Virmire: Confrontation.

Eleanor May Carter's POV.

With Captain Kirrahe's speech to his men done and dusted, it was time for the plan of attack to be put into action. Commander Shepard chose Tali and Wrex to join her on this mission. She also wante me to join her, in case we find another Prothean beacon, or bump into Saren along the way.

"Comm check. Do you read me, Commander?" Captain Kirrahe's voice asked from communications.

"Loud and clear." Shepard nodded.

"Good. We'll start our push." Kirrahe explained, "We'll try to make it to the AA Guns, but it might be up to you to finish the job." Then he added, "And Commander? If you see any way to undermine their defences, we could definitely use the help."

Wasting no time, Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I drew our weapons and moved out of the rocks.

Kirrahe's voice spoke from communications again, "Shadow is on the ground. Repeat: Shadow is on the ground. Chief Williams, with Aegohr team! Mannovai, Jaeto teams, move! Time to get some attention!"

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I saw Geth troops from the rocks. Wrex wasted no time to shoot them down. We advanced closer to what looked like a control center. Sniper Geth tried to aim for us, but we took cover. I drew a sniper rifle, aimed it at the Geth and fired. The shot it the Geth square in the head and the Geth fell to the ground.

With the Geth out of the way, Tali walked up the ramp and disrupted Geth communications. Nice move.

Shepard, Wrex, Tali and I jogged down the ramp and under the platform, to continue the assault.

Kirrahe's voice spoke through communications again, "Something scrambled their targeting. We've got a shot! Chief Williams, take the heat off Mannovai!"

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I followed the path through a narrow path of rocks, sand and water, taking out any Geth that intercepted us. The storm along the horizon was growing steadily worse, but wasn't moving from its location. Even looking at storms made me feel very uneasy.

Kirrahe spoke again, "They're calling sat-strikes! Jaeto, watch for comm stations! Williams, can you see anything?"

Once again, we found another station with a satelite up-link. Shepard shot down the Geth patrol drones and fired a collective blast at the satelite. Direct hit and the satelite collapsed onto the ground. That should slow the Geth down a bit.

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I journeyed toward the station and found that there was a path that lead through more rocks.

Miss. Williams' voice spoke through the comms this time, "Aircraft heading to perimeter stations to recharge. Bunker up before they come back."

Just our luck, more Geth appeared and attacked us. Tali, Shepard and Wrex took them out with ease. Remembering about what Williams just informed us, I journeyed across and found a fuel tank and Geth drones at the end of the beach. I fired my pistol at the fuel tank, causing it to explode, and took out the Geth drones. No problem.

I rejoined the others and continued down the path, to find another Geth station. This time, the station was bigger and had a couple of Krogan soldiers.

Kirrahe spoke from the comms again, "Air threat has not materialized. We may be getting some help from Shadow."

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I fired our assault rifles at the Geth and Saren's Krogan soldiers and took them out with ease. With the threat taken care of, we entered the station, which lead to the inner walls of Saren's fortress. With no Geth in sight, we withdrew our weapons and ventured closer to the inner wall.

There was a console just outside the door. Tali walked up to the console and started typing, "We've got access to base security. We can cut the alarms from here. Maybe even trigger alarms on the far side of the base."

"It'll make things easier for us, but that means more trouble for the Salarian teams." I pointed out, "I don't think we should risk it."

Shepard rubbed her chin in thought and nodded in agreement, "Just disable the alarms. We can handle any guards inside."

Tali nodded and disabled the alarms. We entered the base and took out any Geth that stood in our way. We entered another room, which took us to a left corner, and there were cells underneath us. Salarians were inside the cells.

"Hello?" A Salarian called, "Is someone out there?"

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I entered another room, where there were two Salarian scientists inside. They drew their weapons and shot at us. Shepard used her Biotics and knocked them down.

Kirrahe's voice spoke from the comms again, "Give a little ground, Williams. We don't want them to bunker-up. Draw them out."

Curious, I opened another door and walked down a flight of stairs. Another door at the bottom opened and it lead to the cells. I walked over to the cell with a single Salarian and he looked at me.

"Well, you're not a Geth. And you're not wearing a lab coat. I guess I'm glad to see you." He nodded, "Lieutentant Ganto Imness of the Third Infiltration Regiment, captured during recon. I assume the fleet was called to destroy the base?"

"Eleanor May Carter of the Normandy." I introduced myself, then I shook my head, "Your transmission wasn't clear. The fleet isn't coming."

Ganto's expression changed, "I see. Then you must be the infiltration team. I know the captain. He will want this facility destroyed. My team was altered... Indoctrinated. He knew about the breeding grounds. But the Indoctrination is a greater threat, and far more horrifying." He lowered his head, "I watched good people reduced into mindless husks." I looked at the next cell of quiet and emotionless Salarians, "There wasn't anything left. Others died during the experiments. I envy them."

"Do you know anything about the experiments Saren was conducting?" I asked.

Ganto nodded, "They were studying Indoctrination. Symptoms, progress. Saren uses it to control his people, but I don't think he fully understands it." He shook his head, "I don't know much else. I just saw what it did to the others. Turned them into empty husks." Then he started to panic, "I can't end up like that. Please - let me out!"

I looked at the next cell again and looked back at Ganto. A part of my mind nagged at me not to open the door. What if he attacks me? But my gut tells me that he means no harm. So far, my gut hasn't lead me the wrong way. And I sense no danger from this Salarian.

"Calm down. I'm going to open your cell." I told him, "Get away from here as far as you can, okay?"

I reached over the door control and pressed the unlock button. The cell doors opened.

Ganto smiled in relief, "Thank you, Miss. Carter. And good luck. You'll need it." With that he left the room.

I turned to the next cell and looked the Salarians inside. They looked like they haven't slept or eaten for days. I shook my head and opened the cell. The Salarians didn't move or look at me. They just stood there. I shrugged my shoulders and made my way back to Shepard, Tali and Wrex.

"Where did you go off to, Eleanor? We were worried about you." Shepard asked me.

"I helped out someone in need of help. No big deal." I answered with a casual shrug.

"Next time, you should tell us where you're going." Wrex told me, "We thought that the Geth have caught you and took you back to Saren."

"I'm sorry. It won't happen again." I apologized.

Shepard gave me a small nod and we returned to the mission at hand. We used the elevator to the upper levels, to find more Geth, Salarian scientists and... Husks? Why am I not surprised to see Husks in this facility? Ganto did say that Saren was studying the effects of Indoctrination. Husks must be involved.

Wrex, Shepard, Tali and I took out the resistance and followed the path deeper into the base, where, in a study room, there was an Asari scientist hiding under her desk.

"Don't shoot!" She cried, "Please, I just want to get out of here before it's too late."

"Let's hear it." Shepard spoke up, "Who are you and what do you want?"

"Rana Thanoptis. Neurospecialist." The Asari, Rana, introduced, "But this job isn't worth dying over. Or worse." She shook her head, "You think the Indoctrination only affects prisoners? Sooner or later, Saren will want to dissect my brain, too!"

"I thought this was a breeding facility." Shepard pointed out.

I shook my head, "Not entirely, Commander. They also experiment with Indoctrination here too. A Salarian prisoner told me."

Rana nodded, "That's right. We're studying Sovereign's effect on organic minds. At least, that's what I assumed. Saren kept us in the dark as much as possible."

"You helped him and you didn't know why?" Tali asked.

Rana shook her head, "I didn't have the option of negotiating. This position is a little more... Permanent than I'd expected." Then she nodded, "But I can help you. This elevator behind me goes to Saren's private lab. I can get you in."

Rana walked over to the door, on the other side of the room and swiped a card on the control panel of the door. The door panel switched from red to green and Rana returned to us, "See? Full access. All of Saren's private files. Are we good? Can I go?"

"What were you studying here?" Shepard asked.

"It's that ship... Sovereign. It emits some kind of... Signal." Rana explained, "Undetectable, but it's there. I've seen the effects. Saren uses it to influence his followers, to control them. It's called 'Indoctrination'. Direct exposure to the signal turns you into a mindless slave, like the Salarian test subjects. But there's collateral damage, too."

Shepard nodded and told her, "I'm going to blow this place to hell and gone. If you want to make it out alive, you'd better start running."

Rana's expression dropped, "What? You can't... But I'll never..." She shook her head and dashed out of the room, "Ahh!"

Once Rana was gone, Wrex smiled, "I like the way you think, Shepard."

I turned to Shepard and raised a brow, "Was that really necessary, Commander? She was already scared enough from the research here."

Shepard turned to me, "I know it wasn't a good choice of words, but it was better than having her just stand there and wait for the nuke to happen."

I nodded, "Fair enough."

With that, Shepard, Wrex, Tali and I ventured through the door, across a bridge and into another room, where an elevator took up to Saren's private lab. Inside was a balcony and another Prothean Beacon.

Tali looked and gasped, "Shepard, look over there. It's another beacon. Like the one on Eden Prime."

Shepard nodded and looked at me, "Alright, Eleanor. You know what to do..."

I nodded and walked down the stairs to the beacon. I walked closer to the beacon and waved my hands over the green, holographic interface. The beacon glowed and lifted me into the air, as it burned the vision into my mind. It was painful, like the first time, but the pain subsided and the vision began to fill in the gaps that were missing. Even a system of planets and Sovereign.

The beacon stopped glowing and let go of me, dropping me to the ground. I landed on my knees and caught my breath, trying to recollect myself from what just happened.

I picked myself up and sensed that we were not alone in the lab. I looked up and saw something red on the edge of the balcony. I walked up the stairs, followed by Shepard, Wrex and Tali, and saw it was a holographic projection of Sovereign.

"I get the feeling something bad is about to happen." Wrex grimaced.

"You are not Saren."

"What is that?" Tali asked, "Some kind of VI interface?"

"Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh, you touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding."

"I don't think this is a VI..." Tali mumbled.

"There is a realm of existance so far beyond your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I am Sovereign!"

Shepard's eyes widen and she gasped, "Sovereign isn't just some Reaper ship Saren found. It's an actual Reaper!"

"Reaper? A label created by the Protheans to give voice to their destruction. In the end, what they choose to call us is irrelevent. We simply are."

"The Protheans vanished 50,000 years ago." Tali pointed out, "You couldn't have been there. It's impossible!"

"Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation. An accident. Your lives are measured in years and decades. You wither and die. We are eternal. The pinnacle of evolution and existance. Before us, you are nothing. Your extinction is inevitable. We are the end of everything."

"There's an entire galaxy of races united and ready to face you." Shepard told the hologram interface.

"Confidence born of ignorance. The cycle cannot be broken."

"Cycle? What cycle?" Tali asked.

"The pattern has repeated itself more times than you can fathom. Organic civilizations rise, evolve, advance. And at the apex of their glory, they are extinguished. The Protheans were not the first. They did not create the Citadel. They did not forge the Mass Relays. They merely found them, the legacy of my kind."

"Why would you create the Mass Relays, then leave them for someone else to find?" I asked, finally able to find my voice.

"Your civilization is based on the technology of the Mass Relays, our technology. By using it, your society develops along the paths we desire. We impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it. And you will end because we demand it."

Tali gasped, "They're harvesting us! Letting us advance to the level they need, then wiping us out!"

My blood boiled, as my adrenaline rush made my body glow green again, "You're not even alive, you bosh'tet! Machines can be broken!" I didn't notice that Tali glanced at me for a second.

"Your words are as empty as your future. I am the vanguard of your destruction. This exchange is over."

With that, the interface shut down and the windows and equipment within the lab exploded.

Joker's voice spoke from the comms, "Commander? We got trouble!"

"Hit me, Joker." Shepard answered, putting her hand over her ear.

"The ship, Sovereign? It's moving! I don't know what you did down there, but that thing just pulled a turn that would shear any of our ships in half." Joker alarmed, "It's coming your way, and it's coming hard! You need to wrap things up in there - Fast!"

"There's nothing we can do here." Tali noticed, "Ideas, Shepard?"

Shepard nodded, "Let's head back to the breeding facility. Joker can pick us up after we set the nuke."

With that, Shepard, Wrex, Tali and I made our way back to the breeding facility of the base.

I don't know why, but I felt so angry at that hologram interface with Sovereign. I felt like I wanted to set off the nuke right there and then. Punch a hole into that Reaper's side so big that the vaccum of space would collapse on top of it. And when I find Saren, I'm gonna tear his body limb from limb and feed it to a Thresher Maw!

AAAARRRGGHHH!

I'm okay now. I'm fine... I just need to blow off some steam is all. I'll be alright.

Along the way, we were intercepted by more Geth and Krogan soldiers. I grabbed my pistol and shot each one of them in the chest and head. Each of them fell limp on the ground.

Captain Kirrahe spoke through the comms, "The Geth are turning from your position, Jaeto. Looks like Shadow kicked a sensitive spot! Williams, head them off! Hold them out here!"

We exit Rana's study and found that a draw-bridge has been lowered. Krogan soldiers attacked, but we were able to shoot them down. We crossed through the corridor and across a bridge to the turret controls of outside the breeding facility.

Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I took out the Geth that stood in our way and deactivated the turret.

Once everything quieted down, Tali alarmed us, "More Geth. In the elevator."

The elevator doors opened to reveal that Tali was right. She, Shepard, Wrex and I took out the Geth soldiers with ease.

Captain Kirrahe's voice spoke from communications again, "Good work on the gun, Shadow team. Now it's our turn."

With the Geth taken care of and the atmosphere of the area calmed, Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I used the elevator to the breeding facility of the fortress.

We made our way through the corridor, before Captain Kirrahe spoke again, "That's it. We need to clear the Geth and set those charges."

The door opened to reveal the breeding facility of the fortress and Geth Stalkers were waiting for us. Shepard, Wrex, Tali and I took them out and continued to the other side of the facility.

Captain Kirrahe spoke from communications again, "Charges set! Everyone bunker down. Bunker down!"

Shepard touched the door controls and the door opened, revealing an empty room. A perfect place to set the nuke and end this operation Saren was planning.

Shepard started shooting at the fuel tanks in the room, making them explode until they were useless. Joker answered from communications with a chuckle, "All right! Nice work. That's one less thing to worry about." Then he informed, "Commander, I'm bringing us in. I'll get as close to the site as I can."

Shepard, Wrex, Tali and I waited, as the Normandy arrived and landed in the site. The hatch door opened, revealing Alenko and a couple of other soldiers carrying the large, black and red nuke out of the ship and into the site. They carried the nuke over the water and next to the pillar on the other side of the site.

"Bomb is in position." Alenko informed, "We're all set he-"

Suddenly, Williams' voice called from communications, "Commander, can you read me?"

Shepard nodded, "The nuke is almost ready. Get to the rendevous point, Williams!"

"Negative, Commander. The Geth have us pinned down on the AA Tower. We've taken heavy casualties." Williams replied, "We'll never make the rendevous point in time!"

"We have to help them!" I shouted, then looked at the Normandy, "Joker, get Williams and her team out of the zone!"

"Negative. It's too hot!" Williams replied, "Can't risk it. We'll hold them off as long as we-"

I turned to Commander Shepard, "We gotta help them out somehow! We can't leave them behind."

Shepard looked at me and nodded her head in agreement, "You're right, Eleanor."

"It's okay, Commander." Alenko spoke up, "I need a couple of minutes to finish arming the bomb. Go get them and meet me back here."

Shepard nodded and turned to the team, "Up to the AA Tower. Move!"

With that, Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I ran to the other door of the site and it opened to reveal another breeding facility. The Normandy took off and left the site. On the other side of the door, more Geth and Krogan soldiers attacked. Shepard, Tali, Wrex and I took them out and used the elevator on the other side to continue our to the AA Tower.

However, once we reached the top floor of the facility, a Geth dropship arrived and hovered over the top of the bomb site.

"Damn. Geth are sending in reinforcements." Wrex noticed.

"Heads up, L-T. We just spotted a troop ship headed to your location." Williams alarmed over communications.

"It's already here." Alenko replied, "There's Geth pouring out all over the bomb site."

"Can you hold them off?" Commander Shepard asked.

"There's too many. I don't think we can survive until you get here." Alenko answered, "I'm activating the bomb."

Shepard's eyes widen in shock and disbelief, "Alenko, what are you doing?"

"I'm just making sure this bomb goes off." Alenko answered, "No matter what." After a second, he answered, "It's done, Commander. Go get Williams and get the hell outta here!"

"Screw that!" Williams shouted, "We can handle ourselves. Go back and get Alenko!"

I looked at Shepard and see the conflict going on in her head. If she saves Alenko, Williams and her team will die. If she saves Williams, the bomb will go off too soon and we won't have time to get everyone off the planet. Either way, Shepard won't forgive herself if she saves either one and lets the other die.

I walked over to the commander, "What if we split up? I'll go get Alenko and you go help Williams."

Shepard looked at me and shook her head, "No. It'll be too dangerous."

"I can take care of myself." I argued, "Remember back in Feros? I know how to handle a gun. Besides, Williams needs you."

"And the crew needs you, Eleanor." Shepard pointed out, "You're a valuable asset to the crew."

"So are you!" I pointed out, "The crew would be lost without their commander."

Shepard looked away for a second, then she placed her hand over my shoulder, "Take Tali and Wrex with you. If I don't make it out alive, I'm appointing you as commander of the Normandy."

My eyes widen in surprise. Me? Commander of the Normandy? But, I'm not leadership material. I'm more of a follower than a leader. How can Shepard trust me so easily? What if I'm an undercover spy for Saren? What if I'm under Sovereign's control?

No. Shepard trusts me for a reason. I can't let her down now because of second thoughts. I made this decision, now I'm going to go through with it. Consiquences be damned!

I calmed myself and nodded my head in acceptance. With that, Shepard removed her hand from my shoulder and made her way to the AA Tower. Tali, Wrex and I took the elevator back to the bomb site.

Commander Shepard's voice spoke from communications, "Alenko. Radio Joker and tell him to meet up at the bomb site."

"Yes, Commander. I..." Alenko answered, then lost his words.

"You know it's the right choice, LT." Williams replied.

"Williams, I'm coming to help." Shepard answered.

"Wait, what?! On your own?!" Williams exclaimed.

"It was my idea." I answered, "You can blame me when this is over." Then I muttered to myself, "If you survive..."

I touched the door panel and the door opened to reveal that the bomb site has turned into a war-zone. I drew my gun and started shooting at the Geth. Tali and Wrex followed behind me. Alenko stayed close to the nuke, but he shot down any Geth that got too close.

"Eleanor, set that nuke and get out!" Shepard's voice shouted from communications, "We can't hold them... Damn it!"

"Suppressing fire!" Williams shouted, "Cover your flank! Cover your-"

Then the radio went dead. "Commander? Williams?" I called, "Anyone?" No reply. Just static. Tears welled up in my eyes and I swallowed a lump forming in my throat, "Damn it..."

But I didn't have time to grieve, I sensed someone familiar was coming. I turned and started shooting a hovering platform, as biotic blasts fired around me. I ran and took cover from the person, as he jumped off the platform and landed on the ground.

It was Saren.

I aimed my pistol at him and fired two shots at him. Saren didn't flinch and took the hits, as he shields blocked my shots. I stepped out of my hiding spot and glared at Saren in the eyes.

"I applaud you, Artemis." Saren told me, "My Geth were utterly convinced the Salarians were the real threat. An impressive diversion." He shrugged, "Of course, it was all for nothing. I can't let you disrupt what I have accomplished here. You can't possibly understand what's really at stake."

"Why don't you tell me? Maybe I can understand." I offered.

"You've seen the vision from the beacons, Artemis." Saren replied, "You, of all people, should understand what the Reapers are capable of. They cannot be stopped. Do not mire yourself in pointless revolt. Do not sacrifice everything for the sake of petty freedoms. The Protheans tried to fight, and they were utterly destroyed. Trillions dead."

Then he pointed out, "But what if they had bowed before the invaders? Would the Protheans still exist? Is submission not preferable to extinction?"

I tilted my head slightly, "Do you really believe the Reapers would be that merciful?"

Saren nodded, "Now you see why I never came forward with this to the Council. We organics are driven by emotion instead of logic. We will fight even when we know we cannot win. But if we work with the Reapers - If we make ourselves useful - Think how many lives could be spared! Once I understood this, I joined Sovereign, though I was aware of the... Dangers. I had hoped this facility could protect me."

"You're scared, aren't you?" I asked, my glare softening slightly, "You're afraid Sovereign is influencing you. You're afraid it's controlling your thoughts. Your actions. Your speech."

"I've studied the effects of Indoctrination." Saren continued, "The more control Sovereign exerts, the less capable the subject becomes. That is my saving grace. Sovereign needs me to find the Conduit. My mind is still my own... For now. But the transformation from ally to servant can be subtle. I will not let it happen to me."

"Sovereign already has you in its clutches, Saren. Can't you see that? You're already becoming its puppet." I pointed out.

Saren shook his head, "No! Sovereign needs me! If I find the Conduit, I've been promised a reprieve from the inevitable. This is my only hope."

I withdrew my pistol, "It might not be your only hope." I reached out my hand to him, "Come with me. We can stop Sovereign together. Stop the Reapers before they could invade."

Saren looked at my hand, then looked at his. He shook his head, "I no longer believe that, Artemis. The visions cannot be denied. The Reapers are too powerful. The only hope of survival is to join with them. Sovereign is a machine. It thinks like a machine. If I can prove my value, I become a resource worth maintaining. There is no other logical conclusion."

I lowered my hand, "You were a Spectre, Saren. You swore to protect this galaxy from threats. Now you break that vow to save yourself when a threat is knocking at the door? Selfish..."

"I'm not doing this for myself!" Saren argued, "Don't you see? Sovereign will succeed. It is inevitable. My way is the only way any of us will survive! I'm forging an alliance between us and the Reapers. Between organics and machines. And in doing so, I will save more lives than have ever existed." He glared at me, "But you would undo my work. You would doom our entire civilization to complete annihilation. And for that, you must die."

With that said and done, Saren hopped back onto his hovering platform. I quickly ran for cover and started firing my pistol at him. Saren fired back with his own gun. Tali and Wrex joined th fight.

Once his shields were down, Saren released a biotic explosion, knocked Tali, Wrex and I into the water. Saren hopped off his platform, dropped his gun into the water and marched toward me.

My body glowed green in reaction to the danger, but Saren grabbed me by the throat and lifted me over his head, before I could do anything. I looked into Saren's eyes, as he glared at me with anger. There was a flicker of doubt in his eyes, and I could hear his voice in my mind, clear as day...

'Help me...'

Suddenly, an alarm went off, which distracted Saren long enough that I was able to punch him in the face. Saren dropped me into the water and hopped onto his platform once again. I grabbed my pistol and aimed at Saren's direction, but he was already gone.

With Saren gone and everything calmed down, I walked over to Alenko and helped him to his feet. The Normandy came around and landed in the site. I put Alenko's arm over my shoulders and helped him walk on board the Normandy.

Once everyone was inside the Normandy, the ship left the planet's stratosphere and outside the orbit, as Joker called out, "Everybody hang on!"

The nuke went off, making a large explosion big enough to see it from space. The Normandy was able to escape the explosion from a large distance. I looked out the window to watch the explosion. Tears welled up in my eyes.

I'm sorry, Shepard...

I tried...