So I'm back from deer hunting, got back the Tuesday before thanksgiving, thanks to everyone who wished me luck. I was hunting in South Dakota, near Sturgis in the foot hills of the Black Hills and also going out to my aunt and uncles ranch where they literally have hundreds of deer come out at night and eat all their crops, so they wanted us to shoot a few. I did get three deer on this trip, two great big old fat does out at my uncles ranch, and an eight point buck out in the Hills, all archery. Nothing but sharp pointy sticks for me.

Anyway, this chapter was written essentially in three days, so sorry if there's a bunch of grammatical or spelling errors, I just had inspiration for this chapter and wanted to shoot it out there real quick. Its mostly filler, but there's some serious foreshadowing to future storylines in some of these sections.

Ashley Williams huffed outward as she pushed the iron bar off her chest and extended her shaky arms.

"Seven," Nirali Bhatia said, her fingers lightly curled around the bar, not taking any weight away from Williams, but ready to, should she fail.

With a deep breath, Ashley slowly lowered the bar, doing her best to ignore the trickle of sweat running down her forehead and temples. The bar shook lightly as it descended and stabilized once it reached her rips, just below her breasts, and the marine let out her breath in an explosion and pushed her arms as hard as she could, her pectorals straining and spasming underneath her form fitting workout tank.

The bar made it nearly half a foot off of her body when its momentum was stalled considerably, and William's arms began to shake one more. A vein bulged on her forehead and the tendons in her neck pressed against her skin with the strain to finish pushing the two hundred and twenty five pounds to full extension. The bar stalled out, simply sitting at its current elevation, shaking with the marine's own sweaty hands, and started to fall back towards her chest until Bhatia's fingers clenched on the bar and pulled, taking just enough weight off for the gunnery chief's shaky arms to push the bar all the way up.

"God… dammit!" Ashley huffed as the bar clanked onto the bench press's rack. She moved to wipe her face with her hands, both to remove the sweat running into her eyes, and in frustration, to cover up her groan of frustration.

"You did really well, Sergeant!" Nirali exclaimed, "I don't think I could do a single rep at this weight!"

The gunnery chief suppressed a snort. Nirali likely couldn't do a single rep at half this weight. The Alliance Marines PT requirements were based on body weight exercises, and Nirali was barely a hundred pounds. It led to some problems, particularly when they were running longer patrols, someone would have to carry the small woman's ruck for her after a few miles, and no one could rely on her to drag them out of fire if they went down.

Normally she wouldn't be using Corpsman Bhatia to spot her in the weight room, but her usual workout partner had just shipped off to go join the Drop Trooper Corp, despite the fact he had only put in his application a month ago, and Williams had put her application in nearly a year ago, yet hers was still "under review". The guy had only put in his application when he saw Ashley working out so hard in the Eden Prime garrison's weight room and had asked why.

"Thanks, Nirali," Ashley said, out of breath, "but I'm still short of meeting Sergeant Donkey's standards."

The DTC's had an infamous physical training regime, doubling a lot of Alliance Marine's standards, and favoring hard weight lifting in addition to the traditional pushups and mile runs. The standards were designed to weed people like Bhatia out, a hundred pound woman might be able to do fifty pushups, but she had no hope of carrying around hundreds of pounds of gear through a firefight, or carrying another trooper wearing nearly a hundred pounds of heavy armor back into cover. Ashley was no small woman, measuring a respectable five foot ten inches, one hundred and thirty five pounds, one hundred and fifty five since she started her training regimen, but as a woman, she had an uphill battle in building the muscle necessary to get her bench press and overhead press to where it needed to be. Her squats were already there, resulting in thighs that received plenty of stares from just about every man on the base.

Over the next eight months the two of them hit the gym four times a week, spacing their workouts as well as they could to build the strength necessary to pass the DTC's PT requirements. Her weight lifting partner, Sergeant Donkey, had put in his application the day he was able to pass all the PT tests on his own, the next week he had already gotten his acceptance.

Ashley had felt like she had taken a bullet to her gut, even as she congratulated Donkey on his acceptance. The guy had been graceful, telling her to be patient, he'd put word in for her when she got there, but the gunnery chief knew what was going on. All applications had to go through official Alliance channels, and undoubtedly someone saw the name on her application, did some digging, found out about her grandfather, and filed that application in the digital equivalent of purgatory.

But who knows? The DTC's were always looking for more recruits, until they had more success and gained more prestige, they were always going to struggle to fill their training platoons. Maybe they'd run out of recruits and her file would finally pop up.

And maybe Colonel Vasquez would reject her application just like the Captain of every ship she had ever applied to serve on, but she wouldn't know until it got rejected and sent back to her, so she worked out and trained like she could be shipped off any day now. It might never happen, but at least she had a goal in mind to keep her from going insane on this boring post on the peaceful little world of Eden Prime.

Dismissing Bhatia, Ashley racked the weights and hit the showers, just thankful that at least the barracks on this world had separate locker rooms. She'd caught more than a few privates admiring her rear end when she was wearing tight workout clothes, she didn't want to be responsible for the medical emergency that would happen if they caught sight of her bare ass.

Williams took advantage of the hot water until she felt her shoulders, pecs, and triceps relax. She was hitting the range next, and shaking muscles weren't helpful if you were trying to hold a pair of crosshairs steady. Quickly drying herself off, she made her way over to her locker and pulled out her fatigues first, slipping them quickly as they were designed to, then grabbed the armor plating meant to fit over the Kevlar fatigues.

The torso armor came first, a heavy, but manageable titanium plate on her chest, thankfully shaped on the inside to give her boobs some space to breathe, two segmented plates around the stomach to provide some flexibility, and a plate covering the power source and kinetic barrier generator. The shoulder pads connected to the torso armor through a mag lock that kept them in place while still allowing her arms to move around.

Next were her arms and legs. Her upper arms received a small plate on the outside portion of her arm that was held on through a combination of buttons sewn into the fatigues and magnetic interlocks that were powered by the torso armor through the fatigues. Ashley's forearms were completely covered, the two titanium plates snapping to each other over the arm easily and comfortably, with her left arm accessing her omnitool and enlarging the interface for her gauntleted hands and armored fingers. The marine's thick thighs received the same treatment her biceps did, but with a much larger plate that came with a choice of magnetic or hard case holsters for sidearms. Ashley preferred the hard case as it let her leave her Carnifex unfolded and reduce draw time. Her lower legs only got one armor plate, right on the shin, but came with two segmented plates that draped over her feet, protecting her ankles and feet from hostile fire.

Finally. there was her helmet. The standard pattern was open faced, with a visor protruding from the front of the helmet and a heads up display being produced with the same holographic technology used in omnitools. There was a facemask that came with the standard pattern for vacuum or hazardous atmospheres that was neatly tucked into the waistline of the armor, right above her left hip.

There were lighter pattern armors, with thinner plates on the torso and fewer armor plates on the arms and legs, but those were only issued to biotics, and given the still relative rarity of biotics in the Alliance Armed Forces, most marines one would see in their full kit would be wearing exactly what Gunnery Chief Williams was wearing, right down to the blue and white paint job that matched the Alliance flag.

The kinetic barriers were on par with standard personal shields fielded by the other major military powers throughout the galaxy, but the armor plating was superior to the protection offered by just about any hardsuit in the galaxy. The plating was heavy, but could stand up to standard anti-personnel mass accelerators and the chest plate could withstand any legal armor piercing mod in use today.

There were a couple of combat engineers in the garrison here at Eden Prime who tried to get back to the old hardsuits, or tried requisitioning one of the lighter armor sets meant for biotics but were ultimately denied, after all, omnitools didn't require physical stamina to use, and tech grenades didn't weigh even half of what a high explosive or fragmentation grenades did.

Williams stopped at the armory on her way to the range, a squat cement building built into the ground to reduce its vulnerability to air strikes. Her weapon's locker was separated from the rest of the garrison, being placed with the other Non-Commissioned Officer's weapons lockers behind a second set of doors you needed a second security code to enter. Inside the locker was the Alliance Marines standard issue loadout, in addition to her own preferred weapons.

Next to the standard issue M8 Avenger was Ashley's own M15 Vindicator. She had qualified expert on the M8, that combined with her status as a senior NCO had given her the right to requisition the more accurate battle rifle to use as her service weapon. The gunnery chief kept the Avenger to maintain her skills on the rifle, for if she ever had to pick one up on the battlefield, it would be better not to be rusty with it, but she always patrolled and deployed with the M15.

The opposite side of the weapons locker had an M92 Mantis, a high powered anti-personnel sniper rifle that Ashley had qualified expert in as well. She could requisition the newer SR99 anti-material rifle, but the high cost and current rarity of the rifle had kept her from putting in the request. Besides, the Mantis was powerful enough to take the hat off a turian at eight hundred meters, and if brass wanted her shooting at tanks, they would have issued her an RPG.

Finally, there was the M23 Katana, or as the marines who were forced to use it called it, the confetti blaster, because it had just about as much killing power as a cardboard tube that shoots out shredded paper of various colors. Different replacements were being tested, the Crusader had already been approved for special forces, N program and the Drop Trooper Corp, and the Piranha was in testing, but Ashley didn't have the scores on the shotguns to requisition either of them. She was proficient with shotguns, her hopes for the Droppers were dependent on her knowing how to use a shotgun, but she was a better shot in the mid to long range than the up close and personal.

She was better with her M6 Carnifex at the close range anyway, qualifying expert on the M3 Predator and quickly requisitioning the upgrade to what is currently the most powerful stock handgun in the galaxy. Ashley didn't know if it would stop a charging krogan like the ad said it would, but she knew it blew through the hardsuits the garrison put out in the target range.

The gunnery chief was loading her weapons with thermal clips when the rest of her squad burst into the armory, followed closely by the garrison's commander, "Chief Williams, where the hell have you been? I've been looking all over this base for you!"

Williams spun on her heel and snapped off a salute as she watched through her peripheral vision her squad set about gearing up, already armored just as she had been, "Sir, I was in the gym, sir. Was just about to head out to the range for target practice, sir."

"And why the hell weren't you with your squad, Chief Williams? They are your responsibility now that the only capable squad leader has run off to go get his ass beat down in the DTC."

Ashley bit her tongue in order to keep her mouth from doing anything she would regret. Sergeant Donkey was a good soldier, and a decent squad leader, but everyone in the Dog Squad knew that Ashley was better than him in both categories. Not only was she more proficient with her weapons, but she was better at squad tactics and maneuvers, but the Commander never saw it that way. If it wasn't for Sergeant Donkey having already shipped off to Drop Trooper boot, the Commander probably wouldn't have even made a reference towards her being the squad leader, despite the fact she was the highest ranking member of Dog Squad and three paygrades above Sergeant Donkey.

"Sir, it was not a scheduled duty day, sir," Gunnery Chief Williams replied after a moment to reign herself in, "My expectations were made clear to them to be ready if called upon, but everyone was free to make use of their day as they wished as long as they remained within the base, sir."

The commander leaned in close, his eyes narrowed and his face an ugly sneer, "That fact is the only thing stopping me from busting your ass straight back to Private First Class, am I understood, Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams?"

It took everything the marine had not to smack her pompous and arrogant commander on his ass, so the fact she was able to reply smoothly, without any waver in her voice, was downright impressive.

"Yes, sir. What are our orders, sir?"

The commander's sneer turned into a frown as he failed to get a reaction out of her before leaning back and replying loud enough for the whole squad to hear, "The archeologists over at the Prothean Dig Site found something this morning. A report is being made to the Alliance, and the Council will undoubtedly come grab the thing as soon as possible, but in the meantime, its up to the garrison to provide security. Dog Squad is the only squad available to provide that security at this moment. You're going to take Dog Squad over to the dig site, secure the find, and establish a secure perimeter around it. No one who isn't a scientist or a marine in or out, understood?"

"Sir, yes, sir."

Liara T'Soni couldn't believe her eyes.

It was a common problem of the past month or so since she had been contacted by the Alliance to confirm the origin of some ruins they had found within their territory. It was an odd request, as all Prothean ruins were to be shared with the Council immediately so that one species couldn't become vastly more advanced than any other species just because they happened to find some working Prothean technology within their borders. So why would they want an asari archeologist, and the daughter of one of the most powerful Matriarchs in the galaxy to come and tell them they had to share any technology found within an ancient Prothean city or base?

Well it probably had to do with the fact that the ruins definitely were NOT Prothean.

This was the third ruin she had visited within the past month, each one in a system that Liara did not recognize, and each one had belonged to a civilization older than the Protheans. The first one had been little more than the scarred ruins of a city on a planet that no longer held an atmosphere. There had been no functional technology and very little intact architecture above the surface. Below the surface, however, were a few underground bunkers and basements that still held intact architecture and artwork, thanks mostly due to the fact the planet's atmosphere had bled off when it had been bombarded, leaving the intact subterranean structures nearly perfectly preserved in the hard vacuum. She and the Alliance scientists had dated the structures back to nearly one hundred and sixty thousand years old, with the orbital bombardment taking place one hundred and fifty thousand years ago.

There wasn't much to go on in terms of culture or technological prowess of the people who had lived during this time, other than that they were quadrupedal with a torso that included two additional limbs, were omnivorous, and had been subjugated by a much more powerful interstellar empire judging by the artwork depicting them serving underneath another species that was depicted as having the much more familiar two legs and two arms with the head on top, and oddly enough, a tail.

The second site didn't have much work for her, as it was a truly ancient three hundred thousand year old hulk in close orbit of a terrestrial body orbiting a white dwarf star. Meteorite impacts had perforated the vessel and ravaged the interior, leaving nothing inside that could provide information on the people that had built this vessel aside from a few intact sections of hull that contained interesting markings that could only be seen in the ultraviolet spectrum. Still, it had provided more interesting discoveries, as despite the many meteorite impacts along the hull of the vessel, there were still many large and obvious scars caused by very specific weaponry. The same scars, caused by what had to be very similar, if not the exact same, weapons were all over the third site.

That led her to where she stood now, in a vacuum rated hardsuit that used to be fielded by Alliance marines, standing inside a hangar bay located within a planetoid in an asteroid belt around a hypergiant star. In front of her were the wreckages of some sort of small craft. The Alliance Marine security contingent's private that was escorting her personally had said they reminded him of the Trident attack fighters aboard the SSV Einstein.

While Liara had gone through Commando training at the behest of her mother, learning how to handle small arms and use her powerful, even by asari standards, biotics both by herself and in conjunction with a small fireteam, she had little to no experience with fighter craft or heavy military hardware, so she defaulted to the marine and agreed that these were likely strike craft of some sort.

They certainly looked mean. They were lean, and only had room for one pilot of a species much smaller than a human or asari. Perhaps they were larger than a volus, slimmer than the portly little methane breathers, but longer and more dexterous. The doors were short and skinny, leading to problems with her marine escort fitting through with his larger and bulkier armor.

"I doubt you'll have anything to defend me from in here," Liara told her escort as he squirmed his way through another small portal, his unforgiving chestplate scraping against the metal making vibrations that the asari archeologist could feel through her feet.

"Well obviously you've never watched a horror movie before," the marine said with a small laugh as he righted himself on the other side of door and quickly scanned the room with the flashlight attachment on his rifle, "You're clear."

The slim asari knelt down and easily slid right through the opening, her reduced bodyweight from the tiny planetoid making the movement easy, "What is so horrific about movies?"

Liara had watched a few human movies, finding them endlessly entertaining if somewhat confusing. She had a hard time understanding human culture, even after spending an extensive amount of time on human ships, working with human scientists. Their music was fascinating and moved her in ways that asari music hadn't in quite some time, something that was not unique to her as many asari musicians had started to mimic human techniques and songwriting, but the lyrics made little sense to her as they were often metaphorical or seemed to in some cases appeared to be gibberish. Human literature was unrefined compared to asari literature, but cinema was where human culture had truly taken over the galaxy.

"It's a specific genre of movie," the soldier explained as he shined his light through several other doors that had been left open since this base had been destroyed, "Horror movies are supposed to scare you. Make you feel dread and fear, if they're good anyway. Bad horror movies usually just scare you with a cheap jumpscare that gets your adrenaline going. A really good horror movie should leave you with nightmares."

"Goddess, that sounds awful," Liara exclaimed, temporarily forgetting about taking pictures of writing over each of the portals and staring at the human, "Why would anyone want to experience such a horrible thing?"

The marine just shrugged, "I don't know, but its one of the most enduring genres. Action movies, romances, slice of life, dramas, those things seem to fade in and out of popularity, but there's always a couple of horror movies coming out every year. Not to mention the best classic movies are heavy on the horror genre, and this whole base screams Alien, and The Thing."

Catching the asari's strange look through her clear faceplate, the private put his hands up in askance, "Both were made before humanity discovered extraterrestrial life, so Alien isn't a dig at asari or turians or anything like that. But it does have a lot of parallels with what we're doing in here. It's about a freighter crew in deep space stumbling across an ancient alien vessel on an uncharted world, discovering a parasitic lifeform inside the ship that had survived for hundreds of thousands of years with no air and no food, infected one of the crewmates. The embryo inside the crewmate grows and when they're back on the freighter, the creature, the Alien bursts out of his chest and within like a day is full grown and bigger than any of the crew members and way strong and fast and it sneaks around the ship picking people off one by one."

The marine shrugged again, shining his light on a damaged piece of deck plating that looked suspiciously like claw marks, "Seems to be eerily similar to in initial setting for my taste."

"And the Admiral fears finding something similar aboard this base?" Liara asked, genuinely concerned now about the possibility of finding some sort of ancient monster in this defunct fighter base.

The soldier laughed at the archeologist's question, "I highly doubt it. I'm probably just running around with you to make sure you don't get lost in here. We don't want to lose the asari princess after all."

This time she scowled at the back of the marine as he went back to checking doors. Ever since the marine contingent that had been escorting the archeologists had discovered she was the daughter of the very powerful and influential Matriarch Benezia, and they had been told who Matriarch Benezia was, they had taken to calling her 'The Asari Princess' in jest. Liara found it to not be nearly as amusing as the marines had likely intended, but found that asking them to stop only made them use the phrase more often.

Humans were frustrating.

Still, the seed of fear had been planted well enough in her head to have her looking around at the damages the base had taken. Most of what she had been cataloguing had been writing, or what she assumed was writing, as well as any pictures or diagrams depicting the small, avian like creatures that had once inhabited this base, but scattered around the walls and along the floor were signs of battle. Claw marks scraped the floor and some of the walls, which wasn't surprising in and of itself as the avian aliens had talons in most of the diagrams depicting them, but there were very few organic creatures that had claws that could rend solid steel to such a degree. All around the claw marks were bullet holes, indicating a pitched firefight between these avian aliens and whoever the aggressor was.

"The creepiest thing has to be the lack of bodies."

Goddess, she hadn't even thought of that. In the hard vacuum of space, the bodies should have been preserved, but other than the occasional faded splotch of green blood, there wasn't anything organic in any of the structure she and the private had explored so far. There were other scientists exploring other areas of the base, and perhaps they had found a corpse or two, but considering the state of the chambers she had already gone through, and the one she was in now, if they weren't finding any bodies, she doubted the others would be either.

Another disturbing facet was all of the technology inside the base. Nothing had any power, which was to be expected as the ruins were just over one hundred thousand years old, but that could have been rectified by parking a cruiser just outside the base and setting up an umbilical to power the ruin. Except that wouldn't work because whoever had invaded this base had taken great care to destroy any advanced technology. Alien processors and computer banks were torn to shreds by what were either primitive melee weapons, or claws. Given the state of the walls and floors within this base, Liara was willing to bet it was the latter. The power lines throughout the station had even been severed, very intentionally. It was almost as if someone didn't want anyone to find out what had happened here.

That was a disturbing thought.

Liara and her marine escort continued moving through the base embedded within the planetoid. It wasn't very large. Just big enough to provide a hangar capable of holding a few dozen of the fighter craft, living quarters for the pilots and base staff, communications and command center, and cargo area large enough to support inventory for a base of this size. There was very little cargo left, and the organics, the food and medical supplies, had long ago faded to nothing, but there were a few mass accelerator weapons that were very interesting to the gunsmith aboard the Phoenix. Apparently they were very unique in the way they fired projectiles, being an archeologist, Liara didn't understand it very well, but it was interesting all the same, particularly when the other archeologists and scientists that had come along returned and one of them made an interesting connection.

"You know, it's very similar to what we've found for Prothean weapons, almost like it was the core concept for the particle rifle we've found," the scientist, a human male with a shiny head and furry face started, "The way these rifles are designed to constantly feed ammunition into the mass effect tunnel created by the weapon. From what we've been able to gather from the pieces of Prothean particle rifles at other sites, they fed a constant stream of ferro fluid into the mass effect tunnel. I wonder if the Protheans got the idea from these… what did they call themselves again?"

"Inusannon," Liara answered quickly, her progress on translating the language was going slowly, but much faster than she thought possible with the help of the Alliance cruiser's very powerful VI. She was almost worried about it possibly being an AI, but certainly humans couldn't be so foolish.

"Right, these Inusannon," he nodded his thanks to the young asari before continuing, "We know they predated the Protheans, could the Protheans have based some of their technology on them?"

Liara simply looked around the table before realizing they were all looking at her, as she was the Prothean expert and had been studying them for far longer than anyone else at the table. Blushing in embarrassment, she managed to find her voice finally, "It is certainly a possibility, but one example of similar technology does not mean they were copying these Inusannon."

A female human archeologist spoke up after Liara was finished, "It is interesting that all three sites had evidence of mass effect technology in them, even if they were no longer functional. And they all existed before the Protheans created the Mass Relays, so how did they get around? Their FTL drives must have been much more advanced than ours, or they would have fried themselves trying to fly from cluster to cluster."

The young asari frowned as the discussion continued. When the female human had brought up the Protheans creating the Mass Relay Liara had suddenly realized why the Alliance had sought her out for this. She was the only one in the archeological community to publicly suggest that the Protheans did NOT in fact create the Citadel or the Mass Relays.

The structural architecture was different than any architecture left by Protheans anywhere. It was made of a metal alloy that was significantly stronger and more durable than anything else they ever made. The power generated by the Relays and the Citadel was on a scale no other Prothean ruin could match even if they had been in perfect condition.

A large portion of the thought that the Protheans created the Mass Relays and the Citadel was due to the fact that the galaxy was only tangentially aware of civilizations that existed before the Protheans, and their ruins were certainly not as wide spread as the Protheans' ruins were, leading to the thought that the older aliens must not have been advanced. That they clearly couldn't travel the galaxy because the Protheans hadn't created the Mass Relays.

But Liara had found evidence of the Inusannon before, across the galaxy, suggesting that they could travel across the galaxy. Now either they did that with advanced FTL drives that lowered the static charge build up that made FTL travel between star clusters without Mass Relays incredibly difficult, or they used the Mass Relays, fifty thousand years before they were supposed to have been invented.

With another start, Liara realized that the Alliance was slowly coming to the same conclusion that she already had. But then why seek her out? Why gather all these other archeologists and scientists? The Alliance was still searching for something. But what?

What did the Alliance know?

"I believe they wanted us to go check out a Prothean ruin on Therum in the Artemis Tau cluster next. It sounds like a much more extensive site than these, and with some possible working technology," someone at the table said, "We'll probably be there for a few months, maybe even a year, which is exciting. Even roughing it in caves is better than hotbunking with a bunch of jarheads."

Tali'Zorah nar Rayya fidgeted nervously at the airlock of the Rayya as she waited for the transport to come and pick her and the rest of the quarians going to their pilgrimage up and spread them around the galaxy, sending them to the destination of their choosing.

Tali was still unsure of where she should go. As of now her plan was to try and find work on one of the small colonies along the border of Citadel and Terminus space. Maybe she would try and find a human colony. Their technology was supposed to be pretty advanced, and after the Blitz over a year ago they had taken security very seriously according to the intelligence reports her father had let her view. There were even rumours that the Alliance had discovered a new form of FTL, though nothing was confirmed and was only speculated about on extranet forums.

Even if the new FTL drives were just rumors, the new pinch fusion reactors the humans were building were not, and if she could figure out the materials needed to construct one, or if she was fortunate enough to acquire, legally of course, blueprints for one the benefit to the Migrant Fleet would be incalculable. Apparently these new reactors had cut the required element zero for mass effect cores in half. By generating more power, they were able to get stronger mass effect fields from the same amount of eezo. If they fitted the Rayya with such a reactor, they could power kinetic barriers around the liveship so powerful no pirates, rogue mercenaries, or even geth would be able to threaten the vessel again. Or they could take some of the eezo from the Rayya's core and actually construct new ships of their own with the newly freed up element zero.

Most of that was a pipe dream, and Tali was honestly hoping to just acquire a few of the older reactors the Alliance had replaced with the newer ones for the fleet. Even though they wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful as those pinch fusion reactors, they would be a far sight better than anything the Migrant Fleet was currently running, if only because they'd be nearly a hundred years newer than even the most recent addition to the Fleet.

She was still worried that a gift like that wouldn't be enough. It would of course be enough for her to be accepted onto any ship of her choosing, but it would always be looked back on as a disappointment. For the Admiral's daughter, to bring back some second hand fusion reactors, it would seem like a waste of talent and ingenuity. That was why she dreamed of acquiring the new form of FTL, or the new pinch fusion reactors. They seemed like the only thing worthy of an Admiral's daughter's Pilgrimage Gift, the only thing that wouldn't be a disappointment.

The only other thing she could really think of that wouldn't disappoint the Fleet was any information regarding the geth, but the geth hadn't been seen beyond the Perseus Veil for three hundred years. It would take some sort of cosmic coincidence for the geth to finally emerge, go somewhere Tali could reach, and be careless enough for a twenty year old quarrian to take it off guard and hack it for information.

Tali was far from helpless as a fighter, having received firearms training from the Migrant Fleet Marines, just as every quarian does before going on their pilgrimage. She was also one of the best combat engineer in the Fleet, able to run through attacks on her old but heavily modified omnitool with ease and efficiency, overloading her opponents weapons, draining their shields, and hacking the doors to lock them in all at once. She would be quite the opponent for a synthetic enemy, but geth wouldn't travel alone, and killing one would likely bring down an entire platoon down on her head, and she certainly wasn't that good.

There was the subtle clanging of the transport ship docking with the Rayya, and Tali stood, along with all the other pilgrims, and did a quick check of her belongings to make sure she had everything. At this point, her belongings amounted to her environment suit, her omnitool, a weeks worth of dextro protein nutrient paste, and her old Tornado shotgun.

"Alliance space, here I come," Tali muttered quietly as she stepped onto the transport.

"Captain, he's our guy, I have eyewitnesses on record saying they saw him selling red sand," Detective Garrus Vakarian argued with his captain, another turian with tan plates and red face paint.

"Your eyewitnesses are the people buying red sand, their testimony would get ripped apart by any competent lawyer in court as people desperate to get away with their own crimes," the older turian in blue CSEC armor waved Garrus's arguments away, "He's being released, Detective. I'm not asking you to release him, I'm telling you he's already on his way out the door."

"You let him go and he'll go to ground, we'll never find him again."

"Then it will be difficult for him to buy and sell anymore narcotics, won't it?"

Garrus's taloned fist pounded down onto the captain's desk, "That's not the point! He's escaping justice, he's getting away with ruining people's lives!"

"Those people ruined their own lives, Vakarian, no one forced them to go take narcotics," the captain dismissed calmly, "Now get out of my office and consider yourself lucky I don't reprimand you for your behavior."

With a subvocalized growl that the detective knew the other turian could hear, Vakarian turned and stormed out. He had been on this dealer's case for months, ever since the Presidium experienced a two hundred percent spike in overdoses. Most deaths had been young people of all races, though asari were over represented, it was obvious someone had moved in and was targeting young people, biotics preferably, though more than a few salarians had overdosed on the human drug heroin, and Garrus had been put on the case to track this scumbag down.

Getting an ID on the guy was easy, an asari diplomat's daughter had been in and out of rehab for a while thanks to this guy and the diplomat was more than willing to give CSEC access to her daughter's omnitool and all of its communication logs. There were more than a dozen small time dealers on there, but they were each running an operation way too small to be the source, but fortunately, they were getting their inventory from the same guy. This was how drug operations always worked. The big guy who caused the problem was always hidden behind low level dealers, intermediaries, and codenames. Truth was, even the guy Garrus wanted to nail was just a small part of a larger scheme, but CSEC couldn't reach any further than this guy, Garrus's jurisdiction ended with him.

But the supplier was smart. Their ID was solid, but there wasn't anything directly incriminating in the messages. The only reason they were able to find him was because each small time dealer had him in their contacts and messaged him regularly. Surveillance found very little, mostly thanks to the laws telling him he couldn't get anything inside the apartment he owned in the lower ring of the Presidium. It was just more bureaucratic red tape that cost him two months, leading to fifteen more overdoses, fourteen of them all too young to be considered adults by their own species standards.

Finally, Garrus had had enough and moved in on the small dealers, a move wholly supported by his captain, he might add, and squeezed them for testimony. One, a human, was even willing to go resupply while wearing a wire, but Citadel Law called that entrapment, so eyewitnesses and testimony was all they were able to get.

And now the smug salarian was going free. The green skinned amphibian even had the gall to smirk at him as he was led out of the holding cells, right past the detective, and out into CSEC HQ's lobby. It took quite a bit of the gray plated turian's self control not to snap his Predator pistol up from his hip and put a hole through the little cretin's skull. Instead, Garrus watched him walk right down to a waiting asari officer who quickly undid the cuffs and saunter off towards the elevator leading to the wards.

Just like that, the system had failed again. Bagging the intermediaries hadn't really accomplished anything. The salarian had sold to far more than just those guys, these were just the dealers CSEC had found out about. Undoubtedly dozens more were present throughout the Presidium and the Wards Accesses. The deaths wouldn't even slow down.

Still, Garrus would probably get an accommodation for bagging fourteen drug dealers and a new narcotics task force would be founded, mired in red tape and regulations, and set loose on the endless foot soldiers of their real enemy, whoever was smuggling the red sand into the Citadel in the first place.

The Demon of Torfan was never held back by regulations when he punished those slavers. The Spartan of Elysium didn't need to work through bureaucratic messes to save lives. The Wrathful Spirit was unchained by politics and struck back at the enemies of his people. Garrus was terrified of the skull clad demi-god in power armor when he had first encountered it. Spirits, it had tried to kill him aboard that alien craft, or at least threatened to kill him. If it had wanted him dead, Garrus had no doubt the Spartan would have slaughtered him like livestock. But now? The turian still held a healthy amount of fear for the Demon, it would be foolish not to, but the detective was also inspired.

When slavers had struck Elysium, it hadn't done what any good turian soldier would have done. Turian soldiers would have regrouped at the barracks, assessed the tactical situation, and hold a defensive position once it was determined they didn't have the numbers to fight back conventionally. The Wrathful Spirit didn't regroup, it didn't worry to save itself. The Spartan struck out at the slavers, fighting a guerilla war to buy the people of Elysium time to get to shelter. It had gone out and saved civilians that had been captured and took them to safety, and when the field had been cleared of collateral damage, the Spartan had become the Demon, striking true fear into the hearts of the Terminus scum that had come to prey upon the innocent.

But the Demon didn't stop on Elysium, it had only gotten started there. The slaughter it had brought down upon the evil pirates located on Torfan had elevated the thing's status in Garrus's eyes from super soldier to Spirit made manifest. It offered no mercy, no quarter, and had brought true justice to the galaxy, if only for one bright and shining second.

Garrus had watched the interviews with the three women the Demon had saved. The torture and rape they had suffered at the hands of the slavers had been unconscionable to any sentient being of any decent moral standing. The fact that there were people, members of his own species, that were capable of these atrocities had made Vakarian sick, but the knowledge that they had been caught, that they had been punished. That had brought a bright feeling of hope to the turian's heart.

Garrus didn't know if he'd ever encounter the Spartan ever again, but he vowed to do whatever it took to help it pursue justice. The more time he spent in CSEC, the more he became convinced the Demon was the only one capable of finding it.

Gun markets were always a mess, Wrex knew better than most, but lately they'd been flooded with human weapons to the point where if he wanted parts for his Graal he'd probably have to go back to Tuchanka. Here on the Citadel, parts for the krogan shotgun was already hard to find, but now that everyone had cleared their inventory to take up the huge influx of human weapons, it was impossible. So now here he was, looking through human peashooters, hoping to find something with decent kick to replace his Graal Spike Thrower.

So far he had gone through some of the older models, ones that still used the heat sink system because he wasn't sure he trusted those new thermal clips the humans had come up with. Yeah the gun had more power, but now you could run out of ammo. The spike thrower had unlimited ammo and power. Now it was so heavy there were very few non-krogans that could carry it for long, but that wasn't a problem for Wrex. Unfortunately, these human shotguns had the unlimited ammo, but no power, so he moved on to some of the thermal clip shotguns.

The Katana was a joke, and it made the old reptile feel sorry for Alliance marines if this is what they were supposed to carry into battle. The Scimitar was interesting, it didn't have a very powerful single shot, but it could fire eight times in rapid succession before reloading. It wouldn't do much if your target was wearing heavy body armor, but it would make an interesting sidearm for the ancient warlord. There was the M22 Eviscerator, but apparently the damn thing was illegal, something about cruel and unnecessary, which meant powerful and devastating to Wrex. Those Crusader shotguns looked awesome, but apparently the Alliance hadn't made them available for civilian use. Damn pyjaks.

The lumbering reptile was about to give up and look at rifles when the store owner came out of the back holding a rather large case.

"You know, I actually do have something that might be a decent replacement for your Graal," the turian informed the krogan as he set down the metal case with the word Claymore embossed on the top, "This here is the M300 Claymore, developed by the Alliance to be a pump action room clearer. It uses an entire thermal clip with each trigger pull, but unlike the other thermal clip weapons, you don't have to pull a thermal clip from your ammo pouch every time you want to reload…"

The turian flipped the case open and inside was the blockiest, grayest, ugliest weapon Wrex had ever seen. It was truly beautiful. The avian alien hefted the meaty gun up and pulled out four thermal clips, and with his talons, pointed out a slot on the underside of the shotgun.

"… you just fit the thermal clips into here, the tube can hold up to five thermal clips, and you rack the slide to fit the next one into place."

"Sounds good, what's the matter with it?" at the turian's odd look, Wrex explained his question, "Why is it for sale here, and not being used by the Alliance?"

"It is being used by the Alliance, as a turret mounted weapon. It was initially designed to be used by one marine, but they found that the recoil on this beast was enough to break bones. Even turians can't use this without risking serious damage, but for a krogan…"

That was pretty much all Wrex needed to hear as he snatched the large shotgun from the turian's hands, slammed a couple of thermal clips into its magazine tube, racked the slide, and took aim at the target mech.

BOOM!

"HAHAHA!" Wrex laughed in joy as the mech exploded in a shower of sparks and torn up pieces. Now this was a gun!

"I thought you might like it," the turian nodded as Wrex pumped the shotgun and blew apart another training mech, "I bought one for my store thinking it would be perfect for krogan, but you guys are just so rare on the Citadel these days. I was hoping to make the Claymore a trend amongst krogan mercs but they're all running off and signing up with Saren…"

Wrex's blood red eyes narrowed at the mention of the turian SPECTRE. He had done a job for that guy once, a year or so back. That pale plated bird gave him the creeps, and if you could give a nine hundred year old warlord the creeps, something was seriously wrong with you. Then there was his reason for even being on the Citadel in the first place.

Apparently this Saren had been stealing assets away from the Shadow Broker. Why someone would be dumb enough to think they could safely leave the employ of someone like the Shadow Broker, the old reptile had no idea, but whatever the SPECTRE was offering it must have been quite enticing. Wrex had already gotten contacted about half a dozen former Broker operatives that switched sides. The money wasn't there for the krogan to waste his time except for Fist, some slimy human kingpin who fronted all his illegal operations with the barely legal strip club Chora's Den down in the Wards.

There was a reason this particular contract was worth so much, the Urdnot scion had found out, as he was ambushed by his thugs as soon as he had landed on the Citadel, and apparently Fist had paid well enough for krogan help. It had been a tough fight, resulting in the disabling of his favorite shotgun, hence why he was at a gun store.

But something had nagged at him about that fight. Fist was surely rich enough to afford krogan bodyguards, but these ones had seemed weird to him. One of them was Gatatog, and another was Nakmor, so that explained those two, but the other two didn't have any clan markings. If Fist was working for Saren, and Saren was buying up all the krogan mercs he could, did he also have something to do with these clanless krogan?

"Apparently this was all based on the shotgun carried by that Spartan," the shop keeper continued, unawares of Wrex's internal dialogue, "That thing is supposed to be powerful enough to punch through a tank's kinetic barriers. Don't know if that's true or not-"

"It is," Wrex's thoughts of the strange krogan and Saren temporarily set aside, "He killed three thresher maws with it on Akuze. If that thing can kill a thresher maw, it can kill a tank."

All krogan, or at least all krogan with a working extranet connection, knew of the Spartan. His exploits on Elysium and Torfan were well known to all of the galaxy, but it was the much lesser known incident on Akuze that grabbed the krogans' attention. Three thresher maws attacked a small Alliance squad on foot, killing two and crippling a third, which is much better than they had any right to do. Not even an entire platoon of krogan battlemasters would have stood much of a chance against three thresher maws, but this Alliance super soldier had killed three of the gigantic worms, even going so far as to pull the crippled soldier out of the mouth of one of the maws. It was a feet that had never been seen before, and more than a few warriors had lost their lives foolishly trying to recreate it.

Wrex looked down at the Claymore in his hands. If those krogan had had this baby with them, perhaps they might have been able to pull off killing three thresher maws on foot.

"I'll take it, give me a hundred thermal clips to go with it. Nobody else carries the damn things around here."

"Now I want to stress that this is still in the development stages," the doctor told Jane through the comm link aboard the Normandy, "We've seen excellent results in limited animal testing and on cloned body parts, but we've never tested it on a full human before."

Shepard nodded numbly as she tried to digest what she had just been told. Over the past three years, testing had been done on two different drugs, one that would initiate the growth of new muscle fibers through local injection sites, and another one that would reform the patient's nervous system.

Now Jane was a fit woman, she kept herself to the N7 fitness standards and regularly lifted weights with the marines aboard whatever ship she was stationed on. Recently, having been assigned to the Normandy, she was reunited with her former squad mate Kaidan Alenko and had begun working out with him, starting down the road of heavy weight training that the Drop Troopers underwent to ensure they wouldn't be overwhelmed by their heavy black armor.

But her right leg was a ruin. Scars running up and down the length from where the thresher maw's teeth had rent her flesh and pits and ugly canyons in her skin from where the acid had eaten away at the muscle beneath. The damage had been so extensive she wasn't even able to get a standard prosthetic because the nerve damage had spread into her hips, meaning she would have to cut off both legs and replace her bottom half with a pair of robotic limbs and while Jane didn't hold any bias against people with cybernetics, she wasn't quite ready to replace her vagina with a fleshlight.

Now, however, there was the possibility of getter her own flesh and blood leg back, no surgery required. Injections once a week for three months to regrow the nervous system in her legs, and then one injection and four months of very strictly monitored diet to regrow the muscles that had been lost to the thresher maw's stomach.

No more pain just from standing, or painful limping just to maintain a pace fast enough to be called a leisurely stroll. No more pitying glances from crewmen who thought she wasn't looking. Jane could have her life back, she could finish the N7 program. She might have to redo some of it, probably have to take a demotion to do it, maybe have to start out as a junior lieutenant as an N2 and work her way up to N7…

"Commander?"

Jane snapped out of her thoughts, "Yes Doctor, I understand. If it's all the same, I'd love to get started as soon as possible."

The doctor smiled as kindly as he could through the link and held up one of his hands, "I understand your eagerness, Commander, but we're not there yet. There are some issues we're having with the immune responses to UD61, the neural disunification solution, and the MX77 fibroid muscular protein complex requires a lot of information on the areas we are applying it lest we grow too much muscle or too little or even grow a completely different muscle than what is supposed to be there. It will be months before you will be starting these treatments."

"Then why bring this to me?"

"Because we wanted a patient lined up when we get these problems ironed out. We're just as eager to see these succeed as you. There are quite a few people out there these treatments could help, but you are, genetically, the most likely to respond positively to these treatments."

"Thank you doctor, I…" Jane paused, her mind a whirlwind of excitement and disappointment, "… Thank you…"

"You are more than welcome, Commander Shepard," the doctor replied, still smiling kindly, "We will keep in contact regarding our progress on these treatments."

The transmission ended and Jane stood up from the desk in the XO's quarters that doubled as an office. Her leg throbbed, seeming all the more painful now that there was hope she wouldn't have to deal with it forever. Her heart was hammering, not from the pain in her leg, nor in the effort to limp over to the door so she could continue on with her duties on the still drydocked Normandy. She had come to accept her condition as permanent, and now, it looked like she could be back, better than she was before, within twelve months.

It was legitimately difficult to not cry, though whether it was in joy or frustration, Shepard wasn't quite sure.

Padok Wilks tried not to make eye contact with the captive. The golden eyes were unnerving, and the way the dark scaled saurian blended into the shadows of the cell made the already gigantic alien seem even larger.

The STG had recovered the alien from what appeared to be some sort of escape pod in the Serpent's Nebula after the alien dreadnought had self destructed, and for the past three years they had contained the saurian within a testing facility on Sur'Kesh, and for every day of the past three years, Padok Wilks has been convinced the alien was merely biding its time.

The creature trained within the small confines of its cell, engaging in calisthenics that could only work for its own species, practicing a martial fighting style that featured quick, powerful, and devastating strikes that the STG agent was quite sure would snap a salarian in half. It ate whatever they gave it, showing itself to be omnivorous with quite the appetite. In all three years of its captivity, the alien had lost no muscle mass, and showed no outward signs of distress to its captivity.

What was more, was the way the creature watched him and the other STG scientists and soldiers that came and monitored it. Its calculating golden gaze was razor sharp and never once lost interest. Padok had started entering his security codes only after his body blocked the alien's view of the keys. The others called him paranoid, the alien had no translator implant or omnitool and given the size of the alien's brain in relation to its body mass, it couldn't be intelligent enough to learn a new language without verbal association.

Padok wasn't convinced.

The synaptic scans taken of the creature had shown an unusually high concentration of neurons firing in the alien's prefrontal cortex, suggesting that the brain of this monster was more powerful than its size would suggest. It would make sense if the brain was denser than your average sentient's brain. It's muscles were nearly twice as dense as a krogan's, meaning that with two thirds the volume of a krogan, the alien weighed the same as one. It didn't have the regenerative capabilities of the Tuchanka natives, but its skin was made of thick leathery scales that was resistant to cutting, as evidenced by the difficulty they had taking their sample with scalpels. The alien had woken before the agents were out of the cell, and even groggy it had proven quite dangerous, breaking the leg of the last agent just before he could get through the door.

The creature was clearly highly intelligent. The fact was not disputed, but some of his colleagues busied themselves arguing to what extent the creature was intelligent. Padok did not need to argue, for he knew it was simply intelligent enough. They should remove its equipment from this site, take it to a separate facility designed for testing alien technology. The white armor they had taken from it had proven to have barriers far more durable than any personal kinetic barrier system in the galaxy, capable of stopping anti material rifle rounds with ease. Its weapons worked on scientific principles that were highly complex and difficult to understand, but devastating in their practical usage. If it escaped its cell and was able to get its tetradactyl hands on its oddly shaped weapons and armor, it was highly unlikely the STG would ever get it back into a cell as anything other than a corpse.

Two salarians entered the holding area, one carrying a tray of food and the other armed with a taser gun designed to put a krogan on its tail. Padok watched them enter until he realized the alien was also watching them. Normally that wouldn't be such a strange occurrence, most captives would be interested in their food being brought to them, but the alien almost always watched the lead agent with laser focus until they left, and Padok was the lead agent today.

The STG captain watched the eight foot tall creature intently. Its posture was alert and focused, as it always was, even when sleeping the alien appeared to be on full alert, but there was a twitching of the powerful quadriceps, a subtle tell that would have been hidden by clothing, but was on full display now. The broad shoulders were tense, tenser than normal, and the four mandibles tightened ever so slightly.

All of this could just be symptomatic of a hungry captive eagerly awaiting his meal, but this alien was different, it hadn't shown any behavior like this in all three years of its captivity. Padok was about to say something when the salarian carrying the tray of food stepped up to the sliding drawer and set the food inside and pushed it towards the inside of the cell.

"Wai-"

That was when the gigantic alien leapt forward and smashed a massive tetradactyl hand into the drawer and punched it back into the delivery salarian's stomach and into the frame, hard enough to damage the kinetic barrier generator inside the drawer, allowing the creature to slither its long arm through the drawer and outside its cell, where it grabbed onto the second STG agent's arm that held its weapon ready as the agent attempted to catch the first salarian.

With a mighty heave that would have done the strongest krogan battlemaster proud, the alien ripped the weapon arm off of the agent, green blood splattering across the kinetic barrier serving as the cell door. The nerve impulses sent through the severed arm before it had been ripped off caused the three fingered hand to clench around the Carnifex hand cannon, so when the alien pulled the arm back through the damaged drawer, the weapon came with.

By now everyone in the holding area was scrambling. They couldn't release gas into the containment cell because they no longer had an environmental seal, and they couldn't open fire on the creature because the kinetic barrier acting as the door was still operational. Padok and the other agents were stuck holding their weapons on the creature, waiting for its next move as the first salarian applied medigel to the now one armed agent laying on the floor and moved to drag him out of the potential line of fire.

His movement was stopped, however, when the alien moved the drawer suspended in the door's kinetic barrier. The monster was smart enough to keep his body out of the opening, but did peek through it every so often, almost as though it was trying to line up a shot on something.

Then the alien did something truly disturbing, as it lifted the Carnifex and started tapping at the controls on the side of the pistol.

"Where did it learn to do that?"

"It's been watching us! It watched us perform weapons tests on its armor!"

Padok tried to ignore the arguing agents as he watched the alien cycle through several ammo types. It shook its head at incendiary, inspected the weapon closely but eventually decided against armor piercing, and finally settled on disruptor ammunition. With a final peek through the broken drawer, it leaned back and lined up a shot. The STG captain looked around for what could be its target and found that with the door between the holding cell and the main laboratory open with two agents standing in it with their weapons drawn the computer banks controlling all of the subsystems like lights, doors, lifts, and kinetic barriers.

With a single shot the alien plunged the research station into darkness.

Red emergency lights came on, along with flashing white lights attempting to alert all occupants towards emergency exits, though all it really did was illuminate a hulking dark figure bursting into action.

With a crunch of bone, Padok noted one of the seven STG agents present being thrown clear across the room where his back was broken upon impact with the wall.

A bowel shaking roar filled the air and rattled the captain as he heard another agent get his skull split open by an almighty blow.

Gunfire added to the disorientating atmosphere, the flashing barrels only further illuminating their approaching death as the gigantic creature proved far more nimble than an eight hundred pound saurian had any right to be.

The third agent had his chest caved in by a powerful hoof plowing through his armor and ribs with minimal effort as the fourth's head was turned two hundred and seventy degrees with a simple twist of the alien's wrist.

Padok had given up attempting to fire upon the alien, instead attempting to get a signal from his omnitool to the surface, for he had little faith in the lockdown procedure stopping the creature from reaching Sur'Kesh's open air. Simply shutting down the elevator and sealing the maintenance hatches wasn't going to be enough, they needed to get heavy firepower in position, gunships, heavy mechs, turret mounted mass accelerators.

A scream interrupted the final burst of gunfire as the last two agents aside from the captain himself were slaughtered. One salarian had been clubbed to death with the still struggling body of his ally. Padok tapped at his omnitool with fury and fear as he watched the hulking figure, covered in green blood, illuminated in dull red light highlighted with white flashes turn those piercing golden eyes on him.

With deliberate and heavy steps, the massive monster approached. Lockdown had worked too well, as Wik's omnitool failed to reach the surface, so in a final, desperate attempt, the captain snapped his sidearm up and was rewarded with a shattered hand as the creature swiped it away. He then lifted his omnitool, hoping an incendiary might buy him a moment, but felt every bone in his wrist grind to dust under the powerful grip of the saurian.

A tetradactyl hand reached out, the massive fingers wrapping around his middle, easily encircling his stomach, and squeezed.

The pain was intense, and worse than either of his shattered arms. The salarian screamed in horror as he felt his organs shift as his armor cracked and molded under the enormous squeeze. Just when he thought he would die from the pain alone, there was a chilling crack from his spine as it crumbled underneath the four fingered grasp of the hulking saurian and suddenly, the pain was no more.

Padok tumbled to the ground in a heap, unable to move his legs, or feel anything beneath his ribs, though judging by the lumps he could see pressing against his skin down there, there was more than likely mortal internal injuries. Using his broken arms, the salarian did his best to raise himself to a sitting position, just in time to watch the alien approach the vault containing its weapons and armor.

It lifted the corpse of the lead scientist and grabbed its left arm, activating the omnitool. With careful taps on the holographic interface, the saurian entered the code it had watched the lead scientist enter a dozen times over the past week, but here the alien's plan hit a snag, as the lockdown changed all the passcodes needed to access restricted areas and materials.

At least it would have been a snag if the creature was capable of simply picking up the vault and smashing it against the ground along its seem, bending the lid enough to allow the alien to fit its large fingers into the gap and pull. The steel screamed as it was wrenched from its place, but the saurian was not to be denied as it pried the lid off using only its prodigious strength and unending tenacity.

Padok watched the alien don the black undersuit, the material flowing around him like a liquid. Another piece of technology that had made no sense to the salarians, the material seemed solid enough when it was stable, but would flow around attempts to damage it, repairing itself after every gunshot, cut, and breach. Apparently it would also flow around its wearer to put itself on them.

Then the heavy white plates came next. It had been determined early enough that the metal was some form of nanolaminate, where different metals were layered one molecule at a time, but the scientists were unable to determine what metals were used and what order they were layered in. Regardless of their composition, they had been highly resistant to small arms fire and was even tougher than the Alliance's new Titanium A armor plating.

The alien finished putting the white armor on, setting the large, but plain, white helmet off to one side, and reached in for its weapons. First came the strange blue handheld plasma gun. It did not have a barrel like mass accelerators did, instead holding the plasma between two prongs and projecting the superheated projectiles at speeds so low, unmodified kinetic barriers wouldn't even activate in an attempt to swat the glob of plasma away. That weapon simply attached itself to a thick, white thigh plate.

Next was the ornate handle of the most fascinating weapon Padok had ever seen. It must have contained a highly sentimental and ceremonial value, for why would an advanced species capable of weaponizing plasma in such a fashion choose to use melee weapons? Perhaps it was some sort of warrior's code its species held dear.

Those golden eyes turned back to regard the crippled salarian, and with two long strides it towered over Padok, hilt in one hand, ornate helmet in the other.

"What you name, salarian?"

Wik's eyes bugged out in shock. Not only had this alien managed to learn their written language, but had learned out to speak it, albeit somewhat crudely.

Gasping through the internal pressure of blood pressing on his lungs, Padok managed to answer, "Padok Wiks, Salarian…" cough, "Special Tasks Group."

The creature nodded its unarmored head before placing the giant, white helmet upon it. its entire hulking form glowed in the dark red light as the energy shields they had only just begun to understand charged around it. The two blue lights where the eyes would be on the helmet regarded him once more.

"Ultra Voro'Vadamee, Sangheili Blademaster."

The cyan double pronged blade sprang to life, cutting through the dim red emergency lighting and rammed forward, piercing the STG captain through his chest and boiling his internal organs away. The pain was over before it even had a chance to start, and all Padok could think as his vision faded away was that he should have killed this Voro'Vadamee when he first saw him.

I'm a big fan of elites. I think they're probably the coolest alien species in all of sci fi. They're big and strong and fast, but they're also super smart and stunningly naïve. They let the Prophets control them because they genuinely believed the Prophets had their best interests at heart, but they had become a space faring race on their own, without ever once using any of the Forerunner tech they had found. They built their own tech that was so powerful it was able to rival the Prophets and actually outright beat them until the prophets brought the Keyship to bear on them. They're this super fascinating mix of Samurai, Navy Seal, and velociraptor that I just find utterly amazing. I had to include one.

I'd like to thank a couple of reviewers for giving me some food for thought on ship weapons. RedShirt047 made a good point that 50 megaton Shiva missiles probably wouldn't be used very often if shipboard MACs were capable of half a gigaton of kinetic force, and fresh prince 1 had some numbers regarding the Reapers main guns, though I still have some questions about those, like is it 450 kilotons per second? Because the Reapers main gun is a continuous beam of liquid metal, or is it they can only maintain their beam long enough to bring the total yield up to 450 kilotons. I am the string cutter had good information on the Reapers defensive capabilities, which unfortunately makes them likely a much softer target than your standard CCS battlecruiser, but they're still pretty tough, especially if the MAC yields of UNSC cruisers are ranging in the single digit megatons like I think they might be.

I'd also like to thank the rest of you guys for leaving reviews, they really do make my day, I like it when people give me feedback and food for thought, I also like to know whether you guys are just enjoying the story or not, so please keep that up.

I debated even having Tali or Garrus in this chapter, but I kind of wanted to set the stage for where everyone was considering the next chapter is the start of ME1. Ashley, Liara, Wrex, and Jane all set up future storylines, but Tali and Garrus unfortunately was kind of fluff. I mean it sets up very personal storylines for each character that Emile will go through with them, but the other four all alluded to main questline stuff if you know what I mean.