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 23
The Lost Crypts of the Beings of Light

"I can not allow you to take the Device. You have no right!" Shol growled as much as a volus was capable of growling. Which was to say not much - it was more of a petulant squeal.

"You forget my station, sir. I am a Spectre your permission is not required. I am confiscating the Device to fulfill the mission. Once I have what I need, the Device will be returned to you." Shepard said, sternness coloring her voice.

Shol started pacing, "You mean once you've opened the crypts?"

"That is not what I said, sir. Once the use of the Device is finished you may have it returned. Until such a time it will remain in my custody and that could be for quite some time. You may accompany us to the dig site, but where we take the Device after that you can not."

"But it belongs to me!" Shol all but stamped his feet in a tantrum

"No, it belongs to the beings of light you were merely its custodian and now I am." Shepard shot back.

"That isn't fair, Spectre!"

"Nor is war." The Spectre turned away from the volus to her second in command. "Lieutenant, summon the others. Now that we have a heading we ride out."

"Yes ma'am." Williams snapped a crisp salute before carrying out her orders. "Tali, Nual, gather your things. Wrex, Garrus insure the mako is ready for heavy combat; I want full power to kinetic barriers and firepower. We go in expecting thresher maws, hopeful we get only chrome monkeys. Move out!" pressing the seals around the neck of her hardsuit, the younger marine summoned the accordion style helmet to fold forward, covering her face completely.

Despite the orders she had just given half her crew or the fact it had so recently been used in a recon mission or perhaps because of it, Williams wanted to inspect the serviceability of the mako, herself. She also wanted to inspect the viability of Shol's ROSEs, (or Remote Operated Systems Equipment).

ROSEs were used for construction, mining, excavation and exploration purposes on inhospitable planets. They were remotely controlled by a VR neural-suit interface. The bipedal mechanized bots did all the work while the 'pilots' sat safely inside a contained environment such as a mako, low orbital ship or a self contained encampment. It was how Shol had been able to survive for two decades on Klencory. Williams had a deep seated feeling they would be needed before this mission played out.

Shol not satisfied with the Spectre's answer placed himself in front of her even as she made for the entrance of the fortification. "I must protest, Spectre! I was sent the divine message from the high ones to seek out the crypts! Me not you ! ME!"

"And before you, there was Matriarch Dilinga. She followed the convictions of her beliefs, just as you have and just as I am. The Reapers will be stopped. You are not biotic, you can not open the crypts nor can you find them without a biotic's control over dark energy. Had you studied Matriarch Dilinga's writings for the treasure they are, you might have actually understood what she wrote. You would have further saved yourself years of fruitless searching, with only ROSEs. To the matriarch the crypts were sacrosanct. To me the galaxy is. I will do what whatever is required of me to fulfill that obligation. If that means trespassing on graves or pissing off a few people, it's a very small price to pay. Now step aside, let me do my job or I will have you arrested for impeding a Spectre in the line of duty. I have no sympathy for you sir or your feculent mercenary maggots and no more patience to pretend otherwise."

"Feculent mercenary maggots? You actually said that to him?" Ash asked a little astonished at her skipper, after the older woman climbed into the cockpit of the mako.

"Yes," the answer was given with a shrug. "I did. Pulling a Gunny Ellison sometimes works pretty damn well."

Both women shared a knowing smile.

"Too bad there wasn't any muck to send him face first into." Ash snickered under her breath.

"Whatever happened to going through all the 'red tape'?" the question came from Garrus. It was a question Nual wanted to ask as well.

"It was going to take too long. I decided to make someone's day a whole lot worse."

Wrex's crocodilian lips curled in to a very toothy smile. "Now that's what I'm talking about!"

"Don't get too comfortable there Wrex, I try not to make it a habit. As I told Shol, I will do whatever is necessary to stop the Reapers." To herself she added 'Even if that means trespassing against my own virtues to do it. Not a choice I wanted but one I'm willing to do. Spirits of my ancestors forgive me.' Considering some of the choices she may have to make in the future Shepard wondered if the Spirits of her mother's people would forgive her or would they condemn her to everlasting torment. Druid, Salish or Athame: Mother Earth, the Ancestor Spirits, and the Goddess were the same, and they would hold her to the same standards. They would hold her accountable.

'I will do whatever is necessary; whatever is required of me to save the galaxy from the Reapers. My eternal soul for the continued existence of all sentient organic life - a fair trade.' Shepard's thoughts ran to her wife, her unborn child and her dearest friend. 'Yes a fair trade indeed. Like you Kaiden I will hold no regrets.' Aloud yet almost inaudibly she added: "Sometimes doing whatever is necessary means you have to become the shark."

High concentrations of element zero weren't that difficult to locate with the sensors onboard the mako, but even without them there were three on board the rover who could feel the ebb and flow of the element. Their abilities were almost more accurate than the computer.

Williams, Tali and Garrus gave each other nervous looks when they saw a very slight glimmer of cyan glow surrounding their companions. Like cloud-shadows passing over the landscape the aura of energy blinked into and out of existence.

"Williams take the wheel." Shepard's voice was slightly strained. The glow of biotic power flickered once more around the Spectre's hands. If an unintentional arc of power went from her into the mako's controls it could be disastrous.

"Aye, aye." The other answered, swiftly obeying her CO. A quick command into the holographic command console and the power transferred from Shepard's station to William's. The younger woman's hands quickly gripped the wheel.

"Captain, I'm reading an increased activity of those ice gnats." Tali said. The operations station continuously fed the quarian information concerning the conditions of the hostile environment outside the rover. "They seem to be massing near a small spike of Eee-Zo.

"A Fissure just like Liara said. Excellent. Head directly for the center mass of the swarm," Shepard ordered. "That is where we need to be."

"I don't understand." Nual said. "What have the insects to do with the beings of light?"

"It wasn't until Liara transmitted the Matriarch's Dilinga's translations of the glyphs engraved on the Device that I truly understood what they were telling me, during the meditations. They said: 'We come from the Glow. We are what is in the light. What is always in the light.' The glow … is evidently clear." The Spectre's body shimmered in the cyan glimmer of unreleased biotic power as did Nual's and Wrex's. As they drew closer and closer to the high concentrations of Eee-Zo, the particles within the biotics were steadily becoming hyperactive.

"They are particles that live in the beam's light. Beings of light." Shepard continued to explain exactly what the entity had said. After establishing the Glow was in fact biotic ability it became clearer and clearer just what the beings of light were, at least to the Spectre's eyes.

"Beams of light?" Ash glanced out of the mako's window apprehensively at the shafts of light reflecting off of the ice causing the frozen surface to shimmer and sparkle, in a very familiar shade of blue. "Are you telling me all those shafts of light are …what those ice-bugs …they are the beings of light!? They are in all those light beams?

"Not every beam of light but any beam of light. What we're seeing isn't actually a beam of light; so much as it is a swarm. Ice reflects and refracts light just like crystal. In that refraction you can see small clusters of them… like the dust in sunbeams." Shepard said.

"Oh come on, Skipper! That isn't possible, how can they fight the Reapers? The damn machines live in dark space. When they find a way to breach the barrier and come here how in the hell can dusty ice bugs in light-beams destroy them?" Ash was incensed at the sheer ludicrous notion of dust being a weapon of mass destruction.

"Microspores hatching in the light." the Spectre was speaking more to herself than to her companion. "Millions of millions of lifeforms. They conform together in swarms – swarms of light. Think about your basic entomology chapter back in biology classes in school. Swarms are very good at destroying things. Concentrated light can destroy that which is in the dark; these beings were created specifically to destroy the Reapers. Creatures from dark space." The Spectre grinned. "A little ironic if you think about how they are created from dark energy."

"I still don't see how swarms of microspores or specks of light, whatever you want to call those ice-fleas can destroy the Reapers." Williams frowned.

Beneath the tinted visor, Tali looked increasingly uncomfortable. Microspores could devastate the entire Flotilla. She knew exactly how deadly such a thing could be. To use a bio-weapon was to the young quarian abominable.

"Think about it Ash, cancer, hell even the common flu bug can still destroy the immune system, even with all of our medical tech and knowledge we can't completely wipe it out. The genophage is a viral infection and it's destroying the krogan. Perhaps there is something to that veil that separates dark space from our own, something that creates a vulnerability in the Reapers that only specks of light can exploit. The geth, the Reapers - all such synthetics will be vulnerable to them."

"Captain, the beings of light…can they …will they harm others? If such a weapon were to get into the wrong hands, the magnitude of what you speak of could mean genocide for the innocent. I shudder to think if Cerberus were ever to get their hands on them." the underlying terror in Tali's voice was unmistakable.

A comforting hand gently almost motherly touched the young woman's shoulder. "I understand your fear Tali. I even share it. But you forget the beings of light are no mere weapon, they are sentient. We need only to convey to them that their time to destroy the machine devils has come and point them in the right direction." Shepard said. "It was what they were meant to do."

Tali only hoped the Spectre was right. She couldn't help but think of the geth and what they were meant to do and how that ended up. The young woman prayed history was not repeating itself. This time if things went wrong, it was ultimately far worse than the geth crisis. Tali trusted in Shepard. So far despite how controversial some of her decisions were they have proven to be the correct ones. Hope lingered in the girl's eyes that this was one of those times.

"That may very well be the case Captain, but we still need to talk to them, not their voicemail." Garrus said, hinting at the Device.

Ashley glanced out the window a second time. "I was never particularly fond of bugs. Having a tête-à-tête with those born out of dark energy microspore-dust seems even less enticing."

Wrex clapped a massive three fingered hand on the young human's shoulder. "It's a good thing then that Shepard will be doing all the talking."

"Truthfully Skipper, how loquacious do you think ice bugs are?" Ash asked.

Shepard tilted her head and grinned. "Only one way to find out, Lieutenant. It isn't as ridiculous as it sounds if you think about it. After all I've conversed with a giant rachni queen, and then of course there are the salarians."

The Spectre had a point. Having congress with insects wasn't as ludicrous as it sounded.

"Did the entities in the Device mention any sort of a relationship between the ice, crystal formations and element zero?" Garrus asked, "If there is we'll have to make some sort of accommodations. That will be very difficult to achieve given the resources of the Victory."

Shepard shook her head, "They didn't say anything about why they chose to construct their crypts out of ice and crystal other than what is self-explanatory. It was the only available building material."

"Like the ancient indigenous Intuits tribes back in Alaska who made igloos out of ice." Williams said "Makes sense. Hell on this planet you don't have worry about it melting away either."

"Indeed." Tali nodded. "Captain, even if they are agreeable to travel in the cold storage units on board the Victory they still don't share Klencory's chlorine and argon environment. We in engineering may be able to synthesize something close given enough time."

"I may have a suggestion, Captain. You said it yourself there is more to the Device than an interface and dare I be so bold as to say more than a crypt key. The ice-like crystalline nature of the crypts is perhaps indicative of other beings of light technology, or perhaps of the third law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of a system approaches a minimum value or zero in the case of a perfect crystalline substance." Nual said.

Becoming more animated the asari continued her explanations in such away it reminded the others very much of Liara. "I highly suspect the Device is suitable for whoever uses it. In the privacy of his own quarters surely Mr. Shol was not wearing his pressure suit. It is logical to assume then that the Device met his needs just as it met yours. Granted your minds were within the Device and not your physical bodies. But microspores are exceptionally small. It is perhaps safe to assume it will meet the needs of the beings of light. Perhaps more so as it was meant for them, just as the Prothean beacons were meant for Protheans."

"That's a good theory Nual, but moot if we first can't establish a line of communication." Shepard said.

"Great more yammering, just how I wanted to spend my afternoon. Did I tell you krogans hate the cold, Shepard?" Wrex protested. "Give me something to shoot at to warm my blood."

"Sorry this time it isn't your guns I need, Wrex. It's your biotics." The Spectre turned to the young asari huntress on her squad. "Yours too, Nual. If we mean to pull this off it will take more than what've got."

"With all the Eee-Zo around here you need my biotic powers?" the battlemaster was a little mystified.

"I need your control over it. That's raw Eee-Zo, out there and it's unstable. Look at us, Wrex. We're fluxing, and we've on the cusp of the hot zone. I don't know what will happen if we tap into that much power directly. And frankly I don't think we should find out."

"But with all that Eee-Zo spilling out of the fissure how can you be positive they will come to you?"

"Raw element zero has sustained them, it's like empty calories. It may fill you up but it will only sustain you for so long. Now directed biotics flow, controlled dark energy and that's a steak dinner with all the trimmings. Trust me, they will go for the feast and leave the candy behind.

Williams navigated the mako as close as she could to the Eee-Zo hot zone without compromising the safety of the hull or the occupants. Fortunately for them one of the hot zones was very near the seventeenth excavation site which happened to have a small self-contained habitat.

"Suit up and file out, everyone stay sharp. I want a perimeter sweep then secure that base." Shepard gave the order.

Williams stopped the rover, opened the hatch and had her skipper's six faster than either Wrex or Garrus could scramble to obey orders. Her Mark HMWAR assault rifle raised and ready, as her training dictated she swept her view back and forth just as the Spectre was doing on her left. The difference was Shepard like Nual and Wrex were unintentionally emanating the glow of biotic energy. This close to an Eee-Zo fissure was having effects on the three biotics Williams wasn't at all pleased with. A sentiment shared by both Tali and Garrus.

Shepard turned to her XO and touched her shoulder. "If things go south, I'm giving you a direct order to make a hard pull out if you have to. Do not hesitate." Her face oddly illuminated by the cyan aura. "You get me soldier?"

Williams swallowed hard; she didn't like it, not one bit but she was a marine, she would obey her CO. "Yes ma'am, hard pull out. Orders received and understood, Captain." Williams answered crisply. She knew what that meant. Even if Shepard or the others became compromised by their own biotics they were to be pacified by stunners, brought back to the Victory's infirmary and revived. Ash prayed it wouldn't come to that, but she'd not hesitate to do what was required of her.

The other four members of the ground team had spread out as per orders. Garrus tailed Wrex, Tali had Nual's six: one biotic, one norm. Tali and Garrus were watching their partners as much as they were watching the surrounding area. So far the only cause of concern was the almost constant glow the biotics were giving off.

"You must feel differently." Tali said to Nual as they made for the compound.

"Energized, yes. But more than that. It is difficult to explain."

"Can you not control the barriers you keep throwing up?"

The asari shook her head, "Instinctual response. It is the same with the Spectre and the krogan."

Tali looked towards the west and spotted the very familiar hue of cyan: Wrex. To the north another glow: Shepard.

Aboard the Victory in the privacy of her own quarters Liara flared a bright cyan blue. Shiala rushed her student taking the young maiden in her arms. Fear and anxiety filled the matron, never before had she encountered such involuntary use of biotic power within an asari. They were born to it; it was something that never happened.

"Little Wing?"

"It is Samantha, she found a fissure of element zero. She is shielding herself and yet at the same time tapping into its power. I don't think she realizes she is actually doing so."

"They probably all are."

"No with her … it is different. She is channeling it."

"Like she did during the echo game."

Liara nodded.

"She did not gain this ability through the gestalt or the knowledge your mother passed on to you, did she? This is all together different."

Again Liara nodded. She took deep settling breaths calming the storm rising in her. "We both know where it comes from."

Maiden and matron stared at one another.

"The cipher." Shiala whispered.

"The cipher." Liara repeated.

"It has changed our abilities as well. I have felt it for some time, but was hesitant to tap into its power for not understanding it fully."

For a third time Liara nodded her head, "The Protheans abilities are not unlike our own. Both our species are natural born biotics. To use this knowledge without full understanding is unwise."

"And yet Shepard uses it." Shiala said reproachful, though not unkindly.

"It is as my mother said: the young do not always follow the paths of wisdom or do as they are told. She is only thirty, Shiala. I love her dearly but she is human, and humans tend to boldly step into realms where others tread with more caution."

"And what of Sparrow?"

Liara instinctively placed her hand over her womb. "Protected. Not only by me but by the shielding Samantha has utilized since she moved into the element zero hot zone. Because of our bond, we are able to shield each other by the sheer expression of willpower and desire to protect. Samantha will forever be my protector; I have come to accept this inevitability. She can not, not be otherwise. It is also so with our child and that I fully accept with an open heart and arms. Sparrow is well shielded."

Shiala frowned, not fully accepting of the young asari's convictions. "All the same I will take you to the infirmary for a full check-up. Biotics fluxing is not something you ideally accept Liara. You know this. For the sake of your daughter, you will comply."

"Perhaps a little prudence is not unwarranted." The archeologist answered sagely, that and she knew a futile argument when she saw it. Quoting the famous Shepard: 'I'm fine,' simply would not cut it with Matron Shiala, nor would it with either Chakwas or Aleena (aka Dr. Mal'dicta S'thasa)

*Clear."* Wrex belted out of over his hard suit's radio *Entering the bunker.*

"Clear!" Nual announced, after she and Tali swept their designated area.

*Understood.* Shepard responded. *We're clear as well. Wrex, Garrus secure that bunker. Tali status on the swarm?*

"Stationary, they are hovering near the fissure, no movement beyond that. I'll broaden the scanning to include other areas of concentrated light sources."

*Step-two Tali, our suits only have a fifty-seven minute window before compromised. You have ten minuets tops then I want you inside the compound. We can set up a steady picket with the ROSEs.*

"Understood, Captain." the young quarian answered. There was a blip on her OMNI tool, it wasn't the swarm. "Captain, Mr. Shol's convoy caught up to us, they're headed towards your location." Having spent time with the Spectre and the crew of the Normandy the young girl had picked up on military-speak. It was easier to converse with military types when you spoke their language.

*Copy that, we read them. We're keeping things real friendly. Wrex?*

*Krogan, don't mean blood thirsty sociopath. I'm just bored.*

Over the comm-channels the laughter of a Spectre could be heard. *Security is a high priority, but do nothing hasty. Shol is still an ally, a little whacked but an ally.*

*Captain, when we returned to Shol's primary base-camp I saw his sergeant—at-arms. Do not trust him, he is unmarked, his face naked.*

Shepard knew enough about turian culture to know that a turian male or female that did not bear facial tattooing was a pariah and never to be trusted as they forsaken their duty to Hierarchy. * You didn't see the need to tell me this before?*

*You ordered us to fall out, there wasn't time and by the time we were rolling it hardly seemed important as we were leaving them behind.*

*That isn't your call, Agent Vakarian! You report anything that is or might be a risk factor.*

Garrus winced slightly. The Spectre knew he had seriously pissed off the woman when she used his family name. She had only ever addressed by Vakarian when he shot Fist's hired thug, the one who had been holding Dr. Michelle hostage. He had acted without thinking. Once more he had done the same - action without thought. It was a pet peeve of the Spectre. She believed in acting like a sentient of thought and thinking like a sentient of action. To do otherwise was a sin in her books.

"Yes, Ma'am." Garrus's flanging voice answered over the radio.

"You fracked this time turian." Wrex guffawed.

Beneath his full faced helm the C-Sec officer wanted to snarl at the battlemaster's jibes but found no voice for it because damn his blackening shell Wrex was right.

Tali and Nual having finished their rounds entered the base already secured by the males of the ground team. Both young women had diplomatically ignored their fellow crewmate's chastisement. They made the time frame of ten minutes within nine. Behind them was the Spectre and Lieutenant Williams making the deadline mark fifteen seconds later. The base was not only secured it was environmentally stable for the majority of Council races, indicative that it was set for the comfort of the research workers, and mercenaries Shol had hired rather than himself.

Not wasting precious moments recapping the agenda of the mission. Garrus, Tali and Williams donned the VR interface suits that would allow them to power up the ROSEs. Three bipedal mechanical drones whirled to life: freed from their dormant sleep and climbed off of the trailer the MAKO had been pulling.

"Locked and Loaded, Captain. Waiting orders" Williams's said, her voice carrying a tinny flanging that emanated from her ROSE.

"ROSE operatives stand ready: biotics team we move out on my mark, we will establish contact, if we have not made contact in thirty-seven minutes despite our condition ROSEs you will bug out even if that means a hard pull."

Wrex snorted his disproval of Shepard's latest orders.

"You've got a problem with this Wrex?" Shepard turned on the seasoned battle master.

"Hard Pull. You're talking about stunners."


"Nobody stuns me, Shepard."

"Then stand down and gear up a ROSE if you can't handle the job."

Wrex stepped forward nearly pressing his reptilian head into Shepard's personal space. As she had on Virmire, Shepard did not back down. In fact she took a bold step forward, making sure she was challenging the battlemaster.

"I signed on to do the mission, Shepard. But no turian stuns me. Put the quarian on me."

"The name is Tali!" the petulant protest sounded comical coming from the mechanoid.

"Tali, I know he can be a pain in the ass but he's good. Cover him. I need everyone five by five on this."

"I won't let you down, Shepard." Tali said the tiny chuckle coming from the mechanoid sounding chillingly eerie. "Besides the potential of stunning the krogan, is a bonus."

Too late the thought crossed Wrex's mind, perhaps he was better off having a turian cover his six than a pissed off teenager.

Knowing Nual and Wrex were flanking her, Shepard activated not only her hardsuit's kinetic barriers but her biotic ones as well. Behind the three biotics, three ROSEs took secondary flanking positions.

The slight impact tremor of the two ton hydraulic feet reminded the Spectre why she never liked walking in front of those things. She always felt like one of the Lilliputians scrambling to stay far from Gulliver's massive feet as he strode through their munchkin-tudor cities. For some reason she was very glad Wrex wasn't in one of the ROSEs. He could be deceptively graceful but mix a bored krogan battlemaster and heavy machinery and you were just begging for an 'accident' to happen. Given Wrex's mind set it would probably happen to either Garrus or Shol and his men.

The dig site led directly into a massive atrium, stretching out a hundred yards in diameter with an arched transparent crystal ceiling that revealed a rolling milky jade sky, lit in the east by a sliver of amber wash. They were standing on a mezzanine that circled the room in all directions. Nual risked a small peek over the ledge. They were up about eight stories from the floor of the chamber, far below them spires of ice reached upwards stretching for the heavens. The ice held a brilliant cyan glow. It was a swarm.

Shepard moved for the center of the chamber. Under her boots, the ubiquitous mosaic on the mezzanine floor stuttered around crystal formations and disappeared like interrupted sentences able to tell a story there in the pictures, and another sadder one in the way it had been broken and remade by Shol's clumsy and abandoned attempts at restoration. Liara would know how to read both. To the Spectre it seemed both past and present had been layered together like graffiti on a Rembrandt.

Shepard wasted no time in acting. The Device already in hand she started not to meditate but to send a wave of biotic power into it, taking that as their cue the other two biotics followed suit. As before the milky jade glow matching that of the sky above shimmered around the pyramid shape. Six breaths - the cyan glow from the ice spires below them darkened. Thirteen breaths - the glow circled around Victory's flagship ground team like so much water vapor.

The brilliance of the swarm was barely dimmed by the tinted visors of the hardsuits. The light expanded swallowing up the ice gnats and the shards. It was like watching an old style stop motion animation or backwards origami, the ice-crystals shuddered unfolding and grinding…growing… becoming. The shards formed a humanoid shape: not just any humanoid shape, but that of Shepard in her hardsuit. A mimic.

"Beings of light, I presume." Shepard greeted the life-form before her. "I am Captain Samantha Shepard of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agency. I have come here to seek you and your people out. I heard the message within the Device. Seek out the lost crypts of the beings of light. You are what is in the glow, what is always in the glow." Shepard drew on the essence of dark energy borrowing from Wrex and Nual and filling her own body with it. "I am that which glows."

The shard-swarm tilted its crystalline head. "So you are, Captain Samantha Shepard of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agency. We are of the light. You hear our words, understand our nature, we will speak."

"I can not, not in this environment. It is poisonous to my kind."

An ice arm raised, frozen fingers pointed towards the small lab. "There?"

"There will do."

The being of light passed the six and entered the complex.

Shepard found herself snorting in amusement. "How's that for first contact?"

"I would say it is a good start, Captain." Williams's mechanical voice answered. "Ma'am, what of Shol? I know you want to keep the lines of cooperation open with the man, but he could seriously frack things up. His ego won't stand for you taking the grandstand with the beings of light."

"I know. That's unfortunate but the way it has to play out. Wrex, once we're inside get into a ROSE. You and Garrus will stall Shol. Don't let him enter the complex. Do not initiate in direct hostilities, but pacify him if he attempts to interfere. This is too important for us to lose this chance. Once inside Nual and Tali take point at the entrance, do not allow any unauthorized personnel in. Williams, take the guard." Orders given Shepard headed out of the excavation site and into the small lab.

Once everyone was within, they all scrambled to obey their orders. Wrex suited up, while Tali and Williams disengaged their VR interface and took their corresponding positions, either near the secondary entrance of the lab or at Shepard's right hand.

The being of light waited patiently still resembling the Spectre as if she had become an ice-sculpture. Through the transparent material coursing like blood was the ebbing flow of dark energy, giving the being a very surreal bluish glow.

"Do you have a name or a title I might know you by?" the Spectre asked not wanting to appear rude in not addressing the ambassador of the beings of light appropriately.

"We are."

"Right." Shepard's hand went to the back of her neck easing the increasingly building tension mounting there. "So no name then."

"You seek to call us by a name? To name something is to own it." It was odd hearing the Spectre's voice coming from the crystalline-ice swarm. It had the hollow-echoing sound as if speaking though a long metal tube.

Shepard shook her head frantically. "No! No, I don't seek to own the beings of light, or anyone, but it is difficult not to speak a name or a title to a fellow sentient."

"We have only what we are. We are the beings of light, we are what is in the glow. If you wish to call us a name, give us a name."

"Weareth'Bol." Williams offered. "You know like Spectre. It's an acronym. Weareth'Bol - short for we are the beings of light."

"It is strange to taste the word on our tongues but it is acceptable." The swarm said.

Shepard turned to her XO, whispering out of the side of her mouth. "Remind me to put you in for a pay-rise, Lieutenant."

Ashley beamed at the praise. "Yes, Ma'am."

"Tell us Captain Samantha Shepard of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agency. You sought us out, why?"

"I should clear something up first. It isn't necessary to call be by both full rank and title and name. Captain or Agent Shepard, is fine. As to why I sought you out, it is said you were created at the dawn of time to hunt and destroy the synthetic Machine Devils. They are wakening and will breach the barriers between our space and theirs. When they do we will need you to fulfill your destiny."

Knowing that proof of words was a better argument than taking one at their face value was worth more credits, Shepard played for Weareth'Bol footage of Sovereign's attack on Eden Prime as well as that of the Citadel. She also played the recordings she had taken of Sovereign's own words back on Virmire of what and who its people were.

The silence and stillness that followed was as an atomic blast.

"This is grave indeed." Weareth'Bol said at long last. "If our time has come all hives must know of this. We must meet with the other queens. The dim one can not speak as you have to us, but another has, she glowed as you do, warrior. The crone spoke not of this; her movements did not dance of this. Why?"

"Crone?" Nual whispered.

"I think she means Matriarch Dilinga." It was Ash who answered.

Shepard nodded agreeing with the assumption. "The crone you spoke of did not 'dance' of this information because three thousand years ago the Machine Devils had yet to wake. The vanguard Sovereign was destroyed but there are many others. I vowed to find a way to stop them. You were made to do so. Let us join forces so we both answer our obligations. If the other queens need convincing, then I will show them what I have shown you."

"We are many. It will take many rotations of this world for you show all. That which you hold in your hand holds knowledge. Give this knowledge to the avatar it will dance for the queens and all hives will know, before the completion of one rotation."

It sounded feasible. The Device, Shepard reasoned must be similarly linked to other Devices like the extranet or directly into each hive queen's neuro-pathways. If the beings of light shared a hive mind as did many insect species it was therefore logical to assume that this knowledge would quickly spread throughout each hive. Weareth'Bol mention of dances reminded the Spectre of honey-bees dancing to tell their hive of particular fields of flowers or dangers. The rachni communicated in song, color and obviously pheromones. No doubt the beings of light communicated through pheromones and dance. She hoped this wouldn't be a language barrier, though like the rachni queen basic speech was something adapted and adjusted to.

If she understood Weareth'Bol correctly one rotation equaled a day. Amassing an armada within a day's time, that was a good score for any fleet commander. Now if she could just convince them to fly for her that would be a true mark for the organics. A banner of hope.

"You are not the Spectre! You are not her varren bitch! You can not keep me from that which is mine!" Shol shouted out at the two ROSEs guarding the entrance to the field laboratory. The volus knew the varren bitch would never leave the Spectre's side, he was certain of it. "I demand you step aside!"

"Not going to happen." Wrex shot back. How he loved the way his voice carried in the mechanical thunder of the ROSE's comm system.

Shol turned to his turian contingent. "Sergeant! They stand between me and mine. There are only two of them, take them! Take them now."

Sergeant Hieronymus Terraxsus of the mercenary band: Guizhou was terrified of Spectres, but the lap dogs of such … a krogan and a pious-self-righteous turian that was another story. Besides they were in the ROSEs, ROSEs that belonged to Mr. Shol it couldn't be called a true assault, more like—like the reclamation of lost property.

Wrex didn't even wait for the opposition to act before he opened fire on the enemy MAKO. All he had to justify his actions were Shepard's orders to hold back Shol and the volus's own orders for his men to take the complex. Like he said, it aint going to happen.

ROSEs were not designed for military operations all they had were sonic-particle-mining lasers. But he didn't need weapons, not when elementary physics was on your side. The lumbering bi-pedal mechanoid marched forward, its four-digit 'hands' formed a C-clamp, gripped the front of the rover and hydraulically hoisted it into the air. Pivoting the ball-jointed waist Wrex commanded his ROSE to twist around and around with such centrifugal force if he let go of the rover it would be far-flung into the wastes of Klencory. That is exactly what the battlemaster did. What happened to the rover or its crew after that wasn't his concern.

There was a small mushroom cloud on the horizon to the south.

"Anyone else want to play?" Garrus offered in what he thought was a Shepard joke.

Several hands went up into the air in surrender.

"Too bad, I was just beginning to warm up." Wrex snorted.

Garrus's ROSE scanned the immediate area. "Hey where's the fidgety little vermin?"

"My job - stop the thugs, your job babysitting Shol. Three guesses who failed and the first two don't count."

It was an odd sound to hear a ROSE snort in contempt.

The ROSEs were occupied with his men, Shol slipped unnoticed into the foyer of the field-lab. He opened the secondary door and stopped dead in his tracks. Two female forms blockaded his path: one undoubtedly Flotilla-clan the other - hard to tell if it was Thessia or Earth clan as she still had her full-faced helmet on. He would wager all of his tribe's credits it was the young asari not the varren bitch standing there before him.

"It is unwise to precede further, Mr. Shol."

The Thessia clan. Nothing to fear here. Not truly. Oh huntresses were hardy warriors practically unbeatable, but they wouldn't strike down an unarmed, unskilled opponent. She wasn't the varren bitch. That female was seething in rage, Shol knew if she crossed his path he was already headed for the Great Auditor in the Beyond.

"You will let me pass youngling. You are trespassing on private property. And last time I checked Thessia-clan have no jurisdiction here. Or have you forgotten I actually own this planet!" He but all stomped his feet. "This is intolerable!"

"I have my orders sir." Nual calmly dictated. "The Spectre has commandeered these premises until further notice. It is to your advantage to heed this mandate."

In a whisper of a breath both females raised their weapons.

"To insure the success of our mission we will not hesitate to neutralize opposition." The Flotilla-clan female snapped. "I am sure as a person of business you can understand the gravity of a smooth negotiation of terms. If not we will happily introduce employment of a hostile take-over."

'Wonderful, two more varren bitches! Does this blasted Shepard collect them?' Shol pointed a finger in the direction of the two females barring his way. "Rest assured I will be lodging a complaint to the Council about this!"

"Please do." Tali shot back. "Send them our regards. Oh can you pass along the message of mission success?"

Shol snarled. "May you always be in the vile Debtor's red eye!" He turned and stormed from the guarding party back into the foyer

Once Shol had gone; Tali turned to her asari teammate. "I don't think he was very pleased. Do you?"

"Indeed not."

Both in near choreographed turn of the head looked behind them to the Spectre, Lieutenant Williams ever guarding her skipper and the glowing milky-jade Device.

"Then again his pleasure is not relevant." Nual said.

Tali grinned behind her face plate. "Indeed not."

Part 24

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