A Mass Effect Story by Vyrexuviel

Disclaimer: The author of this story does not, in any way, profit from the story and all creative rights to the characters belong to their original creator(s).

Shepard was just stepping out of Wrex's little pad when she passed through the edge of the sound-dampening field when she heard the full-throated roar of a krogan. She didn't have quite enough time to turn, but she did see the pieces of a varren hurtling her way. Instincts kicked in, as old as humanity, and she spun, hand lashing out to catch the largest chunk, which turned out to be a hind leg. Wrex emerged just then, and Shepard assimilated the rest of the scene. A total of seven, no eight krogan were involved, two were holding back a krogan who was spitting and snarling in rage at having his varren killed. The rest were on the ground, holding down...

"Grunt? What's going on?" Shepard strode forward towards the scene, Wrex right behind her.

Grunt was on his back, vivid-blue eyes wide and rolling, snarling and snapping, pinned down by three burly krogan. Wrex took one look, sniffed, and nodded. "He needs the Rite. Summon the Shaman."

One of his guards moved through a doorway as Shepard turned towards him. "Rite? What Rite?"

Wrex nodded for the guards to let Grunt up. He had stopped thrashing and seemed sullen, about as close to contrite as a krogran ever got. "The Rite of Passage. It marks a krogan becoming a full adult."

The green-plated krogan nearby, who had been arguing with Wrex when she arrived, had been watching with some disapproval. Now, he narrowed his eyes and stomped past the pair. "Too far, Wrex. This thing is not krogan. Okeer's bastard legacy shall not sully what is left of our race."

Wrex glanced after him. "Idiot. But, his clan is powerful, so I have to keep him around." His glaring, crimson eye moved back to Grunt, staring into the electric-blue of the young krogan's. Just then, two more krogan arrived. One, if Shepard was any judge, was older than Wrex, with a different style of armor, one that looked almost patched together out of old furs and hide. At his side strode the green-plated krogan, glaring balefully at the leader and the youngster.

The elder was speaking as the two neared, "You go to beyond yourself Gatatog Uvenk. The rites of Urdnot are dominant. You may not interfere in this."

Undeterred, Uvenk snarled back "How do we know it will challenge him? He is unnatural, the product of a dishonored mind! The beasts of the Rite may not even attack him, more likely to ignore him like a lump of plastic."

"They know blood no matter the womb. Your barking does not help your case." The pair arrived, Uvenk glaring hatefully at Grunt. Shepard felt moved. She had been there at this krogan's birth, and felt, to some extent, responsible. She moved beside her teammate, glaring back through her silver-mirrored faceplate. Ahh, if only Uvenk could see...

Grunt growled softly and spoke up, having turned to watch the pair approach, "I'll speak for myself."

The Shaman gazed over Grunt's face, "So, this is the tank-bred that had Uvenk in a twist. You seem quite alive to me, you even smell correct," His eye swiveled to glare at Uvenk, "Your protests grow more hollow, Uvenk."

"Grunt has earned the right to be here, regardless of this idiot's bleating." Shepard spoke, taking her cues from what she remembered of all those countless hours of talk about the Krogan people with Wrex in the Normandy.

The Shaman laughed, "There's some fire, and from an alien. Oh, the shame this heaps on those who whine like pups." The shaman directed that last at Uvenk.

Uvenk bristled, "If this must stand on ritual, then I invoke a Denial! My krantt stands against him, he has no one!"

Shepard couldn't quite restrain the growl that rose in her throat, but stepped between Grunt and the Gatatog, "I stand as his krantt. I will fight for him, and I will kill for him."

"Bah! Aliens don't know true strength! My followers are true krogan. Everything about Grunt is a lie."

Shepard had had enough. She stepped forward, calculating angles, vectors, force required, and took a precise forward swing, her arms sweeping up slightly with the force of the blow. Her helmet cracked into the krogan's plate with stunning force, sending Uvenk staggering back two, three paces before he lost his balance and fell on his rump. Sputtering, he responded with "Y-You... You dare?!"

The shaman was laughing even as Uvenk scrabbled ignominiously to his feet, "I like this human! She understands!"

Uvenk snarled as he stomped away, "I withdraw my denial. This will be decided elsewhere."

Even Wrex was chuckling as the Shaman spoke to Grunt, "Then let us begin the Rite. Come. We shall journey to the Keystone. There, the beasts of Tuchanka will test you, and you will prove yourself to them to be true krogan."

Shepard hung back as Wrex's guards began to decamp with the others. "Wrex, anything special I need to know about this?"

"Just fight, Sh- Spectre. You do it well, and Tuchanka won't kill you."

She twisted, switching her visor's mirroring off to give Wrex a cocky half-smile. "I'm not sure Death will try taking me a second time, old friend." She twitched her fingers and tugged her guns from their magclamps, "Hold these for me."

Wrex's eyes widened slightly, "You'll need those."

Shepard couldn't restrain the soft laugh. Really, she felt fine, antsy, buzzed, like she could take on a whole division of troops by herself barehanded. And with her new body, she probably could. "I'll be fine, Wrex. I always am. You of all people know..." She reached, and dug into her power, building the bridge, forcing it into existence with precisely calculated lines of magnetic force, and tore a piece of rebar free of the concrete, about two meters long. It whizzed past a startled krogan and slapped into her outstretched palm with a clank, "that I'm never weaponless."

Wrex gave a deep-throated chuckle, "Then have fun, old friend. I'll be watching. It should be a good fight."

Wrex and the shaman, along with a fuming Uvenk as well as the rest of the representatives from the other clans had filed into the hardened bunkers around the arena. As the young krogan stepped up to the Keystone, the Shaman took his place by the microphone. Wrex suppressed a grin. This was going to be fun.

Shepard had trouble staying still. She hadn't felt this energetic since she changed, and the only time she had ever come close was that time she had nearly overdosed on stims on Elysium. Going for fifty seven hours straight, she had miss-read the time and had taken a stimshot slightly too early. She stepped quickly as Grunt moved to the button, idly twirling the staff. Garrus had decided to go with the pair, if only to keep an eye on Shepard.

"We going to start this party or what, Grunt? Hit it!"

The young krogan chuckled and punched the button. The shaman's voice boomed from concealed speakers as Shepard spun, pacing back the other way, her staff idly tapping on the concrete rubble, first one end, then the other. "First, the krogan conquered Tuchanka, and mastered a natural world only we were fit to hold." While he had been speaking, the massive pillar of granite and rusted steel had been slowly ratcheting into the air. Then, it came down with a staggering impact, the shockwave rumbling out through the ground around them. Shepard's eyes gleamed.

Combat. She lived for it.

"Twelve credits the turian doesn't last the first battle." Wrex just snorted. He had recognized Garrus. That hard-headed sonofabitch wouldn't fall to just any old beast. 'Some great monster has your number, old friend. I hope I'm there to see it.' The Shaman regained his seat as the rolling impact of the Keystone rippled through the bunker. Krogan were lined up at the lower viewing ports, watching the arena, and leaving the clan heads and the Shaman to watch from the superior viewpoint. The impact jarred loose something across the field, and Shepard spun to face it almost before Wrex had spotted it. 'She's good. Better than before. She'll survive.'

Shepard knew those howls. She had killed dozens of them already, but she still felt slightly insulted as the waves of varren bounded through rents and cracks in the far wall. "Fishdogs? Fishdogs?!" She turned towards the keystone, "Is that all you've got?"

Garrus was grinning. Shepard was in fine form today. His assault rifle began cracking, each shot precise and true as he started mowing the underslung-jawed alien animals. Grunt merely roared and got closer, his shotgun thundering. But Shepard merely strode forward, her staff spinning idly until she was in front of the other two. The varren had split into two unequal groups. One, maybe about eight or nine, were heading around the side towards Garrus's position. The other, much larger, maybe twenty all told, were headed straight for Shepard and Grunt.

"Might want to find cover, Shep, these things-" Garrus blinked. He was sure she hadn't moved, but the first varren was slumping to the ground and skidding a bit, minus it's head. Then the next two charged, and Shepard moved, her staff spinning so rapidly it seemed to blurr out of existance.

Garrus's mandibles sagged a moment, before a varren got close enough to charge. 'Spirits, thank you for returning her to us.'

The fight was over in a very short time. Shepard was pounced by a large number of the varren, but they quickly started trying to avoid her as the staff she carried whirrled round in a deadly, dizzying spiral, each strike a deathblow, fast and accurate, with no suffering to the animal. Grunt picked off the ones that got past her, and Garrus merely watched once he had dealt with the ones to the side. Shepard ended with an intricate, dazzling display that ended with her crouched over, holding the staff with one end planted firmly in the concrete. She had impaled the last varren's braincase.

Grunt chuckled, "Now that was impressive."

Shepard turned, giving a little bow, and using one arm to yank the bloodied staff from the varren's head, "Let's get on with it. There's got to be something better to fight."

Wrex supressed a chuckle. 'That's Shepard, always leading head-first into battle.' The Shaman grunted a bit as he levered himself up, heading over to the microphone again as the party of three approached the keystone once more.

This time, the Shaman's voice thundered out, "Then, the krogan were lifted to the stars, to destroy the fears of a galaxy, an enemy only we could chase to their lair." The thundrous thud of the keystone hitting the anvil from two-thirds height rocked even Shepard on her legs. She spun, head snapping this way and that, staff held easy in one hand, but clearly eager for the battle. Grunt was proud to call her his Battlemaster. He had done some checking on the geth ship, and apparently Urdnot Wrex himself had once refered to her such. If the leader of the most powerful clan on Tuchanka called this woman his Battlemaster, she was indeed worthy of the title.

Shepard spun, staff raised, as something landed off to one side, some flying creature of great size, dropping something that skittered. Grunt's imprint supplied the name and necessary information. Klixen. Armored, and capable of spitting two chemicals that, when mixed in the presence of oxygen, burst into flame. Dangerous. "Shepard, best keep your distance from those!"

Her head snapped towards him, faceplate blank, and belatedly he remembered she had told him not to use that name. "Why?"

"They spit fire, Spectre!" Indeed, just then the first had gotten close enough to engulf her in flames. He roared, his hearts thundering in his ears as he charged forward, shotgun bucking savagely as he pulverized the armor of the beast, leaving it to explode. The turian's gun chattered off to one side as Grunt gazed in awe at Shepard. She stood, flames still licking off her armor, one arm upraised, apparently examining the chemical fire clinging to her.

"Huh. Right. Time to get fancy." Her tone was playful, and Grunt grinned. This was going to be fun indeed.

The bunkers were mostly silent, watching the massed klixen swarming over the trio. It quickly became apparent that none of them were even getting into flame-range of the trio on the raised platform anymore. The turian held them off on one side, with the krogan's occasional assistance, but Grunt wasn't doing very much damage, occasionally picking off one that Shepard missed. Her staff blurred past him from time to time, but he had gotten used to it after the third such passage.

Shepard snapped her arm to the side, spinning through a quick series of steps as the staff hurtled past her to impale another klixen, spearing through both fluid sacs and making the poor creature detonate with a shriek of pain and rage. It seemed everything on Tuchanka hated everything else, because even the other klixen started shrieking when one of their number fell. Shepard pulsed her power, her staff tearing loose from the flaming corpse, and arcing around her in a tight curve before snapping out again into another creature that was getting too close.

Her eyes blazed with blue-white fire as she drew on her power. She hadn't had the chance to practice much with it, but it was similar enough to her old biotics that the mnemonics she used to use for Lift and Throw were having the desired effect. Though now, she could almost see the field lines she built glowing an iridescent violet in her mind's eye as she forced the power to ripple and flow within her. Her generators whined near overload, but she ignored it. She didn't need to do this for much longer.

A swift ripple of power, a yank, a curve, and a shove, sent the staff spinning end over end to lodge between the eye-clusters of the last klixen, which had been making a suicide-run on Shepard in an attempt to kill her. With another yank, she drew her weapon to her, and a stray spark set it afire just as she caught it.

Wrex let out a soft, low whistle. He'd seen her pull off some pretty amazing shit before, but this was something else. Shepard was whipping that staff around like an asari adept playing with her biotics. And he knew she wasn't using traditional biotic power. 'Just when I think I've seen the bottom of your bag of tricks, Shepard, you pull out something else to keep me guessing.' He most wholeheartedly approved. An enemy that you didn't know the capabilities of was a dangerous foe indeed...

The Shaman's voice boomed and rolled through the arena as Shepard punched the button for the Keystone. The ancient stone-and-metal pillar began rising, and she watched as she listened. "Now all krogan bear the genophage, our reward and our curse. It is a fight where the only goal is survival!" The Keystone reached it's full height, and Shepard, her senses dancing with the rush of power, could follow it down to impact. The titanic shudder that rippled through the ground rolled out, but this time she was ready for it. She grinned. The rumbling wasn't passing! Something big was coming!

Garrus nervously checked the diagnostics on his rifle. He would've liked to do a full check and calibration, but he barely had time for a quick-and-dirty scan before a sound grew that he recognized. 'Ohhhh, shit.'

He glanced around, rifle raised, pointed at the surrounding hills. "Spectre! That's a thresher!"

Grunt laughed. Ohhh, this was good! A foe worth the effort it took to kill! Thresher maws were the most dangerous creatures on Tuchanka, and he was about to fight one! His battlemaster was truly the best. She found him the best things to fight.

Shepard's eyes widened. images riffled through her mind, too fast for others to comprehend, but she understood each one with perfect clarity. Each maw she had found and killed on so many worlds. The remains of the massacre on Akuze. A rush of fear rippled through her spine, and suddenly, she missed her guns. 'Ahhh, fuck.'

She brought her staff up as the Maw burst from the ground, whirling away from its first spray of acid. Something was slowing her down, she was loosing her edge. Her power sizzled in her nerves, rippling through her mind, but she wasn't able to concentrate on it, even if she was at max-cryo. She got behind a pillar, glancing aobut for any sort of weapon to use on a foe like this. Her dinky little staff wouldn't cut it, the maw's armor plates were thicker than the staff was long. She spotted a few thermal clips laying near a dead krogan, glanced over where Garrus had switched over to his sniper rifle.

"Garrus! Gimme your AR!"

He snapped his head to her, eyes wide, "What the-"

"No time, damnit, we have to kill this thing before it kills us!"

Without further hesitation, he grabbed the assault rifle off his back and, taking a moment to let a splash of acid go past, hurled it to her. Her mind saw it coming, calculating trajectories in exquisite detail, noted the tumble, and the fact that it would land just short of her hiding spot. The Maw let loose a titanic roar, and there was a bone-shaking shudder is it withdrew. The ominous grinding sound Shepard knew so well told her to change cover fast, and she snatched the gun out of the air as she rolled to a new position. As the maw burst from the ground, she was already rolling into a shooter's crouch, eyes lining up the sights and hardsuit syncing her HUD to the new equipment.

'Alright, you overgrown earthworm, let's see what you've got.'

Shepard added the thunder of the gun to the roars of the thresher.

The noise within the bunker was near deafening. Krogan were cheering on either the maw or the trio. More and more people were switching to the maw, even after the dazzling display of power by the Spectre as she battled the klixen. Bets were being made, changed, exchanged, and paid off. Wrex didn't care. He was begining to worry. He hadn't seen a thresher this large attend a Rite since he himself had taken to the field. His lips curled slightly, remembering the cheering that had accompanied the end of that Rite. Still, Shepard had faced maws before, though never one this large. 'She'll survive. If what she told me is true, the Maw might eat her and still not kill her.'

Grunt was in heaven. The fury of the maw was matched by his own endurance and the thunder of his shotgun. He reveled in it, the adrenalin surge, the red mist ringing his vision. He knew the blood rage from his imprint, but if this was it, he experienced it differently. It didn't cloud his mind with the need to kill, it sharpened his senses and gave him clarity even in the midst of a struggle for his life. He stepped twice to the side, avoiding another splash of acid and returning fire, standing in the open as the Maw roared and weaved above him. He rolled violently to the side as the Maw crashed earthward, trying to scoop this insignificant insect from the earth and swallow him hole. He brought his gun up even as he was skidding to a stop, firing three times in rapid succession at the eyestalks that wavered atop it's ugly face. He knew the others were firing, he heard the chatter of an assault rifle and the deeper thudding of a sniper rifle. Still, this was what he was created to do. His blood sang with joy and battlelust.

Shepard didn't know what was going on. Her mind registered the threat, her body reacted, but she had to struggle to focus. It was almost as if-.

"Shit." She whispered the word, pausing in her firing. 'The ryncol. I didn't know...' The Maw took exactly the wrong moment to act. She was still exposed, vulnerable, and not firing, and didn't react in time, so lost in her inner turmoil. The large splatter of acid caught her right in the face. It ate through the faceplate with horrifying speed, and she barely managed to get the helmet off before it got to her head. but the backsplash had coated most of her upper torso with the stuff, and she couldn't undress fast enough. The high, tortured shriek that emerged from her lungs was more akin to twisting metal, or the Maw's own cries, that that of a mortal woman.

The acid burned! Though it slowed considerably on contact with her substance, it was still eating her alive! The pain was worse than she had imagined, writhing and struggling and shrieking in pain, struggling and thrashing, rolling out of cover in her agony. The thresher didn't waste an opportunity, and Shepard's cries redoubled as another splat of acid coated her lower half.

More roars from the bunker. Wrex didn't hear them. His eyes were locked on the writhing figure, his will urging her to get up, to fight on, as she always had before. Even death couldn't stop this one, but she lay there, writhing in agony, even as Garrus risked his own life to drag her to safety. Grunt was busy at the moment, keeping the Maw's attention on himself even as his battlemaster was injured.

Garrus scrambled at the quick releases, racing against time to get Shepard out of her armor before the Maw's acid got to her even more than it already had. The sounds she was making... They tore at his heart, and made him wince. He managed to shuck off her outer plates before the acid had eaten through them, but little pieces of dissolving metal had made it through the underlayer, and little flecks of lighting were dancing over the spasming woman's body. Shepard's eyes were open, but she wasn't responding, though at least those tortured shrieks had ceased. "Shepard, can you hear me? What do I do?"

Shepard heard Garrus through the mist of pain. 'Always the good soldier, always looking for orders.' She struggled to focus, couldn't find him. Something was wrong with her eyes. She could see a rushing mass of dark-violet light to her right, and turned slightly, disregarding the agony involved as she did. "Garrus.. hhhhelp..."

'Spirits, her eyes...' "Help how, Shepard?"

She grunted, her voice weak and slurry, but still vibrant. She gestured weakly, indicating for him to turn her over. She supressed a hiss of pain as he did so. "How bad is it?"

Garrus winced slightly. He didn't want to be the one to tell her, but...she had asked. "Your armor's gone, most of it melted, the rest unusable. The undersuit managed to catch most of the acid, but I think you're going to have an interesting set of scars." He hesitated, then sighed. "...It got your face too, Shepard." He held up a hand as her eyes widened, "You're still you, but it did something to your eyes. They look cloudy. Maybe a splatter got them, I'm not sure." 'May the spirits grant that they heal...'

Shepard was in shock. She could still see, sort of. But her eyes... She had been damned lucky not to take any serious damage to them throughout her military career, and was proud of the fact. Her eyes had been a vivid, deep green before her transformation, and now... Her teeth gritted, despite the pain. Despite the fear.

"...Help me up, Garrus. It's time to kill this fucker."

Wrex gave a sigh of relief as Shepard got unsteadily to her feet. He wouldn't admit it to anyone else, and only grudgingly to himself, but he didn't want to see his former battlemaster fall. She brought so many interesting fights...

Grunt was almost delirious with pleasure in the fight, despite the fact that he knew if he made one wrong step, he'd be lunchmeat. That only added to his glee. His gun roared, firing back at the Maw as it weaved and lunged, missing him by a mere meter as it crashed into the platform. Then he heard his battlemaster's voice, even through the haze of his bloodrage. "Grunt! Keep it occupied for a bit longer, then retreat to me!"

He glanced asside, a quick, rapid movement, but took in the scene with that single flicker. Shepard was standing, supported by Garrus, between two of the rickety pillars. She nodded slightly to Garrus, and he darted away, past the pillar Shepard was near, and taking shelter behind the corner of the raised platform itself. His sniper began to thud into the air again, but Grunt had his hands full just then. The thresher was getting annoyed. He wondered why Shepard had given him those orders, but it wasn't his place to question his battlemaster in the middle of a fight.

Shepard couldn't see the maw, exactly, just the flickers of electrical impulse where it directed its muscles to fire, and the furnace-glow of its brain-sac. Grunt was standing out like a fireworks display to the side, and his gun was a small sun in his hands. She could see the magnetic fields each of their nervous systems made about them, shielded or not. She still had a good deal of charge left, but this was going to drain her, and even after Garrus gave her as much as his own suit could spare, she wasn't sure if it was going to be enough. She glanced up at the two dark shapes above her, seeing them more as potential energy curves than anything else. She took a breath, held it, exhaled. And stopped breathing. She summoned her power, her arms starting to glow as she stretched her hands to the sides. The act of moving hurt in ways she couldn't describe, but this had to be done. She gritted her teeth and increased the power, whirling streaks of blue-white fire spinning just inside her surface as she built the fields. As she ramped up the power, the towers lit up, the moving magnetic fields, gathering strength from the increased flow, swept over them, causing electrical currents, which in turn generated their own magnetic fields. She almost paused in wonder at the beautiful sight, but the maw's shrieks of rage drew her back to the task at hand. Up and up she forced the power, the torn remnants of her undersuit only partially disgusing the light playing from her, and as the power built, she felt herself slowly lighten, then lift. Yes, she needed all the leverage she could get for this.

The startled cries of the krogan were a dull roar in Wrex's ears. He stared at Shepard, the eerie blue-white light playing around her, watching her rise into the air to hover between the two pillars, which were now crackling with electrical discharge. 'Just what in the Void are you doing?'


Grunt heard the cry from an odd angle, but he didn't hesitate or question. He merely turned and ran. He didn't see shepard at first, then glanced up and nearly stopped in awe. But he could hear the thresher behind him, giving a grating shriek of triumph as it began to lunge, and sprinted forward, between the two crackling pillars. He turned as he vaulted the railing of the upper level, determined not to miss this sight.

Shepard's eyes blazed, and she was unaware of her own shriek of pain, determination and effort. Her entire body glowed through the rent and torn underlayer, her hair standing on end and waving in the magnetic fields as she pulsed her power ever higher. With tortured screams, the metal bases of the pillars were starting to twist and bend, cracking like gunfire as the Maw shot past and below her. She couldn't help but grin as the thought arrowed through her mind, 'Perfect timing.'

With a twist and an agonizing blast of power, she summoned up everything she had left. The pillars shrieked, then began to fall, crisscrossing as she fell sideways, unable to maintain her altitude as the magnetic fields changed shape. The maw was caught between the hammer and the anvil, and the pillars crossed and thudded to earth with a deafening crash, jagged bits of electrified metal crashing through the thresher's armor plate with the force of an express train. Shepard landed with a boom off to one side as the maw writhed and thrashed, trapped and shrieking in agony as raw lightning poured through its frame.

Grunt saw the maw's predicament, and acted without thought. Without waiting for orders or even to check on his battlemaster, her charged, roaring louder than his shotgun as he sped towards the side of the maw's trapped mouth. He dodged a flying mandible, and noted that slowly the maw was starting to extricate itself from the pile of metal. He wouldn't give it time. With a bound, he landed on the thresher, stepping between the eyestalks and blasting one free of it's head even as he bit into the other. The taste of its strange blood completed his frenzy and he began firing indiscriminately, screaming challenges as he stamped and bit, punching and gouging into the trapped head of the beast.

Even Wrex was impressed. The feat Shepard had pulled off, toppling the towers, was one he had seen before, but never like that. Usually it took three krogan per tower to topple them, and never that precisely. But Grunt's antics were egging the crowd on. Caught in the midst of bloodrage he may be, but Grunt's shots were still accurate, his blows still good. He broke the skull of the thresher like a hammer, and was actually stomping his way through its brains before he got control of himself again. 'A fight they will tell of for centuries to come. As usual, Shepard, you don't disappoint.'

Shepard needed Garrus's help to get to her feet again. That hadn't taken everything out of her like her frenzy on Omega, but it still had mightily drained her. She blinked several times, hoping that her eyes would fix themselves, or that Mordin could give her something to fix them. Garrus was a collection of interesting lines of force, his metal-infused plates giving him a decidedly odd look in her new vision. 'I guess I couldn't just tell him he looks beautiful, but he does, in his own way..'

Grunt approached, splattered in gore and grinning wider than she had ever seen Wrex grin. "That was great, Spectre. You find the best things to fight."

Shepard chuckled weakly, turning as the massive door in the side of the keystone complex opened, a group of krogan emerging. "I try, Grunt. But sometimes, things just find me."

Uvenk was furious. This thing was not krogan, even if it had slain a thresher. He would not allow it to contaminate what was left of the krogan gene pool. His voice was gravely with supressed rage as he spoke. "You live. And you brought down the thresher maw. No one has done that in generations. Urdnot Wrex was the last."

Grunt retorted, his voice still rapid from his excitement, "My krantt gave me strength beyond my genes. Which are damned good."

Uvenk stepped forward, ignoring the youngster's boasting. "This will cause discussion. I wonder... You say you are pure? No alien meddling in your construction? Just the warlord Okeer?"

Shepard spoke up, "-EX-warlord. But yes. The best krogan traits are distilled into Grunt. He's designed to be perfect."

Uvenk shot Shepard a scathing glance. "Being designed is the problem. But not made by aliens. And he is powerful. That is a tolerable loophole." He'd give Grunt the chance he lusted for, then do away with him quietly somewhere else.

Grunt seemed confuzed, "A what?"

"A reason to accept you. You are a mistake, but your potential could tip the potential balance of the clans." 'Yes, by giving Urdnot yet another wedge to drive into the dying corpse of what remains of our purity.'

Grunt could feel the rage rising once more. "You spit on my father's name. On Shepard's name. But now you stop ranting because I am strong?"

"With restrictions. You would not breed, of course. Or serve on an alien ship. But you'd be clan in name."

Shepard wouldn't let this go unchallenged. "You talk like he's a thing. You're just after his power. You don't really want him in your clan." Her eyes seemed to be getting better a bit, she could start to distinguish between lightness and darkness. She thought. She hoped.

"Of couse not. I didn't really want to cooperate with Clan urdnot either, but I had to. Clan Gatatog is on the verge, either of greatness or of joining the dust. I get traditionalist support if I fight you, and reformer support if I back you. Your Rite of Passage tipped that balance too."

Shepard restrained a smirk, turning to the dark collection of vivid-violet spirals that represented Grunt. "It's your choice. Sounds like an easy job."

"That's the problem. I'm pure krogan. Uvenk, you are the pretender!"

Uvenk had thought it would come to a fight, and his squad were well-equipped to deal with a freshly exhausted krogan pup. "Your head is valuable, whether you're alive or dead."

Grunt whipped up his shotgun, "Just try to take it." His voice had a note of insatable hunger to it. He had gotten his first taste of true battle, and he wanted more!

Shepard acted before anyone else moved. Her hand smashed into Uvenk's chestplate, sending him back on his ass, even as her other hand reached, and her power pulsed. She may not have much juice left, but a low-power lightning bolt still stopped the other two krogan in their tracks. "Enough! You've been beaten, Uvenk. Surrender now, and I'll spare you. Press this, and I will end you."

He struggled to get up, his breathing disrupted by the impact. "You...You're no krogan, you have no say in this!"

"I am Grunt's Battlemaster. I am Wrex's Battlemaster! I am The Shepard, and I have survived where any krogan would fall." She gazed into his eyes, her own brimming with power. She was starting to make out some details of his armor, though his nervous systems were mostly what she could see. "You are beaten, Uvenk. Let it go, to fight another day. Or do you choose this day for you to die?"

There was complete stillness among the other krogan for a moment, then a low murmuring. Uvenk glanced over his shoulder, seeing his krantt start to holster their weapons. He growled and swung back to Shepard. "I yield. This day. But if you set foot on Tuchanka again, I'll make sure you never leave."

Shepard's voice was soft, "I've survied worse than Tuchanka, Uvenk. Spend a year on Alchera, no food, no supplies, no suit. Then, and only then, you will have earned my respect."

The defeated krogan gave a wordless growl, turning and stalking off, his rage nearly palpable. Grunt laughed, "You put him in his place, Shepard. But why didn't you let us fight?"

"Because I need every krogan I can sway to my side, Grunt. I don't dull my knife before battle, and to stop what's coming, I'm going to need every krogan who can pull a trigger all facing the same direction." She turned to him, holding out a hand, "Best put your arm around me, Grunt. That took a bit more out of me than I thought."

He blinked, then got it when Garrus slid an arm about her waist, and between the two of them, they supported Shepard into the complex.

AN: My humblest appologies for not chunking this out and getting it to you faster, but IRL shit hit the metaphorical fan, and I've had to deal with the resulting fallout. Sometimes I reeeally hate my life. v.v In any event, I hope you enjoy! And as always, Read and Review!