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 25
Cohesion and its Special Congruent Reality

Shepard took to wandering the ship checking the various duty stations, unlike the skeleton crew she had aboard the Normandy, the Victory had a full crew complement. Even in this late hour they were fully manned. The shipboard computer placed the time to be just after oh-three-hundred hours. Liara had yet to return from Ashley's quarters. The conversation she had previously sat heavily on the Spectre's shoulders. She never for one moment had entertained the idea of a trinity. Or dreamed that Liara would have brought the topic forward as its advocate. A part of her had rebelled against the trinity because of the heartsick pain it would inevitably bring to a soul so tender, one she thought delicate. Shepard never believed Liara's forbearance as weak, yet the Spectre couldn't help but take point and protect.

'My sweet, sweet Liara. You are an incredible woman, my love.'

In her wandering of the decks, Shepard found herself near the quarters of the asari commandos. Being the captain she had the prerogative to enter the communal quarters of the crew without having to first announce her arrival as would others of lower ranks.

As the Victory was of asari design the bunks of the flight crew were together stacked up against the bulkheads five high, in rows of four along both sides allowing for the center of the quarters to be open for tables and work stations. The far bulkhead had a separate cubical for the CAG.

As soon as Shepard entered the quarters those that saw her, stood and tilted their heads in acknowledgment of her rank.

"I need to speak with Commander Shiala." The Spectre said

Naga'sadow spoke up, "I'm sorry Captain but Matron Shiala has gone to see Dr. S'thasa."

"Not for her daughter?" concern rose in the Spectre's voice.

"No, Ma'am I believe the visit is of a personal nature."

"Oh. Right." Shepard nodded her understanding. Her blue eyes narrowed slightly. She had been so preoccupied with the mission she hadn't even noticed the growing closeness between the lost disciple of Benezia and the bounty hunter. "Since when has this relationship developed?"

"I can not say Captain; the knowledge is not mine to give. However, I would mark Ilos as a foundation for their growing companionship." Naga'sadow conveyed.

"Is there anything we can assist with, Captain?" Morwen asked.

A moment's hesitation stayed the Spectre's tongue before she spoke. "No. Thank you."

As she turned to leave Morwen placed a violet hand upon Shepard's arm, whispering. "If it is counsel you seek may I suggest that perhaps Priestess Kerubiel can assist? Her words have brought clarity to many, Spectre."

Once more Shepard paused, reminding herself that the asari military was not the Alliance and that the touching of a superior officer was not an offence. In keeping with the theme of harmony on her ship, Shepard turned and slipped her hand behind Morwen's neck and pressed her forehead against the commando's in the style of asari military as to convey trust. She knew the asari military closely resembled a collection of tribal warrior bands with no national structure. When two such units joined their forces trust was an important foundation, as it was so now. Adopting the some of the traditional ways of other militaries kept the relative peace between various factions on Victory. It was also quite in keeping with how odd this day had proven so far to be.

"Perhaps I shall. Thank you."

When she left ten asari commandos gave each other speculative looks. "She seems very worn. Her triumph with the beings of light has left their physical marks upon our captain," voiced Odan-urr.

Solusar looked at the door the Spectre had just vacated. "Did you see her eyes?"

"She is close to suffering from the al-elleth's angol-fliw." Naga'sadow commented. The non-people's biotic sickness the Asarian words for those suffering cyan syndrome.

"She is more asari than al-elleth. Never mistake that Naga'sadow!" Nual said. "On that Goddess cursed planet she suffered to ensure the mission's success. There was a full day and night we took respite because Lieutenant Williams was quite instant she take one. That night our Spectre was plagued by those nightmares. I heard her soft sounds of distress, her Trusted answered that call and wrested her from those dark images. If she suffered from angol-fliw it is because she demands of herself great tasks and drives herself into sheer exhaustion until they are completed."

"My words meant no disrespect, Nual. I say only she suffers needlessly." The pilot retorted.

"Hush maidens, you do our commander a disservice speaking of her when she is not present. Dr. T'soni will see to her needs as they are required. Her need to speak with our Matron Commander Shiala no doubt concerns guiding her from this suffrage of the angol-fliw and if it is not it is not our concern, until she says it is. We were all disciples of Matriarch Benezia now we follow her daughter's wife. We will not disrespect our stations, duty or our oaths of service. This means we keep such things as our knowledge of her nightmares to ourselves. Lest this gives cause for our enemies within and without the ship to move against our Spectre in the belief she is weak, despite all we know to the contrary."

The gathered commandos dipped their heads as they pressed their fingers tips to their foreheads and brought their cupped hands forward acknowledging the wisdom of their superior officer.

"Forgive me, Matron but what enemies within do you speak of?" this came from Udan-vir. "Surely all are loyal to the Spectre."

"It would seem so yes. But consider this. Many corporations did the Spectre make enemies of as well as rogue agencies such as this Cerberus. The waves speak rumors of it. It is foolish to think one of them had not sent a sleeper agent on board. As we were vigilant with Matriarch Benezia T'soni so shall we be with Samantha Shepard." Morwen vowed.

Having no luck with finding Shiala, Shepard made her way a deck below not to the chapel as suggested by the matron Morwen but rather the galley. For a hit of coffee.

There was a crash from the direction of the galley followed by shouting. Something in the Spectre perhaps the very part of her was waiting for the first shoe to drop propelled her across the deck, down the corridor in a speed that might have left dust spiraling along the floor if there were dust to be had. What met her eyes was a tableau of various shades of guilt.

Tables and chairs would have been over turned had they not been bolted to the floor. As it was trays, food and glasses were strewn across the galley. The room was divided; on one side of the galley were Corporals: Ian Carr, Mira Bass and Joss Merkson, holding back Gunnery Chief Phineus Ragnos between their straining arms. On the opposite side of the mess hall was the turian Sergeant Ruusan Vos who was being restrained by legionaries Thingol (one of the few females) Vutar, Ada Yarvin and Omgaeglin. They weren't the only ones in the room. Doctors Lizbeth Bynum and Ororo along with Tali were near the far wall trying to hold back Abby Williams from getting into the fracas.

The important thing is not to shout at this point, Shepard told herself. Do not go apeshit. Treat this as a learning exercise. Find out why the galaxy is not as you thought it was. Assemble the facts, digest the information, consider the implications, then go apeshit. But with precision.

What was a cacophony before became a very deafening silence. "Right!" Shepard's voice rising in that dead silence. "Who will be the first to fabricate the facts?" blue eyes scanned the room. "Williams!" she barked. "What the hell is going on?"

"Um… ah …Captain…"

The scientists let the young woman go.

"If you are going to lie at least do it quickly. As for the rest of you why the hell are you not standing at attention?"

The galley filled with the sound of quickly scurrying-scuffling as fourteen feet quickly repositioned themselves so that their owners were at full attention including the scientists.

"Better. Dr. Williams, SitRep."

"See it's like this. Sergeant Vos and Gunnery Chief Ragnos were sitting at the same table see and um …got their … er…soup bowls got mixed up. Well the turian diet being different than humans and… being vigilant crewmates as we are we um… er intervened a little um…more vigorously than maybe we should have." Abby quickly sped up the words spilling from her mouth as if she were twelve once more and uttering excuses to her father to avoid being grounded. It was quite shocking to see how well practiced she was. "And things got over turned as they were. None here wanted to see Sergeant Vos come to harm by ingesting the wrong food."

Inwardly Shepard sighed. The story had the merits of a complete and utter lie- no turian nor quarian would ever ingest food not suitable for dextro-amino acids digestive tracts. As unbelievable as it was, the lame story wasn't actually all that bad.

"Is that the whole of it?" Shepard moved shark like amongst the crew, their faces awash in shame. She stepped up face to face with Ragnos. "No one here insulted the virtue of someone else's mother? Hum? Or questioned the quality of the gene pool of ancestors? No stupid shit like that?"

Chief Ragnos shook his head, as he stood straighter at attention staring directly above the Spectre's head.

"No?" Spinning on her heel she was now face to face with the two meter tall Vos. She was pleased to see him sweating with the effort of not moving. "No one here proclaimed their father was on the bridge of a ship that killed someone else's father, in First Contact? Uttered the name of a certain garrison, mocking it or the sacrifice of its general?"

Vos turned his face away unable to allow the Spectre to see him.

"Just good vigilant camaraderie between crewmates before a near fatal accident occurred? Is that it?" This time her gaze fell on Abby and the gathered scientists in the corner. "Is that what you're telling me Williams?"

"Um…yes?" Abby stammered.

"Right. Sergeant Vos, to better help you understand the difference in suitable dietary needs you will for the period of thirty days serve KP duty for the humans."

The turian's mandibles flared in great displeasure, a snort of anger.

"Something to say, Vos? Hmm? Something other than what Dr. Williams told me what occurred here? Something perhaps that explains dereliction of duty? "

"No my captain." His voice was grave.

"No, I thought not. Chief Gunnery Ragnos, formally of the SSV Kilimanjaro, I happen to know who your former XO was. I happened to know personally just how disciplined the commander can be. I sincerely doubt brawling was acceptable on that ship. I wonder if I am as forgiving as she?"

"Ma'am." Ragnos swallowed hard

"Since you were ever so eager to be of service to your fellow turian crewmate insuring he did not partake of the wrong food, you will continue in that capacity of servitude to all turians for the same said period of time."

"Yes Ma'am."

"As for the squad-mates of you two, you will see to the detailing of every viper, every raptor and every mako. And do so carefully with sonic toothbrushes." Shepard's eyes fell on Merkson. 'Oh here's a lovely thing, one of the would be traitors.' "Merkson, you will supply them and show them how it is done."

The quarter master opened his mouth then snapped it shut quickly.

"You have something to say, corporal? Perhaps tell me you were not involved in the brawl that didn't happen here?"

"No, Ma'am."

"No, I didn't think so Merkson. Dr. Williams, you and your fellow scientists clean up this mess. We don't want any near accidents to happen again. It is so easy to have such things when minds are not on duty! Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes Ma'am." The whole room echoed with the sound of it.

"Dr. Williams as the troopers do with vehicles so shall you do with this place once the food is cleared."

The young woman nodded her head, sullenly.


Taking in a great heavy sigh the Spectre turned from the galley; slightly put out she had not retrieved the cup of coffee she had come for in the first place. And more than a little frustrated at the scene she had interrupted. While harmony was brewing in the private life of the Spectre it was evaporating on her ship it seemed.

"It won't take much for this whole bloody crew to be at each others throats." She grumbled to herself.

Shepard meant to go back to her quarters. The day had been long, emotionally draining and not to put a finer point on it surreal. How she came to be in front of medical bay, the Spectre couldn't truthfully comment. Aleena was with Shiala, Chakwas was most likely asleep, so why in blazes was she here?

"You going to lurk or are you coming in?" Chakwas asked as she stepped into the corridor. "Someone might think you're up to something." The aging physician said quoting words she had heard the Spectre say once upon a time.

Shepard followed Chakwas to her office. More like a cubicle to be truthful but it was more than she had on the Normandy. The older woman sat down in her chair and gestured for the Spectre to take one opposite the desk. Shepard draped one leg over one of the arms and leaned her back against the other.

"You, going to tell me about the eyes?" Chakwas opened the gambit.


"Do I need to tell you about the eyes?"


"Bad day?"

"Odd day."

"Well at least I got more out of you than a 'no'." Chakwas grinned gaining a soft dry chuckle from her C.O. "You know I can help you with that."

"I said I don't want to talk about the eyes."

"Did you hear me say word one about them, Captain?" Chakwas grinned. She reached the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a bottle: it was brown and contained alcohol; it was followed by two goblets.

Shepard grinned. "Just what the doctor ordered."

"Indeed it is. There have been more than a few nights and very early mornings I sat with Captain Anderson just like this, when he had his odd days."

"And how did those days and nights end?"

"That with all due respect Captain, is between our former C.O. and my self. Such is true whatever transpires now. Sit and drink in silence, or sit, drink and speak of those odd things."

"You play councilor now?"

"My dear captain we are only having a drink."

Shepard sat in silence sipping her bourbon.

Liara slipped into the bed where wife was already sound asleep. As she lay her head down, she felt Samantha's arm curl around her waist, and pull her lithe body next to her more muscular one. "My beloved." She whispered snuggling deeper into the embrace that held her fast.

"What happened with Ash?" Samantha whispered into the back of her wife's neck.

"She needs time."

"She has all she needs."

"I told her the same." Liara turned in her beloved's arms kissing Samantha full on the lips. "She made a request though not an ultimatum or contingency on her decision. She made it out of her love for you …for us."

"The nightmares."

Blue eyes stared into blue eyes. "Yes. I opened my mind to her, allowing her to see them. When it passed, I held her as she wept for you. I left her sleeping in the comfort of her bed after tucking her in as would a nursemaid. I do not think she realized I guided her there and helped her to lay down."

"She is a proud woman. I'll not bring shame to her for her display." Samantha said. "We've all had a few them."

Liara softly kissed the satin lips of her Spectre. "Indeed we have, beloved."

Samantha cradled her wife tightly to her. Her hands gently trailing a path down Liara's torso to her belly, to rest gingerly against the child growing within. The Spectre closed her eyes content to have her family in her arms as she allowed herself to surrender to much needed sleep.

Abby woke to someone kicking her mattress. "Who the hell?" She opened her brown eyes, groggy with sleep.

"Get up!" Lieutenant Williams barked.

The younger Williams surprised at the sharpness of her sister's voice all but tumbled out of bed. "What the hell is your problem?"

"You got into a brawl last night. That's the problem."

"I didn't get into a brawl. I was held back."

"A fight ensued, you said words." Ash snarled.

"So did others. And I wasn't the only one it was that tur…"

"Don't even allow those words to escape your lips, Abigail!"

"Since when have you become an advocate of the turians?"

"I am no advocate, I am however the executive office of this ship! This ship you serve as a civilian conscript. And you got into a damn fracking brawl or near enough. I've worked hard, just like Dad did to make the name Williams something of honor again and you would cast it aside just like that?"

Abby turned on her sister. "I've done nothing you haven't done in the past. Hell you'd be the first to tell some to shut their pie hole if they mentioned Shanxi and Grandpa."

"I've learned how to pick my battles. And you don't do it on a ship with a bloody fracking Spectre. You get that? You're my sister, which makes me responsible for you and all your actions. I read the reports of last night's little 'accident'. Do you know why the captain asked you to lie for the rest of them? Because you're my sister, she gave you a pardon specifically. Don't ever trade on that relationship again."

"Sis, she would have asked someone else for a lie for what happened. Tali for instance, she was there as well. Wasn't she Dr. T'soni's maid-of-honor or something like that? Why aren't you chewing her out?" the younger Williams scowled.

"Because she isn't my sister, you dull stone. Your actions reflect on me, just like Dad said a Williams has to be twice as good as any soldier to be considered an equal. And like I said any misdeed on your part, reflects very poorly on me and I can't afford that. I was raised up as a lieutenant by merit, but many believe I am not fit for the position as the XO and I got it only by my closeness to the skipper. Things are going on, things you can't know. But especially now I can't afford this crew or the Alliance Military to question my position. So you can't frack up anymore and if you do you have to accept full responsibility and punishment for your actions."

Abby was silent, her face awash in shame once more as it had been last night. "I'm sorry, Sis. I didn't mean to make things difficult for you." Abby shifted on her feet slightly. "I'll apologize to the captain."

"You will do no such thing. It's done and dusted. Don't insult her by bringing attention back to it. She cracked the whip but she also let it slide with her punishments. Two troopers are off rotation for a month to serve in the mess rather than in the brig, where you would have ended up as well, and all of you with black spots on your records. Leave it be and don't speak more of it."

Abby bit her inner lip. "Ah …."

"Don't tell me you emailed home." Ash was incensed.

"I wrote a letter to Sarah, but I haven't sent it."

"Don't. Delete it. All our mail is sent though the Alliance military network. There it gets censored at the transmission source for security purposes. That goes for replays as well. Nothing slips by the Brass. You bitch or say how lucky you were last night they see it. Then the Brass may question the skipper's actions. Even if that Brass isn't the Alliance but the Council we don't need them on her case, either."

Abby nodded. "I get it. So if it's not supposed to be talked about how come you know?"

"Hello, have we met? I'm the ship's XO. It means one of my tasks is the actual duty roster. Shepard told me the truth about why the men were pulled and then the lie she ordered you to tell. Clever making sure it was unbelievable."

"Worked for Dad, when he needed an excuse but not the truth for whatever wrong we did. Thought it might work for the captain, what with them both born to the uniform and all, just like you."

Ash smiled softly.

"Ash, what's going on? You have a look in your eyes I haven't seen since Sarah had her troubles with that jackass two years ago. Every day of your two week leave you escorted her back and forth from school. You didn't like it when she had you stand by and let her handle things, but you did. You sorta have that look about you now. Something big is on your mind. Spill maybe I can help you out with whatever is weighing you down"

"It's confidential." The elder sister said quickly "I told you there are things going I can't talk about."

Abby was a military brat just like her sister, she knew not to pry for more details. "Alright. I read you loud and clear, Sis. And about the other stuff too."

Liara's science team had for the past five days indulged their scientific curiosity with the finds of Ilos. It came time to reveal some of the secrets of the ancient Prothean technology. Liara was positively beside herself with joy over what she had uncovered.

"Captain." She greeted her wife as the Spectre entered the labs' adjacent testing arena. The room was circular in shape with a raised level off the door that led down into a sunken 'pit', two meters below the main landing. The test area was equipped with strong autonomous kinetic barriers, which would allow for the test firing of weapons on armour, or other hazards that might otherwise compromise the ship. It was here with Williams's input, the new modified shields for Klencory's caustic atmosphere had been tested.

"We have made remarkable progress with the tech we found on Ilos." Liara continued. She herself was standing within the pit, with half of her personal ground team. Beside Shepard stood Aleena, Shiala and oddly enough Victory's head crew-chief Lilihierax. The turian simply went by 'Lee' as he had on Novaria.

"Show me what you got." Shepard leaned forward on the railing bracing her weight with her arms.

Without explanation Liara placed one foot on the wall as if to perform a stretching exercise. Soft lilac-blue lips curled into a mischievous grin as a hand touched what looked like a disk made of chrome and amber attached to her belt. It was small, about the size of a combination lock yet only an inch in thickness. As soon as the disk was activated Liara was standing on the wall! The foot that had been raised was now taking all her weight. Liara was walking up the wall as if she were wearing magnetic boots, however as the bulkheads were made of duroplastic they would not respond to magnetism.

Gravity simply wasn't an issue. It reminded the stunned Spectre of an old M.C Escher painting she had once seen in an art history book that involved stairs and people walking or standing on them at impossible angles.

"How the hell?" Shepard stared at her beaming wife.

Liara was now perfectly perpendicular to the Spectre. She knelt so that her foot was on the ledge of the upper landing and her hand took hold of the railing which from Liara's point of view was the floor'.

"Take a hold of my waist," she said to her wife.

Shepard didn't hesitate with the order and quickly obeyed. Once more Liara activated the disk on her belt. Once she did gravity was on the same field as that of Shepard's. Liara was now holding onto the banister, braced there by her foot and supported by her wife's strong arms. All at once the Spectre hoisted Liara up over the railing to place her gently at her side.

"Okay … want to explain why you just broke a dozen laws of physics?" Shepard didn't even try to mask her astonishment.

"It is a gravity leveling device." Liara's grin grew wider. "When asked, Ksad Ishan stated its purpose is to redirect gravity not reduce or nullify it. It enables a person to not only stand but maneuver on walls and even ceilings. Being that you are Spectre and fully a military woman, I know you will want to hear of the martial applications rather than those of civilian uses. Captain, they are immense. This device will allow a Spectre or a solider to ambush a squad of enemies, firing on them from the ceiling or an air-vent or other such hidden locale.

"Ksad Ishan further claims that vehicles can be equipped with larger versions that correspond in conjunction with their mass effect accelerators. It will allow them to engage in a firefight with air-born vessels or gunships by driving up the side of buildings, other architectural constructions, as well as landmasses. We uncovered two such large gravity leveling devices, alongside the personal versions."

"It is feasible, Cap'n." Lee stated, the reason for his being away from the hanger deck now evidently clear. The mechanic's input on the logistical side of application was needed if Shepard was to be convinced. "Before we traverse to the Citadel as planned, we can make a stop at one of the planets en-route and field test each on the two makes of MAKOs. If we can make them work, I believe you can see the added advantage we have for the rest of the mission. Come on Cap'n whadd'ya say?"

Shepard smirked at her turian mechanic "Trying to polish gizzard there, Lee?"

"No ma'am. I'm just appealing to your sense of one-upmanship on the bad guys."

"Before I decide, I want a full demonstration on the personal devices."

"We have anticipated that need." Now it was Shiala who spoke. "Your huntresses will gladly do so. I also believe Captain Kirrahe stands by with his STG."

"A sparring match or grudge match?"

"The huntresses have no quarrel with the STG to hold a grudge over them." Shiala skillfully answered. "I think it is a test of skill, Kirrahe wishes to match."

"I see." Shepard pondered the motives of the STG's captain. She doubted it was as straight laced as a simple test of skill. The arrogance of the salarians was well known. Their pride was forever wounded when they attempted to face-off against the ninja style martial potency of the asari commandos. "I want a full battery of tests. Lieutenant Williams will take a team of humans; Garrus will have a few turians. We can forget about Wrex. I can see no practical purpose for a krogan battlemaster walking on the ceiling when he likes to charge his opponents. Besides he doesn't do well in Z-G, nevermind gravity that changes on him. I don't want krogan vomit mucking up my ship." There was a round of discreet chuckles from the scientists. "How many of the gravity levelers do we have?"

"We have fifteen." Liara answered.

"Distribute them as necessary. Oh, and for future reference refer to them as G-Ls. Remember, the military loves their initials and acronyms."

"Of course captain. The military is every so practiced in practicality when it comes to naming things." Liara tilted her head. "G-Ls it is."

The battery of tests Shepard ordered was more akin to training drills in boot camp. Fifteen participants were armed with high-powered stunner- firearms as were cadets in training. Once shot the active would be out for a day, with no true physical damage, but it sure hurt like hell. Biotics would be limited to stunning, and pulled-throws. The armor however would not be modified from preferred styles as a true test of the capabilities of the participants.

For practical purposes the demonstration was moved from the testing-pit to the rec-room. Shiala, Naga'sadow, Morwen, and Nual represented the asari. Garrus, Ruusan Vos (a reprieve from KP duty) Vutar and Thingol led the turians. Kirrahe, Rentola, Kex and Exar Nad of the salarian STG stood at the ready, Williams, Phineus Ragnos (also given the same reprieve) Leroy Hal and Mira Bass were the proud representatives of humanity. Tali also joined in the demonstration as did Shepard herself. She joined not for humanity but in the capacity of the Spectres. Below her were Liara, Aleena, Chakwas, Wrex and the Baynhams.

Moving a damn sight faster than any sentient had any business moving, four huntresses strode over to the bulkheads of the rec room. Then they were up the bulkheads and on the ceiling. Williams leading her team of marines were on their tail, Karrahe on theirs. Taking the opposite wall up was the Spectre. Spinning into action with kicks that would knock out a rabid rhino, asari huntress sprinted forward, down went Leroy Hal, Mira Bass, Vutar and Thingol, each without firing a shot. Their G-Ls still active the 'causalities' clung to the ceiling like spiders in their own webs.

Tali was far too interested in the G.L. belt to fully engage in the test. The young woman had gone to the farthest bulkhead, activated the belt and started to climb the wall. Then advanced to the ceiling.

Williams popped off Nual from her position on the wall. Like the turians and humans the asari was pinned to the ceiling, gravity holding her there. Shepard hadn't moved from her spot. Apparently all assumed she was there in an observational capacity only. Below them Liara watched not the combatants but her unmoving wife.

'Stingray.' The scientist thought. 'So, my love what do you wait for? What does a soldier's eyes see that an archeologist's cannot? Think Liara; see though the warrior's eye.'

The Spectre was waiting, not for a particular vulnerability in one military force or another but all of them. Liara watched fascinated. Shepard wasn't punitive in her strikes, she only acted on openings. Perhaps a small measure penalizing action was true in that they allowed themselves an opening. And for this the Spectre punished. Ragnos left his right flank open, Shepard struck. Hard. A stunning-warp spun the marine arse-over-head into the far bulkhead where he remained pinned. The next to fall by the 'stingray' was Rentola then Morwen; both battling each other, both downed by a single source: the Spectre.

'You took down three, favoring none above the other.' Liara wondered at her wife's tactics. 'Oh, how very cunning you are, my love. You force cohesion where breaks would splinter the crew.'

Naga'sadow hit Williams from behind an alcove, a glancing blow only but strong enough for a string of curses to issue from the marine's mouth. The spectre watched. The young huntress was one of the finest of the commandos inherited from the T'soni bastion. She was second wing to Shiala, just as Ashley was Shepard right hand. This would be interesting.

On the floor Liara, Aleena and many of the crew watched the nearly choreographed martial ballet The asari commandos had made an impressive use of time, taking down the majority of the opposition, STG and marine alike. Shiala had cornered and neutralized Kirrahe, Kex and Exar Nad. It wasn't hard to believe: a single thorian clone had nearly done the same to Liara, Shepard and Williams, back on Faros. If it hadn't been for the Spectre's special medical training, Williams and Liara both would have been KIA and Shepard damn near close. And that was a single clone of the matron. A few waves of them had tested Shepard and her small team to their very limits, nevermind the frenzied onslaught of the ghoulish creepers.

Naga'sadow and Williams were still in a tussle neither one gaining or losing ground. Apparently their 'mentors' were content to allow them this test of strength.

Tali had yet to act instead she had busied herself with aiding the observing soldiers recover the 'fallen'. The young woman tested a theory. With Nual safely in the hands of waiting medical aides she attempted to jam the belt, but she had no joy. She did the same with all others, the story was the same, the belts did not deactivate.

Shepard strode lazily up to Shiala, and tapped her on the shoulder. "I would say this is a successful first test."

"Indeed. It would be foolish however to be overconfident in the G.L.s true capabilities in trial. If they are designed for ambush then perhaps such test should be our next move." The matron sagely advised.

"My thoughts exactly," Shepard answered. "Stand down!" she ordered Williams and Naga'sadow immediately obeyed. Of the fifteen combatants only five remained active, each returned to the floor. "Tali, report." She knew the little engineer would be studying the feasibility of the new tech.

"Impervious to jamming, Captain," the young quarian reported.

"Good. It would be terribly inconvenient in battle if someone activates an OMNI tool and makes one fall to their deaths. This first test was acceptable but we further it, to test their true capabilities. Tali I want you to run the data I know you collected into VR simulations, then we take them into true field-testing along with those for the MAKO." The Spectre turned to the physicians, her eye catching one in particular. "Dr. S'thasa, I would be interested in your perspective on the G.L.s. Dr. Chakwas, what is your diagnosis?"

The gray haired woman was quick to give her opinion. "Preliminary examinations reveal no permanent damage from the stunners either by sidearm or biotics. They'll wake with headaches and perhaps a bit of disorientation. Like Zee-Gee certification tests, some may suffer vertigo. Captain, show prudence when dealing with alien technology, it may have an unknown quality when responding to a physiology not specifically designed for them."

"Duly noted Doctor, which is why I need you to run full physicals on all who participated," said the Spectre

"I can assume you'll be up first?" Chakwas didn't disguise her knowing smirk.

"Of course." Shepard turned to her officers. "Opinions?"

"They have good potential for a sweep and clear, Skipper." Williams answered. "But this was a controlled situation. We were only testing capabilities not the effectiveness on the unsuspecting troops."

"To that end we need to test in their true intent." Naga'sadow said concurring with marine. "I also think we need to test which of the crew is most effective in their use."

Liara offered her own voice. "While the martial applications for strategic strikes against an enemy are profound, I suggest further thought of their potential benefit to a more civilian if not commercial use." She took in a steadying breath, knowing she was directly confronting the military mind-set. "G.L.s are prime not only for explorations, but the restoration of ancient ruins and their excavation. Not only that the G.L.s can be used in search and rescue operations. Surely even the military factions can appreciate such benefits."

Shepard appreciated her wife's pragmatic perceptive outside martial thought. "Indeed. It is why I plan on giving one each to the Alliance, the asari Embassy, the Hierarchy, and the STG as well as one to the Council. The remaining ten stay in our custody." She turned then to Liara, "Doctor T'soni, will you say your team is better suited with a bit more time to uncover what other secrets our discoveries on Ilos hold, or do you prefer to surrender the cache to the Council?"

"I can say it is to our benefit if we have more time, Captain." Liara answered without hesitation. "Mr. Ksad Ishan has been a great help in uncovering our finds. Who is to say what other 'trinkets' will be of significant assistance to our mission? If we relinquish them too quickly it may well be to our detriment."

"If that is the advice of the esteemed Head of Sciences, I believe for the benefit of the mission and crew I shall follow it." The Spectre said slyly. "As it was suggested we have makos to test."

Part 26

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