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Shepard's Dream Catcher

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With not much else to investigate in Illium, Miranda, Saren and Amber returned to the Normandy. Joker wasted no time as he flew the vessel out of the planet's orbit. The three were looking over the galaxy map on the bridge. As Spectres, they could access information from the relays regarding ship registration.

"Looks like they're heading for batarian territory," Miranda noted.

Saren fingered his mandibles as he watched.

"We do have friends in that pocket of the galaxy," Saren mentioned, "maybe we could cut them off?"

"I'd prefer if we kept any interaction within my affairs to a minimum," Miranda insisted, "I still have to contend with my father once I get my sister away from Cerberus."

Amber gave Miranda a blank stare.

"Are you sure?" Amber asked, "I know one rogue batarian that's leading a revolution against the Hegemony."

Miranda put a hand through her hair as she processed the suggestion.

"I suppose a helping hand wouldn't be too risky," Miranda agreed.

It didn't take long before the Normandy reached a Mass Relay, letting the ancient structure fling it into FTL space. Half an hour later, the Normandy emerged from the other Mass Relay and entered batarian space. Joker kept the vessel's stealth cloak active and still tracked down their target.

"I see their current trajectory. I figured they would've known this place is a heavily contested location," he reported.

Amber silently nodded before she scrolled through her contact list in her omni-tool.

"I'll get word to Balak," Amber said, "keep on them."

"Uh, Amber?" Joker interrupted, "looks like we have another few vessels showing up on scope. IFFs look wiped and they're on our same trajectory."

Stopping what she was doing, Amber returned her focus onto the galaxy map. It was another small group of what looked to be merchant ships.

"I doubt they're here to sell ores," Amber commented, "do they know we're here?"

"No," Joker replied, "looks like they're tailing the same guys we are."

Miranda came forth and huffed.

"It's my father," Miranda interrupted, "it looks like his cronies are here to fetch Oriana before Cerberus can make whatever transaction they're here for."

"Then we can't just let either of them succeed," Saren replied as he folded his arms.

Suddenly, the merchant ships vastly accelerated and came alongside the Cerberus ships.

"Shepard, that Cerberus detachment won't last long," Joker informed, "orders?"

"Keep our distance for now and follow them to where they land," Amber instructed, "we'll call Balak if we can, but let's carry this out as a smash-and-grab. Let the two groups handle each other."

"Ok, Shepard," Joker nodded, "I'm on it."

Far ahead, as the cluster of conflicting ships drew closer to the destination's atmosphere, the merc vessels continued to barrage the Cerberus shuttles, crippling them and leaving them to drift into the planet's gravity. Barely did the shuttle manage to correct itself for a landing trajectory that wouldn't result in the death of everyone aboard. That became a signal for the Normandy to make its move. Without deactivating the stealth cloak, Joker carefully maneuvered the vessel closer to the planet's orbit.

"Commander, we'll be coming in hot, so you might want to assemble in the cargo hold."

Amber nodded before she gestured Saren and Miranda to follow her out of the bridge. They made their way to the cargo hold and met up with Tali and James to gear up.

"Hey, Lola!" James chirped as he waved his hand, "what's up?"

"Smash and grab," Amber ordered, "we've got a VIP to find between two groups. A few squads of Cerberus troops who currently hold the VIP and what I can assume is a platoon's worth of mercenaries trying to reach the VIP before we do. We're against the clock on this one, so we have to move fast."

Amber didn't waste any time as she boarded the Mako. She took the wheel and started the vehicle's engine.

"All ready, Joker," Amber announced, "drop us when we get there."

James and Saren exchanged brief glances before they, Tali and Miranda also boarded the Mako. By now, the Normandy descended into the planet's atmosphere and began lowering itself closer to the ground. Trails of smoke dotted the sky as the Normandy dropped the Mako. Touching the ground, Amber put her foot down on the acceleration. As she drove the vehicle along the surface, Miranda peered through the window. As they approached their destination, the Blue Suns started appearing over the hills. The mostly human mercenary group quickly encircled the remains of the crashed Cerberus shuttles, attempting to flush out the dug in, better trained, and better equipped soldiers present.

"Ugh," Miranda grumbled, "pesky bastards."

From the other side of the crash site, a few Loyalist batarians had come to investigate the skirmish and had joined in on the fight. Amber kept her eyes focused ahead while planning a route where they would inject themselves into the crash site and free Oriana without the squabblers noticing.

"Up ahead should be close enough," Amber said, "get ready to disembark."

"With pleasure," Saren nodded as he gathered his weapons.

Hitting the brakes hard, she dropped the rear hatch and charged out with the others. Still, the Blue Suns and the batarian Loyalists have yet to spot them.

"Hang in there, Oriana," Miranda whispered to herself.

To their disappointment, a few batarians already reached the crashed vessel and were already raiding it.

"Weapons free," Saren ordered.

He shoved the initial group into the air. This compelled Amber, Miranda, James and Tali to dart towards the crashed vessel. Once they made their way into the vessel through a large hole, they began searching the ship. A group had been escorting a battered, short haired woman away from deeper into the ship when they had been spotted.

"Trouble! Take them out!"

The group of batarians opened fire, forcing Amber and her squadmates to take cover. Tali pulled a grenade from her belt.

"Flashbang out!"

Tali cooked the grenade and tossed it. Peeking from cover, James gunned down one of the batarians. After a few more batarians were taken out by the grenade's explosion, Oriana remained as she glanced around in confusion. Miranda rushed into the open to drag her to safety.

"Miri!" Oriana gasped.

Miranda didn't say anything until she sat Oriana down behind some cover.

"Just stay down! We'll be out shortly!"

With Oriana curled behind cover, Miranda scoped ahead for any further threats.

"We should be good. VIP is secured. Let's go before we have to deal with anything else," Saren barked.

Miranda nodded at Saren before she gestured Oriana to her feet. Amber led Saren, the Lawson sisters, James and Tali out of the vessel. Keeping Oriana out of sight, they rushed back to the Mako, careful to avoid incoming fire. All the other factions had a mentality set to shoot anything that wasn't them, and were just as busy shooting at them as they were shooting at each other. Having completed their objective, Amber started driving the Mako away from the battlefield.

"Are you hurt? We've got medical supplies back at the ship if you need them," James asked Oriana.

Oriana hesitated in a moment of silence before she focused her eyes on James.

"I-It hurts," Oriana muttered.

"Just stay calm and try to remain conscious," James advised, "we've got a few medigel packs with us, but that's all for now."

With Amber still driving, Miranda held her sister close for comfort.

"Joker, you got us in your sights?" Amber called.

{I see you. I'm landing up ahead.}

"Good. Let Chakwas know we've got a patient in need. I'll get her to the medbay once we arrive."

Soon after, Amber saw the Normandy descend closer to the ground, dropping its cargo hatch open. The Mako drove right in and parked before the cargo bay doors closed once again. Amber and Miranda appeared out the back, both supporting Oriana to the elevator. Just as the elevator door closed, Oriana lowered herself to sit on the floor. The two continued to guide her the rest of the way to the medbay.

"Ah, Joker told me to get set up for our new guest," Chakwas greeted, "the bunk at the end is clear for her, commander."

Amber nodded at Dr. Chakwas.

"Thank you, Dr. Chakwas," Amber said.

Miranda carefully guided Oriana, allowing her sister to climb into the bunk at the far end. At the same time, Amber left the med-bay and met up with Saren before they both made their way to the bridge.

"I don't understand how this could've happened," Miranda admitted, "Niket assured me he'd have Oriana ready to move on a moment's notice and that he'd let me know if she had been compromised."

Mordin took a deep breath before he approached Oriana.

"Hard to say," Mordin replied, "you sure message wasn't intercepted?"

Miranda silently nodded.

"You don't think," Miranda mentioned, "Niket betrayed us, do you?"

"Possibility. Only hypothesizing," Mordin shrugged, "what say you?"

"I say that's a somewhat farfetched proposition," Miranda said, "I've known Niket since I escaped from my father. He wouldn't turn on me now."

Mordin nodded before he started examining Oriana.

"Fair enough. Can handle from here," Mordin suggested, "prefer to work without oversight. Do apologize."

Miranda sighed before she trudged out of the medbay. She didn't bother to register the Normandy taking off into space as she wandered through the hall. Her worries started to dance around her head. The Alliance commander and her turian mentor might be a bit forgiving, but it wasn't necessarily a guaranteed option. She was out of friends and places to move Oriana. On the other hand, she did have a few accounts stored under a few pseudonyms just in case of a scenario like today where she would need emergency funds. If she can't return to Cerberus, then where else would she have to go? She had her list of addresses and escape routes all on her desk back at Cerberus HQ, stored on her terminal before she could have a proper chance to move it. If she wanted to get her files back, she'll have to take risks. She could get in contact with one of the Shadow Broker's numerous agents and make a deal. Alternatively, the Shadow Broker could lend her a hand in getting to a few things just out of reach.

While she was in the middle of forming a plan in mind, Miranda arrived at the bridge. Saren and Amber were at the other side of the room, looking over the galaxy map. How would the Cerberus agent persuade the Spectres? Considering that their initial demands were rather modest, perhaps she could just tell them the obvious details right now and explain more later when she got word back from the Shadow Broker. Remaining as calm as she could, Miranda slowly stepped closer to the Spectres.

"Spectres, do you have a minute?" Miranda called over.

The next thing she knew, Saren and Amber focused their eyes on the former Cerberus agent.

"Of course. What's the matter?" the former answered.

Miranda took a deep breath and straightened her spine.

"We still have a deal, yes?" Miranda reminded, "I disclose additional information regarding my former employers and you help with relocating my sister?"

Amber nodded.

"So what have you got for us?" Amber asked.

"I've still got a few things on hand I could give to you," Miranda explained, "I'll try to get to some contacts later to fetch the rest."

Miranda pulled out her omni-tool, gazing at some of the few things she still had saved on the device. After a moment, she sent the files to Saren and Amber's omni-tools.

"We'll be heading back to the Citadel," Amber said, "just stay on the ship until we get something figured out."

"I'll still need to get off," Miranda objected, "I've got a few accounts I'd like to have liquidated before I make my next move."

Saren raised a browplate.

"You sure?" Saren paused.

"Yes," Miranda answered.

"Very well," Saren advised, "do maintain contact if you get in any trouble."

Miranda nodded just as the Normandy emerged from the Mass Relay, flying its way towards the Citadel. Half an hour later, they docked at the station. Amber had been kind enough to lend Miranda an Alliance uniform until she could get into some proper civies. Never before had she felt so vulnerable stepping aboard the Citadel. If she even were to get in any form of trouble, Cerberus had been deeply rooted enough to get her back out again. However, with the safety harness all but gone, every calm stride would quickly devolve into nervously glancing over her shoulder and getting ready to bolt if she was being followed.