It may have been a long week, but Saren soon received a message from the Huerta Hospital informing him of Shepard's complete recovery. Since he had plenty of time to complete some preparations, the turian Spectre made his way to the hospital and sat in the lounge, waiting for Amber to emerge. It was only several minutes before Amber stepped through the door with her backpack in her arms, prompting Saren to stand to his feet and approach the human.
"I've got a place for you to stay until we can rectify this issue," Saren informed.
Amber nodded at Saren before she followed him out of the hospital and into the Presidium.
"I…understand I might not have been able to save my comrades," Amber told Saren, "but if I could warn the others about the Thresher Maws, they wouldn't have to suffer the same fate."
"Thresher Maws are rather illusive creatures. They aren't impossible to kill, but it is an effort."
They continued the rest of the way along the Presidum street to his apartment complex. Once they arrived, Amber took a moment to examine the apartment complex before her.
"So this is where you live?" Amber asked.
"Yes," Saren answered, "I've got a guest bedroom to spare."
After waving to the front door guard, they continued to the elevator in the back. Stepping into the elevator, Saren pressed on the button which triggered the doors to close before the elevator began its ascent. The journey up was rather silent until the doors reopened. Unlocking the front door, he beckoned her to follow inside before taking his shoes off.
"It's not much, but I did buy you some spare changes of clothes and I have stocked the kitchen with some food. If you need anything else for now, just let me know."
"Thanks, Saren," Amber nodded at Saren.
Amber took a few moments to explore the apartment before she found the guest bedroom. There, she set down her backpack and slipped off her shoes. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her datapads sitting on the dresser, so she picked up her personal datapad and sat on her bed. Suddenly, Saren burst in with a small box in his hand.
"Excuse me," Saren interrupted, "but I have one more thing for you if you'll be living in this community. It's important."
Amber blinked twice before she set down the datapad.
"What's in it?" she clamored.
Amber stood from her bed and stepped towards Saren, plucking the box from his hand. When she opened it, she saw a watch-like device inside. Saren picked it out, slid it onto her wrist, and closed the clasp.
"This is an omni-tool. It's civilian-grade, but an omni-tool nonetheless," he started, turning the device on around her arm, "it's your own personal terminal, with the ability to manage your finances, provide means for telecommunication, storing data, and so on. Military-grade omni-tools come with inventory management, weapon augmentations that can help cripple or disable enemies, or manage medical supplies to injured squadmates. Advanced and illegal models also come with hacking software that can be modified to your liking."
Amber took a moment to examine the omni-tool on her wrist before she returned her attention towards Saren.
"So it's more advanced than the datapads we have?" Amber clarified.
"Yeah. I'm sure you'll be able to get a military-grade variant eventually, but this one will do well to serve you currently."
"Well," Amber agreed, "all right."
Having accepted her gift, Amber started exploring the features of her new omni-tool while Saren left for his office. She returned to her bed and continued experimenting with her new device's features, such as adding in her profile. Pausing to think for a minute, she got to work slowly looking up all the other sentient species on whatever they had for an internet. She felt surprised yet glad her omni-tool had network access, so she started looking up the turian species.
It was strange to see just how different they were to humans, from their reptilian composure to the complete difference in amino acids. Until today, Amber had no clue about the difference between levo amino acids and dextro amino acids. She learned about their militaristic culture, their history, and their role in society before continuing her research of the species she saw along the street.
The next species she looked up is the asari, remembering she saw some of them during her stay in the hospital. It was strange, seeing something so similar, yet so fundamentally different to humans. One of these differences included the fact all asari were female. The second was their cartilage crest and blue tints of skin. Finally, they were the longest living sentient species known, only matched by another simply referred to as 'krogan'.
Out of curiosity, Amber began looking up the krogan species. From what she could gather, they were big, bipedal, reptilian creatures that resembled toads or lizards with big, bulky plating. Culturally, they reminded her of the Mongolian Hordes from some of the history texts her mother showed her when she was young. As she kept jotting down her notes, she took a moment to look up their planet of origin.
She looked up various images of the planet including a scene of a group of krogans, enduring their rite of passage. That's when she saw them again. Even if she felt her chest burn up at the sight of the Thresher Maw in the picture, she built up the mental strength to avoid hitting the back button for a moment.
"Do they have ways to avoid getting killed by these…things?" Amber said to herself.
She quickly tapped away from the image, almost like she had her head forced underwater and was only now allowed to quickly breathe. Amber took a moment to catch her breath as she leaned back on the bed and shut her eyes.
Her eyes blinked back open for a moment, finding herself face-down in the dirt. She painfully pushed herself up to look at the ruined prefabs around her. She felt like something in her arm was broken, and carried it limply. Smoke and the smell of ozone filled the air around her as she stared at what was left of her platoon. Wait a minute, how did she get back here? Anxiety surged through her nerves as she limped over to the remains of her comrades. She looked around nervously when the ground began to shake. Her nervousness turned to panic when the ground underneath her opened up, revealing an enormous mouth waiting for her. Time seemed to slow down and she let out a wailing scream in response. She swung her limbs, fighting for purchase of something as she madly descended into the monster's mouth.
"Shepard…" she heard distantly.
Amber couldn't focus on finding the source of the sound as she planted her feet on its jaws to keep herself from descending into its mouth further.
This time the voice called out more clearly. She looked up to the source to see the silhouette of some distant individual, reaching their hand to her.
"Shepard!" it called out again.
As tears formed at the corner of her eyes, she extended her hand forward. Time came to a crawl as their hands drew closer. The moment her fingers wrapped around the stranger's hands, her eyes shot open.
The next thing she knew, Amber found herself in her bedroom, only to notice Saren was sitting next to her as he held her hand in a gentle grip.
"Saren…" Amber gasped softly.
"You had a bad dream. Bad enough until you were screaming," he explained.
"Y-You heard me?" Amber stuttered.
Saren nodded. Amber sat upright on her bed and leaned closer to the turian Spectre, encouraging him to wrap his arms around her.
"Calm down," Saren cooed, "it was just a dream."
Amber nodded lightly as she fought back her tears. She wrapped her arms around him and nuzzled her face into his chest. He lightly patted her back, keeping her close. It took a matter of minutes before Amber calmed herself, so Saren released her from his embrace.
"You feel better now?" he asked her.
"I must've fallen asleep," she replied.
"Here, come out to the kitchen. I'll get you some tea and one of the levo meals," Saren offered.
Amber stood from her bed before she followed Saren out of her bedroom and they made their way into the kitchen. She noticed she was slightly shivering when she sat down. She continued to stare at the table as Saren quickly prepared her meal. A few minutes later, he returned with an opened tin of food in one hand and a cup in the other. Picking up a fork, she gave the food a taste test.
"Thanks," Amber told Saren.
She continued her meal in silence while Saren was merely content with a small snack. While he peered out the window, his thoughts formed a particular question: How would the fleets from her kind react to the incident? Would this motivate them to venture further into Citadel space? Saren tried to follow her gaze.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
Amber paused for a moment.
"N-Not really," Amber blurted.
Amber took a sip of her tea.
"Look, I've had to deal with issues like this before, and that's fine. If you need any help on my part, all you need to do is ask," he offered.
"Then maybe we can talk about ways to establish contact with the Alliance tomorrow?" Amber requested.
"We might," Saren nodded, "with some of your equipment, I think we could make something work."
With another boost of relief giving her hope, Amber continued eating her meal.
"Well, before we scare anyone, what's this Alliance like?" Saren asked, "I should probably know before I unintentionally cause an incident."
Amber locked eyes onto Saren as he sat down across from her.
"Well, you might want to get yourself something to drink," Amber advised, "this will take a while."
Nodding in agreement, Saren took a moment to fetch a cup of kava before he returned to the table.
"We've only been a real space faring race as of thirty years ago," she said, "Earth, our homeworld, was shit-out-of-luck as a result of a ruined environment, a very distinct divide between classes, and a decreasing expectancy for species longevity if no one did anything."
"So technically," Saren clarified, "your homeworld is in a crisis?"
"In some last ditch effort, we made a move on another planet in our home system called Mars. From that we found the ruins of some ancient race and all their technological wonders."
"The Protheans, yes? They're somewhat insectoid and have a green carapace," Saren inquired.
"Yeah, whatever you call those," Amber answered, "since then, we've been rapidly expanding throughout space using those giant structures you call relays, setting up prefabs on whatever world we could."
Saren took a sip of his kava.
"So," Saren pondered, "is there a commanding officer you have?"
"Yeah, Captain Anderson," Amber nodded, "he was a combat engineer before he entered his role. He's a nice guy, looks after all of us under his command."
Amber had finished her meal by then, so she set down her fork and took the cup of tea into her hands.
"Thanks, Saren," she concluded, "it's nice of you to offer a helping hand."
"You're pretty much welcome," Saren nodded, "will you be turning in for the night?"
Amber finished her tea before she took care of the cup and disposed of the empty tin. She made her way towards her bedroom while Saren ambled over to his own. Suddenly, he paused for a moment, just outside of his door. If she was going to be experiencing another nightmarish episode, it'd be best if he was there for her. He turned on his feet and shuffled through the apartment until he stopped at the door to the guest bedroom. He waited for a few minutes before Amber opened the door, having changed into her pajamas.
"Saren?" she paused.
"Do you need me nearby tonight?" he asked her, "I don't want you to thrash about too long before I finally arrive to see what the matter is."
Amber rubbed her cheek with her finger as she thought over the question. It didn't take even a second for her to recall the nightmare she had earlier this afternoon.
"I guess I could use some company," Amber nodded.
Amber gestured Saren to step into the bedroom before they both climbed into the bed, the turian Spectre pulling her into a warm embrace.
"See? You're safe with me," he hummed.
"Thanks," she replied weakly.
Saren's subharmonics let out soft purrs as he watched Amber drift off to sleep. It was strange, thinking of her as a special-forces operative, yet here she was in his arms at the most vulnerable time of her life. He remembered seeing her persistently stumbling towards him on Akuze after the loss of her comrades and all other hope that she would've escaped the planet surface. He remembered watching in the hospital as the doctors cut away her acid-burned armor to reveal the uncharacteristically soft tissue underneath. Craning his head over her shoulder, he kept her close to him as he succumbed to the night.