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Shepard's Dream Catcher

Chapter Text

They returned to the shuttle and returned to the Normandy. Once everyone disembarked the shuttle, Amber and Saren stayed behind in the cargo hold. The turian Spectre fluttered his mandibles in curiosity while his human mate stared at one of the strongboxes.

"Shepard?" Saren called over.

Amber snapped out of her thoughts and glanced over her shoulder.

"What is it?" Amber paused.

Saren sighed as he approached Amber and placed his hand on her shoulder.

"If we are going to look at it more, it should be in a lab," Saren suggested.

Amber nodded in agreement.

"Maybe we can get Legion onboard?" Amber offered.

"We didn't test it on AI and Cerberus had no concrete method of testing on synthetic life, so it might be worth a try," Miranda answered.

Amber and Saren tilted their heads towards Miranda in a moment of silence. They apparently weren't the only ones who didn't leave the cargo hold.

"I'll go get Legion," Amber said.

Amber scurried out of the cargo hold and returned with Legion minutes later. They teamed up with Saren and Miranda to lift a strongbox onto a cart.

"We have developed to be resistant," Legion mentioned, "but we cannot determine if we are immune to the Old Machine's influence."

They began rolling the cart out of the cargo hold and down the corridor, making their way into the lab.

"If it's any better, Legion," Amber reassured the Geth unit, "I trust you, but I don't trust Javik."

"Very well," Legion agreed.

In the lab, they put Legion in a small quarantine block, alone with the artifact. Peering into the box, it pulled the object out, holding it in one hand. The Geth unit took a moment or so to scan it. Amidst the scans, it picked up data on species the Protheans used to enslave, something that wasn't mentioned in books about Protheans. Was this something the Reapers archived?

In a brief moment, it witnessed all the Old Machines came to despise about the Protheans. Lesser developed civilizations at the time didn't have much freedom under the iron fist of the Prothean Empire. If it was one thing the Protheans enjoyed, it was consolidating their power over their subjects, driving entire species to the brink of extinction to forcing revolts to relent. The Protheans wanted it to be known that they alone were the finest example of species within the galaxy, meaning everything else was beneath them.

Now, with less than a year to prepare for the Reapers' arrival, would the current civilizations of the galaxy have to learn from the mistakes of the Protheans to avoid the same fate? The Geth unit finished and returned the artifact into its strongbox before locking it. Upon cue, Legion was released from the quarantine block, allowing Amber to meet up with it.

"Did you find anything?" Amber asked.

"Old Machines found Prothean society flawed," Legion reported, "current organic status doesn't meet such low standards. However, we hypothesize that improvement will be needed before their arrival if resistance is not an ideal plan of action."

While taking a moment for her mind to digest the revelation, Amber pulled out her dream catcher and reflected its dangling feathers, its spiderweb weave in the circular frame and the details of the yarn. She began reflecting on the museum she and her mother visited while she was growing up. She remembered the exhibits explaining the history of Native Americans and reflected on the day she took a class in making dream catchers. This memorabilia in her hand was proof of her hands-on experience…a memory she would treasure for life.

"You know," Amber mentioned, "I did remember they sent me a similar message some time ago."

"We presume your efforts are still in progress, correct?" Legion reminded.

Amber nodded.

"Of course," Amber answered, "but, I'm not sure if we'll be finished on time."

"Perhaps you could appeal to them," Legion suggested, "show you are capable of meeting their expectations within a confirmed schedule. However, this is uncertain."

Amber glanced over her shoulder and locked eyes onto Saren's.

"What do you think?" Amber asked.

"We're on good time right now," Saren answered, "we keep up our efforts and we might get through this unscathed."

"Right," Amber agreed.

"That seems to be the best course of action," Legion commented.

Satisfied with the new information, Saren, Amber, Legion and Miranda left the lab and dropped off the strongbox back in the cargo hold before they made their way to the bridge. By now, the Normandy already took off into space and the former Cerberus operative noticed that the Shadow Broker's vessel was also preparing for its departure.

"Hey, Shepard!" Joker chirped while he waved his hand at the Alliance commander, "glad to see you guys are still in one piece."

"So am I," Amber nodded, "now let's go."

It didn't take long for the Normandy to reach the Mass Relay, allowing the ancient structure fling it into FTL speed. They returned to the safety of Citadel Space an hour later.

"Take us into the dock. I want the ship to be screened for bugs when we arrive, too," Amber ordered.

Joker nodded as he maneuvered the Normandy towards the docking bay, attaching the ship to the magnetic clamps. With the ship was locked into place, the crew started to disembark. The Normandy's engineers along with local engineers ran diagnostics on the internal systems per Amber's orders. To her luck, no bugs were discovered throughout the diagnosis.

"Keep me updated on any other issues that arise," she ordered before heading to the airlock.

Amber soon disembarked the vessel and met up with Saren at the docks.

"I went ahead and filed our report," Saren informed her.

"Thanks," Amber smiled as she placed her hand on his shoulder.

"By the way, Victus says he wants to meet and discuss Balak," Saren added, "his movement has almost wrapped up."

Amber nodded at Saren as they left the docking bay.

"All right," Amber replied, "let's go find him."

Both Spectres held hands as they meandered through the Presidium. Once they reached the Citadel Tower, General Victus stood outside the door waiting for them.

"General Victus?" Amber called over.

Adrien perked his head up and locked eyes onto the Spectres.

"Come in, take a seat," he greeted.

The turian general led the Spectres into the building and when they entered a conference room, they all sat down at a table.

"So, you got any updates?" Amber asked.

"Things are starting to wrap up quickly in the Kite's Nest," Victus explained, "and Balak's making his final push."

General Victus brought up the projection of the galaxy map.

"His movement has taken most of the systems," the turian general continued, "and they're gathering their assets for a last push on Khar'Shan."

Amber nodded as she read the marked coordinates on the map.

"Do we need to do anything to ensure his success?" Amber replied.

"I want the two of you to be on the ground, giving them support every step of the way," Victus requested, "if this means we won't have to deal with batarian slavers attacking our colonies ever again, this is important for every Citadel-aligned race."

Amber nodded before she extended her hand.

"Leave it to us, general," Amber acknowledged.

General Victus gladly accepted the Alliance commander's hand and shook it.

"Good," Victus nodded, "I've got faith in you two. Make it happen."

With the meeting adjourned, Saren and Amber made their way out of the Citadel Tower and meandered through the Presidium until they reached their apartment. The Spectres slipped out of their suits of armor and placed them in their closets before plopping onto the couch in the living room. Amber picked up her datapad from the coffee table and took notice of a vid-stream request from her mother. She didn't hesitate to answer the call.

"Mom?" she answered.

{Hello, sweetie. I just heard about your engagement with Agent Arterius and I wanted to congratulate you.}

Amber made a blank stare before she placed her hand behind her head.

"Oh," Amber blurted, "thanks, mom. I appreciate it."

Curious, Saren glanced over Amber's shoulder.

"Uh, Admiral Shepard?" Saren paused.

{Oh,} Hannah greeted over the transmission, {hello, Spectre Arterius. I got the news from Anderson.}

Saren let out an enthusiastic hum.

"I see," Saren clarified, "so I assume you approve of this relationship, then?"

Hannah nodded over the transmission.

{Of course. I have no reason to deny your affection for each other. I just ask that you take care of her.}

Saren slowly nodded and placed his hand on his chest.

"You have my word," Saren confirmed.

{Take care,} Hannah said, {you two.}

The transmission ended after they bid farewell. Amber set down her datapad and picked up her miniature console.

"Saren," Amber asked, "have you thought of…trying out The Binding of Isaac?"

Curious, Saren raised a browplate.

"I haven't," Saren admitted, "what is it?"

Amber turned on the miniature console and scrolled to the Binding of Isaac's Afterbirth+ edition.

"This game has a steep learning curve," Amber began to explain, "and it takes some time to getting used to."

Starting up a new game, Saren watched from over her shoulder.

"So what genre is this? Bullet hell?" Saren pondered.

"It's also a dungeon explorer type game," Amber added before she handed the miniature console to her mate.

"Right. Where do I go from here?" Saren asked.

Saren began exploring the game's menu and found the character roster. While scrolling through each characters, he noticed all of them save for Isaac couldn't be accessed.

"Strange," Saren commented.

"Oh," Amber pointed out, "each character has different requirements for you to unlock them.

"Well, Isaac it is," Saren chuckled.

He scrolled back and tapped the first option. Saren watched as the game began to appear, Isaac standing in a small room in the basement with one door at each wall. On the floor, the turian Spectre saw graphics of the character, probably as some sort of instructions. He took some moments to figure out which keys moved the character, which keys directed Isaac's tears, which key triggered the active item and which key placed a bomb. After that, he moved the character through a door. Upon entering the next room, Saren thought fast and maneuvered Isaac along while the character fired tears at some enemies. Isaac may have gotten hit one or two times, but the turian Spectre was able to clear the room before the doors opened.

"So you clear out all the enemies and then you can press onward?" Saren repeated.

"Pretty much," Amber nodded.

Having gotten the picture, Saren continued meandering the character through each room and clearing them out one by one. Along the way, he would pick up coins, bombs, keys and hearts whenever they were accessible. When he entered the item room, he raised his browplate at the item on the pedestal.

"Is that a power-up?" Saren pondered.

Amber examined the pedestal item before she nodded.

"That's 20/20," Amber added, "it gives you a double shot for your tears."

"Interesting," Saren commented.

Saren moved Isaac towards the item, letting the character pick it up. When he pressed on the tear keys, he watched as two tears shot out of the sprite at the same time. Satisfied with the power-up, the turian Spectre continued moving the character through the floor until it reached the boss room. Upon entering, he saw a moment long cutscene before he ended up having to fight a large poop monster.

"Is-is that a…?!" Saren exclaimed.

"Yeah," Amber nodded, "that's a Dingle. The Dips from earlier were smaller shits compared to this."

"Right. So far, still manageable," he muttered.

Saren didn't hesitate as he fought the Dingle, examining its tactics and adapting accordingly. His quick thinking was enough for him to defeat the boss, only to notice another pedestal item that appeared. When he picked it up, he noticed the power-up increased his HP. He spotted a trapdoor, so he maneuvered Isaac towards it, watching as the character jumped through it.

"That's it?" Saren paused.

"That actually goes to the next level," Amber clarified.

"Huh," Saren slowly nodded, "this is actually quite entertaining."

Getting the hang of the gameplay, Saren was able to progress through the next five levels, observing Isaac maneuver through the caves and then the depths. After jumping down the next cave, he suddenly got a screen depicting the titular character huddled up in the fetal position at the foot of a large, lumpy, throbbing leg with a red high-heeled shoe at the end and the text "Isaac vs. Mom" overhead.

"Poor kid," Saren cooed, "you did mention his mother wants to kill him, right?"

Amber nodded.

"Yeah," she replied, "can you imagine how delusional his mom got to this point?"

"I'd rather not think about it. All that matters now is that Issac lives and she dies."

As soon as the fight began, Saren decided now was the time to spring into action. His eyes were sent darting back and forth across the screen as he shot pellets at the "mother's" extremities as they protruded from the walls. He didn't hesitate to dodge as her foot slammed onto the ground. Taking a couple of hits, he continued to struggle, slowly killing the mother with bug-bites. The instant the boss health meter had been emptied, the turian Spectre was soon treated to a cutscene. Perhaps there had been some deeper meaning that humans interpreted it as, but he generally found it to be confusing. Still, now that he completed his first run, he tilted his head towards Amber and purred.

"That was an interesting experience."

"Yeah, definitely," Amber agreed.

Amber leaned in closer to Saren, allowing him to nuzzle his face against hers. He then got up to get himself a drink from the kitchen. When he returned from the kitchen carrying two glasses, he handed one to Amber.

"This was a good way to spend the evening. What say you?" he asked.

"Same here," Amber nodded in agreement, taking a sip of her lemonade.

The rest of the night was calm and collected for the two of them.