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Shepard's Dream Catcher

Chapter Text

Later on that week, Saren obtained the details on their next assignment, so Amber took this chance to slip into her new N7 armor. She took a long good look at herself in the mirror. Along with the N7 brand on the right breast of her chestplate, her right arm had a red and white stripe down the middle. Considering how she lost her previous Alliance armor to the Thresher Maws, it made her feel like she rose from the ashes. She walked back out, head held high to meet with Saren in the living room.

"I see that the Alliance has you covered," Saren told her.

"Same can be said for you on behalf of the Council," Amber nodded.

They stepped out of the apartment and made their way towards the Spectre docks. Once they arrived, they noticed Nihlus, Garrus, Kaidan, Ashley, Kasumi, Jack, Liara, Tali, Wrex, James and Kelly waiting for them. Nihlus approached to greet them.

"Saren, I was wondering when you would show up," Nihlus informed, "everyone's equipped and ready to go."

Saren's mandibles flicked into a grin while he placed his hand on Nihlus's shoulder.

"Good. Let's head out," Saren ordered.

Saren led Amber and their squad aboard the ship before they made their way to the bridge, where Captain Anderson stood while he observed a projection of the galaxy. He paused what he was doing when the older turian Spectre approached him.

"Arterius, good to see you again," Anderson gave Saren a salute.

Saren saluted back.

"Same to you, Anderson," Saren nodded.

"That's quite the collection you've brought," Anderson added, glancing at the non-human personnel present.

"They'll be participating in the mission," Saren folded his arms.

"I see. I just hope all goes well, and I eagerly anticipate the initiation of this mission."

Anderson stepped over to the pilot seats and met up with Joker and a few copilots.

"Take us out, Lieutenant," Anderson ordered.

"Copy that," Joker nodded.

Joker tapped on a few buttons on the terminal and moments later, the vessel closed its doors and lifted into the air, making its way out of the docks. Once it left the station, it began traveling through space. Their destination was somewhere much less urban. In the briefing room, the team took their time to review the map of a deep jungle and a compound that dug a kilometer and a half below the surface.

"So what could be going on in there?" Kaidan asked.

"Small smuggler compound, mostly deals in narcotics," Nihlus explained.

"So we're not the only one who has to deal with narcotics like opioids?" Ashley paused.

"Small galaxy," Tali muttered.

"We'll be breaking up into a few teams," Saren continued, "watch your fire in there around any containment vessels. We're a few hours from the Citadel and I'm not sure this ship has the sufficient facilities to treat an overdose. I'd prefer if none of us came back after inhaling who-knows-what from a ruptured tank."

"You got it, Arterius," Garrus nodded.

"Finally, I've already had teams assigned based upon weapon proficiency and abilities," Saren concluded, "we'll be heading out in two groups. If any of you have last-minute questions, speak your mind."

Jack raised her hand upon cue.

"Yes?" Saren raised a browplate.

"How well equipped is the opposition?" Jack asked.

Saren scratched his mandible.

"Chances are, they come relatively short of military-grade equipment," Saren replied, "they'll have strength in numbers, and that's it."

Jack and Wrex exchanged glances for a moment.

"It's manageable," Wrex blurted.

Jack nodded in approval while Kasumi read the map.

"So what's the plan exactly?" Kasumi reminded.

"Clear the facility of hostiles," Amber clarified.

It was only a long while before the vessel emerged from the Mass Relay and it continued traveling through space. Another hour passed as they made final equipment checks. Finally approaching the planet's orbit, they prepared to make the drop below. The two groups each entered an APC parked in the cargo hold. The two were dropped from low orbit into the foliage below before Saren realized something horribly wrong.

"Excuse me, Amber. Wasn't this vehicle in peak condition back on the ship?"

Amber shuddered even when she held a tight grip on the steering wheel.

"I…thought it was," Amber blurted.

"We can look at it when we get back," Kaidan reminded.

Amber nodded before she pressed her foot on the gas pedal. She had definitely tried quite a few lemons back on Earth when she got her first wheels, but this was something much worse. Its handling was nothing short of barely responsive, the gear would often get stuck and refuse to go into reverse, the suspension would cause the whole thing to bounce like a trampoline after rolling over the smallest of hills and bumps, and it was top-heavy. Continuing towards the compound, she let out an ever-growing string of expletives under her breath. Did the production company responsible make these vehicles terrible on purpose? Kaidan and Saren gave their attempt at the wheel, but only met complications themselves.

"Spirits! What's wrong with this thing?!" Saren barked, nearly causing the vehicle to flip on a small rock.

"Uh, maybe it's the terrain," Kaidan assumed.

The others groaned.

"We're close enough from here. We can walk," Amber groaned.

Amber brought the Mako to a complete stop before she opened the door. Oddly enough, the terrain wasn't too different from anything they encountered on Earth. If that was the case, why didn't the Mako cooperate? Amber made a mental note to check the vehicle later as she hopped out, quickly followed by Saren and their teammates. Trudging along, they found the first guard post ten minutes later. They ducked behind a makeshift cover to avoid being spotted before they could figure a way inside. With her rifle, Amber quietly picked off the guards outside before they continued their advance. With enough luck, they managed to make it through the entrance. As Saren stated earlier, there were plenty of personnel protecting the facility, but they all brandished cheap armor and firearms. Both Kaidan and Amber glanced around each corner to double-check for patrolling guards. Kasumi radioed in from the other side of the facility.

{Shepard, we're in position. We're still going in loud, right? Especially with Wrex and Jack being such good friends,} she whispered the second sentence.

"Yes, exactly," Amber nodded.

A few seconds later, the sound of a roaring explosion rang across the treetops, followed by Saren catching the first few guards unaware. With the surviving guards in the area now focusing on the group, Amber and Kaidan opened fire on them. Peering down the scope, she pulled the trigger and watched one of the smuggler's helmets and head crack violently open like an egg. One of the guards charged after Kaidan, and he started emitting a biotic field. Saren countered with his own biotic barriers and launched himself at Kaidan's attacker before helping the Alliance soldier back to his feet.

"Uh," Kaidan blurted, "thanks, Saren."

"Yeah. Biotics can be problematic on the battlefield," Saren acknowledged.

Cleaning out the rest of the guards outside, they approached the entrance, with Tali getting to work on hacking the lock.

"Ok," Amber informed, "we cleared out their security."

{Got it, Shep. Wrex is taking point on our end. We'll radio in if we need backup,} Jack answered.

"Copy that," Kaidan agreed.

They entered with minimal initial resistance and entered what looked like a retrofitted old factory. With little time to lose, Amber, Kaidan and Saren meandered through the corridors. There had been a few instances where they could've been swarmed, but the severe lack of quality equipment and training took a toll on the drug smugglers. With these advantages in mind, they began searching for the main office. With Garrus and Liara searching for evidence, Wrex, Jack, Kasumi, James, Nihlus, and Ashley cleared the lower levels of the factory while Saren, Amber, Kaidan, and Tali searched the upper levels.

While the others took extra caution to not rupture any of the tanks, Saren and Amber found the main office at the top floor. Setting a breaching charge on the door, Saren detonated the lock on the door before leaning out from cover. With little cover to hide behind, the two found no shortage of targets to pick off. Once they cleared the office of their targets, the older turian Spectre accessed the terminal.

"They've cleaned house, but there's a few scraps here," Saren mentioned.

"Let's see what they have," Amber said to herself.

They did find an extensive list of shipping lanes, materials used to manufacture the drugs, and shipment status within the region. Convinced that this evidence was efficient for a report, Saren downloaded the extensive list into his OSD. They returned to their companions nearby and returned to the lower levels to join the others.

"I assume you found the files?" Liara asked.

"Yeah," Amber nodded, "and we downloaded them."

Amber noticed Garrus holding a canister the size of a duffle bag in his arm.

"What'd you find?" Amber pondered.

"Sample of the drugs. It'll come in handy," Garrus said.

Amber nodded at Garrus before she led the entire squad out of the factory. In a nearby clearing, their ship had landed and retrieved their bogged down Mako from earlier.

"Well," Kaidan chuckled as he placed his hand behind his head, "at least we won't have to drive it back the way we came."

"I'd like to have a look at those, see just what went wrong," Saren grumbled.

Garrus flicked his mandibles as they made their way towards the ramp.

"I'll try to see what I can do about it," Garrus offered.

Just as the team started walking up the ramp, Saren and Garrus exchanged glances.

"You're offering to give a helping hand?" Saren clarified.

Garrus nodded.

"I've worked with bogged-down tanks before," Garrus pointed out.

Saren felt a sense of pride in Garrus as he flexed his mandibles into a grin.

"You may as well get to work then," Saren instructed, "I'll be on the bridge, writing my report."

Once everyone was aboard the ship, Garrus made his way to the cargo hold while Amber led Saren to the bridge.

"That went well," he hummed as they waited for the elevator to reach the bridge.

"I'd say it's not bad," Amber agreed.

Once they emerged from the elevator, they stepped aboard the bridge, only for Anderson to approach them.

"I saw your Mako broke down. What happened?" Anderson asked.

Amber scratched her head.

"Something went wrong the moment we touched down," Amber explained, "the handling was rough and I had those things checked before we departed."

Amber let out a frustrated sigh.

"It feels like the Mako is designed for mischief," she continued.

"I'm sure we'll find out what happened soon enough," her captain reassured.

Amber nodded in agreement before she trudged towards the wall and leaned back on it, Saren standing next to her.

"You performed admirably," he complimented.

Amber tilted her head towards Saren and smiled at him.

"Thanks," she replied.

"So far, both teams seemed to get along well enough, surprisingly," Saren added.

Amber extended her hand, allowing Saren to hold it.

"Then this was definitely a good idea," Amber agreed.

"Yeah, It was," Saren said, "wish I could say the same about the Mako."

Some time later, the ship lifted off the surface and took off through the atmosphere, making its way into space. They headed down to the mess hall while the ship set course for the Citadel. Saren served himself a turian dish while Amber served herself a sandwich and some fruit punch before they sat down at a table across from Nihlus and started eating.

"Well, that was fun," Nihlus mumbled with a mouthful of food, "can't say the same for Garrus. He's still down there, looking over one of the Makos."

Saren nodded silently while he took a sip of his drink.

"I thought I'd stop him," he replied, "but then I thought a second opinion on the APC would be helpful."

Amber took a bite from her sandwich.

"I still can't believe the Mako came to a halt that quickly," she commented.

"Have you driven a Mako before?" Nihlus asked.

Amber shook her head.

"I've only seen them on display," Amber answered, "they're still new."

Saren, Amber and Nihlus went back to eating their lunch. Later that afternoon, an hour before they would dock with the station, Amber went down to the cargo hold. There, she noticed Garrus was still examining the Mako.

"How is it?" Amber asked.

Garrus let out a pained groan.

"Everything is still untouched," Garrus answered, "however, a bunch of gunk and dust got into the system and clogged everything up."

Amber knelt down next to Garrus and peered into the gaps in the Mako's engine.

"So nothing structural or lasting?" Amber clarified.

"Basically," Garrus nodded, "however, I'd have this model updated so the engine components aren't so exposed like this."

Amber nodded at Garrus before they stood to their feet. Shortly after that, they left the cargo hold. She continued to the bridge where she watched the pilots bring them into dock. Once the ship latched on and opened the ramp, Anderson nodded at Saren before they led Amber and their crew out of the bridge and across the walkway to the docks.

"It was good having you aboard, Arterius," Anderson complimented, "it was interesting to see a multi-species operation in the works."

"Anytime, Anderson," Saren saluted, "however, and I can understand if you feel this move to be premature, I still have one more question regarding Amber's position."

Anderson raised an eyebrow.

"Go on," he nodded.

"I'm curious in her potential," Saren explained, "she's proven herself a worthy soldier and has even shown to best troops twice her size in CQC. I'd like to borrow her for a few missions if that's okay with you."

Anderson couldn't help but scratch his head.

"Would you like to look after the rest of my crew while you're at it?" Anderson remarked.

"Considering how well the last mission went, I would definitely like to explore their potential further as well," Saren confirmed.

Anderson nodded.

"I can arrange that."