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Shepard's Dream Catcher

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While Amber's dreams of Thresher Maws became less frequent, one dream she had last night involved her chasing the strange squid-like dreadnought. The backdrop appeared to be one of the mid-rim Alliance colonies, and it just hung there in the sky, arcs of red energy like lightning striking the ground. While it didn't do anything yet, she knew she would have to catch up with it fast. That was when it finally took off into the sky, leaving her far behind in what she now realized was the colony shipping dock. She looked around her for any other sign of life besides herself. Oddly enough, she didn't find any blood splatters on the structures. That's when she saw Saren, further along the platform. Thinking fast, she sprinted towards him.

"Saren? What's going on?"

He glanced at her grimly.

"We were too late," he gestured to a form in front of her just out of her view.

Just as Amber caught up with Saren, she laid her eyes on the form distant from both of them. She soon recognized Nihlus lying in a pool of his own blood, with a slightly cauterized hole going through his forehead.

"Who…could've done this?" Amber gasped.

Her eyes rose from Nihlus's corpse to an opened crate further down the walkway. While Saren continued to mourn, she went over to investigate, prying the lid all the way off to see inside. Whatever was inside the crate glowed to the point she couldn't make out its form. Without thinking, she reached her hand inside the crate.

The next thing she knew, she opened her eyes and found herself tucked in her bed. Saren was beside her and still fast asleep. Looking to the clock, it was only four in the morning. Sighing, Amber brushed her hand along his fringe. She tried laying back down again, attempting to find sleep again. When she nestled into Saren's embrace, he nuzzled his face against hers and purred.

Morning arose without further incident over the night. When they both woke up, they slipped into their civies before browsing through Saren's omni-tool until they confirmed the location of a simple breakfast buffet. They left the apartment, sauntered through the Presidium and entered the buffet at one of the lower wards. After they found a place to sit, they gathered their food from the stalls. The two silently ate without a word. Savoring the food, they relaxed at the sound of the ambience. Still, the nagging thought of last night's discovery lingered in the back of their minds.

"Should we search them out?" she asked, breaking the morning silence.

Saren thought over the question while he sipped his kava.

"It depends on whether we have enough clues," Saren replied.

She paused for a moment.

"The Relays and Citadel are made by the Protheans, right?" Amber mentioned, "maybe they've hid more evidence on the station somewhere."

Saren let out an enthusiastic hum.

"Good idea," he agreed, "I know the Citadel has a whole bunch of sublevels that have even yet to be used on this station. There might be something down there, but it'll be quite a search."

By the time they finished their breakfast, Saren and Amber made their payment and left the buffet. All throughout the station, there were shut gates leading to the lower levels of the station, waiting to be opened when the space was needed. While she hasn't seen any news outlets of these sections opening up as of late, these levels made perfect spots for clues to be hiding in. They returned to their apartment to grab their hovercar and drove it to one of the wards on the station. They dove deeper and deeper before parking just outside of a locked gate. After Saren turned off the ignition, he and Amber disembarked the hovercar and approached the locked gate. Saren picked the mechanism and opened the door.

Saren and Amber wasted no time as they stepped through the gate. It was dark, yet dry. Turning on her shoulder-mounted flashlight, she had a good look around. The structure was similar to the streets above, with the exception of being lifeless, stripped down of excess, and ever-so-slightly dusty. To add to the eerie atmosphere, they couldn't find a single clue of any rodents scampering in the area. Every now and then, a Keeper would scamper across, searching for anything to be worked on. For some reason, these strange creatures caught Amber's interest.

"What was that?" Amber asked.

"Keepers," Saren explained, "they maintain the station. Any damage dealt will quickly be covered over and undone by those things just an hour later."

Amber nodded before she and Saren continued wandering through the empty level, taking extra caution not to disturb any Keepers they passed by. They wandered further and further into the darkness. Still, they have yet to find a single clue. They walked to the edge of the platform and looked down into the abyss as it stretched on into the darkness, unable to see the bottom from their position. Saren kept his hand on Amber's shoulder, keeping her from leaning forward.

"Quite a nasty fall," he whispered.

Without saying anything, Amber glanced over her shoulder.

"I think I see something useful a few levels down," Amber said, "it looks like another VI terminal."

Saren also caught a glimpse of the terminal in question.

"Yeah, I see it," Saren agreed, "I think I see a way over there too."

Saren and Amber took a step away from the edge. There was a bridge on the same level as the terminal was with no immediately obvious ways of getting down. Using his biotics, Saren enveloped Amber in a biotic field and lowered her onto the platform before leaping down himself, using his biotics to slow his descent. They both approached the terminal. Saren palmed it, looking for a way to turn it on. Brushing his hand along its surface, he found a few toggles. What appeared before them definitely wasn't the asari VI both of them were now familiar with. The projection itself was a distorted, pixelated blue ball. Amber squinted her eyes for a moment while she waited for the VI to complete its form. It took the vague outline of a human's face seconds later. Did it scan Amber?

"H-Hello?" Amber stammered.

It simply replied with a jumbled mess of sounds. Saren and Amber exchanged glances amidst their confusion. Suddenly, it let out another gurgle.

"Language compensation complete. How may I be of service?" it spoke.

Amber blinked twice.

"Uuum…who are you?" she asked.

"I am the station monitor," it replied simply, "I have been watching the current and prior inhabitants of this structure."

"Does that include the Protheans?" Amber pressed.

"Yes. The Protheans had existed on this station prior to the current inhabitants."

With satisfaction with her curiosity building up, she nodded at Saren.

"There were prior inhabitants to the station, preceding the Protheans, right?" he pressed.

"Correct. The cycle before—"

"No need to go into detail, thank you very much," Saren interrupted.

Amber couldn't help but stiffen for some reason.

"What cycle?!" Amber blurted.

"The Protheans had established their claim of the station several thousand years after the last species," the VI continued.

Amber made a brief glance at Saren before she returned her focus towards the VI.

"What else do you know about the Protheans?" Amber asked.

"This station saw the whole cycle of the Protheans," the VI answered, "including its advancement of civilization through its age of prosperity to the gradual fall to its corruption near the end of its cycle."

"Corruption? How so?" Saren now bore a look of desperate concern.

Saren and Amber stood still and gave the VI a blank stare in a moment of silence.

"While internal fighting and an unstable use of intergalactic resources was prevalent, other factors did come into play in the final decision."

That was when Amber rubbed her chin, reflecting on the history of her species.

"And just who decides our collective fate?" Amber asked.

The VI flashed orange all of a sudden.

"I'm sorry," it said, "I cannot disclose that information."

Saren sighed in disappointment.

"At least we're a step forward."

Without saying anything further, the VI shut itself off.

"So the Protheans didn't make this station," she sighed, "the real question is who did?"

Saren gave Amber a soft expression while he ran his talons through her hair.

"No doubt those synthetics."

Having gathered some pieces of the puzzle, Saren and Amber began their trek back to the gate. It was otherwise as quiet and eerie as the moment they entered. The N7 soldier took a moment to shut the gate before she followed her mentor towards the skycar.

"So where do we look now?" she asked.

Saren let out a sigh before he turned on the ignition and drove the skycar out of the area.

"If you want," Saren offered, "I could take you to a library."

"That would be great," Amber nodded.

After flying through the air traffic, the skycar stopped at the station's library. Saren landed his skycar in a parking spot before they and Amber disembarked. The turian Spectre led his protégé inside. Once they stepped through the door, Amber scanned her surroundings. The floor tiles, pillars, and ceiling were composed of marble with solid metal between the cracks. Petrified wood decorated the railings, shelves, furniture, and light systems. The layout composed of two main levels, with the second having a hole in the center for a balcony overlooking the first level below.

Saren and Amber wandered through the first floor until they found a study area, where the turian Spectre sat down in one of the lounge chairs. The N7 soldier located the directory and approached it before she read it. They aimed for the ancient history to dig through texts referring to the Protheans. The two believed perhaps there was something everyone else missed pointing out the Protheans' extinction, something that would reveal who the synths were.

Saren and Amber began searching the floors of the library for books on Protheans before they returned to the study area and sat down in their lounge chairs. Amber read through the books while Saren turned on his omni-tool and typed down a journal of their findings at the unexplored part of the Citadel. She continued to dig through book after book while Saren copied anything that could remotely be helpful. Still, this gave Amber a good opportunity to research what most non-human officials knew about the Protheans. The various texts extensively covered the history and government of the Protheans, but disturbingly touched their later disappearance and possible extinction. All that remained were rumors, theories, and hints to what could've become of them. The Alliance commander took notes using her omni-tool while she read these books.

"Maybe the synths did take them out, and left no evidence to work from," she shrugged.

"I'm sure we'll have better luck at some point," Saren nodded.

Amber and Saren took several minutes to return the books back to their original shelves. They left with some notes to compare with their findings below.

"Alright, now I had another idea for your next test," Saren started, "as you have no doubt have heard by now, the krogan homeworld is an inhospitable one. I want to find something to test your strength on there."

Amber froze in her tracks, her expression having gone blank.

"Shepard?" Saren paused.

She had heard about the rough desert planet that was Tuchanka, victim to centuries of nuclear war. She also knew of the abundance of the monstrosities she so greatly feared from the attack already months old now.

"Amber? Please, you're starting to scare me now," Saren insisted.

Amber didn't respond, her mind still lingering on that day in Akuze. Then Saren started vigorously shaking her.


Amber immediately snapped out of her thoughts and focused her gaze on Saren.

"What is it?" she blurted.

"You went dead-still for a moment after I mentioned our next mission," Saren replied.

Amber blinked twice.

"Did you refer to Tuchanka?" she asked him.

"I had. That's when you suddenly froze," he nodded.

"Will I have to fight a Thresher Maw?" Amber pressed.

That was when Saren recalled the day he found her on Akuze. As he softened his expression, he gave Amber a warm embrace.

"Not necessarily," Saren reassured, "the wildlife is unpredictable, but not unavoidable."

Amber sighed in relief while she returned the embrace.

"I…I trust you."

"I know," Saren purred as he ran his talon through her hair.

They continued home without other incidents and cleaned themselves up. Saren pulled out his omni-tool and sent a call to Wrex. While Wrex was nice as someone to chat to at the bar, he figured he could piggyback on the krogan's next visit home for the mission.

{Yes, Saren,} Wrex grumbled over the com-link, {what is it?}

"When's your next visit home?" Saren asked.

{Tomorrow, actually. Just got a call from my brother Wreav regarding familial matters. Why?}

Saren made a brief glance at Amber as she played Shovel Knight on her miniature console.

"I was looking to the next mission for Amber. Will you be doing any shooting upon your return?"

Wrex gave a mix between a chuckle and a scoff.

{What, did you forget what happened last time? Chances are, regardless of what I'm doing, I'll always be shooting something when I get back.}

"We'll be packing up and coming along. Hopefully that won't be a problem?"

{Sure. You can tag along,} Wrex answered over the com-link, {also, you should let Shepard know I'm bringing her friend Jack along. She wanted to see.}

Saren let out an enthusiastic hum.

"I'm sure she'll love to hear it," he hung up shortly after.

Saren stood to his feet and stepped into the living room before he sat next to Amber.

"If it's any comfort," Saren informed, "we'll be going along with Wrex and Jack."

Amber made a brief glance at Saren and gave him a soft smile.

"Jack's really coming along?" she commented, "I'm betting she'll be happy about it."

"Yes, she's definitely quite the fighter," Saren agreed, "she'd feel right at home."

Amber continued to play her game while she leaned closer to Saren. Even with the sudden knowledge of some greater threat in existence, being together brought some comfort to them.