Notice: Yah…Ummm…I've been gone for a long while. Let's just say a full time job, college, getting sick half a dozen times and playing WoW really got in the way. Overall I'm very sorry for this delayed for nearly a year. I plan to finish this and will be writing up more chapters since I'll have more time this summer. Also I am working on a special side crossover that will be very appealing for fantasy lovers.

Chapter Five: Conflict

Shepard hurried along through the maze of massive ducts and catwalks that were hidden within the Citadel depths, checking up on his omni-tool every so often to check up on Tali's status. There was no point of hailing her because of the jamming signal yet his tracker still was monitoring her. She was alive if the life readings were correct and from what the map marker showed she was quite close. How luckily it was that the jammer didn't extend to the tactical tracker and maps.

Obviously something was going on as he thought over what had happened back at the transit station. The attack by those hulking creatures was far more coordinated then past encounters, showing that someone or something was pulling the strings around here. Already he was thinking over possible enemies from Cerberus to the Reapers yet nothing here fitted with their usual goals or methods. However he'd focus on his search as the tracker beeped faster as he seemed to near a larger hub space from what his map showed. Reaching a large slit duct, he'd hear a male voice, one muffled by what sounded like a respirator.

Moving up close he'd just see through the duct slits to see a large lab of some kind. It was quite the impressive set up from what he could see yet what disturbed him were the massive specimen tubs with some of those mutant creatures floating in them. Already Shepard was tense, drawing his shotgun while his attention went to the far side of the lab where he saw two figures.

One he instantly recognized was Tali who was backed up to the wall while the other an unknown male quarian. He heard just bits of their conversation yet knew from Tali's tone that she was shocked and even fearful. He'd see how the male quarian removed his mask and the pure shock Tali showed as he'd rise up a syringe gun with a green fluid in it, ready to inject her with it. Without hesitation Shepard acted, blasting a hole in the duct which set off a loud alarm in the lab. Leaping out of the vent, he saw the male quarian face him, surprise on his face…those unnatural green eyes seemed also curious as well.

"Shepard…well I can say you do live up to your reputation." The quarian chuckled in amusement. "I thought Brutes would have killed you yet considering how you defeated the Collectors, well…obviously it will take much more."

Yet as he spoke Tali lashed out with a punch, making Ronza suddenly twist about to grab her arm. Shepard blinked in surprise since that reaction speed was lightning fast.

"That was rude of you to interrupt-" He started before yelling out as a shock went through him, Tali's omni-tool lighting up, a catching the qurian off-guard. In his moment of confidence he had forgotten to take away her tool. He'd stagger back and dropped the syringe gun yet instantly he'd shake off the dazing effects. That sort of direct charge could have stunned a Korgan…yet even with steam coming off his body he seemed only slightly fazed.

"Keelah…what have you become." Tali muttered, moving away from the wall to not be cornered while Shepard moved up beside her.

"Better." Ronza simple said, panting as he clipped his face mask back on and activated his own omni-tool. Suddenly the massive test tubs hissed as thick green steam flowed out, fogging up the entire lab with a dense smoke screen.

"What are you hoping to accomplish here?!" Shepard yelled out, keeping close to Tali who borrowed his heavy pistol for the moment. Back to back they looked about, motion trackers just sensing Ronza lurking around…yet other signatures soon appearing.

"Sadly I've wasted enough time sharing my life story Shepard. All I can say is that you're an annoyance." The quarian yelled back. Suddenly they was a click off to the side, making Shepard turn about just as a barrage of SMG fire filled the air. Both his and Tali's shields flared as they ducked for cover yet at that moment the bone talons of one of those monster's slashed down at Shepard.

Quickly he brought his shotgun up to brace the attack, the sharp ends just inches from his face while the monster growled and howled. Twisting the weapon about, he made the creature lose its balance and fall onto its side while he blasted the necromorphs upper arms off and then a leg to finish it off. He'd hear Tali firing off in the smoke along with another burst of SMG rifle from the male quarian.

Again he weaved around cover yet Ronza seemed to be shifting his own position to keep Shepard on the move. Every so often a released creature lunged at him yet he'd fire off first before they got too close. At this point the smoke was clearing as he'd see the male quarian aiming at him from behind one opened specimen container. At that moment he'd kick in his suit's adrenaline injector, making the world shift into a slow pace. Moving to his belt he drew out a grenade and with a perfect throw tossed it at the quarian. Yet he was just as fast, leaping away as the grenade exploded, making glass and metal fly around.

Shepard hurried around to corner the quarian yet even when prepared he didn't expect the sudden fist striking at his jaw. The blow felt like Wrex had punched him as he staggered back yet he didn't let the pain stop him to dodge the following blow. Ronza's SMG had been damaged by the blast which explained his bold move into melee, lashing out with a mix of punches and kicks. He wasn't use to fighting such an agile opponent before as he tried to level his shotgun up for a shot yet his weapon was knocked out of his grasp with a strike to his wrist.

"Come on!" Ronza challenged before getting striked right at his chest. Shepard felt the snap of bone and heard the pained grunt from the quarian who staggered back…yet quickly lunged in to counter attack. Soon the two were locked in an intense fist fight, parrying, dodging and countering at each other. Tali stood by, watching the fight since she couldn't risk firing at Ronza without possibly hitting Shepard.

During the drawn out brawl, Shepard threw a strong punch right at the quarian's face yet was stopped as his masked opponent grasped his fist. Despite the soldier's augments and his combat suit giving him enhanced strength, he could feel his body straining trying to force the quarian arm back.

"Well this is surprising." Ronza chuckled, seeming amused at how he was overpowering humanity's greatest soldier. With a sudden shove, he flung Shepard through one of the empty tanks, glass and bio-fluid flying everywhere before having a rough landing on one of the metal lab tables. Grunting in pain, he struggled up while Ronza focused his attention on Tali.

She didn't hesitate to fire at him with her pistol, which quickly dropped his shields and even hit him directly. He'd grunt and stagger as if wounded yet sudden lunge forward with shocking speed at her. Tali tried to whip him with the large pistol, yet he ducked the attack and striked her in the gut, knocking the wind out of her and letting him easily disarm her with ease.

As Shepard struggled up from the mess of metal and glass, he'd see Ronza with Tali in front of him, pistol at her side. "No more fighting Commander. I don't wish to hurt her but I will if you resist." He spoke out, calm still after being shot and beaten. Despite his obvious wounds he seemed to be recovering, making Shepard wound if he had some advanced medical mod build into his suit…or something different about himself physically to other quarians he had met.

Getting up, he retrieved his assault rifle and aimed it at Ronza who kept his gun at Tali's side while he paced to the exit of the lab. "You have delay things Shepard yet not stopped it. The necromorphs you've seen are crude and unrefined. Besides on that ship lies something far more powerful!" The quarian declared, tugging Tali towards the door and using her as a human shield.

Deep red eyes showed behind it before the glass casing began to crack as the creature inside smashed away until the tube door flung off its hinges. At a glance it look just like a korgan without any armor, yet the scaled skin seemed aged into a rough leather from decay. Muscle mass seemed to have grown beyond natural limits since along the arms and legs the skin broke to see dense tissue. Bone matter had also grown out across the chest to enhance the mutated korgan's natural armor yet also formed along the forearms and wrists as a mix of short blades. The plating on its head had grown out into cruel horns which reminded Shepard of a dinosaur.

"It is amazing how the Korgan body reacts to the changes. Yet I've done my own touches to this subject." Ronza commented while the korgan gave deep grunting growls, those eyes hinting of a greater intelligence then the past creatures. "Do try to die this time Shepard. I can promise you Tali will be safe under my watch." With that he'd step out of the lab, pulling Tali with him as she'd yell out. "Shepard!" The door shut, a deep beep filling the lab as it went into lock down, trapping him

"Damn it!" Shepard cursed out while creature gave a deep beastly roar that reminded the commander of dinosaur movie he watched long ago. Picking up his combat shotgun, he paced around the creature, trying to keep lab equipment and steel fixtures between him and it, yet the creature shift about as well. The mutated korgan paced closer, seeming to be judging the strength of the commander before making any sudden attacks. Whenever it flexed its arms the sharp bone that pierced out seemed to grow out more into serrated blade.

Taking the initiative, Shepard opened fire as he aimed for the creature's head. He even fired a concussive shot right at it, striking directly and making the creature howl out as it staggered back. Yet without warning it rush forward, making Shepard dodge to the side the those bone horns ripped apart the crushed table behind him, flinging it away into one wall. Quickly Shepard fired along the creature's back yet the bone plating absorbed the shots and any they hit the decayed skin seemed to do little to the creature. He knew dismemberment was the key to slaying it yet all that plating and muscle made it impossible without heavy weaponry or biotics.

Again the creature turned to face him, bone blades fully extending out from its forearms for another attack. Already Shepard remembered why he relied so much on his team, making him wonder if they were doing any better than him. Priming his second to last grenade, he stared down the necromorphed krogan before it gave a primal roar before rushing forward in a goring charge.

"Damn it where's Shepard when you need him!" Garrus cursed as he and the rest of his team hurried along the railed catwalks, trying to escape the flying necromorphed Turians that were swarming from all directions. Every so often the team took quick shots with their weapons or biotics, shooting the winged horrors out of the air whenever they gave out a screech and tried to dive bomb them.

"Got some slashers incoming!" Grunt growled as the more standard necromophs crawled up onto the catwalk from below, trying to block their path. Yet for the young krogan he had no trouble bull rushing through him as he'd fire his shotgun point blank, flinging the roaring creatures off the side of the walk way or blasting them into gory chunks.

The next checkpoint door was just at the end of the catwalk and already Legion was bypassing it. Everyone else was just focused on the horde rushing at them, more slashers blindly charging at them, shredded and dismembered corpses piling up as a gruesome barrier yet even then more crawled or shoved through it.

Yet suddenly there was a piercing shriek, bone chilling and headache inducing that made everyone stop attack whether it be firing their weapons or unleashing biotics. Everything was quiet now as Garrus's team recovered, although Legion seemed unaffected as he focused on the door.

"Do you…feel that?" Jacob muttered, glancing to Miranda and Samara with a look of confusion and fear.

Garrus was more confused since the biotics looked pale, almost sickened by something. "What the hell do you mean?"

"This feeling. It's like the time I fought my daughter Morinth on Omega yet…for more intense." The asari justicar muttered, moving in front of the group, seeming drawn by whatever was beyond the wall of mutated corpses. She seemed tense, body surging with intense blue biotic energy. "It's like an Ardat-Yakshi yet changed…stronger…"

Before anyone could question yet there was the soft pat of footsteps just beyond the corpse wall before suddenly a resounding boom, the necromorph corpses being flung off the sides of the wide catwalk and into the abyss of the Citadel. Standing where the pile had been was a slender figure which at a glanced seemed like a naked asari at first yet the more horrific changes could be shown.

Unlike the other asari who were turned into slashers, this one seemed less mutilating, keeping a more 'normal' look. Yet the skin instead of a usual blue had turned a sickly teal and seemed more scaled, rougher from decay. At the shoulders were usual bladed limbs the slashers had yet they were shorter and more straight bladed then the scythe like design of the others. Cross the body bone had grown out as a covering across the form to cover breast the chest and lower body yet more crude pieces pokes or sharped out from the body. Yet what disturbed the team more was those eyes…a deep glowing green with a distant look to them. All across her form the hints of biotic energy could be seen yet like those eyes it had a sickly green to it instead of the usual blue.

"Get back." Samara stepped forward, Jacob and Miranda glancing at each other than the mutated Asari who gave a low groaning sound, its head tilting in a look of curiosity. Considering the fierceness the justicar showed, they'd obey her order as they backed up.

"I have the door unlocked!" Legion suddenly exclaimed, the security door sliding open loudly. Either triggered by the door opening or just coincidence, it give out a sudden cry like the one before. The air seemed to shimmer with some shockwave as biotic energy was mixed into that yell, flinging everyone except Samara to the wall, the asari using her own biotics to hold her ground.

"This creature…its biotic power is so raw yet powerful. This abomination must fall!" Samara showed a fierceness that none of the other team members had ever seen, even in past heated battles. She launched herself at the mutated asari who lunged at her, the shoulder limbs jabbing out while it flung green bursts of biotic energy at the justicar. The experienced asari was ready to block the blasts with a barrier before striking the necromorph across the face with a charged punch, the strength behind that biotic strike ripping the creature's jaw off. Yet it was unfazed as it shrieked out, the force of its cry making Samara flinch yet remain composed to grab at its bladed limbs which stabbed at her. "GO! I'll hold it off!" She yelled to the rest of the team, everyone still gawking at the titanic clash of biotic might.

"Walkway stability reaching critical limit!" Legion called out as indeed the wide metal catwalk was breaking and creaking.

"Damn it! Alright everyone more!" Garrus ordered out, everyone filing through the open security door with him going last. Turning to Samara, he'd see her struggling as the turned asari kept up a relentless assault with biotic and physical attacks. Yet the justicar looked at him, nodding she'd unleash another biotic wave that made the walkway break apart and fling the monstrous asari back violently.

The forced pushed the turian through the security door which then slammed shut, no doubt from the damage the biotic battle had caused. Getting up, he looked at the gathered team, looks of concern showing across their faces.

"Samara can handle herself. We all know she's one of the strongest biotics we have and has the most experience as well." He said, trying to get everyone focused. "Let's get that jammer taken down. Once we get that sorted out we'll go find her and the rest of the team."

Everyone nodded and muttered in agreement, knowing very well what was at stake here. After a moment catching their breath they continued on, heading out from the inner workings of the Citadel and back out into the streets of the Ward.

Eland paced around hidden entrance of the lab, being flanked by two advanced security robots along with a large grav-lift carrying supplies. He was already frustrated with Ronza's delays since they were meant to leave an hour ago. Ever since they had captured that quarian girl his partner had become obsessed with her and that worried the volus. They were at the edge of producing the greatest bioweapon in the galaxy yet he was fawning over a girl.

"Bad –sss- for business..." He muttered before he'd hear footsteps beyond the door.

Soon the quaran arrived, tugging the female one along with a pistol at her back. It wasn't hard to notice his injuries, mainly open bullet wounds along his suit along with his facemask being cracked. It worried Eland yet to his shock he saw the hole closing and the quaran male seeming unfazed about it.

"She's coming with us. Insurance in case we run into any of her teammates." Ronza simply stated as he'd nod for the robots to move up, one getting a pair of cuffs to bind Tali.

Eland kept silent, watching Ronza move to one supply box to get a new face mask before looking to the female qaurian who struggled a bit, cursing a bit in her kind's tongue.

"This is a mistake. –sss- She's a liability." The volus simply stated as he looked back at Ronza who had finished snapping his mask into place.

"She stays. That is final." The quarian sternly stated. "She's simply confused on the future I'm offering. Once we get into the Ishimura she'll realize the grand design I'm bringing."

The way he spoke had the volus nervous. Every hour he swore the quarian was becoming more and more fanatic which was becoming an issue. "Fine then. –sss- Yet if she causes trouble it's on your –sss- head." Activating his omni-tool, he'd order the robots forward, one moving the grav-lift and the other nudging Tali forward.

She'd give a spiteful look at Ronza who seemed to ignore her as he'd take the lead, loading a heatsink into his submachine gun. Eland hanged back as he waddled along, one hand just tapping the hidden holster he had on his tool belt…already debating what to do later.

"Fascinating! Achieving gravity control through gravitomagnetism. Technology behind it has only be theoretical for decades. Elemental zero seen as more practical in comparison." Mordin quickly remarked as he walked along side Isaac.

Right now the mechanic was having a hard time keeping watch and answering the alien scientist's rapid question, although it was it nice to talk to someone after days roaming around alone and constantly fighting to survive.

Jack and Thane were taking the lead as they continued towards main docking zone where the mining ship was, hoping to at least encounter Shepard or at least follow up one Isaac's plan.

"You think you can pilot that massive piece of junk all on your own?" Jack questioned the engineer.

"I have the captain's key and while I can't control all the ships functions I can at least move it. Did fix the engines and plenty of other components." He simply answered back.

"Damn…do they train all engineers like your universe to fix capital sized ships." Jack laughed out before suddenly gunfire filled the air.

Despite the surprise attack, Jack was quick to get a wide barrier up to cover the group as they hurried for cover while a group of armored mercenaries hurried out of hiding.

"Not Cerberus! Unknown faction, survivors no doubt!" Mordin yelled out before launching an incinerate at a heavily armored mercenary, burning quickly away at his armor.

Thane was providing cover fire with his sniper rifle, getting a clean headshot on one attacker farther back while Jack rushed in, firing her shotgun up close and blasting the mercs away with biotic blasts.

Isaac just watched at the whole fight, feeling really out of place considering. He had been fighting the necromorphs for days yet never had to deal with an enemy that could shoot back. However glance to the side he saw a three mercenaries who were trying to flank the group. Cursing as they shot at him, he'd keep low before peaking up and aiming his plasma cutter.

"There's the target. Shoot to kill!" One merc ordered before yelling out as Isaac fired at him.

Shielding would flare and burst before armored plating seemingly metaled as each repeated shot cut deeply into the merc. By habit, the next shot was right at the man's arm which soon was cut clean off, followed by horrified screams of pain.

"Holy fuck!?" One of the other mercs quickly grabbing his flailing partner as they'd pull him back to cover, retreating as they realized this engineer's tool was more dangerous than expected.

At this point the mercs were starting to thin out as Thane and Jack were fighting more aggressively while Mordin supported. Isaac kept back giving a shot or two, often getting a limb cut in the end.

"Damn it fall back!" One merc yelled as the group ran off down one side alley. The team didn't give chase, not wanting to be lured into another ambush or trap.

Once everything had calmed down, the team regrouped yet remained on guard for a counter attack or necromorphs possibly being drawn in from the fighting.

"Group seemed focused on you Isaac. Made any enemies since arriving?" Mordin questioned.

"Not at all! I haven't met anyone else around here until encountering your group." He'd remark back, a bit annoyed at the remark.

"Mordin meant no offense. He's just a bit…blunt at times. Point is someone obviously wants you dead." Thane quickly pointed out, trying to quickly calm the situation before moving to examine one of the dead mercenaries. "The marking is familiar…Zaeed brand by the looks of it."

"Always the sharp one Thane." A gruff voice spoke up before the hum of a heavy weapon was heard. The whole group turned about to see the aged mercenary standing on store ledge, aiming a rocket launcher at the group.

Issac was tense, yet glancing to the others they seemingly lowered the guard. Jack laughed out, crossing her arms as she smirked at Zaeed. "You crazy old fuck! Nearly ripped you in half when you showed yourself."

The old man laughed, lowering his launcher before slinging up onto his back. "Sure kid…if you say so." Dropping down onto the street, he'd walk up to the group and glace over each person, stopping at Isaac. "So you're the sob that Eland wanted dead? Not that impressive really." Shrugging, he'd look at Mordin. "After we separated at Omega, I didn't expect to run into you guys so soon. Still got a lot done in a few weeks. Got a small well equip group of men…which you killed half of." Sighing, he'd scratch his neck in annoyance, giving his usual grimace. "That aside I take Shepard's with you? If that is the case we can easy sort things out if you can get me out of here."

"Commander is missing currently. Split up to save Tali who was captured." Mordin quickly explained as he'd do so area scans. There were distant howls and gunfire in the distance, making everyone pause for a tense moment. "We'd best move on. Fighting no doubt drew necromorphs. The fleeing mercenaries will distract them at the least."

Zaeed seemed annoyed having to lose all his men, yet gave a growl and nod. "Fine! So what is the plan doc?" Mordin paused, thinking over options. "Continue the mission. We need to get onto the mining ship. Isaac has captain codes, can fly ship by himself and off station." With his scans done, he'd point down one side alley. "Mapped new route, we should arrive at main docking this way."

Everyone hurried along with Mordin taking the lead while Zaeed followed up at the back of the group. "So what about the outbreak here? There must be thousands of rotters on the Citadel…it takes months to clear them out by my guess."

Isaac was silent as he followed the team, thinking over everything about the Necromorphs. Again he kept remembering Nicole's words about how the Marker was the key to it all. Perhaps that was the answer to all of this and in turn saving everyone.

"Guys…It may be crazy but I have one idea to fix all of this." He said, making everyone slow down and glance at him.

Zaeed gave a small grunt and odd look to him. "Really now? And what would that be?"

Pausing for a moment, Isaac took a moment to get his helmet off, feeling he needed talk straight with everyone on this. His expression was dead serious, eyes tired and blood shot from stress and lack of sleep. "I need to tell you about the Marker…"