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Mass Effect: A Hero Rises

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“It’s a piece of shit, Shepard, but thanks for doing it for me,” the big krogan rumbled. I just slapped him on the back.

“No worries, Wrex. Glad to help you out. What will you do with it?”

“The armour? Nothing but a memento of times past. But I’ve been thinking after all our chats, and though you’re centuries younger than me, I’ll ask for your advice. My people… They need help and as I’m out here, helping you, and apparently solving half of the galaxies problems, I’m wondering if it isn’t time to go home and finally do something.”

“You have a strength in your I’ve rarely seen, Wrex. Do you believe you could unite your people?”

“All I can do is try. But being around you lot, seeing how you are changing things, or resolving old issues, it’s got me thinking at least.”

“Well, not sure if it means anything, but you have my support.”

I noticed the smile, if krogan did smile, appear. “Thank, Shepard. Means a lot coming from anyone other than a non-krogan. Not used to people giving a shit about our problems.”

“Don’t know about other krogan, Wrex, but I do believe in honour. Not sure what you’ve done over the years, maybe you’ve done some shit to survive, but you’ve stuck by my side ever since you stepped foot on this ship. So, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve had my back, so I’ll have yours in the future.”

“Keep this up, Shepard, I’m going to cry.” He said it in such a tone, we both started to laugh, almost falling over when he smacked me on the upper arm.

Leaning back against the bench, I crossed my arms and relaxed, as I wanted to broach another subject on my mind. “Tell me to butt out if you wish, Wrex, but I do have another question or two, of a more personal nature.”

“You’re the CO, Shepard. Ask whatever you want.”

“Okay, fair enough. What’s the deal with Ashley and Tali? Merely curious, that’s all.”

The big krogan rumbled with laughter. “Figured you would ask eventually. Okay, I’ll put it simply regarding Ashley. She’s horny, Shepard. I mean, she’s down to fuck. And since you were giving her signals but didn’t follow through, she went looking elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, she really likes you but, given the mixed signals, she simply wanted to be fucked and I guess I was the next best thing.”

I couldn’t help sigh. “It’s not mixed signals, Wrex. I like her but… I don’t want to mix work and pleasure. Being intimate with Shiala hasn’t created too many issues but we haven’t been together since before Noveria. I know Liara is ever so keen and Benezia is now showing an interest too, though I’m sure she has rather different motives than others.”

“I’m not one to tell you what to do, Shepard, but trust me on this. Ashley wants to be fucked, and she definitely wants to be fucked by you. Yes, I’ve been with her but I was a… stopgap… simply a dick for her to enjoy.”

“Selling yourself short there, Wrex.”

“I’m a realist, Shepard. I’m krogan, she’s human. No human is going to look at a krogan as a potential romantic partner, never mind some sort of mate. Don’t think that’s possible anyway. No, she was with me as a way to let off some steam. Don’t get me wrong, enjoyed every second. Human females definitely have some qualities any species of male can enjoy.”

“What about Tali?”

Wrex remained surprisingly quiet for a while. “I like her a lot, Shepard. She’s fucking adorable. Part of me just wants to hide her away from all the evil and cruelties of the galaxy. She’s my little friend, and I’d do anything to protect her.” I couldn’t help meet his eyes, nodding at the sincerity in his voice. I had seen the bond they’d already built. Then he smirked. “I will admit that there is this carnal part of me, that every krogan has, that simply wants to rip off that suit of hers and ruin her. I’ve already warned her about that, the fact I would hurt her, and most of me would feel awful about it. There’s that small part, one or two percent, that wants to throw her down and just ruin that pussy. But I could never do it. You do realise she’s a virgin, right?” I nodded. “And she’s crazy about you, Shepard. And the reason she comes to me is that she is completely and utterly sexually repressed being in that suit. It’s why she’s come to me and it’s why she’s looking at Ashley as a potential partner.”

“Wait, what? Ashley? I didn’t even think…”

“No idea if they are or not, but Tali has definitely shown as interest in Ashley, and she’s certainly told Tali what she thinks of her. Honestly, once Tali is out of that suit of hers, and I think it’ll happen soon, I believe Ashley will be having first go at that pussy. Good for both of them, I say.”

I couldn’t help chuckle. “I understand now what Garrus was talking about when going on about the relationships in this ship. So what about you and Alenko?”

“Look, you’ve obviously realised by now I like to fuck, Shepard, and I’ll fuck anyone. I’m too old to give a shit. But I also don’t do feelings. Once the other person gets those, I end it. I’m not sure he has feelings, but I think he has expectations I’m simply not willing to meet. I think he needs to find one of his own kind to have a proper relationship with.”

I ran a hand down my face at the revelations. “You understand why I keep my distance right? Shiala wasn’t a mistake, but I gave into temptation very easy regarding her. I think it was the connection from Feros. But Liara, Ashley, Tali, even Benezia… I keep my work and private life separate. You obviously know about the women I’ve been with otherwise as I haven’t kept it a secret…”

“You really liked that cop on Noveria, didn’t you?”

I couldn’t help sigh. “It was probably for the best we left when we did, Wrex, otherwise we would never have left. But even with her, I still though about…”

“You’ve got to let her go, Shepard.” I met his eyes again. He simply met mine before adding, “Trust me on this, Shepard. Lived a long time. You’ve carried it around for long enough. You need to let the anger, pain, hurt, everything, just let it go. Otherwise it’s just going to eat you up eventually, and you’re going to miss out on so many good things. You have a whole host of women that adore you, and they expect nothing else except your company. That cop on Noveria? I know for a fact she loves you already. Shiala? I reckon she feels the same as well. As for all the other woman, let’s just say I don’t stand a chance if you were to actually return their interest.”

“Wise words, Wrex.”

“I’m a krogan, Shepard. We’ve dealt with nothing but anger and pain for a thousand years. But because of that, we can’t afford what we would now call ‘weak’ emotions, things like love. We don’t make love or anything like that. We breed, simply because we have to do everything we can to keep our numbers at least level. That’s what the genophage has done to us.” Then he sighed. “Shepard, I’ve been a warrior all my life, like my father before me. Yet there was a time when we krogan did experience such things as joy, laughter, love… The genophage took all of that from us. They’ve ripped out everything that made us krogan. Those left are nothing but shells, now fighting over the shattered carcass of what we once were.” Damn, his words really got to me, not able to meet his eyes, his own voice heavy with emotion. I felt one of his hands grip my shoulder. “And I appreciate the fact my words impact you as they have, my friend. The fact you care means the world to someone like myself.”

“What can I do to help?”

“At the moment, absolutely nothing. No-one cares, Shepard. If we were to wither and die, there would be a news report about our demise, but it would appear memories are long and no-one is even close to considering an end to the genophage.” He sighed again. “Quite frankly, what was done to us was far crueller than simply just wiping us all out and ending it at the beginning.”

I didn’t say anything for a few minutes, going over in my head everything he’d just told me, before I finally straightened and turned to him. “I give you my word as an Alliance soldier, a Council Spectre, but most importantly as a human, I’ll do whatever I can to help Wrex, if you do what you think you should do.”

“You mean going home?” I nodded. “I haven’t been back to Tuchanka in a long time now. Barely remember what it looks like. Last time I was there, it was nothing but ruins. Probably looks the same even after all this time.”

“Let’s see what happens regarding Saren. Once we take the bastard down…”

“I’ll keep thinking about it, Shepard. See if I can make some contacts and if I still have some allies worth my time and day. If so, then maybe, just maybe, returning to Tuchanka is the right thing to do.”

I left him alone with his thoughts, heading over to Garrus for a quick chat. He’d been in a good mood after boarding the Normandy after our last stop on the Citadel. I knew all about his relationship with Chloe, but knowing how awkward he could be about anything too personal, I didn’t ask him bluntly about it, simply making sure he’d enjoyed himself on the Citadel.

After a chat with him, I thought I’d head into engineering, checking in with Chief Adams, who always appreciated the fact I’d take the time to walk around the ship and chat with the crew, reporting in that everything was absolutely fine as always, and if anything even went momentarily wrong, he had the crew to deal with it.

I could see Tali glancing my way every so often, so I thought I’d have a quick chat with her as always. She was busy typing away at her workstation as I leaned back nearby. She glanced up at me for a moment, figuring she smiled, before concentrating on her work again.

“So I understand you want to have some fun with Ashley?” The fingers immediately froze, which did amuse me a little bit. “I mean, I can understand why, Tali. Ash is an attractive woman. But where does Wrex fit in all of this?”

“Keelah, I thought…”

“Tali, I’m certainly not judging. Do what you want. You’re only young once.”

“It’s not just that, Shepard.” She looked up, her eyes behind the mask meeting mine. “And you know what I mean.”

“In more ways than one, Tali. So… Ashley, are you serious about it?” I had a feeling she was blushing, as the nod was rather shy. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

That made her head turn, definitely in surprise. “You’re serious?”

“If you wish to be intimate with her, knowing the difficulties you face, I want to help.”

She sighed. “Damn it, Shepard, this is why I’d love you to be my first too.”

“And while part of me would like that, as I’ve explained, I keep ship life and personal life separate. I’ve done a lot of flirting with Ashley, and trust me on this, part of me would love to pin her down and just fuck her…”

“Why don’t you then?”

It was a good question. “It would change our dynamic, particularly unconsciously. Look, I like Ashley a lot. She’s absolutely gorgeous, everything I could wish for in a fellow soldier, and she’s just lovely to be around. As for you, Tali, I don’t think anyone on this vessel has a bad word to say about you. I love having you on here, but much like Ashley, I don’t want to ruin the relationship we already have by including sex in it. Sex is great, can be wonderful, but once you involve that sort of intimacy, it can ruin things. I need to have distance, mostly for myself.”

She reached out and grabbed my hand. “I understand, Shepard. Thank you for explaining.” She paused before asking, “The only one I question is Liara. What about her?”

“Same as you and Ashley.”

“And her mother?”

I couldn’t help chuckle. “Noticed the change in attitude, have you? Yeah, not sure about that, but she’s stuck here for the duration, so I’ll see what happens.” I gave her hand a squeeze. “How can I help you with Ashley?” I asked quietly, “I want you to experience the intimacy that can be shared with someone else.”

“I need a clean room, Shepard. Something completely sterile. I can do things for myself beforehand, but to take off my suit, I need to be somewhere no germs can attack me.”

“What about the Citadel? Can anywhere cater to your needs there?”

“I’m sure there are plenty of places but most won’t deal with quarians.”

“So I’ll sort it out for you.”

She did a double take again. “You’re serious? You’ll do that for us?”

“I want you to enjoy yourself, Tali, and you’ve made it clear you fancy Ashley, and I think you’ve also made it clear that she fancies you in return.”

“I do, and she does,” Tali whispered.

“Well, then I’m only doing a good thing by helping out. So I’ll start looking and sending messages, and will let you know where you can go next time we’re on the Citadel.”

“Would you like to join us? You can just watch and, if you’re interest…”

“I’ll think about it, but I do that, I’ll end up with both of you.”

Tali giggled. “I don’t think either of us will complain about that, Shepard.”

Laughing to myself, I headed out and back up to the mess, noticing Alenko and Ashley chatting away as they enjoyed a coffee break. Chakwas was deep in conversation with Benezia, Liara likely in her office to the rear. As everyone was busy and I didn’t want to bother anyone, I headed back to my quarters, opening up my personal workstation. Flicking through the messages, I felt he smile form immediately as I noticed one arrive from someone on Noveria. Opening the message, it wasn’t long but it was enough to make me probably grin like a love-struck fool. I didn’t waste any time responding, writing quite a lengthy message before I replied back. All I did know is that I missed her terribly, and despite my hopes, it would be unlikely I’d return any time soon.

Gianna wasn’t the only one to send me a message. Natasha Ross sent me the occasional email, apparently happy working with the Alliance in one of their sub-divisions. Couldn’t tell me what she was up to, but she was forever thankful for the letter of recommendation I’d given her. Emily was always asking about when I’d next be on the Citadel, eager to meet up. And Helena had sent me one message, simply thanking me for believing in her. Not sure what she was doing now, but she was glad to have moved on with her life.

Lying back on my bed after joining everyone else for dinner earlier, I found my mind going over what Wrex has said earlier. I guess I could just give into desire and fuck every woman on the ship who wanted me, but I was sure that would affect how the ship would otherwise operate. And it wasn’t that I didn’t trust them. I honestly didn’t trust myself. I could be their friend, their confidant, but their lover? I just felt that was too big a leap. I’d slept with Shiala a couple of times but hadn’t done so at all recently, and she was already aware that I was putting distance between us. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked her but… It was best for both of us. So I thought…

We were in orbit around a planet by the name of Nepheron. The Alliance had put in hours upon hours of investigative work into the leads Admiral Kohaku had found, and they’d come up with this planet. Whether this was the central base of operations for Cerberus or not, I wasn’t sure. All I did know is that the Alliance was adamant Cerberus did have an operations base on the planet, and I had absolutely control over what to do with it. Far as I was concerned, I was going to slaughter everyone inside then blow it up.

Everyone was on the ground for this one, and they all had their orders. No prisoners. No surrender. Anyone wearing a Cerberus symbol was a target. Floating in orbit, we could see there was nothing redeeming about the planet below us. Little wonder Cerberus had built such a base on it. No chance of any colonists showing up, messing up whatever they planned.

“Any last orders, Commander?” Alenko asked before we boarded the Mako.

“To be honest, no. You all know your jobs and requirements. Do not hesitate putting anyone you see in that uniform down. I don’t care if they are armed or not. Anyone disagree with that?” I looked across them all. Everyone met my eyes and nodded. “Good. That’s what I like to see. Load up, Joker will give us the call soon.”

We landed on Nepheron a couple of minutes later, immediately putting the Mako into drive. We’d located the facility during one of our sweeps. We had no doubt that Cerberus knew we were coming, and we would have known, and seen, if they’d tried to escape. Cresting a large hill, the Cerberus facility appeared ahead. It was enormous, and clearly a major hub of their operations. Quite frankly, the only thing missing was a vessel at what looked like a starport.

“Garrus, start firing at anything that looks like it’ll blow up. Once we’re in position, the rest of us will exit and start shooting. Remember, no prisoners.”

“Aye, sir,” or “Yes, Shepard,” echoed in the Mako.

Garrus was having a great time, firing the cannon at things that exploded, the machine gun working overtime as he shot anything capable of running or retuning fire. Once I figured we were close enough, I brought the Mako to a halt and ordered everyone to get out. There were no particular orders except not to get dead. I simply raised my assault rifle and looked for my first kill. Within seconds, my assault rifle was firing, finding one, two, then three targets in quick succession. Cerberus was dug in and ready for our assault. But they didn’t expect a trio of asari, as even Benezia was on the ground with us, trusting her to join us for this at least, while no-one expected a big, angry krogan. I laughed away as I noticed him haul one Cerberus soldier out of cover and practically slam him into the ground over and over. No-one dared approach Wrex until Tali cautiously approached, suggested there were others to kill. Wrex simply laughed, dropped the body, and ran towards his next victim.

It took a while to wipe out the opposition above ground, and by the time we were done, fires had broken out everywhere, alarms continued to ring, and there was no doubt Cerberus knew we were there. We found the entrance into the facility below ground, Tali managed to hack and open the large gate. Soon as it opened, we came under fire from those inside. That’s when those with tech ability and biotics proved their worth, while Ashley and I simply hurled a few grenades forward. After plenty of detonations, the lights now flickering, I led the way, remaining cautious, putting bullets into anyone who somehow survived.

Making it to what I assume was the main door leading into the facility, I called Alenko forward. “Remember the plan, LT?”

“Aye, Commander.”

“Take your team, move right. Clear each room. Run into difficulty, call it in, we’ll come running, but from everyone we’ve learned, this place is huge and will need two teams to sweep it clean.”

“At your go, Commander.”

Opening the door, I led the way in, the lights having been dimmed, emergency lighting now having taken effect. That didn’t both any of us, gesturing for Alenko to move with his team, as I took my team to the left. We were methodical and cautious, clearing out each room we found. Some were empty, others had either people which we shot, or databases and workstations we could hack. I’m sure we shot some people who could be considered ‘innocents’, but as far as I was concerned, if you were within the base, you were an enemy combatant. I’d seen what Cerberus has already done.

Despite all the bodies we left above ground, Cerberus did put up a fight, eventually sending plenty of people forward, the corridors turning into a bloodbath. Explosions rocked the facility, the gunfire was incessant, near deafening at times. And the screams as troops fell to the ground, trying to stem the bleeding or keep their guts from spilling out. As we moved forward, I wasn’t the only one to execute those that were still alive before moving to the next room or corridor. More than once, I heard the shotgun of Tali behind me explode, while Benezia took joy in using her biotics in doing rather unspeakable things to those who wore that symbol. At any other time, I’d have said something, but when it came to Cerberus, after everything we’d learned and discovered, I found myself not caring one little bit.

I had been hoping to discover someone in charge, but while we killed a lot of their soldiers and scientist, either the person in charge had escaped or they’d been killed during our assault. Entering what I assumed was their main chamber, they made their last stand. That’s when we took a few hits, as they threw everything at us. All we did was launch grenades, tech and biotic attacks, while Wrex seemed to simply psyche himself up then simply charge forward. Watching an enormous krogan smash through their barrier and start flinging people around is amusing until you realise their fire turned form you to him. Basically, he was the perfect distraction at that moment, and we started to mow them down.

Only when I approached him and murder remained in his eyes was I concerned. He turned and grabbed me by the throat, the look in his eyes suggesting he had forgotten who I was. I didn’t do anything for a moment and didn’t say a thing as I knew it wouldn’t do anything. He’d told me all he was experiencing. I felt his hands squeeze my throat. All I did was reach forward and place a hand on his shoulder. It took a few seconds, but that seemed to calm him down. A second hand on his shoulder, this one from Tali, calmed him further.

“It’s okay, Wrex,” Tali said quietly.

“Huh?” Wrex asked, shaking his head.

“It’s us, Wrex. You’re…. um, holding… Shepard.”

Wrex looked at me and immediately removed his hand from my throat. “Oh…”

I merely clasped his shoulder tighter. “You okay, my friend?”

“Oh, I’m fine, but… Shepard…”

“Don’t worry. You told me it happens sometimes. I’m still alive, that’s what matters. And you did good, Wrex. Cleared out a lot of these bastards.”

“That blood rage is a bitch sometimes.” Then he turned to Tali and gave her a hug. “Thank you, little one.”

“Didn’t want you choking Shepard to death,” she retorted with humour, Wrex rumbling with laughter as the three of us walked towards the others.

Bodies lay everywhere. Plenty of those wearing armour, but quite a few that wore lab coats. We searched them for evidence as Tali and Alenko approached what appeared to be a massive computer. As I watched everything, I heard Tali shout out. “Shepard, they’re deleting everything!”

“Get whatever the fuck you can, Tali!”

“Alenko, help me!” Tali cried. The two of them took a workstation each, their fingers working overtime as they tried to capture whatever it was that Cerberus was up to. I hoped we could gain enough information to figure out what they were doing, who led them, what they were hoping to achieve. The concern I had was even the Alliance didn’t seem to know much about them. Labelled them a terrorist organisation, they’d been behind a few things that had made the news, but apart from that, they knew very little.

The pair of them saved what they could but when the countdown timer started, that’s when I suggested we get the hell out of there. We all ran for the entrance, hearing the time count down from sixty, fifty, forty, thirty, twenty. It was down to ten by the time we all ran out of the entrance, gathering near the Mako as the ground started to rumble, hearing explosions beneath our feet. We quickly boarded the Mako, some simply clambering onto the roof or side as I floored it. The ground didn’t exactly disappear beneath our feet but I wasn’t prepared to take that chance, eventually driving up a hill and coming to a stop, all of us gathering together as we looked down upon the now destroyed Cerberus facility.

“Reckon that’s the end of them?” Ashley wondered.

“Doubt it,” I muttered, “Anyone know their mythology? Know who or what Cerberus was?” No-one answered. “I’ll put it simply. Cerberus was known as the hound of Hades, a multi-headed dog that guarded the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. Got to love Ancient Greek mythology.”

“So then if this was one of their operations, there would be at least a few more?” Garrus asked.

“Bingo, Garrus. I reckon this was but one arm of what they were doing. We’ve put a dent into whatever they were trying to achieve here, but there are at least two more heads to kill. We just need to find them.”

Calling in the Normandy, we were picked up a few minutes later, and I ordered Joker to take us to the nearest relay, ready for the next mission. As we were making our way, I received a communication from someone I simply didn’t expect to hear from. Apparently Kohaku had made some contacts during his investigation into Cerberus, including the Shadow Broker. He was the one now trying communicate with me, asking Joker to patch it through. After he explained everything to me, he asked I was willing to forward everything we’d discovered on Nepheron to him.

“What do I get out of it?” I wondered.

The assistance of a valuable ally should run into trouble further down the line, Commander. You have little idea of my reach. Don’t hand the data over, I will find it eventually. But had it over now, and consider yourself to be in the favour of the Shadow Broker. Make of that what you wish.”

“Fuck it, you know what? Have the data. I don’t really give a shit. I’ll ask my colleagues to send it to you as soon as possible.”

“Thank you, Shepard. Expect to see some credits in your account within the next solar day. I will also ask all of my associates, most of who you won’t know, to assist you in regards to your mission regarding the rogue Spectre Saren. I wish you well in your attempt to take him down.

And, with those final words, the communication link was cut. I had a feeling that wouldn’t be the last time I had dealings with the Shadow Broker, but for now, I liked to think things were slightly in my favour.

“Oh fuck,” Kaidan moaned. Wrex was being his usual self, not gentle at all. They’d been fucking for a while by now so the end was near at least.

“Not long,” Wrex grunted.

Kaidan could only lean down against the table and wait for it to be over. It might sound like he wasn’t enjoying it. He was, but Wrex lasted a long time and there’s only so much the human body can take before it cries enough. The big krogan finally buried himself a final time, causing Kaidan to yelp, feeling him fill up before the krogan seemed to relax behind him. Then, as the krogan withdrew, he felt disappointed as he was suddenly empty.

“I’ll admit, I do still enjoy this,” Wrex mumbled as he took a few steps back to lean against the wall.

Kaidan didn’t move, not trusting his body for the moment. “Still having second thoughts?” The krogan remained silent. That gave Kaidan his answer, though he wasn’t going to make a big deal about it. “Wrex, I’m not going to cry or get upset about it. We’ve had fun but if you want to stop, then we’ll stop.”

“Despite what we just did?”

He couldn’t help chuckle. “Consider it a last hurrah.” He turned his head to see Wrex behind him. “Plus, I know you’ve been with others and can understand…”

Wrex shook his head. “No, that’s not important and not the reason why. You know why I’m… reconsidering…” Wrex walked forward, grabbing a pair of chairs to sit down, his massive cock dangling between his legs. “Look, Kaidan, you’re a sweet guy, even I can tell that. But while you’re getting your rocks off with me, you should be out there looking for someone to love. And I’ll put this as bluntly as possible. I’m not it. I love to fuck, and fucking you is a lot of fun, but it’s not going to go anywhere. Trust me, find someone to love, whether it’s your own species or, I don’t know, turian or… whoever you find yourself attracted to.”

Kaidan nodded in understanding. “Last hurrah then, Wrex. But it’s been fun.”

The big krogan stood up started to dress himself. “Well, I can honestly say human men and women are a lot of fun to be physical with, at least. Never thought that would happen when joining up.”

Kaidan just sat on the desk, wincing slightly. “And I never thought I’d end up being fucked by an enormous krogan.”

Wrex chuckled. “Hell, you, Ashley and Shepard have proven to be rather open-minded when it comes to the sex with aliens thing.” Kaidan watched him approach, laying a hand on his shoulder. “But this is for the best. Find someone that you can love and also be intimate with.”

“And if I can’t?”

“Then you can call me.”

It was said in such a tone, Kaidan couldn’t help but laugh. “Thanks, Wrex. I might just do that someday for old times’ sake.”

Wrex wandered out of the room, leaving Kaidan alone for a while. All he did was lie back and let the dull ache subside. Sex was always good but, well, Wrex being as large as he was, no matter what they did, it was going to hurt. A good sort of hurt, but there was always residual pain afterwards.

“Going to dress or what, LT?” Kaidan couldn’t help but cringe as he looked up, noticing Shepard at the door. He went to cover himself, still naked on the table. “Swear to god, I’m just going to rename this as the ‘sex room’. Everyone seems to like fucking in here.”

He was surprised Shepard didn’t seem bothered about his nudity, so stopped covering himself up. He noticed Shepard smirk. “Trust me, LT, you get used to seeing everything. Comfortable in my own sexuality so I’m not making a big deal out of it.”

Chuckling, he asked, “Did you actually need something, Shepard? Or just here to shoot the shit while I sit here naked and feeling rather awkward about it?”

“I’ve received an assignment that I need your help with. Just come through so it’s still fresh in my mind. Ever heard of Major Kyle?”

“Name rings a bell. Something about Torfan?”

“Bingo. He was the CO there. Saw a lot of shit go down. Apparently suffering PTSD, but apart from his discharge, he apparently had next to no help. Started a biotic commune, and all seemed well. Alliance sent two officers to chat with him a few days back. Haven’t been heard from since. Hackett wants me to go in and talk to him. Figured taking a couple of biotics along would help.”

“You referencing my time at BAaT, sir?”

“That’s exactly what I’m going on about. All I want to do is end it peacefully.”

“You think the two officers are dead?” Shepard nodded. “Shit, alright, let me get dressed and we can discuss this further.” He couldn’t help chuckle though. “I know you’ve done this just to make me feel awkward.”

“Yep, you’re right there,” Shepard retorted before he wandered out.

Kaidan dressed but he really needed a shower first as he was rather hot, sweaty and sticky after his exertions, so after he’d had a nice clean, he found Shepard in the mess, going over the details of what the former Major Kyle had apparently been up to. He didn’t know they were already on their way, Shepard suggesting they’d be in orbit outside the planet the next day.

Loading into the Mako for the usual drop, only Shiala and Liara were alongside him, Shepard only bringing biotics for the mission, the only reason he was going is that he was in charge. He’d already told him in confidence that, if he had his choice, he would have let Alenko deal with it himself. He couldn’t help smile at the trust that showed in him.

Shepard didn’t have anyone take the gun as the team landed, not expecting any sort of resistance when they arrived. Major Kyle wouldn’t have known they were coming but he certainly wouldn’t go picking a fight. Shepard had already talked about trying to reason with him, talk him into coming back for treatment, suggesting it was the clearest case of PTSD he’d ever seen. “God knows what the poor bastard saw on Torfan,” he’d stated, “The sort of shit that stays on your soul and conscience for your life. The Alliance did the right thing giving him an honourable discharge and early retirement, but let him down by not immediately giving him the treatment he obviously needs.

“What about these other biotics?” Alenko asked.

“I can’t claim to understand how they feel. Well, slightly, I guess. Grew up the streets, no-one gives a shit about you, more inclined to spit at rather than help you. But I can admit that biotics have probably had it a whole lot worse. You’ve told me enough about yourself, LT.”

“Some stuff I certainly don’t need remembering…”

We landed far enough away from the sanctuary that it took a few minutes to drive there. From what we could see, it may have once been a mining complex, since abandoned. Shepard doubted that Kyle had the money nor resources to get something this large off the ground. They looked self-sufficient enough from the outside. Before getting out of the Mako, Shepard ordered everyone to remain unarmed. Alenko certainly thought that was a good idea. Four people armed with weapons was bound to send the wrong signal.

It was no surprise that Shepard managed to talk his way into the building, using reason instead of threats. Alenko could see that even Shepard understood these people were no threat. They were scared, possibly abused, and saw Kyle as some sort of protector.

Once inside, the place was full of young people, most of them looking their way and he could see the fear on their faces. It made him feel guilty, at least for a moment. Shepard strode forward slowly, ensuring he didn’t give anyone a fright. One or two did approach, asking why they were there. Shepard said that they were simply there to speak with Major Kyle. From what Alenko heard, it was obvious that Kyle cared for them as much as they cared for him. This could be tricky if things went pear-shaped…

The four of them eventually found Kyle in a room with only a couple of biotics as guards. He didn’t seem all that surprised to see them. He recognised Shepard on appearance, immediately wondering why he was there, and was definitely wondering why he’d brought two asari along.

“We have no quarrel with you, Commander. Why can’t you and the Alliance just leave us alone?” Kyle finally asked after going on a long speech about what he was trying to achieve.

When Shepard asked about the previous two officers, that seemed to rile up Kyle even more, and the words he used suggested that he’d well and truly gone off the deep end, using religious terms such as ‘blasphemy’, though Alenko could see where he was coming from when he described those who followed him as ‘his family’ and that he did what he had to for the protection of ‘his children’.

“Do you understand who these people are, Commander?” Kyle finally asked.

“No. Who are they?”

“Ever heard of BAaT?”

“Are you saying these people are from Jump Zero?” Kaidan asked.

Kyle looked at him. “You are?”

“Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, sir. I was once at BAaT.”

He heard one of the guards whisper his name. Kyle nodded in understanding. “Michael, grab the others. Grab them all. The Commander will soon understand.”

“Understand what?”

“You will see, Commander. Has Lieutenant Alenko told you all there is to know about what happened at Jump Zero?”

Shepard looked at Kaidan. He returned his look. “I know it was bad, but was it…”

“People died, Shepard. Kids died. It was only when we fought back that things changed and they shut the program down.”

“Holy shit. Really?”

“Ends justified the mean. No-one knew anything about biotics. Any human that showed potential was shipped out there and pushed to the absolute limit, to and beyond their breaking point.”

The two asari had taken seats on nearby crates, Shepard doing the same, as the room was soon filled with biotics. Alenko recognised more than one of them, and they recognised him, immediately approaching, hearing the whispers of his name, more than one calling him their saviour. He hadn’t been their saviour. He’d been a scared kid, who’d seen one of his best friends hurt, and he’d reacted. He certainly hadn’t meant to kill the turian, but when push came to shove…

“You recognise some of them, don’t you, Lieutenant Alenko?” He nodded. “They are not just survivors of BAaT, of course. The Alliance has sent biotics across the galaxy to learn what they are capable of. But back home, they are treated like vermin, people afraid of what they simply don’t understand. Here, under my guidance, they are safe, cared for, and will suffer no harm.”

“That’s all well and good, Major, but you still ordered your children to commit murder. The stain of the dead officers now rests on their conscience. Are you suggesting that you will make them live with that?”

“I cannot abandon them, Commander.”

“You won’t have to. I know of a colony that needs all the help they can get. They are isolated from the rest of the galaxy, and have just experienced their own difficulties. If your children wish for a peaceful life, then I can transport them there. But you must come in with us, Major. Someone must answer for what happened here. Your children are innocent. Let them continue to live their lives in that innocence.”

Kyle sighed. “What do you think, Lieutenant Alenko?”

He looked around, recognising some faces. Most of them were scared. Not of them. They were simply scared. He could feel the nerves flood in from around the room. “I look around this room, Major, and see the same frightened kids I was with not all that long ago. Most of us survived Jump Zero together.” He looked around, meeting their eyes. “I am sorry that your lives have not turned out like mine. I would have thought and hoped the Alliance would have stepped up to help. For that, I can only apologise. But if you come with the Commander and I right now, there is a colony where you will be at peace. Life will be difficult, but you will be isolated from the galaxy. This colony only needs your help. There will be no real questions of who you are, where you are from, what you have done. You will find friends there who will accept you for who you are.”

He looked back at Kyle, who nodded his agreement. “Very well, Lieutenant.” He clapped his hands. “My children, the time has come for us to part.” There were immediate calls for that not to happen. Kyle raised his hands for silence. “My children, please, listen to me!” Once he had silence, he continued. “What I asked you to do to those officers was wrong. But it is on my conscience those souls should rest, not yours. And I believe what Lieutenant Alenko has told us. Though we may part, you will now find a new home where you will thrive as people, away from the pain and the horrors of the galaxy. And if you stay together, you will live in peace and harmony for the rest of your days.”

“And you, Father? What will you do?” one of his children asked.

“I will face the consequences of my actions, child. But once I have paid the penalty, I will endeavour to re-join you. I give you my word on that.”

There were plenty of grumbles. More than one was unhappy. But no-one really wanted to fight. Shepard didn’t handcuff Kyle or do anything to upset or anger the group. He let Kyle say goodbye to them all before escorting him out. Once he had Kyle loaded into the Mako, the four gathered outside. “We’ll have to organise shuttles to pick them up and send them to Feros,” Shepard said.

“Will the Alliance do that?”

“I’m sure I’m owed a few favours. I’ll get in contact with Captain Anderson, explain everything we’ve found here, then simply leave them to it. Don’t particularly want to hang around and overstay our welcome.”

Shepard eventually found a couple of children who appeared to be the leaders outside of Kyle. He sat them down and explained what would happen. Kyle would go with us now, but we would organise transport for them. The people who collected them would not wear Alliance colours or symbols, and all that would happen is that they would be picked up and dropped off. Shepard left his contact details so, if anything else happened, they were to contact him immediately and we would come and sort it out.

Back on the Normandy, they let Kyle cool off in the brig, making sure he was comfortable. Shepard wandered in to speak with him every so often. The two hadn’t served together, but Shepard knew everything about Torfan. That is how he knew Kyle. Alenko didn’t know as much as Shepard, had plenty of questions of his own about the survivors from BAaT, but he was happy that they would now hopefully go on to lead peaceful lives.

He was sitting in the mess later that night by himself, nursing a can of beer. Shepard wandered out of his quarters, noticed him sitting alone, grabbing his own beer before sitting opposite him. “Want to talk about it?”

He looked up and met his eyes. “Lot to tell, Shepard.”

Shepard smirked. “Don’t call me that often, Kaidan.”

“Just a sign of respect, sir.” He sipped at his beer before sighing. “Shit, I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Don’t curse often either.”

That made him chuckle. “What can I say? Just thinking about BAaT… It changes who you are, Shepard. You think it doesn’t. You think you can square it all away in your head, but it’s the sort of shit that stays with you for life. Particularly where it’s the place where you first killed a man. Or turian. Same thing.”

“How did it feel when you did it though?”

“Honestly? The word is righteous, Shepard. He was a bastard, and while I won’t say he deserved to die, he had it coming. He hurt those I cared about. I only wanted him to finally stop and see sense, but I guess when you’re backed into a corner, you learn what you are truly capable of.”

“Some of what you told me before, Kaidan. Horrifying doesn’t even begin…”

“I can almost forgive a lot of it simply because no-one had a clue what they were doing. But the Alliance should have at least asked the asari for help. They’re the most naturally gifted biotics in the galaxy. God, if we’d had a few of them to train us, BAaT would have been a massive success. Still operating now, I believe. Kids would come out fit, healthy and able to live with their condition.”

“Surprised you don’t have your own issues with the Alliance.”

“I still do from time to time, but as I said, I can forgive a lot simply because I can understand. We were diving into the unknown, much like those first pilots who went through the Mass Relays when we found them. We still don’t know everything about biotics, how it does effect the human body.”

“And Kyle, what do you think?”

“He’s clearly messed up from what happened on Torfan. He clearly needed those kids to save them. From the little I know about Torfan…”

“He lost nearly every soldier under his command.”

“Little wonder then he’s gathered all this ‘children’, desperate to save them this time.” He trailed off and shook his head. “God, I love serving but… Damn, the Alliance gets things wrong badly at times. I mean, no-one is perfect but they’ve really dropped the ball a few times.”

“All we can do is work to make it better, Kaidan.”

“It’s why I joined up, Shepard. I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t want another Jump Zero to happen.”

Shepard chugged his can, squashing it in his hand. “Good. Glad you’re doing okay.”

“Come out here to check on me, Shepard?”

“I figured you knew a few faces in the crowd.”

He nodded. “I did. Guess I ended up coming out of it a lot better than most of them.”

“Once I get word that they’re landed on Feros, I’ll see if Juliana or someone can get in contact, let you know how they’re getting on.”

“I’d like that, Shepard. Thanks.”

“No worries. Now, I’ve got shit to do. We’re heading to the Citadel as we’ve been on assignment for quite a while. While we’re there, we’ll hopefully find out our next move in regards to Saren.”

Shepard headed off and Alenko quietly sipped at his beer, a slight smirk on his face. The one thing Shepard probably didn’t know is that Alenko did recognise a few faces. And of those faces, let’s just say that he’d been intimate with more than one of them. But that was for him to know only. A man has to keep some secrets.