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Shepard's Dream Catcher

Chapter Text

A day may have passed since Miranda returned from Illium after her visit, but she decided to let Saren and Amber deal with a conference with the turian Hierarchy. For now, the former Cerberus operative meandered through the Presidium until she stopped at Nihlus's apartment. She had messaged the younger turian Spectre earlier about her visit several minutes prior to her arrival. She stopped at the front door and knocked it, waiting until Nihlus opened it seconds later.

"Come in," Nihlus beckoned.

She followed Nihlus inside.

"I can understand if my intel sounds very unlikely," Miranda said.

"Don't worry. It's been tried before. Ask the salarians how that went," he chuckled in response.

When they entered the living room, they both sat down on the couch.

"So, they're after the Thresher Maws, huh?" Nihlus repeated.

Miranda nodded.

"Yes," she explained, "while the use of seismic generators is a known method of guiding Thresher Maws, they're looking for more direct means of control, as well as possible methods of capture and redeployment."

Nihlus hummed as he scratched his mandible.

"Yeah, like I said," Nihlus repeated, "the salarians had tried that a few centuries ago as a possible means of cheapening mining costs for colonies. It failed miserably."

Miranda perched her hands on her lap.

"I didn't tell Shepard about this yet," Miranda admitted, "because…you know."

"I can imagine," Nihlus asked, "are you suggesting we take this matter into our own hands, then?"

Miranda slowly stood to her feet.

"You do have your own shuttle, yes?" Miranda reminded.

He nodded and similarly stood up.

"Yes," Nihlus answered, "it's an option offered by the academy."

Miranda gave Nihlus a soft smile.

"The sooner we get there," she told him, "the better."

"Got it. Let me grab my stuff, then we'll head straight for the port."

Once Nihlus finished suiting up, he and Miranda left the apartment and made their way through the Presidium until they reached the Spectre docks. The young turian Spectre and the former Cerberus operative meandered through the docks until they arrived at his shuttle. It was the standard model of the shuttle, but Nihlus had opted to take a few liberties with the ship. Along with the interior being decorated with various pieces from different cultures, it had been outfitted with stronger thrusters and barriers per his own design. When they boarded the shuttle, Nihlus settled into the pilot seat.

He hit several switches and ignited the engines. Putting in his Spectre codes, the magnetic clamps released the ship and let them depart. Nihlus maneuvered the shuttle out of the Citadel as it traveled across space to reach the Mass Relay.

"Now, I apologize in advance if we get in any trouble," Nihlus started as they entered FTL, "I made some modifications to the ship's acceleration to help with escapes better. It'll get a bit shaky, and I've had complaints that it's triggered motion sickness before."

Miranda raised an eyebrow.

"Oh," she remarked, "that's a pleasant thought."

Miranda and Nihlus leaned in their chairs as the shuttle continued to travel in FTL speed. They later exited the relay and set course for their destination planet. It took at least an hour before the shuttle emerged from another Mass Relay.

"So, Akuze is where they've set up, huh?" Nihlus asked.

Miranda nodded as the shuttle approached the planet's orbit.

"You did visit this colony before, right?" Miranda mentioned.

"Just once to try contacting the Alliance," Nihlus admitted, "it's only a location meant to stop by on to make any repairs. I'm surprised anyone tried to colonize this rock."

Miranda sighed.

"Humans have colonized in dangerous places before," Miranda admitted, "such as near an active volcano."

"Eh, no argument there," he shrugged.

The shuttle descended through the planet's atmosphere and hovered above the surface. They came to rest on a rocky ridge and exited the shuttle. Standing atop a cliff, Miranda stared into the distance. Nihlus took a moment to stretch his arms.

"Right. Onto business."

Taking extra caution, Miranda and Nihlus skittered down the slope. They would occasionally dive behind boulders to avoid detection from any Cerberus soldiers that might be on patrol. Once they reached the base of the slope, they began sneaking through the abandoned prefabs. Taking cover along the wall, Miranda peeked around the corner as Cerberus soldiers nearby were handling equipment in the empty street. She peeked out to briefly glimpse the seismic thumpers they were carrying.

"Lawson?" Nihlus whispered.

Miranda kept focusing on the Cerberus soldiers while she placed her hand on Nihlus's shoulder.

"Yeah, I see them," Miranda replied.

It was only a matter of minutes later before the Cerberus soldiers started moving, encouraging Miranda and Nihlus to start tailing them.

"I'm surprised we've got cages that big," one guard huffed.

The other nodded in agreement.

"I'm more surprised that these things don't just bite or spit their way out. I talked with the boss earlier, said R&D managed to find a means of making the material resistant enough to whatever damage they can put out."

As they continued their stealth, Nihlus nervously fluttered his mandibles.

"Hmm," Nihlus mused, "your intel paid off."

Miranda nodded as she placed her index finger in front of her lips without making a sound. They followed the two through the ruined prefabs until they reached an opening. Along with a Cerberus vessel towards the back, they had crates, vehicles, and a couple large cages out in the open with personnel all over the site. To add to the situation, drilling noises filled the area. Miranda looked around and saw mining vehicles setting up holes for the cages to be set up in. Considering that she has been questioning Cerberus's true objective, Miranda balled her hands into fists.

"I have an idea how to stall them," Miranda suggested, "if not disrupt their entire operation altogether. Not sure if this'll stop their progress altogether, though."

Nihlus raised a browplate.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

"Those thumpers," Miranda reminded, "are they not a double-edged sword?"

"Yeah," Nihlus drawled, "I see what you're up to."

Miranda and Nihlus slowly emerged from their cover. They rushed over to a pile of inactive thumpers and each pulled up one. Continuing onward, they rushed to the side of the Cerberus vessel and set each one up.

"Ready?" Miranda asked.

Nihlus nodded at Miranda before she flipped the switch. The devices began hammering the earth underneath them, producing a deep rumble like distant thunder or a large drum. Both the young turian Spectre and the former agent held onto the thumpers as they remained vigilant.

"Looks like they're good to go. Let's get out of here before anything else arrives," Nihlus said.

Miranda nodded before she and Nihlus sprinted out of the clearing and began tearing through the prefabs. Nihlus let out a yelp as the ground violently shook, nearly tripping in the process. The former Cerberus operative thought fast and helped him to his feet. Suddenly, the familiar sound of the ground erupting roared behind them. Shortly, gunfire followed as the local troops rushed to tend to the newfound threat. With the Thresher Maws having emerged, Miranda and Nihlus continued to dart through the prefabs.

"That should slow down their operation here for a good three weeks," she announced.

Once they reached the outskirts of the prefabs, Miranda and Nihlus began climbing up the slope. They returned to the shuttle and climbed back in. He quickly sat back down again and ignited the engines. The shuttle took off from Akuze's orbit and sped across space.

"So are we going to bring Shepard into this?" he asked.

"Last time I checked her psychological profile," Miranda reminded, "she still bore some potential stress from her initial encounter of the Thresher Maws when they wiped out her team. Let's just collect a couple other squadmates, then we can deal with this ourselves."

"Right," Nihlus nodded with a sigh, "I'm up for just having extra people to shoot the place up with, but did you have anyone specific in mind?"

Miranda took a moment to think over the question.

"With the Thresher Maws around, projectiles will be a constant," Miranda answered, "so biotics would be beneficial to have. We'll bring Dr. T'Soni and the Prothean."

"Of course," Nihlus rolled his eyes, "have to deal with the Prothean."

The shuttle soon approached the Mass Relay, and the ancient structure flung it into FTL speed. They returned to the Serpent Nebula and docked at the Citadel where Miranda sent out messages to the two. She waited at the entrance to the Spectre docks until Liara and Javik arrived several minutes later.

"Dr. Lawson, we got your message. So we'll be dealing with Thresher Maws?" Liara greeted.

Miranda nodded while she led Javik and Liara through the docks.

"I don't know if it's possible to control them," Miranda said, "but Cerberus wants to find out."

"Back in my cycle," Javik commented, "soldiers on break would head out into the open planes, try to find one, and ride on its back as a form of sport."

Liara blinked once.

"So it is possible?" she pondered.

"By the definition of what Cerberus wants to achieve, no," Javik answered.

By now, Miranda, Liara and Javik arrived at the shuttle, with Nihlus waiting at the bottom of the ramp to greet them.

"Welcome aboard, climb on in," Nihlus grinned, "we'll explain more en route."

Nihlus led Miranda, Liara and Javik aboard his shuttle before they settled in the cockpit. Nihlus mindlessly hit the ship controls as he rambled on regarding necessary exposition to Liara and Javik.

"So here's the sitch," Nihlus began, "we all know that Thresher Maws are big dumb animals and can easily be led around to locations away from their nest or general mining operations through stimulating seismic activity. Cerberus wants to see if they can take this a step further."

The shuttle left the station and flew through space. Javik shook his head as they made the leap into FTL.

"A foolish pursuit," Javik scoffed, "even our own government recognized them as just animals. Creatures meant to either be combated or avoided."

"The Illusive Man doesn't seem to care," Miranda replied, "within the last several hours, we have disrupted their operations on this planet. While this is a relative setback, something more damaging would be better."

"Do you have anything more specific in mind?" Liara asked.

"If the Thresher Maws we set on them haven't finished off this group, we will," Miranda answered.

It was only an hour or so before the shuttle returned to Akuze's orbit. Entering low orbit, Nihlus initiated surface scanning as they approached the site.

"Yeah, they barely survived the Thresher Maws," Nihlus commented, "looks like a mess down there."

The shuttle descended the planet's atmosphere and landed on the top of the mountain. Exiting the shuttle, they looked down on the site below, seeing smoke rise into the sky. They then began descending the slope. A third had erupted from the ground in their absence and the leftovers of the Cerberus detachment were cleaning up. Once they reached the base of the slope, they readied their weapons. They started their offensive sweep when another Thresher Maw rose up from the ground. The Cerberus team had attempted to compensate their losses by doubling their efforts and had been attacked the moment they lured another Thresher Maw. With the Cerberus soldiers distracted, Miranda, Nihlus, Liara and Javik took this chance to strike. Avoiding the large beast, they began to pick off the survivors from the cover of damaged equipment. Miranda emitted a biotic field to shield the team.

They had only gone several minutes before they were stopped in their tracks by a ball of acidic spittle, nearly landing on them. With the large worm's indiscriminate attention, they were forced to scatter. This hit and run somehow turned into a struggle for survival. Javik reloaded his rifle from cover when a Cerberus soldier rounded a corner facing him. Before either could get a shot off, the soldier dissolved in a splash of acid, thrashing in pain as he hit the ground. The Prothean huffed before he slinked along the prefabs. Gradually, they flanked it from various angles, taking potshots while contending with the dwindling number of Cerberus forces present. They also kept themselves vigilant for any Thresher Maws that would tear through the prefabs. Rushing to the next bit of cover, Nihlus rolled out of the way of another acid spit. Liara emerged from her cover after the Thresher Maw left the area.

"Spectre Kryik," Liara called over, "progress?"

{Slow. That Thresher Maw isn't making this easy.}

Liara sighed as she peeked around the corner.

"Javik, do you see where I am?"

Liara spotted the Prothean as he made a gesture at a distance.

{I presume you have a plan?}

"We're on opposite sides of the Thresher Maw right now," Liara suggested, "next time it launches a ball of spittle at either one of us, biotically toss it to the other, then fling it at the back of the creature."

Javik glanced at the Thresher Maw with a disgruntled expression.

{I hope your reaction time is acceptable.}

Javik caught the next projectile and passed it to Liara. Catching the spittle with her own biotics, she catapulted it to the backside of the creature above her. She squeezed her eyes shut as she heard the sound of splashing from the projectile. It let out a howl before turning to her and nearly catching her with a retaliation shot.

"One more should do it," Liara said, "Miranda, are you ready?"

Miranda nodded as biotic particles danced in her hands. The follow-up shot was swiftly caught and passed to Miranda to deliver the killing blow. The monstrosity was hit once more at the point of its dissolved armor and sent crashing down. With one Thresher Maw out of the way, Nihlus regrouped with Miranda, Liara and Javik.

"You found any more Cerberus whelps?" Javik demanded.

Nihlus sighed as he shrugged.

"I just saw the last one dissolve in acid," Nihlus informed.

Miranda sighed in relief.

"This should set them back a good few months, leaving one less thing to worry about for now. Let's head back."