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Mass Effect: A Hero Rises

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“You aren’t making my life easy Shepard. Firefights in the wards, an all-out assault on Chora’s Den. Do you know how many people…” He fell silent for a moment as he looked upon my new friends, definitely not expecting a krogan and a quarian. “A krogan? A quarian? What the hell are you up to, Shepard?”

“Maybe if you shut up for five seconds, I could explain myself.”

“Shepard!” Anderson barked.

“I mean no disrespect to you, sir,” I stated, looking at him, “But I’ve just had a really shit day trying to sort this out and will not put up with disrespect from the likes of him.”

I just glared at Udina and I was surprised he wilted so fast. Maybe I was more intimidating than I thought? Or maybe it was the giant krogan behind me? “I apologise, Commander. This whole thing with Saren has got me a bit on edge.”

“All of us are, sir,” I replied, accepting the apology.

“Of course.” He looked to my side. “And if you have evidence, I would like to hear it, Miss…?”

“My name is Tali. Tali’Zorah nar Rayya.”

She then explained what brought her to the Citadel, having left her fleet on what they call a Pilgrimage, a rite of passage into adulthood. Basically, it was a case of they were sent off into the wide galaxy, only returning when they had found something that could be of value to the fleet. She added that many quarians don’t actually return, not because of failure, but because they preferred to live amongst the other species.

Then she got to the point, not that any of us hurried her. Humanity had limited to no contact with any quarians so she was telling us things none of us knew. She had heard reports of geth, something that peaked her curiosity, considering the geth rarely if ever left the Veil. She tracked a patrol of geth, something quite brave for a lone quarian, before managing to get one of them alone, disabling it and removing its memory core. Anderson was definitely impressed by that revelation. She hadn’t been able to save much but what she had saved was audio that was the evidence we needed.

Eden Prime was a major victory! The beacon has brought us one step closer to finding the Conduit.”

Anderson couldn’t quite contain his excitement as it was clearly Saren’s voice on the tape. If the Council wanted evidence he was involved, they now had it.

Tali then stated there was more audio, a second voice. “And one step closer to the return of the Reapers.”

None of us recognised the second voice. Barley any of us knew what a Reaper was. Tali knew a little bit, apparently responsible for the demise of the Prothean civilisation that had existed fifty-thousand years before us. Apparently all the Reapers did was show up, wipe out the Protheans, then disappeared without a trace.

Udina was sceptical but I gave it some thought then clicked my fingers. “Hang on, she’s right, or at least it makes sense. My contact with the beacon on Eden Prime, the visions. It was some sort of… warning perhaps. But I understand the vision at least a little better. It was the Reapers wiping out the Protheans. I’m sure of it.”

“The geth appear to revere the Reapers as gods,” Tali added, “The pinnacle of non-organic life. And they believe Saren knows how to bring the Reapers back.”

“I’m not sure the Council will believe everything about the Reapers, but we definitely have the proof we need to prove Saren is a traitor,” Udina stated, “It’s rather late now. We’ll present our findings to the Council tomorrow.” He paused before adding, “Good work, Commander.”

“Thanks.”

Heading out of the embassy, we gathered out the front. Alenko, Ash and I would head back to the ship. Garrus had his own place, Wrex has his own room in a hotel on one of the Wards, but Tali had nowhere to stay, so we offered her a bunk back on the ship, agreeing to meet up with Garrus and Wrex in the morning before we met the Council. Garrus wanted to see Saren taken down, Wrex admitted he simply had nothing better to do.

I was absolutely starving by now, so the first place we visited on our return to the ship was the mess, where I quickly scoffed down a couple of plates of meat, potatoes and veggies. “Must have got fresh supplies after docking,” Alenko stated.

As the three of us ate, I noticed Tali attached something to the front of her mask, almost like a toothpaste container. Asking what it was, she said it was simply the way her people ate food most of the time. I thought we might have offended her, but she just laughed and said we must have been hungry after fighting across the Citadel.

After a quick shower, the four of us sat back with a drink, going over events of the day and what we expected the next. We were all yawning after a few minutes. Alenko was happy to sleep in one of the pods. Being new to the ship, Ash and Tali had the choice of a pod or a bunk. Tali chose a pod but Ash wanted to sleep on a mattress. Once Alenko and Tali were comfortable, Ash and I headed to the bunkroom.

I undressed quickly. You get used to the lack of privacy and one shouldn’t be too modest. I kept on my underwear, but otherwise I lay back on my bed. I did glance to see Ashley undressing down to her underwear. If she knew I was looking, she didn’t make a fuss. She was fit, very fit. An athletic shape to her body that made her a knock out immediately in my eyes. Couldn’t quite figure out her bust size due to the sports bra, but when she bent over, there was enough cleavage on display to be slightly arousing. That’s when she did meet my eyes, simply smirking. I just looked away though wasn’t embarrassed.

Surprisingly, she hopped up onto the bunk above me, then peeked over the side. “Is every day like this with you, sir?”

“We’re not on duty, Ash. Call me Shepard.”

“Well?”

“To be honest, my life can be a little bit nuts at times. Past couple of days have been extreme though. You?”

“I’m used to boring postings on colony worlds.”

“I mean no offence but how the hell are you still only a Chief?”

“My last name is Williams, Shepard. Think about it for a few seconds and you’ll understand.”

I did and all I could say was, “Oh…”

“Yeah. That’s why.”

“But it’s bullshit and clearly unfair on you.”

“Don’t sweat it, Shepard. I’m used to being continually passed over for promotion. I know this is the level they will keep me at until… God only knows when.”

“Think Anderson could help you? He’s certainly helped me in the past.”

“We’ll see, Shepard. He was nice enough to get me posted onto this ship. Let’s just see how things go first.”

I yawned again. “Yeah, let’s see what happens tomorrow first. Anyway, see you in the morning as I definitely need shut eye.”

“You and me both, Shepard. G’night.”

I slept like a log that night, my alarm waking me as always, though I pressed snooze at least once, Ash eventually climbing down and shaking me gently, suggesting I get up. After a quick shower and dressing, we joined Alenko and Tali for breakfast, more of the crew joining us with plenty of questions about what was happening. We gave them some details, as apparently the events of the previous day had made the news. My name may have been mentioned at least once, regarding the fight inside Chora’s Den. I wasn’t being blamed for Fist, though. I think I was being helped on that one.

Returning to the embassy, Anderson and Udina were waiting for our return, Udina informing us that the Council would meet with us first due to the seriousness of the matter. Garrus and Wrex met us outside and our group headed for the Council Tower. I’m sure we looked like a right group, a bunch of humans being followed by three different species. Garrus was muttering about finally taking down Saren, left feeling he really didn’t like him. Wrex said we should just get a ship, find Saren, and kill him. Wasn’t a bad idea, we just needed to find him first.

Riding the elevator, Wrex asked, “So, Shepard, have you heard of the Consort Sha’ira?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Been to see her yet?”

Anderson burst out laughing at the blunt question, though he knew what I was like. “Haven’t had the opportunity yet. Have you?”

“No, she’s rather particular in regards to her clients, though some of the girls she has working for her are a real delight. Some will even put up with a krogan.”

“What makes you think she’ll see me? Add to that, I’ve heard she’s quite expensive.”

“But worth every single credit, Shepard. I may not have enjoyed an experience but I know many who have. Most become regular customers after the first time.”

“You’re not serious, are you?” Ash asked.

I shrugged. “I’m a single guy and she’s not the usual standard of, um, working girl.”

“Are you seriously discussing getting off at a time like this, Shepard?” Udina grumbled.

He had a point, so I shut up, Wrex rumbling with laughter to himself, Alenko glancing my way with a smirk as well. Approaching the Council chamber, we were allowed in as the Council was already in place, ready for us to start.

I know Udina loved having the Council over a barrel. It wasn’t exactly an embarrassment for them… No, it was. Even though we’d had no evidence, Saren had played them for fools. To be fair, Udina could have gloated and crowed about what we found. Instead, all he did was present the evidence, and it was undeniable. The Council would have to throw him out now and leave him as nothing more than a fugitive.

The turian councillor immediately stated that Saren would be stripped of his Spectre status and efforts would be made to locate and arrest him. The asari councillor recognised the second voice as Matriarch Benezia. No idea who that was, though the councillor was polite enough to give all of us a brief explanation as to who or what a matriarch is.

“Matriarch Benezia is a powerful biotic, and she has many followers. She will make a formidable ally for Saren,” she added.

The salarian councillor wanted to know about the Reapers. We told him what Tali told us, the salarian wanting to know what Saren planned with the Conduit. This just pissed off the turian councillor, who refused to believe that Saren wanted to wipe out life in the galaxy. I could just about see his point, but Saren was going out of his way to prove he wanted to end it all.

Basically, the Council didn’t believe us about the Reaper threat, calling them a myth cocked up by Saren and Benezia to cover their own crimes. If they wanted to believe that, fine. Udina then made his demand regarding a fleet being sent into the Traverse to flush him out. That suggestion went down like a lead balloon, the Council dismissing it immediately.

Udina was well and truly pissed off by now. So was I. So was Anderson. Udina was just about to really let fly with accusations when the asari councillor offered an olive branch. Knowing what she meant, the turian councillor didn’t agree, believing it was too soon.

“You don’t have to send a fleet into the Traverse, and Udina gets his human Spectre. Everybody’s happy,” I stated.

The asari and salarian were immediately on board with the idea. The turian remained silent, head down as he thought. I assumed it would require unanimous agreement before he finally looked up and met my eyes. His nod was brief, but it was a nod of agreement.

“Commander Shepard, step forward,” the asari requested.

Glancing at Anderson, he returned a brief smile and nod before I stepped towards the edge of the platform, Udina moving out of the way. I looked around and noticed plenty of diplomats and others in the crowd, leaning forward to take in proceedings. I guess I was at the centre of what was going to be a momentous day in our history.

“It is the decision of the Council that you be granted all the powers and privileges of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch of the Citadel.”

“Spectres are not trained, but chosen. Individuals forged in the fires of service and battle; those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file.”

“Spectres are an ideal, a symbol. The embodiment of courage, determination, and self-reliance. They are the right hand of the Council, instruments of our will.”

“Spectres bear a great burden. They are protectors of galactic peace, both our first and last line of defence. The safety of the galaxy is theirs to uphold.”

“You are the first human Spectre, Commander. This is a great accomplishment for you and your entire species.”

“I am honoured, Councillors,” I stated, a polite nod of the head. No time for sarcasm or anything else at a moment like that.

“We’re sending you into the Traverse after Saren,” the asari explained, “He’s a fugitive from justice, so you are authorised to use any means necessary to apprehend or eliminate him.”

And that was it, the Council adjourned the meeting with little fan-fare, though there was polite applause from the galleries around us. Anderson shook my hand, congratulating me on my promotion, Udina already planning in regards to what I would require, suggesting it was going to take at least a few days before everything would be ready. I had no idea what he planned, so would leave it up to him and Anderson to sort out.

It had been a few days since I’d last had a beer, so I suggested, as a way of celebrating, we do just that. Well, the humans and krogan could drink beer, Garrus explaining on the way to a nearby pub that he couldn’t drink what we did, and that turian brandy was a real delight. Tali was apparently the same as Garrus regarding what food and drink she could consume, and admitted she very rarely drank alcohol.

But we found a bar that would let us all in, including Wrex, who told me that his kind were often barred from establishments, though he suggested we should really hit one of the Wards another time. Thinking we might have a little time on the Citadel, I figured we could do it before Udina had organised whatever he was cooking up. No real idea, to be honest.

Alenko and Ash proved to be rather lightweights, the pair taking Tali back to the ship, who had about three brandies, the same as Garrus, before she practically passed out. It was rather amusing as the pair helped carry her out of the pub. That left me with Garrus and Wrex, the latter mentioning the Consort again. “You should go see her,” Wrex stated.

“What? Now?”

“Sure, why not? I’ll put it like this; when did you last get laid?”

“Hmmm…”

“And you, Vakarian?”

“Oh, um… I don’t know…”

“Look, there’s not just the Consort there. Lots of pretty girls, mostly asari but there are a few humans who work there now. Not all of them will just let you fuck them. Some actually provided other services. You ever fucked an asari, Shepard?”

“A couple. Same line of work, to be honest.”

Wrex rumbled with laughter again. “They are certainly flexible during their maiden phase. Makes me feel like a dirty old krogan.”

Garrus and I burst into laughter as I’m sure he could have got rather descriptive, certainly left wondering how old he really was. I knew asari lived for up to a millennium. I had a feeling krogan could live even longer.

I drained my beer. “Fuck it, if I drink any more, if I did end up going, downstairs won’t work. You two coming?”

“Fuck yes!” Wrex roared, pounding the table with his fist.

Garrus looked a little awkward before downing his drink. “What the hell? Just… I’m not doing it in front of you two. That’s just weird.”

More time had passed than I thought, checking the time to see it was late afternoon. Arriving at the Consort’s place, the receptionist was friendly but in a round about way told us to piss off, simply because the Consort was booked up for weeks. Wrex asked about any other girls, and before she could respond, the Consort asked for me to be allowed in.

Leaving Wrex and Garrus near the front, a couple of girls approaching them straight away, I was led through to the Consort’s private chamber. I’ll say right now, she was an utter beauty. No wonder she had so many customers. She certainly dazzled me, making sure I was sat down, drink in hand, as she curled up next to me.

“Word has spread quickly, Commander. The first human Spectre. I believe congratulations are in order.”

“That’s why we’re here.”

“Yes, but the reason I’ve invited you back here is… Well, I know you are a man who can get things done, rather obviously. I was hoping you might perform a small favour for me. Do this, and you will be richly rewarded.”

I hoped she meant sex. I would happily take payment in sex. “What do you need me to do?”

“A dear old friend of mine by the name of General Septimus has taken to spreading nasty rumours about me. I’m hoping that you could speak to him, man to man, soldier to soldier.”

“Do you know where he is?”

“Well, if Chora’s Den has re-opened, you will usually find him there, drinking himself into oblivion. If not, you’ll find him at one of the other numerous watering holes around the Presidium.”

Chora’s Den was still closed so, with a brief description, I found myself wandering around until I eventually found him around an hour later. My face must have been on the news or something as it seemed everyone recognised me nowadays. Taking a seat across from him, he knew who I was and guessed rather quickly why I was there.

I was surprised at the speed at which he folded. I didn’t know a lot about turians but I knew honour mattered than anything. I understood why he’d flown off the handle but I told him to straighten himself up and started acting like a general. He remained silent before finally sighing, nodding his head, agreeing his behaviour had been unseemly, suggesting he would write a letter of apology to Sha’ira. But it wasn’t that simple, as because of the rumours, an elcor diplomat had made an official complaint. I now had to go see him to ensure Sha’ira was left alone.

Convincing the elcor wasn’t too difficult once I’d told him what Septimus had told me. I think he was left feeling more embarrassed than anything, though assured me he would remove the complaint immediately. I thanked him for his assistance, heading back out into the Presidium, where by now, night had fallen.

Wandering back into the Consort’s Chamber, Wrex had disappeared while Garrus was being awkward with the asari who was sitting next to him. Asking where Wrex was, one of the girls told me that he was currently in a room with two asari. I chuckled to myself as I made my way to Sha’ira’s private chamber.

She was delighted to hear the matter was resolved and so quickly. When it came to a reward, she told me that, to start, it would be a gift of words. Not knowing quite what she meant, she stepped close to me, allowing me to gaze into her blue eyes. She was very attractive anyway, but something about those eyes… No wonder so many men seemed to love her.

“I offer a gift of words, an affirmation of who you are, and who you will become. I see your skin, tough as the scales of any turian. Unyielding. A wall between you and everyone else. But it protects you, makes you strong. It is that strength that people are drawn to. It is why you lead and others follow, without question. You will need that leadership in the battles to come. This may be who you are, but it is not who you will become. It only forms the basis for your future greatness. Remember these words when doubt descends, Commander.”

Then she kissed me, a soft one on the lips before she took a couple of steps back, reached behind her, and undid her dress, watching it pool around her feet. She was completely naked and I couldn’t help run my eyes up and down her body before she stepped closer, her mouth eager for mine as I ran my hands up and down her smooth skin. Kissing was… well, it was rather unusual. Most girls in her line of work didn’t do that.

My clothes disappeared quite quickly as she moved us back to the bed where she kissed down my body before sitting on the edge, taking my cock in her mouth, causing my head to roll back as I groaned. Looking down, she looked up into my eyes as my cock disappeared into her mouth, her head moving back and forth. Running a hand around the back of her head, I had to stop myself really losing myself in the moment, allowing her to maintain most of the control.

“Holy shit,” I muttered.

“Where would you like to cum, Shepard?”

“Oh, anywhere. I really don’t care.”

“Very well. Because you did me such a favour, I will swallow what you give me. I hope you will be ready to perform again soon.”

“Trust me, that won’t be a problem at all.”

She took what I gave her a few minutes later. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven, my knees going weak, feeling rather lightheaded. She kept right on blowing me though, even after I was empty, until I finally rested a hand on her shoulder to keep me upright. Only then did she release me, looking up with a smile. I turned and sat next to her before lying back on the bed. “Jesus Christ, that was… I’m not sure what to say…”

She lay next to me, hearing her giggle, an unexpected sound to be honest. “Let’s just say I’ve had some practice.”

“Want the favour returned?”

“While it would fill me with joy, Shepard, I would prefer something else. I will give you a few minutes to recover though.”

Shuffling back, we lay together on her bed, looking around her room. It wasn’t bare, artwork lining the walls, and there was a fireplace, obviously fake. Her bed was rather simple though the sheets we were laying on felt expensive. She lay on her side, running her hand up and down my chest. It felt surprisingly intimate considering.

“Shepard, I wish to ask a favour of you.”

“Another one? Sure, why not…”

“When we make love in a few minutes, I wish to meld with you. To an asari, it is the most intimate act we can share with a partner. Usually it is to produce offspring. I am in my matron stage, so I cannot. But I feel a connection with you and wish to… know you better. Have you ever melded before?”

“No. I’ve been with asari but it’s only ever been, you know, physical.”

She lifted herself up, looking down into my eyes. “Will you meld with me tonight?”

“Why?” I had to ask.

She rested her hand on my chest, above my heart. “I feel something in you that… It is something I rarely if ever do with clients. But you, Shepard, you… intrigue me. I wish to… know you better.”

“Will it hurt?”

That made her giggle again. “No, Shepard. You will simply know me as well as I will know you.” She moved, eventually straddling my groin, lifting herself up and sliding down my cock, hearing her moan lightly as I couldn’t help groan. Leaning forward to gently kiss me, she looked into my eyes. “Open your mind, Shepard. Let me know who you really are.” Then she closed her eyes before they opened again. “Embrace eternity.”

I’m not sure what happened over the next few minutes, at least physically. I’m sure we were fucking, making love, whatever you want to call it. But I could feel Sha’ira… in my mind. That’s the easiest way to describe it. And while she was doing that, she spoke to me.

Free your mind, Shepard. Let me see who you really are.

So I did. She would have learned nearly everything about me. From the orphanage to the streets.

You believe you are alone. Yet you will always protect those weaker than yourself.  

The strong must protect the weak. I simply did what I believe was right.

I felt her press further into my memories, into my training at boot camp and the marines.

You are strong, Shepard, both physically and mentally. I believe you found the training… not easy but certainly easier than many of your companions.

Anderson always said I was a born soldier. Many must be trained. To me, it felt… natural. Almost like a calling that I nearly missed.

She pressed further on, into Elysium. And that’s when I blocked her.

You saved the colony, Shepard. You were a hero. Yet, I sense…  

No…  

I sense… heartache… pain… loss…

No…

She broke the meld, hearing her moan as she slowed down. “Shepard,” she whispered.

“I can’t talk about it. I can’t think about it,” I replied quietly.

I could sense she was upset, resting her forehead against mine. “You have a strength inside you that covers… something deeper, Shepard…”

She kissed me, and there was something in that kiss which suggested, I’m not sure. Running my hands down her back to rest on her arse, I started to thrust up into her, making her gasp as she didn’t move her head away from mine, now just staring into each other’s eyes. “Shepard,” she whispered.

I made her cum hard, which pleased me, feeling her squeeze my cock as she didn’t slow down nor think of stopping. Feeling her shake and shudder, I continued to thrust up into her, making her squeal as I could feel the oncoming orgasm myself. She continued to gaze into my eyes as I was now really pumping into her.

“Cum in me,” she whispered.

“Oh god,” I moaned, grabbing her arse tightly as I could feel the oncoming orgasm. It was going to be a good one.

“Shepard,” she breathed one last time before I felt myself erupt inside her, groaning loudly enough that I’m sure they heard me across the Citadel. Then I relaxed as I felt her rest against my chest, my hand immediately starting to caress her back despite the fact I suddenly felt rather tired.

We lay together in silence for a while before she moved so we could clean up. I was about ready to just get dressed to leave, sitting on the edge of the bed, when I felt her breasts press into my back, her arms loop around me. “Stay,” she whispered.

“What?”

“Stay with me tonight, Shepard.”

“Are you sure?”

“I want your company, just for tonight. We don’t have to do anything else, I would just like you to stay.”

So I stayed with her, heading to her shower where it was… well, it was surprisingly intimate, really getting to know her body. And the fact she wanted to kiss me continuously, it was something I wasn’t really used to. Drying each other off afterwards, she had a funny look in her eyes. It wasn’t romantic, it was… I’m not entirely sure.

Heading back to her bedroom, she certainly took the lead by spooning into me, making sure I held her close to me as she turned off the lights. It was only in the darkness that she finally asked, “Who was she?”

I knew she was going to ask eventually. And I figured being honest wouldn’t hurt. “She was the first one I ever loved,” I confessed.

“The depth of feeling, Shepard… It is something I rarely feel when melding…” I didn’t know what to say. “The overriding emotion I felt was guilt, Shepard.”

“It’s my fault.”

She turned around and I felt her hand caress my cheek. “It was not, Shepard. You are a man of undoubted courage and bravery, someone feted to do great things. Her loss is not the fault of yourself. It is the fault of those who chose to attack that day.”

“Maybe if she…” I trailed off and sighed.

I felt her hand trail down my body, resting on my chest again. “I have a gift of my own, Shepard. I can read people. You have had a hard life. You have done things you regret, that make you believe you are not worthy of where you are now. Yet you have done many good, if not great things already. You have earned the position you now hold through your talents, your intelligence, your determination and bravery. And you still have many trials and tribulations to face, which I know you will overcome. In the end, you will be triumphant.”

“Quite the gift if you know all that.”

I felt her lips on mine, a soft kiss that seemed to speak volumes. “I meet many people in my line of work, Shepard. I have met few like you.” I felt her shuffle before she pulled me on top of her, hand again caressing my cheek. “Be gentle,” she whispered as I slid inside her again.

She didn’t ask to meld this time and I opened my mind completely. She would now know absolutely everything about me. From my earliest memory, my time on the streets, my training as a marine, my time with Annie… Everything. I think I owed her that much, at least.

At the same time, I learned about her and… I felt she was alone as I felt at times. Maybe that’s why we felt a connection. Two lonely souls that just seemed to find each other. It wasn’t anything like love, certainly lust though.

Breaking the mould, the kissing we shared was certainly passionate, feeling her legs wrapped around me as I was now really driving my cock into her. “Goddess, Shepard,” she whispered. I just kissed her again, hearing and feeling her whimper into my mouth.

I lasted quite a while before I felt the urge, but now resting my forehead against hers. In the darkness, I could see her eyes watching mine. We didn’t really share many words. What did surprise me was her orgasm, feeling her clench as I continued to drive my cock into her, biting my shoulder to stifle her moans. I would have chuckled if I wasn’t so intent on enjoying my own orgasm, her fingers by now digging into my back, legs wrapped tightly.

“Fuck,” I groaned, feeling another orgasm approached.

“You must visit again,” she managed to whisper as I was now really driving into her.

“Absolutely,” I grunted.

We kissed again as I finally felt the bliss of release, burying myself one last time before I felt the need to rest on my forearms above her. She simply held me to her body, arms and legs wrapped around me, feeling her soft kisses on my cheek and forehead. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“For what?”

“For allowing me to see you. All of you.”

We needed to clean up again before we finally settled down, Sha’ira once again spooned against me. This time, we definitely needed to go to sleep, and I’ll admit, I slept rather well that night. First time in a while I went to bed with someone in my arms. Actually, first time since... Annie… Yes, it had been a very long time.

The next morning, I thought it would be awkward, but it surprisingly wasn’t. I thought I’d just get dressed and leave, but she made a quick call to her girls, and we had breakfast delivered. The human girl who delivered it met my eyes and smiled as I sat with Sha’ira at the table, and we managed to make conversation as we ate. While part of me would have liked to stay, I knew she had clients to see, though she did escort me to the entrance to her residence. She gave me a hug and wished me luck for the future. “I would like to see you again, Shepard,” she said.

“You would?” I asked in surprise.

The fact she nearly blushed definitely surprised me. “You are the first man in a long time who I have connected with in such a way. In my line of work, such an event is rare indeed. If you would like to…”

“Definitely.”

“I will tell Nelyna to make sure you will always be welcome.” She leaned forward to whisper into my ear, “Helping me with Septimus… You have certainly earned my favour, Shepard.” Then she kissed my cheek, met my eyes and smiled, before she turned and walked away, ensuring she put a sway into her hips. I watched until she disappeared around the corner.

“She likes you,” Nelyna stated.

“Huh?”

“She likes you, Shepard. Very rarely does anyone spend the night. And she’s pretty much just said you can come and go as you wish. So… She likes you.”

“But… really?”

Nelyna giggled. “Don’t fall in love with her, as that will only end in heartbreak for yourself. But if you wish for intimacy with no strings attached, Sha’ira would be perfect for you. As I said, she clearly likes you.”

“Let’s just see what happens first.”

“All you need do is speak to me first, Shepard. I’m sure she’ll make time for you in her schedule regardless.”

I certainly had a spring in my step as I left, heading straight for the Normandy. Not finding any of them on the ship, I sent a message to Alenko, he replying quickly that they were on the Presidium. I found everyone at a coffee ship, and the first question I received was from Ash, wondering where I was the night just gone.

“With Sha’ira,” I replied.

“The Consort?” Alenko asked, quite surprised.

“Yeah. Wrex, Garrus and I went last night.”

“So that’s where you disappeared to!” Wrex exclaimed, “I finished with my girls and headed out, finding Garrus tripping over his tongue with the poor girl who was trying to bed him.”

“I’m just not used to that sort of thing,” Garrus retorted, although the poor turian was obviously embarrassed.

I moved the conversation on quickly to what would be happening next. None of those around the table had heard anything, so we decided to head to the embassies for any news from Udina. He told us to be ready to board the Normandy the next day, but when I looked at Anderson, he looked… unhappy. I tried to speak to him, but he told me that we would receive orders the next day and that, for now, we should just enjoy some rest and relaxation.

So we decided to head to one of the Wards, Garrus leading the way as he knew the Citadel better than any of us. Knowing we did have to depart soon, we were sensible that day and evening, all of us slowly getting to know one another. Wrex had a large personality and told everyone what he thought. Garrus was awkward but seemed to have his heart in the right place. Tali was shy and a little overawed by everything, though definitely had an inner-confidence that appeared from time to time. Alenko was a quiet and thoughtful chap, only sharing his opinion when pushed. Ashley, I believe, was still grieving all the losses on Eden Prime, and it was hard bringing her out of her shell.

We met Udina and Anderson by the Normandy the next morning and that’s when we received the bombshell. Anderson would no longer be the Commanding Officer. Instead, the ship would be given to me as I was now a Spectre and needed all the tools required to hunt down Saren. I was put out just as much as Anderson, now understanding why he looked unhappy, but once Udina left having given the bad news, he explained that he accepted the decision.

“Doesn’t seem fair, sir. You’ve waited a long time for this role.”

“That is true, Shepard, but what you’re about to do is far more important. I’m sure the Alliance will find something else for me to do. Hope I’m not stuck behind a desk though.”

“Well, if I’m in charge, who would be my XO?”

“You have a few options. My best suggestion with be Pressly. He has years of experience and is ready for such a role. Your other option could be Alenko. He’s a good man, and I know has been earmarked as a potential XO after his time on the Normandy. In the end, it’s your decision.”

Anderson told me I did have a bit of paperwork to fill in back at the office before I left, so that left me with everyone else. Looking at Wrex, Garrus and Tali, I asked, “So… What do you guys want to do? Considering I’m not a Spectre and this is my vessel, I mean, you guys have already helped so far.”

“Would you like us to join you?” Garrus asked.

“Yes, the assistance provided by the three of you has been invaluable. And I’m not one to turn down help when offered.”

“I’m in. I was getting tired of C-Sec anyway. Far too much red tape. I think there are problems with the Spectres but I sense you’ll be a good one, Shepard,” Garrus stated.

Looking at Wrex, the giant krogan just shrugged. “Nothing better to do, Shepard. Might as well be flown around the galaxy, hopefully fighting big fucking monsters sometimes.”

Finally, Tali, who I didn’t think would want to hang around with her Pilgrimage, so I did mention that to her. “The Pilgrimage proves we are willing to give of ourselves for the greater good. What does it say about me if I turn my back on this? Saren is a danger to the entire galaxy. My Pilgrimage can wait.”

I couldn’t help grin, suggesting the three prepare to leave the Citadel. Wrex and Tali didn’t have anything, so they boarded the ship immediately. Garrus joined me as we headed back to the Presidium, though he disappeared off to the Wards, where he did have a small apartment. He would return to the Normandy before I was done, or more than likely anyway.

Anderson had me fill in some forms, which basically turned the Normandy from an Alliance vessel into a Council vessel, though it was designated as being operated by a Spectre. In effect, it was mine alone. I still felt bad for the man, but he waved away my concerns, stating that finding Saren was what mattered in the end.

In regards to trying to find Saren, the Council had fed us information and, basically, no-one had a clue where he was. But I was given a few leads. One was on Therum, where the daughter of Matriarch Benezia, an archaeologist by the name of Liara T’Soni, was apparently working. They suggested tapping her up for information. Other than that, it was suggested I search for information on two planets, Noveria and Feros. I may find leads to Saren on either or both planets.

We shook hands before I left, wishing me luck for the future, and that he would always be available for advice if I needed it. “Not that I think you will, but you never know,” he stated.

On my way back to the Normandy, I was stopped by an Alliance Admiral just outside C-Sec Academy. I knew the man well, immediately coming to attention and saluting, before offering my hand. “Admiral Kahoku, it’s been a long time.”

“That it has, Shepard. Word about your elevation to Spectre status has spread like wildfire. Congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“While I would like to say I’ve tracked you down for a friendly chat, unfortunately I must speak business straight away.” Gesturing to a nearby bench, we sat down before he continued. “I’ve been trying to gain an audience with the Council, but they have not yet granted me one. Not sure they will. So I thought I’d come to you and ask for your help.”

“What with?”

“A group of my men, marines, have gone missing in the Artemis Tau cluster. Their task was to locate and possibly retrieve a ship belonging to a freelance researcher named Armistan Banes. He’s disappeared as well, but to be honest, the most important thing is finding my men. Attempts to contact them have revealed nothing so far.”

“Which planet in Artemis Tau?”

“That I’m not sure of.”

“I have other assignments, but if I find myself heading in that direction, I will see what I can find out, Admiral.”

“That’s all I can ask, Shepard. Thank you.”

Rising to our feet, we shook hands before he headed off towards the Presidium. Heading onto the docks, the Normandy was sitting there, rather silent. I could help lean against the railing and just look at her for a moment. I almost had to pinch myself. Years of hard work had paid off. I was now the Commanding Officer of an Alliance vessel. So far removed from my time on the streets, it simply didn’t seem believable. If you wrote a script for a movie, they’d throw it out as being far too unrealistic.

Boarding my ship, Joker was in position, ready to move us out of dock and towards our first objective. Before doing that, I suggested I give a sort rallying speech to the crew. They would have been informed of the change in leadership. I felt I had to prove worthy of the promotion.

“Sucks about Anderson, Commander,” he stated as I heard the clamps disengage and the docking arm move away, “I’d watch your back. This thing goes tits up, it’s your head on the chopping block.”

“This is still his ship. We’re just… borrowing it for a while.”

“No matter what, we’re behind you all the way, Commander.”

“Thanks, Joker.”

“Don’t let the sarcastic front put you off, Commander. Behind it is a pilot who’ll fly you to hell and back if you want.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, intercom is open if you want to make a short speech. Everyone knows about Anderson but they’re already willing to follow you.”

I cleared my throat, trying to think of what I should say. “This is Commander Shepard speaking. We have our orders; find Saren before he finds the Conduit. I won’t lie to you, crew. This mission isn’t going to be easy. For too long our species has stood apart from the others. Now it’s time for us to step up and do our part for the rest of the galaxy. Time to show them what humans are made of!

Our enemy knows we are coming. When we go into the Traverse, Saren’s followers will be waiting for us. But we’ll be ready for them too. Humanity needs to do this. Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of every other species in Citadel Space. Saren must be stopped, and I promise you all… We will stop him!

Joker, take us out. Our first destination is Therum. I believe we need to find this Doctor T’Soni and see what she can tell us.”