Chapter 6: The Citadel
All she could see was blinding white light.
All she could feel was the throbbing in her head.
She tried to think back, to remember why she was here. She could remember the Spectre Nihlus who was now dead. She could remember losing Jenkins but picking up Williams in some sort of sick trade. She could remember the mindless husks that had once been human beings. She could also remember the beacon but then the pain came back with a vengeance.
"Doctor Chakwas," said a voice, "I think she's waking up."
Shepard groggily tried to get up before a sharp spike of pain stabbed through her head.
Okay, she thought, bad idea. Stay still for a bit. That sounds nice… Hang on! Am I in the Girl Scouts or N7?
Ignoring what felt like a nail-gun to the head, she rose herself to a sitting position and gazed at her surroundings. As her vision began to clear she was able to make out the face of one Doctor Chakwas.
"You had us worried there Commander," she said pleasantly, as though they had just happened upon each other at the park, "How are you feeling?"
Shepard groaned again. "Like the morning after shore leave," she said painfully. It was difficult to form a coherent sentence. "How long was I out?"
"About fifteen hours," answered Chakwas, "Something happened down there with the beacon, I think."
"It was my fault," said the first voice. Shepard turned around to see Kaidan standing near entrance of the med-bay.
I only just realised I'm in the med-bay?
"I must have triggered some kind of security protocol when I approached it," he continued, "You had to push me out of the way." He hung his head like a schoolboy waiting for a scolding.
"Makes us even by my reckoning," said Shepard.
"What do you – oh, um, okay, sure," he mumbled, clearly having forgotten the whole "taking a direct shot from a rocket launcher for her" thing.
"You had no way to know what would happen," she continued.
"Actually, we don't even know if that's what set it off," Chakwas interjected, "Unfortunately, we'll never get the chance to find out."
"Sorry, not following," said Shepard, "What happened?"
"The beacon exploded," explained Kaidan, "A system overload maybe. The blast knocked you out and Williams and I carried you back to the ship."
Explains why I'm here I guess.
"Thanks," she said before turning back to Chakwas, "What's the damage Doc?"
"Physically, you're fine," Chakwas explained, "But I detected some unusual brain activity, abnormal beta waves. I also noticed an increase in your rapid eye movement, signs typically associated with intense dreaming."
Shepard rubbed her temple; the pain had now been reduced to a dull throbbing. She thought back to the final moments before she blacked out. "I saw…" she began, "I dunno what I saw. Death. Destruction. Nothings clear, it was all hazy, like watching a dodgy vid."
She didn't think they needed to know about the screams. She sure as hell knew that she didn't want to.
Chakwas crossed her arms thoughtfully as she assimilated the information. "I should probably add that to my report."
The door hissed as it opened.
"Captain Anderson," Chakwas said respectfully, greeting the Commanding Officer of the Normandy.
"How's our XO holding up, Doctor?" asked Anderson.
"She is just fine," answered Shepard, "Okay, maybe not fine but I'm sure I could take on a toddler or a particularly vicious baby. I'll stop talking now," she said after receiving a glare from the good doctor.
"All her vitals look normal so, inappropriate, unfunny jokes aside, I'd she is going to be just fine," Chakwas stated. Anderson gave an extremely unprofessional grin at the doctor's assessment.
"Good to hear," he said before turning to back to Shepard, "Shepard, I need to speak to you – in private."
Kaidan saluted, "Aye, aye Captain," he turned to Shepard, "Williams and I will be in the mess if you need us." He walked to the door.
"Just a minute," she replied. He turned back to her. "Were you able to recover Corporal Jenkins' body?" she asked. Kaidan hesitated before looking down at his feet. "What happened?" she asked.
"After taking you back," he said, looking like he'd rather be anywhere else, "Williams and I set out to retrieve his body…" He exhaled slowly. "When we got there we… we found his body impaled on a spike."
"Shit," she said softly. What else could she say?
"We had to kill – there was nothing left," he said very stiffly, "It was completely destroyed."
There was nothing left to say. He turned and left room. Chakwas also excused herself, "If you need me, I'll be in the CIC. Joker needs a… well, that's where I'll be anyway," she said cryptically.
It was just Shepard and Anderson now.
"Sounds like it was pretty rough down there," he said finally.
"I don't like soldiers dying under my command," she said lamely.
"It wasn't your fault," he said immediately, "We haven't had an encounter with the geth in three centuries. Hell, you're one of the only humans to ever actually see one. They were a complete unknown. All things considered, I think you did the best with what you had, and that'll be the end of it."
"Yes sir," she responded quietly. A sudden thought struck her. "Chief Williams isn't part of the Normandy crew," she said. Way to state the obvious.
"I figured we could use a soldier like her," he explained, "We're down a man so I had her reassigned to the Normandy."
"She's a good soldier," she affirmed, "Definitely more deserving more than a place in a backwater like Eden Prime."
"Alenko said the same," Anderson stated, "That's why I added her to the crew."
Okay, enough casual chit-chat, she thought.
"You said you needed to speak in private," she said, getting to the point.
He sighed. "I won't lie to you, Shepard," he said quietly, "Things look bad. Nihlus is dead. The beacon was destroyed and geth are invading. The Council's going to want answers."
"We didn't do anything wrong," she stated, "Surely the Council will see that."
And maybe Santa and the Easter Bunny are real and they've just been on a really long vacation.
"I'll stand behind you and your report, Shepard," he said immediately, "You're a damn hero in my books. That's not why I'm here. It's Saren. That other turian. Saren's a Spectre."
"Wonderful," she said sarcastically.
"One of the best. A living legend," he continued. "But if he's working with the geth, it means he's gone rogue. A rogue Spectre's trouble. Saren's dangerous. And he hates humans."
"Of course he does," she said. A turian hating humans, what else is new? "What's his reason?" she asked, "Knew someone in the Contact war or just jumping on the bandwagon?"
"He thinks we're growing too fast, taking over the galaxy," he explained, "A lot of aliens think that way. Most of them don't do anything about it. But Saren has allied himself with the geth. I don't know how. I don't know why. I only know it had something to do with that beacon." He paused before continuing, "You were there just before the beacon self-destructed. Did you see anything? Any clue that might tell us what Saren was after?"
"To be perfectly honest I'm not entirely sure on what I saw," she said, "Synthetics, maybe geth butchering organics."
"We need to report this to the Council," he said.
"And tell them what?" she replied, "'I had a bad dream?'"
"We don't know what information was stored in that beacon," Anderson said, "Lost Prothean technology? Blueprints for some ancient weapon of mass destruction? Whatever it was, Saren took it."
He began to pace backwards and forward. "But I know Saren," he continued, "I know his reputation, his politics. He believes humans are a blight on the galaxy. This attack was an act of war. He has the secrets from the beacon. He has an army of geth at his command. And he won't stop until he's wiped humanity from the face of the galaxy."
Shepard got the impression that this was based on more than just hearsay. She was sure that Anderson actually knew this Saren person.
"I'll find some way to take him down," she said, hoping to reassure him.
"It's not that easy," he said, "He's a Spectre. He can go anywhere, do almost anything. That's why we need the Council on our side."
"We prove Saren's gone rogue and the Council will revoke his Spectre status," she said, "Then he's nothing more than a memory."
"I'll contact the ambassador and see if he can get us an audience with the Council," Anderson continued, "He'll want to see us as soon as we reach the Citadel." He turned to leave and then paused. "We should be getting close. Head up to the bridge and tell Joker to bring us into dock."