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Shepard's Dream Catcher

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As Amber could confirm, it had been over a year since the Akuze incident. Her focus on other matters left little room for the Thresher Maws to haunt her in her dreams. She and Saren spent the next few days biding their time as the quarians and the Geth slowly repaired their relations, hoping that the Councilors would accept this as an example of diplomacy. That silence was broken when Amber opened a message from Miranda and read it.

{Shepard, I need your help.}

Raising her eyebrows, Amber sent a text in response.

{What do you need?}

Amber waited nervously until she received another response.

{Remember the Rachni in Noveria? Cerberus found them and they're trying to capture them again.}

Amber felt a chill down her spine, so she stood to her feet and stepped out of her bedroom, making her way to the door to Saren's office.

"Saren?" Amber called, "you in there?"

"Yes," he poked his head out the door and returned, "what is it?"

"Cerberus is on the move," Amber warned, "and Miranda knows where."

Making a calm sigh, Saren stepped through the door.

"They're up to no good again," Saren said, "aren't they?"

"They still want the Rachni," Amber nodded, "and they aren't giving up so soon."

Both Spectres didn't hesitate as they suited up before meeting at the front door, with Amber in her new N7 armor. They left the apartment and meandered through the Presidium, making their way to the docking bay. The Alliance commander scanned her surroundings until she laid her eyes on Miranda, who leaned on the rails.

"Miri!" Amber called over as she waved her hand, "we're here!"

Upon cue, Miranda glanced over her shoulder as both Spectres approached her.

"Good to see you're ready, commander," the former agent greeted.

Amber nodded at Miranda as they and Saren walked through the docks.

"You still have feelers within Cerberus?" Amber asked.

"Tangents," Miranda nodded, "they'll seal them off soon enough, but they're enough to get bits of information."

It was only a short while before they arrived at the Normandy.

"So, you know where they found the Rachni?" Saren pressed.

As they crossed the walkway, Miranda turned on her omni-tool and pulled out the coordinates.

"Utukku, it's in the Attican Traverse," Miranda answered, "they followed the trail the queen left there, and they've been searching the planet surface for some time."

After they made it aboard the Normandy, Saren and Amber examined the coordinates before recording them into their omni-tools.

"Any idea if they have them yet?" Amber asked.

"No," Miranda shook her head, "they're still encountering resistance, but they're mounting an offensive. We'll have to hurry before much longer."

"Not to worry," Saren reassured, "Normandy just resupplied, we should be ready to go."

Saren, Amber and Miranda made their way to the bridge, where they met up with Garrus and Kelly.

"The Rachni again, huh?" Garrus asked, clearly wishing it wasn't so.

"Sadly," Amber admitted with a sigh, "that's what's going on right now."

"Sure we shouldn't just kill both the Cerberus forces and the Rachni on this mission?" Garrus rolled his eyes, "it'd save us the trouble of having to protect them in the future, and we wouldn't have to deal with the possible ramifications of the Rachni getting aggressive."

Saren, Amber, Miranda and gave Kelly gave Garrus blank stares.

"That defeats the purpose of this mission in the first place," Amber chastised.

He shrugged in response.

"Just thinking ahead," Garrus said, "if they are so potent as biological weapons, it'd be easier to make sure no one can use them as such in the future."

Shaking her head in disbelief, the Alliance Commander stepped towards the pilot seat.

"I've set the coordinates on the galaxy map," Amber instructed, "take us out, Joker."

"You got it," Joker glanced over his shoulder and nodded.

She returned to the briefing room with Saren and Miranda as they left the Citadel dock. She turned on the holographic projector of the galaxy.

"So what else did you hear from the local Cerberus detachments?" Amber asked.

Miranda pulled up an enhanced view of the planet surface.

"The Rachni have hidden themselves in an abandoned mine for temporary shelter," Miranda added, "Cerberus started with surface bombing before attempting to move in."

Saren grimaced at the thought of what Cerberus could do to the Rachni, yet he still examined the map.

"So do you have a suggestion for our point of entry?" Saren pressed.

"So far, they don't have armored vehicles or heavy artillery on hand, so it'll make entry easier," Miranda suggested, "they're stretched thin as is, so we could make our way through one of the guarded entrances and continue from there."

Amber placed her finger on her chin.

"Yeah, that could work," Amber agreed.

"On top of that, most of them will be inclined to stay at their posts to ensure the Rachni don't break out, meaning we shouldn't encounter reinforcements on the way out," Saren added, "a sound plan."

An hour later, the Normandy entered the Attican Traverse and made their way to Utukku. Amber led Saren, Garrus, Miranda and Kelly aboard a shuttle after making their way into the cargo hold. When they entered the upper atmosphere, the cargo hold doors opened. The team landed the shuttle in the hills near one of the mine entrances. Garrus scanned the area before he gestured to Amber that the coast was clear. This prompted the Alliance commander to lead her squad into the mine.

From that point forth, they resorted to sneaking through the tunnels. Once in a while, they would spot a random Cerberus corpse lying on the ground. Men just slumped over with large chunks of their armor hacked off with brute force or burned away with some caustic fluid, exposing melted flesh and faces with screams inscribed on them underneath.

"Looks like they weren't holding out either way," Saren sighed.

Kelly stiffened a little, yet she kept up with her pace.

"Is…Rachni acid worse than Thresher Maw acid?" Kelly pondered.

"This is just child's play. Thresher Maws are definitely worse," Amber answered.

Just as they came across a corner, Amber held out her arm, stopping her squadmates in her tracks as she peered around the corner. There was a large elevator heading deeper into the mine, with the elevator car waiting at the top.

"All right, people," Amber told the others, "I think we found a shortcut."

The team got onto the platform and started the ride downward. Once it reached the lower levels, Amber and her squad continued farther. The bodies down below were fewer, but more apparent. Now, a few Rachni remains were scattered about. The blood from the insectoid bodies dried onto the floor and smelled of fish. There wasn't much light filling the tunnels, so Amber turned on the flashlight feature in her omni-tool. They continued into the quiet, dank mines, barely illuminating the dark corners of the caves. Cerberus couldn't have gone much farther than this, right? The bodies stopped at a distinct line where the Cerberus forces ceased to pursue their target once the objective became too costly to achieve.

"All right," Garrus said, "now what?"

"Let's keep going," Amber suggested, "try and talk nicely with them."

With help from her flashlight, Amber started searching for live Rachni. She suddenly heard a distant scratching noise and signaled the others to stop.

"You guys hear that?" Amber blurted.

They all stopped in their tracks and began listening for any distant sounds. Once she picked up on the sounds, Kelly turned to her right.

"This way," Kelly gestured.

Amber nodded at Kelly as the latter led the way. The team entered a chasm with a few metal bridges stretching the gap. They peered over the cliff, only to see the occasional Rachni worker scuttling along the walls of the chasm.

"Miranda," Kelly asked, "is there any activity across the bridges?"

"Nothing yet," Miranda shook her head, "at least nothing I can see."

Garrus scratched his mandible.

"All the more reason to find out," he commented.

Garrus stepped onto one of the bridges first. Right behind him, Kelly followed him on. After Saren, Amber and Miranda stepped onto the bridge, they carefully crossed it while remaining vigilant. Suddenly, the bridge underneath them began to groan under their weight and violently shifted. Yelping in panic, Kelly embraced herself to Garrus. They dove for the opposite ends of the bridge before it suddenly snapped in half. Garrus narrowly clung onto the edge, but the impact broke Kelly's grip, causing her to let go.

"Kelly!" Garrus panicked.

He attempted to reach for her hand as she fell down into the abyss below. Anxiety surged through his nerves as Garrus felt his breath quicken. On the other side of the bridge, Amber, Saren and Miranda stared in disbelief. Amber hastily opened her omni-tool seconds later.

"Shit…Kelly, are you still there?"

A brief moment of static answered, before the yeoman coughed over the com-link.

{I'm down here! I had a few bumps on the way down, and I can't tell if I've broken anything. My omni-tool light still works enough so I'll try to find my way back up.}

Amber let out a sigh of relief.

"We'll find a way to the bottom," Amber reassured, "don't worry."

{Thank you, Shepard,} Kelly replied over the com-link, {you take care.}

Amber ended the transmission and eyed the other bridges.

"Are you sure those bridges aren't going to fall apart like the last one?" Amber asked Miranda.

"It's not that far of a jump," Miranda boasted.

The former agent took a few steps back and lept the distance of the gap with minimal effort. Amber gave Miranda a blank stare while Saren sighed and lifted the Alliance commander into his arms.

"S-Saren?" Amber blurted.

"Hang on," Saren advised.

Stepping back, he followed suit and jumped over the chasm, setting her down on the other side. From there, the Spectres and the former Cerberus agent rejoined Garrus.

"All right," Garrus insisted, "where do we go from here?"

"Downward. Even if they aren't held up in somewhere deeper, we need to find Kelly," Miranda suggested.

They found a ramp downward to the next levels of the mine.

Having recovered from her fall, Kelly found herself amazed that she survived such an incident. Where will she have to go from here? She continued venturing through the bottom of the chasm until she found an entrance to a narrow tunnel. She carefully walked onward, keeping a hand against the wall. Her omni-tool's flashlight would flicker, struggling to keep a constant light. By now, she had a sneaky suspicion her omni-tool might've been damaged. She struggled to keep calm as she continued to limp through the darkness.

Every once in a while, she would hear tiny footsteps not her own zip past her as she continued to trudge through the tunnel. As long as any Rachni didn't attack her, she would be fine. When she entered a large chamber, Kelly immediately paused in her tracks. A Rachni queen sat in the center of the chamber. All around Kelly, a group of Rachni drones calmly scuttled towards her. She couldn't help but shudder nervously, but she kept still. Strangely enough, one Rachni worker stood in front of her and stood on its hind legs, letting out a small chirp.

"Uh…hello?" Kelly blurted.

Kelly slowly knelt down, locking her eyes onto the Rachni worker's. She looked back up to the queen, still looming in the shadows behind them. The Rachni queen gave her a slow nod, compelling the workers to clear a path. Taking the hint, Kelly slowly approached the queen.

"I assume you know a way out of here?" she asked.

The Rachni queen didn't respond, yet she tilted her head sideways. It wrapped a tendril gently around her neck. The queen whispered into her mind through some unseen connection.

"Yes, but the path is blocked."

"W-What?" Kelly stammered.

Kelly stared into the Rachni queen's eyes, noticing a sad expression hidden in them.

"Was it Cerberus?" Kelly asked softly.

"Yes. But now your companions are here to lead us out, are they not?"

Kelly slowly nodded.

"Yeah, that," she agreed.

She wasn't sure why, yet Kelly slowly lifted her hand. She brushed her hand against its head as it dipped down to meet her. Seconds later, she heard a soft coo from the Rachni queen.

"We will remember this."

Now, Kelly doubted Javik when he claimed that the Rachni were vicious and aggressive. Still, this encounter would most likely prove the Prothean wrong.