Bill Here! This is the first chapter of my first mass effect fan-fiction. I've written stories before, but never with enough drive to continue them very long. If everything goes as planned, it should span from ME1 to ME3, in a complete story arc. I hope you enjoy this first chapter and the chapters proceeding it. If you liked the chapter, please leave a review telling me what you think.
"Give it up mutt!"
"Yeah, give it up kid. You got nowhere to go."
A young boy breathed heavily, standing alone.
There was nothing left of the tattered city but dilapidated buildings. Offices and apartments that had collapsed due to abandonment or misuse offered squatters a temporary shelter against the sweltering days and freezing nights. The bricks and cinderblocks that once held up these creations were nothing but dust, a fine white powder that stuck on your clothing to mark you as a vagrant.
"Just give back what you stole like a good boy!"
"You're not gonna get anything out of here by playing tough!"
The ruins of the city made for a hilly environment; everywhere were piles of brick and stone where walls had fallen and crashed into the abandoned street. The once brightly lit and painstakingly built structures were forsaken, much like the people that lived in them. This once ordered place, organized to a peak of efficiency was now a jungle of mess, habitat to those who had no other place to go. The alleyways still had form, allowing for the young boy be surrounded by his assailants.
"If you're lucky, we'll promise to take it easy on ya!"
The young boy's head rose. His black hair painted grey with soot and dust, his face dirtied from weeks of not bathing, his clothes in shreds where pieces of rebar had snagged and torn parts off while he ran through the city. He looked at his surroundings, gauging the situation as best as he could.
He had run into an alley without thinking, his pursuers hot on his tail. To his surprise, he had run into an alley that came to a T, with only two ways out, not counting the way he came in. Three men had followed him into the alley, another two on his right, and one on his left as he put his back to the brick wall and considered his options.
How do I get out of here?
He looked down at the bag clutched in his arms.
In it was potentially a week's worth of food, if he rationed it accordingly. It was in great need too, his ribs were completely visible now, he was so starved. No, he couldn't drop the bag, without it he would die. He tightened his grip on the bag as the men drew nearer. They would be upon him soon.
"Boy, give back what you stole and everything will be alright."
The boy turned to the voice that spoke. The speaker leered at him, a smirk so big it almost took up his whole face. The man might've been twice the boy's size; he and his friends were closing in on him.
To the boy's right came a voice, high pitched and irritable. "Yeah, and if you don't run, I won't cut you up. That much." A cackle erupted from the human shaped hyena as he flipped open and revealed a shiny metal butterfly knife in his hand.
The knife flashed, its metal blade reflected the sun's light in a sinister manner.
The boy looked at the knife and changed. His eyes drained of fear, his mouth turned to a snarl, and his feet took a more defiant stance, his body bent lower slightly.
As the men drew as close as 5 meters, the boy bolted to his left, towards the man that towered over him. The boy ran on the man's left flank, and when the man made a lunging grab at him, the boy put his left hand to ground and spun, mid-sprint, to the man's right side and past him. The boy now flew out of the alley way, chased by now angry vagrants whose food he had stolen.
As the boy came out to the alley he hung a right down the broken side walk, and then took a left behind the following building. He kept zigzagging until the angry shouts faded away and he was left alone with the bag.
It would not be a dreadfully empty night for his stomach, and he wouldn't spend the night staring at the stars in a hungry insomnia.
He would eat very well tonight and sleep just as well.
The boy ran down the street, finding the familiar ladder on the scaffolding of the remaining walls of a building. He climbed up the railings, all the way to the top, to the roof, now inaccessible due to the lack of stairs of the building. He reached the top and walked to a utility closet, which served as his temporary home.
He opened the closet door, revealing a setup of possessions. A large piece of wood laid on four cinderblocks served as a makeshift table, where three photos sat upright.
Two of the photos were portraits; the right was a beautiful woman with elegant crimson red hair, sharp facial features, accentuated with a small smile that gave the boy a warm feeling in his stomach.
To the left was a picture of man bearing a heavy set of features; a strong square jaw, a light beard grown along his chin line, piercing blue eyes and large warm smile. The man's hair was black and cut short, but shared a distinct resemblance to the boy's.
The boy walked into the closet and greeted the photos
"Hey mom, hey dad, I got food!" the boy exclaimed. "I think this'll last me at least a week, if I pace myself. Isn't that great?"
The photos remained quiet, yet their smiles reassured the boy.
He gazed at both pictures, first the woman's, then the man's, and then the photo in the center. It was a picture of a hospital bed. In the bed laid the red haired woman, her hair messy and tousled about, but she was smiling. At her side, the large man from the other photo stood, leaning in close to the woman, also a large smile on his face. In the woman's arms was a bundle of blankets, wrapped around a small body. The body's head stuck out of the blankets, eyes closed, hair black growing on the top of his head.
The boy smiled at the center photo, his hand tracing the outline of the woman in the bed.
He then turned and reached into the bag, feeling a nice warm fluffy form, and after tearing off a piece, pulled out some of the bread. He bit into it vigorously, holding it with his mouth as he rolled up the bag's sides to prevent the bread from getting stale. He slid the rolled bag under the table, got up and walked out of the closet.
He walked to a blanket, laid out on the roof, and rested on his back. Staring up at the night sky, looking at the stars in wonder, forgetting all the troubles he had faced during the day.
That's where I'll go, the boy thought, Out there, away from this, away from the city, out into the stars. As he thought to himself, a speck lifted up in the distance. It got closer and closer, until the boy could make out what it was. It was a ship, and as it got closer, the boy noticed the logo on the side of its hull. It bore an Alliance symbol, and the boy pointed at it. And that's how I'll get there.
The ship continued to get closer until it flew over the city and up, getting further and further away until it disappeared among the lights of the stars.
As the night grew later, and the air grew colder, the boy took the blanket into the closet and closed the door. He laid back down in the closet, thinking about the adventures he would have once he got into space and out of the city, until he fell asleep.
Shepard walked down the aisle of the SSV Normandy, past the group of crewmen working in the CIC, some of them saluting him as he walked. Since joining the Alliance, Shepard had made a name for himself, and with it he built a reputation that proceeded him. People had mixed feelings when meeting Shepard; some loved him like and idol, while others couldn't stand him. Shepard liked to back up his reputation with competence. He didn't want to be seen as a legend or a figurehead, but as a man and a good soldier.
As he walked, Navigator Pressley recognized him and turned.
"Shepard," Pressley said with a salute.
"Pressley. Keeping everything under control, I hope?" Shepard responded.
"You're damn right I am. I can't be assigned a post on one of the most technologically advanced warships under Alliance control and slack off."
Shepard chuckled. It had been a long time since he had been that boy, since he had lived in those streets, and since he had spent his days just trying to survive. He had changed, become older, stronger, smarter, but most importantly, friendlier. Of all the skills he learned once he was out of the slums, it was how to get people to like him that had helped him most.
"Good, can't pass up a chance to leave a good impression on Anderson, especially when he's running this ship." Shepard smirked at him.
Pressley smiled back. "No sir, I cannot."
"Well then, keep up the good work," said Shepard, as he continued walking his previous path.
"Say hi to Joker for me," said Pressley as Shepard left.
Shepard nodded and continued walking.
Shepard liked Pressley. He was older, stricter, and a bit of a stick in the mud sometimes, but he was the Navigator for the Normandy and did it well, so Shepard liked him.
Speaking of being a stick in the mud, thought Shepard as he walked into the cock pit of the Normandy. Nihlus, a Turian Spectre from the Citadel, was standing behind Joker, the pilot, while Joker read off specifics from the Normandy's console.
"…Drift… just under 1500K," said Joker.
"Perfect. Your captain will be pleased," said the Turian, mandibles flaring as he spoke, while he turned and left the way Shepard had come. He nodded to Shepard as they passed each other, and Shepard copied the gesture.
Shepard had met Turians before; he had spoken with them before, but something was off about Nihlus. He was so robotic sometimes, didn't really speak unless he needed to, and if he did, he did it quickly and without a word to spare. While others conversed with Nihlus, he watched them calmly, as if analyzing their entire being in addition to what they were saying. It didn't scare Shepard, but it did put him on edge, as if Nihlus could read his intentions despite any effort to hide them.
"I hate that guy," Joker grumbled when Nihlus was far out of earshot.
"He gave you a compliment and you hate him?" replied Alenko.
"I just put the ship on path to hit a target the size a pinhead. That's freakin amazing if you ask me. Besides, he's a Spectre, and Spectres mean trouble. Call me paranoid."
"Paranoid," Alenko blurted out, "The council helped build this ship; they have a right to send someone to oversee it."
"If they wanted to oversee it, they would've sent a Salarian with a clipboard, not a full blown Spectre," Shepard added in, "That man is worth an entire platoon of soldiers, two C-sec Detectives and krogan battlemaster."
"Exactly, you don't send one of your best and most valuable agents on a routine checkup mission. There's something going on here," Joker mused.
"Okay, but what? What would they send a Spectre for anyway?" asked Alenko.
The radio came on and Anderson's voice interrupted.
"Joker, are we on course for the Relay?"
"Good, tell Shepard to head over to the Comm Room."
"Roger that," Shepard cut in.
Shepard turned and walked out of the cock pit. Spectre. Shepard thought of the word carefully. It fit Nihlus well. His white face paint on black skin made him look like a ghastly specter, and his cool demeanor put everyone around him on edge, even when he didn't mean to. Shepard walked across the war room when his name was called out.
"Shepard!" yelled a voice, ringing with youth.
Shepard turned and faced where the voice had called from and saw Corporal Jenkins waving at him. Shepard walked over slowly, sighing as he did.
"What is it, Corporal?" Shepard asked tiredly.
"Did you see that Spectre, Nihlus? Man, that guy is packing some serious heat!"
"Yes, and I am supposed to meet him right now, so if you'll excuse me…"
"But wait commander! What do think is going on? I mean really going on, not what they keep telling us," Jenkins hurriedly said.
"I don't know, Jenkins, and if did know, I probably couldn't tell you."
"I can't wait to get some action! I mean, I really want to shoot something."
"Patience, Jenkins. You're young, you've got your whole career ahead of you, there's plenty of time for action."
"That's easy for you to say, sir. You proved yourself on Elysium, holding off Batarian slavers like they were clay pigeons. I wish I had some action like that."
That was true, Shepard had proved himself on Elysium, where on a routine post, Shepard's platoon had rounded up, organized, and defended and entire colony against the Skylian Blitz, a group of notorious Batarian slavers that decided to attack Elysium. But he had survived because he was lucky.
Elysium had been played close to the chest, and Shepard traced his fingers down the long scar on the left side of his face that went from his scalp down to his cheek bone. A Batarian pirate had gotten a drop on him when he wasn't looking and slashed at his eye. Any deeper and Shepard would be a cyclops, luckily Shepard had flinched back and escaped the slash with only a scar. The pirate had tried to follow up with a lunge with the knife, but Shepard had caught the hand and brought the pirate's head into it by pulling the back of the pirate's neck.
Shepard remembered that kill, he remembered how long it took for the Batarian to die, for the life to go out of all four of his eyes, and he remembered the stench of the air after the Batarian was dead. Mostly though, he remembered how close he had come to death, and how great it had felt to leave that world alive and in one piece.
"I proved that I was lucky, Corporal," Shepard said, taking a strict tone. "I was lucky to survive, and you should be more patient before your next mission that gets you shot at! Is that understood Corporal?"
Jenkins straightened up. "Yes sir!"
"Besides, clay pigeons don't shoot back, Jenkins. And they certainly don't leave a scar."
Shepard walked away. Jenkins always reminded him of how most people grew up without having to fight for their life. Jenkins was so willing to trade his safe life of normality for one of violence and action, while Shepard had previously lived willing to trade his chaotic life for a safe one. A childhood that didn't include begging for scraps or sleeping on a building rooftop, Shepard thought.
When he entered the Comm Room, Nihlus stood alone with his back facing Shepard, his eyes on the screen in front of him. He heard the door open and turned, mandibles flaring slightly as Nihlus acknowledged him.
"Shepard, I'm glad you got here first, I'd like to talk to you."
"About Eden Prime. It's one of your human worlds, proof that humanity can take care of itself in space. But how safe is it really?"
"This isn't just a systems check is it?" asked Shepard.
"No, it isn't," Anderson said as the door closed behind him. "This mission has more depth than you realize. Nihlus isn't just here to look over the Normandy. He's here to evaluate you as well."
Shepard was taken aback. Me? Why? And for what exactly?
Nihlus answered his thoughts. "As you know, Shepard, Spectres are Council agents, working freely on Council matters. We are sworn to protect the citizens of the galaxy and uphold Citadel law. Because of this, we are figureheads in the image of power associated with the Council. Your species has been lobbying for a place on that Council for a while now, and if you can secure a place as a Spectre, you will prove that humanity is ready for larger responsibilities."
"This is big, Shepard. If humanity can earn a place as a Spectre, it will be a shining example of the competency of humanity to all races in Council space." Anderson spoke with conviction, showing that he was heavily invested in this.
"Alright, what's the mission, then?"
"Well, a Prothean Beacon has been discovered on Eden Prime. We need to retrieve it to take it back to the Citadel for study, and we need it done covertly, hence the need for the stealth systems," Anderson said.
"Is that it? Just a retrieval mission? And doing just that can actually earn me a place as a Spectre?" answered Shepard, slightly confused.
"It's more than that. This beacon is important; we don't know what advanced technology is on it. It could be anything, new ship technology, weapon plans, medical breakthroughs, anything. And because of that, some races in the Terminus systems may take notice of a Prothean beacon. The Terminus systems are close enough to Eden Prime that they may risk an open assault to procure a Prothean Beacon," Nihlus explained
"Wouldn't that start an interstellar war?" asked Shepard
"Yes, but with whatever is on that beacon, the Terminus races could potentially shift the balance of military strength in their favor. The last time humanity discovered a Prothean Beacon, it jumped our technology by two hundred years," said Anderson.
"Hence the need for a covert approach, in addition to highly trained operatives," added Nihlus.
Joker broke in over the radio. "Captain Anderson, we got a transmission from Eden Prime."
"Put it on screen Joker."
The Comm screen lit up, and continued lighting up as the transmission was filled with gunfire. The point of view was from a soldier who was on the ground for some reason. Another soldier, a woman clad in pink and white armor, stood over him, shooting at unknown assailants. As someone began screaming about the attack, explosions going off all around them, a dark shape appeared in the background. It was blackish and purple, and as it became clearer in the transmission, Shepard went further into disbelief.
"What is that?" Anderson asked.
"Never seen anything like that before," Nihlus said.
One last explosion and the transmission went to static. The three men turned inward to each other. Nihlus spoke first.
"A small strike team would be best, moving quickly to the beacon and remaining unseen by large groups of enemies."
"Right," Anderson nodded, "Shepard, tell Jenkins and Alenko to suit up, then meet me and Nihlus in the Cargo Bay for deployment. This mission just got a lot more complicated."
"You're damn right," answered Shepard.
Special thanks to Airam, my favorite person.