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Wavering Light

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In 2183, the heart of the galactic community suffered a devasting attack. The Citadel space station was invaded by a synthetic geth army, led by the Asari scientist Rana Thanoptis attempting to open a portal for the Reapers: enormous machines that eradicate all organic civilizations every fifty thousand years. Commander Aura Shepard and Spectre Saren Arterius led the defense. The Alliance fleet made a tremendous sacrifice to save the Citadel Council and earned humanity membership in their prestigious group. Now the Council is forced to respond. They have sent both Commander Shepard and Saren Arterius; along with the Normandy, to wipe out the remnants of geth resistance. But for those who know the truth, the search for answers have only just begun...

 

~~~~~~Terminus System, Planet: Alchera~~~~~~

Date: February 2nd, 2184

Saren and Shepard were overlooking the reports their Batarian operative, Cochise, had sent them while examining the galaxy map. The Normandy had just emerged from FTL and was currently drifting around a planet in the Terminus system. There had been several reports of ships going missing in the sector and no one understood why nor did they know what had happened to the crews of these missing space vessels. While the two Spectres continued going over their notes, the ship was bustling as always. Aura, on the other hand, was on edge. She nodded her head to Saren as he passed her a data pad on the latest ship that had gone missing before acknowledging Joker’s report on the ship’s stats.

“We’re wasting our time.” Officer Pressly stated after the Commander and the turian made their way downstairs. “Four days searching up and down this sector, and we haven’t found any sign of geth activity.”

“Well, three ships went missing here in the month.” Joker replied as his fingers danced across the screens in front of him, “Something must have happened to them.”

Pressly took his seat next to the cockpit turning towards his own screen. “My money’s on slaver or pirates. Terminus System’s crawling with them.”

The Normandy continued to drift through around Alchera’s orbit lazily as Joker continued to run the scanners searching for anything down on the ice planet’s surface. On his right, he heard a fellow officer inform the pilot that she picked up something on the long-range scanners. An unidentified vessel. Possibly a cruiser. But as Joker stole a glance, he cocked his head to the side in confusion. The ship didn’t match any known signatures. He was suddenly getting a bad feeling but continued to fly on as the unknown vessel slow began gaining speed on them, changing its course for interception.

“That can’t be.” Pressly stated in disbelief. “Our stealth systems are engaged. There’s no way a geth ship could-”

~JOKER! TAKE EVASIVE MANUEVERS NOW! ALL HANDS BRACE YOURSELVES! ~ Aura shouted through the intercom just as Joker immediately figured out their tail was not the geth. Reacting quickly, the Normandy shot forward just as the unknown vessel fired a golden beam of light that barely grazed the ship. However, the beam fired again only this time it shifted just slightly and nicked one of her thrusters and pierced through her hull, jostling the Normandy roughly. The impact of the hit caused Pressly to slam his head against the screen in front of him with a loud crack and he slumped out of his chair. Joker growled in frustration. The ship’s kinetic barriers were down! Alarms were blaring! Fires were roaring near him, as he read multiple hull breaches and somehow their weapons were disabled!

They were literally a sitting duck.

Again, the unknown vessel fired its weapons and this time hit the Normandy on her starboard, knocking her around violently.

Below the deck, Shepard was already activating the distress beacon while Saren finished clamping down his helmet. Once she completed her task, she too donned her helmet and nodded at the turian who tossed her a fire extinguisher while he pried away some debris blocking their way. Kaidan rushed over calling out to the Commander. Shepard glanced up at him once she put out the fire in front of her and informed him that the beacon was ready for launch.

“Will the Alliance get here in time?” Her lieutenant questioned her, concern lacing his voice.

“They’ll be here, Kaidan. They won’t abandon us. Now get everyone to the escape shuttles!”

“But Joker’s still in the cockpit! He refuses to evacuate.”

Saren growled through teeth. “How stupid is he?”

Shepard once again urged Kaidan to get a move on, reassuring him that she’d get Joker to safety. Without sparing a glance at the turian, Aura’s first instinct now was to get to Joker and she sprinted towards the stairs all while hearing the escape pods fire off one by one with her crew. Saren was close behind her stopping beside her when the doors to the CIC opened. There was a loud whooshing sound as the air pressure suddenly changed and they were surrounded by debris of the ceiling above them. With their magnetic boots allowing them to cling to the metal surface, the two Spectres slowly made their way towards the cockpit. Over the speakers and inside their suits they could hear Joker crying out while muttering to himself as he tried to get the ship away from their assailant. Muffled explosions outside caused Saren to stop and turn his head upward. All he saw was the bright icy blue planet staring back at him in an eerie light.

“Under normal circumstances, I’d find this view stunning through the windows.” Aura said through the comms. “Why’d you follow me? You should have taken the shuttles.”

Saren continue to follow her. “I wasn’t going to let you go alone.” He said bluntly.

They continued to inch their way slowly towards the cockpit where they saw a barrier was erected to keep the vacuum of space out. Joker was still trying to save the Normandy and the ship continued to limp away as best it could from the threat. Once the two Spectres were through the barrier, Aura was the first to get beside her pilot convincing Joker that they had to abandon ship. Saren hissed when another beam tore through the ship and he reached behind the seat and grabbed the pilot by the collar of his shirt. He hauled the human out of his chair with surprising care before following the commander to the last escape pod. As Aura helped Joker into the pod, a final golden beam ripped through the ship knocking the silver turian aside away from the escape shuttle.

“SHEPARD!”

Aura glanced at Joker as he screamed at her to get in the pod but all she gave him was sad smile. Shepard slammed her fist against the manual release and the doors to the pod slammed shut before it rocketed away from her. She reoriented herself, planting her on the metal debris behind her and kicked off of wall, propelling herself away towards Saren who shook his head in a daze, watching as the human managed to grab hold of him, nearly avoiding the searing plasma beam of their attackers. The two stared briefly at each other through their helmets before turning their attention to the ship they once called home feebly drift farther away, her thrusters still sparking in the futile attempt to escape. The vessel had become more than just a ship to them. It was a home for not just them, but for the crew. It survived a Reaper attack, planted a bomb on Virmire... there were so many memories of that ship.

Wait...

What was that hissing sound?

Jerking their heads back, Shepard felt her breath catch in her throat. Atmosphere. Their suits were leaking atmosphere and from the steam leaving the tubes on their suits, the two could only deduce that when the last beam struck, parts of their suits got ruptured. Out of sheer instinct, the two Spectres clawed at their throats trying to reach around and clamp down on the leaks. No! Not like this! Aura screamed in her head. She didn’t survive this hell to get spaced. Saren was thinking the same thing but he was already feeling drained and tired. Pain had began to rack through them, their bodies screaming for what little oxygen there was to avail. Soon enough, the two stopped their thrashing, using the last of their strength to stay together.

If they were going to die, then at least they wouldn’t be alone.

As the sun peaked around Alchera, Aura Shepard blinked once. Twice. Then closed her silvery gaze. The silver turian soon followed as they plummeted through the ice planet’s atmosphere in a heartbreakingly beautiful silver white streak of light.

Chapter Text

They said goodbye. They made their peace. Saren knew this. He told her goodbye but he never told how he felt. As he drifted through the cold void of death, the turian felt regret. Why did he feel such regret? Then it hit him as the last vision he saw was of Shepard. Regret that he never told the human how he felt since she had saved not just his body, but his soul from the Reaper’s vice. He felt like he was floating in a river, ever flowing. All he could see was her face through his helmet. Silver eyes silently saying what she too, wished to say before their breath was stolen. Oh, by the Spirits, what he wouldn’t give to turn back the clock to see her again. He’d tell her he was done searching. That he was waiting for her to find him.

Then he saw her. There in the darkness. Like a blinding light in the distance. A beacon. He was like a moth being drawn to the warmth of the fire.

“I’m here waiting.” He could hear her faintly say to him, “Come and find me.”

He started running towards her.

 

~~~~~~~~~

The closer he got to her, the brighter she seemed to become. That was when he felt his body go from being numb and unfeeling to searing pain and cold followed by an annoying beeping sound of a heart monitor. Two of them and one of them was beeping erratically. At first, the voices he heard were muffled but he knew they didn’t belong to him or Aura.

“They’re reacting to outside stimuli...” He heard a male voice mutter in disbelief. “Simultaneously?!”

“Damn it, Wilson, they’re not ready yet!” A woman’s voice snapped, “Shepard, you need to lay still.” And from the sounds of it she was trying to calm another patient down. Did she say Shepard?

“IT HURTS!” He heard Aura cry out in a dry voice, “GET AWAY FROM ME! GET AWAY!”

Whoever these people were, they were harming her. Saren made a startling roar as he forced his body to move. He heard the sounds of something snapping. “Miranda! Their stats are reaching critical!”

“Give them another sedative. Now!” Barked the woman as she struggled to keep the commander still. There was a rush of cold crashing over him and he felt himself succumbing to sleep. Just before he lost consciousness, he heard the two voices arguing. Something about almost losing them and that Miranda’s assistant read his calculations wrong. The last thing he heard were the heart monitors returning to a steady rhythm. Sleep sounded good... good.

 

~~~~~~~~~

Aura didn’t know how long she was out, only that she heard someone yelling over an intercom to get up followed by something shaking violently. Her silvery eyes fluttered open and she blinked at the unfamiliar ceiling. She took a breath, only to cough slightly at the taste of sterilized air and medicinal chemicals. Even as she relished the taste of air, she heard someone hiss beside her and she quickly turned her head to her companion, eyes widening in shock.

“Saren?!”

“Shepard?!” The familiar silver turian whipped his head around to face her and his own silvery gaze locked onto her. Like her, his face was littered with scars and his eyes had a strange cybernetic glow to them. He was wearing what looked like a more advanced under suit while she was in an oddly familiar looking shirt and pants. They didn’t have time to speak when the voice from the speakers called out once more.

“~Look you two, your scars aren’t healed but I need you two to get moving! ~”

Shepard narrowed her eyes as she pushed herself up, but pain rocketed through her side and she gripped it tightly. Saren was already up and she silently envied his pain tolerance. Once she managed a semi-sitting position, Aura was able to confirm that they were indeed, inside a medical facility. No surprise that Saren was on edge. So was she. Even without the explosions occurring outside. As the human swung her legs off the table, Saren limped over to what looked like a large locker of sorts and pulled out some armor. One suited to his species and the other more for her size. As they suited up, Saren assessed their situation, keeping a vigil over them. They had no idea where they were, who ran this facility or why. They knew they were operated on as the scars covering their bodies screamed in protest to the movement.

When Aura turned to reach for the pistol the silver turian was handing her, she froze at the sight of her reflection in the window. Her hair was longer than usual. She was more than certain that her hair was just half an inch past her shoulder but now it was long enough to go past her collarbone. Saren clicked his mandibles when she used a strip of gauze to tie her back in a ponytail. He felt numb just as she felt confused. Out of habit, they both examined their pistol and grumbled. No thermal clips. Great.

Completely ignoring the voice over them, they turned around just as the door to their room blew open and nodding to each other, sprinted forward. Aura was always a lucky soul as she spotted four thermal clips and with a quick swipe, tossed up two towards Saren. She quickly reloaded the pistol and slid the spare into a pouch on her hip. Skittering around a corner, Shepard paused only to loot a few wall safes while Saren downloaded the open files to their omni-tools. They would come in handy later. The two soldiers became aware that the woman's voice overhead had dissolved into static, her last words being something about mechs closing in.

“Good. Could use the target practice.” Saren heard the human quip in amusement and flicked his jaw plates into a grin.

For the moment, he was just glad to be alive and that they were together. He shook his head as he followed Aura's lead through the corridors both rotating on their heels when nearing empty rooms or dead ends. They arrived at another door where they heard gunfire and someone cursing and yelling at what they concluded were the mechs.

Chapter Text

“Shepard?! What the hell...?”

The new voice was obviously male. So, it wasn’t the woman known as Miranda but that still didn’t ease the tension the two were feeling. Shepard peered around the corner and spotted a dark-skinned young man firing across a chasm at a pair of security mechs. Aura turned towards the turian behind her and he nodded at her. Taking a deep breath, they activated their biotics for the first time in what felt like forever and in a silvery flash, skidded to the man just as a new wave appeared. The man’s deep chocolate eyes clashed with their silver ones and Saren turned towards the remaining mechs, pulled them with his biotics then nonchalantly dropped them down the chasm.

“What are you doing here?! I thought you two were a work in progress?”

Aura shook her head then glanced at the turian who merely shrugged. “You with Miranda?”

“Yeah. Sorry, forgot this is new to you both right now. Name’s Jacob. Jacob Taylor” The man grimaced then proceeded to at least introduced himself. He then growled in frustration when another mech fired at them and Jacob stood up, blew the damn thing’s head clean off then crouched back down beside them. “Things must be worse here than I thought if Miranda’s got you both running around. I’ll fill you in but we need to get the shuttles first.

Both Shepard and Saren narrowed their eyes and shook their heads adamantly. “We aren’t going anywhere until you tell us exactly what is going on here.” Saren snarled, mandibles flaring downward in a threatening growl.

Jacob merely sighed shaking his head. “Fair enough. Here’s the quick version. You two and your ship were attacked and destroyed. Killed. Dead as dead can be when they brought you two here. Our scientists spent the last two years putting you both back together. You’ve been comatose or worse that whole time. Welcome back to your lives.”

The turian’s brow plates shot straight up in shock but quickly recovered. Shepard ventured to Jacob that the facility didn’t look like an Alliance facility. Saren was quick to pick up that she was also in a state of shock and that she was just trying to keep herself focused. Jacob shook his head to her question, stating that since the Alliance declared her dead, the entire galaxy thought the same thing. Then he added urgently that unless they got to the shuttles, they all would die. Again, with the dead thing. The human didn’t have to bring it up again. Aura shook her head, eyes still full of questions but she knew her priorities and turned towards the mechs. With little effort, Shepard pulled the mechs towards them with her silvery aura while Jacob and Saren shot them down until she dropped the pieces down the chasm. Holstering his pistol, Jacob led the two to the door where he began punching in a code.

“I promised I’d answer your questions. What do you two want to know?” Asked the biotic.

“You said they spent two years rebuilding us.” Saren repeated and Jacob nodded, “How bad were our injuries?”

Jacob had a solemn look on his face as he shook his head. “I’m not a doctor, but it was bad. When I first saw you two, Shepard was nothing but meat and tubes and you almost looked like scrap metal. Anywhere else, they would have put you both in a coffin.” He then added that Project Lazarus was more than different. Cutting edge technology and more.

Aura grimaced but crossed her arms over her chest. “Meat and tubes huh? But what do you mean by ‘cutting edge’? Like cloning or cybernetics?”

Again, the man shrugged stating that she’d have to ask the scientists but he was more than sure that the two weren’t clones. That made the two shifted their stances uneasily. Then, were they really themselves or something else entirely? Still, Jacob shrugged confirming that he really wasn’t sure but he knew that the scientists wanted to bring them both back exactly as they were before. “You two are still yourselves.” Jacob reassured, “You just might have a few extra bits and pieces.”

Aura’s eyes snapped open in alarm. “Extra what?!”

“We’ don’t like surprises human.”

Now it was Jacob’s turn to look uncomfortable. He shifted from foot to foot and his hand twitched towards his pistol. “The only thing I heard was that you two were genetically enhanced to be more durable. You know, take more hits? Your ability to regenerate from wounds? You heal faster than someone can kill you. Miranda did try to put in the new L5 implants for you two to have more power added to your biotics but your bodies rejected the implants... violently I might add, though seeing Miranda’s hair fry was amusing. Didn’t know your biotics had a mind of their own.”

When Aura asked about the Normandy crew, she let out a sigh of relief when Jacob informed her that most of the crew, including the non-human members escaped unharmed though there a few casualties, including Pressly and several lower deck crew members. Saren glanced down at the human woman as she took the news with care. When she asked where they were or what they were up to, Jacob only shrugged. It had been two years. Most of them moved on. Some left the Alliance; others could be anywhere. Heaving a sigh, Shepard shook her head, her long hair now tickling the back of her neck. “All right. Let’s just... Let’s just get out of here.”

“Right behind you, Aura.”

She glanced up appreciatively at Saren and the three pressed on.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

They were halfway through the next few hallways when Jacob’s commlink began blinking.

“~Hey! Anyone on this frequency? Come on, someone answer me! ~”

“Wilson?!” Jacob stopped as he listened causing Saren and Shepard to halt their steps as well. “Wilson! It’s Jacob. I’m here with Commander Shepard and Arterius. Just took down a wave of mechs in D Wing.”

“~They’re alive? How the... never mind. You need to get them out of there. Use the service tunnels and head to the network control room! ~”

Saren and Aura stared at each other. They vaguely remembered a Wilson when they first woke up. Jacob confirmed their suspicion informing them that Wilson answered directly to Miranda. Aura had Saren take point this time while she watched their flank keeping close as the trio made their way through the tunnels which were swarming with mechs. When Jacob snapped at Wilson for relaying the information, Wilson retorted back, reminding Jacob that entire station was crawling the robots. Honestly, the commander and the turian didn’t mind. To them, this felt more like a training exercise than a problem and it felt good to be moving around even if their bodies were not in any condition to move.

They were at the bottom of a flight stairs leading up to the next level when they heard screaming over the commlink. He was shouting about mechs overwhelming him followed by a gunshot then communication link went silent.

“Hey Saren?” Aura whispered to the turian as Jacob sprinted ahead.

He twitched his mandible slightly, informing her he was listening.

“I didn’t hear any mechs on the other side.” She observed, “Did you hear any robots?”

He shook his head. They quickly trailed after Jacob with their biotics enveloping them in a thin barrier. They found the dark-skinned man tending to another human. Aura and Saren instantly recognized him from earlier yet that didn’t put them at ease. While Jacob was busy applying medigel to Wilson’s leg, Aura was scanning the perimeter noticing that there weren’t any destroyed security mechs nor was there any sign of a struggle. Saren noticed it too, nodding his head towards Wilson’s leg. The wound was self-inflicted. Once his wound was stabilized, Wilson hauled himself up nodding his thanks. When asked about Miranda's whereabouts, Wilson quickly stated she was either overrun by mechs or she was a traitor. Wilson then went on to explain that he thought he could shut down the security mechs but suspected that his supervisor had fried the whole system and made it irreversible.

Saren growled lowly; his voice laced with obvious suspicion. “Odd. I don’t recall any of us asking what you were doing.”

“Not to mention, Miranda was the one who woke us up earlier and she hinted someone was trying to kill us.” Aura added keeping her hand on her gun. “Me thinks you are the one trying to kill us.”

“I was shot, Shepard. How do you explain that?”

“Easy.” The silver turian furrowed his nose plate and clamped his mandibles to his jaw in a tight frown before gesturing at the human’s bandaged leg. “The bullet wound on your leg; entry wound is smaller than the exit wound. Usually, someone would have to use a higher caliber bullet from a distance, or in this case; a pistol at extremely close range. That pistol is useless for long range. Medium range, maybe if the gun had a modification to improve accuracy but I can tell that’s not the case. So up close, say placed on your leg perhaps, can produce the wound you sustained.”

Wilson visibly paled and before Jacob could even attempt to stop him, Saren snatched man by the back of his neck and effortlessly tossed him into the propane tanks blocking another door. The turian didn’t even look at Shepard as he fired his pistol at the tanks, a clicking sound of gratification echoed from his subvocals as the traitor pretty much got fried to ash. Once the traitor was dealt with, Shepard and Saren proceeded towards the door only to stop when Jacob called out to them. It was clear that he was a little unsettled at the brutality that Shepard allowed her turian counterpart to execute upon his co-worker.

“Look you two, things are getting way too tense.” He said curtly, “If I tell you who I work for, will you trust me?”

“No.” The two said in sync.

Jacob sighed. He understood why they were tense and he really couldn’t blame them. They were in an unfamiliar environment, woke up to discover that two years of their life had passed by and they just took down someone who had already tried to kill them once. If he were in their shoes or whatever, he’d always be suspicious of someone trying to stab him in the back. Still, he continued. However, when he confirmed that the project that brought them back to life was funded by Cerberus, the commander and the former rogue flared their biotics and seemed ready to slaughter him. Shepard, thankfully kept a level head despite her obvious rage and stated that they needed to get off the station, but she made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with the group that turn them into what they were now.

“You can tell it to the boss AFTER we save out asses from this crumbling station.”

“Watch it, human.” Saren sneered, “Or I’ll send you down there with your friend.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

While they cruised through the remainder of the base, Shepard couldn’t stop her head from spinning. There was just too much to take in and not enough time to take it all in while being shot at by the remaining security mechs. Now, she and Saren were seated side by side across from Jacob and the woman known as Miranda. Grateful for the quiet, the commander leaned back, closing her eyes allowing her mind to settle while she listened to the two Cerberus agents talk. Like Jacob, Miranda was a biotic, but between the two, it was obvious that she was the stronger of the two. Aura stared absentmindedly at the long ebony locks that fell perfectly around Miranda’s shoulders and it made the newly reconstructed ex-Spectre silently curse her unnaturally white hair. The duo quizzed both her and Saren much to both their annoyance, especially when asked about Ashley and Desolas.

When the agents finished their interrogation, Saren turned towards Shepard watching as she turned her head to look out the window into the vast starry sea. Sensing his eyes on her, Aura glanced back at him and gave him the smallest smile he had ever thought she could give.

They had died...

They both took a breath, allowing the thought to fully sink in and admit it. They both had died, full out death. Not only that, but from the data they recovered and looked over from the facility, they remained like that for nearly a year. Knowing all this did not help alleviate the hollow feeling they both felt. It was bad enough that they were now working with the very people they despised, but everyone that knew them and cared for them, thought them to be dead. On a positive note, though; they were not alone. They at least had each other.

They arrived at a new station where the two agents ushered Shepard and Saren into a large empty room then closed the door behind them. They were about to try to and hack the door open when the floor beneath their feet began to glow and a wall of gridded light enveloped them. Saren was already drawing his weapon when they saw an image of a man with eerie glowing blue eyes staring back at them, a glass of whiskey in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other.

“~Commander Shepard. Good to finally meet you. ~” said the man sitting across from them through the projection. “~And Saren Arterius, it’s been a long time has it not? ~”

“One way of putting it.” Saren bared his teeth in a low snarl while Aura crossed her arms over her chest, eyes nearly shinning in anger.

“You might be the reason we’re alive, but that doesn’t mean we trust you.” Aura stated, “So how about we cut with the crap and get on with this façade. What are the Reapers doing that made you decide to bring us back to life?”

Chapter Text

Shepard heaved a sigh as she finished her personal tour of the new Normandy and its crew. Imagine her surprise when she discovered Joker and Dr. Chakwas aboard. It filled her heart with relief that they were safe and she was thrilled to have at least two of her original with her on the crazy ride Cerberus had set her and Saren on. Aura slumped exhausted on to the couch in what was now hers and Saren’s cabin. They had just returned from an abandoned human colony known as Freedom’s Progress where they found clues on who was behind the kidnappings. A strange species known only as the Collectors. Tali was there and though Aura wished the little quarian could join her on her mission, she was just glad to have been able to see her again. That was when the Illusive Man; known as Jack Harper by Saren, had gifted them the Normandy SR2. She chuckled in spite of herself. Miranda had thrown a fit about the two sharing the cabin together but Saren made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t going to share quarters with anyone he didn’t trust. While Saren was still patrolling the ship on his own, the commander took the opportunity to explore the cabin. It was very spacious, almost reminded her of a studio apartment back on Earth. There was large bathroom with a shower, a small work space where there were tiny metal models of different ships. There was even a model of Sovereign and the original Normandy.

At the desk besides one of the couches, Shepard discovered that it was set up exactly like her old holographic piano from the original ship. Across from where she was sitting, she saw a massive fish tank containing colorful corals and sea horses. Aura smiled observing the tiny creatures as they swam through their aquatic home. She turned her head to the right where she saw a large almost circular bed. It was soft to the touch but the blankets were somewhat heavy and warm. Weighted blankets but not quite. “Turian style bed with modified human quilts...” She said perplexed but didn’t question it. She took a tentative seat on the edge then flopped backwards. She stiffened when she saw the skylight above her. The faint blue, red and white streaks of light whisked by overhead and she felt a painful pounding in her chest.

She sat up abruptly clenching at her throat. Alarms were going off in her head. The sounds of metal being sheared off as the gold beam ripped through the Normandy, air was hissing around her as she heard Joker screaming her name. She couldn’t breathe! Black spots were forming around her vision.

Shepard!!!

She felt a pair of scaly hands gripping her shoulders gently. One of the hands trailed down her collarbone, resting against her chest and when she felt the familiar sensation of dark matter massaging through her muscles, she finally heaved in a breath. She felt her lungs expanding as she gulped down more air and she tore her vision away from the ceiling to lock onto the silver turian staring at her. Shepard forced herself to sit up ignoring the pressure on her lower back as Saren assisted her. His eyes, though still retaining his usual coldness, seemed to soften in concern. He looked like he was about to say something when the doors to the cabin. Their first thought was that it was Miranda but much to their relief, it was Chakwas who immediately began doing a check-up on Aura while Saren dealt with covering the skylight with a spare blanket he found in the closet.

“How did you know?” Aura finally asked as her breathing returned to normal.

“~I monitor every crew member, Commander Shepard. I noticed your heart rate was rapidly accelerating and Jeff had me inform Saren and Doctor Chakwas.~” Responded the Normandy’s artificial intelligence, EDI.

“I think it might be best that you get some rest Shepard. You’ve been through a lot in a short time.” Chakwas ordered as she patted the commander’s shoulder, her eyes then flicked towards Arterius as he tried to slink out of the room. “And where do you think you’re going Arterius?”

He didn’t look back but informed the doctor that he was heading to the mess hall to get Shepard some food. As the door closed, Chakwas raised a brow in surprise then when she glanced at Aura, she bade the commander a good night before leaving her alone in the cabin. Once again alone with her thoughts, Aura decided to take a shower. Perhaps the warm water would help her unwind. She grabbed a towel and some fresh clothes from the drawers, much to her surprise that they looked identical to what she originally owned. She smiled grimly as she stood under the hot water, extending her hand towards the shower head and examining her reconstructed form. Aside from her original scars she received from the thresher maws and other battles, she trailed her fingers along the cracks along her skin where she saw the exposed cybernetics underneath. She clenched her hand into a tight fist until it hurt. Gritting her teeth, she shut off the water and began to dry off, vaguely aware that the doors to the cabin opened. Saren must have returned with dinner.

When she emerged from the bathroom in loose fitting clothing, Saren didn’t need to ask if she was alright. He could already tell from her stance that she was anything but alright.

“Shepard.” The turian acknowledged as he set down the trays onto the small table in front of the couches. It wasn’t much which he could tell she was grateful for. He had a hunch that she, much like himself, didn’t have much of an appetite. When he struggled to remove his armor, he turned his head towards her and she took the silent request by assisting him.

“I’ve been meaning to ask this, Saren...” Shepard began as she unclipped the chest plate from behind, “How do you know the Illusive Man, I’m sorry, Jack Harper?”

Saren rolled his shoulders as he hefted the front part of his armor off and set it carefully on floor while he gathered his thoughts. “He was the one who shot Desolas.” He finally said as he finished removing the rest of his armor. “When we were first captured at that facility with Wayne. He had grown impatient with the lack of results, so he shot Desolas. I didn’t see where he was hit but heard him go silent and I lost it. Clawed out Harper’s eyes but didn’t have time to finish the job.”

Shepard handed him a black and gray shirt and what she could only describe as turian version of sweatpants. He silently retired to the showers himself. As she listened to the water once again hiss with heat, she busied herself with watching the occupants of the fish tank swim and hover leisurely. She turned her head, spotting the silver turian emerge from the shower. He carried his shirt in one hand while drying the inside of his cowl with the other. As Shepard stared at him, she realized that he looked even more pale that usual. His plates stilled retained their metallic sheen but the exposed skin was much paler, almost matching the color of his plates. She could also see the cracks along the skin where the cybernetics glowed a pale orange along some of his old scars. What caught her attention the most was the scars on his left arm still remained from where she and Garrus had removed the corrupted geth pieces.

Saren’s eyes quirked curiously before he understood what she was staring at and he held up his left arm as though confirming that he was still able to move it.

She gave him a weak smile as the ghosts both ate in silence.

“You’ve been oddly overprotective of me since we woke up.” Aura finally commented as she collected the plates and cups.

Saren remained silent as he watched her while slipping on his shirt, his subvocals rumbling in relief as the fabric trapped his body heat and kept him warm. Of course, she would notice a change in his behavior but he tried to remain aloof. It failed as the human pressed him further. He knew she was just trying to distract herself just as much as he was doing the same for himself. “Why?” Shepard inquired further.

He flicked his mandibles in a contemplating manner. “I made a promise to myself before we had completely perished that day.

“And?”

“And I promised that if by some odd chance we survived, I’d tell you...” He trilled off suddenly feeling, embarrassed.

“Go on.” She encouraged softly.

“I’d tell you that I...” He tried to find his words, “I’d tell how I’ve come to respect you and that I consider you someone... important... to me.”

She blinked at him then bit her lip as she attempted to suppress a small laugh. He narrowed his eyes at her now feeling uncomfortable. She rested her hand on his shoulder, her thumb caressing the exterior of his cowl. Her eyes, though glinting with amusement, shone seriously and sincerely. Don’t worry. They spoke. I feel the same way.

Chapter Text

Saren woke up with a start, sitting up abruptly on the couch as he scanned the room, his chest rising and falling rapidly from the nightmare he managed to force himself to wake from. He noticed Shepard shifting under the covers on the bed. He had opted for the couch so Shepard could sleep a bit more comfortably without getting scratched up by his plates while the Normandy continued her course towards Omega. She rolled on her side before sitting up to look up at him. Her silver eyes searching his before she caught on to what had occurred. He regarded her as the woman climbed out of bed and approached him quietly before taking a seat beside him.

“Bad dream?”

He nodded, his mandibles clenching tightly to his face while the human untangled herself from the blankets to sit beside him.

Aura could hear his harmonics screaming despite his still and nearly quiet posture. She could actually understand what he was saying with his secondary vocals. He had dreamed of Desolas and he was reliving the nightmare of his torture at the hands of Wayne. His silver eyes darkened as he spoke to her of Harper and the way he was gripping his hands had Shepard worried that Saren would actually break his own hand. Shepard gripped the top of his hand, brushing her thumb along the surprisingly smooth scales on the top of his hand drawing his thoughts and attention back to her. It was the soothing silence of her presence that brought him comfort as she listened to him.

“Come on.” She finally said gently tugging his wrist towards the bed. “You shouldn’t sleep alone.”

He silently obeyed crawling into the bed beside her as she climbed onto on the other side and turned to face him. At first, Saren hesitated but eventually, he curled up on his side beside her not even caring if his leg spurs got caught in the sheets. He rested his head on one of the soft pillows. Everything had her scent and little by little the silver turian started to relax and he let out a soft purr of content. Aura’s soft smile filled his vision and instinctively, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. She didn’t fight it but she adjusted her position to be a little more comfortable against his carapace. He suppressed a shiver when a few strands of her hair tangled around his mandible and rested against the inside of his cowl. Shepard’s lithe frame folded into the dip of his hip and she craned her neck slightly to look at him before resting her head against the same pillow his was on.

They were so close that they could see the mechanical flicker of their ocular implants. Too many fingers ran delicately across his left mandible, trailing up to the side of his face until her thumb began to light stroke the rough cheek plates tenderly. Now that he thought about it, Shepard hardly showed this gentle side of her to anyone unless she truly trusted them. From the look on her face, it was clear that she thought the same about him. The tension was slowly leaving his body and he was slowly succumbing to sleep but he growled defiantly. He was still too stressed to fully allow himself to rest.

Then Shepard did something Saren never thought her able. She began to sing to him!

Lay down your head and I'll sing you a lullaby
Back to the years of loo-li lai-lay

And I'll sing you to sleep and I'll sing you tomorrow
Bless you with love for the road that you go

May you sail far to the far fields of fortune
With diamonds and pearls at your head and your feet
And may you need never to banish misfortune
May you find kindness in all that you meet

Her words were soothing, sweet and reminisce of his childhood days.

May there always be angels to watch over you
To guide you each step of the way

To guard you and keep you safe from all harm
Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay

May you bring love and may you bring happiness
Be loved in return to the end of your days
Now fall off to sleep, I'm not meaning to keep you
I'll just sit for a while and sing loo-li, lai-lay

His eyelids grew heavy and he settled further into the blankets and pillow quietly inhaling her pleasant scent that reminded him of the wild flowers of Palaven during the spring.

May there always be angels to watch over you
To guide you each step of the way
To guard you and keep you safe from all harm
Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay, loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay” Aura finished her song and continued to run her fingers along the now sleeping turian’s face in a repetitive motion until she was certain he was dead asleep. She then had the AI dim the lights and she brought the datapad on her nightstand to her face and she began going over the dossiers Harper had sent her.

Chapter Text

They had arrived on the large asteroid colony, Omega, a few hours ago, and they were now just arriving at the district where their target was currently being pinned down by mercenaries and three major gangs; the Blue Suns, Blood Pack and Eclipse. According to the merc they picked up, Zaeed; it would seem that Archangel had managed to piss all three of the gangs off and if what the asari running Afterlife said is also true, they didn’t have much time to waste. Aura and Saren had finished rewiring the Eclipse gang’s heavy mech, rewriting its friend/foe identification and had sabotaged the batarian mechanic working on a gunship. Aura had to hand it to whoever this Archangel character was. He certainly left an impression. She and Saren hit the ground on the other side of the barricade and grinned maliciously as she cracked her knuckles studying the mercs in front of them.

“What do you guys say?” She asked nodding towards her squad, “Should we give these guys a surprise of our own?”

Saren fluttered his mandibles into a dark grin of his own before putting a round right through someone’s spine. “Indeed.”

Shepard paused slightly to look across the bridge, then slowly lifted her head to glance up at the turian clad in blue above them firing at the fighters below. Odd. Something about the way he held his rifle looked awfully familiar. She shook her head and set off into a decent jog drawing her own assault rifle. Before either her or Saren could finish their trains of thought, something slammed into them. A concussive round to her gut and another hit Saren in the shoulder. Both recognized that feeling and picked up the pace. Aura was the first to vault over a crate and she put three clean shots in three mercs nearest her, eliminating the chances of anyone alerting the other mercenaries of their plan.

Quickly, she, Saren and Zaeed scoured the open rooms collecting thermal clips and medi-gel. Aura stopped briefly to glance at the row of bodies by the wall covered in tarps. Not mercs and judging by the care that was taken for the bodies, Saren and Aura could only deduce that these bodies belonged to Archangel’s team. There were several more on the second floor above as they hurried up the stairs. As the others joined her, Shepard eyed the sealed door carefully steeling herself. Readying her gun, she swiped her omni-tool over the door and cautiously entered the room.

“Archangel?”

The blue clad turian lazily held up one talon towards her while keeping his sights on his prey. A little more and... with a crack, the merc below fell dead. The turian exhaled, shaking his head slightly from exhaustion before straightening up and turning towards the trio. Aura lowered her weapon as Archangel gathered his rifle up and moved to a stack of crates farther into the base. With a hiss, he discarded his helmet, settling into his cover and propped his rifle against his leg. When the helmet was removed, Aura’s eyes shot open and seemed to light up in disbelief and excitement.

“By the Spirits,” Garrus said in a tired voice but he couldn’t help it. “I heard you two were dead. Glad to see they were wrong”

“Garrus!” Shepard reacted ecstatically, a beautiful smile on her face.

Saren holstered his weapon and Zaeed did the same. “Vakarian.”

Garrus chuckled weakly when Aura inquired his choice of being in a dismal place like this. “Oh, you know, just...” He sighed, his subvocals hitting a low depressed note, “keeping my skills sharp. A little target practice.” Shepard approached him with concern picking up on the tone. As she studied his expression, she could tell that he was hurting whether it was from injury or just simple exhaustion she wasn’t sure. Maybe it was both. Her brow furrowed in that way that Saren learned was her being worried. When she asked the young turian if he was okay, Garrus glanced at the dead bodies covered in tarps and shook his head. He stated that he had been better and the spark in his blue eyes radiated that he was just happy to see a couple of friendly faces. Saren then had Zaeed keep a look out on their flank while he took cover near the railing overlooking the bridge so the two friends could talk.

“What brought you to Omega of all places, Vakarian?” Saren asked as he peered through his scope examining the barricade on the other side.

“Believe it or not, a mission from the Council. Was asked to look into an odd increase of numbers in the gangs on Omega and was asked to weed them out. Also found tainted Eezo, red sand and other things that were being smuggled to the Citadel.” Vakarian shrugged. “Turned out to be a perfect fit for me. Least it’s not hard to find criminals here. All I have to is point my gun and shoot.”

“I’m quite impressed that you managed to piss all three of the major merc organizations in the Terminus Systems.” Saren snorted as he ducked down and stared at the cobalt faced turian. “How’d you manage that?”

Aura nodded in agreement. “Yeah, how did you accomplish that?” She was just as curious and proud and for a long moment, Garrus merely stared at both of them before he answered with a hint of pride and amusement. “It wasn’t easy.” He exaggerated, flicking his mandibles with a playful mischief, “I really had to work at it. Hehe. I’m amazed that they teamed up to fight. They must really hate me now.”

Shepard laughed and it actually made Saren happy to hear her bell-like laugh and it seemed to be having a similar effect on Garrus. Like a tonic rejuvenating his tired body. Once her laughter died down, she made a gesture to the golden wings on the young turian’s shoulder. She questioned him on why he chose the name ‘Archangel’ of all things. Saren noticed the faint flutter of embarrassment from Garrus’ mandibles and felt his chest tighten but he remained silent. Vakarian tried saying that it was just a name some of the locals gave him for all his good deeds but Shepard only half believed him. Garrus scratched behind his neck before finally confessing that he was inspired by the Commander’s biotic abilities and that he compared her to an angel from her planet’s lore. She chuckled, shaking her head stating that she was no angel and that she was far from perfect.

“Not to be a downer or anything but how are we getting outta here?” They all turned to Zaeed. “Getting in was easy, out’s going to be a bitch.”

Garrus nodded in agreement. “You’re not wrong about that. That bridge saved my life more than once, funneling those witless idiots into scope.” Aura followed Garrus as he continued speaking while gesturing to bridge below. “However, it works both ways... They’ll slaughter us if we try to get out that way.”

“What are you suggesting then Vakarian?”

Garrus blinked in surprise at the older turian asking him for the plan and gave a small smirk. He suggested that they wait for a crack in the gangs’ defenses and take their chances. True, it wasn’t a perfect plan but the way Garrus saw his fellow Spectres nodding at him made him swell with pride. While they got into position, Aura’s eyes were asking the young male about the situation he got himself into but Garrus shook his head. Later. His secondary voice told her and she nodded as she was sandwiched between the two turians; Saren on her left and her friend on her right.

“Let them come.” Aura smirked, “I’m tired of just sneaking around.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

“Damn! They’re bringing out the heavy mechs!” Garrus growled in annoyance as the small squad took down the first the wave of Eclipse mercenaries. Aura and Saren laughed softly earning a baffled chirp from the young turian.

“Relax Vakarian.” Saren replied nonchalantly as he took a thermal clip from Aura and reloaded his own rifle. “That problem should take care of itself.”

Garrus opened his mouth to ask but as though on que, the mech activated then spun around and proceeded to slaughter the very mercs it was supposed to be protecting. Garrus couldn’t stop laughing for a good long while before he managed to get his words out and even then, he was gasping for breath. “Y-you two seriously re... hahaha... rewired its friend/foe identification system?!”

“Oh, like you wouldn’t!” Shepard laughed before pointing at Saren who was doing his best to keep a straight face as he finished off the final merc. He stated that there were only two more of the gangs left and suggested that they try to leave. However, it would seem someone had taught the mercs of Omega the importance of dramatic timing since a very loud, muffled rumble shook the entire building. Before Zaeed could even ask where the sound came from, Garrus immediately consulted his omni-tool and cursed under his breath. Apparently the mercs decided to actually use their brains and breached the lower level. When Garrus informed Shepard that she needed to head to the lower levels, Aura stated that Saren was going to remain with him while she and Zaeed dealt with intruders in the basement. When the younger tried to challenge her, she gave him a look that said that he was not going to win this argument.

“Shepard, I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Garrus, you’re exhausted.” Said the commander, “You’ve been up here for days. I can tell you haven’t eaten and you’re out of stims. This is not negotiable. You can hate me later once we get out of this alive.”

With a solemn nod, Shepard and Zaeed were gone.

 

~~~~~~~~~~ An Hour Later ~~~~~~~~~

 

“Only the Blue Suns are left.” Shepard huffed as she left her knife lodged in her krogan target’s head and glanced at her group. “I say we take our chances with the Blue Suns and book it.”

The group nodded in agreement and were about to make a break for it when movement to their right caught their attention. The reverberating hum of its engines caused the small squad to duck for cover as the gunship shattered the glass at the end of the room. Damn, Garrus thought he took the bird down already but as he saw it hover by, he realized that the cockpit was missing its shielding and the rear rotor was also exposed. Okay, the Blue Suns had it fixed but it wasn’t fully repaired. Saren activated his biotics and pulled forth the crates to block the incoming barrage of bullets until the crate exploded from taking too much damage. The force of the explosion repelled the silver turian into Zaeed and the two were knocked back into the hallway. Aura had taken cover behind a couch when she noticed Garrus had done the same behind one of the large planter boxes. She tried to warn her friend to watch out but she was too late.

“THIS ENDS NOW!!!” Shouted the merc flying the gunship and a missile launched itself into the room right as Garrus tried to make a dash for better cover.

Impact. Pain. Searing pain blinded the young blue-faced turian and the last thing he heard was a scream of anguish.

“GARRUS!!!!!!” Swallowing hard, Aura felt her body grow cold then her biotics flared up like wildfire. She locked her eyes onto the gunship and she let out a roar of her own. “You. Are. DEAD!”

 

~~~~~~~~~

Saren had only just entered the room only to see the commander surrounded in the blinding white aura as she charged at the gunship. When he looked down, he saw the reason for her fury. The Vakarian fledging was laying quite still on the ground in a growing pool of blue blood. He witnessed Aura’s biotics tear apart the ship. But what really drew his attention was the way she reaved the mercs lifeforce from their very bodies with her biotics. The debris and corpses barely hit the ground when she practically flew back to their comrade. As she landed, the faint outline of a wing disappeared and the two quickly knelt down beside the fallen Archangel and gingerly rolled him onto his back as he began gasping for breath. Saren was already working fast on the young male’s injuries while Shepard radioed the Normandy to get the medical bay ready. She and Saren both took Garru’s arms over their shoulders and they hauled him out of the building with Zaeed covering their flank and the squad made a dash for the Normandy. Hopefully, they would be able to save their friend in time.

~~~~~~~~~

Aura continued to pace around in the conference room with immense worry. Saren was currently with Jacob and Zaeed recruiting the salarian doctor, Mordin Solus while she had just finished assisting Dr. Chakwas with surgery for Garrus’ injuries. They had done everything they could and managed to save his right mandible thanks to cybernetics but he had lost a lot of blood from the attack. Aura was then shooed out of the medbay while Chakwas finished up the rest. It had been two hours since then. Shepard was just about to storm out of the room when the doors swished open and jerked her head up as the injured turian stood before her, standing tall and proud despite the ordeal he had just gone through.

“Shepard.”

She smiled at her friend/brother in arms. “You’re one tough son of a varren. Didn’t think you’d be up so quickly.”

Despite being awake and functional, neither could deny that the young turian looked like hell. His royal blue armor had a large hole blasted through the collar. The surrounding paint was stained black from the explosion. Of course, the worse damage was to his face. A large bandage covered most of his right cheek and neck, pretty much the only thing holding the right mandible in place. Where it wasn’t covered with the bandage, tan and pink scarring could be seen along with a faint orange from where the cybernetics were. It was a sharp contrast to the turian’s usual tannish gray skin. Shepard relaxed though with relief. Her friend was safe and alive and from the mischievous glint in his eye had a lot more life in him than he did earlier.

“Nobody would give me a mirror. How bad is it, Shepard?”

The woman snorted shaking her head. Jokes? Really? “Hell, Garrus you were always ugly. Slap some face paint on and no one will even know the difference... unless Joker suggests fluorescent pink.”

Garrus just laughed, his mandibles flaring wide in a mirthful grin though he immediately stopped lightly touching his injury and Shepard grimaced. “Oh, don’t make me laugh Shepard. Hehe. My face is barely holding together.” He then sauntered closer.  “Some women find facial scars attractive.”

“You are aware that most of those women are Krogan right?” Shepard teased, “Maybe we’ll find you a nice krogan gal for you.”

“Spirits, don’t you even dare.” He growled at her and she laughed in return.

Once the merriment toned down, Garrus turned serious and crossed his arms over his chest. Frankly, he was more concerned about Aura and Saren. He gestured to the symbol on the wall and asked if she remembered what the damned group did in the past and she sighed. She also reminded the youngster that she and Saren were one of those experiments. She then stated that she and Saren were at least glad to have someone else they could trust on this Cerberus infested ship.

Chapter Text

A quarantine with a plague that kills turians, krogan and batarians... Charming. Saren rolled his eyes as he stood before a fellow turian sentry. Ignoring the two humans complaining behind him, Saren’s mandibles quivered as he spoke with his subvocals. According to the sentry and the information he received from the retired asari commando Aria T’loak, a plague had mysterious began to spread throughout the district and so far, only humans were unaffected by the illness. He moved passed the sentry into the quarantine zone ignoring the sentry’s warnings. When the sentry tried again to dissuade the silver turian, Saren bared his teeth.

“Spectre business, either stand aside or else.” He hissed, activating his biotics slightly.

The display intimidated the guard enough for Saren and his human squad to pass through. Immediately entering the zone, there were piles of bodies, mostly charred from being burnt to a crisp. Crude and simple. Oldest way of ridding a plague from anywhere. Saren was not used to leading humans around, save for Shepard. Spirits, he would rather have her watching his back then these Cerberus hounds. Saren knelt down beside one of the recent bodies and brought up his omni-tool. As the orange glow scanned over the body, he was able to deduce the symptoms and it made him growl. It was a genetically modified strain of airborne viruses designed to attack and break down the hosts immune system first then it attacked the organs systematically. First, the liver, kidneys then the lungs and heart. The first symptom was a cough and once the victim started coughing up blood, it was only a matter of time before the plague rendered the host a carcass.

They had to deal with an alarming amount of vorcha and when they rounded a corner, they came across a sick batarian coughing violently. Zaeed held up his gun to put the poor guy out of his misery but Saren snarled at him to stand down. The silver turian practically towered over both men as he was forced to get into Zaeed’s face to growl. He kept forgetting that unlike Aura, these two did not understand turian body language or his secondary vocals. Still, he got his message across and knelt in front of the batarian.

“How low... for a turian to have the lack of decency to wait until I die to steal... my possessions” The sick batarian coughed, his four eyes glaring directly up at Saren.

“You need help.” Taylor said bluntly.

“I, *Cough*... I don’t... need sympathy from your kind human. I hope... *cough*... *cough* the vorcha burn Mordin and his damned clinic to the ground.” Rasped the batarian as he struggled to breathe, cursing at them. Saren quickly activated his omni-tool once more and began administering a pain killer to the sick victim. Though it would not cure the plague, it would at least ease the pain. Saren was able to coax more information from the batarian and he learned that the vorcha were also immune to the disease. When he questioned on whether the vorcha might have been behind the creation of the disease, the sick batarian merely shook his head in amusement. He stated that the vorcha were not smart enough to create something so complex. Realizing the batarian had no more information, the silver turian rose to his feet and stated that he would send help for the batarian as soon as he could.

The batarian scoffed but bobbed his head hopefully.

~~~~~~~~~

 

It took the small group about an hour or so to reach the medical clinic. Oddly enough, he was feeling simply fine, despite the human Taylor constantly asking him about his health. He shook his head as he followed the sound of someone giving instructions to a nurse. Upon entering the room, they were met with a brownish-red salarian in a white and red outfit. It was apparent by the little color around the salarian’s face that he was up there in age. Saren noted that he was also speaking quickly to his assistant who was aiding a sick turian and batarian. Waiting patiently for the doctor to finish his instructions, he finally spoke up.

“Professor Solus?”

The salarian spun around and immediately brought up his omni-tool. Saren quirked a plated brow but allowed the orange light to scan over him. He knew doctors had a habit of tending to patients first.

“Interesting. Turian physiology, yet immune to plague. Administered simple immune-booster. Just to be safe.” The salarian nodded in fascination, “On to greetings. Hmm. Don’t recognize you from area. Too well armed to be refugees. No mercenary uniform. Quarantine still in effect. Here for something else.” The salarian continued to pace around and it took everything within the turian to just not smack him but he decided to take a page from Shepard’s book. “The plague? Investigating possible bio-weapon? No. No. Too many guns, not enough data. Soliders, not scientists. Yes! Hired guns maybe? Looking for someone? Perhaps someone impor-”

“You done?” Saren huffed crossing his arms, being smart to keep his hands in the salarian’s line of sight and the doctor remained silent. “I came here to find you. I’m on a mission and require your skills.”

Mordin blinked in confusion before tilting his head to the side. “Mission? What mission?” He shook his head, waving his hand impatiently. “No, no. Too busy. Clinic understaffed. Plague spreading too quickly. Who sent you?”

Saren remained silent, not really wishing to divulge that information.

Apparently, he did not have to. Mordin glanced at the humans behind him, specifically Taylor and the symbol on the man’s chest. “Cerberus sent you. Unexpected...” The salarian said narrowing eyes, body tensing. Saren knew that look. Mordin was sizing them up as well, testing to see if they were a threat to him and his patients. When he realized that none of the trio were attempting to harm his charges, he relaxed slightly. “Thought they only worked with humans. Also heard you hate humans. Why request salarian aid?”

“We’re creating a team for Commander Shepard who is going after the Collectors and we need a brilliant mind such as yours to help colonies that are disappearing.” Taylor spoke up and the silver turian glanced over his shoulder, with a cold unreadable expression on his face.

“Collectors? Hmmm, interesting. Plague attacking the slums is engineered. Collectors one of few if only groups with the technology to design it. Our goals may be similar.” Mumbled Mordin before nodding, “But must stop plague. Already have cure. Need to distribute it at environmental control center. Vorcha guarding it. Need to kill them.”

Saren rolled his shoulders. Of course, this wasn’t going to be simple but he nodded his head and motioned for his team to move out, waving his hand dismissively stating that he would deal with the vorcha. They stopped when the sound of the ventilation systems shut down and the fans whirled to a grinding halt. Great. Saren thought as he pressed a hand to his temple in annoyance. From the schematics Mordin brought up, it appeared that the vorcha had sabotaged the environmental systems in an attempt to kill everyone by suffocation. He then handed the turian a duffle bag containing vials filled with the cure along with a Carnifex pistol as a gesture of good faith. Mordin also added that his assistant had gone into vorcha territory to look for victims and that he had yet to return.

At the mention of the victims, Saren remembered the ill batarian he had encountered near the entrance to the district and mention to Mordin that he needed help. Mordin tapped his chin thoughtfully before nodding his head stating he’d do what he could to help.

“Let’s head to the environmental plant.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

“Damn, that’s a lot of vorcha...” Zaeed commented as they sniped down the last one in the hallway they were in and the trio stepped over the bodies. Saren merely shrugged as his armor’s shields finally regenerated with a soft humming sound. They were almost to the plant when his sensitive ears caught the sound voices in a sealed room to his left. He silently took position by the door flaring his mandibles in a silent order for the others to take cover. When they gave the turian a baffled expression, he sighed and motioned with his hand repeating the order. That got through to them as they took cover.

“Please... I’m telling the truth.” Said a frightened voice, “I-I work for Mordin at the clinic. I’m here to help.”

“We know you’re spreading the plague virus.” A frantic raspy voice sounded. Batarian. “We saw the vials in your bag.”

“Those contain the cure! Please you must believe me!”

Saren gently slammed his fist against the door and as it swung open, they found three batarians holding a human hostage. From the uniform the human was wearing, it was obvious that this was Mordin’s assistant. From what he could gather, the batarians were accusing the human for spreading the plague and upon entering, they were understandably wary and scared. One was pointing his gun at the assistant, obvious fear in his four eyes.

“Don’t move! One more step and we kill the human.”

“Do it and I’ll add your corpses to the pyre.” Saren snarled back keeping his pistol on the batarian. “I get it. You’re scared. Of the vorcha and the plague but I hate to break it to you, but this human isn’t to blame.”

Wow, never thought I’d ever say that about a human...

“What do you mean, turian?”

“If he was spreading the plague, why come here in to vorcha territory? They’re immune.”

The other batarian seemed to be processing the information better and glanced at his leader who lowered his weapon. Saren was right. It didn’t make sense for a human to be down here in this place. They holstered their guns and the turian did the same. He allowed the small group of batarians to leave to seek shelter before collecting the remaining curatives from the assistant. Jacob was better with talking to the doctor’s assistant and convinced him to head back to the clinic while they took care of the rest. Now all they had to do was get the fans up and running and get the hell off of Omega.

~~~~~~~~~

Okay. So it would be a while longer before they got the fans going to administer the cure. Vorcha kept swarming the area like rats. The krogan that joined them weren’t much help either. Anyone with a brain knew better than to engage krogan in close quarters but when Saren found his back to the fans and a krogan in front of him, the turian merely thought Fuck it and proceeded to fight back. Saren’s fist connected with the krogan's helmet knocking it off. He struck once more with his other. It still wasn’t enough to do any damage. The silver turian ducked out of reach, his biotics flaring to life around his fists. As the krogan lunged at him once more, Saren waited for the right moment and landed an uppercut with his right hand under the krogan’s chin sending the alien flying upwards. He then sent a biotic shockwave slamming into his opponent. He nodded in satisfaction when his attack sent the krogan barreling into the remaining vorcha.

He turned his attention back to the fans and inserted the curatives into the ventilation. After a few keystrokes, the whirling of the fans and the faint sour taste of the medicine made the turian and his team sigh in relief.

“Let’s get Mordin and leave this godforsaken rock.”

“For once, I agree with you, human.” Saren grumbled at the old merc.

Chapter Text

Having collected most of their team now, Saren and Aura were now enroute to the Citadel after receiving a summons from the Council. It helped that the last person they needed to pick up was a thief located on the Citadel space station. While standing over the galaxy map, Saren and the Commander were going over the information on their current teammates. After picking up Mordin, the two had left Omega in search of a krogan warlord only to end up saving the mad scientist’s ‘perfect’ creation whom called himself Grunt. Much to Saren’s amusement, the young krogan had imprinted on the human instead of him. She, on the other hand, did not appreciate nearly cracking her ribs dealing with the youngster. The last one the two had picked up was a real piece of work. Jack was her name and by the spirits she was a nasty one at that and yet, both Aura and Saren were the only ones that connected with the criminal.

Jack was a Cerberus experiment, just like them. The only major difference she had aside from looks was that this scantly clad, tattooed covered human was quite literally the most powerful biotic ever seen. Aura found that intriguing as there were times where she wanted to put that title to the test. To be fair, Saren wanted to do the same but the pilot had requested that they try not to tear the new ship apart. What made things better was that Jack knew how to piss off Miranda. Miss Lawson had tried to put on airs stating that she was Shepard’s second in command only to be reprimanded by all three of them. Aura had told the Cerberus operative that Saren and Garrus were considered her seconds and that she was a consultant. Saren had even told Miranda that if she ever attempted to pull a stunt like that again that he would personally put the human in her place. Jack pretty much stated that the ‘cheerleader’ would do well to stay out of her way.

~~~~~~~~~

As the Normandy approached the Citadel station and proceeded to a docking bay; Aura, Saren and Garrus left the ship and made their way through Citadel security. After making it passed the security and spoke with captain of C-Sec, the trio managed to flag down a cab heading to the Presidium. Even though most of the Council did not wish to hear about the Reapers; save for Anderson and Sparatus who were overjoyed to see them; they did however reinstate their Spectre status. Though Tevos and Valern were apprehensive at first, the turian councilor and Anderson were able to convince them that the resurrected Spectres were on their side and were given a mission to continue investigating the disappearances as well as hopefully take down Cerberus as informants. Once the debrief with the Council had been dealt with, Saren and Garrus departed to the turian embassy per Councilor Sparatus’ request.

Once the two humans were alone, Aura shifted uncomfortably at the silence between her and Councilor Anderson. She wasn’t expecting a hug from her former captain but she returned the gesture, finding it surprisingly comforting. The two spoke for a bit about what had been going on for the last two years and when the topic arose about her and Saren's reinstatement she merely shrugged.

“No point in burning down bridges.”

Anderson sighed. “It’s more than what you’ll get from the Alliance. Hackett and I will keep them off your back. I don’t have to remind you about Cerberus though, right?”

“You’re not telling me anything new.” She spat icily. “But what’s this about the Alliance?”

“Considering your ties, the brass sees you working with Cerberus as capital treason.” Anderson stated then held his hand before she could speak. “Hackett and I know that you would never willing work with Cerberus given what they did to you but the brass doesn’t see it that way.”

“Why the fuck do I even bother trying then?” Aura snapped crossing her arms over her chest angrily. She wasn’t usually a selfish person or outspoken but this was not fair in any way. She had done so much for the Alliance, her planet. Hell, she even put the needs of others, members of the Reds and her original crew on the Normandy, before she took care of herself. Now, after all she’s done; this was the thanks she received in return? “Seems like Cerberus aren’t the only ones I shouldn’t trust either...”

“Come on Aura, that’s not fair. I really am sorry, but this is the best I can- where are you going? Shepard! Shepard, wait!”

“It was nice to see you again, Councilor.” This was another reason she hated humans. You give and give, and give but they do nothing in return for you and suddenly expect you to stay obligated to them. She thought clenching her fists as she made her way to the cabs where she found Saren and Garrus waiting for her along with the thief she assumed was Kasumi and she forced herself to keep a straight neutral face. Maybe after this mission, she should just stick with being a Spectre for the Citadel and leave the Alliance behind for good.

~~~~~~~~~

They were a day or so out from leaving the Widow nebula and Aura had been doing her usual patrol around the ship. Saren was up at the lab going over upgrade ideas with the salarian. Aura secretly knew the silver turian was actually in the armory upgrading and modifying his own weapons. She grabbed two cups of tea and made her way to the main battery where Garrus had decided to hold himself up in. Since his recruitment, Shepard noticed that Vakarian had been avoiding her and though she’d never complain about it, she felt hurt by the act. She knew he was hurting. He told her as much about his team being betrayed by a fellow turian by the name of Sidonis. She knew what that kind of betrayal felt like and was just trying to be there for her friend.

Hissing softly, the doors to the main battery opened causing Garrus to turn around and face her. She offered him the cup and he took it silently. They both took long sips from their beverages before the cobalt faced turian finally spoke. “Did you just come here to bring a drink or did need me for something Shepard?”

Shepard lowered her cup before replying. “Just was checking in... seeing how you were doing. Wondering if you had any ideas on how to upgrade the Normandy for our fight against the Collectors.” Garrus trilled in thought before placing his cup down on his work station and rifled through his belongings before handing her a data pad. As she examined the schematics, he stated that he was given exclusive access to the type of guns Sovereign used and had managed to figure out how to convert them for the Normandy. Although Aura was not fluent in reading Palaveni, she caught on quickly and informed him that when they got the supplies, she would get the ship retrofitted with the upgrade. He flared his mandibles into a small smile before turning back to his console.

When he sensed that Shepard was still in the room with him, he hesitantly glanced over his shoulder, tilting his head in confusion.

“Are you sure you want to go through with killing Sidonis?” Aura asked calmly.

Slowly, her friend turned towards her. “And if I say that, I am sure?”

“I guess, I just want to make sure that you are ready to deal with the consequences. This is not like you, but-”

“Yeah, well, two years on Omega can change someone.” Venom dripped in Garrus’ tone as he cut her off, lashing back. “Especially when they’ve been thinking their best friend was dead.”

Silver eyes snapped wide and Aura hissed sharply. He crossed a line. Shepard was aware that she was reluctant to speak about her time being dead. She and Saren included. The truth was, she really did not remember any of it. “I’m more than aware that people change, Vakarian but that has nothing to do with-”

“Why are you even here? Why are either of you alive?” His voice jumped several decibels but Aura remained steadfast, ready to fight if she had to as the young turian continued. “You were dead, Shepard! Dead! Both of you! I mourned you! Anderson mourned you! Everyone mourned you, went to your funeral! We all spent TWO YEARS trying to cope with a universe without you in it!” Vakarian trembled as though everything he was currently feeling seemed to tumble out like an untamed waterfall. Aura merely listened to the rage, ignoring some of the stares that they were receiving from the other crew members in the mess hall. She watched Garrus ball his talons into fists as he ranted on.

“And now you two just show up and act like nothing has happened. Who gave you that fucking right?! Do you two have ANY idea what it’s been like for us? At all?!”

“For you?!” Aura’s voice echoed more forcefully than any turian drill sergeant Garrus had encountered. Spirits, he almost forgot that Shepard was an N7 graduate and from her voice could outmatch anyone in a shouting match. “We were dead! We don’t remember two years of our lives and suddenly, here we are, alive again! We have nobody but you, you arrogant asshole of a fledgling! Everyone we knew is GONE or missing. Everyone but you. How the hell do you think that makes us feel?!”

Unconsciously, the pair had moved closer to each other. Brilliant silver biotic energy surged around Aura’s body, casting an eerie glow over the pair.

Garrus snarled at her, “You just don’t get it. Perhaps you should have just left me on Omega.”

In the silver glow, the young turian saw something glinting on the edge of Aura’s eyes but hissed when she landed a good punch to his gut and stormed out towards the elevator just as Saren was leaving it. The silver turian watched in bafflement as the Commander disappeared but not before hearing her mutter. “Asshole...”

Saren turned towards the main battery and noticed Vakarian rubbing his stomach and breathing heavily. Garrus glared at him and snapped back harshly. “What?!”

“What the hell did you say to her?” Saren asked crossing his arms. He had felt Aura’s anger earlier when he was in the armory and had come to investigate but before he could ask her what had happened, she had disappeared and now looking at the state of Vakarian, he became even more irritated.

Despite Garrus’ better judgment screaming that this was a bad idea, he divulged what had transpired. To his credit, Saren restrained himself from slugging the young turian himself. He had no right to say what he did to her.

“Thought you two would at least be civil considering how close you two are.”

“Well, Shepard deserved it.”

“Did she now?” Saren mused strolling up to Vakarian and leaned forward so his face was directly in his personal space. “We’ve been dead for two years. Everyone we knew has moved on or vanished, save for you. Aura went through great lengths to save your sorry ass from three merc groups. She even remained behind to make sure your surgery was successful. Even to me, that was crazy but it also says a lot.”

“What’s your point Arterius?” Garrus snapped only to yelp when the silver turian gripped the young turian by the back of the fringe and yanked his head back forcing Vakarian to bare his throat. Forced submission.

“You’re supposed to be her best friend, her bond brother and yet you can’t see that she is using a coping mechanism to just get by?” Saren hissed before releasing him. “Get your head out of your ass and look around before you start shit. Next time, I won’t be so civil.” Without another word, Saren left the young turian to his thoughts while he went up to the captain’s quarters only to find that the room was empty. He turned his head to the fish tank watching the sea creatures float around serenely then he shook his head.

“EDI, where’s Shepard?”

~ “She is currently in war room talking with the Illusive Man.” ~

Saren narrowed his eyes before heading up to the war room. As he strolled on in, Aura quickly spun a glance at him as he entered into the holographic quantum entanglement with her then quickly returned her attention to Harper. The Illusive Man seemed less than pleased to see Saren beside Shepard which brought a smug smile to the turian’s features. However, it did not last long.

“Why is Alenko on Horizon exactly?” Aura questioned the Illusive Man with a coldness Saren never noticed until now. “Last I checked, the man was Alliance.”

Was that anger or regret in her tone?

“It’s an Alliance program to help colonies on the edges of the Terminus Systems. The Collectors seem to be quite interested in it as well.”

“Bullshit. The Collectors just happened to pick a colony with one of my former teammates on it? Highly suspicious.” Snapped the Commander. Again, that coldness... what exactly was going on through her mind right now? Saren continued to listen to the two talk while absentmindedly trying to get a feel for Aura’s energy. Stress? Partially. He sensed that she was hurting emotionally, and he deduced that it was partially thanks to the Vakarian fledging but he couldn’t help but feel like there was more to it. As the call ended, the silver haired woman scoffed shaking her head before turning her head towards the ceiling ordering her pilot to set a course to Horizon while she went to see the salarian doctor. When Shepard invited Saren to be part of her ground team along with Vakarian, he smirked stating that he was getting restless just wandering the ship and needed to do have some target practice. That got her to laugh.

 

~~~~~~~~~ Horizon: Four Hours Later ~~~~~~~~~

 

“What the hell? Husks, too?” Garrus hissed as he sniped down three of the familiar humanoid creatures lumbering towards them.

“Those aren’t the same from Eden Prime...” Aura observed as she and Saren took down the strange bipedal insectoid looking aliens fighting alongside the husks. Once the final one in their vicinity was eliminated, the turians and commander began to examine the corpse. At first, Garrus thought that these were some of the colonists transformed into the vile creatures but Aura and Saren noticed something off. These husks were a lot smarter and tougher than those from Eden Prime. Also, they didn’t see any signs of dragon’s teeth; the spikes the geth used to impale the victims and turn them into the husks. That left only one option: the Collectors brought these husks with them.

The more they explored the colony, the more uneasy the trio felt. They found strange casket looking pods most were empty, thankfully but they also found some of the colonists frozen within an amber colored field. A stasis field from the looks of it. They didn’t really have much time to think when they were swarmed by more Collectors and one of them started acting different. It started to make a hacking sound before being enveloped in a dark gold light and SPOKE to them.

Bring me the Guardians. Leave them intact” The glowing Collector rasped as it threw a biotic orb at them.

Even as Aura got her barrier up, it shattered when the orb crashed into it. “The hell-argh!” Aura hissed when another orb struck her chest, knocking the wind out her. She rubbed her chest coughing to get air in her lungs while Saren and Garrus dealt with the other husks. Aura managed to snipe the weird glowing one and they charged through the area where they came across several AA towers. If they could get EDI uploaded to the guns, they could at least fight the looming tower of the Collector ship.

The closer they got to the tower, the less and less colonists they found. It was unsettling. Saren had been surprisingly silent, but Aura could tell that the silver turian was on edge. That Collector’s voice felt awfully familiar and it brought back unpleasant memories of his time with Sovereign. As they approached the terminal controlling the AA guns, they were greeted by two strange looking beings. One looked like an amalgamation of a squid and a horseshoe crab with human skulls in its mouth. The other reminded Aura of Frankenstein's monster if he used husk pieces and threw them in a blender. Unfortunately, the Collector ship got away just after they put down the weird crab machine. Aura cursed angrily as they watched the ship rocket through the sky and disappear into the stars.

“You did everything you could Shepard.” Garrus said resting his hand on her shoulder but quickly pulled it away when their attention was drawn to another voice. Another familiar voice.

Kaidan Alenko appeared from around the corners, the weird golden stasis aura flickering from view, its effects fading from his body as he approached the trio. For a long moment, Kaidan and Aura just stared at each other. Then he took a step forward and pulled Aura in a tight hug. The commander visibly tensed before returning the gesture in hesitation. Saren knew that Aura had no feelings for the human biotic aside from brother-in-arms, yet he still had to suppress the vile taste crawling up in his mouth.

“I thought you were dead…” Kaidan whispered as though afraid that any louder, she’d vanish again. “We all did…” Aura grunted and pulled herself free not really appreciating being squished but she gave the biotic a small yet warm smile that didn’t quite meet her eyes. “It’s… been a long time, Kaidan. How have you been?”

Kaidan’s dark brown eyes narrowed angrily at her response. “Is that all you can say?” Shepard blinked her silver eyes uncertain at what else she could say. “You show up after two years and act like nothing happened?!”

Garrus winced realizing that he had said the exact same thing to her and now she was getting the argument again. Saren, on the other hand, kept his expression neutral but his gaze was locked firmly on the biotic as he shifted uncomfortably.

“I… I loved you. You were like a little sister to me. Thinking you were dead… it tore me apart. How could you put me through that?! Why didn’t you let me know you were alive?!”

Saren flicked his gaze to the young turian next to him. Regret your words now, fledgling? His subvocals growled lowly to him. Garrus avoided the silver turian’s gaze shamefully as they continued to watch the humans continue to argue. Aura snapped reminding her old teammate that she was clinically dead for two years, she and Saren both, and during that time, they were on a damn operating table. Shepard then added that most of her crew had moved on and that she assumed he did too. When Alenko spoke once more, venom seemed to drip from his words.

“I did move on. Least I thought I did until I got reports that you were working for Cerberus.” Alenko hissed.

“Reports?” Disbelief radiated from Garrus' voice.

“Interesting” Saren trilled not really sounding interested. “You already knew?”

The biotic finally looked up at the two turians as if seeing them for the first time. He informed them that the Alliance received intelligence that Cerberus might be behind the missing human colonies and that Anderson and Hackett kept stonewalling Alenko. “There were rumors that you weren’t dead and that you were working for the enemy.”

Then something clicked. Aura’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief and betrayal. “Building the defense towers was a just a fucking cover…” She growled balling her hands into tight fists. “So it’s true that the Alliance sent you here to investigate me, huh?”

Kaidan took an aggressive step forward closing the gap between himself and the commander. Saren instinctively activated his biotics while resting his hand on his holstered gun when the human practically snarled at Aura claiming that he was on Horizon for Cerberus and that she was just a rumor. A ghost. “I wanted to believe you were alive but I never expected anything like this…” At this, the former squad mate shot both Garrus and Saren a scalding glare, however neither of them backed down. Garrus had seen much worse on Omega and Saren worst than any life form throughout his career. Upon seeing neither turian back down, Kaidan returned his assault on Shepard.

“You turned your back on everything we believed in. You betrayed the Alliance. You’ve betrayed me! Ashley's probably rolling in grave right now-”

Aura's biotics flared up like white-hot flames but before she could even launch herself at Alenko, Saren gripped both of her shoulders and pulled her back. She snapped her head in his direction. As much as I would love to see Alenko get slugged, I must strongly recommend you don’t. His eyes told her and she sighed, biotic energy settling down.

“I want to believe you Shepard but I don’t trust Cerberus. They could be using the threat of Reapers and Collectors as a way to manipulate you.” Kaidan then gestured to Saren, “Even Saren could be behind this and you don’t even know it! Least I know where my loyalties lie. I’m Alliance through and through. Just like Ash.”

Smack!

Saren didn’t even bother trying to stop Aura this time but he only allowed her one punch before pulling her back. She still wanted to go at the human and frankly so did he but he really wasn’t in the mood to deal with Alliance issues. Once she settled down, Garrus pulled her aside while Saren glared down at the human before him. When the human cursed under his breath and tried to regain his composure, Saren sneered and planted his foot on Alenko's chest with enough force to keep him pinned but allowed him still draw breath. The icy glow from his eyes had even Alenko tensing up but the silver alien kept his cool. “I suggest you mind your tongue, Alenko and let us Spectres take care of things since you are obviously oblivious to the real threat.” Saren sneered before relinquishing his foot from Kaidan then turning his back to the human. “Oh, and good luck trying to convince the Council otherwise.”

“Joker,” Aura called over the comlink, “Send the shuttle please. We’ve had enough of this godforsaken colony.

Chapter Text

Night had fallen aboard the Normandy. Saren had just finished debriefing the Illusive Man, much to his irritation. The fledgling had already apologized to Shepard but the human hadn’t left their quarters since. He had heard from some of the crew members that the yeoman had tried to talk to the commander and nearly lost her head to a biotic shockwave. As the turian attempted to get something to drink from the mess, raised voices caught his attention and he let out a low, annoyed growl.

“Screw you cheerleader! I’m not going!”

That sounded like Jack, her usual temper flaring.

“Damn it, just go up and talk to her!”

And Miranda.

From the sounds of things, Miranda had cornered Jack who came up from the lower decks to just get a bite to eat and was trying to convince the criminal to go and talk with Aura. Both women seemed to vibrate with biotic energy as the two faced each other down. Saren’s mandibles flicked downward as he sighed in annoyance before he got between the two, his silver aura flickering to life as he gave them a gentle shove each to break them up. “Calm down you two.” He ordered firmly, “What is going on here?”

Miranda crossed her arms over her chest, cold blue eyes not leaving Jack for an instant. She went on to explain that she had asked Jack to speak with the commander believing Aura would be more responsive to her instead of Miranda. However, Jack pointed out adamantly that she did not take orders from the Cerberus operative. She listened to Arterius and Shepard because neither of them would bullshit her. Saren also added that if Jack did not want go, she didn’t have to. He then added that he’d personally talk with Shepard, stating that he would stand a better chance at not having his organs rearranged. The silver turian made his way to the loft where he began to access their room. When the doors hissed open, he found Shepard sitting on the bed, her face hidden behind her arms as they wrapped around her knees. Her silvery locks were mussed as though she had run her hands through it many times.

Shepard lifted her head when she heard the turian approach her but didn’t move from her spot even when he sat down beside her. At first, tension seemed to linger between them but nothing could prepare Saren for what Aura did next. She buried her face in his chest and wrapped her arms around his torso. The action froze the turian solid, his silver eyes blinking in alarm. He knew Shepard was smaller than he was but this was probably the first time he realized just how small she was compared to him.

“I’m sorry.” She finally said, her voice sounding strained and Saren narrowed his eyes. “I doubt that bridge can be fixed.”

“Not your fault. Between you and me, Kaidan’s not a man. He’s just a child.” The turian waved his hand dismissively. “Sometimes they are not meant to be fixed.”

She chuckled weakly before pulling away slightly to rub her puffy eyes. Fury sparked through him when he realized that had probably been crying since they returned to the ship. When she confided to him the conversation she had with Anderson before they left the Citadel, his anger only grew as he slowly put and his left arm around her shoulder and held her closer to him. No wonder she seemed so bitter at the mention of the Alliance. He twined his talons gently through her hair. How long they stayed like this, neither of them knew. Slowly, Aura’s shaking soon stopped and she was able to lift her face off his chest, wiping the remainder of her tears away. Saren’s mandibles twitched in concern, his nose plates wrinkling a little as he lowered his head down to get a better look at her. “Feel better?”

“Yeah... I’ll be fine.” Shepard lifted her head and both of them froze when their forehead brushed against each other. The touch was so gentle that neither wished to move until Aura finally spoke once more. “Thank you, Saren. You honestly didn’t need to do this for me.” She said with a weak smile reaching out to caress the fabric he used to keep his fringe down. Shepard had gotten him a new one since his original one was destroyed and he refused to wear the one Cerberus provided. She made an inaudible sound of disappointment when he pulled his head away from hers but still remained beside her on the bed. He decided to indulge her with news on Nihlus. Shepard laughed when the silver turian mentioned that his former protégé slugged him for not getting into contact with him sooner but after that, they were able to have a normal conversation.

EDI then informed the two that they would be arriving to Illium in a few days and stated that they had collected enough resources to upgrade the Normandy’s primary gun and hulls. Good. While they were in Illium recruiting the two new warriors on the planet, they could have the ship undergo repairs. After the AI dismissed itself, the two were left alone in silence with only the sounds of the fish tank humming. It was then Saren noticed the piano keys flickering to life on her desk and inspiration hit him. He glanced down at Aura then nodded towards the piano. When she gave him a confused look it soon turned into a small smile of understanding and they approached the device, sitting side by side. His three fingered hands began to play a slow and sweet tune. It actually left Aura in awe as she listened to the strange yet soothing melody. The turian gently nudged her arm with his elbow and she smiled as her many fingers matched his melody. She focused on the keys adding a more playful melody to it.

It felt good to just sit there and play. The beautiful rhythm of the song was more then relaxing. Saren glanced down at Aura as she continued to follow his lead with the piece and caught her humming the song which made him smile inwardly. As the last echoed, the two gazed into each other’s eyes and before he could stop himself, the turian pressed his forehead against hers. Aura closed her eyes, a soft hum of content rumbling from her throat. She opened her eyes halfway and smiled when she heard and felt him purr like a large cat.

She could have teased him for being affectionate. End the awkwardness but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. He looked relaxed and calm. Then she heard a strange melody echoing from his subvocals. Was he singing? Did Turians sing? She didn’t dare speak but listened to the song. It didn’t seem like it had lyrics but there was a rhythm. Feeling perhaps yet it felt familiar like when she encountered him on Eden Prime. A bittersweet yet hopeful tune. She found it beautiful.

Saren pulled his head away from hers, his eyes reflecting a strange fondness before he blinked and his song ended. His jaw plates slacked as though he wished to say something but instead shook his head. He abruptly rose to his feet making an excuse to check on the Vakarian fledgling. He left the cabin, leaving the commander more than a little baffled but she still kept her smile before returning to the piano. It would seem the usually brusque, serious turian did have a softer side to him and Shepard was beginning to wonder how she could see it more.

~~~~~~~~~

Turns out visiting Garrus was both a good and bad idea. At first, Vakarian assumed that Saren was curious about Thanix cannon schematics he acquired but no, the silver turian was actually just looking for an ear to listen to him. The younger turian would not stop laughing in amusement.

“Are you quite finished, Vakarian?” Grumbled the older turian, his mandibles fluttering in both embarrassment and annoyance.

Still the young one laughed and it reminded Saren of his days when Desolas would tease him. Garrus finally settled for a snicker though he was gasping for breath when he tried to speak. “I can’t believe it. You actually have a canzone del cuore?” Garrus finally gasped before gripping his bandaged mandible, “And it’s for Shepard?”

A low snarl resonated from both Saren’s throat and his secondary vocals radiated disapprovingly to the teasing tone in Garrus’ voice. The younger was undeterred. Instead, he beckoned the older to follow him to the lounge to grab a few drinks. Kasumi was thankfully not around. Or at least the two couldn’t catch her scent. They snatched a couple bottles of turian brandy and Saren followed Garrus down to the cargo hold where they decided to hole up in one of the KODIAK shuttles. It was something Garrus and Shepard did when they were hunting Saren. Just sit and relax though they usually holed up in the MAKO. Nonchalantly, Garrus popped open the bottles with his talons and handed one to Saren.

“So, did you tell her?”

Saren quirked a brow at Garrus before focusing on his drink allowing the slight burning sensation of the brandy to finish tickling his throat. “No.”

Garrus’ subvocals hummed curiously. “Why not?”

“Aside from the obvious?” The elder took another swig.

Garrus rolled his blue eyes in annoyance. “Never thought I’d be the one to offer couple advice.” He grumbled before finishing his drink, mandibles fluttering in delight from the alcohol. In truth, this particular turian brandy wasn’t strong enough to make their kind drunk but it tasted good. The cobalt faced male turned towards the bare-faced companion and crossed his arms. “Look, I’m not good with this sort of thing so bear with me. From all the time you’ve known Shepard, how many people has she let her guard down for? Like genuinely let her guard down, trusting someone won’t stab her in the back, kind of thing?”

Saren scrunched his brow plates in deep thought before they finally shot up. Garrus was grinning broadly.

“Very, very few. In fact I think the list shrunk to you and me at the moment.” The young turian pointed out and continued. “If she’s going to give you her heart, then cherish it. Break it and you’ll answer to me. Let your arms be the place Shepard feels safe in. She’ll be the best thing that you’ll ever ask for and she’ll love you if you love like that.”

“Are you certain?” Saren questioned.

“Yep”

“Curious, did you have a crush on Shepard, Vakarian?

“Nope. Tali's my girl. Shepard’s like a big sister to me.” Garrus grinned dreamily as his thoughts shifted to the Quarian then his mandibles flared out in embarrassment. “Oh crap… I think I’m drunk if I told you that. Forget I said anything.”

“Not likely.” Saren laughed before finishing his drink letting Vakarian’s words sink in. Maybe he was right. Later that night, he returned to find Aura dead asleep at her desk. He shook his head with a sigh and began to approach her when her computer began to glow with an incoming message. He tapped on the terminal and a video radioed to life with the Admiral of the Alliance on the screen. Hackett opened his mouth to speak but when he found Saren instead of Shepard, he merely blinked before replying.

“~Spectre Arterius. I was not expecting you to answer Shepard’s email.~” Said the admiral. “~Is Shepard around? I need to speak with her.~”

“She’s asleep at her desk. What’s the message?”

“~Just tell her that ‘Gramps’ wishes to speak with her when she has a chance.~ Hackett said with a slight chuckle. “~Also let her know I’ve taken care of Alenko. What he said to her was unbecoming of a military officer.”

Saren nodded his head. After they finished conversing for a while he decided he needed to get some sleep himself and began reaching to turn off the vid when Hackett stopped him once more. “Something else, Hackett?”

“~Look after her, will you?~”

“Of course.”

Chapter Text

Illium was quite the system to behold. It was considered a jewel in asari space for its commerce and business savvy inhabitants. Saren had been to Illium a few times during his first few years of being a Spectre. Aura was more interested in admiring the view of the sun rise over the peaks of the massive buildings. Garrus was not as impressed but that didn’t stop him from enjoying his surroundings. Upon arrival to the docks, they were informed that an old friend of theirs had waived all their fees to which Aura, ever the inquisitive one, inquired who do such a thing for them. Nothing prepared them for the surprise they received upon reaching one of the offices.

“I’ll make it simple,” That voice... “Either you pay me or I’ll flay you alive. With my mind.”

“Liara?”

“Shepard!” The young asari beamed at her as she clicked off the video call she was on and spun around to embrace the commander who grunted at the hug. “My sources told me that you both were alive...” Liara sniffled slightly, holding back tears of joy. “But I... it's so good to see you both.”

Thankfully, Shepard wasn’t the only victim to the asari’s bear hug. Garrus gawked when Liara practically squeezed the life out of the poor turian. Honestly, both Aura and Saren bit back a few chuckles only for Shepard to nearly double over when the silver turian also received a hug from Benezia’s daughter. He was so caught off guard that Garrus actually made a comment that act broke the older turian to which Saren snorted indignantly. Liara stated to her friends that she had become quite busy as of late. She had become a very well-respected information broker despite her young age and it was apparent that she was giving the infamous Shadow Broker a run for their money.

They continued to converse, catching up as much as they could over time lost. Saren was more than startled, or rather, humbled that Liara had forgiven him after what had happened to her mother. Once the pleasantries were wrapped up, Aura leapt straight to business. It was apparent that Shepard was hoping to recruit Liara back on to her team. However, the young asari merely shook her head, as though anticipating what the commander was about to ask. Liara went on to say that she had commitments and things she needed to take care of. Aura’s eyes furrowed with a mixture of confusion and concern. What kind of things? Aura wondered to herself.

“Are you in trouble, Liara? I can help.”

“No, not trouble, Shepard.” Liara said once again shaking her head. “But I have debts to repay. However, if you want to help, I need someone with expertise in hacking. Someone I trust.”

Garrus’ vocals rumbled behind Aura. “You know you can trust us, Liara.”

The asari thought for a moment before informing the trio that she needed them to hack into the security key points around Illium. Once she received the information, she would be able to provide more information on her pet project that she was currently working on. Nodding curtly, the trio left the office and once they were certain that they were out of earshot turned towards each other. Garrus was the first to voice that something was wrong and that it rubbed him the wrong way. Saren was inclined to agree with the fledgling. The tone the young asari used was not unlike Benezia’s when she was possessed by Sovereign. It made his old scars itch. Aura ran her hand through her hair, a heavy sigh escaping her lips. After about an hour or so; Aura, Garrus and Saren had finished their hacking throughout the key points and they all came to the same conclusion. According to the data that Liara was looking for; all the contacts the informant talked to were male but informant was female.

Liara ended the call after receiving the information. Not wasting any time, the trio returned to Liara’s office to find her assistant missing and the young asari smoothing out wrinkles in her dress.

“Thank you for the help, Shepard. Thanks to you, I managed to get the jump on Nyxeris.” Liara said with a small smile, “She was very talented but her barriers needed practice. Practice I’m afraid she won’t be getting.”

“Okay, T’soni. Come clean.” Saren growled crossing his arms over his chest plate, “Who’s after you and why do they want you dead?”

“The Shadow Broker.” Aura answered and the asari and turians turned towards in alarm at her revelation. The human gave them a shrug. “What? It makes sense. They probably think Liara is a threat to their business.”

Saren’s mandibles nearly dropped to the floor along with Garrus. Was Liara crazy? Even Saren wasn’t that ambitious though the notion did entice him. Still, the trio agreed that what Liara was doing was borderline suicide. “It’s as Shepard said. I’m after the Shadow Broker and I believe it’s safe to say that they’re running from me.”

“Liara, this isn’t a game.” Aura growled mirroring Saren’s pose while Liara turned her back to her to stare out the window overlooking the bustling city below. “Your ‘assistant’ worked for the Broker and she was ordered to kill you. This is dangerous. What is so damn important to risk your life like this?” Liara closed her eyes while she listened to the commander express her concerns. Her expression seemed forlorn, like one filled with guilt. Like a child who was hiding something from their parent.

“Do you... Did Cerberus explain to you how they recovered your bodies?”

Garrus trilled a question to the two. What does that have to do with this?

Saren and Aura shrugged in response to Vakarian’s question. They had no idea. In fact, as they stared at each other, they realized that they never really asked. The two had assumed that Cerberus went to Alchera and recovered their bodies to proceed with Project Lazarus. Liara continued to speak and what she revealed left the two speechless. She revealed that she was the one who gave their bodies to Cerberus. Apparently, hours after the original Normandy went down, the Alliance collected the remaining life pods but they couldn’t find their bodies. The funerals just had empty coffins and pretty speeches. After that, within days, the Council denied the Reapers were real. Save for the few that knew they were. Yet, no one lifted a finger or a talon to look for Saren and Aura’s remains. Liara started her own investigation.

A lead brought her to Omega and what she discovered had disturbed the asari. The lead had her fighting with the Shadow Broker’s agents to recover their bodies but she wasn’t alone. She had a friend, a drell, called Feron helping her. When they got caught, Feron had stayed behind to allow Liara to escape with the Guardians’ remains. Both the bodies were preserved in two life pods. Neither were entirely dead, but nor were they among the living. Shortly after recovering them, Liara was then contacted by Cerberus stating that they could bring back the two of them. And she gave their bodies to Cerberus.

“You...”

“Did...”

“What?”

Liara could see the shocked expressions on her friends through the window’s reflection. “I told myself that I was doing the right thing. That I was doing it for you both. I... I knew Cerberus would bring you back.”

“How could you Liara?” Aura growled clenching her fists in an attempt to restrain her fury. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help Saren much.

“How stupid are you?! How could you give us back to those bastards after what they did to us in the first place?! How?!” Demanded the silver turian with a frightening roar, his biotic aura flaring as he approached the asari. “Aura and I have fought them. You’ve seen what they’ve done to countless lives. Ours included! And you had us resurrected all because you couldn’t accept the fact that we were GONE!?!

“Saren…” Aura called out to him and her counterpart halted his approach. Her tone was neutral and her eyes narrowed at him in silent request. He sneered at her, but his biotics dwindled down and he stormed out of the room, purposely knocking into her shoulder and he slammed his fist into the wall before the door closed after him. Liara twisted around to look at Aura hopefully but the Asari flinched at the glare she received. The commander held up her hand to silence her friend then turned to leave stating she had an enraged turian to deal with now.

“Shepard!” Liara cried out but Garrus stopped her, holding out his arm to dissuade her.

“Leave them be Liara. It’s best you don’t chase after them in that state.”

~~~~~~~~~

“Glad to know I don't have to chase that far after you this time.” Aura said finding the silver turian standing over a balcony overlooking the bustling markets below. He growled but made no attempt to move or speak. The faint clicking of his jaw plates and the gnashing of his fangs were enough for Aura to understand that Saren was more than enraged. He looked like he was on the war path now. Not that she blamed him. “This whole mess is… shocking to say the least.” She sighed and Saren dug his talons into the railing in front of him almost twisting the metal with his strength.

Shocking?! “Aura, she gave our bodies to Cerberus! Cerberus!!” Snarled the turian as he whipped his head in her direction. “She gave us to them and allowed them to turn us into walking freak shows. Why aren’t you mad?”

Aura gazed out to the horizon, the sun reflecting off her eyes. She was livid really. And disappointed. She understood that Liara missed her dearly. Everyone on the original Normandy missed her. Part of her was angry at Liara and the other part was grateful for the second chance in life. Saren exhaled sharply from his nose, watching the avian species local to Illium soar through the skies then spared a glance at Shepard. While the two despised Cerberus, they couldn’t deny the groups access to resources and as of right now, they weren’t in any position to refuse help. The Alliance and the Council turned their backs on them even though they had orders to destroy the human-centric terrorist group. Their only options were either Cerberus and going rogue. Aura snorted at the thought. If anything, she assumed Saren would prefer the rogue route however, she wasn’t about to fall into that habit and become the same person she was back on Earth. Just a girl trying to survive. So, for the time being the ends justified the means. Even though it royally sucked.

The two both heaved heavy sighs. They were no longer in the mood to look for assassins or justiciars. If anything, the two just wanted to get a drink and possibly do some sparring in the hold to blow off steam. Maybe they’d watch the fish in the tank. Anything to get their minds off this entire mess, if only for a few moments. Before they could do that, Aura suggested that they at least talk with Liara and not leave things on a sour note. When they returned Liara’s office, they found the asari hunched over her desk, face hidden in her hands. Garrus gave them a small note of relief.

“Liara...”

“I know you both hate me...”

Aura sighed.

“No, we don’t hate you. It’s just...” Shepard swallowed hard before continuing. “How could you do it? Why did you give your friends to the enemy knowing what they did to us? We fought them two years ago. You were there and you saw what they were doing.”

“I know that... But if there was a chance to have you ba-”

“Liara, you can’t play God. Nor can Cerberus. I know you missed us.” Aura pointed out sternly. “I’m not denying the results but you need to understand something.” She gestured towards Saren and herself. “The last few weeks for us has been nothing but one surprise after another and hearing your role in this was the last straw. We need a break, Liara.”

“I understand...” The asari sighed in relief, “I only wish I could be of more help in your fight.”

Saren trilled suddenly, drawing their attention. “Perhaps you can.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

“Asking Liara for information on Samara and Thane was a good idea, Saren.”

Saren flicked his mandibles slightly while watching Vakarian going over a weapons kiosk excitedly checking out different mods. They had returned to the Normandy to change into something more comfortable and less obvious before heading to the bar. The silver duo had gone over the dossiers early that day before arrival but they hadn’t been able to find either of their targets. According to Liara, Samara was on the other side of the planet and would be in the area later the next day according to her sources. As for the assassin, she needed more time and would alert the two if she found anything. Garrus waved farewell as he returned to the ship to go over his new purchases and the two Spectres made their way to one of the bars. They ignored some of their stares from the other patrons of the bar as they found a booth in the back corner that allowed them the best view of the room along with the best tactical position should a fight break out.

The waitress had brought them their drinks. A bottle of red cinnamon wine for her and a bottle of greenish-blue liquid liquor she assumed was a turian equivalent of whiskey. Pouring herself a glass, she took a sip, rolling the wine along her tongue and she smiled as she swallowed. Sweet and slightly spicy, with a pleasantly warm aftertaste. Saren merely downed a shot of his drink humming in content.

“Good?”

“Mhmmm. Not as good as horosk but it’ll do.” Saren purred with content before glancing curiously at her drink. “What exactly is that?”

Aura glanced down at her glass then back at him. “You want to try it?” She offered, “Providing you don’t have the levo allergy.”

“I think considering what Cerberus has done to us, I think they made sure we could enjoy each other’s foods without having an allergic reaction.” He snorted as he allowed her to fill his glass with the wine. He was surprised to find it appealing to him. The taste wasn’t overpowering but balanced and it reminded him of sitting by a nice warm fire on a cold night. “What is this called?”

“It’s cinnamon wine. Christmas wine on my planet as it’s only brewed for that specific occasion.”

“What’s Christmas?”

They continued their leisurely chat and drinking session, swapping stories about their time on their home planet. They recalled their most memorable missions even current ones. When Aura complained about once again having to wear formal attire in order to help Kasumi, Saren grimaced at the fact that he was perceived as such a narcissist when he remembered the golden statue of himself. Aura laughed saying it should have been marble or platinum colored. He made a jab at her slugging Zaeed when they were on Zorya tracking down the old merc’s former partner.

“I still feel bad for all those workers trapped in the fires.”

“Don’t. You can’t save everyone, Shepard.”

“Says the raven to the crow.” Aura snorted. “You tried to save them too.”

Saren merely shrugged his shoulders as he took another swig of his drink. Over the time he spent with Aura, he had grown proficient in understanding most human idioms and metaphors. The turian still didn’t care about them. Still, as he watched her set her glass down, his vocals rumbled with an amused purr. Her pale cheeks were dusted a light pink and her speech was getting a bit slurred. He paid for their drinks and helped her to her feet. By the time they got back to the Normandy, it was already late evening. They returned to their quarters where Aura began breaking out of her armor. Saren was a bit dazed watching her shimmy out of her sweats and kneel over one of the drawers where she collected what he assumed were her night clothes. The bare skin he saw was littered with scars. Some from Cerberus’ reconstruction of her as the cybernetics still glowed a yellowish-orange color. Others were from her encounter with the thresher maws on Akuze and her time on Earth as a child.

His mind felt fuzzy, no doubt from the alcohol in his system but at the same time he was focused on her. Aura tugged at the band holding her hair up and the silvery white locks cascaded past her shoulders, shimmering and glinting like precious metals. When she stood back up, she staggered slightly from her own intoxication though she didn’t seem bothered by it. She collected her clothes and lumbered to the bathroom where she got the shower going. As she set the clothes down, a wild thought ran through her head and she poked her head out from doorway.

“A random thought, feel free to shoot it down, but how about we share the hot water?”

Saren’s brow plates shot straight up in disbelief at her suggestion. Part of him wanted to decline her request, say that they were drunk and probably shouldn’t. The other part of him however, found the notion enticing and before he could stop himself, Saren nodded his head and began to remove his armor to follow her lead. Spirits this seemed like a bad idea. Then again, there was more than one way to blow off steam.

Chapter Text

The hot water felt nice against her bare skin but what made Aura freeze was when she felt his three fingers tracing the scars on the cradle of her left hip. His palm was slightly rough though very warm, almost warmer than the water. His talons which were a dark gray color, were sharp and extended however they weren’t cutting into her skin. She glanced over her shoulder only to exhale the breath she didn’t realize she was holding in. The turian’s plates were almost a platinum color; metallic and shiny but scratched as a testament to the battles he had seen in his own youth. The skin that was unprotected by his plates were a pale ivory color. He was very sleek and lean; all sharp edges. Saren made a soft hum as he slowly entered the shower, his clawed toes clicking along the metal floor. He had two toes on each digitigrade foot giving clear distinction to his species’ avian descent. Aura merely found him more alluring and no less beautiful.

He was just as curious about her as his hand trailed along the imperfections of her skin. He was keenly aware of her going about her routine of washing her hair with her usual shampoo which he only just now was able to smell fully. It reminded him of a flower that grew beside Palaven’s oceans. It was equivalent to a lotus. As the water rinsed through her tresses, she moved aside for him to get himself cleaned up while she reached for another bottle with a fragrance that was reminiscent of the oceans, glancing at him as he followed her lead. He shook his head to rid the soap and water from his eyes stiffening when the soap trickled down the inside of his cowl. He nodded his head from her to his back when it became apparent that he was struggling to do to wash behind him. Aura smiled and shook her head as she took the washcloth from his talons, their fingers brushing against each other. Saren’s mandibles fluttered shyly and Aura’s usually calm face turned a pink. Though to Saren, it could have been from the hot water.

As her multitude of fingers massaged the soap along the plates and softer skin of his back, he began to hum in satisfaction and content. She was so careful and thorough with the cleansing that Saren’s purrs grew in pitch. His subvocals were resonating louder than he intended and she turned her head upwards to the song. He was so absorbed in her washing his back that he hardly noticed she was listening to his song.

To be with you, I will do what I must
I’ll hold tight your trust
I’ll be by your side
Don’t be afraid, what was lost can be found
Hear what I say
Don’t let go of my hand
Our future’s unplanned, our destinies bound.

That was what she could make out anyway as there were no lyrics to his tune and her smile continued to grow. She finished her task and he nodded his head in gratitude. He trilled her a question and she continued to grin like an idiot. “Your song is beautiful.” She said sweetly. He froze, mandibles fluttering up and down like a humming bird’s wings. “I knew turians could sing but I didn’t know Turians could sing like that.”

“We usually don’t” Saren admitted his tone dropping to a slightly higher pitch. Was he nervous?

“Why not? It’s beautiful.” Shepard commented honestly.

“Because...” The turian began to fidget almost uncomfortably. “Normally, turians only make songs when they are trying to impress a romantic interest. Each song is unique to that specific mate.”

“Oh...” Aura said furrowing her brow as she turned off the water then turned to step out of the shower and grab their towels, only to stop halfway. “Wait! Wha-!” Her brows receded into her hairline and she spun around which was a bad move on her part as the quick movement caused her to slip on the slippery floor. “Careful!” Saren said as he reacted by snatching her wrist and pulled her towards him, their bodies now flushed against each other. They stood there, lost in the others silvery gaze. Time seemed to freeze to them. This was a bad idea. They were crazy. This was crazy. Should they? Could they?

But when he touched her like this, and as she held him like that. By the Spirits, as she kissed his mouth plates, he just had to admit that it felt right. Her fingers traced along his waist making him shudder and he returned the gesture along her spine in a gentle caress. He nipped at her neck, eliciting sweet purrs and whispers from Shepard’s voice. That sound had done it. Gone like the wind. Her scent was changing under his nose. It still retained the floral caress but there was something foreign about it and yet also familiar. “So… you actually want me as a mate?” She asked him breathlessly. “Truly?” His touch was affecting her more than the alcohol did and he could feel her pulse quicken when he reached up to caress her neck. However, Aura was affecting him just as badly as he could feel his plates shifting. His mind was spiraling away from the nagging voice that told him to stop and nodded his head at her question. From what he could see in the commander’s eyes that she was more then willing.

They were about to kiss once more.

“~Uh Commander? Miranda wants to see you.~

Both Shepard and Arterius growled in annoyance. “Can it wait Joker?”

~Well, she is making a beeline to your quarters right now so...~

And with that, the two disentangled themselves from each other and got dressed just in time to sit down on the couch as the Cerberus agent wandered inside. Saren wore an irritated expression while Aura’s face remained neutral. Miranda seemed to be under some distress and even her luscious hair was fraying at the ends. Under normal circumstances, Aura would find this image entertaining but she kept that thought to herself. Apparently, the woman thought Shepard would be alone and she pursed her lips upon seeing the silver turian sitting beside the commander.

“Am I interrupting something?” Asked the dark haired woman tersely.

“You were earlier. Is something wrong Miranda?”

The two were already aware that Miranda was genetically engineered to be perfect by her father, who apparently was more interested in controlling a dynasty than raising a daughter. Another girl with daddy issues. Aura thought to herself. Or at least the thought crossed her mind. It was when Miranda mentioned that she had a twin sister and that she feared for her safety that really blindsided her. The Cerberus operative hardly spoke of anything outside of work and seeing the genuine distress on the dark-haired woman’s face made Aura feel a pang of sympathy for her. Saren, on the other hand, was not so sympathetic. Okay maybe he was a little bit. After all, he was often worried about Desolas. But he still didn’t understand why Lawson needed Shepard involved in this. To him, this seemed like a personal matter. He furrowed his browplates in contemplation, sparing a brief glance at Aura then made an inaudible groan at the look she had. Damn it, woman, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no. He glared at her and the damned woman glared right back at him. The two continued their staring contest for a good minute or two before Aura broke eye contact and returned her attention back to Lawson.

“When is your sister due to arrive at the transit station?”

Saren growled in frustration but Aura ignored him. Still, she caught a hint of amusement in his secondary vocals as though he wasn’t surprised at the commander’s response.

“Later tomorrow evening.” Miranda informed her then turned to take her leave. She was at the door when she turned her head to glance at the two of them. “Thank you, both of you. It really means a lot to me.” Once she was gone and Saren was certain that they were going to have no more interruptions, he activated his omni-tool, sealed the door shut then turned his attention to commander. She had a perplexed look on her face then she gave a shrilled yelp of surprise when the turian picked her up with his biotics and lightly tossed her onto the bed. She blinked in confusion when she felt him pin her hands over her head and his silvery eyes were dilated as he purred at her in a deep octave.

“Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” He rumbled, the vibrations from his secondary vocals running through her lithe frame and she gave him a heated grin herself.

Aura ran her tongue along the front of her blunt white teeth in a teasing manner. “I do believe we were removing our clothes?” She seemed to purr back at him. He flicked his mandibles in a playful gesture. In a matter of moments, they were free from the prison of their clothes. Strong fingers pressed under his jaws and forced him up towards her. Her lips enveloped his mouth plates and the kiss, together with the small little sound she made, had his own body simmering. Saren bit back a hiss as he ran his talons over her pale skin, caressing her ribcage then trailed down her waist. Aura shuddered and groaned at feel of his rough hands along her sensitive scarred skin. Ever since surviving the Thresher Maws on Akuze and the nightmare experimentations at Dr. Wayne’s hands, her skin was hyper sensitive to touch and this was the first time she had allowed anyone to touch her like this, let alone a male.

Saren growled and pulled Aura close to him, moving his hands to her hair, gliding his fingers through them. He made a fascinated chirp at how soft yet thick her locks were. His thoughts were interrupted by a strange sound in her throat but quickly realized that it was actually Aura purring in her own way. The sound took him by surprise but in truth... he liked it and he immediately reciprocated the gesture in kind, pressing his forehead against hers as he pulled her flush against him. Spirits, she was so warm and supple in his arms. Then he felt her many fingers tickle the inside of his cowl, reaching to splay her fingers under his fringe tracing along the old scars from where the ports once leeched from him. Aura remembered Saren mentioning that turians were rather sensitive under there and began to knead the soft patch just under her fingertips. From the way he was relaxing and the rumbling of both his primary and secondary vocals, she assumed that Saren was enjoying the attention and he began searching for a spot that would elicit a similar reaction.

His talons dragged to her lower back and he felt her stiffen under him and he pulled his head back to look at her. “Relax, Aura. I won’t hurt you.”

“I know you won’t,” Aura whispered, “It’s just...”

“Old wounds?”

“Yeah...”

The turian once again pressed his forehead against hers as he purred reassuringly to her. “Let me fix that.” He wrapped one of his hands around hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze before trailing his fingers along her arm. Her shuddering breath forced him to slow his movements. “Don’t retreat. I got you.”

As he brought his talons back to that sensitive spot on her hips, she arched her back in response. The words she attempted to form dissolved instantly into a breathy moan as the turian took his time to caress and tend to her building desire. She made a soft giggle when his mandible tickled her skin in a playful gesture. Shepard made a small gasp when his rough tongue suddenly ran across the pulse of her neck and she instinctively turned her head to the side, allowing him better access. Saren made a rumbling growl as he took in her sweet scent. “Spirits, you smell so good.” He said in a deep tone that seemed to make the commander shiver. He traced his right talon along the cradle of her hip while she mirrored him on his own waist eliciting a dark growl of pleasure from her partner and his pelvic plates shifted. She was only touching him and he was already struggling to keep himself restrained.

Shepard pulled away; eyes half-lidded with pleasure as she watched Saren's shaft emerge with mild curiosity. He was impressed that she wasn’t taken aback by what was considered alien to her. She noticed he was pale blue with along the length from the base and a slightly pointed tip. Deciding to distract herself while ignoring the Turian’s amused rumblings from his subvocals, Shepard soon discovered that the thin seam running along the plates on his chest where the sternum would be if he were human was extremely sensitive after running her finger along the surprisingly smooth skin and growing bold traced her tongue along the seam and she smiled when he gave her a heated look. It seemed like he wasn’t expecting the caress but he quite enjoyed it. “You purr a lot.” She crooned in a teasing manner, absentmindedly stroking his shaft, “Am I to assume that you are enjoying yourself?”

His mandibles flared in what could only be described as a turian version of a roguish smile. He gently pushed her back onto her back and moved slowly on top of her. Smooth fingers found their way back up under his fringe, and he closed his silvery gaze as he nuzzled her neck soft, affectionate growls of appreciation escaping before he began nipping at shoulder. Aura exhaled sharply as she wriggled against him desperate for more friction but the damned turian purposely denied her the relief. Not that she minded. While he didn’t find her breasts appealing, realizing her reactions to him massaging and touching them were a different matter. He dipped his head, reluctantly pulling away from her touch and he let his tongue snake out to lap at her nipple. Aura cried out sharply, moaning his name like it was prayer and the scent of her arousal grew even stronger.

“Damn it, Saren. You are such a- ah!” She whimpered, writhing under his touch.

“Did you say something Shepard?” Saren purred as he licked a trail down her belly with his rough tongue. She glared at him but it had no bite. “Do you want me to claim you?”

She opened her mouth to speak but the words caught in her throat as his tongue found her little nub of pleasure and her body shuddered from the unexpected wave pleasure washing over her. Saren waited patiently for her to catch her breath before she finally let out a response. “Please...” She managed to beg. He needed no further invitation as he moved between her slender legs. He ran his talons along the apex of her thighs, reveling in the softness of her skin before lifting them so they were around his narrow waist. He nudged the tip of his cock along her entrance, moist and wet and in a single motion, pressed his hips flushed against hers, sheathing himself to the hilt inside her. Aura threw her head back against the pillows, a sharp wail leaving her lips as she clung to him while he filled her. By the Spirits, she was tight. Saren groaned aloud moving within her. Her walls squeezing him in a tight velvety vice.

Aura made soft mewls and sweet groans that were music to the turian’s ears. With each thrust he gave her, the sweeter the song she sang became. Yes, he was huge and she could feel every ridge but he was very gentle, giving her every possible pleasure possible. It was almost tortuous. Saren licked the side of her neck once more, finding an unlikely spot just below her jaw that made her sigh in pleasure. Heat flushed through her, building once again in a steady pulse, a perfect rhythm that they found. She was melting to his touch, even the roughness of his plates didn’t hurt despite them chafing along her skin. Shepard gasped when the turian suddenly tilted his hips in a sinuous movement that her caused her fingers to curl around his hand and the back of his neck. Saren let out a low sensual growl heaving against her as his body tensed up. The break in rhythm and sudden deep thrust gave Aura precisely what she needed and she released a soft cry as her pleasure crested then peaked. Tension dissolved into a white-hot rush of pure ecstasy that seared through them both.

Saren wasn’t far behind as he sank his teeth into her shoulder and his grip tightened around her. She winced slightly from the unexpected bite and it lasted for only a moment as he began licking the wounds with care. Even as he slipped out of her, his three fingers traced her cheek in a soft manner and calming manner. She came out of her haze as Saren lowered her down gently.

“That was...”

“Very much needed.” He said with a playful flick of his mandibles and she chuckled breathlessly.

“Very… though you’ll need to further explain this mate thing to me.” Aura pointed out only to shiver when Saren glided his talon along her skin once more but this time with his biotics activated. “After another round.”

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

Saren and Aura were down in the cargo hold a few hours later waiting for Miranda having a pleasant conversation about their night earlier. They often glanced at each other going over the layout of the meeting point for picking up the Cerberus operative’s sister. After strapping on the last of her weapons, Aura tossed the silver turian some thermal clips and he caught them both with his biotics, not even looking at her as he did so. Aura rolled her eyes when she caught the turian smirk on his features but she returned the sentiment. Finally, Miranda finally arrived just as the two loaded up in the shuttle. They rode in silence as the shuttle made its way to the docking bay on Illium however, no surprise to the Spectres, they were greeted by mercenaries. From what Saren could deduce, they were Eclipse mercs. Their shuttle shook violently when one of the mercenaries shot them down. However, thanks to Shepard’s quick thinking in erecting a biotic bubble, she was able to keep them from being tossed around like ragdolls.

As they left the shuttle car and approached what could only be described as the merc leader who had his men stand down. Saren made a warning growl towards Aura. Keep your guard up. Aura shifted her stance to have her hand resting on her pistol as the trio approached the leader.

“Considering that you’re not shooting at us, I assume you know who I am?” Miranda asked calmly.

“Yeah, you’re the bitch who kidnapped the boss’s baby girl.” The merc sneered as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Kidnapped?” Miranda scoffed in disbelief. “Is that what they told you?”

“I thought you said she was your twin.” Saren trilled annoyed.

“It’s complicated, you two. We’re genetically the same but we don’t share the same birthday.”

And this is why I hated taking genetics in college. Aura rolled her eyes. “Look, you seem like the rational one here, so I’m giving you this one chance. Tell us where Oriana is and we can go our separate ways.” Shepard could hear Saren grumbling to her that the mercenaries were not going to stand down. He then muttered that she shouldn’t even bother with them. Still, she made a small gesture towards him and he kept his talons around his pistol’s holster. True to the turian’s prediction, the leader merely shook his head informing them that his boss was an asari commando and claimed that she was the best. He recalled his boss tearing people in half with her biotics and added that she was being paid a lot of money to stop them. When he realized that Shepard and her squad weren’t backing down, he informed them that while they were talking, men were lining up shots and, on his command, he’d have them tear into the trio. Unlucky for the merc, Saren made a trill towards Shepard and she spotted what he was communicating to her. There was a large fuel canister being moved by a crane and she flicked her fingers. You got it.

She walked up to the leader and sucker punched him. She then spun his dazed ass around and gripped his head in her arms. Twisting them, she snapped the merc’s neck while Saren shot the crane and after two rounds, the fuel tank plummeted upon the remaining mercs in a fiery explosion. Once they were dealt with, Aura approached what looked like a communications device then tossed it to Saren who offered to hack into the Eclipse’s communication network to get more information on where Oriana might be. If Miranda was anxious before, she now looked panicked as charging on ahead almost leaving the two in the dust. Not that Saren blamed her. He knew what it was like to worry about a sibling being in danger. He tightened his grip on his rifle then felt Aura grip his shoulder as she picked up on his distress. He stared down at her.

Shepard gave him a rare smile before turning her attention to Miranda who was fiddling with the elevator, cursing profusely at how slow it was. “Miranda, we won’t let them harm Oriana nor will we let them take her.” Lawson glanced at Shepard before grumbling to herself. Shepard gripped the woman’s arms and forced her to cease her pacing. “Listen to me. Nothing is going to happen to your sister so long as we work together. We won’t know anything until we get there.”

“Shepard is correct on that, Lawson. Cease your pacing and wasting energy.” Saren instructed firmly. “Until we get to our destination, worrying about what might happen as opposed to what will happen will not help your sister.”

“I... you’re right. Both of you.”

~~~~~~~~~

 

“Listen to me, I’ve got authorization to change their booking.” Niket said with urgency as he looked over his shoulder.

“I’m sorry sir,” The asari receptionist at the cargo bay said examining the data pad in her hand. “We’re under a security lockdown and until the situation in the lower levels are resolved, no passengers can be rebooked.”

An asari donning the Eclipse uniform was sitting on a crate with her shotgun in her lap and she made a scoff at the situation. This wasn’t worth her time and she stated to the human male in front of her that was going to get paid regardless how their target got to her intended destination. The man glared at her. “No! We are not traumatizing the family any more than we-” His sentence was cut off by the hissing of the elevator doors. The three of them turned to meet the gazes of Miranda, Saren and Aura and Niket’s eyes widen with a look of someone caught with their pants down. “Miri...”

Miranda drew her submachine gun aiming it directly at Niket’s head, disbelief ever present on her features that soon warped into rage. Saren and Aura on the other hand had activated their biotics, enshrouding themselves in a cloak of silver ready to either attack or deflect. They turned to Miranda, wondering how they should proceed considering they here to help her and her sister. The look of betrayal on the Cerberus operative’s face was clear as crystal to Aura. Apparently, this was a person Miranda trusted and now was stabbing her in the back. The asari commando rolled her eyes clearly bored of the conversation and was already charging up her shotgun.

“Miranda, we need to finish this before they get to Oriana.” Shepard stated, keeping her eyes locked on the commando.

“After I take care of one loose end.” Miranda sneered as she glared back at Niket. “Sorry Niket.”

However, Miranda didn’t even get the chance to pull the trigger as the commando turned her shotgun to the human male and without even batting an eye, blew his head into a bloody pulp. Apparently, she had grown impatient and was ready to just end the reunion once and for all. Aura growled as she lifted a fire extinguisher with her biotics and threw directly into the asari just as Saren shot the top off and doused the woman in the icy cold foaming agent. They all took cover when more of the commando’s team swarmed in from the elevator on the other side of the bay. Saren went on the defensive, pulling metal crates in front of him to act as a shield while Shepard and Miranda took out the small fry. Soon only the asari commando was left but from the look in her eye, she knew was outclassed. Her barriers were the most annoying part. Aura had to give the commando credit, she knew when to hide when her shields or barriers went down making her and her team work to hunt her down. Saren, much to Aura’s amusement, had worn down his patience and as he allowed himself to be shot at close range, hoisted the asari in his own silver aura. As she struggled to break free, the silver turian’s right hand began to radiate with a dark red and black energy. Just as he released the asari from his biotic prison, he wrapped his talons around her neck with his right hand.

She squirmed and thrashed like a fish out of water, but Saren held fast as he began to reave the life out of his prey. The black and red ribbons of energy warped and twisted away her body and spiraled around him, mending his wounds barely leaving any traces that he was injured. With a gargled moan, the asari went limp and Saren clicked his jaw plates in a dark satisfaction before he tossed the lifeless body into a garbage shoot nonchalantly.

“There could be more Eclipse mercs near the shuttle.” Miranda said holstering her gun. “I want to make sure Oriana and her family get on safely.”

The three of them entered the elevator but not before Aura discovered a simple gold locket on the floor. While she examined the trinket, Miranda seemed to be in disbelief that her old friend had sold her out and she was beating herself up because she never saw it coming. Saren growled with a strange sort of comfort. Despite Miranda having all these upgrades, she was still mortal, just like Aura and himself. When the Cerberus operative glared at them and demanded them to explain why they refused to let her kill Niket before the asari bitch did.

“You would have regretted it.” Aura stated with a sad tone. “You still cared about him, even if he betrayed you.”

“Speaking from experience, Shepard?” Miranda asked then spoke bitterly to herself. “I really am weak.”

“You may think it was weakness, but you can’t toss aside everything you care about just to be safe. It’s not healthy.” Shepard replied, “Yeah, you were hurt but you’re not broken.”

“Besides, at least your sister is safe.” Saren pointed out in a comforting tone.

As the trio exited the elevator, they broke apart to make sure that the Eclipse gang was nowhere near Miranda’s sister when their shuttle arrived. Once they reconvened, they watched as a girl looking nearly identical to Miranda walk out of the shuttle car with her family. Oriana was as Miranda had stated earlier, like an identical twin. The main difference between the two of them was that Oriana had short hair that curled into a bob under her ears. Aura noticed the relief in her crewmate’s eyes but there was also a hint of sadness. Like she wished to be part of that family as well. Saren was aware of Miranda’s behavior, though he remained motionless and silent as he watched the family from his position. Seeing the family seemed to bring back bittersweet memories for the turian as well. Memories of his mother and brother when they traveled on occasion. Aura, for the most part, remained neutral. She never had a family so seeing this was strange for her.

“Come on,” Miranda finally spoke. “Let’s get out of here.”

Aura turned towards her in surprise. “You don’t even want to say hello to her?”

“It’s not about what I want, Shepard. It’s what’s right for her.” Miranda stated turning her head away. “The less she knows about me, the better. I’ll just complicate things for her.”

“You should speak with her.” Saren finally spoke up, holding his hand up to keep Miranda from interrupting him, “She doesn’t need to know all the details, but would it really be so bad for her to know that she has a sister who loves her?”

Miranda seemed to be mulling over Saren’s words before the corners of her mouth twitched into a small smile. She glanced at the silver guardians, then proceeded to go over to the family. Aura stood beside the turian and turned her gaze upwards at her counterpart. She noticed his mandibles were quivering. He tensed up when he felt her grip his hand tightly and he returned the squeeze. “That was nice of you.”

“Better to not have regrets.” He said adamantly.

“Don’t worry. I’ll make sure no one knows about your soft side.”

He flicked one of his mandibles to the side in a weak smile.

Chapter Text

Aura and Saren barely made it to their ship when Liara flagged them down from her office. She had gotten word that both Samara and Thane were in the same area nearby and currently on the move. The young asari also informed them that once they left, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to find them again. The two Spectres stared at each other before nodding and once they thanked Liara for the intel, they made their way back to the Normandy and called forth a meeting with their crew. Since their current targets were in separate locations and they had a limited window to recruit them, Aura and Saren informed the crew that they would splitting up to cover more ground. Shepard would take Garrus and Grunt, who had been patiently waiting for another mission and was anxiously chomping at his bit, to find the asari justiciar. Saren explained to her that he’d do well on his own going after Thane. The two argued for a good ten minutes before Aura finally relented and the smug turian left the room ignoring her warning that he’d regret not having anyone to watch his back.

 

As he wandered around the market district below Liara’s office, the turian brought up his omni-tool up. He was supposed to meet up with an asari by the name of Seryna who knew where Thane was heading. After a few seconds, Saren tracked down the asari and she informed him that his quarry had already left to the Dantius towers, a stock market building currently under construction and where she used to work. When he inquired about the drell’s reason for going up to the construction site, Seryna suggested that the drell was more than likely going after Nassana Dantius, the paranoid CEO of Dantius towers. Thankfully, Seryna was more than willing to take Saren up to the towers to catch up to his target.

“So, this assassin- you planning to stop him?”

“From what? Killing Nassana?” Saren trilled questioningly. Seryna nodded and the turian barked in laughter. “I’m just here to make sure he survives.”

The sky car roared as it soared through the traffic. The asari pointed towards the twin towers rapidly approaching their sights. She explained that the silver turian would have to get to the penthouse in the second tower using the bridge connecting the two buildings. He glared at her suspiciously but Seryna stated that since Nassana hired mercs to protect her, they would shoot down the sky car before they could make it to her. Saren bit back a snarl before he gestured for her to take them as close as she could get him. Once she landed the sky car near the entrance to the towers, she confirmed that while the mercs would be heavily fortified in the tower, there weren’t any traps or automated defensives, save for the security and the canine FENRIR mechs. Saren merely scoffed. Mechs weren’t a problem to him. He opened the doors to the sky car and after double checking his weapons, ammo and medigel supplies, he motioned for the young asari to get moving just as he spotted the mechs and the mercs swarming to greet him. Saren just grinned darkly. This was going to be fun.

Activating his silvery aura, he sent a shockwave into the mechanical dogs and watched as they barreled into the security mechs like bowling balls. He strolled over to the mech trying to crawl its way towards him and nonchalantly stomped the mech’s head with his boot. Gears, sprockets and coils exploded around him, causing his shields to flicker slightly before shimmering in a soft blue aura. He flicked his mandibles as he strolled through the lower level looking for an elevator or even stairs. Then he found an elevator, along with an injured salarian wearing the Dantius logo on his chest. He was alive, barely. Greenish blue blood leaking out of the wounds and from the raspy breathing and the way he was whimpering about his chest being in pain had the turian perplexed. From what he gathered, the salarian was a night worker. One of many if what the bleeding salarian before him told was true.

“This isn’t surprising of that paranoid asari.” Saren shook his head in disgust. “She tends to get rid of anyone she believes are expendable.” Which is everyone to her. Saren thought to himself.

The salarian coughed violently, spitting up globs of blood and his sides heaved as he tried to get more air in his lungs. The turian sighed before he began applying medigel to the wounds. Normally, he would have just left the dying creature to his fate however, if Shepard were to find out, he would never hear the end of it. Once he got the salarian stabilized, the worker handed him a keycard that would grant him access to upper levels but he warned that the bridge was the only way to get to Nassana and that the turian needed to be careful of the crosswinds. Saren merely nodded his head before proceeding further into what looked to be the lobby of the building. He kept low and hidden behind the large construction supplies using his sharp hearing to listen for anyone trying to sneak up or ambush him.

An hour or so later he finally made it up to higher levels after silently executing the mercs that got in his way. He also, though unintentionally, released a few remaining salarian workers from the rooms they were locked up in. He was now walking towards the elevator when he heard voices a couple levels above him through a large open vent overhead. It sounded like two mercs were arguing about going after a noise they heard but were silenced by the silent assailant then before he could proceed, a body fell through the vent with a splat followed by receding footfalls. Saren shook his head in amusement. Either the drell was telling him to hurry up or he was just playing games and the turian jogged into the elevator leading up to the bridge.

“I haven’t heard from Teams Four or Five.” An Eclipse merc rolled his eyes behind his mask. “Don’t worry lady, my team is always ready to go. No! I don’t know where he is.”

Saren emerged silently from the elevator and cocked his head curiously to the side listening to the merc chatter loudly into his comm, obviously not even bothering to pay attention to his surroundings. It was almost sad at how easy he snuck up on the Eclipse merc. The man froze hearing a gun click behind his helmet and he groaned silently. “Shit.”

“Turn around slowly.” Saren instructed keeping his weapon aimed at the merc as he turned to face him. “Where’s the assassin?”

“Why are you looking for him?” Inquired the merc curiously, “You’re not one of Nassana’s mercs.”

“As if. I’m the one asking the questions, human. Where is the drell?” The turian growled drawing closer to the merc watching him step back. “Answer the question and maybe I’ll let you live.”

“Even if I did know, what makes you think I’d you birdbrain?”

Saren’s brow and jaw plates twitched. “Not the answer I’m looking for.”

“I’ve got nothing more to say to you, featherbrain.” The merc smirked crossing his arms over his chest in defiance, delighting in the apparent irritation and anger present on Saren’s features. “You shoot me and my team will be all over you.”

“Too bad you can’t fly.” Saren growled with a dark smile and before the merc had a chance to question him or react, the turian gripped him by his throat then using his biotics, shattered the glass then dangled the human over the edge. As he screamed and begged, Saren waited pretending to yawn with boredom. “Is a little information worth all this?”

“OKAY, OKAY! I’LL TALK!” The human screeched holding tightly onto the turian’s wrist like a varren on a pyjack. “Last I heard, the assassin was down on the mezzanine but the teams on the bridge think they might have spotted him heading through the vents!”

“Now, was that so hard?” Rumbled the turian in a satisfied purr.

“Can you let me go now?”

“Of course.” Saren said calmly and his silvery eyes took on a dark light as he unfurled his fingers and the merc causally slipped through his talons, plummeting down to the asphalt below with a faint splattering crunch. “Hope you had a nice flight, asshole.” He turned away from the broken window and continued to make his way to the bridge. The howling winds whipped around him as he slowly made his way across. He was grateful for the magnetic boots keeping him stable against the powerful winds. He clamped his mandibles to his jaw and tucked his head low as he slowly, inch by inch made his way to the other tower. Once clear of the nasty, biting air currents, the turian nonchalantly strolled up the remaining stairs, occasionally silencing the remaining mercs along his path and with a few keystrokes to the sealed door in front him, causally walked inside. He snickered at the sight of three remaining mercs, two asari and a human aiming their shotguns at him.

“Saren...” Said the asari dressed in a deep ruby red dress. The look of genuine disbelief creased on her ageless face and bright green eyes. The faint light blue tattoos on her head seemed to pale further as she took in the sight before her. “But... you’re dead!”

That was really getting old to hear. “I got better.” He bit back.

“Why are you here?”

“Maybe I just missed you?” He said in a sarcastically sweet tone.

“Screw you, don’t patronize me.” Nassana hissed at the turian.

Still charming as ever. Saren scoffed as he looked down at his talons with disinterest only lifting his head to gaze at the paranoid asari pacing behind her desk. He found it amusing listening to her rant. A few years back, apparently during the time Aura was hunting him down, she had come across a smuggling ring on a system in the Athens system and had killed Nassana’s younger sister. Understandably, Shepard was more than pissed to discover that the asari bitch had planned it all out in such a way that it wouldn’t implicate her in the crimes and she wouldn’t be arrested for contributing to smugglers. However, Aura would be the one having the last laugh. He recalled her telling him that she predicted Nassana would meet the same fate as her sister, one way or another. How right you are, Aura. He thought to himself.

“So what? Are you here to kill me?”

“You’re still under the assumption that it’s me?” Saren inquired while holding back a laugh. “I wouldn’t waste my time hunting you, Nassana.”

“What do you call this then?” The asari made a sweeping gesture to the room. “You practically destroyed my towers.”

“Pfft. I wasn’t looking for you.” He made a point to emphasize the last word and yet Nassana refused to listen. No surprise. When she demanded his price to make him leave, Saren stiffened when his biotics suddenly activated on their own with a soft hum. It seemed to catch Nassana and her bodyguards off-guard and although it was not his intention, he merely grinned at the effect it had on them. His eyes briefly flicked up to the vents when he heard a nearly silent thump and he crossed his arms over his chest, his biotics finally settling down and retreated back within him. “All the money in the world won’t make this problem go away, Nassana.” He answered simply.

Before Nassana could question him further, a figure dropped like a shadow and systematically took out the remaining bodyguards so fluidly and gracefully, it almost looked like the shadow was dancing. Once the last merc fell, the drell had pulled Nassana in front of him, the muzzle of the pistol pressed into her abdomen. The asari gave a gasp before the gun went off soundly like an old flash power camera. He held the woman almost delicately, like he was holding a lover, before resting her on her desk. As she expired, the drell rested her hands on her stomach and the asari appeared to look like she was merely asleep. The drell then brought his hands up in what could only be described as praying. In the momentary silence, Saren quietly studied the strange being before him. He had never seen a drell before. Sure, he read about them about to see one with his own eyes was something else entirely. The drell’s middle and ring fingers were fused together and he was covered in dark, emerald green scales save for his throat which was a deep ruby red. When he opened his eyes to stare at the turian, Saren noticed that his eyes were very dark save for his irises which were a dark forest green.

“Apologies. The prayers for the wicked must not be forsaken.” Thane finally spoke in a raspy tone not unlike the turian’s only vocals.

“Do you really think she deserves it?” Saren questioned perplexed, “Nassana and her men deserved what they got.”

“Not for them. For me.” Thane paused noticing the still uncertain look on the silver turian’s features. “The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern. Actions alone can. Take you for example. All this destruction, though with careful precision much like my own. I was curious to see how far you would go to find me. Now I know and here I am.”

“Explains why you dropped that merc on top of me a few floors down.” Saren huffed though his tone was amused. “You knew I was around.”

“I half expected you to make a lot of noise. Imagine my surprise to discover how quiet and efficient you were.”

“I rarely make mistakes.” Saren growled almost proudly and Thane seemed to smile at the response. “Before we get too absorbed in this discussion, perhaps we should discuss my reasoning in seeking you out.”

“Indeed. How may I be of service?” The drell’s scaly lips twitched in a faint smile.

“There’s a race out there known as the Collectors. They’re abducting humans and other species for the Reapers on the other side of the Omega 4 Relay. My companion and I are building a team. Your skills would prove invaluable.” Saren explained, his eyes watching the drell pace before turning around, back towards him as he began to contemplate. “They say it’s a suicide mission.”

That seemed to perk Thane’s interest and he spun around to face him. “A suicide mission you say?”

Chapter Text

“Ugh! I keep forgetting how stubborn he can be.” Aura grumbled as she leaned against the elevator leading up to the market district. Garrus chuckled in amusement but averted his gaze from Shepard’s who snapped her head up to the young turian. “Got something to say, Vakarian?”

“Nope.” Vakarian chirped in a playful manner.

“Think there will be enough bad guys to fight, Shepard?” Grunt grumbled as he stared at her with inquisitive blue eyes.

“We’ll know once we get there, Grunt. For now, stay alert and focused.” Aura instructed but gave him a grin. “Don’t worry, you’ll get to bust some heads. Just be patient.”

They finally made it to the market district and while they were following the lead Liara gave them, Aura bumped into a familiar face. It was Shiala from Feros! While delighted to see the asari, the commander couldn’t help but notice that the asari’s once dark blue skin was an olive green. When questioned about it, Shiala explained that it was a side effect from being in contact with the Thorian. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one as several of the other civilians on Feros were suffering from neurological health problems because of the damned plant. “Is there anything we can do to help?” Aura offered only to growl and elbow the young krogan in the gut when he started to complain. Shiala shook her head slowly but reassured the commander that she and the citizens of Feros were getting proper medical care and that she was just waiting for test results. Bidding the asari farewell, the trio made their way to a police station where an officer greeted them in a curt tone.

“Can I help you with something?”

Aura nodded. “Yeah, we’re looking for an asari warrior. Goes by the name Samara. Do you know where we can find her?”

“Wait. Why?” The look of sheer terror on the officer both surprised and bothered Aura. “Do you have a problem or... Did she kill somebody already?!”

Aura held up a gloved hand in calming reassurance. “Relax... I just need to speak with her.”

The asari cop sighed in relief. “Good... That’s good. Samara is the first justiciar I’ve seen on Illium. If I’m lucky things will stay peaceful.”

“Sounds boring.” Sighed the krogan.

“Grunt...” Aura shook her head pinching the bridge of her nose before she turned her attention back on the officer. “Do you know where I can find her?”

“Yeah. She went to the commercial spaceport a few hours ago.” The asari cop said before pointing to a pedestal on a balcony. “Just summon a cab from over there and it will take you to her. Just... be polite when you meet her. Justiciars embody our highest laws, and they usually stay in asari space. She’s not used to dealing with aliens.” Aura snickered inwardly. Even to this day, no one is used to dealing with alien species. She smiled and the trio made their way to the pedestal.

~~~~~~~~~

 

Upon arriving at the spaceport, Aura noticed a crowd along with several asari officers guarding what was most certainly a crime scene. She noticed a volus arguing with another asari and judging from the authority the asari had, the commander was more than certain that she was either an officer or a detective. From what she remembered Saren telling her about justiciars, they had a certain energy about them and that Aura would be able to recognize it immediately without even having to ask. When she had inquired about his knowledge of the warriors, he brushed her off apparently not wanting to talk about it. She was pulled from her thoughts when Garrus suggested that they head to the station to talk with the asari in charge before proceeding. Shepard nodded leading the way into the station. She glanced around until her eyes landed on the detective who lifted her head from the data pad she was reading to acknowledge the commander and her team then introduced herself as Anaya.

“Nice guns...” She commented nodding towards the weapons Aura carried. “Try not to use them in my district. So, what can I do for you?”

“We’re looking for an asari warrior called Samara.”

“If you got a score to settle with Samara, take it somewhere else.” Anaya grumbled in a complaining tone, “I’ve got more than enough trouble here.”

“You misunderstand. I don’t have any problems with Samara.” Aura reassured, “I need to recruit Samara for a mission and we’ll be on our way.”

The detective at first looked flabbergasted then chuckled in amusement. She explained that justiciars usually worked alone yet they were always drawn to impossible causes. Garrus snorted. We got that covered, don’t we Shepard? He crooned towards his commander with his subvocals. Aura rolled her eyes but smirked backed at him. Anaya smiled as she stated that if Aura were to convince the justiciar to leave with her, she would be more than delighted to help the commander. When she gestured to the crime scene outside, she informed them that Samara had entered the area about half an hour earlier. While Shepard found it odd that the detective would allow someone other than officers into a crime scene, she reminded herself that every species had its own way of life. This was probably normal for asari.

“You seem awfully anxious to get Samara out of your district.” Aura said with a curious tone.

Anaya nodded her head. “My bosses want me to detain her. They’re worried she’ll cause some kind of cross-species incident. But her Justiciar Code won’t let her be taken into custody. If I try, she’ll have to kill me.” The detective then added adamantly that she had no intentions of dying. If Shepard was able to lure Samara away with some big noble cause, as she claimed, before Anaya had to carry out her orders, she was thrilled to help.

“Your superiors are sending you to certain death for no good reason.” Aura shook her head appalled. “You have the right to disobey.”

“We can disobey suicidal orders?” Trilled the young turian behind her before he glanced at the krogan youngster beside him. “Why wasn’t I told?”

Grunt shrugged smirking back catching on to the teasing. “I counted twice a day.”

Shepard whipped her head around giving the boys a stern look. “Most of the time I’m not being stupid about it, you two. Second, I usually plan ahead remember?”

After bidding the detective farewell, the trio made their way to the crime scene. Once they passed through the police line and halfway to the crime scene, Garrus and Grunt immediately drew their weapons along with Shepard. They could hear voices shouting just around the corner and she held up a fist, ordering the boys to hold their position as she took point. She peaked around the corner discreetly and found four asari frantically trying to organize their scattered groups. From what she managed to acquire, Samara had practically ripped through most of the gang as was currently on her way to the next part of the chain of command. Aura’s biotics flared up and before the remaining mercs had a chance, she threw a silvery shockwave into them, knocking the mercs back. Grunt didn’t miss a beat as he started mowing down the mercs like they were blades of grass though he growled when Garrus sniped the remaining merc.

Much to the young krogan’s disappointment, there weren’t many mercs left to finish off however he kept his complaints to a minimum when Shepard chuckled and stated that they probably had more mercs to kill just not in this location. The silver-haired human tapped on a door to their left only to have duck when an asari was thrown into the wall behind her. Shepard glanced at Garrus who had made a startled growl and cringed when the asari’s back hit the corner of the wall with a snap. “Don’t think she’ll be getting up from that.” Grunt snorted and the trio turned their attention towards the source from where the unfortunate asari was thrown from.

“Those were my best troops!” Another voice shouted in dismay.

The second voice sounded calm, regal almost. “Tell me what I wish to know and I will be on my way. Where did you send her?”

The leader seemed to be frantically looking for an escape route. The only think Aura managed to catch in the conversation was something about someone killing the merc in ways the Justiciar would never know. It didn’t seem to even bother Samara as she once again, though calmly, demanded the name of a ship. The merc should have just listened because the next thing Aura noticed was the merc being tossed down from the second story into a crate in the blue corona of what could only be Samara’s own biotics. The justiciar soon followed after the merc, a bluish-purple aura wrapping around her to slow her descent until she landed and quickly closed the distance between her and the merc who was trying to scamper away while on her back. There was a whimpered gasp when Samara trapped the merc’s throat her heel and foot.

“The name of the ship.” She repeated but the merc sneered defiantly shouting that the justiciar could go to hell for all she cared. There was a brief look of sadness and disappointment before Samara’s features turned hard and unreadable. “Find peace in the embrace of the goddess...” With quick and powerful twist of her foot, the merc went still, her neck twisted in an unnatural manner and Samara sighed before taking notice of her audience. She slowly approached the trio and Aura finally got a good look at the asari. She donned an almost skin tight red outfit that revealed her rather, buxom chest and around her neck appeared to be a gold collar like necklace. The circlet on her brow was also a ruby red but her eyes. They were almost a silvery color like Aura and Saren’s. The subtle difference was that her irises had a hint of sapphire and gold around the edges.

“My name is Samara, a servant of the Justiciar Code. My quarrel is with these Eclipse sisters but I see three well-armed beings before me.” She said in her calm tone as she gestured to the trio’s weaponry. “Are we friend or foe?”

“Friends. My name is Aura Shepard. This is Garrus and Grunt.” Aura introduced herself and her team who bobbed their heads when named. “We’re going up against suicidal odds, and we need the best—That's you.” The Justiciar hummed thoughtfully. She was humbled but as she sensed truth in the human’s words, she admitted that she was seeking an incredibly dangerous fugitive. Samara went on to explain that she had managed to corner her quarry but the Eclipse sisters smuggled her off-world. Hence why she was looking for the name of the ship her quarry escaped on before her trail went cold. Just when Aura was about to speak, Anaya appeared looking rather irritated and unsettled. She spoke to Samara admitting that she had hoped that the Justiciar would go with Shepard and that she was ordered to take her into custody if the asari wouldn’t leave. Samara countered claiming that Anaya was taking a great risk in following her superiors' orders but informed her that she would comply as her Code obligated her to cooperate with the detective for one before returning to her investigation. When Anya admitted that she might not be able to release the justiciar that soon, Samara claimed that the detective wouldn’t be able to stop her from her mission.

“Uh, the human is lost here.” The commander said in a perplexed tone. “Can one of you clarify please?”

Anaya swiveled her head to glance at the human and stated that she was hoping to try and convince Samara to go with Aura but she spat out in annoyance that the justiciars were adamantly stubborn about honoring their codes. Samara then added that while she can’t ask the detective to disobey her orders, she still had her mission to fulfill. “And after a day, Samara fights her way out of custody, killing anyone in her way?” Garrus questioned almost confused and Samara nodded her head in confirmation. Aura was glad she wasn’t the only one who was lost. Grunt merely found that a waste of time but he kept his mouth shut. The commander on the other hand was already trying to negotiate a better route so that no one would get hurt. Then an idea sprung into her head.

“How about while Samara is in custody, we find the name of that ship. Will that satisfy the Code?” Suggested the human as she glanced at the two asari.

Samara seemed to smile faintly. “Yes. It would and I can join you on your mission. I suggest talking with the volus, Pitne For. He seems to know how to find the Eclipse hideout.”

As Anaya escorted the Justiciar away, Aura turned to her team. “Alright, boys. Shall we go bust some merc heads?”

“Finally!” Grunt laughed excitedly pounding his fists together. Garrus rolled his eyes at the young krogan’s antics but confirmed that he was with Shepard, one hundred percent.

~~~~~~~~~

Thankfully, the volus was easy to coerce and he had given them a keycard that got the trio into the Eclipse sister’s territory. However, they weren’t expecting to be dealing with toxic canisters filled what could only be deduced as red sand. Aura was mostly affected by the chemical as it made her biotics more than a bit uncontrollable whenever she attempted to use them. She coughed waving the red cloud away from her face as they pushed through most of the mercs, mostly in part to Grunt taking point and gunning down most of the asari mercs. Garrus remained with Shepard, acting as her eyes when she was blinded by the red sand that got in her eyes and would pat her back if she accidently inhaled the vile stuff. They found a defensible position where they caught their breath and Aura was able to compose herself. She made a mental note to visit Chakwas for a detox to flush out the remainder of the red sand that might still be in her system.

They were rounding a corner when the trio heard someone talking behind one of the doors on their right.

“Oh, Goddess. Oh, Goddess, don’t let them see me. If they do see me, don’t let them kill me. What am I doing here?”

Aura tapped on the control panel and the door slid open. She and her crew filed in and she scanned the room intently. It looked empty, but Garrus and Grunt weren’t convinced as they stated that they smelt someone was hiding. Turns out, they were right as a young asari rose up from her hiding spot behind a desk. All weapons were on the young asari as she frantically tried to explain that she wasn’t really with the Eclipse mercs. She spoke fast, stating that she thought it would be cool to run with a gang but was sorely mistaken. Grunt and Garrus lowered their weapons but Aura did not. It sounded believable but something just didn’t seem right. Then she pulled her shotgun on them and the commander narrowed her eyes in anger.

“You chose your side.” She hissed at the girl.

“Screw you, bitch!” Shouted the asari as she fired a round only to gasp when it harmlessly bounced off Aura’s shields.

Three more shots rang out. Grunt’s round hit the asari’s right shoulder while Garrus’ struck the left and Aura’s pierced through the skull. The human sighed in disappointment. It was such a waste of life. Throwing one's life in a gang was not wise and she would know. While gathering her thoughts, Grunt had found a datapad with information on the Asari. Her name was Elnora and from what she could interpret on the device, the Asari not only murdered Pitne For's business partner but she also partook in smuggling an Ardat-Yakshi off Illium.

“What’s an Ardat-Yakshi?”

“I think it’s an Asari term but I'm not sure what it is exactly.” Garrus said uncertainly.

“It means Demon of the Night Wind.” Grunt explained out of the blue then shrugged adding that he only knew the translation when the two Spectres stared at him in genuine surprise. Aura patted the krogan’s shoulder with a grin.

~~~~~~~~~

After about an hour gunning Eclipse mercs, the trio found another volus who apparently was also part of Pitne For’s merchant company and currently drugged off his envirosuit by the leader of the sect. While it was amusing to see the poor volus put on airs that he was some sort of biotic god, all it took was a simple flick of Aura’s fingers to knock the volus over which was enough to convince the merchant to find a quiet corner and take a nap.

“So much for godhood.” Garrus had trilled flatly.

Grunt snorted finding the display more of a nuisance if anything.

The trio barged through the door leading to the leader known as Wesea who was going over a shipping manifest while drinking what appeared to be a glass of Thessian Red wine. Her eyes locked on to Shepard and her crew as she smacked the glass down. From the expression on her red tattooed face, she was pissed. First, she was forced to smuggle an asari off world, then a Justiciar showed ruining her operation and finally, Shepard and her crew eradicated her entire gang. She tossed her datapad on to her desk then rose from her chair, her biotics flaring to life around her. She lifted up a canister of red sand then shot it towards the trio. Aura was faster, her own silvery aura thrumming to life as she gave her teammates a biotic shove just as the canister exploded in her front of her. Her biotics flickered and flared like an unstable wildfire and she coughed violently, furiously blinking her watery eyes rapidly.

“D-Damn it!” She coughed as Garrus pulled the blinded Commander to cover and while Grunt maniacally took down the foolish mercs who drew too close, the blue face turian had found a medical kit and began to help Aura flush the sand from her eyes.

“This is fun!” Grunt shouted excitedly as he finished off the last merc and was now facing Wesea excitedly gripping his shotgun.

Aura's vision finally cleared only to see the young krogan get thrown against the crates beside her and Garrus. The two glanced at him then each other smirking as they both drew their sniper rifles. Using her biotics, Aura threw another canister of red sand into the Asari crime lord and the blue woman began coughing violently, throwing powerful shockwaves around but they bounced harmlessly against the walls as the two Spectres lined up their shots. You take down the shields? Garrus rumbled excitedly and Aura smirked waving her hand back. And you take the killing shot. They proceeded as planned, Aura drawing Wesea’s attention by taking her armor’s shielding down along with her biotic barrier and just as the asari whipped her head in their direction, a loud crack echoed throughout the building. The Eclipse leader went still before crumpling to the floor in a huge heap. Garrus held up his hand in a gesture of a high-five and clicked his mandibles happily when Shepard returned the gesture. Grunt groaned as the human and the turian helped the krogan to his feet. He was mad that he couldn’t have the final shot but he was grateful for the battle and bringing down many mercs. Once Aura had found the name of the ship Samara was looking for, she and her squad returned to the spaceport where they found the Justiciar quietly sitting cross-legged deep in meditation. She handed Anaya the evidence she and her team acquired about the Eclipse sisters then turned her attention to Samara. The asari opened her eyes and met the commander’s gaze, silently waiting to hear if Aura was successful or not.

“I’ve got the name of the ship. Your quarry left Illium two days ago on the AML Demeter.”

Samara’s eyes lit up, obviously impressed with the commander’s tenacity. She fulfilled her part of the bargain, and now it was her turn to fulfill hers. The matriarch hopped down from her perch, bidding the detective farewell before glancing at Aura once more.

“Your quarry is an Ardat-Yakshi, isn’t she?”

“You continue to impress, Shepard.” Samara nodded in confirmation. “She is a dangerous criminal that I must bring to justice. After your mission is complete, of course.”

“The Normandy is docked near market. I’ll meet you there.” Aura smiled gratefully as she turned to leave. Samara, however, called to the commander causing her to pivot back  towards the matriarch. “Is something the matter?” Samara shook head before explaining that she first needed swear her services to the human so that she wouldn’t be torn between her code and the commander’s goals. Aura glanced at Garrus who shrugged his shoulders with an expression suggesting he was just as lost as she. The trio and the detective were just as dumbfounded when the Justicair knelt in front Shepard. Minutes ticked by when Samara finally began to speak.

“By the Code, I will serve you, Shepard. Your choices are my choices, your morals are my morals.” Samara stated as her biotics enveloped her in a pale blue blanket. “Your wishes are my code.” Upon the last word, the Justicar and Aura’s biotics flashed brightly almost as if they were sealing the deal, sealing the oath. The blue wrapped with the silver before snapping out of existence and Aura looked down at her fingers as her silver aura fizzled back into her body.

“Should you do anything dishonorable or force me to do anything dishonorable, I will have to kill you once I’m free from my oath.” Samara stated, drawing Aura’s attention back to the Asari.

“Trust me, Samara, Shepard is anything but dishonorable.” Garrus seemed to laugh in amusement. “Of that I vouch for.”

Chapter Text

It had been a few weeks since the Normandy picked up their new members. Aura had been spending time with Samara much to everyone’s surprise save Saren. He figured that since the commander never had a mother figure or really any parental figure like himself, she was looking for something similar. Not that Samara minded. It seemed to give her a peace of mind in a sense as well. He had also noticed Aura had been visiting Thane in the Life Support wing and learning more about the drell. It seemed to brighten the assassin’s demeanor and she was often able to coax him out of his room to join on a few games with the crew that even he had begun to grow fond of though he would never admit it. Saren, for the most part enjoyed his downtime with Shepard in their quarters or in the cargo hold where they trained. They were currently catching their breaths from a heated, but well-deserved, sparring match when Joker informed them that an Alliance ship had appeared and the captain requested to board. When Aura inquired who it was, her eyebrows nearly receded into her hairline and before the turian could even question her what was wrong, she quickly retreated to their quarters to change.

It wasn’t until he returned to the CIC that he discovered the reason for her hasty retreat. Admiral Hackett was making his way to the war room just as Aura exited the elevator in her dress blues. She gave her superior a tense salute then followed the old man to the war room. The turian trailed after them and though Hackett was slightly perturbed with Saren interrupting, upon noticing the commander relax he decided to continue with his conversation. He first apologized for the unexpected and unauthorized visit. Aura smirked doing her best to keep from laughing. Apparently, the Admiral was not supposed to be in contact with Shepard but the old man either didn’t care or had something important that she needed to hear. Turns out, it was both however, what he was here to ask of Aura infuriated not just the silver turian, but the commander as well.

“You mean to tell me that over the last two years no one went to Alchera to recover the dog tags of the fallen?!” Aura nearly shouted in anger.

“I’m afraid so. That’s why I came to ask you-”

“Why not Alenko? He was there too. I was dead for two years, remember?”

“I have tried, Shepard. Anderson has tried but you know how Alenko can be.” Countered the Admiral, “I’m running out of options and the families are wanting closure as well.”

Aura narrowed her eyes and Saren noticed her fingers curling into tight fists against her sleeves. The turian glared at the Admiral. “You do realize what you’re asking of her right?” They turned towards Saren as he continued, pointing to Hackett first then gesturing towards Aura, “You’re not only asking her to go to the place where those she cared for died to retrieve their tags but you’re having her go the very planet WE DIED on?”

Aura held up her hand, a weak smile of appreciation on her face as she tried to soothe her mate but he shook his head, mandibles quaking with anger. “No. Why do you always do this to yourself, Aura? It’s tearing you apart. I see it! Garrus sees it! Everyone can. You can say no.”

“No... I can’t.” She said almost brokenly. “I owe it to them to bring them home.”

He bared his fangs. “Why?”

“It’s who she is.” Hackett said with a sad sigh. “Shepard, I really am-”

“Please, Gramps. Save it. I’ll have Joker set a course for Alchera and get the dog tags.” Shepard said mechanically. “Now, if you both will excuse me. I better go and prepare.”

She gave a salute to her commanding officer and silently left the room. After a few moments of silence, Hackett sighed before attempting leave only to stop when Saren gripped the old man’s shoulder, resisting the urge to bury his claws into the fleshy soldier. Saren’s mandibles were flaring in obvious anger. “Why are you forcing her to relive what she considers to be her greatest failure?” The turian demanded. “All for silly little trinkets worth of little to no value save for sentimental reasons? Also, why should she continue assisting the Alliance when you've all but branded her as a traitor?”

“What happened to the first Normandy was not Shepard's fault nor do I think of it as failure on her part, Arterius.” Hackett furrowed his brow then added in an icy tone. “I know she's not a traitor but this might be the only way for her to get them off her back entirely.”

Saren growled lowly. He knew Aura. She was a soldier who followed her orders. Sense of duty and honor she’d tell him. But in truth, she wasn’t the type to let a family or anyone suffer from loss. It still didn't explain the need to go find these trinkets. He never understood why humans needed to have a physical item to remember someone.

“What you call ‘silly little trinkets' are not worthless to us humans. They are the last remnants of those who have fought and died protecting what they believed in: Family, Comradery, Honor, Home.” Hackett explained feeling the turian release his grip. “Not much different to how your people remember their fallen.”

“Turians remember their fallen through battle poems. Not through items.” Saren stated starting at the door. “But I understand what you are saying… to a point though.”

The Admiral shook his head unable to continue further as his omni-tool pinged, alerting him that he was needed back on his own ship. He turned to leave the war room but not before he glanced over his shoulder. He looked like he was about to say something more but decided against it, gave the turian a brief nod then departed from the Normandy. Saren stood in the cockpit while silently watching the Alliance ship disappear into the vast star-filled void. Joker’s chair spun around as he turned his attention to the silver turian. The human pilot had a look of concern on his face. He voiced that he found it unfair for Aura to have to return Alchera. Even he wished to avoid the ice planet. Saren nodded solemnly. None of them did. Joker felt guilty, confiding that he personally felt like he was responsible for what happened to the two Spectres, that he should have listened to them instead of attempting to save the original ship. Saren stated that had Joker not attempted to do so, then many more would have died during the attack. The two continued to stare outside in relative silence as they proceeded to the Amada cluster. However, from the screen EDI pulled up from the captain’s quarters, he felt his heart actually sink. Aura was sitting on the floor, back to door with her head buried in her arms. He could tell from the shaking of her shoulders that she was crying. She gripped the top of her head to pull her hair back and just as she was about to look up at the camera, Saren had EDI cut the feed wanting to give Aura the dignity to be alone.

 

~~~~~~~~~Alchera: 10 Days Later~~~~~~~~~

 

“It’s sad isn’t?” Garrus’s subvocals trilled with a sad, bitter note while barely touching his food.

“You mean, other than the fact that we’re here where the original ship fell?” Saren rumbled back as he pushed his bowl of food away from him, not really having much of an appetite. “Honestly, the Alliance has a lot of gall to demand her to collect mementos of the fallen when they should have done this themselves years ago.”

Vakarian’s mandibles flared out in controlled rage. True, he agreed with Saren on that note however that wasn’t what he had meant. “No.” He shook his head and pointed accusingly at his fellow turian accusingly. “It’s the fact that you’re letting her go to the planet alone.”

“What are you squawking about, Vakarian?” Saren raised a brow at the younger turian in confusion. “You’re not saying-”

“I saw her heading to the cargo hold earlier this morning.” Garrus blinked. “You mean you genuinely don’t know?”

“EDI, where’s Shepard?” Saren order, turning his head to the ceiling.

“~Commander Shepard is currently on Alchera. She left about fifteen minutes ago while most of the crew were still asleep. ~” Answered the disembodied voice.

Saren cursed as he sprinted towards the elevator.

 

~~~~~Alchera: Final Resting Place of the Normandy SV1

Aura stood before the tattered and weathered hull of her old ship. The word Normandy still as vibrant and visible as the day it was painted. Her boots crunched through the snow as she traced the hull with her gloved fingers along the metal tenderly, the clinking of the dog tags chiming softly in her bag as she moved. Memories flashing before her eyes only to be interrupted by the sound of a shuttle. She knew who it was but continued forward with her own tour of the graveyard. She found the MAKO encased in ice and she let out a laugh through her helmet. She remembered driving the old girl on Illos. She could still picture Saren and Garrus holding on for dear life as they practically rocketed through the Mu Relay. She marched on up a hill, past what remained of the old galaxy map. Pressley and her would often joke and banter about what the other star systems looked like. He once called them blobs of paint with more personality than Joker. Aura smiled bitterly when she found his old data pad. Most of the data was corrupt but she was able to make out some of the entries and she tucked the pad into bag currently strapped to her hip. Her gaze then shifted to a black and silver object a few feet away from her. The closer she got, the more the images took shape and she fell to her knees picking up the remains of Saren’s helmet.

And hers.

“~Shepard! Do you copy? ~” She heard Saren’s voice over her radio but her gaze was fixated on her helmet’s visor.

Her hands trembled violently. She could practically see her own eyes reflecting back at her from the old helmet even though she knew there was nothing there. She choked on a gasp, the helmet falling from her hands and rolling away, bouncing like a ball down the rocks. Red lights flashing a warning as her heartrate began to climb at an alarming rate. Unbeknownst to her, her suit pinged back to the Normandy and Joker, ever vigilant from his chair immediately sent the information to Saren while he and the AI desperately tried to get the commander to calm down to no avail. SOMEONE STOP THIS NIGHTMARE! Aura’s thoughts screamed as visions of terror flooded her vision. Akuze, the Cerberus facility, Sovereign, the Reapers. Everything! PLEASE! The memories were too much and she let out a pained scream.

Saren practically leapt out of the shuttle nearly forgetting to clamp the seals to his helmet. Once secured, he frantically scanned the glacial landscape littered with the skeleton of the Normandy. He soon found her boot print and was currently following them to the commander as fast as his feet could carry him. He halted his steps when he received the notification then nearly doubled over when he heard Aura’s screams over his radio. Throughout the time he had known her, Shepard never once screamed. Not even from pain. So, for him to hear this was even worse than the abomination Rana morphed into and it left him feeling cold inside. He shook his head once more then felt something thump against his foot and he felt his blood freeze. It was Shepherd’s old helmet. He forced himself to look in the direction it rolled from. The turian soon found her on her knees almost frozen with her hands on her head. He could see on his HUD visor that her vitals were all over the place. Heart rate spiking out of control, blood pressure was skyrocketing and he could easily here her hyperventilating the closer he got to her. Saren spotted his own helmet and without even thinking, gave it a good kick watching as it bounced away into a large crevice ahead.

“~Shepard!~” He called out to her as he knelt down in front of her waving his talons in front of her vision but she didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. He gripped both sides of her face and strained to see through the sliver of her visor. He saw the panicked, almost pained expression on her face. Her silvery gaze flickering back and forth as though searching, seeking for anything to pull her out of her nightmare. He carefully maneuvered behind her then rested his left hand on her shoulder feeling her relax slightly. She sensed him and was starting to move. Good. He ignored EDI and Joker’s voices until he finally snapped and ordered them to go radio silent and just let him handle the situation. He sat down behind the commander, using his left hand to pull her closer to him and he whispered to her with his secondary vocals once her back was against his chest. He then brought his right hand over where he knew her eyes were and summoned forth his biotic aura, willing it to envelope them in the soothing white light.

The nightmares seemed to evaporate in the flash of silver and her breathing, though shaky returned to normal and she blinked slowly. She saw the white gloved talons radiating with the calming aura and she could feel the turian’s subvocals resonating around her. It was comforting to her. “~Aura…wake up. You're safe.~” Shepard heard Saren rumble along with him resting his chin on her head. She noticed his left arm was wrapped around her waist while his right hand was covering her visor still radiating with the safe glowing of his aura. She shifted slightly noticing the two were covered in a thin layer of snow. How long had they been sitting here?

“~Found the dog tags…~” She inhaled another shaky breath.

“~Come on. Let’s get you back to the Normandy.~” Saren sighed exasperated but slung her arm over his shoulder and helped her to the shuttle.

~~~~~~~~~

 

Saren leaned against the door in their quarters as Chakwas examined Aura thoroughly. Her omni-tool displaying the data in front of her. She then gave the commander a clean bill of health but had ordered her to just rest and recover from her ordeal before the doctor approached the silver turian who leaned forward to hear her prognosis. He carefully watched as Aura placed the last of the metallic dog tags into a small box and sigh. He whispered to Chakwas. “Well? Is Shepard alright?”

The old woman glanced at the commander then back at the turian. “Physically, she’s fine but she’s severely stressed, emotionally that is.” She then informed Aura’s second that she given the commander a sedative to help her sleep without having to worry about night terrors. She added that she hoped it would let Shepard actually rest more efficiently.

“That mission Hackett had her partake didn’t help much.” Saren spat icily, “I told him as much.”

Chakwas shook her head in agreement. “Though I do have a suggestion that might help put her at ease and rejuvenate her emotionally.” Saren’s eyes quirked curiously and his mandibles flicked outwards in a small smile. He listened to the human doctor as she whispered to him the plan. Yes... Yes, that would be perfect. While Chakwas continued to speak, he tapped away at his omni-tool sending a message directly to the members of the crew. Once he finished the task and he was certain that Aura was dead asleep, he set to work at the piano.

Chapter Text

But the party would have to wait until they found Tali. Garrus made it clear that it would make Aura more than thrilled to have the quarian around to help with the planning. They had been so busy assisting most of the crew with personal agendas, such as Jacob with his father and Jack with her issues on Pragia, that when they thought they had a moment to breathe, both Aura and Saren were summoned by Jack Harper into the war room. Commander Shepard and Spectre Arterius stood side by side as the call pulled through and they saw Harper lighting another cigarette just as he spotted the two in his peripheral. He exhaled a plume of smoke before turning towards the two, a slight look of disgust at the sight of the two being so close but that passed swiftly as the Cerberus leader leapt straight into business.

“Spectres,” He began as he slowly took a seat in his chair, “We caught a break. I intercepted a distress call from a turian patrol. They stumbled on to a Collector ship beyond the Korius system.”

That can’t be possible. Saren flicked his mandibles, subvocals resonating near her and she flicked her gaze to him. Turians hardly ever patrol that region, if at all.

The Illusive Man continued on stating that the patrol was wiped out but not before they crippled the vessel. He added that he needed the two to board the ship and retrieve the hard data from the Collectors so they could invade their home-world. Aura shook her head in disbelief. “No offense to the Turians, but I find it hard to believe that one of their patrols would engage with a Collector ship let alone take it out.” Saren made a chortle sound in both agreement and amusement. He wasn’t even buying into Harper’s claim that the ship’s systems were only offline. The hull remaining intact however, he did believe.

“If it was a turian patrol, why aren’t my people investigating?” Saren inquired warily.

The Illusive Man chuckled lightly. “They will. Eventually. Right now, I’m sending false information to them.”

Aura rolled her eyes.

“They could be making repairs as we speak.” Harper added, taking another puff of his cigarettes. His cybernetic blue eyes clicked and whirled as he studied the two beings before him. “I’m not saying it won’t be dangerous, however we cannot let an opportunity like this slip by.”

“Send the coordinates.” Aura ordered then she and Saren turned to take their leave. Before they could, Harper instructed them that as soon as they boarded the ship, they were to establish an uplink with EDI so she could mine the Collectors’ data for anything regarding the Omega 4 Relay. Once they exited out from the call, Joker informed them that he punched in the coordinates and with feign enthusiasm stated that they were off to find a Collector ship. Saren and Aura merely glanced at each other and shook their heads. Shepard tied her hair up into a ponytail before the two retired to their quarters to get suited up. The two were making their way to the cockpit just as Joker brought the ship out of FTL. It was eerily quiet as they spotted the massive tower looking ship and just a little way off were the remains of a turian patrol ship much to Saren’s disbelief. He was actually hoping that Harper was lying about the turian patrol.

“We have a visual on the Collector ship, Commander.” Joker informed pulling the turian from his thoughts.

“~Very low emissions. Passive infrared temperatures suggest most systems are offline and the thrusters are cold.~” EDI stated calmly.

“That thing is massive though!” Joker exclaimed shaking his head. “How in hell did the turians take it out?”

The Normandy cautiously approached the broadside of the ship. Everyone onboard was literally silent, almost like they were holding their breath. Everyone, even Saren and Shepard were tense. EDI spoke once more informing them that she detected no hull breaches on the side facing them and she also did not detect any mass effect field distortions which meant the drive core was also offline. When the two of them made it to the cargo hold; Saren, Aura, Garrus and Thane made their way into the shuttle. Suited up and armed to the teeth, the team double-checked their weapons and steeled themselves for whatever they were about to face. As the shuttle landed in what could only be described as a shuttle bay, the four of them quickly disembarked from the safety of the Kodiak and proceeded forward.

“I love what they’ve done with the place.” Garrus quipped over his mic.

Thane’s mask scanned the ceiling with curiosity. “It looks like an insect hive.”

Aura stopped to examine the ceiling and noticed that it looked strangely like a beehive with its almost honeycomb features. She shuddered at a creepy thought. I don’t even want to think about whether or not they make some weird kind of honey here. She gagged on her thought earning worried glances from her teammates. She waved her hand dismissively and they continued onwards. It was disturbing not to hear any sounds other than their own footsteps. There should at least be a faint humming or something to indicate that there was some form of life. The further they went, the more familiar the ship felt to Aura and Saren. The team nearly jumped when they heard EDI’s voice over their radios.

“~Shephard. I have compared the ship’s EM signature to known Collector profiles. This one is the vessel you encountered on Horizon.~”

Aura snorted. “Wouldn’t it be too much to ask if the defense towers softened it for the turians?”

“The missing colonists might be aboard.” Garrus chimed in though his tone turned grim in less than a heartbeat. “IF they’re still alive...”

The commander nodded in agreement then noticed when she turned to her right that the silver turian was gone. Thane quickly pointed to a strange pod that Saren was examining intently. The trio approached him just as Saren ran his gloved talons along the inside of the empty vessel. Bringing his claws up, there was a dark gray liquid dripping from his fingers. It was a stark contrast to his white armor and the consistency of the liquid reminded Shepard of mercury. These containers were the same as the ones the Collectors had on Horizon. The only difference was that these pods were empty save for whatever Saren found. Aura felt horrible as did most of her team. Being trapped within these pods at the mercy of the Collectors? No one deserved that. Things only grew worse the further they delved. The stench of burnt flesh and cloth penetrated through their masks and Aura froze in her steps at the source. Before them appeared to be a pile of bodies. Mulched up bodies and discarded clothing.

“Why would the Collectors just leave a pile of bodies lying around?” Thane questioned out loud, voice laced with disbelief.

Saren knelt down beside the mulch pile and ran his talon along the goo, holding up his hand for inspection. Unlike the liquid he found earlier, there was blood and remnants of clothing in this batch. “I have a feeling these unfortunate souls were used as test subjects.” He deduced disgusted.

“I’d say these subjects didn’t pass.” Garrus added grimly.

Aura shook her head. “There are things far worse than death—like being a test subject to twisted aliens.”

“Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.” The young turian added with a visible shudder.

They pressed on. Slowly making their way through a narrow hallway, they found another pod along with a terminal for EDI to upload in to. Out of the corner of her eye, Shepard discovered the pod had an occupant. Sadly, it wasn’t a human but instead, a Collector. Or rather it’s body. Aura wondered if the sick creatures were experimenting on one of their own as well. As EDI uploaded into the terminal through Aura’s omni-tool, the AI set to work on mining the data. She relayed her discovers as she found them and informed the team that the Collectors were running baseline genetic comparisons between their species and humanity. Aura glanced at Saren who shrugged. Maybe they were looking for similarities. EDI wasn’t sure, stating that she had no hypothesis on their motivations and that all she had acquired were that these were preliminary results. However, Aura felt something nagging at the back of her head. Something wasn’t right.

Turns out, she was right.

“~A quad-strand genetic structure, identical to traces collected from ancient ruins. Only one race is known to have this structure.~”

“The Protheans?” Saren suggested on a whim.

“Holy fuck...” Aura blinked as she stared at the Collector body. “The Protheans never vanished. They’re just working for the Reapers now.”

“I doubt these are Protheans anymore, Shepard.” Thane stated and EDI confirmed this adding that the Collectors’ genes revealed distinct signs of extensive genetic rewrite. Repurposed, for a lack of a better term, to suit the Reapers needs. Honestly, it was a horrible fate. To learn one of the greatest civilizations was not only wiped out but were transformed into monsters and enslaved to the Reapers. The four of them were in agreement that no species deserved a fate as grim as this.

Aura and the gang rushed forward, discovering more pods on the ceiling. When Thane inquired how many were full, Shepard merely hissed out that there were too many. EDI’s comment didn’t make her feel any less at ease when the AI mentioned that she detected no life signs within the pods. They were making their way up a ramp when Joker chimed into the comms.

“~Commander, you gotta hear this.~”

“What is it Joker?”

“~On a hunch, I asked EDI to run an analysis on this ship.~”

“And?”

EDI piped in. “~I compared the EM profile against the data recorded by the original Normandy two years ago. They are an exact match.~”

“You mean to tell me, we’ve been having the same ship tailing us for two years?” Saren scoffed rolling his eyes as he took cover behind an archway leading to a massive room. “I find it hard to believe this is coincidence.”

Aura shook her head. Again, that feeling came creeping up in her mind. Something still wasn’t right and it had nothing to do with them being on the Collector ship. The four of them passed through the archway and the commander momentarily lowered her weapon at the sight before her. Everywhere she turned, she saw amber looking pods lining both the walls and the ceilings. It looked like the Collectors could kidnap every human in the Terminus Systems and still not have enough to fill the pods. Then it hit her. The Collectors were targeting Earth. She gritted her teeth aggressively. She wouldn’t let that happen. Not while she still drew breath. Garrus pointed out a control panel ahead of them, tucked away in a corner. Saren felt a tingling sensation radiate through his fringe and glanced at Aura who seemed to be having the same thoughts as him.

Where were the bodies of the Collector crew?

Aura established a link from the terminal to EDI while the others warily scanned their surroundings, pivoting around to watch their flank while the AI went to work seeking anything useful from the databanks. However, on the Normandy, Joker noticed an odd flickering on the holographs in front of him. His eyes narrowed when the fast-moving rows of data suddenly flashed to a red screen and out of his peripheral vision, saw a strange red image of what looked to Collector’s head on a crab’s body. Well, that’s not good. Thought the pilot when suddenly several systems began to shut down. “That’s REALLY not good!” Back at the terminal, there was a loud crack and the team spun around watching as four massive tubes began pulling up a piston of sorts and just when the they were about to inform Joker their status, the platform they were on suddenly activated. It popped free from its housing and slowly began to levitate all while spinning counter-clockwise while its current riders struggled to maintain footing and balance. When it finally stopped, both Thane and Garrus toppled over each other, their heads slightly rolling to the side from the dizzying experience.

“Everything alright, Joker?” Aura questioned the pilot while Saren hauled both the drell and younger turian back to their feet.

“~We’re alright, EDI had to reroute a majority of the power surge to non-critical systems.~”

“~I have also reestablished connection to the terminal, but I must finish downloading before I can override any systems.~” No sooner had the AI spoken, the squad spotted another floating platform makings it way towards them and teeming with Collectors and Reaper husks.

“Hop to it then EDI. We got company and I highly doubt they want to be civil.” Aura stated curtly as she drew the Widow sniper she had found earlier from her back. The rest of the team drew their weapons and on Shepard’s command, opened fire. When they thought they were done with one platform, four more took its place and to top it off, another Collector kept getting possessed by the strange Harbinger entity. Not only did the entity rip through Aura and Saren’s biotic barriers with its own, but it once again spoke to them demanding that they submit or risk being annihilated. In emphasis, it had thrown another corrupted orb at the two and they let out pained growls. Aura managed to snipe the bastard’s head off before ducking back behind their cover. Saren was rubbing his chest plate where a massive dent had made its home in.

Thankfully, Thane and Garrus finished off the last of the Collector squad and the four of them found a moment to regain their composure. EDI chimed in the comms stating that she now had regained control of the platform. Aura smiled through her mask.

“Did you get what we needed, EDI?” Saren asked with a growl as the bent metal on his chest scraped against his plates painfully. He’d have to repair the armor later.

“~I found the data that could help us successfully navigate the Omega 4 relay.~” Replied the AI then she spoke once more. “~I have also found the turian distress call that served as the lure for this trap. The Collectors were the source; however it is also unusual.~”

Aura narrowed her eyes. “What are you getting at EDI?”

Saren was already going over the distress call himself and he growled when he spoke. “Turian emergency channels have secondary encryption. It’s present but corrupted in the message.”

“~I found the anomaly with Cerberus detection protocols. The Illusive Man wrote these himself.~”

That meant only one thing. Harper sent them into a trap! Aura and Saren clenched their fists. They knew but as it stood, they didn’t have much time to dwell on it. Joker informed them of another, more major problem. The Collector ship was starting to power itself up and they needed to get off the ship before its weapons came online. The pilot was adamant about not wanting to lose another Normandy. EDI also added that she did not have full control of the Collectors’ systems but would do what she could and sent them coordinates for shuttle extraction. With that, the squad hightailed it out of there and with the help of EDI, managed to escape the Collector ship by a hair. Aura and Saren, on the other hand, had business with Jack Harper.

Chapter Text

When they were safe and certain that they were not being pursued by the Collector ship, Saren and Shepard were currently in a call with Harper. Okay, Aura was mainly doing the talking and to say she had more than a few choice words for the Cerberus leader was an understatement. He observed in silent amusement at how ferocious and aggressive the commander was with her voice being able to carry throughout most of the ship, even so far as to reaching down to the mess hall below them. He even learned a few more new curse words himself to add to his arsenal. The silver turian was grateful that the commander wasn’t tearing into him with her words of weaponry. Vakarian was right, Shepard definitely would outmatch even the most seasoned turian drill sergeant, including himself if he wasn’t prepared. After nearly two hours of arguing with Harper, Aura snarled in disgust as the call ended and Saren had gone towards the armory where he, with difficulty, removed the chest plate of his armor and laid it on the work table. He rolled his shoulders and set to work on repairing his armor.

The initial damage wasn’t too bad and he was able work out the dent in the center of the chest. His talons meticulously began working on the shielding module chip, his expert eye upgrading the shield’s strength. He shook his wrists when they started to cramp after completing his work and his mind drifted to the Collector ship. He had given Mordin the samples he had found and the salarian was still studying it. With his armor now fully repaired, and currently processing the upgrades he applied to it, Saren slipped passed the CIC deck and made his way to the elevator. He was heading to the Cargo Bay where he had previously order Spectre grade equipment to keep up with his training only to quickly discover that it was not as deserted as he thought.

Aura Shepard let out a snarl of frustration, her biotics flaring with her rage as she flung a large metal crate across the room straight towards the silver turian. His brow plates shot up as his reflexes kicked in and he knocked the crate aside with his own biotic glow. Breathing heavily and finally processing that she nearly crushed Saren, she cooled the silvery glow from her skin. “While I am pleased to see you keeping up with your training, Shepard, I sincerely doubt the crew would appreciate you trying to obliterate our food supplies.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just.... Argh that bastard!”

The silver haired woman emphasized the last word with a punch to the nearest crate, the metal clang resounding through the whole cargo hold and she pulled her fist back when she realized she had left a decent size dent in the box. Saren shook his head, mandibles flickering understandingly then he held up a single talon and strode towards the far corner of the hold. Aura watched him the whole way, curiosity significantly piqued. After spending a few minutes digging around, the turian returned with a large mat slung over his shoulder which he unrolled in the large open space the commander had unintentionally cleared earlier. Slowly, Aura approached, silvery eyes roving over the large mat and Saren smirked as he could practically hear the gears in her head turning. He then made a sweeping gesture towards the mat stating that since it was obvious that Shepard was carrying some tension, he offered that they do a little sparring. Just the two of them.

“But-” Saren held up his talon once more while Aura drew closer, “There is one condition: we can’t use our biotics.”

After going over the idea within her mind, she bobbed her head in a decisive nod and returned a small smile. “You have yourself a deal Arterius.”

Once they were on the mat, Shepard pounced. His silver eyes went wide momentarily at the sudden aggressive advance and he wondered what he’d gotten himself in to. Instinctively, he stepped back and caught the fist the human shot at him. Aura grabbed his wrist, yanking him forward while her foot connected with his stomach. All the breath Saren’s lungs exploded outwards, stolen and he stumbled backwards, mandibles fluttering as he gasped for air. The next punch was still brutal, but she removed the edge off, allowing him to counter swiftly. She shook hair out of her eyes, the fury still radiating from her. She stated that she was still pissed off.

“He brings us back to life, gives us our ship back and a crew, then decides that he can just throw us into a trap just like that?” She growled as she deflected one of Saren’s kicks with her own. “Have I mentioned how much I loathe Cerberus?”

“A fair few.” Saren commented with a snicker before ducking his head to avoid the hand coming at his head.

“Harper expects us to jump on board with him... that bastard doesn’t get that we don’t agree with him.” Shepard hissed crossing her arms over her chest to block another of Saren’s kicks. “Spirits, I hardly see eye to eye with the Alliance, however they at least got me off the streets.”

Swiftly, the silver turian leapt back to avoid the commander’s left hook then with a sweep of his leg, had Shepard on the floor. Poised over her, he kept a firm hold on Aura’s arm before he dropped his mandibles in confusion. “Are you talking about your history with the Alliance or life in general?”

Aura grunted as she shifted as much as she could without dislocating her own arm to gaze up at Saren with her own silvery eye. The fury had diminished greatly from her now and she huffed slightly. “All my life I have tried to make others happy. Put the needs of the many ahead of my own. Take orders like the good girl I’m supposed to be and it hurts to hide the part of me that wants to be selfish and take something for myself.” She twisted her wrist once more to try and break free. “Since I became a Spectre, I’m at least able to make my own choices and handle the consequences my way. All my life I’ve been waiting for someone to finally say that its MY turn to decide.”

Saren just chuckled. He knew what that was like. Having to take orders and follow them to the letter even if he disliked them. When he was chosen to be a Spectre, he felt exhilarated and free. While lost in his thoughts, his grip loosened on her wrists. A mistake, as it were and Shepard used that distraction to wiggle herself free. She pounced Saren, the pair tumbling head over heels a few times before pinned him at the edge of the mat, one knee on his chest and her hands pinning his wrist to the mat. She gazed down at the daze turian with a devilish smirk. He bared his fangs at her. “That... was unexpectedly devious.” Heaved Saren, his air flow significantly constricted due to Aura’s knee on his chest. “Well played.”

“Well, you never said I couldn’t fight dirty.” Aura commented amused, letting up on the pressure, just enough that Saren could breathe but not enough for him to attempt to reverse the situation. “Besides, I couldn’t let you win when we have an audience.”

Ever so slightly, the silver turian tilted his head to look over the commander’s shoulder. He nearly forgot that there was a window in Engineering that overlooked the cargo hold. He saw Jack grinning wolfishly down at them while Grunt pounded his chest; a sure sign that he would be asking someone to be his sparring partner. Even Garrus had an amused look on his plated face when he turned towards one of the engineers holding out his palm. Saren even spotted Thane and Samara overlooking the sight. Once more, Saren’s attention was diverted abruptly when Aura rose to her feet, accidently pressing her knee deep into his chest as she did so and she extended her hand to him. He clasped his three fingers around her inviting palm and hauled himself to his feet, rubbing his chest.

“That was actually really fun, Arterius.” Beamed the commander as the two made their way to the elevator.

“I’m glad you're feeling better after kicking my ass.”

“Again” Aura quipped.

“Don’t push it, Shepard.”

“Rematch?”

Saren grinned, flaring his mandibles at the suggestion. “You won’t win next time.”

Chapter Text

It had been nearly two weeks since the incident with the Collector ship and Aura was currently in the Main Battery with Garrus having a friendly game of calibrations and mock hacking battles. Aura lost obviously since she wasn’t nearly as fluent as the young turian but she had more of a keen eye for detail than he did. Once they finished their ‘game’, Garrus leaned against the panel, a more serious look on his face. While he was glad that his best friend came to see him, he needed to speak to her about something important. Aura nodded mirroring the cobalt faced turian, her back pressed against the wall. “You remember Sidonis?” He inquired and once again, his commander nodded recalling their argument a while back.

“The one who betrayed your team on Omega, right?”

“The same. I found a lead on him.”

The two made their way to the table in the mess hall to get some water where they sat down and continued. From Garrus acquired, Sidonis had gotten in touch with a specialist on the Citadel. The specialist went by the name of Fade and had a knack for making people disappear. Aura took a long drink before questioning her friend on what exactly he planned to do with Sidonis when he finally found him. There was a very dark expression in Garrus’ usually bright blue eyes and as he flexed his mandibles in a malevolent smirk, the woman forced herself to suppress a shudder. “You humans have a saying: ‘an eye for an eye’. A life for a life.” His subvocals radiated an eerie growl that Aura had never heard him make before. “Sidonis owes me ten lives, and I plan to collect.”

Aura studied him as he downed his water. “Are you certain this is how you want to play it?”

“I am.”

“Then I’ll set a course for the Citadel.” Shepard said taking the empty cup from the turian.

“Shepard... I really do appreciate this.”

“Just prepare yourself for the consequences.”

As Shepard left the mess to grab the elevator, she nearly bumped into Saren emerging from Life Support. It seemed like the turian had just finished speaking with Thane and needed to get to the cockpit as well. From what Saren relayed to her, the drell had requested his aid in finding his son on the Citadel. Aura snorted at the fact they both were heading to the same destination. When he inquired on Vakarian’s well-being, Shepard heaved a sigh. Worried didn’t cover half of what she was feeling for her best friend. True, he needed closure for what happened to his team on Omega, yet at the same time she was worried that Garrus might forget himself going down that path. Still, Shepard didn’t have any room to talk since she actually followed through with ending Toombs a while back for his betrayal on her team on Akuze.

“So long as you’re there to watch his back, I’m sure things will go smoothly.” Saren stated. “Besides, he’s more like his father than he realizes. He won’t falter.”

I hope you’re right. Thought Aura as the two made their way to Joker’s post.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 Location: Citadel

 

“We’ll meet up at the Dark Star Lounge after this.” Aura suggested once she, Garrus, Saren and Thane left C-Sec after receiving their intel. “I’m pretty sure we’re all going to be needing drinks after this. My treat.”

Saren rolled his eyes, light of delight dancing in his gaze before the two groups split off. Aura glanced up Garrus and the two of them hailed a cab heading to warehouse in the marketplace. From what they gathered from Bailey, one of Fade’s contacts worked from the warehouse. Garrus commented that he found it laughable that C-Sec hasn’t had any luck finding this ‘Fade” character as their sky car sailed towards the district. Aura suggested that perhaps their contact either worked for C-Sec or just knew how to avoid them. Once the car landed in the lot, the two Spectres vacated the car and made their way towards the warehouse near the Sirta Foundation. The location seemed to be correct, however they wouldn’t know for sure until they were inside. Upon entering the building, they were greeted by two krogan and..... a volus?

Sadly, the volus only a contact, not Fade himself. Fortunately, the contact was more than helpful in providing Fade’s actual location and identity with a little ‘persuasion’ from Garrus’ pistol. They learned that Fade was actually Harkin and he was currently employing Blue Sun mercs to protect him. Aura and Garrus couldn’t help but shake their heads. It was no surprise that Harkin got himself fired from C-Sec a while back, most likely for being drunk on the job but the fact that the ex-cop was using C-Sec's database and more to run his own business AND avoid being discovered by them was ingenious. Was being key, as now Aura and Garrus could hand that information over to Bailey at the station later.

Upon arrival to the factory, the two were greeted by now just Harkin, but two of his bodyguards. Harkin bolted like a bat out of hell when the two Spectres disposed of the ex-cop's guards and holed himself up in the factory. Garrus snarled at Harkin, stating that the human could run all he wanted and the turian would still find him. Aura quickly got the door opened and the two stood back-to-back checking their surroundings as cranes and machinery cranked and whined during their production. They were only several feet away from the entrance when several LOKI mechs emerged from one of the crates to which the blue faced turian made short work of them by overloading their circuits.

“Harkin’s in here somewhere.” Garrus seemed to hiss as they continued through the production line. “I can smell him.”

“Just how sharp are turian noses exactly?” Aura asked not really complaining since the loud machinery made it difficult to pinpoint incoming mechs and mercenaries. “I mean, I know you guys have sensitive hearing but sharp senses of smell?”

“Sharper than most species. Even Krogan.” Garrus chuckled a little in amusement.

“So, turians are the bloodhounds of the races.”

“What’s a bloodhound?”

“Never mind.”

Things got tedious when heavy mechs came into play on top of the mercs. They were nearing what looked to be another office and the two of them were stopped by a mech who seemed to be malfunctioning. It kept trying to kick the door open before it turned around and realized it had company. Aura and Garrus stared at each both quirking a brow in disbelief before finishing off the mech and they strolled into the room. Once certain it was empty and clear, they began looking for a computer to get the door to the next room unlocked. “Is it wrong that I’m not surprised that Harkin went completely bad?” Aura asked as Garrus found a button that opened up the window shutter that overlooked the next room.

“Harkin was always a pain in the ass.” Replied the turian curtly, his tone becoming harsher the more he spoke. “But I am in no mood for his games. If he doesn’t cooperate, I’ll beat him within an inch of his life!”

Aura stared at Garrus, look of concern laced on her features. She had never seen Garrus this hostile and dare she say, blood-thirsty before. However, the young turian stated that while he really wanted to put a bullet in the ex-cop's head, he needed him alive. Still this still had her a bit worried. True, they couldn’t give Harkin the chance to tip Sidonis off beforehand. The two scanned the factory layout before them. Cranes hauling off heavy loads and mechs galore flew by overhead. The two suddenly caught movement ahead and quickly took cover behind the walls. Garrus glanced up at Aura and she nodded in agreement that she did indeed see something ahead as well. It was apparent that Harkin had his back to a corner and was preparing his last stand against the two Spectres. Garrus added that he had a hunch there were probably more Blue Sun mercs lying in wait for them.

“You’re still planning on killing Sidonis when you find him?”

Garrus trilled an annoyed sigh. “How many times do I have to tell you this, Shepard?”

“I know there’s something you're not telling me.”

“Okay, look. If I tell you this, will you keep it to yourself?” Garrus asked and she nodded. “I was just planning on leaving Sidonis alone, but just before the mission on Horizon, I was plagued with nightmares which is unusual for me. Their faces continued to haunt me. Visions of my team asking me, begging me to bring that bastard to justice. I haven’t gotten a decent sleep since.”

Aura’s eyes widen in disbelief but he saw that she was finally comprehending his reasonings a lot better and with a firm nod, bobbed her head towards the open door as the two crept towards it quietly. “And how do you plan on executing him then?”

“Quick and painless. Unlike everyone he betrayed, he’ll be spared the agony of a slow death.” Garrus spat, “It’s more than he deserves, but so long as he’s dead, I’ll be satisfied and so will they.”

“Then let’s not keep Harkin waiting.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Just as the two sniped the head off one of the two heavy mechs, Aura quickly ducked behind a crate only to realize that Garrus was still standing on the crate next to her. She quickly grabbed him by the back of his cowl and pulled him down just as he trilled in alarm and the mech exploded causing its partner to do the same in the blast. She then glared at him and he rubbed the back of his head in sheepish appreciation. She jerked her head towards the platforms leading up to Harkin, then keeping her hand flat, made a quick cutting motion towards their right. He nodded and keeping low made his way to the opposite platform. Aura kept her pistol ready as she climbed up her platforms, sniping the remaining LOKI mechs scanning for her location. She rolled her eyes at the insult Harkin was throwing at her before she pressed her back next to the doorway. When she peeked around the corner, Harking did a double take before turning to sprint off stating that Shepard was close to catching her but not close enough.

Or so he thought.

He spun around to scurry out the other door and just when he thought his was home free, Harkin was met with the butt of Garrus’ rifle. While the ex-cop held his broken nose, groaning in pain, the turian tightly gripped Harkin by the shoulder then slammed the human against the wall, his arm pressed tightly against Harkin’s throat. Garrus’ eyes glared coldly at the human man as he flicked his mandibles ever so slightly into a snarl. “So, Fade... couldn’t make yourself disappear, huh?” Growled Garrus as he pressed his arm a little tighter against Harkin’s throat.

“C-Come on, Garrus—we... we can work this out.” Harkin said in a calm tone, “Whaddya need?”

Garrus’ nose plate scrunched up in a sneer as he pulled away from the human. “I’m looking for someone.”

“Well, I guess we both have something the other wants.” Harkin made a snarky remark under his breath. Unfortunately, Garrus heard the smart-ass remark and swiftly turned around and brought his knee hard against Harkin’s groin, bringing the human to his knees in pain.

“That looked like it hurt.” Shepard commented crossing her arms over her armored chest. “We’re not here for favors Harkin.”

Harkin glared at the silver haired woman. They stated their purpose of seeking out the ex-cop and their need in finding their target. When Harkin retorted, implying that he needed more information than what they giving him, Garrus didn’t quite catch the sarcasm in the man’s voice and clarified who he was looking for. Harkin growled stating he knew exactly who Garrus was looking for and adamantly refused giving up the information. “Harkin,” Aura said pinching the bridge of her nose, “this doesn’t have to be hard. Just help us out and we’ll leave.”

“Screw you both.” Harkin hissed through his teeth, “I don’t give out client information, Spectre or not. Bad for business. You know how it goes.”

Aura wasn’t fast enough and before she could stop him, her turian friend growled then once again kneed Harkin in the groin and pinned the man down on his back, his foot placed hard against Harkin’s throat. The blue-faced turian applied more pressure as Harkin gasped for breath. “You know what else is bad for business, Harkin?” Snarled the turian as he flashed his sharp teeth in anger. “A broken neck!”

Aura gripped Garrus by the shoulder and he flashed her a heated glare that quickly dissipated when she gave him a firm expression and he reluctantly removed his foot from the squirming human’s throat. Aura then warned Harkin that if he didn’t comply, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to hold Garrus back. The ex-cop groaned as he staggered to his feet, holding his hands up in defeat as he hobbled over to the terminal where he began calling for their target. While he did that, Garrus was fiddling with his pistol in contemplation occasionally flicking his eyes in Harkin’s direction. Once he finished the call, Harkin cautiously approached the two Spectres. “Okay, he said he’ll meet you at Orbital Lounge in the middle of the day.” He spat out bitterly, “If our business is concluded, I will be on my way.”

“I don’t think so, Harkin.” Garrus growled as he pulled the human by the collar of his shirt and held him at eye level. “You’re a criminal now.”

Harkin hissed in pain. “So what? You're just going to kill me? That isn't your style, Vakarian.”

Garrus narrowed his eyes before they got a dark glint in them as he dropped the man. “Kill you? Nah. But I don’t mind slowing you down for C-Sec.”

He aimed his gun at Harkin’s leg.

“No, don’t!”

But it was too late.

The pistol went off with a loud bang and Harkin collapsed grasping his now bleeding thigh. “Sidonis better be there Harkin, or I’m coming back to finish the job.”

“Bastard!” Shouted Harkin but Aura glared icily at her fellow human.

“Be grateful, Harkin. I wouldn’t have shot you in the leg like he did.” Aura commented before turning to follow Garrus out of the building ignoring the wounded man’s cries of anguish.

~~~~~~~~~~

The sky car sped off with its occupants silently watching the navigation beep quietly. Aura lifted her head to watch the other cars flying overhead towards the Orbital Lounge. She then turned her head towards Garrus. His eyes were hard and cold but his mandibles were clicking the same way Saren’s did when he was stressed. He tried to pass it off as him still being pissed at the fact they let Harkin go but Aura wasn’t fool. She then added that the turian shouldn’t waste his time on the fool and just let C-Sec deal with him. Garrus sighed once more. He supposed she had a point. Silence once again befell the cab save for the barely audible clicking of the young turian’s jaw plates.

“It’s not too late, Garrus.” Aura stated softly, keeping her tone gentle. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

He furrowed his brow. Who would bring Sidonis to justice if he didn’t? No one else knew what his former teammate had done and frankly, no one cared. His subvocals whined. I don’t have any other options. At this moment, he didn’t care what Sidonis’ reasons were only that the bastard screwed his team over and that he deserved to die. Why should Sidonis live while ten great men lost their lives and now lay in unmarked graves, never to be remembered by anyone but Garrus and Sidonis?

“Garrus, I know exactly what you’re going through. No offense, but your mind may be saying one thing but your subvocals are stating another.”

“Shepard, I appreciate your concern... I really do but I’m not you.” The turian turned his head to lock eyes with her. “And you’re not me.”

“Yet you’re about to make the same mistake I did.”

That made him flinch. He nearly forgot that Aura had been in the exact same position as he was. The difference was, she didn’t know about Toombs’ betrayal until finding him again and she killed him without hesitation. She could have found a better way but instead chose to kill Toombs and it cost her vital information on Cerberus. “Shepard, I have to do this. Please...” She looked away. Vengeance is a two headed cobra. She said to him with her eyes. While one head kills your target, the other is poisoning you. Whether he understood or not, Shepard wasn’t sure. The cab stopped near a balcony overlooking the Lounge and he exhaled slowly. He informed her that he needed to set and that she needed to find Sidonis before he disappeared like smoke. She watched as the turian climbed out of the vehicle then he requested she give him a signal for him to take the shot.

While Shepard scanned the bustling streets, Garrus pinged her over their commlinks stating that he found Sidonis. When she turned her head, she spotted him. He wore dark navy-blue civvies accented with red and gold. On his face, he had faint purple markings. What really caught Aura’s attention was how skinny he looked. Worse than when she and the original Normandy crew found Desolas. Following Garrus’ instructions, she waved the turian over and her eyes roved over the sad state Sidonis was in. Sidonis seemed like he was barely able to stand and his walk had a slight limp. Aura closed her eyes as she could hear Garrus’ mandibles twitching on the other side of the mic and she sighed. “Garrus, I can hear your mandibles over the mic” She muttered quietly. The clicking stopped.

“~Shepard, you're in my shot. Move to the side.~”

“You’re not one of Harkin’s men.” Sidonis seemed to rumble tiredly.

“No, but I’m the only one standing between you and a bullet in your head.”

The turian’s dark brown eyes widen and quickly tried to turn around. “Shit.”

Aura gripped Sidonis by the wrist to keep him still ignoring Garrus’ protests and she whipped her head around glaring down the scope. Her lips moved. I need to hear both sides! He growled at her as she turned her head back at the turian in her grasp struggling to break to free from her vice grip. “Let go of me. He’s going to kill me.” He bared his fangs at her. She glared at him. Shepard only asked one word. One word.

“Why?”

“Look... I didn’t want to do it...” Stammered Sidonis as he continued to try and break free. “I didn’t have a choice.”

Aura’s eyes glowed angrily and she heard Garrus snarl as well as the two spoke in sync.

“Everyone has a choice.”

“~Everyone has a choice!~”

“They cornered me! Said they’d kill me if I didn’t help!” Sidonis countered. “What was I supposed to do?”

Aura narrowed her eyes suspiciously when she caught turian in front of her shifting uncomfortably. 

“~Damn it, Shepard! Let me take the shot! He’s nothing more than a damned coward!~”

“You mean to tell me you just let your comrades perish because you were afraid to die?” Aura asked, her tone growing colder with each word. “Comrades who stood beside you watching your back, comrades who relied you... and you turned your back on them?”

“I know what I did!” Sidonis snapped at her, “I know they died because of me and I have to live that! I still live with it! I wake up every damned night... sick... and sweating. Each of their faces staring at me... accusing me.”

"You're not telling the whole truth. What was the real reason you left them for dead?!" Aura snapped back stepping closer to the turian. She may have been short compared to Sidonis but her tone made her seem bigger than she actually was. "What was the real reason?!"

Sidonis practically screamed back at her. "Credits! There?! Satisfied now?!"

Aura blinked when she heard this then clenched her hands in to tight fists while gritting her teeth. Did she hear that right? She nearly jumped when she heard a startled growl followed by that same low vocalization Garrus used when he was furious. "~Shepard. Move. NOW!~"

“I’m with Garrus on this one.” Aura shook her head in disappointment as she moved aside. “He would have stayed and fought to the death. Not tuck his tail and run like a coward. Nor would be blinded by greed as you were.” Without missing a beat, she felt a gust of wind followed by the whistling of the bullet piercing cleanly through Sidonis’ brow and he crumpled to floor. Ignoring the stares, Aura turned her back from the body and stared at Garrus. He nodded and the two met up at the sky car. The blue faced turian nodded his head appreciative as they climbed back into the vehicle. Shepard punched in the coordinates to the Dark Star Lounge then gasped when Garrus hugged her tightly.

“That was harder than I thought it would be... but I feel much better too.” He trilled then sighed softly when Aura rubbed his shoulder.

“The lines between good and evil tend to blur when we’re looking at people we know or care about.” She said sagely. “Now come on. Let's get some drinks.”

“Shepard?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you...”

“Any time, brother.” Shepard smiled and got Garrus to smile again.

Chapter Text

“Arterius, I appreciate you taking the time to see me.” Thane calmly, eyes focused on the window ahead as he heard the footsteps of Shepard’s second walking into the Life Support room.

“Is your disease acting up again?” Asked the turian as loomed over the drell. Since arriving on the Normandy, Aura and Saren had learned that their drell assassin was suffering from a bacterial lung infection known as Kepral’s Syndrome which erodes the capacity for a drell’s lungs to take in oxygen and damages the other organs, proving fatal over time then death. It seemed similar if not nearly identical to cystic fibrosis in humans when mucus would fill the air sacks in the lungs. From what they had gathered, the disease was rare among the drell and that it was usually contracted on the Hanar home world due to its humidity. Drell came from a very arid planet but have long since had a mass exodus from their home when it became uninhabitable due to over population and severe pollution.

“No, but I suppose that is part of it.” The drell answered slowly. “It has me... thinking, dwelling on past mistakes and more.”

As he rose from his chair to stare out the window, Thane confided that he once had a family and that he still had a son by the name of Koylat. He admitted to not being in contact nor seeing his son for a very long time. In fact, Thane recalled in perfect memory the last time he was with his son. “I check my extranet contacts. I expect an update on my next target. The console plays music. Old, unfashionable. Koylat jumps into the room. “Hi Father!” He runs around in circles and I scoop him up, a smile on my face. I toss him up into the air and he shrieks in laughter. “Spin me!” We continue the playful dance then console beeps and I put him down. Clicked the message. Koylat tugs on my arm. “Father...” He pleads and I pat his head, regretfully. “I need to read this.” I say and I don’t look at him.” The drell recalled before lowering his head, closing his eyes tightly. Eidetic memory; it was a drell’s curse and blessing to recall every memory like it was in real time. Saren waited patiently for the drell to compose himself. He and Aura knew there were times where Thane unintentionally slipped into these memories and it would take him a few seconds to a few minutes to ‘wake up’ as Shepard had described it.

“Did something happen to them?” Saren inquired as he leaned against the wall behind him studying the drell’s features when he turned to face him.

“I abandoned them...”

Saren tilted his head, right mandible flicking downward in confusion. Abandoned? Saren thought. He focused on Thane more intently awaiting an explanation. The drell clarified that it was not all at once and there was nothing dramatic that happened. No sneaking out in the middle of the night or heated argument. Not even a slammed door. He just did his job as an assassin, hunting his targets across the galaxy. Away on business, as he called it. Thane then went on to explain that after the death of his wife at the hands of slavers, he took the initiative to hunt his wife’s killers down and grant them the most painful and lingering death as possible. However, he left Koylat in the care of his aunts and uncles. Saren closed his eyes then opened them. Not the choice he was expecting and he now wondered if his mother felt the same when raising him and Desolas without their father in the picture, though he himself didn’t have many memories of him and Sparatus.

“Why not take your fledgling with you?” He wondered aloud.

Thane merely shook his head. “My body is blessed with the skills to take life. The Hanar honed them in me. I have few others.”

“And you didn’t want that life for Koylat. You had hoped he would find his own way even if he hated you?”

“Yes, however when I got in touch with my old contacts to trace Koylat, I’ve come to learn that he has become—disconnected from his body.” Thane replied with a nod.

“Disconnected?” Saren inquired with a subtle tilt of his head. “What do you mean ‘disconnected’ from his body?”

Thane went on to explain that the body; he gestured to both himself and the turian; their physical appearance, was not their true self. The soul was. The stated that the body and the soul work together as one in a Whole Person. When the soul is weakened, whether from despair, grief, fear or the body becomes ill or injured, the individual was disconnected and no longer Whole. When Saren questioned how Koylat became disconnected, Thane stated that it more than likely had to do with the death of his mother and that his son had taken up the job as being an assassin himself. Probably to be closer to his father. Saren thought though from the expression on the drell’s face that was the last thing he wanted for his boy and Thane finally stated that he needed Saren’s help in finding his son. Saren merely nodded his head.

“Wait a second...” Saren then trilled at a thought, “You don’t hire a raw rookie for a contract killing.”

“I fear that someone may have seen we share a name, and assumed that we share skills.”

“I’ll let Shepard know.”

“Thank you, Arterius.”

 

~~~~~~~~~

Saren, Shepard, Thane and Garrus made their way through the C-Sec security and were speaking with Bailey. He first gave information to Shepard and Garrus on where to find a forger named Fade then he turned his attention to the drell and the silver turian. Upon hearing that they were looking for Koylat, Bailey went over his reports and massaged his chin in curiosity. Apparently, Koylat was spotted talking to a young man by the name of Mouse and upon hearing the name, Thane seemed to freeze, like he recognized the name.

Garrus chirped at the name. “That’s an odd name for a human.”

“Well, that’s because he’s a former duct rat.” Bailey replied solemnly.

“What exactly are his crimes?” Aura wondered and the C-Sec officer chuckled. He stated that duct rats take whatever job they can get to get by. He added that Mouse usually acted as a messenger or a go-between between shifty people. He then busted out in laughter when he recollected Mouse selling illegal VI personalities, mainly of both Arterius and Shepard. This made the two Spectres both baffled and intrigued at the same time.

“Yeah. Arterius was rather popular among the females, something about that voice of his.” Bailey went on as the trio behind the silver turian snickered and struggled to keep from laughing. “I wouldn’t be laughing Shepard, when your VI erased a file it would say, ‘I delete data like you on the way to real errors.”

“Huh?!”

Garrus and Saren could not keep quiet. Not only were the two turians laughing with their primary vocals, Aura grumbled at the mocking tone in their secondary vocals. That’s pretty extreme, Commander. Chirped the young turian and Aura rolled her eyes, flipping him off nonchalantly with her middle finger. “Laugh it up boys, laugh it up.” She grumbled but that just made the two double over once more. Even Thane was biting his lower lip in a futile attempt to keep his laughter in check. Once the two finished laughing, Shepard and Garrus parted ways from Saren and Thane stating that once they completed their missions, they would meet up at the Dark Star Lounge for dinks on her. Saren rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but find the invitation enticing.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

Finding Mouse wasn’t too difficult. The young man was standing in front of an electronic store to which Saren realized that he’d probably out to check out the inventory before they returned to Bailey. He scolded himself before turning his focus back on the task at hand. “You Mouse?” Saren hummed towards the human. The young man turned around in irritation before he nearly fell over backwards when his dark hazel eyes fell on the drell.

“Oh shit! Krios?! I thought you retired!” Mouse squeaked then seeing the silver turian, the young human almost made a shriek-like gasp. “A-and Saren?! I thought you died. What do you two want with me?”

The drell raised his hand and gently patted the terrified boy reassuring him that the two meant him no harm. Although Saren was curious about the relationship Mouse and Thane shared, he decided it was best to get down to tacks and brass. “You gave another drell instructions for an assassination. We need to know who the target is.”

Mouse cringed and seemed to try and make himself look smaller. He was scared and he made it known. He stated that the people he worked for would make him disappear if he said anything. Saren could tell by the scent though that the human genuinely wanted to help as a favor for Thane but he didn’t want to die. Thane spoke up once more stating that he wouldn’t have asked Mouse if it wasn’t important. The drell even stated that he and Saren would make sure that the human would not be mentioned once and that no one would know about this conversation. Saren sent Thane an annoyed chirp using his subvocals to which the drell’s throat inflated briefly as he flicked his eyes at the turian. Let me handle this. Thane hissed and Saren actually huffed crossing his arms over his chest.

Mouse informed them that Koylat had flagged him down looking for a job. He had gone through some of Thane’s old contacts to see who would take him on and give him a shot. The person who hired the drell’s son went by the name Elias Kelham. Saren bit back a growl. He knew the name. Kelham was a human who had moved to the Citadel ten years ago though at the time he wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. Now, after the geth attack, many residents and big-name crooks got cacked and Kelham now lived in the fancy apartments on the Presidium. After collecting what they needed from Mouse and the young man swiftly departed from their line of sight, Saren glanced at Thane befuddled at the fact the human knew more about Krios’ life that his own son. Thane had a look of regret on his scaly features but the turian nodded his head back to C-Sec silently enunciating that they needed to talk with Bailey once more.

The two made their way back to C-Sec where the short, blonde-haired man was just finishing up filing a report when he found the drell and silver turian standing before his desk once more. He smiled slight, his voice gruff when he inquired if they discovered who hired Thane’s son. However, upon hearing Kelham’s name, the man visibly paled and he cursed under his breath. Saren furrowed his brow. Evidently, the C-Sec captain and Kelham had an agreement. So long as Kelham doesn’t cause too much trouble and ‘buys’ tickets to the Charity Ball, Bailey leaves him alone.

“He pays you off. Why am I not surprised.” Saren ridiculed venomously. “You were so eager to help us but now it seems we are an ‘inconvenience’.”

The captain narrowed his eyes irritably at the Spectre. “I said I’d help and I will. I just have to do this carefully. There will be repercussions if I don’t do this carefully. We give each other space and so far, it has kept the peace. I’d rather keep it that way.” He then informed them that he would get some of his people to bring in Kelham and set him up in a private room. From there, the two could interrogate him and with luck, Bailey would stay out of sight and Kelham would believe he had nothing to do with this. Saren flicked his mandibles in delight. He then motioned for Bailey to bring the human in.

~~~~~~~~~~~~


The two watched as Bailey’s men dragged a man wearing a bright green and blue suit with black hair and beard into one of the rooms. However, just as they were about to enter the room, Thane spotted Kelham’s lawyer making his way towards the front desk. Bailey glanced at the two and spoke in a hurried whisper that the two needed to be quick while he had his people stall the lawyer. The two agreed to interrogate the human together to keep the pressure up and have Thane pretend to be on Kelham’s side while Saren pulled out his usual charms. The violent one to be precise. They both nodded their heads before entering the room where the human was restrained in a chair demanding to be released. As the doors swished open, Kelham watched as the drell entered first then the turian who seemed to be gliding over behind the human, a cold icy glare radiating from his features. His mandibles were pressed tight against his jaw in an intimidating frown and his silver eyes seemed to radiate just as much malice as his presence.

“Who the hell are you two?” Demanded the human.

Saren adjusted his right mandible in to a turian equivalent of a sneer. “I’m Saren Arterius. A Spectre.”

“Prove it!” Kelham spat then hissed when the muzzle of a gun pressed painfully under his chin and the turian’s eyes glowed darkly.

“I don’t have to prove anything to you, human. A Spectre is above the law. Are we clear?” The icy threat in both his primary and secondary vocals brought forth cold sweat from Kelham’s now trembling body and the human nodded his head slowly, his adam’s apple bobbing in fear. “Good boy.” Saren grinned lowering his weapon slightly. “Now, fortunately for you, we aren’t here for you. You hired an assassin. Who’s the target?”

“Joram Talid.”

Thane narrowed his eyes. “When and where?”

Elias smacked his head against the headrest before replying. “At the 800 blocks. Are we done?”

Saren rolled his eyes and nodded his head towards Thane as they turned to leave the room. Just as the doors closed behind them, the drell couldn’t stop the rumbling laughter in his chest and he turned his head to Saren. He snorted in amazement stating that their interrogation was probably the shortest in history to which the Spectre flicked one mandible downward and loosened the other in to a crooked grin. Truth be told, his best interrogation record was less than two seconds. All he had to do was walk into the room and the suspect spilled his secrets with ease but he’d settle for less than a minute. They met up with Bailey and brought the captain up to speed. The captain informed them that Joram was a turian running for office in the 800 District mentioning that the duo probably saw the propaganda advertisements around the area claiming that Joram planned on cleaning up the district.

“Sadly, Joram’s message is mixed up with racial politics.” Bailey finished explaining, “He’s anti-human.”

“Before the Battle of the Citadel, most of the other species believed humans are a violent upstart. I won’t deny my disdain for most humans.” Saren belittled the human, rolling his shoulders in a shrug.

Bailey made a sweeping gesture to the area behind him. “Look at what we have accomplished. A human fleet has been guarding the station for months now and C-Sec is filled with humans. Anderson is doing what he can, but it's also understandable that some people who have lived on the station long before we humans came along see this as a coup.”

“Whether you like it or not, if the majority votes for him, that is how the system works.” Growled the turian. “We’re wasting time with this argument. We need to find Joram immediately.”


                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Citadel Station: 800 Blocks ~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Saren flicked a mandible in the direction of their quarry: a dark gray turian dressed in white was talking with a small group of turians and salarians. Next to him was a krogan bodyguard donned in red armor and bore an almost bored look. Saren glanced at Thane and crossed his arms over his chest. This was his call in all reality. His son’s life was at stake, so it made sense to have the drell call the shots. The drell’s eyes flicked upwards where he spotted the catwalks above them then instructed that the turian find purchase from above and inform Thane on what their target was doing even go far as to say that the politician’s bodyguard would more than likely make it easier for tracking. Saren chuckled, questioning on where Thane would be, the drell  merely stated with a grin that he would be in the darkest corner with the best view. The silver turian was about to part ways with his partner when he noticed bring his scaly hands up as though he was praying and began to speak.

“Amonkira,” The drell began reverently, “Lord of Hunters. Grant that my hands be steady, my aim be true, and my feet swift. And should the worst come to pass, grant me forgiveness.”

Upon that last verse, Saren had only blinked and the drell had simply vanished like a ghost. He couldn’t keep from grinning. Drell certainly had style. He’d have to ask Thane to teach him that trick later. He shot a look on either side of him before he made his way to a wall hidden from view and after tapping on the steel with his talons, a secret door opened and he climbed up a ladder leading to the catwalks as the door behind him closed just as quickly as it had opened. There were still some places on the Citadel that only he knew about and his subvocals rumbled with pride.

Following Joram wasn’t that hard, even without the krogan, Saren’s eyes were sharp enough to follow the other turian easily. He had seen Joram shake down a few human owned businesses but he really didn’t care. He then noticed the politician constantly looking over his shoulder as though sensing he was being followed. Saren shook his head disappointedly. One would think a turian who went through military training as a fledgling would know to check all his surroundings but nope. Not this fool. He noticed the duo making their way to a club and tried to follow. What he was not expecting was a human worker to be up in the rafters cleaning. He didn’t have time to answer questions and instead opted to knock out the young man with a punch to the face. He had just exited the room above when he spotted his quarry and intended target. The young drell was silently creeping up behind Joram and Saren practically roared from his perch.

“KOYLAT!!”

The young drell whipped his head back towards the source calling his name. Unfortunately, so did his quarry as Joram and his bodyguard spun around and tried to bolt. Kolyat hissed as he fired his submachine gun, nailing the krogan bodyguard in the head and was now sprinting after the turian politician. Saren leapt down from the catwalks just as Thane emerged from the shadows and the two sprinted in to the apartments. They were practically flying up to Joram’s apartment and by the time they arrived, they found the politician on his knees with his hands behind his head just under his fringe. Kolyat had his gun aimed directly at the back of Joram’s head only to growl with a look of disbelief that swiftly morphed in to one of disdain and anger at the sight of his father. Saren kept his pistol aimed at the young drell. Now that he had a chance to get a good look at Kolyat, he realized how similar he looked to Thane. They shared the same dark forest green eyes but their scales were different. While Thane’s skin color reminded him of a ruby throated hummingbird with emerald greens and deep red, Koylat’s scales were like a mint-colored tree frog. Saren assumed the young drell got those colors from his mother.

“T-This is joke. Now?” Hissed the young drell, venom practically dripping from his voice. “NOW you show up?!”

Before Thane had a chance to speak, Bailey and a few of his officers swarmed into the room, weapons raised and poised to fire at Kolyat. Bailey calmly attempted to instruct Thane’s boy to lower his weapon but he merely brushed the human off adamantly saying that he was taking Joram with him. Saren twitched his mandible at Thane, watching slowly as the older drell stepped towards his son. Thane kept his voice low, calm and there was a hint at pleading in his tone. He informed his boy that C-Sec more than likely had snipers ready to fire if Kolyat refused to listen. Saren spotted a lamp standing behind the young drell and without hesitating, he fired off one round. Instinctively, Kolyat moved slight to the left to avoid the projectile only to see it shatter the light fixture. He cursed in alarm only to hiss when the silver turian’s fist connected with his cheek. While stunned, Saren’s chest resonated in a low hum-like growl towards Talid who trilled back in weak thanks before hobbling out of the apartment.

“You son of a varren!” Kolyat growled as he rubbed his sore jaw with the back of his hand.

Saren locked eyes with the young drell then gestured to Thane. “Your father doesn’t have much time, boy. I suggest listening to him before I lose my patience.”

Kolyat scoffed as he turned his attention to the older drell staring regretfully back. He crossed his arms in anger before throwing is arm in disgust. “Why? So, you can get my forgiveness? So, you can die in peace or something?”

“I-I came to came to grant you peace.” Thane said slowly before lowering his head, eyes flicking to the floor as he searched for the words. The older drell finally pulled his head up to look into his son’s eyes as he spoke knowingly. “You’re angry because I wasn’t there when your mother died.”

“You weren’t there when she was alive.” Kolyat spat, his brows furrowing and his lips drew back in an angry sneer. “Why should you be there when she died?”

Saren quietly listened to the exchange though his mind had wandered upon hearing Kolyat’s words. He remembered Aura mentioning the last thing Desolas said to Sparatus was nearly identical to what Thane’s son had stated. He then felt his own chest tighten, a feeling he had not felt since losing his brother. Now? He wondered his father felt the same way as Thane.

“Your mother...” Thane said clenching his fists tightly for a moment. “They, the ringleaders, killed her to get to me. It was my fault.”

Kolyat’s eyes blinked as though he misheard. “What?”

“After her body was given to the deep, I went to find the triggermen. I hunted them down, hurt them.” Thane said looking away, “When I returned to see you, you were... older. I-I should have stayed with you. I should have been there when you needed me most.” Kolyat was patient as he waited for his father to finish. He sighed. Too bad the old drell waited too long to find him again. What Thane said next surprised not only Kolyat but also Saren. Thane bit his lip, like he was struggling to process his words, struggling to find the courage to say what he needed to say.

He finally took a shaky breath and upon exhaling told his son this. “Kolyat, I’ve taken many bad things, horrible people out of the world.” He stepped closer to his son, tentatively resting both his hands on the young drell’s shoulders. “You’re the only good thing I have ever added to it.”

As touching and heartfelt as this was, Bailey cleared his throat stating that the drells’ conversation shouldn’t be held out like this in the open. He gestured to his subordinate, instructing that she give them a room to speak in private. The officer nodded her head as she approached the two drell. The father was holding his boy close as they left the room to follow the officer. Once gone, Saren quirked a browplate at Bailey. He was stunned that the human was helping Thane. It perplexed him. However, Bailey stated that Thane wasn’t the only one who ever screwed up raising a son. The only difference was that Bailey failed to save his son and he wasn’t going to let someone else suffer the same fate.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, Saren was leaning against the wall behind Bailey going over data on his omni-tool while the two drell talked in their room. True, they had been talking for over two hours but Saren knew the kid had been through a lot and he wasn’t going to interfere. He had just finished sending an encrypted message to Sparatus when the captain drew his attention to his computer. He had run some searches in the C-Sec database archive. Ten years ago, a bunch of ruthless thugs and gangs were killed and from what Bailey could deduce, he suspected someone was cleaning house and he added that the suspect was a drell that they never caught. Saren had a sneaking suspicion Bailey was suspecting Thane and narrowed his eyes.

“Ten years is a long time.” He said with a shrug. “Whoever was responsible probably no longer exists anymore.”

Bailey was about to speak when the doors to the interrogation room opened and Thane strolled out of the cell. He seemed less ragged and frayed and had a little more life in his eyes then before. Saren chirped, asking how the conversation went. Thane smiled weakly. “Our problems—they aren’t some that I can fix with a few words.” Replied the old drell as he glanced over his shoulder to stare at the closed door. “However, we’ll keep talking and see what happens.”

“Hey, I hate to be the negative nelly in the room but your boy did shoot some people. No one I particularly sympathize with but there it is.” Bailey then added that Kolyat couldn’t just get away with it.

“The fledging wants to make a difference. Give him community service.” Saren shrugged lazily as though that was the answer. Bailey, on the other hand looked like he got slapped across the face. Community service? For attempted murder?? What jury would agree to that??? “This would need to stay out of the judiciary. Strictly within C-Sec. Spectre authority.”

“Just had to pull that card on me, didn’t you?” Bailey laughed before nodding then watched as the two left C-Sec after Thane gave his boy another hug. While Thane walked ahead to meet up with Aura and Garrus, the silver turian took a moment to catch a cab to Sparatus' apartment. There were some things that needed to be taken care of.

Chapter Text

It had been a couple weeks since Aura and Saren assisted their friends on the Citadel. They all enjoyed some drinks with Garrus and Thane after tending to their business; however, it grew more interesting when they were also joined by Anderson and Sparatus. Still, they all had fun. They were currently waiting for the Illusive Man to contact them on the whereabouts of a derelict Reaper that was believed to have the key for safe passage through Omega 4 Mass Relay and had taken refuge near the Krogan home systems. Currently, Aura was standing in the room near engineering where Grunt was currently pacing. Saren had informed her that the young krogan had been acting strange then joked stating that a woman’s touch would provide better results.

“Grunt, you’re wearing a canyon in the floor. What’s wrong?” Shepard asked as the tank-bred krogan continued to pace around.

“Something... is wrong. I feel wrong. Tense. I want to kill something with my bare hands.” Grunt began as he strolled over to the window overlooking the cargo hold. “More so than usual, like it's not my choice. I just want to... I don’t know!”

The young Krogan slammed his head against the window, several cracks forming throughout the glass. It was a wonder that the glass didn’t shatter, though Shepard had a hunch that Grunt held back at the last second. When he turned around, his icy gaze stared through Aura’s searchingly. He felt lost and confused and he was seeking answers from Shepard. At first, Aura was at a loss. She wondered why Okeer never implanted basic krogan knowledge into Grunt to begin with but soon reminded herself that the insane scientist only instilled battle into the young krogan. It wasn’t until Grunt mentioned the term ‘blood haze’ and that his plates and blood were screaming at him did things started to click and she recalled something Wrex had once told her on their travels to stop Sovereign.

“I’m tank-born Shepard. What is this?”

Aura chuckled slightly. “Well, I’m no expert on Krogan, Grunt but I can tell you nothing is wrong. You’re just becoming an adult. All species go through it.”

“Then what can I do to control this?”

Aura patted his head, earning an unexpected chirp from Grunt. “Unfortunately, neither Chakwas or I have the means to help you, but I know someone who can. We’re going to Tuchanka.”

“.... Thank you, Shepard.” Grunt said almost ashamed but he grinned when Aura flicked his nose and told him to get himself ready. She then informed EDI that they needed to repair the glass in Grunt’s room as soon as possible.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As the shuttle rattled against the harsh winds of the planet’s surface, Aura could see the remnants of what was once a thriving and impressive civilization now nothing more than an apocalyptic wasteland. Shepard turned her head away from the window to glance at Saren and Grunt just as the shuttle began its descent into one of the portholes leading to one of the tribe locations. They were greeted or rather snarled at by a few Krogan guards to go and speak with the clan leader. Saren noticed Aura perk up as though she had an idea and motioned for the others to follow her. Upon entering the building, at least it looked like the ruins of a building, the trio couldn’t help but notice different clans talking and trading almost civilly with one another. Aura spotted a varren with dark blue and black scales, littered with scars looking up at her curiously and cautiously. She gave the creature a small, understanding smile then chuckled as it got up to follow her before turning to the sound of an argument on the dais.

“You know the traditions. Clan Urdnot must respond and your reform will not go unopposed. You risk appearing weak at a critical time.” Said the green armored krogan who seemed to be speaking to... wait... was that, Wrex?

The red rust-colored Krogan flicked a familiar red eye in Shepard’s direction and he abruptly stood up. “Shepard!”

Aura slipped past the guards overlooking the dais and strolled over to the Krogan, both extending their arms and clasping them like the old friends they were. Wrex couldn’t help but grin broadly and he gave Aura’s back a hard smack that normally would have jarred her but she merely smirked back at her friend.

“You’re both looking great for dead, Shepard. Saren.” Wrex chuckled and Saren merely rolled his eyes though he, too, was chuckling himself, “Should have known the void couldn’t keep the two you.” The warriors continued to chat for a while, catching up on old adventures and what the other had been up to over the years. Wrex laughed at the memory of their sparring matches in the old Normandy and Aura often recalled the lessons on Krogan culture he had shared with her then getting back on track turned towards to Grunt, who was being surprisingly wary and shy. She waved him over.

“I have a krogan youngster here. He’s the one I mentioned in my message before arriving.” Aura said as Grunt stood silently beside her. Wrex’s pupils narrowed into slits as he approached the tank-born.

“So, you’re the tank-born Shepard mentioned.” Wrex hummed curiously as he circled the youngster. “If I recall from her message, you are quite the interesting specimen. Care to tell me more, whelp?”

“I was tank-bred by warlord Okeer. My lineage was distilled from Kredak, Moro and Shiagur.” Answered Grunt but before he could continue speaking, he was cut off by the algae green Krogan, Uvek. At least, that was what Aura thought that was what she heard Wrex call him. Uvek was obviously displeased with Grunt reciting warlord names and cursed at him for being the by-product of a syringe. Saren noticed Aura clenching her fists tightly but she relaxed then grinned when Grunt smirked at Uvek. “I am pure krogan. You should be in awe.” He bared his teeth in a hiss. Wrex made another hum drawing the attention of Uvek and the youngster. He stated solemnly that Okeer was not only a very old name, it was a very hated name. When Grunt stated that his ‘father’ was dead, Wrex laughed shaking his head before sparing a glance at Aura and Saren. The whelp was with two of the deadliest warriors in history. He wasn’t surprised that Okeer perished.

“I have a hunch that Grunt is just going through the process to become a full adult.” Aura informed and Wrex’s eyes lit up.

“You were wise to bring him here, Shepard.” The old Krogan nodded, “All Krogan undergo the Rite of Passage-”

“You go too far, Wrex!” Snarled Uvek as he stormed past the group. “That thing is not Krogan.”

Saren snorted and shook his head. What an idiot.

Wrex didn’t seem perturbed by Uvek’s outburst and instead redirected his attention to Grunt. “So, Grunt, was it? Do you wish to stand with Urdnot?”

Grunt turned towards Shepard. She chuckled at the gesture. Despite the clone having immense knowledge of past battles and other things, he was still, technically a child. She nodded her head towards him, silently telling him that this was his choice. Not hers. He turned towards the rubble before him, eyes scanning his surroundings, contemplating. He then stared at Wrex, nodding his head with his usual bold grin. Wrex returned the grin with one of his own then pointed him in the direction of the shaman on the second level and informed him that he’d set the youngster on the right path. Just as Grunt made his way to the second level Aura and Saren about to ask the old krogan about something else but to their surprise, Wrex turned his head, eyes flicking towards both of them.

“That goes for you too.” Wrex pointed towards Grunt. “How many times have you stepped in a mess for your crew, hmm?”

“You just want to see if I’m rusty or not.” Aura barked a laugh before trailing after the youngster.

Wrex made a rumbling laugh and when he took a seat on his rubble ‘throne’, he noticed that Saren was still standing before him. “Saren. That means you as well.”

“Why?” Saren gawked internally while cocking his head to the side.

“Aura’s already earned my respect and she’s right. I just want to see how rusty she is. You, on the other hand, have not earned my respect or trust. Consider this test for you as well from the Krogan.” Wrex said smirking, jerking his head in the direction. “Hop to it, turian.”

The silver turian flash the old krogan a snarky looking snarl before dropping his arms to his sides before he trailed after the commander. He kept his subvocals low and mostly to himself to hide his aggravation. Why did he have to join in on the Rite of Passage alongside Aura and Grunt? Wasn’t this mostly a Krogan thing? He caught up to Shepard who seemed to be excited to see and experience the Krogan ritual. Saren then slowly shook his head. He had to admit, considering how Krogan felt about other species, this probably would be a good experience for him as well.

“You go beyond yourself, Gatatog Uvek!” An old raspy voice snarked. “The rites of Urdnot are dominate!”

Uvek stepped closer to the shaman, challenging the old one. “How do we know it will challenge him? That thing is unnatural! The beasts of the Rite could ignore him like a lump of plastic!”

Aura rolled her eyes. Of course, the algae colored Krogan would try to interfere with Grunt’s Rite of Passage. Even Saren couldn’t help but roll his eyes and he was about to make his own remark when he felt something brush against his leg and barrel in to Aura. When he turned his gaze downward, he saw the scarred varren nuzzling against the commander fondly and made muffle barks as she absentmindedly scratched the top of the fish-dog's head.

“They know blood no matter the womb.” The shaman growled back. “Your barking does not help your case.”

“I can speak for myself!” Grunt barked at the two older Krogan as they turned towards the tank-born. The shaman slowly approached Grunt, a curious look in his surprisingly dark blue eyes. He even took a sniff at the tank-born then turned towards Uvek, stating that his protests rang hollow. Aura informed the shaman the message Wrex relayed to them about aiding Grunt in his rite.

Uvek, however, still wouldn’t back down. “If this must stand on ritual, then I invoke a denial. My krantt stands against this syringe born creature. He has no one!”

“He has us.” Aura snarked back crossing her arms irritated at Uvek. “We, my crew and I, stand beside him as his krantt. Just point us at the target and they’ll die.” Saren merely flicked his mandibles with pride. Even the shaman was pleased with her weighted words, even going so far as to claim she knew more about krogan culture and rituals better than most.

“These aliens don’t know anything about strength!” Uvek snarled as he strode into the commander’s personal space. “My followers are TRUE Krogan. Everything about that thing is a lie!”

Aura gritted her teeth in a snarl. She had had enough of this Krogan’s barking and whining. She reared her head back then slammed her forehead hard against the thick shelled skull of Uvek with a loud CRACK. Uvek recoiled at the unexpected headbutt and groaned rubbing his head. Grunt and the shaman busted out in laughter at the human woman’s display of strength. Even the scarred varren seemed to be making a chuffing sound, like laughter, at the sight of Uvek trying to compose himself while Aura crossed her arms over her chest. Once composed, Uvek drew his lips back in a snarl. “You dare?!” He tried to challenge but the shaman shook his head.

“I agree with Urz. I like this human too! She understands.” The shaman laughed.

“Urz?” Aura tilted her head then glanced down at the varren chuffing at his name being called.

Uvek growled once more turning his attention more towards the shaman realizing Aura would not be dissuaded. “Shaman, you seriously cannot decide in this thing’s favor! What about Krogan tradition if you pollute the Rite?”

This time, the shaman no longer had the patience. He slammed his own head against Uvek’s. “You dare! I was a warrior long before your mother was even born! I speak with the authority of centuries. I decide who is worthy! That is the END OF IT!!!” He then jerked his head in a silent order for Uvek to leave before he truly lost his temper. As he did, Urz snarled baring his fangs and bristling the spines on his back. Uvek, resigning for the moment, shot an angry glare at Aura and her crew before parting ways. Deciding not to waste any more time, the Shaman beckoned the trio to follow them and had them load up in one of the tomkas, a vehicle the Krogan used for transport across their planet. It wasn’t too different from the MAKO however, it was faster than the old girl and twice as sturdy from front to back but its weak point was in the middle where the joint combining the two cabins was located.

After about an hour of driving, the vehicle abruptly stopped and the Shaman climbed out of the cabin with the trio and Urz in tow. He went on to explain that the location they were in was one of Tuchanka’s more recent scar, the last surface city to fall in the rebellions. He pointed to a large tower housing what looked to be a giant hammer to which the old Krogan informed was called a keystone. It had survived wars and the passage of centuries. Much like the Krogan, it endured. Urz trotted ahead of them, whipping his tail from side to side excitedly while the elder continued. He instructed that Grunt had to face three trials by contemplating the keystone. What they would be facing was anyone’s guess but they had to thrive no matter what the situation. With that, he left the group wishing them luck.

The first two trials weren’t too difficult thanks to Urz watching their flanks. While Aura and Grunt dealt with the strange red, and often exploding, insects known as Klixens, Saren and Urz dealt with the feral varren trying to flank them from behind. The scarred varren had just finished off the last of its feral brethren when the ground suddenly began to tremble violently. Aura glanced at the varren and watched as he took cover in a small crevice just as another, more violent tremor ripped under the trio’s feet. This caused Aura to freeze. She knew these tremors. She recognized the blue tendrils emerging from the ground like vile serpent tongues. Grunt shot a shotgun round into one of them and instantly, all the tendrils disappeared and erupting from the ground was a massive thresher maw. Its beady eyes locked on to the trio and its spider like mouth opened, screeching as a blue tongue dripping with acid twitched and swayed. Shepard felt the old burns on her back scream, like she was being branded again she backed up slightly.

“Why did it have to be thresher maws?!” She shouted ducking for cover as it suddenly spat out its acid.

Saren and Grunt pinned themselves against the large pillars to shield themselves from the corrosive saliva. The silver turian was more concern at the fact that they were not only exposed on the small platform, but they were facing the damned thing on FOOT! It took a bit of fancy footwork to keep from being doused with acid and from running into each but they soon found a rhythm to the creature’s little dance and they managed to whittle down its health exponentially. As a last-ditch effort to not only get a meal but to eradicate the pesky creatures below it, the thresher maw launched itself at Aura and her squad, it’s mouth eclipsing and enshrouding them all. Aura and Saren managed to erect a biotic barrier around themselves and Grunt fried off his shotgun just as they were enveloped in the darkness of the maw’s mouth. There was bright flash, followed by a muffle explosion and the entire head of the thresher maw exploded around the trio, dousing them in its flesh, brains and skin.

“Gross...” Aura gagged as she shook her head free of the brain matter stuck in her hair.

Saren peeled several chunks of thresher maw guts off his anterior fringe and the inside of his cowl while Aura pulled off the rest from his fringe. He agreed with the commander on that note. His nose plate scrunched up at the horrible smell, flicking his wrists free of the gore that was once the thresher maw’s head. Grunt, ever the excited child that he was, relished in their victory over the beast. Least someone was having fun. Aura had just finished removing the last scrap of thresher maw guts from Saren’s back when the two heard the humming of a shuttle approaching. Grunt was bouncing on his feet excitedly. He was itching for another fight and was watching the shuttle land before them. They were expecting the shaman but instead, emerging from the shuttle was actually Uvek and several members of his krantt.

“You live” Uvek said sounding genuinely surprised, “and you brought down a thresher maw. No one has done that in generations. Urdnot Wrex was the last.”

Grunt stepped forward gesturing to Shepard and Saren. “My krantt gave me strength beyond my genes, which are damned good.”

“The best krogan traits are distilled into Grunt.” Aura stated crossing her arms over her armored chest. “He’s designed to be perfect.”

Uvek sneered. “Being ‘designed’ is the problem but not made by aliens and he is truly powerful is a tolerable loophole.”

“Loophole?” Saren narrowed his eyes at that word. “What do you mean?”

It was a reason for Uvek to accept him but he made it abundantly clear that he considered Grunt to be a mistake. However, as it stood, Grunt had tipped the balance of the clans considerably. Grunt saw through Uvek’s ranting though. “You spit on my father’s name? On Shepard’s name! But now you stop your ranting because I’m strong?” Hissed the young krogan angrily. The green krogan continued, stating should Grunt join Uvek’s clan he would not be allowed to breed nor serve on an alien ship but he would clan in name. Aura scoffed at the garbage that just infested her ears. Uvek only wanted Grunt as a trophy, not a soldier or even a true member of the clan.

“If we know Grunt, your answer is coming at muzzled velocity.” Saren chuckled voicing the commander’s thoughts.

“You do know Grunt.” The tank-born beamed then glared at Uvek. “This varren is dead!”

The young krogan barreled in to the older krogan and knocked him off his feet just as his krantt drew their weapons. The trio quickly to dove for cover. Aura whistled and Urz barreled into one of the other warriors, leaping on to the krogan’s back and tore into the back of his prey’s neck. Saren effortlessly tossed two of the other warriors over the edge of the building then snarled when a shotgun round pierced through his shielding, armor and shoulder. He whipped around to find the culprit. Uvek had managed to get in close but just as he aimed his shotgun once more at the turian, Grunt slammed into him, grabbing hold of the gun and tried to rip it out of Uvek’s grasp. Aura finished off the last krogan warrior with Urz’s help and upon seeing one of her squad down, she rushed over cloaked in her biotic cloak.

Another round went off before Grunt managed to pry Uvek's weapon from his grasp. Thankfully, no one got hurt. He shoved the barrel of the gun into the green krogan’s eye then fired. Once Uvek lay still, Grunt tossed the shotgun aside growling at the corpse before watching Aura tend to Saren’s shoulder. She sighed in relief as the wound was merely a surface wound and nothing more. As she applied the medigel to the wound, Urz purred at the sight of the Shaman and a few other krogan. Shepard deduced that it was time for pick up and glanced at her counterpart who held up his hand in a gesture that meant all was well. The trio then piled into the tomka and journeyed back to the camp where Wrex would more than likely be waiting for them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

After returning to the camp and getting a better look at Saren’s wound, the Shaman approached the trio looking at Grunt absolutely please. Not only had the tank-born passed the Rite of Passage but he earned the honor of being called Urdnot Grunt. He also stated that while many had survived, it had been years since a thresher maw fell. Apparently, Wrex was the last one to had downed a thresher maw. When the Shaman added that Grunt was now entitled to the privileges of being part of the Urdnot clan, he suggested that he choose a battle master to serve under. To Aura’s shock, Grunt chose to stay under her leadership and Saren’s. The young krogan also stated that the two Spectres had earned his respect and that the clan’s battle masters paled in comparison to their battle might and prowess.

The Shaman nodded proudly as he departed from the trio. Saren and Aura glanced at the tank-born who was practically bouncing on his feet made his way to Wrex and the old Krogan nodded approvingly. While Wrex continued to converse and teach young Grunt about how to be a krogan, the two Spectres slipped back to the ship to not only clean their armor but themselves as well as they were beginning to smell rather rancid.

Chapter Text

The two silver Spectres had just finished taking a shower after helping Grunt defeat a thresher maw and were currently eating some lunch after using up so much energy and their armor was currently being cleaned and sterilized. Saren was currently going over some schematics Thane and Jacob had sent him on how to improve the Normandy’s armor plating and increase the yield of mining for materials. Aura was roving over the data pad Miranda had given her. It contained the current number of materials they had in the cargo hold and she was grinning ear to ear. Saren trilled towards her and she handed him the data. His eyes slowly read through the information and he made a pleased purr. They had amassed quite the stockpile so far to almost fully upgrade the ship but they were still missing some platinum and eezo to take care of installing the Thanix Cannon and increasing their fuel capacity. Still, this was good. Just as they were finishing up both their meal and brainstorming, Mordin suddenly came rushing in making a beeline to the two.

“Shepard, Arterius. Important news! Know your busy, have to deal with Collectors. Planning attack.” The old salarian stated as he started pacing then stopped as though he couldn’t hold back what was on his mind. “Nono! Too important to wait! Just received data. Still processing, analyzing likely scenarios. Not sure how to begin. Too much intel!”

“Mordin, take a breath first.” Aura instructed calmly. Mordin stopped and took a deep breath. “Now start at the beginning as best you can.”

“You know about the genophage?”

Saren and Aura spared a glance at each other. The genophage was a touchy subject to them. They knew that it was a virus created by the salarians to quell the Krogan Rebellions and the virus made it so only one krogan pregnancy out of a thousand led to a live birth. What they also learned recently was that Mordin was part of the project and that he discovered that the Krogan were evolving past the virus. Aura found it good news while Saren on the other talon was still on the fence about it. Mordin was obviously disturbed by the revelation stating that the Krogan were too warlike with a dead culture and that an increase in their population would lead to more aggression and war. The salarian doctor then added that at one point he and a small team created a new version of the virus and released it on to Tuchanka to ‘restabilize’ the population.

“Honestly, the first genophage was a mistake bordering a war crime in my opinion.” Aura shook her head displeased. “How the hell could you do it again?”

“Exactly the reaction feared. In small numbers, krogan sympathetic, tragic. Galactic regret for deployment of genophage.” Mordin stated with a wave of his hand as though he anticipated the question. “But in large numbers, expansion, aggression, war. Krogan too dangerous. Had to stop them.” The salarian continued on defending that the first genophage was necessary. Then with cultural fragmentation; the modified genophage was even more necessary. The human woman narrowed her eyes. She didn’t buy it. While she refused to just let the subject drop, Shepard understood that this was a sign of trust from the salarian and she wasn’t about to jeopardize it over a disagreement in ethics. Aura composed herself with a neutral expression then she motioned for Mordin to continue. The doctor informed her that Blood Pack mercenaries captured a former teammate of his. Another salarian by the name of Maelon. His last known location was on Tuchanka and he feared that his teammate was currently being tortured or worse.

Aura stared at Saren who shrugged then watched as she got to her feet. “We’ll ask Wrex if he or his scouts saw any of the mercs. Saren, if you can pry Garrus away from that console in the main battery, I’d like you two to meet me and Mordin in the shuttle bay.” Aura instructed then snorted. “Besides, we need to pick up a certain krogan youngster and send him back here.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~

The four of them returned to Tuchanka a few hours later and upon arriving at the landing pad EDI informed them that thanks to them assisting Grunt with his Rite, he had received over several breeding requests. However, the tank-born wasn’t the only one. Apparently, Aura and Saren weren’t excluded from that list. Shepard had five while Saren received eight. Garrus laughed in vivacious and carefree amusement. EDI also informed them that a salarian had recently passed through the area and that Wrex might have more information regarding the whereabouts of Maelon. They passed by Grunt who was currently going over a new krogan shotgun in the medical/armory lab near Wrex’s throne. Aura was just happy to see Grunt finding his place in a clan and she could see even from this distance that the tank-born krogan was very happy. Clearing her thoughts and refocusing on the task at hand, she and her squad made their way to Wrex who beamed at them.

“So, I got to ask,” Smirked the Urdnot leader, “You two going to accept the breeding requests?”

“Fuck no.” Saren growled disgruntled.

Aura laughed at how quick the silver turian turned down the off. “Sorry, Wrex. I must decline too. I have too much on my plate.”

Wrex chuckled. “Ah, well. That’s a shame.”

“We’re looking for a salarian. He was captured by the Blood Pack and brought here.” Saren stated, obviously wanting to change the subject. “Have you seen anyone matching that description.”

Wrex nodded his head towards where another krogan wearing the Urdnot markings overlooking the other clans. He quickly warned them that they should make it quick with gathering intel as he needed the scout to maintain a constant watch on the other clans. Aura nodded then with a wave of her hand, motioned for her group to follow. The scout was polite but on edge, one eye focused on them and the other constantly scanning the perimeter. When they inquired about the salarian, he informed them that since it was Blood Pack who took him, then the squad needed to find Clan Weyrloc as the mercs answered to them. He also informed them that he had sent out one of his scouts to check it out but hadn’t reported back in a long while. He figured the clan captured him too. He then offered to give the squad one of the trucks and stated that all they had to do was follow the highway straight to Weyrloc’s base so long as they were ready to deal with vorcha and other denizens of the area.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ride didn’t take long however, the vorcha, feral varren, exploding klixens and raging Blood Pack Krogans were a different matter. Still, the team wouldn’t have gotten very far without Urz who somehow had managed to stowaway on the tomka just as they were heading out to the Blood Pack base. Aura was giving Urz scratches on his head just as they reached what looked to be an old hospital. As the door to the building opened, Mordin quipped that it was repurposed and sturdy enough to withstand punishment. Their varren growled, snorted then pawed at its nose in discomfort. Seemed like every species despised a trip to the doctors.

“This is unfortunate.” Garrus trilled disapprovingly. “Hospitals are not fun to fight through.”

Aura turned to glance at the young turian. “What is fun to fight through?”

Saren and Garrus looked at each other, smirked then answered with the younger starting off and the older adding on.

“Gardens.”

“Electronic shops.”

“Antique stores.”

“But only if their classy.” The two turians said in agreement.

The good doctor and the commander shook their heads though they were smiling at the list. Urz trotted ahead as their scout as they cautiously entered the hospital. They had only been in the building for a few minutes when the varren barked at them and disappeared around the corner where they found the corpse of a dead human. Mordin immediately set to work to find any form of clues or answers as to what was going on here. The body was littered with sores, tumors. There were ligatures showing restraint at the wrists and ankles and track marks indicating multiple injection sites. Mordin concluded that the poor sod was a victim of experimentation. This made both Aura and Saren shudder slightly. The commander knelt down beside Mordin resting one hand on Urz’s back while the salarian continued to scan the body. It was abundantly clear that Weyrloc was trying to cure the genophage.

“Why use humans though?” Aura asked the doctor.

“Humans useful as test subjects. Genetically diverse. Enables exploration of treatment modalities.” Mordin explained. “However, human experiments strictly high-level, concept testing. Wise to delay use on varren. Powerful bite.”

“How are we more diverse?” Aura asked, “Is it because we look different or something?”

Mordin shook his head holding up his omni-tool. “No, no, no. Ignore superficial appearance. Down to genetic code.” He explained gesturing to her and the dead human. “Biotic abilities. Intelligence levels.” He made a nod towards the two turians further iterating that he could look at any random turian, asari or krogan and make a reasonable guess but humans on the other hand, were too variable to judge. There were outliers in every species, sure. Geniuses, idiots were also true but it was a humans probability curve that offered greater overall varieties. He turned his attention back to the corpse, reading the scans at an incredible speed. Mordin went on to state that from the position of the tumors, they were deliberately mutating the adrenal and pineal glands to modify hormone levels and counterattack on the glands hit by the genophage. Honestly, as morbid as it sounded, Aura and Saren had to admit it was clever. The genophage altered hormone levels in Krogan so it made sense to attack the glands being affected.

They pressed on.

The squad had just barely entered the next room when a small horde of krogan emerged from the balcony above. The one donning the white armor claimed to be a speaker for clan Weyrloc. He claimed that right, Shepard and her team should be dead however his clan leader ordered him to let them leave and spread the message of Weyrloc’s return to glory.

“If we run, we’ll just trip over the dozens of krogan we killed to get here” Saren chortled as he kept his hand on the holster of his pistol. “We’ll take our chances.”

“You only killed our weakest and youngest, turian.” The speaker spat. “They were not worthy of remaining near our glorious work. Inside, however, you will find only hardened Blood Pack veterans, tempered by savagery and war and dedicated to one goal!” Aura rolled her eyes but the speaker ignored her proclaiming that Maelon would cure the genophage and Clan Weyrloc would spread throughout the galaxy bathing it in a sea of blood. This made Mordin nervous. Saren on the other hand had heard enough and drew his pistol.

“You talk too much.” He snarled, firing a round into the pipe just under the speaker’s feet.

Reflexively, he drew his shotgun laughing at silver turian mocking him for missing a simple target. It was quiet for a brief moment and that was when they heard a hissing sound. The krogan looked down and saw a slight distortion in the air. The look of realization followed by a twisted frown of horror was the last thing they saw of the speaker. Saren fired a second round into the gas leaking from hole in the pipe and all three krogan erupted in a torrent of red and orange flames that devoured them whole leaving nothing but ash and dust.

“So much for diplomacy…” Garrus stated flatly.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

They made down to the third level when Mordin spotted a console flickering with life and immediately. From what Shepard noticed the files on the console contained genetic sequences, hormone mutagens and protein chains. There were even files on living tissue and cloned tissue. He seemed impressed. According to what he was reading, the work seemed to be following standard treatment vectors while avoiding scorched-earth immunosuppressants that might alter the hormone levels further. He seemed pleased as he made it clear that he would hate to see that damage come to be. Aura narrowed her eyes. Most people wouldn’t be so causal about developing a sterility plague. Mordin spared a glance at her and seemed to anticipate her thoughts.

“Not developing. Modifying.” He clarified. “Much more difficult. Hundred times more complex trying to work with confines of existing genophage.”

He easily explained that he did accept nor tolerated errors as that would cause a multitude of problems. Total sterility, malignant tumors, reduced effectiveness of the virus or worse, death. The salarian adamantly stated that it had to be done to keep the krogan population in check. He compared it to gardening. Aura shook her head disapprovingly. No matter how pretty Solus made it sound, the commander saw it as murder but she kept her mouth shut as they moved on. They didn’t get very far when she spotted a body on an examination table. The sight of the body had Mordian hesitate almost slightly as he picked up the data pad beside the body bag. It was dead krogan female. The tumors present indicated that she was an experiment but the lack of restraint marks meant that she was a volunteer.

“Sterile Weyrloc female willing to risk procedures. Hoped for cure.” The salarian doctor seemed mortified. “Pointless. Pointless waste of life...”

“Didn’t expect you to be so disturbed by the sight of a dead krogan.” Saren scoffed at Solus.

“What? Why?” Mordin whipped his head up from the dead body to glare at the silver turian, insulted at the insinuation. “Because of genophage work? Irrelevant. No, causative!” He pointed accusingly at Saren. “Never experimented on live Krogan! Never killed with medicine! Her death not my work... Only reaction to it...”

He stated that the goal was to stabilize the population but he never wanted this. Mordin, hunched over with his arms on the table as he continued to stare at the lifeless body before him. He could see logically in his head but it was still unnecessary and it was a foolish waste of life. He hated to see this. He had done yearly recon missions. Water, tissue samples, etc. And he ensured that no mistakes were made. The salarian recalled his superiors offering to carry on his work. He refused needing to see it for himself. Needed to see it in person. Had to see that it was necessary. Now that he thought about it, he probably was only seeing the small picture and it reminded him of why he chose to run a medical clinic on Omega. He gazed back softly at the krogan woman waving his hand over her form as though offering her a blessing? A prayer maybe? To find rest, perhaps.

Neither of Shepard’s group was expecting that. Who would have thought Mordin was the religious type. Mordin explained that the genophage modification project altered millions of lives and he saw the results. Ego, humility, juxtaposition. The fragility of life and the size of universe. He explored religions after his work was completed. Learned from different races but still had more questions than answers. He even stated that while the project was great in scope, scientifically brilliant, he would not deny the harsh truth that it was ethically difficult. The krogans reaction was visceral and tragic. The salarian quickly added that while he didn’t think he was guilty, he was responsible. He trained as a doctor. The genophage affected fertility but didn’t kill. Aura noticed a falter in Mordin’s expression. It was still difficult to see the bigger picture when it was obscured by a mountain of corpses. Was there actually guilt in his eyes?

“You could have cured the genophage.” Aura stated crossing her arms over her chest.

“Assumes human reaction. Krogan stimulus response different. Harsh environment, take chance to fight, flee.” Mordin stated with a shake of his head. “Would have caused chaos on Tuchanka. Victor would have war economy, bloodthirsty army. Galactic expansion would have harmed the entire galaxy had to be done. Genophage saved lives.”

Aura encroached on Mordin’s personal space and pointed at the krogan woman’s body. “Look at the dead woman, Mordin.” She growled lowly. “Does it look like you saved her?”

He was silent.

“Does it?!” She repeated and Mordin shook his head in answer. “Come on, we still have a salarian to save.

Shepard took point with the fish-dog sticking close to her like they trained for missions like this. Urz would investigate large rooms firsts before the crew only bristling his spines or growling when there was a threat. Aura had a dog once on Earth after joining the Alliance. A big Shepherd. Gods rest his soul. He was old to begin with but didn’t care often doing patrols with her when she was on guard post. Urz reminded her of him always watching her back. Perhaps she’d convince Saren to have them bring the varren with them. Maybe piss off Miranda. She spared at glance at the scarred creature as he stopped at a closed door and began clawing at it. The squad readied their weapons and Aura clicked her tongue to Urz who backed up to stand behind her. She hacked the locking mechanism and as the door slid open, she found that it was occupied by a corpse and another Krogan. From the markings on his arms, it was clear that he wasn’t part of the Weyrloc clan. Upon closer inspection, Mordin informed her that the krogan was from Wrex’s clan which meant he was the missing scout the watchman informed them about. The scout looked dazed and confused and from the looks of it, probably experimented on by the Blood Pack.

When Aura tried to coax the scout to head back to the camp, he merely grumbled unintelligibly not budging at all. Mordin leaned over to her and whispered in her ear stating that the scout was probably mentally unstable and may have been brainwashed. She still had a few tricks up her sleeve. While the doctor was talking to her, the scout was blaming himself for getting caught, stating he wasn’t strong enough or good enough and that it was probably best that he just remained her. Saren and Garrus made an annoyed trill towards each other at the display.

“If you want to help Urdnot, you need to get back there. But it would take a real badass to make it back to camp while injured.” Shepard spoke in a fierce tone.

The scout lifted his head up to meet her gaze. “I can do it.”

“You?” Aura mocked with a faux scoff. “I said a ‘badass'. Not a quarian with a tummy ache.”

The krogan scout growled at her as he rose to his feet. “I’m up!” He exclaimed then proclaimed he was off to the camp.

Aura nodded proudly. “That you are. Get back there and show them your worth. Go. Go!”

He didn’t need anymore prompting than that and he dashed off up the stairs roaring loudly. Mordin looked at her in amazement. He didn’t expect her to be successful. Saren was rumbling proudly. Garrus merely chuckled. There was no pep talk like a military pep talk. Urz barked then purred when the human gave him scratches on the head for praise. They peaked around a door and noticed large explosive crates littering the room. While a misplaced shot would cause one hell of an explosion, Mordin pointed out that a well placed shot on one of the crates would burn through Krogan armor with ease. Considering how thick the Blood Pack mercs were here and the fact they found the clan leader among them, Aura was more than certain they were close to finding Maelon. Guld, the Weyrloc leader, was a pain in the ads to deal with as he often called for his mercs or his varren to attack them. Fortunately, thanks to a well-placed shot by Garrus, the Weyrloc leader was executed. Saren and Urz got some cuts and bruises while Aura got a decent bruised eye. Mordin tended to them both to get them stable before they descended down to the final level where they found a massive lab along with an olive green salarian going over a large hologram of notes and data.

“Maelon.” Mordin said in disbelief. “Alive and unharmed.”

From what they could see, Maelon showed no signs of being in distress, or evidence of torture. The salarian turned around to stared at them for a moment before returning to his work. Mordin had a look of confusion. When he questioned his former teammate on what was going on, Maelon whipped around glaring at his former superior.

“For such a smart man, Professor, you always had trouble seeing evidence that disagreed with your preconceptions. How long will it take you to realize that I’m here because I want to be here?”

“He wasn’t kidnapped at all.” Saren stated, “He came here voluntarily to cure the genophage.”

Maelon nodded towards Saren in confirmation. Mordin shook his head disapprovingly. He countered that he and Maelon’s team agreed that the project was necessary. Maelon scoffed gesturing to Mordin. “How was I supposed to disagree with the great Doctor Solus?! I was your student! I looked up to you.”

The doctor pointed at the dead bodies littering the tables. “Experiments performed here. Live subjects! Prisoners?! Torture and executions. Your doing?!”

Maelon shouted back, crying out that he and everyone else already had the blood of millions on their hands. He proclaimed that if it took a little bit more to put things right, he could deal with it. He added that he and his kind committed cultural genocide and that nothing he ever does will be justified. He confirmed the experiments were monstrous but he made a jab at Mordin stating that he was taught by a monster.

“Never taught you this, Maelon!”

“So, your hands are clean! What does it matter if the ground is stained with the blood of millions!” He smacked Mordin’s chest in defiance. “You taught me the end justified the means. I will undo what we did, Professor! The only way I know how!”

“ENOUGH!!!!” Roared the commander as she broke the two up. She glared at Maelon. “We’re shutting down your lab down, Maelon. Too many have died here!”

Maelon drew his pistol from his hip and aimed it at the squad. He was growing hysterical, raving that none of them could face the truth, nor admit that Mordin’s brilliant mind led him to commit an atrocity. When he spun around, Mordin had moved so swiftly landing a strong punch to Maelon’s stomach and slammed him into the wall behind the hologram. Neither Saren or Aura thought he could move so quickly. The old doctor drew his own weapon and aimed it at his student’s head. “Unacceptable experiments! Unacceptable goals! Won’t change.” He growled then his eyes seemed to grow darker. “Have to kill you.”

“Mordin wait!” Aura said quickly grabbing the salarian’s wrist and lowering the gun. “You don’t need to do this. You’re not a murderer.”

Mordin tensed up as she held his wrist tightly, however as he repeated her words in his head over a million times, he let go of his weapon allowing her to take his weapon. “No...” He sighed, “No... not a murderer... Thank you, Shepard.”

Maelon slipped through Mordin’s grasp and gave his former teacher a lost look. He once again stated that the Krogan didn’t deserve what was done to them. He pleaded for him to end the genophage. Mordin shook his head as he watched Maelon leave and he turned towards his student’s work. Once he was certain his student was out of earshot, the old salarian turned his head towards the two Spectres. He first apologized to them in misunderstanding the full story then thanked the two for assisting him in the matter. Aura was more concerned on Mordin’s wellbeing at this moment than anything. The doctor confided that he wanted to kill his student, should have really. Even implied that it would have been easier for Maelon since his experiments revealed how he had fallen. Personally, Mordin expected it from the krogan, not one of his own people.

“Maybe you’ll remember that the next time you’re discussing the ethics of the genophage.”

Mordin merely nodded his head. He looked up at that research before him. It was the only loose end and from what the trio gathered; he was thinking about deleting it. Aura, on the hand was able to convince Mordin to save it. He was regretting what the krogan had become, saw the horror of what had transpired here, the loss. Wasted potential, he’d say. True, many people died here and should he destroy it, the deaths they saw here would have been for nothing but saving it would make the deaths worth something. Ultimately, Mordin chose to save the data but not before wiping out the main file from the database throughout the area. He then requested that they leave the planet and got to somewhere sunnier.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you brought that thing back with you.” Saren groaned as he watched Aura finish drying off the varren. Urz made a low chuff in the turian’s direction before shaking the remaining water off his scaly hide and curled up on one of the couches in the living room of their cabin. Aura turned towards Saren; a big grin plastered on her face. She then sat down beside him while the two watched the seahorses in the aquarium dance and swim throughout their coral homes. “Admit it, Saren. You enjoyed Miranda’s expression upon seeing Urz.” Aura laughed as her silver mate wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Besides, Mordin gave him a clean bill health and he’s a surprisingly quiet varren.” Saren rolled his eyes before proving her point when he, himself patted the varren’s head earning a happy purr from the animal. Okay, she was right. This was nice. They continued to sit in complete silence, enjoying the peace.

About an hour or so later, Aura’s omni-tool pinged, alerting her to an incoming call. Saren removed his arm to allow her to sit up more properly as she answered the vid call and the look of endearment and excitement crossed her face.

“Tali!” Sheperd smiled brightly as the quarian’s image appeared on the display. “Good to see you. How are you?”

Tali’s eyes crinkled through her visor in delight upon seeing her old friend. “~I’m doing well, Sheperd. It’s been a while since Freedom’s Progress and I wanted to see how all of you were doing.~”

The two girls chatted for a good half hour catching up. When Aura mentioned Garrus, the little quarian seemed to remember something as she spoke up once more. “~Speaking of Garrus, I sent him a package to Illium. Liara is currently holding on to it. Would it be too much to ask if you can pick it for me?~” Tali asked uncertainly but the commander was already one step ahead as she informed her quarian friend that they would be heading to Illium anyway to visit the young asari. Tali smiled brightly through her mask. “~Just make sure he doesn’t open it yet! I want to be the one to give it to him.~”

“Can’t guarantee that will work.” Saren trilled in amusement. “Especially if it’s weapon mods.”

“~Then you can be the one to keep it out of his reach Arterius.~” Tali laughed softly before turning her head upon hearing her name being called. “~Well, I have to get going you two. Thanks a ton, and I can’t wait to actually see you all in person again.~”

“Likewise, Tali! Be safe.”

Tali waved her hand as the video faded and Aura chuckled softly.

“I guess we’re off to Illium.” Saren rumbled in amusement. Aura nodded then tilted her head when Miranda sent her a message from Harper.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Upon arriving to Illium, Aura and Saren made their way to Liara’s office. Garrus wanted to accompany them but Saren was silver tongued enough to convince Vakarian to remain on the ship while Thane accompanied them instead. They were nearing the office when Aura noticed the drell had stopped walking and was now staring off at the sunrise as it peaked around the tall buildings. The woman studied the drell assassin before admiring the morning sun. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Aura finally asked shielding her eyes as the sun finally crested over the buildings to bathe them all in its golden hue. Saren flicked his mandibles into a small smile as Sheperd’s silver hair turned a fiery sheen in the rays of the sun. Apparently, Thane noticed it too and he too smiled at the human.

“I spent the last two years here. I had a purpose, a goal.” Thane hummed as he turned away to gaze back at the sunrise. “Now that I have accomplished it, something occurs to me.”

“Oh?” Aura inquired with a tilt of her head, the sunshine reflecting a bit off her tresses. “And what would that be, Thane?”

The drell inhaled deeply while Saren stood behind the human commander. “In all that time, I have never once looked at the horizon. It is... spectacular.”

Aura nodded softly before she spun around and the trio made their way to Liara’s office. The young asari was overjoyed to see the commander again. After a brief exchange, Liara brought forth Tali’s package to which Thane was kind enough to take off their hands informing the commander that he would meet up with them later. Aura and Saren chuckled as they realized that Thane was doing it as a cover to keep Garrus from trying to sneak a peek at his gift. Least Garrus wouldn’t try to sneak into the Life Support wing. He always hated being near the Medical Bay or anything really in regards to medicine. After Thane had departed, Aura brought forth the information Harper had sent them on Shadow Broker. To say the asari was eager to go after the illusive information broker was an understatement and Liara suggested that Aura and Saren meet her at her apartment in an hour.

They met up with the Drell in about an hour later at the cab station where they punched in Liara’s address and soared off. While the cab continued its course, Aura turned her eyes to look up in the rearview mirror. “Hey, Saren? Thane?”

The drell blinked before lifting his head towards the sound of his name. “Yes, Siha?”

Saren made a light growl towards Thane while Aura merely blinked at the nickname but shook her head and continued on with her train of thought. “Have you ever encountered the Shadow Broker’s agents? Either of you?”

Saren only remembered dealing with Fist on the Citadel but even then, that was brief. The drell inclined his head before shaking his head as well. He never encountered them before however he presumed that they would be well trained and powerful. He then advised caution to the two of them if they were to get involved. Saren bristled when Thane once more called Aura the odd nickname. It irked him immensely to see the green-scaled alien calling his mate a nickname. However, the turian settled down when the commander turned her head towards him and gave him a reassuring look. He still flashed Thane a harden glare. She’s mine. He growled in his native tongue. The drell merely smiled.

The cab ride was fairly uneventful until the trio got out and began making their way to Liara’s apartment. Shepard paused, furrowing her brows into a frown.  “That’s... a lot of cops.”

Saren made a confused hum. Indeed, the area was swarming with officers and for a moment he felt like he walking in on one of Castis’ cases. Aura led the way only pausing before the holo-tape. “What’s going here?”

An asari officer glanced up from her data pad to respond to the commander. “This area is sealed off. Please stay- Hey!”

Saren had just strolled on in with the others in tow and beckoned the others to follow while he scanned the room. When the asari officer tried to remove him, the silver turian flashed her a toothy snarl. “Spectre authority. You and your people are dismissed, Officer. We’ll take it from here.” He rumbled, his voice radiating a silent threat should the officers try and challenge him. The other officers glanced at each other before leaving the scene grumbling and scoffing in annoyance and disgust. Aura crossed her arms over her chest at Saren who merely gave her a cocky grin. The human sighed but chuckled before she noticed movement on the second floor.

“Same old Arterius.” An asari in blue and white armor said from her perch. “Always quick to flaunt your status.”

“Spectre Tila Vasir...” Saren growled as he immediately took a subtle but defensive stance. Aura didn’t recognize the name but judging from the turian’s sudden posture, she immediately went on edge.

“Good to see that you had your status reinstated. And this must be the famous Commander Aura Shepard” The asari known as Vasir hummed as she strolled down the stairs and stared directly towards the human. “Maybe when this is all over, I’ll have you sign my chest plate.”

If the commander was uncomfortable or put off, she hid it well. Saren and Thane however were bristling warily. Ignoring the two males, Vasir informed them that someone had tried to assassinate Liara and inquired if Aura had business with the young asari. Aura was smart though, stating that she and her company had plans with Liara since they were visiting the area. Vasir seemed to frown while the turian made a smug huff. Thane flicked his eyes towards Saren and inflated his throat slightly.

She knows something up. He observed.

Aura is not the only one. Saren nodded his head proudly. While she was always wary of new faces and usually more open with non-humans, it was clear that her instincts told her something was off. Shepard continued to question Vasir, wanting to know the facts. The asari informed them that nearly a half hour prior to their arrival, someone had taken a shot at T’Soni. She jabbed her thumb towards the bullet holes in the windows. The asari Spectre then went on surmising that Liara had stuck around for a few more minutes and Vasir speculated that whatever she was doing was had to be important. Which left one question: Where was Liara?

“So, you have no idea where Liara might be?” Aura asked Vasir curiously.

“If I did, I wouldn’t be sifting through her crap. As you can see, there’s no blood or body so obviously your friend isn’t here. Conclusion? She got away.” Vasir then glanced back at the windows. “I bet the sniper didn’t plan on her kinetic barriers. Clever girl. Paranoid, but clever.”

Aura chuckled briefly and Saren knew it wasn’t just out of pride for the former asari teammate but partially because of the unintentional reference to an old movie she had shown him recently during their down time. What was it? Cretaceous Park? No... the only image that popped into his head was a giant raptor... Oh! Jurassic Park! Now, he remembered and he chuckled himself. Settling back, Shepard glanced around. “Liara was expecting us. She would have left a message here since her office wasn’t safe.” Vasir and Saren scoffed. If there was one thing these two agreed on, it was that Illium was Omega with expensive shoes and weapons. The asari Spectre gestured towards Shepard stating that since Aura knew the young asari maiden better than anyone, she would stand a better chance at finding any back-up files or something.

“Let me take a look around.” Aura fired back.

Vasir nodded her head and turned her attention to the bookshelf in the back of the room. Outside, lightning flashed, indicating a storm was rolling in. Aura motioned for Thane to join her by the window, murmuring something about the sniper and the bullet holes. While they quietly conversed, Saren was drawn to a display case on the far wall. As he approached it, he felt his jaw plates flutter in disbelief and his breath hitch slightly. It was the chest plate of Shepard’s old armor.

From her spot by the bookshelf, Vasir glanced over at the silver turian. “Looks like someone really didn’t like Shepard much.”

Saren huffed at the asari turning away from the display case. Shepard drifted towards him, her fingers discreetly lacing through his talons for a brief moment, indicating he should follow her while Thane examined the windows. Together, the two drifted through the study and towards the kitchen when something caught their eye. A painting on the wall. Aura stared at the painting, almost hypnotized by it. Vasir poked her head around the stairway and nodded towards the frame. “That’s not the Asari home world. I’m not even sure what planet that is.”

“It’s Illos.” Both silver colored Spectres answered simultaneously, their voices surprisingly soft, almost reverent as Shepard reached out towards the frame, her fingers barely grazing the canvas when Thane suddenly called out to her interrupting her thoughts. She turned around, spotting the drell at the top of the stairs. Saren trailed after the human as she jogged up the steps with Vasir following behind him to Liara’s bedroom. Approaching a bedside table, Aura paused at a picture of the old Normandy SR1. She smiled a little as she picked up the frame, however as soon as she had done so, the picture changed to that of the Prothean dig site on Therum. Where she had first met Liara nearly three years ago.

“Hey, the picture changed.” Vasir pointed out, the tattoos around her eyes standing out in the dim light. “It must be keyed to your ID. What’s it showing now?”

“It’s a Prothean dig site.” Aura answered brusquely replacing the frame. “Liara did leave a message.

Saren walked over towards the railing and his eyes spotted a plethora of Prothean artifacts below. He glanced over at Aura who nodded in silent agreement as they headed down the stairs and began examining the relics of the past. Vasir made a few comments about the value of the relics which caused both Saren to scoff and Shepard to shake her head. Saren then stopped at a particular piece and made a low chuffing sound to his mate as she first glanced at him then the display. She ran her hand along the base and felt something resist against her touch.

“Think we found something.”

As Vasir approached, Aura pried the small glowing red disk out of its lodging and when the asari tried to take the device from the commander’s grasp, Saren plucked it from Shepard’s fingers. Immediately, the turian made his way to Liara’s private terminal where he inserted the back-up disk and instantly a recording began to play out. Vasir narrowed her eyes as the group watched the video only to frown when she wasn’t hearing anything. As the recording finished, Aura and Saren looked at each other then back at the asari who seemed to have an impatient look on her face. “Well? What did it say?” She demanded.

“Something about meeting someone at the Dracon Trade Center.” Saren answered almost smugly. “It was clear as day to us. You sure you didn’t hear anything?”

“Damn you, turian. I bet Shepard didn’t understand it.” Vasir hissed.

“She was meeting up with a Salarian known as Seket.” Aura smirked before her tone turned serious and she ignored the baffled expression on the asari’s face. “If it's about what I think it is, then we better get going.” As Vasir led the way, Aura fell back to walk between Saren and Thane. Her voice was hushed but filled with energy. “You both heard that call. Narrowing down the Broker’s location is to a cluster or a system is huge.” Thane nodded his head in agreement. No one had ever been able to find the Shadow Broker before and if the data was accurate, they find more than just the Broker themself.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Together the four emerged from the car, climbing the stairs to the Dracon Trade Center. The building rose into the sky where dark clouds were gathering. Both Thane and Saren grinned at each other as seeing the tower brought memories of their first encounter though Aura was more confused at the reaction. She and Vasir soon fell into step with each other, the asari glancing around. She was informing the commander that Barria Frontier offices were on the third floor while Saren was scanning for any police chatter furrowing his brow when he found none. Vasir quipped voicing that she thought that they missed the party.

BOOM !!!

As if on cue, the third floor exploded, raining down debris and fire on the civilians below. Aura’s silver eyes widen in horror. “Liara’s in there!!” A second explosion knocked her back but Saren was quick and helped his partner up. Vasir turned to Shepard once she was upright again stating that whoever set off the explosions took out three floors just to make sure Liara was dead. She then informed the team that she’d grab a sky car and seal off the top of the building while Aura and her team started at the bottom and worked their way up to the top. The asari snorted, joking that she hoped her fellow Spectres would leave her some assholes to kill too.

The trio barreled into the building. Saren trailed behind as Shepard and Thane charged ahead with the human Spectre making a beeline for the stairs. Again, the silver turian growled. It irked him to no end that the drell seemed to be taking over the role he had been playing since being rebuilt alongside his mate. Fortunately, he didn’t have much time to ponder since they were greeted by the Shadow Broker’s agents who seemed to be all over the place. Aura began with her usual manner; snipe them down as fast and efficiently as possible. She made a yelp when one of the agents set off a flashbang in her direction and she staggered at the sound and blinding light. Saren was in front of her in a heartbeat gripping the collar of the agent’s armor and using him as a fleshy shield, threw two biotic singularities. One at a doorway where several agents were pulled apart in and the other pulled a few stragglers outside, dropping the poor souls down to the concrete floor below.

“Thanks.” Aura said shaking her head as her vision cleared and she briefly patted his mandible.

Saren nodded as they pressed on.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

An agent slumped to the ground as Vasir moved into view, holstering her pistol before staring at the bodies littering the floor around her. Her gaze towards the wall alerted the trio to Liara’s contact who appeared to have been shot once. “Damn it, if only I had been a little faster, I could have stopped them.”

“Shepard, there’s no sign of that data Liara talked about.” Thane said in disappointment and Aura cursed at the information. No sign of the data and their only lead in finding Liara was dead on the floor.

Vasir made a disappointed hum before glancing over her shoulder. “Speaking of which, did you find your friend’s body?”

Saren now audibly snarled as Aura went stiff yet before either could respond, a familiar voice rang through the room. Liara emerged from the shadows, her body and clothes drenched from the sprinklers still showering them overhead. The young asari had a cold glare locked onto Vasir along with a pistol aimed squarely at the asari Spectre’s head.

“You mean this body?” Liara hissed venomously before flicking her eyes briefly at the commander. “This is the woman who tried to kill me!”

Vasir backed up and chuckled slightly, “You’ve had a rough day, doctor. I’ll let that slide. Why don’t you put that gun down?” Aura, Saren and Thane aimed their weapons at Vasir much to her irritation. “What? You guys too?”

“If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, Vasir,” Saren began as both his and Aura’s biotics sprang to life. “It’s not to trust easily. I never trusted you since the first day I met you.”

“Thane also examined the bullets in the window at Liara’s apartment and stated that the shells were from a pistol. Custom job that matches your weapon.” Aura added. “You didn’t know where Liara was because she hid the message changing the frequency to something that only myself or Saren could hear. You needed us to find her.” Moving as one, Thane and Saren took positions on either side of the women, their guns at the ready and biotics flaring.

Vasir remained calm, only shrugging her shoulders not breaking eye contact with Shepard. Liara narrowed her eyes further informing the trio that once her assassin had her location, Vasir had signaled the Shadow Broker’s forces. They bombed the building in an attempt to take out the young asari. When Vasir took out her informant, the Spectre stole his data then killed him. Liara then surmised that Vasir still had the disc on her person to which the older asari flashed the small disc with a smug smirk on her face. The Spectre’s voice turned patronizing as she spat out viciously that not only would Liara never discover the contents but she would die like the pureblooded offspring that she was.

Before anyone could react, Aura took off at a dead run after Vasir tackling her through the window and over the ledge.

“AURA!!!!” The turian sprinted to the edge. He reached the window just in time to see Vasir kick Shepard square in the chest, slamming the silver-haired Spectre into the ground. His heart stopped when the human didn’t move after her fall. He tried to throw a singularity at Vasir but missed in his blind rage. He roared loudly when he spotted the asari commando turn to finish what she started only to bolt when a blur of blue sailed past the turian and he watched as Liara used her own biotics to dampen her fall, sprinting after the rouge asari without even sparing a glance at Shepard. The silver turian didn’t even wait for Thane as he leapt over the ledge, his biotics slowing his descent and he knelt down beside Shepard. He gave her shoulder a shake and groaning; Aura rose shaking her head. She met his gaze but there was no time to talk as more of the Shadow Broker’s dogs swarmed into the building only to be felled by Saren’s biotic reave as he drained all of their life energy without a thought nor care.

Now, he was pissed and Vasir was going to be pay.

Chapter Text

Racing after the two asari, the trio skidded into the outer courtyard where Liara and Vasir were taking shots at each other from behind parked cars. A flash of gold caught Aura’s gaze and she spotted the car they had driven in with the asari Spectre. Vasir nimbly leapt into the car, but not before Liara nailed her in the shoulder. The young asari cursed as the car sped off, heading for the sky and she began heading for the nearest open car. Shepard followed glaring at the young asari. “I’m fine by the way, thanks for asking.” Saren noted the human’s hostile behavior towards her old friend but paid it no mind then he smirked inwardly when Shepard had Thane return to the Normandy to keep them on the down low stating that they really didn’t want the Shadow Broker’s agents working their way into the ship either. Just as she was about to slide into the driver’s seat, Saren jerked his head to the back seat. Knowing his luck, the speed demon would probably get them killed before they caught Vasir.

Warily, Aura took shotgun while Liara reluctantly slid into the backseat. Unfortunately, the commander was not prepared to deal with Saren’s version of rage. True, he was better at speed chases then she was, but damn when he finally knocked Vasir’s car out of the sky in a smoking mess, the human practically threw herself out of the car as it landed. Shepard kept pace with Liara as the trio followed Vasir’s trail of purple blood splatters. As they caught up with the wounded Spectre, realizing just how badly wounded she was, they attempted to corner her. Turning, it appeared as though the asari was about to fight when she grabbed a nearby waitress, placing the muzzle of her gun near the poor woman’s head.

“What’s your name?” Vasir purred.

The woman whimpered fearfully. “M-Marianna.”

“Marianna... You want to live, don’t you?” Mocked the asari, “Tell those people you want to live.”

The frightened woman locked eyes with Shepard, who hadn’t moved an inch since pulling her own pistol. “P-Please.”

Saren noticed the brief look of empathy on Shepard’s face. The poor girl never asked to be in this situation... she had been dragged into it. Aura, calm and cool as always, spoke in a soft and reassuring tone, eyes never leaving Vasir. Vasir, on the other hand smiled cruelly as pressed the muzzle of the gun deeper in to the woman’s head, stating that all Shepard had to was walk away but now things were about to get ugly. The hostage, Marianna, started to silently weep. “Please... I have a son... I’m all he has...”

“A son...” Vasir’s voice rang out and Saren’s mandibles flared out darkly while Aura seemed to bristle in anger. “I hope he gets to see you again. I hear losing a parent is just horrific for a child. Scars them for life.”

Liara spoke before Shepard could. “I’m going to end you, Vasir!”

“Don’t worry Liara. We’ll handle it... The usual way.” Shepard’s voice was surprisingly stony and cold, much like how Saren’s was at the remark about parents hurt. Vasir probably intended the barb for Liara, who had to watch her own mother die while he watched both his mother and brother die. Aura didn’t have any parents but that didn’t make the words hurt any less. When Vasir demanded that the trio drop their weapons, power cells and spare thermal clips on to the ground, it was Aura’s laughter that caught all of them off-guard.

Aura didn’t even bat an eyelid. “Is that it?”

“What?” Vasir’s voice echoed the now confused turian’s thoughts. That wasn’t Shepard’s normal behavior. Normally, Aura was usually all about peace and keeping civilians safe. More often than not, she was the one trying to keep him from wasting life. Was she seriously considering harming this woman?

Aura went on, the wind ruffling her ponytail in a soft gesture. “Vasir, I sacrificed hundreds of human lives to save the Destiny Ascension. I unleashed the Rachni on the galaxy. So, for your sake, I hope your escape plan doesn’t hinge on me hesitating to shoot a damn hostage.”

Saren, for the first time in his life, felt his mandibles go slack and his jaw hit the floor. He knew Shepard was pissed off at Liara for leaving her behind. He, himself, was pissed off at Vasir for harming Aura. However, he was astonished and oddly proud that he almost missed the table being lifted behind Vasir as she pulled her gun away from Marianna. Vasir snarled at Shepard, accusingly stating that the human was bluffing but Aura didn’t even dignify with an answer as she snapped her fingers and with precision only a biotic master could, Liara flung the table so that the asari Spectre was knocked away and Marianna left unhurt. Knowing Vasir wouldn’t go down that easily, the commander quickly shooed the frightened woman. All across the patio, the trio chased Vasir with Aura often rushing towards the wounded asari with her silvery biotic charges.

Abruptly, Aura saw Saren get flung backwards into one of the pools, freezing and shivering when he somehow managed to claw his way out of the pool with help from the commander’s own silver aura. He shook his head and shouted at the two women shoot Vasir. Two shots rang out like a cannon in the empty space both hitting their marks as the rogue Spectre staggered to a wall and slumped against it, cursing as she did so. Cooling, Liara plucked the small disc off of Vasir’s hip, turning towards Shepard as she hauled the turian out of the frigid water then walked into the building. Shepard and Saren were about to follow the young asari when Vasir spoke, her voice strained.

“You’re dead. The Shadow Broker has been in power for decades. He’s stronger than anything you’ve ever faced!”

“Is that why you sold out the Council to work for him?” Aura hissed as she grabbed a towel on a lounge chair and handed it to the shivering turian.

“You think I betrayed the Council? Like Saren?” Asked Vasir earning a snarl of disgust from him. “Go to hell! The Broker’s given me damn good intel over the years. Intel that saved lives and kept the Council safe. So, if the Broker needs a few people to ‘disappear’, I’ll pay that price without hesitation.”

“We don’t blow up buildings filled with innocent people.” The turian heard the commander counter icily.

From where she sat, Vasir threw her head up to glare at the human. “Sure, we do. Ask Saren. We get our hands dirty so the Council doesn’t have to. The Councilors may complain about our methods to soothe their consciousnesses but they never look closely.” She scoffed then weakly threw her hand in their direction. “Besides, you two are with Cerberus. Do you have any idea what your terrorist friends have done?!”

“Experimented on Biotic kids.”

“Turned myself and Saren into walking freaks, twice.”

“Tortured me and Desolas.”

“Killed my entire squad on Akuze.”

Saren finished drying himself off. “We are more than aware of what these bastards have done and more. But for you, it doesn’t matter.”

Vasir opened her mouth to speak but whatever she wanted to say died in her throat as Saren reveaved the last of her energy and the asari's life ebbed away into the void of death. The two just stared at the dead asari then turned to look for Liara. Saren made a concerned chirp only to watch Shepard wave her hand dismissively silently stating that she was fine. She had one thought on her mind and that was on the young asari. The turian followed after her and upon entering one of the rooms, they heard the synthesized voice of the Shadow Broker ringing off the walls. As she approached Liara glanced at her. The asari tapped at her omni-tool in silence before finally speaking.

“I’m putting the data through the Normandy’s computers. We can be at the Shadow Broker’s base in a few hours.” Liara informed them as she turned and started to walk away from them. “He’ll know about Vasir before long. If he decides to kill...”

Aura reached out as she trailed after the asari and she placed a hand on old teammate’s shoulder trying to catch her eye. “Liara, we’ll get Feron out alive. I promise.”

Liara merely shook her hand off. “I know... you’re here to help. Just like always.”

“That’s not a good thing?”

Liara halted slightly before glancing over her shoulder. “When we first met on Therum, you saved me from the Geth. You fought a Krogan Battle Master while I cowered. Now you’re doing it again and I’m still leaning on you for help.” Aura blinked. It was natural for friends to help each other but at this moment, it felt like Liara considered it a burden. Liara turned away once more and walked away saying that she could get them to the Broker’s base from her contact’s data and that with the Normandy’s stealth drive to keep them from being detected, the Shadow Broker’s agents would still be shooting through Illium and not even notice that they had already left.

Aura frowned. “That’s a little cold. They killed innocent people.”

“You know what I mean.” Liara sighed.

“Do we?” Saren finally spoke in an icy tone causing the two women to stop together. “When Aura hit the ground back at the trade center you went after Vasir without even so much as a backward glance.”

Flustered, Liara blinked rapidly and moved to lean against the railing. “A little fall wasn’t going to kill her. I had to stay on Vasir. I had to stay rational. Make the call... Like I did with my contact.”

“Liara, you’re not Benezia.” Saren growled, “And you’re not Shepard. So, stop trying to be someone you’re not.”

The young asari’s brow furrowed at the mention of her mother. She opened her mouth and Aura assumed it was going to be something snarky or belittling but instead Liara straightened herself up and turned away to walk towards their shuttle stating that things would be simple from here on in. Get in, get Feron and get out. And kill anyone who tried to stop them.

Once again, Aura’s voice went hard. “That’s it?”

“That’s it.” Liara responded back in the same tone.

“Would you just stop for a second?” Aura abruptly pulled the asari to a halt, both hands gripping her shoulders and her gaze hardening into a frown. The look of frustration was all but apparent on Liara’s face as she stared at the human she’d always considered a good friend. “We’ll be jumping several lightyears, there’s time to talk.”

Liara watched as Saren also stepped closer and her expression both softened and hardened at the same time. “What do you want me to say, Shepard? That I mourned you? That I feel guilty because Feron got captured? I made mistakes. I lost people. I helped Cerberus get both you and Saren back and I want to do the same for Feron! I’ll sit and talk once he’s safe.” And with that, Aura nodded her head and taking the lead, Liara went ahead to prepare the sky car. Saren drew level with Shepard, a hand gripping her shoulder and his silvery eyes observing her carefully.

“Are you alright, Aura?”

She smiled weakly, brushing the back of his talons with her own fingers. “I have a sore back but nothing I can’t handle. Let’s just finish this.”

“We’ll have a sparring match afterwards.”

“Agreed.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gliding through the darkness of space, the Normandy approached a small planet hidden away at the edge of the galaxy. Hovering over the orbit, the crew dispatched the KODIAK and descended into the atmosphere. In the back, Saren and Aura sat across from each other while Liara and Garrus, who had insisted on coming along, sat side by side. The young asari was quiet, often glancing out the window as they entered a massive thunderstorm until eventually coming up alongside a massive ship. Aura and Saren weren’t sure if was the storm or something else but they felt their bodies tingling. Like the cybernetics within them were being energized by the electricity in the air.

“Havalas.” Liara finally spoke. “The oceans boil during the day then snap freeze ten minutes after sundown.”

“I can see why the Broker would live in this.” Saren trilled. “Would be nearly impossible to navigate with this weather.”

“His ship follows the sunset, completely undetectable in the storm.” Liara nodded her head.

“Unless someone knew where to look.” Garrus pointed out earning a smile from the asari. When Aura inquired how they were going to get inside assuming that the agents withing wouldn’t roll out the welcome mat, Liara once again looked outside. They would need to land on the ship itself and hunt for a hatch. She added that it would be unwise to linger outside long as there was a constant lighting storm where the hot and cold air collided. Upon landing on the ship, the four of them plowed their way through the waves of lightning, wind and Shadow Broker agents. They were walking along a narrow catwalk and both Aura and Liara made the mistake of looking down.

“Okay... Looking down was clearly a mistake.” Liara squeaked.

“I bet the agents just love patrolling the hull.” Aura added swallowing hard.

The two turians also made noises of discomfort as they finally found a hatch further up. The commander was questioning on how long it would take Liara to get inside and the asari made a point that she had never broken into the Shadow Broker’s lair before. However, the look of mischief on her face told Aura that Liara had broken into a few of the Broker’s lairs. As more of the Broker’s agents poured towards them, Saren took a brief moment to watch Shepard. He loved the way she moved. She wasn’t like most soldiers. He had seen it. She wasn’t trained a certain way like most. She moved and flowed like water, adapting just like him to every situation. She and Garrus were back-to-back, him sniping the agents as she held them helplessly in the air. When she paired up with Benezia’s daughter, their biotics were not unlike the way she and him fought though instead of her playing defense with him, Shepard was offensive while Liara was defensive.

“Hey Liara!” Shepard called out as was now back-to-back with Saren.

“It shouldn’t be much longer!” The asari called out as she and Garrus took the other side.

“Remember the old days when we just had to slap omni-gel on everything?” Aura laughed and Saren snorted.

“That was a stupid security upgrade.” Vakarian hissed in annoyance, ducking when Liara tossed an agent up and watched him get swept away by the wind. “And it made A LOT of people unhappy. Myself included.”

Saren barked a laugh. “What was the reason? Not enough Cision-Pro convertors?”

“No, I think it was because the Council finally deemed it too hazardous and posed a threat to the integrity of the galaxy.” Aura answered in a voice not unlike the Asari Councilor and again the silver turian laughed harder. That sounded about right.

Once the door finally opened, the four of them filed in. Saren and Garrus sealed the door behind them and followed Shepard along the quiet hallway as though she were exploring the Normandy. Of course, that worked for a few minutes before a rocket streaked towards them. Aura’s reflexes kicked in and managed to quickly catch the rocket and propel it back to its source but not before having to duck for cover with everyone else when a second one raced towards them. Where Aura got the idea to such a stupid, yet insanely brilliant tactic was beyond Saren, but he loved it. Working their way through, Liara pointed at one of the doors in the distance after Aura and Garrus sniped the two guards.

“According to the schematics, that’s a prison block.” Liara said then added hopefully. “And Feron.”

Chapter Text

Without another word, Saren and Garrus began hacking the door. The younger dealt with the firewalls while the elder finished off the main lock. They were rewarded with a soft click as the door slid open allowing them to proceed into the actual cell block. All four of them entered with guns drawn, but just inside the door both Shepard and Saren froze, looks of distress crossing their faces. Liara noticed then Garrus; they turned and the same look of anguish crossed their features as well. Below was a sage green drell strapped to a chair with series of different torture devices, from what looked like a shock collar to blades and syringes.

“Feron!” Liara cried out and the drell twitched, his hazel brown eyes opening slightly to her voice.

“L-Liara?”

Breaking into a sprint, the asari practically dove for the orange control panel in the center of the room promising the wounded drell that she’d get him out soon. “Liara! Wait!” Aura tried to warn but her warning came too late. Electricity racked through Feron’s body and he cried out in pain, which caused the asari a considerable amount of distress. Feron hissed as he slumped back in his chair, still imprisoned and slightly smoking. Once the pain had subsided, the imprisoned drell explained in a weaken tone that the equipment was sensitive to tampering and that they plugged directly to the Shadow Broker’s info network. If they attempted to pull him out now, his brain would be cooked and worse.

“It’s a neural grounding rod.” Saren analyzed then emitted a low snarl. “The medical equipment is to ensure he doesn’t expire.”

“And I thought Wayne’s experimentation was cruel. We need to shut this place down!” Aura growled, her voice brimming with controlled fury then turned her attention to the drell. “Feron, do you know where the Broker’s Central Operations is?”

Feron jerked his head to his right. “Down the hall... You know the Shadow Broker is waiting for you, right?”

“Oh, we’re counting on it.”

Garrus chirped in amusement. If he didn’t know any better, he would have said the two silver beings were almost smug. He followed after the trio casting one final look at the drell. From the look he saw on both Shepard’s and Saren’s faces, he wondered if that torture was the same they endured or worse. The young turian shuddered, shoving that thought out of his mind. There was no time to think about it. Shepard was practically kicking down the door to the Shadow Broker’s office and a thrill of excitement shot through the air. Saren strolled in after her as they swarmed in to the room. Both Spectres aimed their drawn pistols and glared at the hulking figure sitting calmly at the desk. He looked like a mutated bull-frog as he threw a few glances at the group before a deep voice reverberated through the room.

“Here for the Drell, I see.” The Broker rumbled. “Reckless... Even for you, Commander.”

A smirk painted the human’s features as she spoke. “I may be reckless, but I’m also determined. Just ask Vasir.”

The Broker was unsettlingly still behind his desk that Saren almost thought they were talking to a puppet. “Vasir was expendable. All her death cost me was time.”

“Expendable?!” Liara growled, her voice brimming with rage, “Like Feron?”

At last, the Broker addressed Liara directly. “Doctor T’Soni. Your interference caused all of this. Feron betrayed me when he handed you Shepard and Arterius’ bodies. The drell is simply paying the price.”

“Someone was bound to come after you for working with the Collectors.” Stated Saren, a sense of pride radiating of his own frame when he noticed the Broker’s expression turn to one being miffed. “Be smart. Let Feron walk out with us.”

“You won’t be walking out at all.” The Broker replied simply.

Liara, on the other hand, would have none of that. “You’re quite confident for someone who has nowhere left to hide!”

The Broker merely shrugged, tossing her a causal glance before he finally seemed to acknowledge Garrus and Saren. “You travel with fascinating company, Doctor. Not only have you brought me Commander Aura Shepard and Saren Arterius, the two strongest and possibly the greatest Spectres of all time, but you have also brought me the infamous Archangel. That will make collecting their bounties much easier.”

In that moment of silence, the two turians were about to stop themselves from growling when they realized for once that they weren’t the ones making the noise. To both their utter amazement, Shepard was the one snarling in such a way that it would have had any other male, Turian or not, running for cover. It also didn’t help that her biotics were now flaring and crackling like wildfire.

“Touch my mate, lay a hand on anyone and I swear I will show you the true mean of WRATH!” Snarled the human, her eyes radiating a glow that was just as cruel as Sovereign’s own voice.

“You’re not laying a hand on anyone!” The young asari piped in just as fiercely

The battle of minds seemed to shift to Liara and the Shadow Broker as he turned all his attention back to the young asari. “It is pointless to challenge me, Little Wing. I know your every secret, while you fumble in the dark.” He seemed rather smug as he said this noticing Liara’s brow twitch at her mother’s nickname.

“Is that right?” Sneered Liara, giving the mutated toad a quick glance over before barreling on. “You’re a Yahg, a pre-space flight species quarantined to their home world for massacring the Council’s first contact team. This base is much older that your planet’s discovery which means you probably killed the original Shadow Broker sixty years ago, then took over. I’m guessing you were taken from your world by a trophy hunter who wanted a slave... or a pet?” The young asari grinned maliciously when she saw the horns on the Broker’s head twitch angrily. “How am I doing?”

The Broker’s eyes turned a frightening black color as he finally rose from his chair now towering over the group. Okay, he’s bigger than I thought. Saren trilled with his secondary vocals. Garrus made an uneasy chirp of agreement. The awe was cut short when the Broker roared terribly, smashed his desk then threw the pieces at the squad. Saren, Liara and Aura had already dived for cover but poor Garrus ended being thrown to the other side of the room, pinned by the heavy table and stuck to the wall struggling to push it off him. He watched as Aura was pelting the yahg with bullets while Saren and Liara set two singularities on either side of the Broker to keep the massive creature in one spot. Saren made a remark stating he wanted the Broker’s rifle and Aura rolled her eyes.

“Saren!”

“What?! It’s nice rifle!”

“Kill him first! Oh shit!” Aura laughed then ducked behind a pillar as the Broker fired his weapon at the commander. “Priorities remember?!”

The Broker snarled when his shields were brought down and he hunched over with a smirk. A strange white shield enveloped him and when Liara tried to fire her submachine gun, the bullets merely bounced harmlessly off of him.

“That shield is kinetically sensitive!” Liara growled glancing at the two Spectres taking cover behind the pillars. “Energy and projectiles are bouncing off but it looks like he can’t fight back in that state.”

“Good,” Saren emerged from his cover, cracking his knuckles and he summoned his biotics around his fists. “Then we do this the fun way.”

The silver turian strolled up to the yagh landed a punch to the creature’s stomach. The Broker groaned, his shield dissipating and he was met with another punch to the chest. The yahg staggered forward and was propelled backwards by the turian’s third biotic punch. Saren started to charge towards the Broker and just when he was about to land a fourth punch, an orange shield emerged from the Broker’s omni-tool and he slammed it into the turian catapulting him back. Saren landed hard on his back with the wind knocked out of him. He would have been stomped on if Aura hadn’t pulled him to cover with her biotics and the two ducked behind a large console.

“You alright?” Aura asked, quickly assessing her counterpart.

He nodded as he shook his head trying to will away the headache now forming.

When they brought down the shield a second time, it was Aura who met the Broker head on. Her shoulder slammed into the omni-shield and despite the sheer strength and size difference, Aura managed to dig in and push the yahg back. But only a few feet as the Broker backhanded her into Liara, splitting the commander’s brow and lip. The asari quickly looked up at the ceiling then the yahg and back at the ceiling as a plan seemed to be forming in her head. She barked at Shepard and Arterius to get the Broker to pull up his strange barrier once more. The two Spectres glanced at each other and grinned. While Saren and Liara got into position across from each other, Aura once again charged head-on. However, just as the yahg was about to swing his shield at the human, the commander tucked herself in and rolled out of the way behind their quarry. The Broker whipped his head around and roared angrily.

“NOW!!!!” Aura practically screamed.

Liara, Saren and Aura threw their biotics to the glass ceiling pulsing with the strange white energy and they began to pull. The Broker looked at the trio in confusion before the sound of cracking glass drew his attention to the ceiling. By the time he realized what was happening, the three biotics yelled angrily and shattered the glass. The liquid crashed over the yahg, drowning him then to their relief, evaporated him and sadly the rifle as well, much to Saren’s dismay. As the dust settled, Liara approached, hesitated then offered her hand to the two of them. They gripped the asari’s hands as she hauled them to their feet and the Spectres rushed over to the trapped turian and freed him. Trembling a little, the blue faced turian started to sit up then took the elder’s outstretched hand and allowed him to haul him up to his feet.

The momentary silence was soon broken though as chatter began to rise up over the radio, desperate for information about what had happened. The commander and the turians froze as Liara stared at the screens, listening to the frantic overlapping voices before finally looking down at the terminal and opening a small tool.

This is the Shadow Broker.” She stated, the program automatically filtering it into the voice of the Broker. “The situation is under control. We experienced a power fluctuation while upgrading hardware. It disrupted communications momentarily.

A side door burst open causing Aura, Saren and Garrus to immediately draw their weapons only for them to lower them when Feron came stumbling in pulling his pistol ready to fight the Broker. Instead, he froze at the sight of Liara leaning over the console still continuing to speak into the microphone.

“However, we are now back online. Resume standard procedures. I want a status report on all operations withing the next solar day. Shadow Broker, out.” Liara finished as the radios went silent and she turned to face her friends. Feron was standing there speechless just like everyone else as he approached. Whatever he wanted to say remained stuck in his throat until Liara finally broke the silence with a weary smile. She said that since anyone who saw the Shadow Broker in person died it was only fitting that she took the mantle. Feron clutched his sore side tightly before stating that he would go and check on the power systems and try to get feeling back in his limbs. Garrus trailed after the injured drell thinking it would best to leave the asari and fellow Spectres alone.

Shepard grunted when the asari suddenly hugged her tightly and Aura returned the gesture rubbing Liara’s back in reassurance. Saren slowly approached the console and already was going over their prize.

“Let’s see what our options are before your boyfriend beats me to it.” Liara chuckled weakly before standing beside the silver turian. Saren made an impressed chirp. It was impressive, even to someone who didn’t understand the technology. Pride lingered within Liara’s voice as she spoke. “No safeguards... Heh. It’s like he never expected anyone else to be here.”

“And it’s all ours.” Saren crooned excitedly.

“We can’t pass this up, Shepard.” Liara smiled. “It’s funny. All I really wanted was to rescue Feron but... Is it wrong that a part of me wants this? I mean, think about it. With the Shadow Broker’s network, I can help you both more than ever.”

Saren suddenly patted Liara on the head, his mandibles flared out in a grin just as Aura smirked back at the young asari. “I think you can turn this operation into something even better. I’m certain Benezia would proud at how much you’ve grown.” He complimented sincerely much to the women’s surprise. However, Aura couldn’t help but agree with his statement. This was the old Liara, the one she met on Therum. The inquisitive and stubborn asari maiden always seeking knowledge and truth.

“Just don’t be a stranger, Liara.” Aura chuckled and Liara continued to beam excitedly at her.

Saren purred something to the commander who nodded as he departed. When Liara inquired what the silver turian had said to her, Shepard reassured the asari that it was nothing bad or worrisome. She informed her friend that Saren was going to bring Feron and Garrus up to the Normandy’s medical bay to have Chakwas assess and treat their wounds. Liara heaved a relieved sigh then noticed a mischievous glint in the commander’s silver eyes and she raised a brow suspiciously.

“What?”

“So... You and Feron...”

Liara’s eyes snapped open to the size of saucers and she flushed a deep purple. She shook her head so vigorously that Aura was almost concerned the young Prothean expert would snap her own neck. “Yes! I mean, no! I mean, Feron’s been through a traumatic ordeal... he’s emotionally fragile and needs to heal. I’m sure he’s very grateful and all but some wounds just need time to heal. It would be irresponsible of me to take advantage of that.” Smothering her disbelief, Aura nodded a little. She knew there was something there between the two but for now, she’d let Liara have this little victory. When Liara mentioned that maybe she should visit Shepard occasionally on the Normandy, Aura beamed at her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The loft was the perfect place to have some girl time as Shepard poured out two glasses of red wine. Saren had disappeared to the Med Bay to assist in tending to Garrus and Feron’s wounds, allowing the two women to chat leisurely without his looming presence. Aura smiled at how more thought her own counterpart had become since their reawakening. Shepard glanced up to the doors opening to the room and she smiled at the excited asari. When she inquired about her tour of the ship, Liara pried her gaze from the fish tank to answer the commander. She complimented on how beautiful the ship was and that she ran in to Joker. Shepard frowned when Liara informed her that her pilot inquired if the asari had ‘embraced eternity’ lately. She made a mental note to scold Joker later as she scratched the back of her head in embarrassment.

She watched as Liara turned to take in the view of the series of models she and Saren had been working on together during their down time and she smiled at a memory. Saren had always been the meticulous one so he often built the models while Aura read the instructions to him as she painted the finished models.

“I also spoke with Dr. Chakwas. It’s good to know that she is doing well.” Liara hummed thoughtfully then gasped as though recalling something. “I nearly forgot! I brought you something... Well, something for both you and Saren. It took some work, but I got you both new dog tags.”

Liara offered the two small frames with shiny stainless steel dog tags resting against a periwinkle blue backdrop. Reverently, Aura took them gaping. Her fingers traced along the names pressed into the metal. Hers was familiar as they bore the Alliance Navy emblem on them but she was also fascinated at Saren’s new tags. She couldn’t read Palaven but she recognized his name instantly. She lifted her head from the tags to stare at Liara, words stuck in her throat but she managed to offer the asari her thanks by hugging her tightly. Silence filled the cabin for a moment before Liara met Aura’s gaze once more.

“So... how are you really feeling, Shepard? I mean honestly. Now what you tell your squad to keep up morale.”

Leaning against her work space, Aura took a moment to let her gaze linger to the holographic piano flickering to life at the desk near the bed. “Between you and me? I have no idea how I’m going to do this. Destroy the Collectors and the Reapers that is... I’m doing all that I can, but...”

“You’ve done more than most, Shepard.” She then chuckled softly earning a perplexed look from her former commander. “It’s funny. It's just the two of us and we still end up talking about everyone but ourselves. So tell me, what do you want?”

The question threw her for a loop. “What I want?”

Placing her hand on her hip, Liara nodded. “What are you fighting for? To give Saren a second chance?”

Blood seemed to the commander’s cheeks and she knew that she had gone bright pink. Still, she couldn’t be happier. Even so she turned to sit on the bed and she looked up at her asari friend. “He’s been hurt before and you know he doesn’t trust easily but he deserved a second chance in life. He deserves something better.” Aura chuckled as she glanced at the piano once again. “It’s funny... out of all the species in the galaxy, I never thought I’d find peace in the arms of a Turian... Heh the most ruthless turian in history, according to Alliance news.”

“Why not?” Liara countered with bright eyes. “Humans seem to have no trouble finding asari attractive.”

Aura busted out laughing. “Liara, you do realize EVERYONE finds asari attractive, right?”

“Even you?” Teased the asari maiden mischievously.

“Hah! You’re cute Liara, I’ll give you that but Saren’s more my type.”

“Cold, dark and brooding?”

“He’s not brooding.” Aura countered. “Cold and dark? Sometimes but I see beauty. There’s more to him than what he seems if one is willing to learn.”

This seemed to amuse Liara immensely. She went on to say that she hoped Aura would find some happiness too for the human had been through enough trials and deserved happiness herself. The asari turned to leave as she needed to return to her newly acquired base but not before the two embraced as friends. As Liara left, she joked that should she or Saren come in to visit to check out the Broker’s terminals. Aura smiled softly while the asari left the room. She continued to stare at the door before she took a deep breath and strolled over to her piano.

“Hey, EDI?”

“~Yes, Shepard?~”

“Can you have Saren meet me up here?”

Chapter Text

Aura sat beside Samara as the two women quietly meditated facing towards the vast star-littered galaxy beyond the window. Since the issue with the old Shadow Broker had been dealt with, the two Spectres were still waiting for Harpers Intel on their next task. Saren was quietly observing them, listening to their even breathing while going over a data pad of diagnostics on his and Shepard’s armor upgrades. It was quite peaceful. After a few more minutes of silence, the asari matriarch opened her eyes and turned her head towards the silver-haired woman.

“I am glad I joined your team, Shepard.” Samara smiled, “It has been too long since I traveled with such fascinating companions.”

“Your words humble us, Justiciar.” Saren hummed as he set the pad down on the couch.

Aura smiled in agreement. “So, what really compelled you to invite us both to meditate with you? Is everything alright?”

Samara’s mouth twitched into a slight smile before fading to a neutral expression. “Sharp as always, Shepard. You are correct though. There is a matter I need to discuss with you.” The matriarch replied as she rose to her feet and approached the massive window. “When we met on Illium, I told you I was looking for a dangerous person and with the knowledge you procured for me, I managed to find her.”

“The Ardat-Yakshi?”

“Correct. She is going by the name Morinth” Samara said glancing over to her right as Shepard stood beside her. “I know where she is, right now. In a month, she’ll disappear again. This is my one chance to apprehend her.”

“Where is she?” Saren inquired tilting his head.

Samara canted her head towards the turian. “She is on Omega, residing in a bar known as Afterlife. Fitting for her hunting grounds.”

Aura glanced at Samara. She still didn’t know exactly what an Ardat-Yakshi was only that it was a term from an ancient asari dialect. Samara noticed the question on the human’s face and decided to explain. She educated Aura that the Ardat-Yakshi were asari who suffered from a rare genetic disorder. Unlike the gentle pairing between an asari and her mate, an Ardat-Yakshi overpowers their partners’ nervous systems, effectively burning them out and hemorrhaging the brain. This left the partner a mindless husk until the body finally gives out and dies. Samara further explained that she knew of three Ardat-Yakshi. Two were currently living a peaceful life of seclusion in a monastery while the third, Morinth, ran.

“Can’t really say I blame her.” Saren admitted with a shrug. “Is wrong to want to be free instead of caged?”

“When she fled, she proved her addictions. She has no great morale stand.” Samara shook her head. “She simply wishes to keep killing. The effects are like a narcotic. The more she kills, the she needs to do it in order to satisfy her needs.”

“Then we need to stop her.” Aura said solemnly. “I’ll have Joker set a course for Omega.”

“Thank you, Shepard. This means much to me.” Samara nodded her head. Just as the woman and her turian counterpart turned to leave, the asari spoke once more stating that she had one more thing to say and Aura stopped in her tracks. “This creature... this monster... she is my daughter...”

Aura stiffened at the revelation.

“And you say that this is a genetic condition... So that means the other two are also Ardat-Yakshi.”

“Morinth was always my wild child. Happy and free. But selfish... It is my fault my eldest suffers this condition and my redemption lies with killing her.” Aura said not a word. Instead, she merely nodded her head and turned to leave.

 

~~~~~~ Omega ~~~~~~

 

Upon arriving the massive asteroid known as Omega, Aura and Saren along with Samara were suited up and currently making their way through the docking bay. EDI informed them that while the average death toll on Omega was too high for the AI to dwindle down, she stated that considering the reputation of Ardat-Yakshi among the asari, the crime lord Aria T’Loak would probably have more information in tracking Morinth’s movements. Afterlife was as busy as ever. The loud music throbbed around them, the asari dancers were everywhere entertaining the patrons and Aria was still in her VIP booth overlooking everything. Aura had never met the retired commando but Saren had when he was searching for Mordin. Like all asari, Aria was as beautiful as she was deadly. Pale blue eyes made her indigo markings around them pop out more. She jerked her head to her right watching as the two Spectres took a seat beside her.

“Well, well. Saren Arterius returns and with the famous Commander Shepard.” Aria hummed, cold eyes studying them both intently. “What do you need this time?”

“An asari fugitive is hiding among your palace.” Saren rumbled flatly. “She is an Ardat-Yakshi.”

For a brief moment, the commando’s eyes widen slightly before narrowing coldly. “I knew it. Nothing leaves a body quite so... empty... as an Ardat-Yakshi.”

When Samara and Aura inquired why Aria had made moves to apprehend Morinth, the commando merely scoffed. The demon hadn’t tried to seduce her but she omitted to another victim that died about a week before Shepard arrived. A promising young artist. A pretty thing, she added then stated that they should start their hunt at the tenements in the lower district. Upon thanking the retired commando, Aria snorted in amusement, wishing the luck in finding Morinth then added that they better have better luck catching the slippery creature.

~~~~~~~~~

Finding the apartment wasn’t difficult but immediately, Aura could sense a melancholy heart from within the apartment. She lightly rapped on the door and in seconds, she was greeted by a dark-haired slightly older woman with puffy green eyes. “Are you... are you here about my daughter?” She inquired in a raspy voice. “My Nef died a week ago and no one seems to care. Medics say it was a brain hemorrhage but it’s not true. It was murder! Someone killed my baby girl...”

“We know. That’s why we’re here to help. To find her murderer.” Aura reassured softly then gestured to the woman if they could come inside to which the woman gladly allowed them inside. When the woman, Diana, asked if the commander and her squad were part of Aria’s group Saren shook his head stating that they were there to help and that it shouldn’t matter who sent them. Diana gave a weak smile. She supposed it didn’t matter but Aura knew the poor woman was still grieving. She had learned rather quickly from both Garrus’ experiences and Saren’s that no one on Omega gave a damn about anyone. Let alone a mother losing her child. They wasted no time asking questions about Nef. From what they gathered; Nef was more than an aspiring artist. The art piece Diana showed them proved the girl had exceptional talent as Aura traced the sculpture of what looked to be a woman holding a bird with care. Samara quietly mentioned that Morinth was attracted to artists. When Saren inquired about Nef having friends, the woman shook her head stating her daughter was a very shy girl.

“But something did change a few weeks ago.” Diana went on, “Nef started talking about an asari named Morinth.”

Samara merely nodded.

“I didn’t like her. She kept dragging Nef out to clubs and I’m more than certain she gave my daughter drugs. Hallex, I think.”

“Hallex?” Aura glanced at Saren.

“It’s a drug that numbs the senses, makes the victim more pliant and susceptible to outside influence. Similar to of cocaine? Or angel dust on Earth. One of the two.” Saren explained.

“Morinth can control her victims through sheer will.” Samara added solemnly. “The drugs are just a lifestyle. She loves the club, the bass.”

Diana then mentioned a club up the street. A VIP section of Afterlife. She admitted that the VIP required a password to get in. However, the distraught mother couldn’t keep the tears from overflowing and Aura instinctively held the woman close allowing Diana to hug her tightly. She promised the woman that she and her crew would make sure Nef would rest easy and that her killer wouldn’t get away with her crimes. Upon leaving the apartment, Saren informed the women that he managed to get the password to the VIP club along with some information that would also help them catch Morinth such as famous artists and musicians. Aura agreed that anyone who had been hunting sapient being for half a millennium warranted more than just caution and it seemed like they would be heading to the Ardat-Yakshi's preferred hunting grounds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You’re not suggesting having Aura be the bait, are you Samara?” Saren asked in low growl as they returned to the ship to work out a plan.

“She is the only one who can not only disguise herself effectively but Mornith won't recognize her. Her power will draw Morinth in, as she is an artist on the battlefield.” Samara answered turning to look directly in to the turian’s eyes. “You are too recognizable and quick tempered.”

“I’m guessing I can’t bring my weapons?” Aura inquired while she sat at the table with a hot cup of tea. The matriarch shook her head once again stating that the commander will have to not only enter unarmed but she could not have any allies with her.

Saren flared his mandibles downward revealing his teeth. “You can’t honestly think that I would allow Shepard to be alone with a serial killing Ardat-Yakshi.”

“Saren, she will not be alone. This I swear.” The asari woman reassured him. “I will be watching her in the shadows and I will make sure no harm will come to her. However, if we are to catch Morinth, Shepard must go alone and unarmed.”

Aura contemplated silently while listening to the two argue. While she understood Saren’s displeasure about having her be the bait, she could not disagree with Samara’s argument. Morinth was far too cagey. If she sensed any form of threat whether if the Justiciar was around or the human had any form of weapon, Morinth would disappear and hunt elsewhere like any predator. They had to handle this delicately. She rested her hand on Saren’s shoulder sensing that he really wanted to tear into the matriarch but he reluctantly obliged to Aura’s gesture vocalizing his disdain for the plan. Samara once again reassured the two that she would make sure no harm would come to the commander. Saren still wasn’t convinced.

Aura returned to the CIC deck a few hours later wearing dark blue, long-sleeved shirt and loose-fitting black sweatpants. Kasumi had dyed her silver hair to stunning deep fiery red and lent her emerald green contact lenses to accent it beautifully. Saren didn’t like it. True, he hardly recognized her and she was, by human standards, still beautiful however he preferred her original look. He watched as the woman gave him a small smile before catching up with Samara and disappeared back to Omega. He stood at the galaxy map for a good twenty minutes before his subvocals radiated with the same level as a human sighing and he tailed after the two of them.

“Morinth will speak to you on many levels.” Samara warned calmly keeping her attention on Aura as they slowly made their way towards the VIP club. “Her body will tell you that she’ll bring unimaginable ecstasy and her scent will evoke feelings long hidden. Eyes promising things you are too scared to ask and voice more seductive than a siren’s call. Be wary.” Aura nodded before the two split off and she made her way to the VIP section. She was stopped by a turian guard leaning against the door, hazel eyes locking on to her as she approached. He straightened himself up as she stopped in front of him. He flicked his mandibles curiously.

“Can I help you?” He asked her and she grinned playfully.

“Someone told me the rest of Afterlife is nothing compared to this place.”

The guard grinned back at her. “Sounds like a smart person. Who was it?”

Time to put that password to the test. Aura thought then spoke it aloud. “Jaruut.”

The guard moved aside opening the door for her making a sweeping gesture. After giving her a few ground rules, Aura strolled on inside. She could already hear the beat of the music throbbing through the small alley when she spotted Samara hiding behind some crates waving her over. After a small discussion on how to lure in the Ardat-Yakshi as well as recapping what the fugitive liked, Aura slowly walked in to the club. The flashing lights and beat of the music surrounded her and she steeled herself. She had talked with a few people managing to talk a pair of turians out of robbing someone in the alleys and convinced the bartender to offer a free round of drinks. Still no Morinth. She swore she saw Saren in one of the empty booths but she shook her head turned her focus to the dance floor. Taking a chance, Aura took to the dance floor just as a song kicked on. She closed her eyes allowing the rhythm to take over and she began to dance seemingly unaware that her quarry had come to join her. Until the black clad asari touched her arm to get her attention.

“I’m Morinth.” The asari smiled as got beside the woman.

“Phoenix.” Aura returned the greeting as the two began their dance.

Saren watched as Shepard danced from his corner. The dance she was sharing with Morinth was more aggressive, their bodies entwining with the beat. He could tell by Aura’s eyes that she was not really comfortable dancing with a partner she didn’t trust but for the sake of the mission she endured. He tucked himself further into the booth as he watched the two walked to a booth on the other side of the bar and he maintained a visual on her watching as they seemed to be talking about something.

 

“Some nights I come here and there’s no one interesting to talk to. Others, there’s just one person.” Morinth hummed as she watched the commander roll her shoulders to release the strain from their dance. “But tonight, it’s you. I wonder why that is?”

Aura’s eyes gleamed at the asari. “I know what I like.”

“Do you?” Purred Morinth curiously.

Aura gestured to the club, listening to the music around them inquiring Morinth’s opinion on the sounds. The woman closed her eyes, feet tapping to the rhythm. She explained that the dark pulses pulled at a primitive part of her out. The asari gestured to the human who leaned forehead, resting her chin on her hands in thought. “I’m curious about a band called Expel 10. Ever heard of it?” She tilted her head. Morinth nodded, a small creepy smile tugging on her lips as she stated the band’s music got inside her head and she would lose herself to the sounds.

“Did you know there are ways to enhance that?”

“Like Hallex?”

“Ooh so you enjoy how it slithers through your soul too, hmm?”

Aura shivered mostly out of being unnerved but, the asari seemed to think it was out of delight so she kept her poker face and chuckled. “A lot better than any human drug. Say... do you like art by any chance?”

“Oh, indeed. Most of it speaks to the darkest corners of my mind.” The asari hummed in thought. “You?”

“Ever heard of the artist Forta?”

Morinth’s eyes widen in delight. “I didn’t think anyone around here knew of him!”

“His art is certainly sublime.” Aura commented.

“Right?” Morinth nodded fondly. “But art comes in many forms. Many varieties. I’ve seen vids that were more powerful than a sculpture in a gallery.”

Aura cocked her head to the side. “Like Vaenia?”

Morinth flashed her that wicked smile. It was her favorite and she loved the actresses stating that she thought they were glamorous. Aura forced a smile she hoped looked genuinely interested and she mentioned that she’d have to watch it. The asari subtly suggested that she had a copy at her home and that she would love to share it with Aura. They continued to talk and when the commander commented about her travels across the galaxy, Morinth’s eyes seemed to light up curiously and she admitted to traveling a lot as well. Remarked that traveling certainly changed her.

“Real travel means visiting dangerous places.” Aura stated with an amused snort doing her best to ignore the way Morinth was leaning towards her.

“Where you can see and do things most people can’t imagine or even dream of...”

Aura made a purr of agreement. “Yes.”

Morinth’s smile grew as she leaned back in her chair. She mentioned to the commander that she found herself drawn to dangerous places. Violent places. She often believed that violence was the surest expression of power. Aura chuckled softly and the asari cocked her head in a confused manner.

“There are many forms of power. Physical, political, mental. To some, whoever wants it the most, is willing to do anything for it, has the power.” Aura explained allowing her tone to grow dark and dangerous. “To me? Power is its own reward.” The fact she got the Ardat-Yakshi to shudder with words made Aura grin. Morinth stood up offering her hand to the commander inviting her to come to her apartment. The asari’s eyes shone with a dangerous light and the way she ever so subtly licked her lower lip confirmed that she wanted Aura all to herself.

As the two women leave, Saren rose from his booth and spotted Samara who gave him a slightly disapproving frown but he didn’t care. He wouldn’t interfere with Samara’s mission however neither would he let his mate out of his sight knowing she was alone with an Ardat-Yakshi. He’d step in if he sensed Aura was in trouble.

~~~~~~~~~

Morinth’s apartment was not what Aura expected. It looked... chic. She hadn’t seen this style in a long while. The asari was studying her as she explored the apartment often commenting on some of the relics on the table or in the room itself. She watched as Aura gestured to the dueling swords on the wall in a silent question to handle them and Morinth nodded studying the graceful movements the human woman had as she wielded the blade like it was merely an extension of her arm. She commented that she was once into dueling and that she enjoyed the moment when her opponent had the look of fear, knowing they would die by her hand. Aura set the blade back on to the wall with care and respect before taking a seat on the other couch. She listened to Morinth as she spoke about her love for the club, still being able to hear the bass like war drums.

“But here, it’s muted. Safe.” She said then glanced at Aura. “Is that what you want, little Phoenix?”

“I’m a fighter. Not a coward.”

“Indeed. I never understood the fascination with safety but some choose differently. Independence over submission.” She rose up from her spot to sit in Aura’s lap. “I can see your aura. You have skills and power. It’s invigorating. I think you and I share the same qualities.”

Aura chuckled darkly, her voice radiating her power much more fiercely. “It’s adorable at how you’re comparing the two of us, but you are nowhere near my league, Morinth.”

Once again that creepy smile crept onto her face as the asari slowly got off her and sat down next to the woman, one arm wrapped almost sweetly around her neck. Morinth closed her eyes briefly and upon opening them, Aura found herself staring the asari’s black eyes. She was not unfamiliar with this as she and Liara had done a few mind-meldings when hunting Saren but this was different and Aura was wary, unnerved. Like Samara had warned, the Ardat-Yakshi tried to seduce her with her honeyed words and hypnotic voice. Unlucky for Morinth, Aura was not the type of girl to be manipulated or controlled. The human started to laugh loudly causing the asari to once again tilt her head to the side before trying once again to bend the woman to her will.

“I’m not the victim you were hoping for, Morinth.” Aura growled. “I yield to no one.”

Morinth’s eyes returned to normal at the unexpected resistance. There was no way her powers could be beaten. Yet this human was doing just that. Why? How? Then it hit her and she bared her teeth in anger. “So, the bitch herself found herself a little helper, huh?”

“Two helpers.” Another voice joined in as the door was pried open by a familiar silver aura. Saren and Samara entered the room, both their biotics flaring up. Morinth tried to lean towards the commander as though looking for a shield but she was too slow. Samara’s biotics slammed into the Ardat-Yakshi and pinned to the window. Morinth groaned as she remained pinned then turned her head towards her mother. The look of intense loathing was all but apparent.

“Mother.” She hissed venomously towards Samara whose calm features had all but disappeared.

Samara’s biotics intensified as she felt Morinth trying to push her back. “Do NOT call me that!”

“I can’t choose to stop being your daughter!” The Adrat-Yakshi growled as she shoved the Justiciar away and she landed on the floor. “Mother.”

“You made your choice long ago!”

“What choice?!” Morinth all but screamed as Samara hovered above her daughter. The Ardat-Yakshi threw a couch into her direction. “My only crime was being born with the gifts YOU gave me!”

Saren pulled Aura out of the way as another biotic shockwave shook the apartment and the couch was thrown in her direction. The two watched as the asari battled. They erected their own barrier when the two asari’s biotics clashed and the shockwave slammed harmlessly into their biotic shield.

“I am the genetic destiny of the asari!” Morinth sneered as her biotics intensified, “but they are not ready to reveal this so I must die.”

“You are a disease to purged!” Samara all but snarled back. “Nothing more!”

The asari’s biotics clashed once more, this time causing the furniture and fixtures to start rattling out of their housing and whip around like debris in a tornado. Morinth gritted her teeth, eyes flickering towards the two Spectres. “I’m as strong as she is. Let me join you!” Samara glanced briefly at Shepard but maintained her focus on Morinth. She was already sworn to Aura and Saren’s services. Before Saren had time to contemplate, Shepard rushed out of the barrier and gripped Morinth’s arm. With a sharp twist, she caused the Ardat-Yakshi to lose her focus and Samara struck knocking Morinth aside though her attack accidently grazed the commander’s face. The Justiciar quickly walked towards the fleeing and wounded Ardat-Yakshi leaning forward to grip her throat. Samara and Morinth glared at each other before the matriarch slammed a biotic fist into her daughter’s skull with a crunch. “Find peace in the embrace of the goddess... Morinth...”

Aura had seen plenty of dark scenes in her youth. Young kids dying in the gang wars on Earth, bloodshed on the battlefields but for some reason, seeing Samara brutally tell her daughter she was a disease then mercilessly kill her, struck a chord in her. However, for the time being she just wanted to get out of here. As did Samara. Saren watched as the two women went silent and followed them out of the apartment.

Chapter Text

Aura and Saren were currently in a meeting with Harper though they were less then pleased. They were still pretty pissed at the fact that he not only led them into a trap on the Collector ship, but he failed to inform them about snagging the ship’s Identify-Friend-Foe system. The Illusive Man reminded the two though that while they may not like receiving orders from him, they were still on the same side and that the facts remained with him. I seriously doubt that. Saren thought to himself. Aura also was kind enough to remind Harper that he could have told them to collect the IFF while they were ON the Collector ship but the man merely shook his head stating that they would have had no way of knowing where it was or extract it on time. Realizing they were running in circles, the commander merely waved for the Illusive Man to continue his original train of thought. The Illusive Man informed them that an Alliance science team recently determined that the ‘Great Rift’, a massive formation on the planet Klendagon, was actually an impact crater from mass accelerator weapon.

“It must have been very old then.” Saren finally spoke finding the information somewhat interesting. “What was its target and is the weapon still operational?”

Aura glanced at him. “How much you wanna bet it was Reaper?”

“~The weapon was defunct unfortunately but Shepard is correct about its target. It was a derelict Reaper.~” Harper informed them. “~We found it damaged and trapped in the gravity of a brown dwarf.~”

“Wait... Aren’t brown dwarfs basically stars that didn’t quite make it?”

“Simply put but accurate.” Saren said turning towards her. “They’re gas giants that don’t quite have the mass of stars. They give off gale-force winds and extremely high temperatures too. Their a nightmare to navigate through.”

Aura tilted her head confused. “How is the Reaper still intact and why hasn’t it plummeted into the dwarf?”

“~The Reaper has its own mass effect field that keeps it in orbit. Most likely an automated response to outside threats.~” Harper suggested then shrugged in his chair after taking a puff of his cigarette. “~It’s stable but I wouldn’t call it safe.~”

“Why do I get the feeling this isn’t going to be a simple ‘swing by and pick up our package’ routine?”

Harper chuckled a little. “~As always, you’re always on point, Shepard. We lost contact with Dr. Chandana’s team shortly after they boarded. Initial reconnaissance revealed no clues, and it was too risky to more resources... But now we need that IFF.~”

“More than likely, that team is either indoctrinated or were transformed into husks.” Saren shrugged. “I’m impressed that you were smart enough not to send more lambs to slaughter.”

Harper glared at the turian before forwarding the coordinates. Once the call ended, Aura grinned up at Saren almost smugly. He narrowed his eyes at. He knew why she was being all smug. He just used a human idiom when he adamantly told her he would never use one. He flicked her nose gently as they left to the armory to assemble their team.

 

~~~~~~~~~

 

The Normandy rocked violently as Joker pulled her out of FTL. Aura and Saren were standing behind the pilot’s chair, shifting their weight with ship’s movements. As the Normandy struggled against the five-hundred kilometer per hour winds, Joker noticed another ship alongside the ripped-up Reaper corpse. He informed the Spectres that it wasn’t transmitting any IFF pings but the silhouette labeled the vessel as geth. That was odd since there weren’t any geth outposts in their sector and from the vessel’s size it was a small fighter, not a transport ship. Suddenly, the gale-force winds that were once battering the ship ceased and the trio felt everything settle to a smooth flight path.

“Did we just?”

“Yeah,” Joker confirmed turning slightly to look at the commander, “We passed through the Reaper’s mass effect field envelope. It’s still active.”

As Joker brought the ship to an opening in the Reaper, Saren and Aura couldn’t help but notice how small it actually was. Compared to Sovereign, this thing was about one third its size. Still huge compared to the organics and the Normandy but their vessel would be considered a small bird in comparison to the vanguard Reaper. The two Spectres met up with Garrus and Zaeed at the portside door. The four steeled themselves as they departed from the ship and on to the Reaper.

~~~~~~~~~

Upon passing through the entrance, neither the turians or the commander were not surprised to find evidence of fighting. Zaeed called them over to a log computer. From what they gathered from the log, everything started out normally though Chandana mentioned that the crew was wary and on edge. For good reason the three Spectres grumbled under their breaths. The crew was occupying a Reaper ‘corpse’ and already were falling under the first levels of indoctrination. Zaeed and Garrus took point while Aura hung back with Saren as they watched their flanks. Saren was more tense than usual. It was apparent in his stance and the way he kept his head low, like a dog afraid of being touched. Every once and a while the silver turian would glance at his left shoulder as though making sure he was still fully turian.

“Saren.” She whispered and she swore she saw Saren flinch when he heard her call him. “You alright?”

He shook his head as they continued after the others. “I don’t want to be here.”

“Can’t say I blame you.” Aura whispered as they followed the crew logs and blood.

“Do you know what it was like being inside Sovereign?” Saren not even concerned that both Zaeed and Garrus turned to look at the two of them as she shook her head. “Hearing that... that buzzing, almost like screeching sound in your head.” He gripped the side of his head as he watched the memory replay in his head. “Then the whispers and that twisted song the Reapers sing... It’s... It’s maddening, Aura. It mutates you. Transforms you into a monster until you’re just a shell. If that doesn’t work, their.... upgrades do the trick.”

“What?” Zaeed croaked. “You think you’re being indoctrinated again?”

Garrus gave the man an alarmed look. Aura understood though. She knew that Saren had been trapped under Sovereign’s influence for Spirits knew how long. While it was a bit strange to see the usually serious and fierce Spectre reacting in such a manner, Aura gripped Saren’s shoulders and gave him a gentle shake. “Saren, it’s okay to admit when you’re afraid. But remember, I won’t let you fall. I got you. You got me.” She said feeling him nod briefly and she cupped his cheek carefully. “Let’s just find this damn thing and get back to the Normandy. Maybe we’ll play a game of cards. Haven’t done that in a while.”

Saren trilled weakly and they pressed on. They were rounding a corner when the entire vessel shook and immediately, the squad drew their weapons and looked around. Aura tapped on to her omni-tool when it started flashing. Joker informed the shore party that for some reason, the Reaper put kinetic barriers and essentially cut them off from the Normandy. The two turians growled disgruntled. Aura stated she and the others would probably have to take down the barriers from their side and instructed EDI to pull up the schematics of the Reaper if she hadn’t done so already. The AI confirmed that at the moment of activation, she detected a heat spike originating from what could only be the wrecks mass effect core. She also added that the core was what was maintaining the Reaper in orbit. That meant once Aura shut down the core, they would have a limited window in escaping the wreck before it plummeted into the brown dwarf. Good thing Aura had most of the ship upgraded while we were on Omega. Saren thought to himself. Joker made a snide comment before laughing when the commander stated that if any helmsman could pluck their asses out of the wreck before it reached crush depth it was him.

“~Now you’re just trying to make me blush.~”


~~~~~~~~~

They made it to what could on be described as the Reaper’s insides and what they found was both disturbing and perplexing. Aura and Garrus were inspecting the remains of a burnt human corpse while Zaeed was scanning the catwalks for any signs of movement. When the human mercenary questioned if this was Geth work, Garrus shook his head indicating that the wounds on the body weren’t made by any geth. Saren confirmed his claim when he got a work log working and as they watched the video play, they realized the Reaper was in fact the culprit. But that also raised an interesting question between the four of them: If the Reaper was supposed to be dead, then how did it affect the crew? They weren’t able to theorize long when they heard low moaning further down the catwalks. Both Aura and Garrus drew their snipers and peered through their scopes.

“We got husks inbound!” Garrus chirped as he opened fire on the blue machines lumbering their way towards the squad.

“Think we know what happened to the science crew.” Aura added as she sniped the next target.

It took a few minutes however, thanks to Zaeed’s quick thinking on firing at a large propane tank, he dwindled the first wave of husks with ease. Then the old merc glanced at the commander, curiosity flickering in his eyes. “I’ve got to ask. Are husks a Geth thing or a Reaper/Sovereign thing?”

Aura, Garrus and Saren glanced at each other before answering in sync. “Reaper.”

They continued forward, sniping and eliminating husks wherever they popped out. Shepard was more than confused at the sheer number of husks and lack of geth numbers. Her squad thought the same thing until they came towards a corner but just as they drew closer, two shots rang out and two husks dropped dead with massive wounds in their skulls. Garrus and Aura, both agreed it the wounds came from a sniper rifle, not unlike the Widow she was carrying and the four of them wondered who fired the shots. Zaeed suggested it could have been a survivor from the original team. They all turned the corner each taking cover. Aura scanned the rafters while Garrus scanned the platform. What Aura saw through her scope caused her to blink, pull her head away and give a good shake before peeking through the scope once more.

“Shepard? Did you see something?”

“There’s someone up on the rafter there but I can’t see them very well.”

Garrus lifted his scope higher. “She’s right, there is someone there but I can barely see them due to the bright lights ahead.”

Rrrrrrrrrrr

The four of them looked at each other confused on who made the groaning growl sound only to shortly find themselves facing a massive hoard of husks, exploding abominations and a scion. They barely had time to take cover when the scion fired a strange plasma like shockwave and disabled Garrus shields while also lighting him up like a Roman candle. Aura swapped out her sniper for the Collector Particle Beam rifle she snagged from the Collector ship a while back and opened fire, ripping through the smaller hordes of husk. Saren took down the scion using one of his newer projects he had been constructing in the armory. Aura and the others ducked as a black orb shot out from the barrel of the gun and slammed into the scion knocking it up then began pulling it in as well as the remaining husks to the center of the strange mass only to watch it explode and vaporize the creatures into nothing but dust.

“Fuck Saren! What was that?!” Aura asked as she got her feet, eyes locked on to the scorch marks left in the floor

“Yeah! I want one!” Zaeed exclaimed excitedly.

Saren deactivated the weapon and proceeded to hook it back over his shoulder, a proud grin on his face. “It’s a Blackstorm Singularity Projector. Been working on it for a while now, though this is the first time I’ve actually tested it.” He went on to explain that the weapon encased particles of matter within a high-powered mass-increasing field, elevating them to near-infinite mass. This would a gravitational singularity that draws nearby enemies and objects inward for a short time. The rapidly-increasing gravity near the singularity's event horizon rips the objects apart. The mass effect field soon destabilizes and returns to normal mass, with explosive results. Not that the turian seemed to mind.

“Wouldn’t a simple biotic singularity work just as well?” The commander snorted shaking her head.

Saren only grinned but that soon faded as they approached the back of the room. There were bodies of the science still skewered to long spikes. Aura recognized them as did Saren and they brought back unpleasant memories. Dragon’s Teeth and from what they saw, this was most definitely the Reaper’s doing. The most disturbing bit about the room, however, was the way it was arranged. It looked like a satanic ritual of worship. Still, the question still burned through their minds. How did the Reaper corpse do this? They didn’t have to look much further as Zaeed found another terminal. As they listened to the log, they discovered that the Reaper’s primary systems were, in fact, destroyed, but it’s smaller systems, ones in charge with indoctrination were still operable. Saren hissed through his teeth. Even a dead god can dream. That was an eerie way of stating that even if destroyed the Reapers would still haunt organics.

Aura guided the team to a door she spotted early and gestured for Garrus to hack through it. When the young turian trilled triumphantly, Zaeed and Aura took point with the turian’s filing in protecting their flank. The squad began to fan out in the massive room and were immediately on edge. Aura motioned for Garrus and Zaeed to take one side while she and Saren took the other. They may have moved a few feet when they heard the familiar moaning of husks behind them, but just as the two Spectres were about to turn around, two loud shots rang out on either side of Aura’s head and two husks fell. Saren spotted a third on his left but it too fell to a sniper round. All four of them turned towards the source looking up at the catwalks, but what they found was not what they expected.

Shepard-Commander. Arterius-Spectre.” Spoke the figure as they came into view on the top rafter. Only it wasn’t a human. It was a Geth! It didn’t stay for long as it turned away, holstering its sniper rifle to its back and proceeded on its merry way before disappearing.

“I think we found our sniper.” Zaeed stated gruffly. “Never thought I’d see a geth.”

“Something’s not right though. Geth get stronger with more Geth.” Garrus pointed out. “That one was alone.”

Saren narrowed his eyes and he stared at Aura then back at the spot the geth previously occupied. “Not only that, Geth don’t talk like we do.”

“I’m wondering how it knew who we were.” Aura stated then motioned that they continued on.

~~~~~~~~~

“By the Spirits, if I have to deal with another Reaper Scion, it will be too soon.” Garrus snapped as he wiped his shoulders and chest plates free of the gross fluorescent blue plasma still sticking to him. Aura fully agreed with the young turian as she plucking the plasma from her hair. The texture left her feeling both cold and numb until final the liquid dissipated. The four of them had just fought through a large horde of husks and four scions and were now holed up in a room with a terminal that Saren was currently using where a small capsule opened up revealing a strange looking device. He picked it up, glanced at the terminal screen once more than nodded his head.

“This is it.” He said confirming that the science team at least managed to acquire the Reaper IFF. He turned his head to the door on his right. “All that’s left is to deactivate the core.”

Aura and the gang nodded as they pried open the sealed door only to find an electric barrier blocking their path. On the other side of it, they spotted a massive glowing dark blue and purple sphere pulsing with energy. That must be the core. Aura’s head lowered to a confusing sight. It was that same geth unit from before and more husks but they were... attacking the geth? The unit turned its flashlight head in the direction of the husks, removed the pistol on its hip and opened fire on to the husks that were drawing to close all while its free hand was doing something with the console it was at. When the first three husks fell, the geth quickly returned to its work, clicking and whirling until the barrier in front of the commander’s team faded away. Just as the geth finished its work and spun around to run, another husk appeared out of nowhere and smacked it aside with the back of its hand so hard, the unit collapsed with its primary head light smashed.

“Saren, you take out the core.” Aura ordered drawing her assault rifle and waved at Garrus and Zaeed. “Garrus, watch Saren’s back. Zaeed, with me!”

The group split off with Aura and Zaeed dealing with luring the husks away from Saren. The silver turian unclipped the heavy weapon he had used earlier and took aim at the core feeling the Vakarian fledgling behind him sniping the stragglers that got too close. Upon firing the shot Saren’s biotics activated as he surrounded himself and Garrus in the silvery bubble. Aura managed to catch a glimpse and got with Zaeed doing the same with her biotics. Not only did the singularity do the trick with the core but it also dealt with the remaining husks. As the core sparked and faded away, the vessel began to violently shake. Zaeed gestured towards the heap of metal that was the geth unit.

“Always wanted a hood ornament or something to mount on my way.” The old merc snorted.

“Leave it!” Saren and Garrus hissed in sync. “We have enough trouble as it is.”

Aura shook her head. “Tali said no one’s ever caught a geth intact before. This might be our only chance.”

Garrus shook his head again. “You know the risks. That’s all I’m going to say.”

“No time to debate. Zaeed, help me with it.” Shepard ordered as she slung the geth over her shoulder. “Move out!”

~~~~~~~~~

The Normandy disconnected from its hanger alongside the Reaper as it began its descent into the brown dwarf. Joker locked on to the commander’s coordinates finding the small squad on a ramp. As the portside airlock opened, both Zaeed and Shepard tossed the geth unit towards the entry. As it floated to the ship, Zaeed took a running leap followed by both the turians who were picking off the last of the husks. Aura trailed after them, landing on the floor to which she informed Joker to get them the heck out.

Immediately after the squad was settled in and the geth safely secured away on the ship, Saren and Aura were with Miranda and Jacob in the war room having a rather heated discussion about their unique piece of salvage. Miranda expressed that the crew needed better equipment and tech to fight the Reapers and suggested they use the geth unit they found to do just that for the cyberwarfare district of Cerberus. Saren and Jacob adamantly disagreed. Jacob had seen enough of what the geth had done on Eden Prime and Saren had more than his fair share with dealing with the blasted machines. The turian claimed that they should just space the machine.

“I want to know why it has a piece of N7 armor strapped to its chest.” Aura said as she examined the hologram of the geth on the table. It had a gaping hole on the right side of its chest leaving a window to its endoskeleton. It's right shoulder was held together by a piece of N7 shoulder armor. Strange. It looked familiar too... 

“Battle trophy?” Jacob suggested then blink at his own question. “Would a machine even care about that?”

Saren shook his head. “No, trophies imply emotions that AIs don’t have. More than likely, it used the armor piece as a simple patch job.”

“I’m not deciding one way or another until I know what we got here. I want to start it up and interrogate it.” Aura said assertively.

“Shepard, if we activate it, there’s no way we can deactivate it again.” Miranda warned then shot both Jacob and Saren annoyed look when they pointed out that bullets would do the trick just fine. Aura merely waved them off before bringing up the image of the IFF on display, ignoring Jacob’s comment about Tali freaking out when she discovered they captured a geth. EDI informed them that she was able to integrate the device into the Normandy’s systems but warned that since this was Reaper technology, they needed to be extremely careful as it might pose certain risks that no one wanted to think about. Aura nodded her head, pulling the tie on her ponytail off and allowing her hair to fall more comfortably on her shoulders. She trusted EDI and somehow knew she wouldn’t let anything happen to the ship. The AI informed them that it would take her a couple days before the IFF would be fully ready for shakedown but she would alert the crew when diagnostics were complete. Saren merely huffed at the stubborn woman as they both left the war room and he followed Shepard down to the medical bay where the AI core was located. Why the Cerberus woman thought it was a good idea to house the geth unit there was beyond him.

“You know this is a bad idea, right?” Saren asked her as they both stood before the unit as he handed her the new light fixture she had him make for the machine.

Aura took the light and began to repair the geth’s broken lens while she spoke. “Would you rather space it and let Cerberus retrieve it later?”

“I’d rather dismantle it, crush it to dust then space it.”

She turned towards him and noticed him gripping his left shoulder. Her eyes softened sympathetically and she gave his shoulder another reassuring squeeze. His mandibles clicked in resignation and he nodded towards her, watching her omni-tool spring to life. EDI, as always, was ready for form of cyber-attack and even erected a kinetic barrier to keep the unit contained, just in case it turned hostile. Aura approached the barrier and waved her omni-tool over the geth, little sparks of electricity emitting from the unit before its fingers twitched and it began to sit up. The lights on its head flickered then brightened as though coming into focus and as though recollecting something, slowly touched the bigger light on its head. It looked down at its own hand then turned to glance at the two Spectres behind the barrier. As soon as it got to its feet, its headlamp dimmed enough to where it wouldn't blind the two of them and began emitting a series of warbled clicking sounds.

“Can you understand me?” Aura asked jumping right in.

Yes.” Came a surprisingly calm reply.

“Are you going to attack us?”

It shook its head. “No.”

“How do you know our names?” Saren asked finding conversing with a geth both strange and curious. “You said them aboard the Reaper. Have we met?”

We know of you.” It said, the smaller plates on its head occasionally rising and falling.

Aura tilted her head. “You mean we fought a lot of geth.”

Again, the geth shook its head. “We have never met.”

“No, you and I have never met. But I met a lot of geth.” Aura tried to clarify but it didn’t seem to get through the unit. At least not in the way that she was interpreting.

We are all geth and we have not met you. Extranet data sources, insecure broadcasts. All organic data sent out are received. We watch you and all organics. The unit said mimicking Saren’s pacing. “You are Shepard-Commander. He is Arterius-Spectre. You are human. He is Turian. You are Alliance. He is Palaven. You both fought heretics. Killed by Collectors. Rediscovered on the Old Machine.”

Aura and Saren glanced at each other. “Old Machine?”

“I think it means the Reaper.” Saren suggested.

The geth’s central light spun a little as though in thought. “Reaper. A superstitious title originating with the Protheans. We call these entities the Old Machines.”

Aura scratched her head curiously. It mentioned heretics. When she questioned the machine about them, the geth made a strange whirling sound. It said that the geth built their own future but these ‘heretics’ were geth that requested help from the Reapers asking them for the future and the unit before them adamantly stated that the heretics were not part of it. It also informed them that it was studying the Old Machine’s hardware in an attempt to save it and the rest of the geth’s futures. Saren made an enlightened trill. So, the Reapers were a threat to the Geth as well. Interesting. The turian then inquired why the Reapers would harm the geth when they were both machines. The geth unit simply replied that it was different from the Reapers. Outside their plans.

“So, you aren’t allied with the Reapers?” Shepard asked taking a step closer to the barrier.

The geth stepped closer to her, its metal frame barely touching electrical wall. “We oppose the heretics. We oppose the Old Machines.” It gestured to her in a very organic way. “Shepard-Commander and Arterius-Spectre opposes the Old Machines. Shepard-Commander and Arterius-Spectre oppose the heretics. Cooperation furthers mutual goals.”

“Is it?” Saren blinked in disbelief.

Shepard glanced back at Saren, watching his mandibles flick down like his jaw was dropping to the floor. “Asking to join us?”

The geth nodded.

Aura dropped the barrier, her omni-tool glowing on her wrist. “Then we should give you a name.” She said curiously before tapping her chin. “How many programs are currently in this platform?”

Over one-thousand, one-hundred and eighty-three programs.” It replied.

“How about ‘Legion’?”

The plates on the geth unit seemed to rise in surprise then the lights flickered on and off like it was contemplating before responding almost fondly. “Christian Bible, The Gospel of Mark, chapter five, verse nine... We acknowledge this an appropriate metaphor. We are Legion and we will now integrate with Normandy.”

“Welcome to the crew, Legion.” Aura beamed at it.

Chapter Text

Two days had passed since the Normandy picked up the IFF and their newest and strangest recruit. EDI was still integrating the device into the systems and informed the commander that it would be a bit longer before she got the IFF operational. Having Legion aboard was strange for the entire crew. Saren mostly avoided the geth whenever he spotted it in his vicinity. The pilot and him agreed that this was highly unorthodox. However, he could not deny the machine’s usefulness. He recalled walking in on it while it was assisting Aura in modifying the Widow rifle they found on the Collector ship. Still, he would have preferred the damn thing to have been spaced. Currently, he and Aura were playing a round of Skyllian Blitz poker with Thane and some of the crew from the lower deck in the mess hall. Saren grumbled irritably as he lost the current round. Aura and Thane were tied at that moment with the Drell having a smug look on his scaly features.

“Four sevens and a ten.” Thane said, showing his cards.

Aura whistled low in faux astonishment. “Impressive Thane.” She complimented before revealing her hand to the Drell who furrowed his brow in shock as she presented a royal flush. “But I win this time.”

Saren laughed. “Looks like that ‘perfect memory’ of yours failed for once, Drell.”

Thane simply smiled as he conceded defeat and Aura swiped the large pot of credits with a broad grin. Arterius had to admit, this was kind of fun. True, he still enjoyed his sparring sessions with Aura or even Garrus when he wasn’t holed up in the Main Battery, but this was also relaxing in its own way. They were just cleaning up when the young Vakarian came stumbling out from his hidey hole with an urgent look on his face. This caused the commander to look up in alarm and stiff. When he relayed that he had just received news of Tali’s whereabouts, the commander’s eyes widened in alarm. Luckily, Joker was one step ahead and had punched in Tali’s last known coordinates. They were off to the Dholen System.

~~~~~~~~~

As the shuttle rattled through the planet Haestrom’s atmosphere, Garrus was pacing back and forth while Aura and Legion sat across from each other. Saren was currently watching the young Vakarian listening to the panicking sub harmonics. From what Shepard remembered from Tali, Haestrom was a planet that once belonged to the Quarians before the war with the geth but now something was wrong with system. From EDI’s scans, Haestrom’s sun looked to be going in to a red giant phase. Saren pointed out that he found that unusual since the star wasn’t even that old. The AI also informed them that there was a lot of unusual geth activity along with an environmental hazard. Upon landing, Aura figured out why. Haestrom’s sun was overwhelming the planet’s protective magnetosphere and was rapidly frying her and her team’s shields.

Saren and Garrus weren’t really affected by the intense heat, but Aura and Legion were a different story. Both the geth and the commander had to stick to the shade to keep the machine from having issues with its circuits and from Aura being burnt to a crisp, even with her armor on.

“I’m starting to envy you both.” Aura hissed as her shields flickered back on and the two turians joined her and Legion.

They are still vulnerable to weapon fire.” Legion stated matter of fact earning a glare from Saren.

“Remind me, why did you suggest bringing it along?” Garrus questioned uncertainly.

Shepard didn’t need to answer as Legion pointed towards what they thought was a wall but after a short burst of electricity leaping from his omni-tool, revealed what looked to be a geth hunter trying to hide in a cloaking mechanism. Saren and Garrus almost couldn’t believe they didn’t spot it. The commander gave the two turians a smug grin. Now they knew. They pressed on taking out other geth units apparently seeking out Tali’s team. Aura was wondering what her little quarian friend was doing on this planet in the first place. They were rounding a corner when they suddenly heard a voice on a radio. Garrus found the device besides two quarian bodies and handed it to the commander.

“This is Commander Shepard of Normandy.” Aura radioed over the comm. “Can we provide assistance?”

“~Patch your radios into Channel 617 Theta.~” The voice over the radio instructed and once certain the squad was ready continued to speak. “~This is Squad Leader Kal’Reegar. We were on a stealth mission. High risk. We found what we were looking for but the geth found us. They got us pinned down and we can’t get to our ship nor transmit data thanks to the damn solar radiation.~”

“What’s the status of your team?” The silver haired woman questioned Reegar. “How many are left?”

“~There was at least a dozen of us plus the science team. Small squad. Down to less than half but made the synthetic bastards pay for it though.~” Reegar informed them then added, “~And before you ask what brought us here, you’d have to ask the science team. I just point and shoot.~”

Saren looked up at the sky having a hunch. “Well, I doubt any of us, geth or not, are going to get off this rock anytime soon.” He gestured to the sun as though indicating the environmental situation. “This radiation is more than likely causing the geth issues with communications to the drop ships and such.” Reegar chuckled before adding that he and his team were currently bunkered down near a facility that Tali was currently occupying. He also informed them that he left his best men with the young mechanic and that if they were still breathing, the geth weren’t going to harm Tali any time soon. Nodding her head, Aura instructed the quarian marine to keep safe as she and her squad made their way towards them but not before he alerted them to a geth ship approaching. Just as the squad was about to rush in, the ship fired its weapons at the few quarian soldiers holding their positions and it disappeared just as a massive stone pillar collapsed on top of them blocking Aura from the door leading to the lab.

Shepard-Commander. We have detected two demolition charges nearby.” Legion chimed as the lights on its head swept through the area. “Alert. Heretics are regrouping. We suggest holding this position.”

Aura nodded as she and the two turians took cover in the shaded areas. Just as the geth came into view, the squad picked them off like fish in a barrel while Legion causally collected the charges and handed them to the commander. While she set the charges, Saren and Garrus worked together to get the explosives ready to detonate. Saren still didn’t like the fact that this geth was with them and just hearing its faint clicking had him on edge. Once the pillar was destroyed, the squad cautiously wandered into the building. Aura was fascinated with the building’s structure. It sort of reminded her of the old city ruins back on Earth. Buildings that had been around since the 1800s. Still, what baffled her the most was why the quarians were this deep in geth territory in the first place. She glanced at Garrus who shrugged uncertainly. Saren was his usual quiet self as he was studying the interior architecture. Whatever it was the quarians were looking for, Aura hoped they found it.

“~Tali’Zorah to base camp. Come in, base camp.~

Garrus whipped his head towards the sound of the voice then gestured to a console where the commander immediately jogged over. Her fingers glided over the keys and an image of Tali emerged on the screen.

“Tali, its Shepard.” Aura smiled a little.

The quarian’s eyes lit up at the sight of the commander. “~Shepard? I’m not complaining, but you always seem to have a knack for showing up at the strangest times. What are you doing here?~”

Garrus trilled in amusement. “We were in the neighborhood.”

“No. Garrus had gotten word that you were probably in trouble and believed that you needed at hand. So, he pestered us to come.” Saren chuckled earning a glare from the young Vakarian but it got a laugh out of the purple clad quarian.

“~Well, regardless. I’m glad to see you all. It means a lot.~” Tali smiled. “~Kal’Reegar and what is left of the marines got me into the observatory. From where you guys are, its through the door and across the field. I got the data I needed but-~”

“Are you safe?” Garrus asked with concern.

Tali nodded her head. “~For the moment, but there are a lot of geth outside.~”

The cobalt faced turian turned towards the commander and Saren. When he suggested they could try bringing the Normandy, both Spectres shook their heads. The buildings they were scuttling through were centuries old, if not older and if they brought down heavy fire, they had no doubt the entire structures would collapse on top of them. When Aura inquired about why her friend and her team were on Haestrom in the first, Tali made a gesture as though trying to indicate the sun outside. She informed them that for some reason Haestrom’s star was aging faster than it should. But why are the quarians interested in a star like that? Saren wondered to himself while watching Legion approach the locked door out of sight of Tali. It began typing away on the keypad. However, the door refused to open.

“The door is sealed on this side, and it looks like the console is badly damaged.” Aura informed the quarian. “Think you can open it on your end by any chance?”

Tali looked down at her own console, the sound of her omni-tool clicking. Almost immediately the door slid open. She pleaded for them to be careful and that if they saw Reegar, to make sure he was still alive.

~~~~~~~~~

About half an hour later, they entered a bunker and could hear fighting on the other side. Saren smacked a button that opened the shutters, and he suddenly regretted it. On the other side of the shutters was a horde of geth. And a massive colossus. The four-legged machine whipped its long neck around spotting them and turned towards them. The primary cannon on its head began priming. Aura yanked the back of Saren’s cowl, causing him to fall over with a yell of surprise and Legion pulled Garrus away from the other window just as the colossus fired its cannonball made of electricity. The young turian laughed slightly. It certainly felt like old times now. When Aura made a quip about wishing they had the MAKO’s cannon, Saren rolled his eyes, but he was smiling internally.

As they descended down the stairs, the four of them spotted a male quarian in a red suit taking shots at the geth that were homing in on a door on the far side of the courtyard. Aura assumed that it was Reegar as he beckoned them over not looking at them. As the four of them kept low and scurried over to the quarian, Legion sniped a geth hiding on one of the platforms above them.

“Squad Leader Kal’Reegar. Migrant Fleet Marines. We spoke on the radio before-” The red quarian began then went rigid spotting Legion behind Shepard. “You got a geth right behind you!”

We are allied with Shepard-Commander and Arterius-Spectre.” Legion informed Reegar not making eye contact as it continued to snipe more of the units even shorting out a hunter trying to sneak towards them. “We will fight the geth in this area.”

The quarian marine blinked once then shook his head, snapping himself back to the current situation. Normally, Reegar wouldn’t let this fly with him but as it stood, he couldn’t afford to be picky. He ducked just in time to avoid a bullet whizzing past his head. He brought them up to speed, stating that Tali was inside behind the closed door the geth were trying to hack into and that he lost the rest of his squad to the geth. He stated that he had only been able to draw the geth’s attention. He made a hearty chuckle stating that while it would take time for the geth to hack through the reinforced building, he was giving them hell as it would be difficult to hack a door with someone shooting missiles at them. He then informed them that while the geth were near platoon strength, the colossus was the biggest problem as it had a repair protocol and once it sustained a certain amount of damage it would huddle up and fix itself. That was new to Aura.

“I can’t get a clear shot. When I tried to advance forward, one of those bastards punched a hole clean through my suit."

“How bad is your suit rupture?” Saren asked before tossing a few geth back with his biotics then he ducked feeling a bullet graze the top of his fringe.

Reegar did a quick glance at the wound. “Combat seals clamped down to isolate contamination and I’m currently swimming in antibiotics.” He smirked behind his mask. “The geth might get me, but I sure as hell ain’t going to die from an infection in the middle of a battlefield. That’s just insulting.”

“We need to get to Tali!” Garrus growled before giving a victory trill sniping down two geth in one shot.

Aura deflected an incoming cannonball with her biotic barrier. “Anyone got any ideas?”

Reegar brandished a rocket launcher but Aura shook her head. She wasn’t going to risk Reegar getting himself killed with a single shot. He had done enough. However, the marine adamantly stated that he would do whatever it took to keep safe and tried to stand up. Aura was quicker. She pushed him away from another bullet and in a fierce voice ordered him to stand down gesturing to the fact that they didn’t have enough men for him to pull a stunt like this. When he attempted to remind her about his fallen squad mates, the commander growled angrily.

“If you want to honor your squad, watch my back!” She ordered. “I need you here in case they send reinforcements!”

Reegar continued to glare at the commander through his mask before shaking his head. “Fine. We’ll do it your way, Shepard. Hit ‘em hard. Keelah se’lai.”

~~~~~~~~~

Thankfully, with both Garrus and Legion acting as their snipers from behind, Saren and Aura were able to make their way towards the colossus without having to deal with the other geth units. Saren tossed a few stragglers up to absorb the incoming cannonball from the colossus and the commander managed to disable the machine’s main weapon with a precise shot from her Widow. Shepard noticed a few explosive containers and motioned for the turian behind her to pull towards the monstrous machine. It took him a few moments to realize what she was asking of him before figuring it out and effortlessly pulled the canisters under the geth just as it was about to huddle in on itself. Aura was faster as she fired the rifle.

BOOM!!!!!

The colossus exploded into thousands of little pieces. Some of which lightly bounced off Aura and Saren’s head. Garrus and Legion finished off the last of the remaining geth and regrouped. Tali informed them that she was opening the door for them. The four of them strolled on in being careful not to step on the geth and quarian bodies that littered the area. Tali was still downloading the data onto her omni-tool. Just as the quarian spun around to thank Shepard and Saren, her eyes widened at the sight of Legion behind the commander, and she drew her pistol.

“GETH! Get down!” Tali exclaimed just as she was about to pull the trigger but hesitated when Aura stepped between her and Legion.

“Hold it!”

Tali blinked in confusion. “Wha- What are you doing?”

“Legion is on our side.” Aura explained. “It’s not like the other geth.”

The quarian flicked her gaze towards the turians who reluctantly nodded. “Shepard’s correct on that.”

“But... it’s a geth.” Tali reiterated lowering her weapon slightly. “Who just killed a lot of my friends.

“Who also helped save yours and Reegar’s lives.” Aura added calmly. “If you want, I can explain later.”

Tali turned her head from Shepard to Legion then back to the commander before holstering her weapon. This whole mission was just one massive disaster and the quarian silently wished she had joined her friend on Freedom’s Progress but she couldn’t allow someone to take her place on Haestrom for it was too risky. Tali was pulled from her thoughts when Garrus questioned her in more detail about the research on Haestrom’s sun. She brought up her omni-tool bringing up the data. According to her findings, back when the system belonged to the quarians, Haestrom’s sun was just a normal star but in the past three hundred years it suddenly started to destabilize. She quickly added that she was unsure why or what was causing this strange phenomenon. Aura seemed to have an idea. If the star aged normally, it would be exerting this energy before going into a red giant phase. However, with it being so young it was theoretically possible that dark matter was affecting the interior of the star. But this left more questions than answers.

“A lot of quarians lost their lives here...” Aura commented turning towards the bodies with a sad look on her face. “I hope it was worth it.”

“It wasn’t my call, Shepard.” Tali sighed, slumping her shoulders. “The Admiralty Board believed the information here was worth sacrificing our lives. I have to believe that they know what’s best.”

Saren shook his head. “We’re not asking what some damn Admiral thought.”

“Yeah. We are asking you what your opinion is.” Garrus nodded firmly.

Tali’s small frame trembled from slight rage. “A lot of people died here. Many were good at their jobs and my friends. This damn data better be worth it because the price was far too high.”

Aura closed her eyes in understanding. Still, she was glad to help. “Perhaps once you deliver the data, you can join us on the Normandy?”

“Yeah! We could really use your skills Tali.” Garrus trilled a little too excitedly, a bright smile on his plated features.

Aura and Saren silently trembled in laughter. They knew the real reason why the young turian wanted the little quarian to join but he was correct regardless. Having Tali on the team would more than certainly help their team in the coming battle. Tali was blushing slightly at Garrus’ enthusiastic energy, but she nodded her head in agreement. She completed her mission and once she sent the data off to the Fleet she would be leaving with Shepard. She wouldn’t even care if the Admirals had a problem with it. They could go to hell for all she cared since she saw everyone on her team die. Or so she thought as Reegar limped into the building. Tali’s eyes brightened in relief as she ran up to the injured marine who gave her the most cock brass grin ever. He made a gesture to Shepard stating that Tali was right about her old commander being more than as good as she said. He did not even care that Legion was repairing the marine’s damaged suit though Tali kept her distance from the machine. When Aura offered to transport Reegar off the planet, the marine shook his head. He was able to get a signal out to his own ship and insisted that they all book it before any geth reinforcements showed up. 

“I’m not going with you, Reegar.” Tali informed the marine who tilted his head to the side. “I’m joining Commander Shepard.”

Legion moved behind Shepard after finishing his work on Reegar’s suit. The marine glanced between Tali and Shepard, a smile flashing through his eyes. “I’ll deliver the data to the Board and let them know what happened.” He turned towards Shepard who nodded in silent understanding then glanced at Garrus as he stood behind Tali. “Keep her safe.”

“With my life.” Garrus nodded, rolling his eyes at the chuckles Saren and Aura were giving him as they all departed back to the ship.

~~~~~~~~~

“Footage saw you in action, Tali’Zorah.” Jacob commented as the quarian and silver Spectres met up in the war room. “We’re looking forward to having you on the team. Your engineering expertise will really benefit the mission.”

Tali paced behind Shepard, eyes narrowing through her helmet at the dark skinned man. She did not know Jacob personally and she didn’t want to as she adamantly stated that Cerberus had already once threatened the security of the Migrant Fleet with the incident on Freedom’s Progress in regard to her friend, Veetor. (Whom Shepard made sure got back to the Fleet for proper medical care instead of Cerberus.) The quarian wasn’t here to make nice with Cerberus or anyone who worked for them. Aura placed a soothing hand on Tali’s shoulder. The calmness in her voice reassured Tali that the commander preferred and needed people she could trust and that meant the quarian as well.

“I assumed you two were undercover, Shepard. Maybe even planning to blow it up.” Tali whispered lowly so only the two Spectres could hear her. “If that’s the case, I’ll loan you a grenade.”

Aura smirked and whispered back. “You’re on the money, Tali but patience.”

Tali giggled pulling her head away from the two feeling better.

“Feel free to study the ship, Tali.” Saren gave a rare smile. “We’ve gotten a few upgrades that I am pretty sure you’ll appreciate.”

Jacob chimed in confirming that he’d make sure to get Tali the necessary security clearance to access the ship. Tali, in a sarcastic manner, stated that he should otherwise she wouldn’t be able to help the team if she had no knowledge on how the new Normandy ran. The quarian was about to leave for the engineering department when Jacob once again opened his mouth. “Be sure to introduce yourself to EDI, the ship’s artificial intelligence.” Tali whipped her head in the Cerberus operative’s direction, clenching her fist and gave him the most frightening glare Aura had ever seen her make through her mask. With a low growl, the quarian disappeared and the Spectres gave Jacob a deadpan look causing him to cringe.

“Oh... oops...” He winced.

“Jacob.” Aura growled. “I advise that you learn to watch your mouth in regards to AIs or Geth when around Tali.”

“You still need to get Tali used to having that scrap heap on board as well.” Saren added as the two left Jacob in the war room.

“Legion.”

“Whatever. You know what I mean.”

Aura sighed pinching her brow but knew he was right. They heard Garrus exclaim in excitement and the two poked their heads into the mess hall where they saw Tali giving Garrus the parcel they got from Illium. Thane apparently had given it to the quarian to give to her favorite turian who was going absolutely nuts over the gift. From what they could see, it was a new sniper rifle and some new armor to replace his current and still damaged suit. Aura found it sweet while Saren rubbed his chin in thought. Well, Shepard was glad to have most of her original crew back with her. Saren, Garrus, Tali, Joker and Chakwas. This brought a bright smile to her face as she and Saren headed down to the cargo hold for a much-needed sparring session.

Chapter Text

Almost a month had passed since the crew had recruited Tali from Haestrom and Saren was making his way to the war room where everyone, save for Shepard and a few other crew members like Miranda and Jacob. The IFF was still giving EDI trouble and had delayed its use for another couple of weeks, not that he minded. Better safe than sorry He thought to himself. He bumped into Joker in the hallway and the pilot was practically bouncing in his leg braces. They entered the room, finding it packed with Aura’s original crew and the others. Even Legion, much to Saren’s annoyance, was also there. The silver turian went straight to business. They were discussing plans for Shepard’s birthday since it was happening in two days. From what he gathered from her close friends, Aura never really celebrated her birthday, mostly because people often forgot, or she was busy with work. However, Joker, being the clever and surprisingly most observant out of everyone, brought up an old vid he remembered the commander being quite fond of. Garrus and Tali chuckled softly before stating that they would handle the refreshments along with the galley cook. Grunt offered to keep Aura busy, but Chakwas convinced the young krogan not to as she didn’t want to have to patch up the commander over a sparring lesson gone haywire. Saren opted to handle distracting Aura in his own way.

“Hey, I just realized something.” Garrus purred after the meeting was dismissed and Saren filed out from the room. This caused everyone to turn towards the younger turian.

Tali looked up at him confused. “What?”

“It’s not just Shepard’s birthday that’s coming up. Saren’s birthday is the same day.” The young turian stated, a mischievous grin on his face and the playful quiver of his mandibles had Tali feeling nervous. “Legion, can you come here a second?”

“Garrus, I don’t like that look on your face.” Tali quipped as she followed both him and the geth down to engineering only to stop at a notification blinking on her omni-tool.

But the party would have to wait. Apparently, Tali was summoned back to the Migrant Fleet for a trial. Shepard already had Joker rendezvous with the Fleet’s coordinates. Although this was a minor setback, most of the crew agreed that this would be the perfect distraction to get the mess hall decorated and ready. Saren watched as Shepard gathered Legion, stating she had a hunch she would need its help and Tali, who was a bit disgruntled at the suggestion but trusted Aura enough to let it slide. Once the trio departed from the ship, the crew immediately set to work though Saren couldn’t help but wonder what had Garrus’ subharmonics all excited.

~~~~~~~~~

“Shepard, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to bring it along with us.” Tali said nervously as Legion took point in front of the two women.

Just as the door to the quarian ship slid open, the trio were greeted by a small squad of quarian officers with pistols and other weapons aimed at them. The plates on Legion’s head perked up, reminding Aura briefly of a cockatoo flaring its crest in alarm.

Hostility detected.” It said going rigid. Was it actually... scared?

Ignoring the guns being pointed at them, Aura smacked the gun quarian closest to her and Legion aside and got between the squad and her team, glaring through her helmet. The air was so tense you could cut it with a knife. From the corner of her eye, Aura could see the quarian soldiers just itching to pull the triggers and she also sensed Tali shaking a little behind her. The leader of the squad strolled up to the commander, eyes glaring right back at her through his own visor as he kept his gun aimed solely at Legion. He pointed at the human fiercely.

“Get that damn thing OFF my ship, Captain Shepard!” He snapped angrily. “Before I get rid of it myself!”

Captain? The commander thought, momentarily confused but shook it off instantly. “You’re defending your ship and I can respect that.” Aura said leaning forward, eyes flashing just as fiercely. “But don’t you fucking intimidate me!”

“Or what?” Kar’Danna spat out venomously. “By all rights, I can just throw you out.”

“This is your ship, and I’m a guest. Legion is a member of my crew. It stays with me.” Aura said coolly before crossing her arms over her chest firmly. “If it causes trouble, I’ll take responsibility for it.”

The quarian captain and the commander continued to glare at each other before the captain relented, iterating that he’d allow Legion to stay as a favor to Tali. Aura nodded and turned towards the geth behind her. Legion’s headlights dimmed and it nodded stating that it would comply and not cause any trouble for either the commander or its creators much to the shock of the quarians blocking their way. Reluctantly, Shepard and her team were allowed to pass with Tali leading her and Legion away from anything. From what they were being told, Tali was being charged with bringing active geth to the fleet. Aura found that odd. Except for Legion, Tali only ever sent disabled parts and pieces out of fear of them reactivating and harming the fleet. They continued down the hall where they encountered two other female quarians. One was wearing a periwinkle suit while the one on the right wore a dark grayish-purple suit and Tali seemed to recognize her instantly.

“Tali’Zorah vas Normanday. I’m could only delay the board for so long.” The woman said in a low raspy voice that reflected her age. She embraced the young quarian softly.

“Auntie Raan!” Tali smiled softly then turned towards Shepard who stood behind her friend curiously. “Shepard vas Normandy, this is Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay. She’s a friend of my fath- wait... Raan. You called me ‘vas Normandy’.”

Raan nodded her head sadly. “I’m afraid I did, Tali. The Admiralty Board moved to have you tried under that name, given your departure from the Neema.”

“Are you one of the judges?” Aura asked the elder.

Again, Raan shook her head informing that since she was so close to Tali and her family, the Admiral had to recuse herself. Upon hearing this, Tali assumed her father probably had to do the same. All Raan said was that Tali would know soon enough. This had Aura narrow her eyes suspiciously. On top of that, since Aura was technically Tali’s captain, she was also going to be her friend’s defense attorney as well. While the three of them continued to walk towards what looked to be a massive courtyard, Shepard listened as Tali paced nervously. Apparently, the fact that the Board stripped Tali of her original name and placed her under the Normandy was a bad sign. To her, this was just as bad as being exiled. Shepard rested her hand on the young quarian’s shoulder and reassured her that everything was going to be fine.

Legion stuck to the commander like glue though as the three of them approached the podium looking up at the three Admirals standing across from them. The one dressed in a black suit was the female Admiral known as Xen and the other two were male. The middle being known as Koris and the male on the far right was Gerrel. As the crowd was about to settle in, Koris pointed at Legion.

“Security! A geth is present in the courtroom!” The admiral shouted. “Does Tali’Zorah think to affect this hearing with threats?”

Raan immediately held up her hand urging the crowd and the admirals to settle. “Captain Danna allowed the geth aboard. Do you intend to second guess the Rayya’s captain, Admiral Koris?”

Koris huffed indignantly. “Objection withdrawn. Though a human has no business being involved with sensitive military issues.”

“Then you shouldn’t have transferred Tali’s name under the commander's ship in the first place. Shepard vas Normandy, your crew member Tali’Zorah stands accused of treason. Will you speak for her?” Raan asked calmly towards the commander.

Aura gave a cocky smirk. “It will be my pleasure. But in her heart, she remains Tali’Zorah vas Neema, a proud member of the Migrant Fleet.” She continued to grin behind her helmet’s mask. “I regret that her captain is forbidden to stand beside her today.”

Koris sneered. “Nobody has been forbidden from anything! It is as simple-”

“Lie to them if you must Zaal’Koris, but don’t lie to me and expect me to remain silent!” Gerrel snapped at his fellow admiral. “The human is right.”

“If we can continue.” Xen sighed in a bored tone and the two admirals ceased their quarrels. “Tali’Zorah, you are being accused of bringing active geth to the Migrant Fleet. What say you?”

Aura countered calmly. “How could Tali have brought geth to the Fleet while serving on the Normandy? Legion, notwithstanding.”

“To clarify, Shepard, Tali is not being accused of bringing back entire units- only parts that could spontaneously reactivate.” Xen explained fully though Aura swore she saw Xen looking at Legion with a strange almost intriguing expression.

Tali exclaimed that while she did send geth parts back to the fleet, they were always, disabled or dismantled rendering them completely harmless. Aura even added that she had seen Tali meticulously take apart every circuit and potentially hazardous parts while they were hunting Saren. However, they weren’t prepared for Koris’ interjection.

“Then explain how geth seized the lab ship where your father was working!” Snapped the Admiral causing the crowd and Tali to gasp in alarm.

“What are you talking about?!” Tali’s eyes widened in shock. Did she hear that right? She looked at her commander who was just as stunned. “What happened?!”

From what the admirals were able to divulge, geth had not only seized the lab ship but slaughtered everyone on board. Tali’s father included as far as they knew. Aura glanced at Tali. They needed to help disable the geth on the lab ship before things got out of hand. Legion quirked the plates on its head before speaking. “Migrant Fleet safety takes priority. Should temporarily postpone trial until otherwise.

“Legion’s right.” Aura nodded firmly. “As much as I appreciate the need for this trial, our first concern must be for the safety of the Migrant Fleet.”

“I suggested we simply destroy the Alarei but if you’re looking for an honorable death instead of exile-” Koris scoffed only for Tali to cut him off.

“I’m looking for my father, you bosh’tet!” The young quarian snapped back angrily pointing an accusing finger back at him. Aura gripped her friend’s shoulder and nodded her head towards the shuttles that Raan had mentioned. She then waved for Legion to follow as well. She would need both of them to deal with the geth infested ship.

~~~~~~~~~

“What are you working on there, Saren?” Samara asked as she found the silver turian weaving metal around what looked to be a pale blue crystal.

He lifted his head away from the magnifying glass he was using to acknowledge the asari justiciar. “A present for Aura. Found this in Liara’s office and she said that it was gift Aura got from Shiala.” He replied simply turning back to his work. His mandibles flicked and twitched slightly as he wove the metal around the stone. When Samara commented that it was a pretty stone, the turian shook his head stating that it wasn’t a stone at all. He moved his head to the side to allow Samara to look through the glass. To her surprise, she discovered that it wasn’t a stone but some sort of computer chip in the shape of a stone.

“What is this?” She inquired, moving away so Saren could continue his work.

He shrugged uncertainly. It was certainly Prothean, about that he had no doubt however, he wasn’t entirely sure what its purpose was himself but for the moment, he was just trying to finish the metal weaving. He looked at his omni-tool to check the time. 3oclock. Shepard left at 1p.m. so he still had time. Saren trilled to himself as he proceeded forward.

~~~~~~~~~

“Is that a geth repair drone?” Aura asked as she holstered her rifle to her back with Tali examining the drone on the table. The quarian nodded her head in confirmation as she placed a hand on the metal. She recalled picking up the droid on Haestrom. When the commander asked about the parts Tali did send back, the quarian informed Shepard that she was required to send pieces that had to be in working order. Something that the science team could study and analyze to integrate into their fleet and such. She also added that anything new had priority, such as technology the geth developed themselves, clues to them modifying their programing and such. She giggled at Aura’s baffled expression on how she was able to salvage some of these things on Haestrom and she informed her friend that her suit had more pockets than the human would ever know. However, her smile faded swiftly as she shook her own head.

“You alright, Tali?”

“I just- I don’t know which is worse. Did I get sloppy and send something dangerous or did my father really do all of this?”

Shepard-Commander. Creator Tali. We have discovered another recording.” Legion chirped in the distance as he gestured to a computer. From the recording, it seemed like the geth had hijacked the system and the science team was desperately trying to shut it down. However, they were only successful enough to isolate the systems and deactivate the weapons to prevent anyone else from getting hurt. They pressed on. Another hour later, they had cleared another room filled with geth hunters and Aura was beginning to wonder exactly how many units were occupying the ship. Legion was able to inform them that there were at least twenty more units online ahead. Including the forty they had just previously eliminated, that would mean there was nearly a platoon’s worth of geth. Still, yet another question was burning through Aura and Tali’s mind. What exactly was going on here?

“Um Tali?”

The quarian turned towards the commander.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but maybe it might be time for the Quarians to let go on reclaiming your home from the geth.”

Tali’s eyes furrowed behind her mask. “You have no idea what it’s like! YOU have a planet to go back to while my home is one hull breach away from extinction!”

“It’s still a home, Tali.” Aura said shaking her head. While Tali was right about her having a planet to go back to, she never considered Earth her home. “Don’t throw it all away in a war you don’t need.”

“Don’t need?!” Tali backed away and crossed her arms over her chest. “Shepard, if I don’t wear a helmet in my own home, I die. A single kiss can put me in the hospital!” She jabbed one of her fingers into her friend’s chest accusingly stating that every time Shepard touched a flower with her bare hands or inhaled its fragrance without air filters, she was doing something Tali longed to do herself. She cursed the Pilgrimage yet she was grateful for it as well. It was thanks to this that she was able to be where she was, learn what she had seen and more. Aura suggested that there was always a chance for the quarians to settle on a new planet, but Tali stubbornly shook her head. True, Aura had a point, but she didn’t realize that it would be even more difficult for her people to acclimate to a new world than their own home which would also be difficult to readjust to. It was the difference between sixty years of readjustments to their home than the six-hundred years it would take to acclimate to a new planet.

“Shepard, I know you’re just trying to help and show me another path and I appreciate it, but I want to actually see and live on the home of my ancestors.” Tali explained after apologizing for the outburst. The commander patted her shoulder understandingly.

Legion suddenly chirped in alarm causing the two women to chase after the sound. What they found made Tali exclaim in both alarm and horror. Before their feet was a quarian, male from the looks of it laying on his back, eyes staring blankly up at the ceiling. From Tali’s reaction, Aura figured out that it was actually her father. Watching her friend cradle the body in distraught was heartbreaking for the commander even though she had seen this so many times in combat. After a few minutes of hearing her friend weeping, Aura knelt down and pulled Tali close to her feeling the young quarian hug her tightly in return. Tali almost flinched when she noticed Legion mimicking the gesture, hugging them as well though she assumed it was just curious about the two women’s gesture. Still, it was... comforting.

When Tali activated her father’s omni-tool, they found that he did leave a message for her but in all honesty, it wasn’t much. Mainly something about destroying a network hub in the back room. It wasn’t what Tali had hoped for, but Aura reminded her that it was probably the best he could do for his daughter. The young quarian admitted that she wasn’t sure what was worse for her to think. Either her father didn’t care for her or thinking he did and that this message was the only for him to show it. Still, she cared, and she was here. She was going to set things right.

~~~~~~~~~

Saren was now polishing the metalwork around the tiny crystal like Prothean computer, and he flicked his mandibles proudly. He then brought the piece to the lab where he found Mordin going over the Collector samples. The salarian nodded his head briefly in acknowledgement. The silver turian soon had EDI run a few quick tests on the tiny computer as he was curious about what secrets the device held. While the AI ran the tests, Mordin brought him over to the microscope.

“Are you certain this is accurate?” Saren asked as he glanced at Mordin.

“Positive. Ran tests several times.” Mordin nodded. “Discovery based on protein Collector chain by Reaper species charged by modification. Fall of Protheans.”

Saren tilted his head inquisitively. “Explain.”

Mordin smiled excitedly. “Earlier stage is similar to indoctrination. Can guess captured Protheans lost intelligence over course of several cloned generations. Cybernetic augmentations widespread afterwards.”

“So, as the Protheans failed, the Reapers added tech to compensate?” Saren surmised and the salarian bobbed his head in confirmation. That meant mental capacity was pretty much gone and replaced with overwrought sensory input transfers that allowed them to transmit data to their masters. The silver turian shuddered. Mordin continued though stating that Reapers had practically replaced everything in the Protheans with tech. Nervous system, digestive system, the soul? All gone. With no art, no culture, whatever the Protheans before the Reapers were now nothing more than husks. Tools for the Reapers.

Saren let out a small chuckle before checking on the device now that EDI finished scanning and running tests on it. “You don’t strike me as the type to admire art.”

“Says the ‘ruthless’ turian who said he hates humans.” Mordin laughed right back. “Personal interest nothing more. Sang a little in multi-species productions. Mainly Gilbert and Sullivan, always did the patter songs.”

Saren blinked at the information then laughed from the shock. “Wait, you sing?”

Mordin nodded his head but stated he’d sing another time as his new samples had just finished compiling. Saren turned his attention back to the data that EDI sent him, and he narrowed his eyes. This is odd...He thought as he scanned the data, but a faint smirk fell on his face. But it will be invaluable in the future.

~~~~~~~~~

Aura was very concerned about Tali right now as they sat in the shuttle returning back to the Neema. They managed to destroy the hub but not before learning just how much her father had been involved. What was worse was that this could have all been avoided in the first place but instead her father ignored protocol and deliberately put not only the fleet in danger, but his own crew and daughter. Aura could still remember the argument they had.

Tali, without this evidence you are looking at exile!” Shepard exclaimed.

“You think I don’t know that Shepard? You think I want to live knowing that I would never see Fleet again?” The little quarian exclaimed then pointed to the door. “But I can’t go back into that room and say that my FATHER was the worst WAR CRIMINAL in our people’s history! I can’t!”

“Tali, he’s dead and you heard him yourself. He doesn’t want you caught up in the damned politics.” Aura countered.

“You don’t understand, Shepard. They would strike his name from the manifest of every ship he ever served on. He’d be worse than an exile! He’d be seen as a traitor to our people, held up for children as a monster in a cautionary tale!” Tali’s small frame quaked from distraught. “I can’t let all the good he has done be destroyed for this!”

“Tali...”

“Shepard, you’re my captain in this trial and I will respect your decision but please... As my friend… don’t do this.”

Aura sighed as she smacked her head against the wall of the shuttle glancing between Legion and Tali as they docked. She rose to her feet and the three of them marched towards the courtyard just as the Admiralty Board was about to render judgement. She smirked behind her mask hearing the gasps and alarmed voices of the audience and the Admirals who learned she and her team survived. Tali made a sarcastic retort about them being late and Shepard snickered slightly. She proclaimed that Tali had saved her father’s ship and that it should prove her loyalty to the Fleet. Koris, being ever so stubborn, stated that it wasn’t Tali’s loyalty prosecuted but her judgement. Raan shook her head slightly at the Quib-Quib's Admiral before requesting Shepard to bring forth any new evidence. Aura turned towards Tali who gazed at her pleadingly. Spirits help me... She thought as she stepped forward and rested her palms on the podium.

“Tali helped me rescue Saren from the geth and helped liberate the Citadel from Rana. That should be all the evidence you need.” One of the Admirals sputtered, trying to make a point edgewise but Shepard barreled on putting the information she had gathered beforehand to use. “Then again, you’re not really interested in Tali, are you? This trial isn’t about her. It’s about the geth! You want the people to sympathize with them! Han’Gerrel wants to go to war! None of you care about Tali! She knows more about the geth than ANY quarian alive. You should be listening to her, not putting her on this fucking farce of a trial!”

Legion’s headlights seemed to brighten as though impressed as it watched the commander stride back and forth between the Admirals, her voice, although filtered through her helmet, growing stronger with each word. “Tali saved the Citadel! She rescued a Spectre! She saved the Alarei!” Aura gestured towards her quarian crewmate, her friend. “Tali’Zorah vas Normandy has shown the galaxy the true value of the Quarian people! I can’t think of any stronger evidence than that!”

The silver woman’s words caused the crowd to ripple and murmur. Legion lifted its head watching the admiral deliver their acquittal of Tali. As the quarians began to disperse, the geth rose from its perch and strolled over to the commander who was hugging Tali tightly. The young quarian started to giggle admitting that she could not believe Shepard pulled it off. She had never had someone speak in the way that Aura had done on her behalf. But she was grateful. Grateful to have Shepard there with her father and her. But more importantly, she was grateful to have such an amazing friend. Aura light nudged her shoulder against Tali, teasing that they could go back and get her exiled if she wanted.

Her playful joke lightened the mood immensely and Tali laughed happily. “Thanks, Shepard but I’m fine with the outcome. It’s fun watching you roar like that, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to head back to the ship first.”

“See you then, Tali. Maybe grab Garrus out of the Main Battery for a bit yeah?”

Scampering off, Tali disappeared back to the Normandy leaving both Shepard and Legion on the stairs in the plaza. After a moment, Legion turned towards the commander. “Shepard-Commander, why do you put so much effort into helping your crew?” The machine asked, earning a confused quirked brow from the human.

“What do you mean, Legion?”

You did not have to come here and defend Creator Tali. You did not have to bring us aboard your ship nor did you have to help the other crew members with their problems. We are perplexed.”

The human was silent for a good long while. Resting her chin in her hand, she stared at the courtyard lost in her thoughts. “Well, organics are perplexing beings. You will learn that soon enough on your own.” She chuckled. “Simply put, it’s in my nature to help others. I’ve always been like that. It is what makes me, well, me. I do it just because it’s who I am.”

We still do not understand.” Shepard bit her lip as she witnessed the geth’s lights whirled and spiral which she interpreted as confusion. She patted the geth’s shoulder and gestured for it to join her back to the ship.

Chapter Text

By the time Shepard returned to the ship, she found it awfully quiet. Legion had split off from her and had disappeared into the elevator. She hardly saw anyone on the bridge or in the cockpit. The silver haired woman scratched her scalp after leaving both the lab and the armory. She made her way to her quarters, quickly changed into something more comfortable, then wandered into the Mess Hall only to find them empty as well. Even Chakwas was nowhere to be found. She decided to check the port and starboard observation rooms. Again, they were empty. Even the Life Support where Thane usually holed up was empty and the window was covered up by a large black screen. Aura thought that there would at least be someone in Engineering but once again she found the entire level deserted and the windows overlooking the cargo hold were also shrouded in a black screen. Okay, what the heck was going on?

“Where is everyone?” Aura huffed then heard her omni-tool ping.

The message was from Saren.

Cargo hold.

That was all the message said. Aura rolled her eyes and once again took the elevator downwards. As she strolled through the hold, she was left flabbergasted at the sight of decorations littering the hold along with what looked to be a massive movie projection screen. She spotted Saren leaning against the wall beside the elevator and she gave him a wave towards all the decorations. He didn’t speak but the way he flicked his left mandible towards the back of the room and the mischievous look in his eyes told her she would like what was in store. Warily, the commander moved towards the back of the room to find all her friends waiting and cheering upon seeing their commander. Still, she was perplexed. Then, as Saren stood beside her, both silver Spectres were surprised to discover a variety of boxes, treats and even games scattered around.

“Okay, this was not part of the plan...” Saren growled disgruntled then spotted the young Vakarian grinning and trilling excitedly. “What did you do?”

“Just told everyone that it was also your birthday too.”

Saren’s eyes widen then furrowed. “You’re dead, Vakarian.”

Aura blinked once. Twice. Three times before laughing out loud before giving Saren a gentle ribbing with her elbow. “Let him have this, Saren.” She then whispered in his ear stating that they could always get him back later. Her silver counterpart hummed at the thought.

The party was actually fun. True, mostly the humans enjoyed the childish games set up with Miranda, Jacob and even Jack using their biotics to toss small bags around in what looked to be a game of catch. Urz barked when one of the bags hit his rump but he wagged his tail when Shepard gave him a portion of the snacks from the table. Samara and Thane were playing a game of chess with Kasumi watching. Grunt and Zaeed were having a playful sparring match away from the groups of humans though several were observing the spectacle. Saren, Garrus, Aura and even Legion were shooting up bottles using practice slugs. They were trying to see who the better sniper was. No surprise, Legion turned out to be the best with Aura and Garrus tying for second and Saren last. Oddly enough, he didn’t seem to mind.

Saren and Aura were more surprised at the fact the crew had gotten them gifts. Garrus had gotten his fellow turian a visor similar to his own except it was made with a black metal and had a pale blue holographic screen instead of gold. Grunt managed to find a better suit of armor for him. (It was a little too bulky for Saren’s liking though.) Tali and Samara had gotten the commander a couple of books from the Riptide series and Jack, who wasn’t much of a gift-giver, decided to use her biotics to make a fantastic light display. Joker nearly had a heart attack thinking the over-charged biotic was going to tear apart the ship. Miranda had merely gifted the two a card. Aura thought it was nice while Saren was perplexed with the paper. Legion’s present was an armor upgrade for both their suits which the two greatly appreciated considering how often their armor got damaged in combat. How it understood gift-giving was confusing to everyone, but it was a nice gesture.

The festivities ended with them watching the vid Joker had obtained and Saren found himself just as enraptured by the story as Aura was. The Phantom of the Opera had always been her favorite, but this version of the tale always left her smiling. The music certainly was appealing, and he found himself drawn towards the so-called villain of the story. To his surprise, Aura was fond of him too. Once the film had ended and the hold was cleaned up after the party, everyone returned to their duties and bunks for the night. Saren and Aura had retired to their room and after a nice hot shower, the two sat on the couch with the varren curled up at the base of the fish tank.

“That was rather enjoyable.” Saren admitted. It had been quite some time since he actually allowed himself to have fun like this.

Aura hummed in agreement as she set her book down on the coffee table in front of them then opened a drawer. “Well, it’s still not over yet.” She said holding a small box in her hand. “I still haven’t given you your gifts.”

The turian rumbled softly as he reached for his own on the table to his right earning a curious gaze from the commander. Shaking her head, Shepard and Saren swapped gifts. Saren marveled at the decent sized box before opening it. his mandibles dropped as did his jaw. He removed the picture frame watching as different images and videos came into view with different visual effects. The one it mostly stuck with was a family portrait of him, his mother and his brother. He traced the photo with his talon ever so gently. Aura explained that she had Liara send her as many pictures and memoirs as she could find to the commander, and she compiled them into the frame. When the picture swapped to the vid of them dancing at the soirée, he chuckled to himself.

“I know you’re not the sentimental type, but I thought you’d like this.” Shepard mumbled softly. “It also syncs to your omni-tool.”

He turned his head towards her. “It's... adequate.” He replied awkwardly and she laughed softly.

She turned her attention to the small box in her hand, her thumb grazing along the side until she finally unfastened the latch on the side. Within the box was a familiar blue stone but it had titanium and silver weaving around it, wrapping and encasing the stone in a beautiful prison. Aura held the artwork in fascination. She recognized the stone, of course. How could she not? Saren watched with silent pride as she found a sturdy chain on her desk near the back of the room. After fiddling with the chain, Shepard returned with Saren’s gift resting comfortably around her neck. He made a purr of delight and she returned to his side.

“It’s not a stone, by the way.” He stated.

“It’s not?”

He shook his head, lifting the pendant slightly to show her. “It’s a Prothean computer. I had EDI run a few tests; however, we still don’t know what it does. She was certain that it produces an energy field that blocks infrasound.” He explained then added. “I’m still not sure how it does that yet.”

“Well, all in all, I’d say this was the best birthday I have ever experienced.” Aura chuckled as she nestled in her turian’s arms. He growled in agreement as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and the two watched the seahorses swim gracefully throughout their enclosure. After a few minutes, Aura glanced up at the silver turian, a mischievous grin widening on her features. “Before I forget, Garrus told me more about turian courting.”

I’m going to kill you, Vakarian. Saren hissed in thought.

Chapter Text

Saren stirred from his sleep growling lowly at the sound of Joker calling for Shepard. While he respected the pilot’s skills and such, the turian did not appreciate being woken up nor did he find it fair for him to constantly call upon Shepard for every little thing. She had already been run ragged since helping Legion with the heretics and Tali doing the final upgrade on the Normandy’s shields. He slipped out of bed and shrugged on one of his shirts and pants. He looked up at the ceiling. “What’s going on, human? Shepard needs to rest.”

“~Uh, Miranda and Jack are having a bit of a... disagreement.~” The pilot said and he could hear the shouting of the two women below his feet. “Can you head it off before they tear out a bulkhead? Quickly!”

“Very well. I’m heading done.” Saren shook his head, jogging into the elevator.

“~Take pictures!~” Saren glared at the ceiling hoping Joker saw his glare. “~Never mind.~”

The turian furrowed his brows at the ceiling before striding through the mess hall, ignoring the humans jumping out of his way and out of his war path. He turned the corner towards Miranda’s office, their voices echoing faintly from where he was and out of caution activated his biotics. He opened the door ducking just as Jack tossed a chair in Miranda’s direction in the familiar bluish-purple aura, but the Cerberus woman flung back in Saren’s direction. He rolled his eyes and before either woman knew it, they were trapped in silvery orbs and hovered in the air as the turian got between the two of them.

“Stand down! That’s an order!” He snarled, both his primary and secondary vocals dripping with anger and disgust.

Jack jerked her eyes in Miranda’s direction and hissed venomously. “Cheerleader there won’t admit that what Cerberus did to me was wrong.”

“It wasn’t Cerberus. Not really.” Miranda huffed in annoyance. “But clearly, you were a mistake.”

Jack’s eyes flashed with the familiar biotic rage as she struggled against Saren’s vice. “Screw you! You have no idea what they put me through! Maybe I should show you once the birdbrain lets us go!”

Saren snarled and slammed both of the women into the wall to his right. “Enough! This is nothing more than a distraction!” He shouted as the two struggled within his grasp. “Our mission is too important to let personal feelings get in the way!”

“Fuck your feelings, Saren! I just want her dea- OW!!!” Jack yelped when he smacked the tattooed woman against the wall again for emphasis. “FUCK!!! Why’d you do that?!”

“You both know what we’re up against! Save your anger for the Collectors!” The turian snapped fiercely at Jack. “Next time you two get in another pointless argument, I’m spacing you both! Are we clear?”

Miranda sneered at Arterius before glancing at Jack, stating that she could set aside her differences until the mission was over. Subject Zero rolled her eyes confirming she would work with Miranda then added in a sadistic tone that she would hate to see Miranda die before getting the chance to filet the Cerberus agent herself. Saren’s eyes jumped between the women before he set them down. He shook his head leaving the room with Jack in tow watching as the tattooed woman made her way down to engineering. He then spotted Aura rubbing her head as Tali was also returning to engineering.

“Don’t tell me Joker woke you up too.” Saren huffed, now wanting to strangle the pilot.

She nodded her head. “Tali and Legion were having... issues but it's been resolved.”

“~Um...Spectres?~”

They groaned and looked up at the ceiling with Aura speaking. “What is it Joker?”

“~Grunt and Mordin are in the lab... and uh...~”

“On it.” Aura sighed before heading to the elevator with Saren tailing behind. By the time they got down to the labs, Grunt had cornered Mordin in a corner of the lab, both shouting about the genophage and such. As soon as the two entered the room, Grunt glared at Shepard. The young krogan lashed out at her about keeping Mordin on the ship despite knowing his involvement with the genophage. Aura kept her back straight and her eyes cold on the youngster.

“Give me one good reason not to bash his head in.” Grunt growled at her.

“Typical krogan response. Violent. Hot tempered. Are inevitable.” The salarian barked at the youngster.

“Listen, you two! This has got to stop!” Aura snapped as she got into Grunt’s personal space and managed to get his back to the wall all while also scolding the doctor. “Grunt, I agree that the genophage was wrong to begin with but at the time, Mordin was doing what he thought was right! Get. Over. It! Mordin, you already know my thoughts on the subject, but I respected your decision at the time. Humans weren’t around during the Krogan Rebellions, so I am in no position to take sides however, enough with talking about it being your greatest work!”

Grunt growled once more and Mordin paced from corner to corner. The krogan gave a gruff huff before nodding his head and he left the lab. Aura glanced at Saren after the krogan departed then jerked her head in his direction. Check on him. A silent request and he nodded, leaving her to deal with Mordin. Once she was certain they were alone, Shepard turned towards the salarian who was going over his notes in an effort to distract himself. He hissed at her, growling that he had nothing to say to the human and tried brushing her off making a snarky remark that she should talk with Grunt instead.

“Mordin, we need both of you. We need Grunt’s brute strength and your brains.” Aura sighed as she stood across from his table. “And I trust that when I take his side in an argument, you’ll understand. I care about him, just as I care about you too. But I need him to be happy so I can teach him better.”

“Feelings were both genuine and patronizing.... Clever Shepard.” Mordin nodded his head before giving the silver human a small smile. “Understand now. Will stay out of his way.”

~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t like being shot down in front Mordin, Arterius.” Grunt sneered pacing the front of his tank while Saren leaned against the wall behind him leisurely.

“You realize Shepard sided with Mordin because she knows you're strong enough to take it. Even if you don’t like it.”

Grunt rolled his eyes. “You’re damn right I don’t like it.”

“If Aura tried to avoid pissing you off, she would have been weak in your eyes. We can do this shuffle all day Grunt. You won’t win.” Saren chuckled then turned his head when the doors slid open. Aura crossed her arms over her chest. Though she was obviously irritated she made a light joke stating that had she not interfered, Grunt would have torn a new cloaca or something in to Mordin and she was not going to clean up that mess. The krogan laughed amused. He had to admit, Aura made her words seem so easy and she did well for a human. He added that he’d let it go since he considered Shepard and Saren his clan which made him laugh at the irony. Now that the crew was settled in their affairs, Aura, Garrus and Saren were in the war room talking with EDI. The AI informed them that she finally got the IFF fully installed and would be running a final test before using it. The only downside was that Aura, and her crew would have to use the shuttles for their next mission. Which in all honesty was fine considering what she and Saren had in store for their squad.

They had everyone pile in to two shuttles and departed to a planet nearby where they planned a special training exercise. Considering the alarming amount of fighting that occurred in the past few hours, Aura had decided it was time for a training/trust exercise for her team. Upon arrival to the planet, to which Garrus had lovingly called the Swamp, the shuttles landed side by side and everyone piled out. Miranda was more than just displeased with the environment. There were bogs, thick jungles not unlike the ones on Pragia however the atmosphere was surprisingly arid and dry. “Why are we even here, Shepard?” Miranda scoffed, tying her hair into a ponytail ignoring Jack’s comment about being a spoiled princess.

“This is why. In the past two hours, Saren and I had to break three fights.” Aura gestured between the two women. “So, we came up with a training exercise/game for you all to play. You will be paired off in groups of two. Two groups will be hunting one of us Spectres.”

“This is to see if you all are willing to put aside your differences and work together.” Saren stated, keeping his tone neutral as they paired up everyone. Thane was with Jacob. Zaeed and Samara stood silently side by side. Miranda and Jack glared at each other as they found themselves paired together. Grunt growled at the salarian doctor who was busy typing away at his omni-tool. Tali was grumbling at the fact she was paired with Legion who was curiously scanning one of the native flowers.

“And finally, Kasumi will be paired up with Urz.”

“Seriously? You paired me with a damned varren?” Kasumi cried out feeling insulted. “I can’t steal from a varren!”

Aura chuckled in amusement. “That’s the whole point, Kasumi.”

Kasumi rolled her eyes glancing down at the fish-dog as he bobbed his head in agreement.

“Thane, Jacob, Zaeed and Samara. You four are going to be chasing Garrus.” Saren informed the squad mates who nodded, and Garrus took off on his head start. The silver turian turned towards the next group. “Tali, Legion, Kasumi and Urz will go after the commander.”

“And finally, Grunt, Mordin, Miranda and Jack will be pursuing Saren. Here are the rules. You are to work in your assigned pairs, the first pair to ‘capture’ their Spectre will win the round. Secondly, you are not to harm, hinder or injure your partner or the Spectre you are hunting however, biotic stasis is fine on your quarry. Failure to do so will have you and your partner disqualified for the round and are to report back to the shuttle. Also, if I, Saren or Garrus knock your shields down, you and your partner are also disqualified for the round.” Aura instructed as she synced her omni-tools with everyone else all while Saren disappeared into the thickets for his own lead. “I will be keeping tabs on everyone so if anyone cheats, I’ll know. Yes, I’m talking about Zaeed, Kasumi and Jack. You all have one hour to find and ‘capture’ us. Know that we will not go easy on you and will use any tactic to delay your hunt and concussive rounds only to drop our shields. Dismissed.” And with that Aura took off west, vanishing in the dense trees above.

 

~~~~~~~~~ On the Normandy ~~~~~~~~~

An hour after the Commander and Arterius departed.

Everyone was going about their business. The engineers who worked with Tali in engineering had just finished updating the upgrades to the ship’s shields and double checked the drive core’s new energy output since Samara gave schematics to improve the ship’s fuel capacity. All while on the CIC, the yeoman had just finished her duties and was making her way down to the mess for another cup of coffee. Joker was sitting in the cockpit, his eyes focused on the screens in front of him informing him of the state of the ship and he smiled brightly. Not only was the ship fully upgraded with its shields and armor plating, but she now had much stronger teeth which he could not wait to use and tear apart the Collector ship that destroyed the original model years ago. But as of right now, he was listening to the AI going on about the IFF still giving her trouble despite finally being integrated in to the ship’s systems.

“I’m telling you EDI, your readings are off.” Joker groaned, his fingers dancing along the different screens in front of him. “It’s radiation bleed. Just white noise.”

EDI, on the other hand, was not convinced and within seconds, she detected a signal embedded in the static. They were transmitting the ship’s location! “Joker! I have detected a signal within the static! It’s transmitting our location!” The AI informed him. Joker froze looking at EDI’s display globe next to him. It never called him ‘Joker’. Only by his last name. Wait. Did she say ‘transmitting’? Who were they transmitting their hiding spot to?

Oh shit! He thought as his instincts kicked in.

Oh shit, that was right.

He got his answer when a familiar silhouette instantly overshadowed the Normandy and no matter what he did to get the old girl moving to no avail. Just like last time, the ship was at the mercy of the Collector ship. No! His thoughts screamed. Not again! He knew EDI scrubbed the damn IFF thingy, but apparently the Collectors still had an ace up their sleeves. Okay, their thoraxes, whatever you call them. Instantly, the entire ship was being boarded by the damned insects. EDI informed Joker that they could still save the ship, but she needed his help to achieve it. When Joker asked how she could help, he did not like the answer he was given. In order to save the ship, he had to unshackle EDI’s sealed databases.

“If you start singing daisy bells, then I'm done before Shepard and Saren can really tear me a new one!” Joker screeched as he stumbled out of his chair and scrambled as fast as his brittle bones could move him to Mordin’s lab just as the strange octopus/crab husk thing pounced on the yeoman and proceeded to drag her into the elevator. “Oh, fucking hell.”

Oh, how he hated crawling the ducts of the ship. He probably broke his shins again from being on his hands and knees. He could still hear the damn bugs taking the crew above. He heard Chakwas faring slightly better considering she had been in the medical bay preventing the Collectors from finding him. Joker shuddered as he climbed down the ladder after unshackling EDI’s restraints. This had to be a nightmare. He hoped it was a nightmare and that by some rookie mistake he had fallen asleep on the pilot’s chair. The pilot whipped his head around warily at the red lights of Jack’s hidey hole then halted his steps when he spotted a scion pulling a strange casket with two Collectors behind it.

Ugh, I doubt a plastic surgeon would be able to work miracles on those ugly mugs. He grimaced at the sight of their ugly mugs though he was grateful they didn’t have the common sense to look down at their feet. Once he was certain they were gone, Joker slipped undetected into the engineering core. While following EDI’s instructions on reactivating the drive core, she informed the pilot that she would initiate countermeasures by opening the airlocks through out the ship, save for the engineering level and purge it of any remaining hostiles. Joker looked up at the ceiling, mortified.

“What about the crew?!”

They are gone, Jeff. The Collectors have them now.” The AI replied regretfully.

As Joker watched the drive core pulse to life and the AI sealed the engineering room, EDI forced the ship to jump to FTL and eradicated the ship of all remaining hostiles. However, as she did, Joker landed flat on his back and he groaned as he felt a rib crack on his left side. Perfect. He sat up with difficulty and closed his eyes. He failed again... He stood up, hissing in pain before he glanced up at ceiling and ordered EDI to send a message to Shepard and Arterius.