A few days have passed since the excavation started. They began leveling a small hill that had been otherwise untouched by the expanding colony. Amber, Saren, Ashley, and Kaidan hadn't done much besides remain on guard and chat with the archaeological personnel. All the while, Liara supervised the excavation process. On a mobile terminal, she continued to monitor their progress. So far, they managed to uncover the top part of the beacon. Scans indicated it wasn't nearly as compact as the cube was, instead standing at almost a few meters in height. Since the task had yet to be finished, Amber had gotten used to her surroundings by now.
Eden Prime was a farming colony and was far less industrial-looking. Amber deemed this as progress since the colonists here found ways to protect their crops without resorting to use pesticide. All colonies still had to abide anti-contamination regulations put into place early on during the Systems Alliance's early years. She made a brief glance at Saren and extended her hand, encouraging him to hold it.
"It's definitely a nice view up here," Amber said.
"I suppose," Saren agreed, "are there any other colonies like this?"
"Ones with a farm setting?" Amber replied, "there's another farming colony in Mindoir as far as I can tell."
"I must say, despite the light colonial defenses, at least the view is nice."
After a short while, Amber and Saren glanced over their shoulders. Gradually, bit by bit, the mining team had been cautiously removing layer after layer of sediment as to not damage the artifact. Kaidan and Ashley sat side by side even when they remained vigilant for any intruders. Nothing had come to pass, yet a sensation of tension lingered. All off a sudden, it felt like every shadow grew a pair of invisible eyes and ears, and began to watch and survey. Once in a while, Amber would glance over her shoulder. The excavation would only be several hours more before they could safely remove the device. Just when Saren and Amber were certain they wouldn't run into problems this trip, they noticed an Alliance official exiting a tram and making his way towards the excavation site. Saren and Amber stood to their feet just as the official approached them.
"Spectre Arterius? I hope you don't mind, but we may have a problem," he reported, "a few farmers on the edges of the colony have just reported strange sightings."
Saren raised a browplate.
"Care to elaborate?" Saren asked.
"A group of synthetics, no ID. Looks to be a scouting party."
Amber couldn't help but stiffen as she blinked twice.
"We'll check it out. Let's go," Saren beckoned.
Amber nodded before she and Saren left the excavation site. They rode the tram back to the colony and hopped onto a flatbed truck to the edge of town. Walking off the path, they traversed the long grass into a good hiding position. From afar, they watched the position where the sighting was reported. From there, they began searching the area for anything unusual. That's when she first laid eyes on them.
"What the hell is that?" she whispered.
Saren narrowed his eyes once he spotted the figures in question. He brought out and adjusted a pair of binoculars to get a better view.
"Geth? What're they doing here?"
"That…is a good question," Amber replied.
It was just a squad of the smaller units, just over the hill, observing the colony from a distance. But for the turian Spectre and his human protégé, that raised even more questions.
"Why would they be here?" Amber asked.
Saren sighed before he placed his hand on Amber's shoulder.
"I wouldn't know," he admitted, "they're usually much more isolated than this."
With these questions in mind, Amber and Saren made their way for the hills. They crept low, trying to get as close as they could to the peeping Geth. They used the tall grass to their advantage. The Geth noticed their approach nonetheless, and rushed out of the area when they got close enough.
"W-What the…?!" Amber blurted.
Saren did his best to capture as many images with his omni-tool as he could as they left.
"Don't bother. Those scouting parties have advanced prostheses, allowing them to move quickly for scouting or hit-and-runs. Let's just head back to the colony for now."
Amber stared into the distance in a moment of silence. The squad of synthetics lightly scampered across the plains like deer, making for the next treeline. Not wanting to put the colonists at risk, Saren and Amber ventured through the tall grass back to the town. Soon enough, they returned to the dig site. Once they stepped out of the tram, Kaidan was waiting for them.
"What was the situation?" Kaidan asked.
"A group of Geth, just to the east of us. Not sure what they were doing here."
"Wait, Geth?" Kaidan blurted with a confused expression.
"A race of synthetics made by the quarians," Amber clarified, "booted them off their homeplanet."
Kaidan scratched his head before he, Saren and Amber returned to the excavation site. Minutes counted away as the last of the sediment had been cautiously removed. Another flatbed had been moved to the site in anticipation of the artifact's removal and subsequent shipping to the port. This gave Amber a chance to get a good view of the beacon while she stood next to Liara. Jutting up from a slanted base was a metal pillar with layers of engravings and additional layers of different metals layered on. The N7 soldier turned her back and pulled out her omni-tool and started typing away. She took the time she needed to document the necessary details before she reviewed the report. Satisfied with her work, she sent the report to Anderson.
"Dr. T'Soni, we should be able to start moving the artifact," one of the workers reported.
Liara nodded before turning her head towards Amber.
"Shepard," Liara asked, "are you willing to help out?"
"That would be great," Amber nodded, "thank you."
Amber stepped over to the beacon and picked up a section of the harness while the other archaeologists surrounded the beacon, securing it with the harness. She stood by and watched as the crew chipped away the last of the dirt before rolling in a mobile crane into position. The driver pressed the control lever forward and latched the crane arms around the center mass of the object. Amber took extra caution in keeping the beacon steady with her own hands while the mobile crane lifted it off the ground. They watched as the device was hoisted into the air, almost anticipating for it to slip through the crane's grasp. It was slowly brought back down again before coming to a halt over the flatbed and deposited. To what cause it was unknown when it suddenly lit up, pulsating with energy. In a rush of panic, the others ran to cover like it was a primed grenade, dropped by an act of poor calculation.
Following Saren, Amber was close behind when she suddenly felt her feet disconnect from the ground. Saren watched in horror as his protégé was yanked by some unseen force closer to the beacon and sent electric jolts into her veins. She felt like her eyelids were pried open and forced to watch a dozen gas tube televisions like some form of torture or malpractice. Images with no coordination or meaning flooded her mind, topped off with pain and drowning out any other thoughts. The next thing she knew, the squid-like dreadnoughts appeared in her mind. Painfully, Amber was dropped back to the ground by the device as it powered down. Saren rushed to her side to help her back to her feet.
"Shepard," Saren cooed, "can you hear me?"
The world spun around her, like she looked at a detonating flashbang. Amber struggled to climb back to her feet, yanking herself onto the flatbed truck. She was about to stumble, so Saren caught her in his arms.
"Let's go. You do have medical supplies back on your ship, right?" Saren instructed.
Liara nodded as she jumped into the passenger seat of the vehicle.
"Of course!" Liara insisted, "get us back to the port!"
Saren lifted Amber into his arms before he climbed into the vehicle. Kaidan and Ashley recovered from the shock from seeing their commander undergo a sudden trance under the influence of the beacon before they made their way towards the vehicle. All the way back, Saren watched cautiously over the concussed N7, not even taking the time to ensure the package got aboard as he helped her onto the ship. With the archaeology crew taking extra caution to handle the beacon while moving it into the cargo hold, Saren carried his protégé down the corridor and into the medical bay. He gently lay her on one of the beds as an asari medic approached him.
"She took a jolt from the artifact. See what you can do for her," he continued to linger at her side, waiting patiently for results from the doctor.
The asari medic continued to run diagnostics while the turian Spectre held his protégé's hand and sat next to her. He started pacing back and forth as he waited for an answer. Their departure from Eden Prime initiated, but he continued to reside within the medbay. While the vessel approached the Mass Relay, the asari medic finished her diagnostics, so she gestured Saren to approach her.
"She is all right," she told him, "but she'll need rest."
"How bad is the damage?" Saren returned.
"Pretty light," she explained, "considering how much exposure she received based upon personal accounts, she was let off light with as little experience with such structures as she had."
Saren let out a soft sigh of relief.
"Thank you, ma'am," Saren replied, "keep me posted on her condition."
Saren stepped out of the medical bay while Amber still lay in her bed to rest. He left for the cargo hold where the newly excavated Prothean beacon sat for the journey back. As he examined it, he couldn't help but wonder what the beacon could've done to Amber. It would lightly pulsate very few seconds, discouraging him from looking any closer. Going through the same experience Amber did recently was the last thing he wanted. He left shortly after for the bridge to oversee their return to the Citadel.
It was only a couple hours before the vessel emerged from the Mass Relay and entered the Serpent Nebula. Half an hour later, they docked with the station and unloaded their precious cargo to be shipped to the Spectre Academy. After seeing off the transport, Saren walked back into the medbay. With Amber still asleep, the turian Spectre approached the asari medic.
"Is is all right if I take Shepard with me?" Saren requested calmly.
The asari nodded. Saren approached the bed and gently lifted Amber into his arms. He stepped out of the vessel and boarded a cab, relaxing in his seat as it flew them to the Presidium. Once it landed near the apartment building, the turian Spectre disembarked the cab and carried his protégé into the apartment and made his way into the living room. There, he gently lay her on the couch and knelt down beside her. Just then, she moaned as she slowly opened her eyes.
"W-What happened?" she mumbled.
"We've secured the beacon and it's at the academy for analysis," Saren whispered, "are you all right?"
Amber shut her eyes and rubbed her temple.
"Head hurts like hell," she moaned, "could you get some painkillers?"
Saren nodded before he stood to his feet and made his way to the kitchen cabinet. He found a container of painkillers and he headed over to the sink to fill a glass with water. He carried both into the living room and handed them to Amber. She swallowed the pills and chugged the glass of water.
"Ahh, feeling better already," she sighed.
"What happened? What do you remember?" Saren asked.
Amber set the glass onto the coffee table and sat up.
"I can't tell," Amber admitted, "there were synths, screaming, death, those damned dreadnoughts, but nothing entirely concrete."
With a soft expression in his eyes, Saren placed his hand on Amber's shoulder.
"We'll know more as we pick apart the beacon," Saren told her.
Saren sat down next to Amber, encouraging her to lean closer to him.
"We'll get better clues once we have time to thoroughly look over what is presented to us," he continued.
Silence passed over them as the afternoon slid to evening and eventually night. After a brief snack, Saren carried Amber to bed, setting her under the sheets before slipping under himself. Over the night, he had a much harder time finding sleep. He didn't even experience or learn whatever Amber had from the beacon, yet it already terrified him like preparing for an overwhelming exam or the thought of running out of air in the dead center of the vacuum of space. It wasn't until well past midnight did he truly succumb to exhaustion.