite exciting for Shepard.
"The board is green. Approach run has begun.", Joker announced into the comm.
Joker flew the ship towards a mass relay that Shepard could not identify off the top of his head. He marveled once again at how massive the mass relays were, and how mysteriously powerful they were to be able to send ships off at incredible speed. FTL travel has always been an interesting topic to Shepard. He could sit and listen for days about how it worked, and still be amazed every time he heard it.
"Hitting the relay in 3... 2... 1..."
Shepard braced himself for the lurch the Normandy gives as it enters FTL travel. The ship jerked forward, and the Normandy was now racing towards the next destination.
"Thrusters... check. Navigation... check. Internal emissions sink engaged. All systems online. Drift... just under 1500 K."
Joker leaned back, satisfied with the results of the FTL jump.
A resonating, non-human voice answered Joker with, "1500 is good. Your captain will be pleased."
Upon that, Nihlus turned and left the room, most likely going to converse with Captain Anderson.
Shepard noticed that Joker watched as Nihlus walked away. As soon as he seemed to be out of earshot, Joker faced forward again while saying, "I hate that guy."
Kaidan Alenko, sitting in the seat to the right of Joker, decided to speak up.
"Nihlus gave you a compliment... so you hate him?"
Joker snorted. "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 pinhead. So that's incredible! Besides, Spectres are trouble. I don't like having him on board. Call me paranoid."
"You're paranoid. The Council helped fund this project. They have a right to send someone to keep an eye on their investment." Kaidan argued.
"Yeah, that is the official story. But only an idiot believes the official story."
Shepard decided to voice his thoughts. "They don't send Spectres on shakedown runs."
Joker turned his head back towards Shepard. "So there's more going on here than the captain's letting on."
Captain Anderson's voice ended the conversation as his voice rang over the comm channel. "Joker! Status report."
"Just cleared the mass relay, Captain. Stealth systems engaged. Everything looks solid."
Captain Anderson answered, "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." Sarcasm drenched Joker's words.
"He's already here, Lieutenant.", Anderson stated irritably. "Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing."
"You get that, Commander?"
Shepard nodded and turned to leave. "I'm on my way."
Joker scoffed and said, "Is it me or does the captain always sound a little pissed off?"
Kaidan, with a hint of a smile on his face, said, "Only when he's talking to you, Joker."
Shepard smiled and shook his head on account of Kaidan's remark. Anderson, did seem somewhat irritated, however. Shepard wondered if something might have gone wrong with the mission, that there was something else going on that was bothering the Captain, or if he really did dislike speaking to Joker. He dismissed the thought as he walked through the CIC. He entered the debriefing room to see Nihlus standing in front of a hologram of Eden Prime, seemingly in deep thought. He turned around as Shepard approached him.
"Commander Shepard. I was hoping you'd get here first. It will give us a chance to talk."
"I'm interested in this world we're going to - Eden Prime. I've heard it's quite beautiful."
Shepard had never been to Eden Prime before, but he remembered what most people had told him about it.
"They say it's a paradise."
"Yes... a paradise. Serene. Tranquil. Safe. Eden Prime has become something of a symbol of your people, hasn't it? Proof that humanity can not only establish colonies across the galaxy, but also protect them. But how safe is it, really?"
Shepard began to suspect that Nihlus knew something about Eden Prime that he was not telling him. He did not appreciate Nihlus beating around the bush, however.
"If you've got something to say, just say it."
"Your people are still newcomers, Shepard. The galaxy can be a very dangerous place."
Nihlus crossed his arms.
"Is the Alliance truly ready for this?"
Before Shepard could answer, he heard the door behind him slide open.
Captain Anderson entered the room and began, "I think it's about time we told the commander what's really going on."
Nihlus stepped forward slowly. "This mission is far more than a simple shakedown run."
Shepard faced Anderson. "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."
Shepard wanted to ask why he had been kept in the dark about this mission, but he held back and focused on what Anderson planned to pick up.
"What's the payload, Captain?"
"A research team on Eden Prime unearthed some kind of beacon during an excavation. It was Prothean."
Shepard was taken aback. I thought Protheans were extinct? "I thought the Protheans vanished 50,000 years ago?"
Nihlus spoke next. "Their legacy still remains. The mass relays, the Citadel, our ship drives - it's all based on Prothean technology."
"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 looked back at Shepard after Anderson had finished speaking. "Obviously, this goes beyond mere human interests, Commander. This discovery could affect every species in Council Space."
Shepard was confused. Why are they worried about it being so hard to just go by and pick up the beacon? "Are we expecting trouble?"
"I'm always expecting trouble."
Anderson continued with, "There's more Shepard. Nihlus isn't just here for the beacon. He's also here to evaluate you."
Shepard became somewhat worried. Being accompanied by a Spectre on an Alliance frigate was odd enough.
He's going to evaluate me? What's this all about? "What's going on, Captain?"
"The Alliance has been pushing for this a long time. Humanity wants a larger role in shaping interstellar policy. 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.",said Nihlus. "You showed a remarkable will to live - a particularly useful talent. That's why I put your name forward as a candidate for the Spectres."
Shepard's stomach fluttered at the thought of being the first human Spectre. The mere thought made Shepard want to smile, but he suppressed the urge, and faced Captain Anderson.
"I assume this is good for the Alliance."
"Earth needs this, Shepard. We're counting on you."
Nihlus nodded and said, "I need to see your skills for myself, Commander. Eden Prime will be the first of several missions together."
"You'll be in charge of the ground team.", Anderson added. "Secure the beacon and get it onto the ship ASAP. Nihlus will accompany you to observe the mission."
Shepard was eager to show Nihlus his skills on the battlefield. Being the first human Spectre would mean a great deal to him - especially if it was good for the Alliance.
"Just give the word, Captain."
"We should be getting close to Eden-"
Joker interrupted Anderson over the comm.
"Captain! We've got a problem."
"What's wrong, Joker?"
"Transmission from Eden Prime, sir. You better see this!"
"Bring it up on screen."
The transmission showed soldiers firing their weapons in a frantic manner. Shepard could recognize the weapon sounds. Avenger assault rifles, pistols, and other standard Alliance weapons. But, he also heard a different sound. A firearm that didn't sound like any weapon that he'd ever heard. He wondered if it was a new Alliance weapon, or if it was a weapon used by slavers or mercenaries, but he could usually tell. Explosions and plasma blasts ignited all around the soldiers. One of them sprinted towards the one sending the transmission, and seemed to push them onto the ground, in order for them to take as little enemy fire as possible. The gunfire and explosions continued to light up the screen. Suddenly, a soldier appeared, huddled down next to the other soldier as he yelled into the comm that they were taking heavy fire and requested immediate evac. Just then, a loud humming sound could be heard from the transmission. The camera shook violently, hindering any attempts to see what was happening. When the camera finally adjusted and focused, an enormous almost squid-like ship could be seen hovering in the sky above them. Shepard's eyes widened. It was unlike anything he had seen. He knew that dreadnoughts were massive ships that could rip nearly anything apart with its weapons, but this ship was huge. Even bigger than a dreadnought. As quickly as it was on screen, the camera again began to shake, and the gunfire once again ensued. Suddenly, the transmission cut out, followed by loud static.
Joker soon broke the monotony of the static. "Everything cuts out after that. No comm traffic at all. Just goes dead. There's nothing."
Anderson lifted his head slightly as he said, "Reverse and hold at 38.5."
The large ship was once again on screen. Shepard couldn't get over how large it was. It's impossible for a ship to be that big. It's just insane. But there it was, on screen, in plain view.
"Seventeen minutes out, Captain. No other Alliance ships in the area."
If it isn't an Alliance ship... what the hell is it?
"Take us in, Joker. Fast and quiet. This mission just got a lot more complicated."