At the end of the week, Garrus, Tali, Saren and Amber finished their preparations for the next mission. The morning air retained a dead silence as the station woke back up again. People moved on with their lives, but for Amber, Saren, and their companions, the sensation refused to go away. They were off to a planet called Ilos on the edge of Terminus Space. If it wasn't for the implications of two Spectres treading into pirate territory, it was what they could find when they arrived. They made their way to the docks with no trouble, where they found Liara waiting for them near her vessel. Already, the expeditionary vessel had been fully loaded and prepared with the necessary equipment and was waiting to leave the station.
"Morning, Liara," Amber smiled.
The asari archaeologist nodded in return.
"Likewise, Commander. I assume you have all of your necessary equipment?"
"Yes," Amber answered.
"Good. We'll be heading out shortly," Liara informed, "fully fueled and ready to depart."
Amber nodded before she, Saren, Tali and Garrus crossed the walkway and boarded the vessel. Ten minutes later, the magnetic clamps unlocked, allowing their ship to exit the dock. After another half an hour, they passed through the Mass Relay out of the system. With the vessel traveling in FTL speed, Amber leaned her back against the wall next to Saren as they waited at the bridge.
"I'm feeling excited," Amber said, "you?"
Saren tilted his head towards Amber.
"I'm hoping we'll gain more answers," Saren replied, "maybe even figure out who made those dreadnoughts and what they're like."
Amber gently grasped Saren's hand.
"Yeah," Amber agreed, "that, too."
A couple hours later, they were in orbit over Ilos, peeking down at its yellow atmosphere. The pilots activated the vessel's scanners, searching for a suitable place to land.
"Doctor, I'm seeing a small facility where the signal is coming from. I'll try and get us in as close as possible without damaging the infrastructure," one reported.
"Good work," Liara praised, "let us know when we're fifteen minutes out."
Upon cue, the pilots began maneuvering the vessel into the planet's atmosphere. The away team quickly suited up and prepared the rover they had brought with them for deployment. Scans from the atmosphere had indicated the whole facility was at least a kilometer in length, and the rover was there to do heavy lifting and save time. Once the vessel was close to the surface, Liara, Amber, Saren, Garrus and Tali boarded the rover. Another group of excavation crew boarded another rover before they were all dropped onto the ground underneath them. Since both rovers landed safely, they began driving along the terrain. With Liara taking the steering wheel of one rover, Amber peered through the window to gaze at the scenery. Dense jungle had grown over the ancient concrete of the Prothean buildings, making navigation difficult without the use of the mapping equipment onboard. This incentivized Liara to steer carefully through the trees to avoid colliding with them.
They came to a halt in front of one of the less decayed buildings and started unloading equipment. Getting out, Saren glanced around him.
"Strange place. Something seems…off."
Amber glanced around until her eyes locked onto the same structure Saren was examining. The slanted exterior walls had trails of vines digging into the cracks between bricks, and any windows had long since been broken inward. Liara began ordering her crew to cut through the building front door. This gave the asari archaeologist to lead Saren, Amber, Garrus and Tali to break inside. Slick moss and slime decorated the dark corridors, ceiling panels and pipes poured down followed closely by sunlight from outside, and none of the electronics seemed to function after extensive exposure to the elements.
Liara's crew began scanning their surroundings. The corridor opened up into an open room of pillars, like a courtyard or a forum. Yet, they didn't find any synthetic components either. The crew started unpacking equipment they brought in and setting up camp. They weren't in any particular rush to reveal anything yet. Garrus, Tali, Saren and Amber saw this as a chance to set up camp themselves. Later, the group had small tents set up and equipment standing just outside, ready to use.
From there, Amber met up with Liara on a balcony they located. It was on top of the building, and probably had a good view of the area surrounding them. Now, everything was but completely obstructed by waves of trees and tall foliage. Whatever buildings were barely visible had the same wear and tear as the one they were standing in.
"I apologize in advance if this takes some time," Liara finally said.
"That's fine," Amber reassured as she perched her forearms on the balcony, "the ship does have a few mapping drones. A few days worth and we'll have a better picture of this place."
"What were you hoping to find?" Liara asked.
"A final piece of the puzzle," Amber answered, "if those synths are just there, that's great. If not…well, we know there's something to prepare for."
Liara nodded before she rested her forearms on the balcony.
"Of my time working in the field, I never could've imagined anything like this," Liara mused, "first, that data cache, then Eden Prime…"
She gestured to the remains of the building they set camp in.
"I just hope this is the last leg of the journey," Amber nodded.
After a short while, Amber and Liara left the balcony and wandered through the corridor until they made it back to the campsite. The digging crew had started breaking into the other buildings around the area for the drones to scan. At the same time, Tali scrutinized some abandoned rooms for anything valuable. She found a box and started scooping up parts from ancient equipment and dumping it in like groceries into a shopping cart. Saren scouted ahead to ensure there weren't any obstacles impeding their progress. He entered building after building, occasionally encountering the local fauna as they scampered about the shadows of each room. Then again, no other vessel entered the planet's atmosphere as far as he was aware of.
Entering a small, largely subterranean building, he cautiously walked down the precarious steps to the basement. By the time Saren arrived at the basement, Amber managed to catch up with him.
"What's down here?" she asked.
"Hard to tell," Saren said, "the dust is thickly layered down here."
Saren and Amber continued pressing forward. Saren continued to point his helmet-mounted flashlight down the corridor when he noticed something in the dust. He knelt down and carefully examined the footprint.
"It seems we might have company," Saren commented.
Amber had a look herself to confirm Saren's claim.
"It doesn't match the boots of anyone with us," Amber added.
Amber and Saren exchanged glances in a moment of silence before the human Spectre gave her mentor a nod. He shut off the floodlight and turned on the infrared visor in his helmet. Amber did the same before she followed him down the corridor. More footsteps trailed into the dust and shadows, still with no indication as to who the intruder was. As they continued, the corridor grew darker. Saren's eyes slowly drew back and forth, looking for movement. It didn't take long for them to stumble across an ancient elevator. The monitor clearly indicated it was rolling further down into the facility.
"Stick with me. Let's get at this stranger."
"Right," Amber nodded.
They opened up the elevator doors and looked down the shaft to see the elevator car stopping at the bottom. Saren grabbed onto the maintenance ladder within the shaft and started climbing down. Amber also grabbed hold of the ladder and followed her mentor down the shaft. Cautiously stepping onto the top of the car, Saren lifted the maintenance door on top of the car and peered inside. Whoever rode it down already exited. He continued to push himself through and landed on the floor with a light thunk. He patiently waited until the human Spectre slipped through the maintenance door and landed in front of him.
Opening the elevator doors, he slipped out his sidearm instead, as the hallways below were much more conservative with space than above. His stride turned into a crawl, as every step was meant to minimize any noise created, with his human protégé imitating his movements. Up ahead was a door wide open with a small lamp pouring light back into the hallway. Saren and Amber slithered closer to the door and pressed their backs against the wall. They tilted their heads and peered through the wide door crack.
The butt of a gun lashed out and cracked Saren's visor from the side of the doorway. Narrowly dodging the shot, he switched back to his floodlight as the initial blow had damaged his infrared visor. Furious, Saren stormed into the room. Peering inside, it was a woman dressed in black, with her hair in a bun and a mask obscuring her face. She yanked a small device from the computer and shot back with a machine pistol. The turian Spectre quickly emitted a biotic field to shield himself from the incoming shots.
The woman disappeared down another dark hallway, prompting them to give pursuit. Whoever she was, they now knew they weren't alone. They followed close behind, wary of a handful of mines the assailant had left to cover her tracks. Sometimes, they would jump over the mines. Other times, they managed to sidestep them. Too late did they return to the elevator, only to see it return to the surface. Looking around, he tore down an ancient door and found another stairwell.
"Quick! Up through here!"
Amber and Saren sprinted up the stairs. Reaching the top, their target sprinted out of view away from the elevator just as the elevator doors exploded violently off, no doubt to cut them off should they attempt to use the elevators in pursuit. By now, Saren and Amber reached the top of the stairs. They followed the mysterious individual back to the surface, and instantly lost sight as whoever it was disappeared into the jungle.
"God fucking damn it!" Amber groaned.
Saren was equally disappointed by the outcome.
"Shit," Saren grumbled, "c'mon, she couldn't have taken everything."
Amber stared into Saren's eyes as she nodded. They returned to the depths to where the assailant had reached before they had. Saren still remembered the device plugged into the terminal and wondered just what the woman was after. He slowly approached the terminal and activated it, only to discover nothing important remained. Saren slammed his fist against the console in defeat. As he lowered his head, Amber gently placed her hand on his shoulder.
"Not everything's lost," she reassured him, "there's still plenty to dig through, no?"
Saren tilted his head and gave Amber a soft expression.
"I guess not. Doesn't look like there's anything else here. Let's start our way back."
Saren and Amber trudged out of the room and made their way through the corridor towards the stairway. They returned to the building entrance otherwise empty-handed. Coincidentally, Garrus and Tali met up with them.
"Find anything?" Tali asked.
"Someone had come onto the site, looking for something and attacked us when we got too close. We lost them when they exited the building we were searching," Amber explained.
Garrus sighed as he shook his head in disbelief.
"Any idea who it was?" Garrus asked.
"Human female," Saren answered, "no ID and no armor or discernible signs of faction designation."
That was enough to catch Garrus to the point he placed his talon on his mandible.
"Human? And in a black outfit?" Garrus repeated.
"And the Alliance military sure as hell doesn't distribute combat suits like that," Amber added.
Garrus, Tali, Amber and Saren started their stroll back to the campsite. Every now and then, he'd throw a look back over his shoulder, expecting the anonymous agent to reappear. To his disappointment, she didn't. Heading back to the camp, he quickly filed the day's findings. All the while, Amber took this time to rest in her tent. She opened her omni-tool and hastily sent a message regarding the incident with the unknown attacker. After that, she nestled into the makeshift bed just as Saren crawled into the tent.
"Hey, Saren," Amber said, "feel like turning in?"
Saren nodded before he climbed into the makeshift bed with her. He wrapped an arm over her shoulder and tapped the bridge of his nose to the back of her head. Sighing with content, Amber leaned closer to his chest. She reached forward, turned out the lamp beside her and shut her eyes.
Back on her ship, Agent Lawson tapped her fingers over the controls and flipped up the landing gear before leaving Ilos' atmosphere. She'd been sloppy, and was just lucky she hadn't left sufficient evidence of her identity or been apprehended. Still, she looked over the data she managed to download. If anything, she hoped it would at least prepare humanity for an ancient adversary that no one else might know about.