DISCLAIMER: Bioware owns the concept of Mass Effect and all of its characters. This fanfic is for entertainment and no profit what-so-ever.
AUTHORS NOTES: It seemed that Shepard would have been a bit more banged up than seen at the epilogue of the Paragon: saving the Council ending. I drew out the drama a bit more. Inspired by the Sam-bashing in SG1 episodes this pays homage to that as well.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Rising From the Ashes
By Elizabeth Carter


Chapter 22
The Devil is in the Details

Williams hesitated. Wrex and Garrus had already left the compound as ordered. Tali and Nual were at a work station poring over data logs and downloading OSDs with pertinent information that they would also transmit to the Victory for the science team to pore over.

"Requesting permission to disregard your orders ma'am." Williams stood at rigid attention.

Shepard looked to her XO with a raised eyebrow. "Cut that out before you strain something Ash."

First names - it was subtle hint that Ash could for the moment speak her mind. And that is exactly what she did. "As XO I think it's unwise to leave the captain of the ship without back up. Technically it's against regulations, ma'am. When you're locked in that thing it's like you're not … here. I don't trust the chuckle-heads Shol hired and I don't trust Shol. I'm not leaving your six." Ash crossed her arms giving her best commanding NCO glare she had used on her squad mates back when she led a team on Eden Prime.

The Spectre grinned. "Duly noted, Lieutenant. Take your post."

"Ma'am." The corners of Ash's lips creased into a smile.

Moving with deliberate care, the Spectre set the Device gingerly on the floor, then sat down tailor style beside it. Her breath was slow and measured - deep, the way Liara and Shiala had taught her. She placed herself into a meditative trance. Gathering and focusing her energy, she projected a wave of biotic power out to engulf the delicate relic on the floor. As it has in Shol's study it began to sparkle and shimmer with the same milky jade light.

Swirls of light swarmed, spiraled, enfolded the Spectre in a kaleidoscope of color and sound. The light began to spin and shift just as before and as before the particles scattered and defused, cloaking the Spectre. Once more Shepard found herself in the vast void of white nothingness.

It sparkled. Shimmered jellyfish like, tendrils of white light emanating from a globe of swirling jade. "Seek the lost crypts of the beings of light."

"Who are the beings of light?" Shepard demanded.

"They were created at the dawn of time. They are with the Glow."

"I didn't ask when they were created, I asked who they were, who they are. Answer." the voice belonged to a military commander, a Spectre, one born to a uniform. One who was accustomed to giving orders and having them obeyed without question. Her voice was crisp and clear.

"Their creation is who they are." The entity said.

"If they were created to fight synthetics are they synthetics themselves or genetic constructs?

"Synthetics they are not."

"If they were created then who are they?" Shepard repeated the question.

"Beings from the dawn of time. They are of the Glow."

Shepard wanted scream in frustration. She hated circular logic. She scrubbed her face with gloved hands taking in a deep steadying breath. "Okay, let's try something else. Crypts are filled with the dead. If you want us to seek out their crypts then there is something there to find amongst the dead, or is it that the crypts are something like cryogenic chambers or a hiding place? Or are they a sanctuary of a sort? Like the ancient stories back on Earth, pacifistic refugees hid in the tombs of the dead to avoid their own slaughter.

"If the beings of the light are dead, then what lies amongst their remains that we need to seek? And if they are in stasis that means they might be revived, if their cryogenic chambers are still active, that is. And if they are in hiding what are they waiting for? The end of the cycle? Like the last of the Protheans? They hid, put themselves in stasis only to have Vigil revive them so they could create and activate the conduit. It was their last ditch effort to stop the Reapers… the machine devils."

"The Protheans are not known to us." The entity said.

"Of course you predate them probably by fifty-thousand years or something like that. Am I right? Liara said there were those that came before the Protheans. I'm guessing the beings of light are one of them."

"The beings of light were created at the dawn of time."

"What are we looking for?" Wrex growled. "I'm no tomb raider. What the hell does Shepard want?"

"The crypts. I thought that much was obvious, even for a krogan," Garrus shot back as the two made their way through the outskirts of the encampment towards one of the fifty-seven excavation sites.

"I hate the dead. They aint got nothing I want if I hadn't killed 'em first."

"Spoken like a true krogan thug."

"Listen here you turian turd," Wrex whirled around stabbing Garrus in the chest with one of his fingers emphasizing his point, "the only reason I haven't broken your bird bones is because of Shepard. And you're somewhat useful in a fight. I promised her I wouldn't shoot ya, but I don't need a gun to end your life. Our Spectre aint the only biotic here." Wrex caused his body to glow a cyan blue.

"I could arrest you for threatening a C-Sec officer." Garrus took a step back, but wasn't backing down.

"Go ahead and try."

Garrus folded his arms Shepard style and stared at the battlemaster through his full face visor not making a move or sound. It was Wrex who moved first, snorting he turned away from the turian. A beat later Garrus was in his wake.

Near the enclosure's motor pool Hieronymus's men had gathered waiting apparently for the Spectre's squad to make a show of themselves. It was apparently obvious the sergeant of the Guizhou wasn't expecting a krogan and turian to be working in tandem much less get along as well as they were.

"The Spectre desires to know about the excavations sites." Wrex barked out.

"Mr. Shol said as much, he said we are to extend every courtesy and take you to the first three that are closest to the camp." Hieronymus said. "One is as good as any of the others; they all contain the same thing: a big fat zero and swarms of annoying little bugs. If you want to waste your time in this fracking cold that's your business. Don't expect us to haul your sorry asses out of this toxic land-dump if your suits fail."

"Understood." Garrus answered for both himself and Wrex. "Lead the way we'll follow in our own rover."

"I thought we'd be taking ours." Hieronymus commented, the confusion evident in his voice.

"As you said, we're on our own. Our rover, our terms." Garrus countered

"Suit yourselves. But do try not to get lost; I have no intention of filling out all that paper work if you end up lost or dead."

"So much for extending every courtesy," Wrex rumbled.

"What do you expect from hired reprobates? They don't even have the honored badge of bounty hunter. At least your kind is good for something." Garrus snorted. "Come on, Shepard's counting on us."

The valley of the first excavation site lay sprawled out before them, hidden between the canopies of the sloping tufts of the iceberg. The ruins were boxed in, seemingly dug out of the high ice cliffs on either side. A grand archway at the entrance had been built out of the cliff face, but the chambers that housed the remains of the crypts wound their way deep into the frozen mountains. All constructed out of the ice.

From the HUD inside the mako the two from Victory could make out the intricate designs carved into the archway. Garrus made sure he scanned and downloaded the glyphs, he didn't know what they meant and he doubted anyone did but they were significant enough to carve into solid ice they must be so to remember. Besides Dr. T'soni might be able to make heads or tails of it. The C-Sec officer surmised at the height of the shining ones Empire the pristine craftsmanship would have been awe inspiring, but eons of frozen desert winds had worn away most of the detail as it had the ice spires of this once glorious citadel.

From the HUD display there were signs of life though small. Must be the insect infestation Hieronymus spoke of. Insignificant but curious. It never ceased to surprise either the krogan or the turian how such tiny things could live on such an inhospitable planet as Klencory. They must be suitable to the environment much like the chrome monkeys on Electra. They must have some kind of hive within the tombs, just as the monkeys had had a colony inside the abandoned mineshaft. Hopefully they wouldn't be as much of a hindrance the mission as those blasted metallic monkeys had been.

*As you can see for yourselves, there is nothing here but the ice more ice and ice-fleas.* Hieronymus's voice crackled over the mako's comm-system.

"Nevertheless we want to see the interior," Garrus said "for a proper recon."

*Suit yourselves.* the words seemed to be a popular turn of phrase for the merc sergeant.

Wrex turned to his companion from his place in the driver's seat. "What do you expect to find?"

"Nothing." Garrus answered honestly. "But that isn't our task. Shepard is counting on us. You want to disappoint her?"

The krogan shook his massive head. "Not on the souls of any potential get I sire. Let's do it."

Success in battle really came down to two things: training and leadership. Oh it helped to have access to Spectre issue armor and weapons. But even with the massive army and tech at his disposal Saren still lost. Training and leadership that's what it came down to.

It was that training and under Shepard's tutelage and leadership came the very keen eye. Truth be told, Williams didn't like the vibe she got off of Shol. The guy creeped her out. He continuously wrung his hands, paced and mumbled under his breath. If she hadn't known better she could have sworn he was an VI on a feedback loop, because he kept repeating a phrase over and over again. 'I must seek the crypts. I must seek the crypts….I must seek the crypts…'

Slowly Williams's hand slipped to her hip, unfastened the pistol from its holster: her finger flagging the trigger. If that little creep tried to make a move on the skipper it would be the very last thing he did in this life time. Williams wouldn't hesitate to brutally murder the bastard if she believed in her heart he'd make a hostile move on her Shepard. She wasn't called the Spectre's Trusted for nothing.

She was a soldier, through and through, born to her uniform as surely as Shepard had been. Ash didn't understand half the biotic powers or the pull that tugged at the skipper or Liara for that matter. She didn't have to understand biotics to be wary of effects melding with things like beacons, spheres, and Devices. Ash didn't like to think of the long term affects such things had upon Shepard's mind. Of course if what the skipper and Liara said was true then Sam's brain was more like an asari's than human ever since the gestalt. Perhaps there wasn't a great deal to be overly concerned with. Maybe. But Ash wasn't going to hold her breath.

Even as her mind internalized her thoughts her eyes never left the volas, or his two lingering bodyguards. Yeah sure the turians towered over Williams by two feet but she knew how to play the imposing and looming guard just as well as two hired goons. Better. She had a better motive than credits. Her dark brown eyes fell upon the silent Samantha Shepard. Yes… a far stronger motivator.

The Illusive Man knew it was only a matter of time before the full truth concerning that magnificent flagship of Saren's came before him. Oh yes to be sure Ambassador Udina had said Shepard claimed it to be the true threat, that it was a living thing … sentient. But the Illusive Man didn't get where he was by taking the word of a single man. A man that held a grudge was a man not to trust the word of. Two high level Alliance personnel had confirmed the story of the living-ship, then further confirmed that this race of synthetics were responsible for not only causing the Prothean extinction, but they not the Prothean had constructed the Mass Relays and the Citadel!

And in the middle of it all was the first human Spectre. The fruition of Udina's little war with Shepard would have to wait. She was far more useful alive and actively pursuing her quest to stop the Reapers. For now. Though the scrimmages the ambassador created with his bounty hunters were also beneficial in distracting the Spectre from Cerberus's penultimate agenda in the creation of the superior warrior.

There was more information to be harvested. Turning to the Shadow Broker was fruitful but costly - a tithing the Illusive Man wasn't yet ready to pay. The information he sought revolved around Shepard's seeming biotic evolution and her ties to the asari. All that work with Grayson and the asset had been a great blow to the Illusive Man's carefully constructed machinations. Fortunately however his agent in the Ascension Project had managed to transmit several caches of data before his … early retirement from his services to Cerberus.

Dr. Jiro Toshiwa had been useful to the Illusive Man but he was not of sufficient value to warrant keeping alive for much longer. Fear of retribution wasn't enough insurance to keep the man silent. SOP - silence any possible leaks that could endanger the mission. It was how Cerberus had maintained its existence as long as it had within the Alliance Military and how it existed outside of it.

The Illusive Man recalled files on his computer. While the Ascension Project was important to the overall goals of Cerberus it was by no means the only path towards that goal. Agents in either ExoGeni or Binary Helix respectively had over the months managed to gain access to some of the most intriguing research on indoctrination.

Indoctrination led to new programs, one of which was to program sleeper agents with suggestions and commands initiated via white noise. So far the results had been astoundingly successful. It was time to step the project up to the next level. Cerberus scientists and engineers had per his instructions installed White noise broadcasting systems in the dormitories, recreation centers and studios of one of the outlying villages on Amaterasu dedicated to musicians, artists and philosophers. The secluded woodland village was far from the colony proper, which made it perfect for the needs of the WNIP experiments. Taking the most docile people and turning them into programmable assassins and agents was something very much bankable.

Opening a new file on the Genesis Warriors, the Illusive Man stifled a groan. This project was rife with problems, from innumerable deaths, mutations, insanity to inexcusable failures. Some of those failures lay at the feet of one Samantha Shepard: the Council's newest pet. Yes, Udina's little war with the Spectre would prove quite the beneficial distraction. Despite the problems she had created for Cerberus, the Illusive Man needed her alive. And though he needed her alive for the moment, he didn't need those she trusted the most to be counted amongst the living. What was a soldier without a hand to wield a weapon? While Udina concentrated his wrath towards a single asari maiden the Illusive Man set his sights on a far different target.

Ashley stretched her arms over her head as she rolled it from left to right. She had been 'babysitting' the skipper for the past three hours. The dark haired Spectre hadn't moved a muscle in all that time. If it wasn't for the barely audible sigh of breath, Williams would not have believed Shepard to be alive. Her breath was five times slower than it would have been if she were asleep. If Williams hadn't seen the meditative trance between Liara and the skipper before she would have been concerned.

"She's been like that too long." Shol complained for the twenty-ninth time. The funny thing was Williams agreed with the volus. He might be a bit weird but he was right. Shepard had been in that thing far too long. "You should get her out, Lt. Williams." Shol demanded. "Now."

"I can't do that."

Shol wasn't accustomed to having his demands blithely dismissed. He wouldn't stand for it. "Then I shall."

Williams's pistol was raised, aimed and locked on target. "Not one step further!"

Both bodyguards raised their own rifles, locking on Ash's head. She didn't flinch, didn't lower her weapon. She fired a warning shot past the head of guard on the right and a second shot past the shoulder on the one on the left. "I said no one takes a step. You are going to lower your weapons, put them back in their holsters and go back to your little corners or I put you down right now."

Both males looked to their employer before complying with the Spectre's lieutenant. She was a quick, steady draw and aggressively protective.

"Good boys." Williams smiled mockingly. Brown eyes turned their attention to Shol. "I said no one touches her. It's too dangerous. You've been in that thing Shol; you know what it's like."

Shol cut a glance at the meditating Spectre. The Earth-clan lieutenant was right it was too dangerous to disturb the Spectre, but he was right as well she had been too long in the hold of the Device. It had never held him as long as this. "Too long. Too long," he muttered walking away, wringing his hands. "Too long."

It was another hour before the Spectre moved. The fog swirled around her as Shepard pulled away from the Device. As it had in the past the sensations left her dazed and not a little nauseous. Once more Ash was at her side instantly; in her hand was Shepard's own canteen.

"Drink." Ash said in a mixed tone of concern and command. She knew she was treading a very thin line taking liberties as she was giving her skipper an 'order,' but she gladly take the backlash if only make sure Shepard was on this side of 'I'm fine.'

Shepard greedily drank the high energy-protein drink, nearly choking on its contents as she drained it. Without a second breath of hesitation Ash surrendered one of her own protein bars from her supply kit.

"Thanks, Ash." The corners of her lips curled upwards

"No problem." A wide smile returned the soft one the skipper had offered her.

From the corner of the room Shol started to take a step forward but paused when he saw the hand of the young lieutenant reach for her pistol. Having seen the slight movement Shepard raised an eyebrow.

"You want to explain what that was about, Lieutenant?"

"Just a reminder about personal space, Ma'am."

"Right. Difference of opinion?"

"Something like that, yes." Williams nodded.

"Do I need the full details?" the Spectre whispered for her XO's ears only.

"No ma'am."

Shepard simply nodded.

"You were in the Device too long, Spectre." Shol regained some of his bravery now that Shepard was back to keep the young varren bitch at bay. "You needed to be pulled out."

Ah no wonder Ash was ready for a swift assault. The Spectre smiled inwardly approving of her Trusted's actions. "That would have been foolish at the very least. I didn't take you to be a fool Mr. Shol, was I mistaken?"

"I have never been within the Device for so long." Shol ignored the question placed before him as rhetorical. Though he did take two respectable paces back. To fear a Spectre was expected, but it was her followers that Shol was truly intimidated by. She had inspired such fierce loyalty in them that had nothing to do with bank accounts. The varren bitch had pulled the trigger of her gun without so much of a flicker of emotion or hesitation and she would do so again. Shol knew it in his soul. She was the one to keep his eye on. After all the Spectre was reliable she would do what was necessary to fulfill her mission. Her followers on the other hand were unpredictable, and aggressively protective of their mistress. A very lethal combination.

Shepard turned to Ash. "How long was I out?"

"Approximately four hours, Captain."

"Are you serious? It didn't seem that long." Now the concern that shown in Williams's brown eyes was reflected in Shepard's blue.

"What did you learn?" Shol asked. "What was shown to you that was not to me?"

For the next hour Shepard explained all that she had seen and heard and hypothesized. The Device was directly related to the crypts and the shining ones. The how eluded her. The Spectre didn't see it, none of them did. Not even Tali or Nual when they rejoined them.

"I apologize Captain, there is nothing in the records Mr. Shol gathered that can shed insight on the purpose or function of the Device other than it is an interface." Nual said.

"Mr. Shol what have you discovered about the glyphs covering the surface of the Device?"

It was difficult to tell, but it appeared the volus gave a shrug of his shoulders as he answered the question. "I have papers written by an asari matriarch that date back at least three thousand years ago. In truth the papers and the Device came to me at the same time. In them she speaks of the Device and the crypts. She decreed the Lost Crypts to be sacrosanct, as were those of the zeioph who have elaborate crypts on Armeni. Both races it seems were destroyed by these machine devils ...the Reapers. I thought the two related somehow."

"These papers you discovered were they written by Matriarch Dilinga?" Shepard asked.

"Yes," the volus nodded his squat head vigorously. "I found the matriarch's papers to be less than useless considering she didn't pursue the search. For someone so seemingly wise she seemed to be rather naïve." Shol said. "I left them behind on my ship."

Nual scowled. "Matriarch Dilinga was one the most iconic and respected matriarchs in an age! Her wisdom expands lifetimes, only Matriarch Benezia was her equal."

"Back it up, Lieutenant," Shepard warned the asari huntress, "it's not worth it."

The young asari continued to glare, but obeyed the command.

"You will clarify what you meant by accusing a respected matriarch of being naïve." The Spectre demanded in her most commanding tone.

"She must have received the same message we have been blessed with and yet because of the decree that gravesites are sacrosanct she wouldn't trespass into the caverns to seek out that which was lost. This is why I call her naive. If we were not meant to find the lost crypts why receive a plea from the Device? She heard it whisper to her and yet she turned her back upon that call. Does that sound like something the very wise would do?"

"It sounds like something the very faithful would do. And the asari are far seeing, they lay in wait for things they set in motion years even decades before. They are glorious strategists; they set layers within layers within layers. What you do not understand in Matriarch Dilinga's actions maybe revealed within her writings. In her writing she speaks of the beings of light and their lost crypts. What more did she understand that you dismissed because she would not desecrate a necropolis?"

"Captain, if we download the glyphs and transmit them to Dr. T'soni perhaps she can reference the matriarch's writings," Tali spoke up, "and find a translation. Perhaps find a more solid ground with what we are looking for and how to find it. Surely the matriarch found it, even if she didn't pursue it."

"If anyone can find out how to read this thing, it's Liara." Ash nodded in agreement. She took the Device from the Spectre's hand, examining it.

Shol muffled a mewling sound of protest, all his attention on the hands that were now fingering his Device as if desecrating it. He began wringing his hands as he rocked back and forth on his feet. He took a small step back from the varren bitch, watching her contemptuously. Beneath his pressure suit his lips creased into a grimace. He said nothing as his twitching grew steadily worse.

Ash turned the pyramid in her hands. "You'd have to be an ant to read these things properly. How in the hell did they carve ruins into its surface? You think they used something like a magnetron magnifying glass?"

Shepard started. "What did you say?" she took the pyramid from the younger woman's hand and stared at it. Hard.

"I asked how they carved the ruins into it."

"No before that."

Ash frowned, a little stymied by the question. "Um… you'd have to be an ant to read it properly." Williams's statement sounded more as if it were a question.

"Ants…ants…" Shepard stared at the Device with a far more critical eye than when she had first examined it. "Ants…ants..." her voice was a soft whisper now. The Spectre stared hard at the relic in her hands. For several moments she didn't move a muscle, didn't seem to even draw breath. Deathly silence clocked her. "Oh YES!" the exclamation caused everyone to jump. "You're brilliant Ash. It hadn't occurred to me before … it's relative. All of it."

It took a moment before all recovered from the outburst. "I do not understand." Nual was the first to speak.

"Einstein." Shepard grinned almost manically, predatorily. "I've been such a dull stone. Tali scan it. I want a holographic enlargement. I also want you to send a copy to Liara and to the mako. Mr. Shol, you been looking in the wrong places, and I've been asking the wrong questions."

"Captain … care to share with the rest of the class?" Williams said looking deep into the blue eyes of her commanding officer.

"The theory of relativity; time and space … size. I'm not an astrophysicist but I get the basics. The thing is we've been looking at this Device as if it was a mere interface and a scale model the Protheans based their own pyramids on. Well they might have, that isn't the point." The predatory smile was back. "We've been a bit short sighted."

"I'm still not following you." Tali said.

"We've been using the wrong perspective. If we were as small as ants, like Williams said the pyramid would be in the true perspective. What if the beings that created the pyramid were as small as ants? We've been looking at this as something left behind by sentients of our own relative size, but what if they weren't? What if the beings of light were very very small?"

"Then their lost crypts would be as equally small." Nual said.

"Is that Device… is that the crypt then?" Ash asked.

"No, it's not a crypt but it is the key to the crypts. We need to bring it to them."

"One little hiccup in that plan there Skipper, we still don't know where we need to take the Device."

The large predatory grin on the Spectre's face returned. "Oh that is about to be remedied. Trust me. I've got a plan."

Shol began wringing his hands.

"Of course, Captain." Liara answered the order. "I took the liberty to transcribe and download all of the writings of Matriarch Dilinga we recovered, when we were still on the Normandy. I'll cross reference them now. Do you desire only the papers we found on Shol's derelict ship or do you wish me to scan them all?"

*Those we found on the ship first, but she may have spoken of the beings of light in other writings.* Shepard voice came over Liara's private radio.

"Yes that was my thought as well. Hold on this will only take a moment to find. I stamped each recovered document with the location, time and condition when it was found."

*Gotta love archeologists.*

Liara didn't need to see it to know there was a smile behind the comment. She smiled back. "Indeed, Spectre."

The young Prothean expert typed in the commands into the computer, accessing the archives as she set the search engine to locate matriarchal writings found near Klencory. She got a result instantly. Broadening the search parameters in the documents to find any mention of the beings of light, lost crypts she discovered exactly what her lover and commanding officer needed. Even as she transmitted the needed files to Samantha, Liara read them.

"This is quite interesting," the asari said, "the matriarch said not only do the entries within the Device respond to biotics, she says they come from it - from the ebbing flow of the summoning power. She writes about something on this planet awakened eons ago… from the dawn of time to a massive exposure to element zero at its core. She mentions being told to seek out the lost crypts but refused to trespass against the gravesites. 'Whether the Device is only an interface from eons ago, or a reservoir of lost knowledge I can not in good conscience commit trespass against the sanctified grounds of another for mere scientific conquest to uncover the past."

*That's where Shol must have lost interest. Though it does beg a question. The matriarch's papers were written something like three thousand years ago. How did he manage to read it? Hasn't the language changed? Hell even the English language has changed from three thousand years ago. I still struggle with parts of Chaucer.*

"Look to the basics my love, he probably hired a translator or he studied the asari language. And no it has not changed in three thousand years." Liara grinned. "We are a very long lived species it would be illogical to change the language within the span of only three matriarchs' lifetimes."

*Oh … yeah. Right.* there was a blush under the chagrined voice on the other end of the radio.

Liara chuckled softly, loving her wife for her all her little egocentricities. Her blue eyes were drawn to the computer screen; she paused for a moment as a look of contemplation crossed her youthful face. She had felt something before when she knew her wife to be meditating. Its ghostly presence was still there, lingering like the scent in the air after the rain had passed.

"Tell me Samantha, what changes have you noticed in your biotics."

*Nothing much, I'm a little more energized. But then I always am after the meditations Why?*

"If hundred thousand years ago the core experienced an implosion of massive amounts element zero there must be areas of super-concentration not unlike volcanic fizzers. The beings of light would be drawn to them, just as you are, just as any biotic would be."

*I thought of something like that. I wanted to bring the Device to one of the excavation sites and activate it.*

"Yes. When you do so, look for very high concentrations of raw element zero. It should lead you to the crypts, if not open them. I believe you are correct in assuming the Device is the key to the crypts, perhaps more literally than figuratively."

*That's what I've betting on. Just like the sconces back on Ilos.*

"At least we now know what we're looking for." Garrus said after receiving the transmission from Tali concerning the dig sites.

"Probing for EZ hot spots isn't exactly what I had in mind." Wrex grumbled. "I like shooting things, digging crap up is T'soni's job."

"Yes, but Shepard isn't about to sacrifice her unborn child is she?"

"You know?" Wrex was a little surprised. Oh a krogan male can scent when a female was in brooding, but the battlemaster was a little surprised to know a turian could do the same.

"Shepard hovers over her mate as only an expecting sire would. Liara's scent has changed slightly as well as has Shepard's. If I didn't know better I'd think she was carrying too. Only I know she isn't."

"I noticed that too." Wrex commented. "Shepard isn't exactly brooding, but it's like she is. It's that bond between them. But she isn't the only one."

"Lieutenant Williams." Garrus said, nodding "There is something there."

"Heat," Wrex said knowingly. "Shepard and T'soni responded to it. I don't understand why they don't do something about it."

"Two humans and asari…what do you expect? It's not like they have a turian or krogan nose. The only asari I know who can sense such things are the matrons and matriarchs, those maidens can't smell a damn thing." The C-sec officer said.

"Way I hear it it's only the matrons that go into brooding mode wanting to throw a clutch. Human noses are blunt and limited, so are the asari. Or maybe it's only because they are all female. Well sorta. T'soni says she isn't exactly female; it had no real meaning for her kind. Still only females go into brooding. Maybe only males can pick up on the scent."

"I don't know about that Wrex, Shepard and Liara do very well in that department."

"You've forgotten all that melding shit? They're so tied together that transcends brooding scent. But nether one of 'em melded with Williams, if they did it'd solve a few things."

"Most likely, but talk like this is a good way to get on the bad side of Spectre, a brooding asari, and trigger happy mateless human female deep in season. Like I said, Shepard isn't carrying but she is brooding and a brooding female is an exceptionally dangerous beast." Garrus said sagely.

"Especially one with biotics." Wrex said. "Counting Matron Shiala that's three of 'em, and Williams will go along for the ride. Where her 'Skipper' goes she goes."

"Come on, we better get back to work, as you said disappointing the Spectre isn't something either one of us wants to do."

It wasn't the personal fear of repercussions from their Spectre that two warriors feared, but rather her conviction in their quest and in her troops, in them. If they failed her, they failed the quest; they failed all sentient organic life. Her way was the only way. Whatever she told them to do, asked of them, they would do without hesitation, remorse, second thoughts. If they had to die like Alenko so the mission would succeed both males knew in their hearts, in their gut they would do so willingly - gladly. They believed in Samantha Shepard.

Part 23

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