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Well, well, not too much to say here. Solidly-written all the way, the scenes gel nicely and it all reads as smoothly as you like. The ...


Well, this chapter certainly lived up to its name! Some stunning developments here, delivered one after another in short order, with so...


Another great piece of work, filled with some intriguing elements. The dream sequence was suitably disturbing and intense, with just th...


And as the new year begins, I kick it off in just the right fashion - by plunging into one of the best ME fics around. Right away, I'm ...


An interesting take on the Blitz. I must admit, the way the games spoke of Elysium they made it sound like a one-man (or woman) Alamo, ...


You know, a few months ago I never would've thought I'd say this, but I have to say now that reading James Vega is simply a joy. You've...

The boy also reads! I try to offer support and critical advice to fellow writers whenever I can (and yet not as often as I would like...). If you would really like an unbiased and honest opinion on your work, please don't hesitate to send me a note. If I have the time I'll be more than happy to help!

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Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)
Title: Mass Effect: Dark Saga
Author: Mothbanquet
Game: Mass Effect trilogy and all DLC
Characters: All characters
Pairings: ME1 - Shepard/Liara, Post-ME1 – Shepard/Tali’Zorah



Chapter Nine - Enemy Unknown




The ground rushed at Shepard in a smear of grass and dirt.

Just a moment ago his feet had been firmly upon the Normandy’s loading ramp but the seconds now seemed to drag on for an eternity as he jumped the last few feet.

Before him was a cliff, with loose dirt blowing in rust-tinted waves over the edge. Beyond the precipice, the bocage of Eden Prime stretched into the distance, a patchwork quilt of fields, trees and hedgerows.

It was all absorbed in a heartbeat - the only instant he could allow himself a distraction.

He hit the ground with a fierce thump, stumbling a little before regaining his balance. His pistol swept up and he turned, taking a knee as he scanned the landing zone.

He felt, rather than saw the others land beside him. He did not look back. The sun edged his armour with white as he started forward, down the a slope towards a thin, meandering river.

An outcropping of reddish dirt ran along its length, forming a natural wall and he mentally traced the flow of the river, recalling that the dig site lay near a wooded hill. There were no dense concentrations of trees that he could see beyond the craggy rises but that didn't mean they weren't there, lurking just beyond, along with whatever had attacked the colony.

‘The river's flowing west to east,' he told Alenko as the lieutenant knelt beside him, his own pistol relaxed, 'We head west, to higher ground. Hopefully we'll be able to see the dig site from there.'

'We could wait until the Normandy sends through a scan of the area,' Alenko suggested.

Shepard shook his head. 'We don't have time. Besides, Captain Anderson knows better than to send any transmissions without knowing what we're facing. If the enemy can trace our signals we're good as dead.' His voice strained slightly as he rose to his feet. 'No, we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way.'

It was no exaggeration on Shepard's part. If the Normandy was to remain hidden, it could not risk any outbound communications. Whoever had attacked Eden Prime was after the prothean beacon, of that Shepard had no doubt and he wouldn't chance the mission on anything.

'Almost like being back in basic,' Alenko remarked lightly, ‘Hard to remember the last time I had to navigate without my omni-tool.’

Shepard gave a quick glance back over his shoulder as the Normandy growled and swayed heavily before starting forward. The thrusters glowed white and with a speed that belied its size, the ship sped away with a thundering roar.

Jenkins settled beside Shepard and Alenko.

‘This is bad, Commander. Those towers to the south are some of our biggest settlements. Now look,' he said, tilting his head in the direction of the cliff at their backs.

Shepard hesitated for a moment before looking at Alenko. ‘Lieutenant, scout ahead further upstream, no more than a hundred metres. Radio contact only if necessary. Understood?'

'Aye, aye, Commander.’

Alenko set off into a light jog and Shepard turned back towards the cliff.

Jenkins fell in alongside him and pointed to a pair of tall grey structures in the distance, rising from the grass like metallic shoots. 'Over there, Commander, see? That's Halsen and Weisner, the two main towns in that area. They house the farmers and their families, as well as some pretty big commercial districts.‘

Shepard squinted. The sun was a dull circle of copper hanging listlessly in the sky like an old coin but it flared brilliantly through his visor. Through the glare he could make out thin blue trails of weapons fire coming from both towers, dipping toward the ground and cutting through the columns of smoke that had engulfed the lower floors.

‘This attack is bigger than we thought,' he said, 'Whoever it is, they're going after everybody in the sector, Marine and civilian alike.'

'Who would want to attack Eden Prime?' Jenkins murmured, caught between grief and awe, 'We're just a farming world. Why do they want to wipe us out?'

'They don't,' Shepard told him, 'They want to keep people away from the dig site. They probably think if they attack the settlements, any Marine reinforcements will be drawn away from the beacon.'

They, Shepard thought bitterly. He didn't even know who 'they' were.

Grudgingly, he took his eyes away from the scene. 'Come on, we need to get moving.'

It took a few moments longer for Jenkins to uproot himself from the spot and shoulder his rifle. His grip was over-tight and his hands shook, no matter how hard he tried to stop it. Shepard barely noticed him fall behind  as they ran to catch up to Alenko.

~~ME-DS~~



The sky bellowed at Manuel and a dark shaped slipped overhead. He watched it through the undergrowth, prying apart branches until crimson cracks appeared in the leaves.

The sky spilled red over his face. His eyes moved as quickly as he breathed.

It was not the ship they came in, yet it was not one that brought him here either. He'd seen human ships, seen them as ugly blocks of metal against the stars. This one was all smooth curves, its new paint glowing as it soared up through the clouds, disappearing from sight.

At his side, Doctor Warren urged him on gently. Her hair was only a fraction darker than the sky; a shining head of burgundy curls that swayed as she spoke, ‘Come, Manuel, they’re gone. Now’s our chance!’

Manuel’s voice was high and thin. He kept it down, whispering harshly, ‘The destroyer is here. He is here, finally!’

Doctor Warren bit her lip and shuffled on the spot. Her black trousers were ripped at the knees and mud was caked around her ankles, and her cheeks were red and moist with exhaustion.

Still, she took Manuel firmly under the arm and eased him back, the dry grass crunching beneath their heels.

‘The clouds are gathering,’ he muttered under his breath, unable to take it eyes from the sky, ‘They are the harbingers of our doom. We will all burn!’

Warren winced at his words and after a cautious look around her hissed, ‘Please Manuel, we don’t have time for this, not now! Those...things...are bad enough, but if someone finds out what you’ve done, then...’ She was unable to finish. Biting her lip, she took a deep breath before reaching into her coat. ‘I’m sorry, but I need you to stay focused if we’re going to escape this mess.’

‘There is no escape!’ Manuel replied without looking at her, ‘We’re only the first to see! Soon, all of this, all of us, will be...’

His expression softened as a needle entered his skin, slipping under the cloth of his shirt and into the skin beneath with ease.

The calming drug entered Manuel’s senses, making the world seem less frightening, the sky less forbidding. He moved his thin lips to moisten his tongue and under the gentle guidance of Warren, made his way out of the thicket and up the hill, back to where they had found it - found the signal of their destruction.

They are terrible, he thought of the messengers he had seen. They had taken the others already, placed them upon the altars from which they would soon be reborn.

They are beautiful.

~~ME-DS~~



The Normandy’s CIC was awash with chatter. News of an attack on the colony had given the entire crew focus, sweeping aside even the most persistent rumours of why the Normandy had come to Eden Prime to begin with.

No doubt if Captain Anderson had not been present in the CIC, the gossip-mongers would have been hard at work. As such, he maintained a dominating presence on the dais that overlooked the area.

His focus shifted between the crew and the flickering map of the local area projected before him, and he observed it intently, constantly picking out things he would do were he the one on the ground.

Lieutenant Pressley walked up to the dais ramp and saluted. ‘Sir, Adams reports all clear on the emissions sinks. Looks like she can leave atmosphere just fine with the IES engaged.’

Anderson gave a single, satisfied nod. It had been a constant worry since their departure and the stresses of entering and escaping a planet’s atmosphere were colossal. He looked down at Pressley, his relief clear.

‘Let’s hope she holds out. We’ll have to do it all over again soon enough.’

‘Yes, Sir, about that...’

Raising an eyebrow, Anderson waited for Pressley to continue before realising it might not be an opinion he wished to hear. ‘Go ahead.’

Pressley expelled an uncertain breath. ‘Is this really a good idea, Sir? Nihlus isn’t just a Spectre, he’s a turian and we’re facing a hostile force down on the surface. How do we know he doesn’t consider the Commander and the others expendable?’

Anderson’s lips moved as he mulled the question over and he placed his hands upon the dais railing.

Privately, he had wondered the same thing at times but he was not in a position to allow those doubts to take root now. Politics was always a risky game, and with a prothean beacon involved the stakes were now greater than ever.

‘Nihlus is on the level, Lieutenant,' he answered honestly, 'He’s here because he believes humans have a lot to offer the galaxy and besides, I doubt the Council would send him all the way out here just to stab us in the back.’

‘I know, Sir but something about him still rubs me the wrong way. Did he know this attack was going to happen? Is this all just a coincidence?’

‘That I can tell you; the answer is no, Pressley. No one anticipated this, least of all Nihlus. Now come on, this isn’t the time for chatter. We have men on the ground and they need our full attention.’

‘Yes, Sir,’ Pressley replied with another salute. He turned back to his work, quickly becoming lost in the steady feed of reports and instrument readings.

Watching him, Anderson afforded a small grin at the thought of what his navigator would say if he knew Shepard himself could soon be among the Spectres’ number. His amusement was quickly tempered by the dark images shifting across his command display.

First, Shepard had to survive. The Council did not recruit dead Spectres.

He looked to one of the crewman standing ready at the dais terminals. ‘Zoom fifty. Enhance the image as best you can.’

The swirling galaxy map disappeared, replaced by a grainy, distorted feed from the powerful observation cameras mounted on the Normandy’s hull.

It was yet another vital role the stealth frigate could fill. Silent, undetectable orbital reconnaissance was all but unheard of but Anderson still lamented their inability to send transmissions of any kind to the planet’s surface. They could look, but not touch.

He watched as the image shifted in hue and three tiny figures were separated from the background by green borders.

Shepard had put Alenko on point, he saw, and they moved cautiously alongside a small river. They were still some way from the dig site but something else caught Anderson’s eye.

‘Move west, twenty-two degrees. Enhance,’ he ordered.

The camera blurred as it shifted across, then sharpened to reveal several distinctive white shapes: standard colonial prefabricated housing, the kind set up on most alien worlds as temporary settlements, usually until more permanent dwellings were available. A large spot at the settlement’s edge glowed orange and smoke flowed across the scene in a long, grey smudge.

‘Scan for hostiles. I want to know if they’re heading into an ambush,’ the captain barked immediately, ‘Put two squads on standby.’

Anderson narrowed his eyes at the burning prefabs. If the enemy - whoever they were - threatened to overwhelm Shepard and his team, he would not hesitate to bring the Normandy in for support, operational silence be damned.

There seemed to be no movement down there, however. It should not have surprised him but as the picture gradually got clearer, his eyes widened in realisation.

Knowing he could not reach the ground team, Anderson took a moment to collect his thoughts.

‘Joker,’ he began uneasily, ‘Prepare a priority signal for Arcturus command. Tell them we’ll need everything they’ve got.’

~~ME-DS~~



The smell hit Shepard first - charred meat, tinged with the sharp, offensive stench of burning plastic.

It reminded him of Torfan, and of the many worlds ravaged by the pirates the moon had sheltered. It was the smell of destruction and death.

The smoke came next, rising like a veil over the horizon. The team crested the hill to find a boxy collection of prefabs arranged in a rough square, their sides scarred with gunfire and tainted black with soot. In the central clearing, the ground was a mass of white, brown and red debris.

‘What is this place?’ Kaidan asked out loud as they paced carefully down the hill.

Jenkins shook his head gently, ensuring his eyes did not stray too far from his rifle sights. ‘I’m not sure. This wasn’t around when I lived here.’

‘I’m guessing it’s a waypoint for the dig site, a supply station of some kind,’ Shepard ventured. He lowered his pistol slightly as the debris in the clearing came into focus. His next words were grim, ‘Heavily populated.’

It was not debris at all, but bodies. Dozens of them, carpeting the ground in tangles of coloured cloth stained dark with blood. The sight made Kaidan wince and Jenkins’ mouth dropped open.

‘Oh God,’ he exclaimed quietly, ‘What happened here?’

No one answered. There were no words for what they were seeing.

As they neared, Shepard’s eyes moved across the scene emotionlessly, making a detached assessment. 'A lot of plasma scorching on the outside of these prefabs,' he said, 'The enemy advanced from the north, firing as they moved in. Still doesn’t account for the numbers of civilians we’re seeing, though.’

Kaidan glanced at him. ‘It looks like they were already out in the open when they were attacked. Some kind of meeting?’

Shepard broke into a trot, moving to the corner of the nearest prefab. Jenkins and Alenko stacked up behind him and he motioned to the lieutenant.

‘Take point, Alenko, we’ll cover you.’

The three men moved with the fluidity that only hundreds of hours of training could grant. Jenkins took a knee next to Shepard, his rifle taking in the entire clearing while Kaidan crept forward slowly.

He was the natural choice for the task. As a biotic, he had the ability to project a strong natural barrier around himself and coupled with his armour’s shields, it was a powerful defence. At the very least, it would easily buy him enough time to reach cover, even under heavy fire.

With a frown of concentration, Alenko brought up a shimmering blue mass effect field, wrapping his body in it like a second skin.

Even with the barrier in place, he could not afford to be careless and Shepard was pleased to see him advance with precision, each pace measured and controlled. Captain Anderson had done well in picking his crew.

Shepard had to remind himself to keep breathing as he watched the lieutenant. His muscles were bunched with tension and he was vaguely aware the sounds of distant battle had all but stopped, leaving only the empty wind to fill the silence.

It didn’t take long for Alenko to wave the others forward. ‘Clear, Commander.’

Shepard joined him in looking over the layer of corpses. Most were workers and farmers in dirty overalls, though a few wore the white suits and muck-smeared slacks of scientists and archaeologists.

Shepard turned the body of a dark-skinned man over with his foot and frowned at what he saw. There were no burns here, only the clean entry wounds of standard slugs.

‘Shot in the chest at close range, but not with the same weapons that fired on the settlement from the hill.’  He knelt to trace a finger over the holes in the man’s sternum. They were grouped closely, making the weapon used easy to read. ‘Shotgun with custom anti-personnel rounds. Not usually the kind issued to survey teams, right?’

Kaidan shook his head. ‘So these people were killed before the attack?’

Shepard rose to his feet and squinted at the gaps between the prefabs. Even from a distance he could see the blackened and charred flesh of those who had tried to flee the massacre, only to be cut down as they ran.

‘Not all of them.’ Pursing his lips in quiet frustration, he gave Alenko a sharp look. ‘I don’t like this, but we don’t have time to investigate. The beacon is our priority here.’

Nodding, Kaidan began to turn away but halted, narrowing his eyes at something behind Shepard. The commander saw the movement and reacted instantly, turning on the spot and bringing his weapon to bear on the door of a dented prefab. It had been assembled on a slight rise in the ground and stairs had been erected to reach the door, but that was not what had Shepard’s attention.

The prefab’s windows were shuttered closed, but through the gaps, Shepard clearly saw movement. They were being watched.

His decision was instantaneous.
Alenko and Jenkins fell in behind him as he approached the locked door and gave a clear warning, ‘Whoever you are, drop any weapons you have, put your hands on your head and come out now.’

The soldiers exchanged glances as murmured voices came from within, and in just a few seconds a reply sounded nervously from beyond the door, ‘H-hold on, we’re just farmers!,’ a man called out, ‘Don’t shoot, we’re coming out!’

The door hissed open to reveal three civilians dressed in drab, grimy shirts and pants. A man and woman, their faces haggard and dark with soot and blood, allowed a second man to step forward. Shepard guessed he was the one who'd spoken and did not lower his weapon. There were still too many questions to ask before he could let down his guard.

‘Thank God you showed up!’ the man said, half-laughing with desperate relief. He was clutching his other arm, gripping it tightly. ‘I thought we were going to die in there for sure!’

He stepped forward again and Shepard’s voice snapped out like a fist, stopping him in his tracks, ‘Don’t move! I want to know who you are and what happened here.’

‘Wha...what?’ the man stammered, shaking his head, ‘Why are you threatening us? We’ve done nothing wrong!’

Kaidan shifted uncomfortably, his eyes flickering to Shepard.

‘I’ll be the judge of that,’ the commander answered coldly, ‘Now answer my question.’

It took several moments for the farmer to realise he was not being rescued. He looked back at his companions, who could only offered their own frightened stares.

Turning back to Shepard, he relented, sagging with exhaustion. ‘My name’s Cole, Ernest Cole and this is Blake and Jennifer. We’re from Halsen, one of the towers to the south.’

Cole paused, as if expecting the answer to be enough but a look at Shepard’s unflinching expression told him otherwise.

He continued haltingly, his eyes searching the ground, ‘We’re farmers, as I said. We set this place up as a drop-off point for the excavation site the Alliance set up a little ways to the north. We were preparing to move a food shipment when everything just...’

He trailed off and again, looked to the others for help. None was to be found in their vacant stares and with a grimace, Cole turned back to Shepard. ‘One minute we were talking with the scientists, negotiating a price for some digging equipment we were loaning out. The next thing I know, the sky just...changed. The clouds turned red and this noise screamed at us. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before in my life.’

The woman, Jennifer, nodded vigorously. She was plain, her hair a tangled brown mess and what little makeup she wore was now streaked with tears and sweat.

‘It was horrible,’ she said bleakly, ‘Like a thousand whispers fighting for space inside my head, along with a whining, scratching sound. It made it hurt just to think.’

Shepard kept his gaze steady, though his thoughts whirled as they turned back to the distress call the Normandy had received before landing. Jenkins and Alenko had not seen it but Shepard remembered the strange ship reaching through the sky, warbling its chilling cry as it moved down to the surface.

His brow twitched as Kaidan spoke at his back, ‘What about who did this, did you see them? Were they slavers?’

‘I don’t know who or what they were,’ Cole sighed, his head drooping, ‘They sure as hell didn’t take any slaves. We heard gunfire and so me and my friends here, we ran inside this shed and locked the door. We didn’t get a good look but we saw them moving through the settlement when the shooting finally stopped, but they...didn’t make a sound.’

‘What do you mean?’ Shepard asked.

‘They just walked through like ghosts. No voices, not even footsteps. They were like shadows.’

Finally lowering his pistol, Shepard murmured to his men, ‘Could be Special Forces of some kind. They sound too disciplined to be pirates.’

‘Either that or they’re a real professional crew,’ Jenkins ventured, ‘I’ve heard stories of turians joining pirate gangs and training them to fight like soldiers, until they’re easily the standard of regular Marines.’

The thought sent a spike of dread through Shepard. The Alliance’s main weapon against slavers had been organisation and training but without that advantage, they would stand to lose ground in the ongoing war against piracy and terrorism. The idea that they were witnessing a second Elysium made his stomach tighten with anger.

His voice was hard when he spoke to Cole again, his eyes fierce, ‘I’m not buying it. These people weren’t running for their lives when the firing started. Some of those scientists were shot while up close, facing their killers. The first moments of the attack were sudden and unexpected, coming from people they trusted.’ He gestured back at the lifeless bodies. ‘Then the invaders came, breaking up whatever was going on here.’

It was then Shepard noticed Cole was still clutching his own arm.

‘Remove your hand,’ Shepard ordered, ‘Move it, now.’

Cole scowled. ‘What? No! You can’t just order me around like-’

His voice pitched and then broke into a pained cry as Shepard gripped his shirt and forced him back roughly against the doorway. His pistol neared Cole’s chin and the farmer eyed it in terror.

Both Alenko and Jenkins started forward hesitantly but they did not protest. Jenkins in particular seemed shocked at what he was seeing but Kaidan’s eyes were steady, showing a complete lack of surprise.

‘I’m not negotiating, Cole,’ Shepard growled, slamming him back against the frame, ‘I want to know what really happened here and you can start by removing your hand!’

Even with the Kessler mere inches from his face, it took Cole several seconds to comply.

His colleagues said nothing to help as his hand fell away, the palm stained dark red. A hole had been rent in his left arm, shredding the bicep. Sloppily-applied medigel glistened in the wound and his breath hissed from his nostrils as he looked at Shepard once more.

‘Happy now?’ he hissed under his breath.

It took only a brief glance for Shepard to see the wound was caused by the same weapon that had killed the colonists in the clearing. He twisted his grip on Cole’s shirt, moving his armoured forearm up to press against the man’s throat.

‘Let’s try this this again. Tell me what happened!’

Spit and dirt speckled Shepard’s armour as Cole spluttered against the pressure on his neck.

‘It was the scientist, the twitchy one they brought down from the dig site! One second we were haggling over prices, the next this guy started shouting and screaming, grabbing his head and pulling his hair out. The others came out of their cabins to see what was going on. He was screaming, saying “they’re coming” over and over.’ Despite his pain, Cole smiled bitterly. ‘It was like he knew. Next thing we know, that awful noise started and the guy went berserk. Took a gun from one of our guys and started firing into the crowd, killing everyone he could. A few of us tried to restrain him, but then more gunfire started pouring in from off to the east. I just ran.’ His free hand lifted towards Jennifer and Blake. ‘We all did. We were just..scared. We ran inside here and locked the door.’

‘With everyone else trapped outside,’ Shepard spat. He pushed on Cole’s neck harder, bringing out a squawk of pain. ‘Leaving no witnesses and you free to tell any story you like.’

Cole’s eyes were closed and he choked, his arms flailing in panic. ‘Come on, it’s the truth! Please, you have to believe me!’

Kaidan stepped closer. ‘Commander, are you sure about this? We can't blame them for panicking, they're just farmers!’

Shepard paid no attention. His lips were close to Cole’s ear, making his voice a menacing snarl, ‘I don’t have time for your games, Cole. This planet is under attack and for all I know, you have something to do with it. I grew up in the colonies. I know farmers don’t carry military-grade shotguns with shredder rounds pre-loaded in the chamber. You're going to tell me how you got them.’

Jennifer’s voice cut in, drawing Shepard's gaze, ‘Please!’ she cried, ‘Please, don’t hurt him! We’re smugglers, all right?’

Cole rasped something unintelligible, his bloodshot eyes turning to her.

Jennifer ignored him, addressing Shepard alone, ‘We’ve been running weapons shipments for years, waylaying guns and ammunition meant for the Marine garrison. We have a scam running with a few guys in the shipping company down at the spaceport. They fix the manifests and make it all look legit and in return they get a cut of the profits.'

She turned slightly to face the  prefab and Shepard looked beyond her, into the dark interior. His lips parted at the sight of three large shipping crates. They were plastered with labels for agricultural equipment but Shepard knew if he were to open them, he would see weapons and equipment the value of which he could scarcely calculate.

He snapped back to Cole and eased his arm just enough to let him breathe.

Shepard controlled his anger with clinical precision. The smugglers had stolen weapons meant for the defence of a colony just when they needed them the most. He ached to continue his search for the beacon but he couldn’t allow the crime to go unpunished.

‘I want the name of your contacts in the spaceport,’ he demanded.

Cole spluttered, swallowing each breath hungrily. ‘His name’s Powell. He’s the one who...who...’

‘He’s the one we deal with,’ Jennifer finished for him, ‘He sets up the collections, takes care of the paperwork, pretty much everything.’

‘He’s probably dead,’ Cole choked, ‘Everyone is.’

Shepard gave him a long, fierce look before finally releasing him. Cole coughed and rolled on the ground, using his good hand to clutch his throat.

‘You’re staying here,’ Shepard told the others, ‘It’s dangerous and I can’t have you drawing any attention. You’ll wait here for the next Alliance patrol.’

And then they would be arrested, he did not need to add. Blake and Jennifer swapped a defeated look before the door closed, sealing them all inside.

Shepard nodded to Alenko. ‘Seal the door, Lieutenant.’

Kaidan approached, his eyes making the apology long before the words came. ‘Sorry if I stepped out of line, Commander, what you were doing, it...it just seemed a little harsh. They were civilians.’

‘They may have been civilians,’ Shepard answered grimly, ‘but they weren't innocents. Without those weapons, the Marines here would have been at a disadvantage when the planet was invaded. What those people did might have cost more lives than we know.’

Kaidan nodded slowly and opened his omni-tool, turning to the door. ‘So what now?’ he asked as the lock panel beeped and turned red, ‘The area around the excavation site is bound to be crawling with hostiles.’

‘We move quickly and quietly. Hopefully they’ll have swept out to the other outlying towns by now but there’ll probably be patrols between us and the beacon.’

Pausing, Shepard looked at Jenkins. The young corporal was still speechless, and though he tried to smile, nervous trembling made the corner of his his mouth twitch, giving away his anxiety.

Shepard released a breath. He moved closed and spoke quietly,  ‘Are you okay, Corporal?’

‘Fine, Sir,’ Jenkins lied. He kept watching the windows of the smugglers’ prefab, perhaps expecting rifle barrels to emerge at any moment to gun them down.

Unconvinced, Shepard moved in front of his vision, forcing Jenkins’ eyes to meet his. ‘I won’t blame you for not liking how I dealt with those smugglers,’ he said, ‘But right now I need you sharp. Our lives depend on it. Can I rely on you, Jenkins?’

Blinking, Jenkins came back to his senses. He replied confidently and Shepard was proud of his courage, ‘Aye, aye, Commander. I’m ready to go on your mark.’

‘We still need to find out who or what is behind all of this,’ Shepard said as he eased into a patrol stance. He brought his pistol to his front, ready to swing up at the nearest threat. ‘Jenkins, lead the way.’
Mass Effect: Dark Saga - Chapter 9
Epic thriller spanning entire Mass Effect trilogy and more.

Commander Shepard has been sent to the peaceful human colony of Eden Prime to retrieve an artefact that could alter the course of galactic civilisation, but an attack by an unknown enemy may jeopardise everything the Alliance hopes to gain...


Epic-scale fan fiction spanning entirety of Shepard's Mass Effect life, from Mindoir to Torfan, through all three games and all DLC. Themes will include some dark/mature subjects, including depression and addiction.

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Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)
Title: Mass Effect: Dark Saga
Author: Mothbanquet
Game: Mass Effect trilogy and all DLC
Characters: All characters
Pairings: ME1 - Shepard/Liara, Post-ME1 – Shepard/Tali’Zorah



Chapter Eight - A Lot More Complicated




Shepard came to a halt at the entrance to the FTL comms room. Compared to the other compartments on the Normandy it was broad and long, with a walkway that opened out to a circle of seats used for meetings. Beyond them was a large, clear screen and a row of terminals used for Faster Than Light transmissions.

Only the main screen was active at the moment. Across it was splashed a brilliantly-coloured still of what Shepard could only guess was Eden Prime.

Silver towers, bulky yet sleek, rose from a sea of green fields into a perfect blue sky. Shepard had only heard stories of the colony; a paradise that put even popular destinations like Elysium to shame.

In front of it all stood Nihlus, his arms crossed as he stared at the image. ‘Commander Shepard,’ he said before turning around, ‘it’s good to see you made it here so quickly. I thought your pilot and Lieutenant Alenko would have kept you. It’s about time we had an opportunity to talk alone.’

Shepard entered the room and closed the door behind him. ‘The captain said he’d meet me here.’

It wasn’t a subtle attempt to avoid conversation, and Nihlus seemed to expect it. His answer was neutral, ‘He’s on his way. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.’ The turian began to pace the room. The light was dim and stripes of red glowed on his armour. ‘I’m interested in this world we’re going to, Eden Prime. I’ve heard it’s quite beautiful. A paradise, in every sense of the word.’

Shepard’s eyes flickered to the picture and then back to Nihlus. He released a calm breath. Something about the turian’s gaze convinced him he was being judged, or even measured and Shepard reminded himself he was talking to a fellow operative, one whose motives were not known.

He spoke without giving anything away, ‘I’ve never been there.’

‘But you know of it, yes? Eden Prime is one of your most successful colonies along with Terra Nova, safe, secure and productive. Proof that humanity can not only establish colonies in uncharted space but also defend them.’ A subtle look of amusement passed over Nihlus’ features and his voice contained a note of irony, ‘But how safe is it, really?’

An impatient breath escaped through Shepard’s nostrils and he paced forward, drawing level with the Spectre in front of the terminals. ‘If you’ve got something to say, say it.’

Nihlus paused and a smile traced his lips. ‘Direct, Shepard. I should expect that from you. Sometimes it’s good to simply ask a question, even if you don’t like the answer.’ He looked back to the screen. ‘I read your file. You know firsthand how perilous life outside of Earth’s protection can be, so I’m interested to hear your opinion. Is humanity truly ready for this responsibility?’

As the seconds passed in wary silence, Shepard looked Nihlus over. Turian body language was notoriously hard to interpret and this one was no different. Shepard gave up in a heartbeat and resolved to betray as little of his own thoughts as he could, though he took the chance to satisfy his curiosity if nothing else.

‘Is that why the Council sent you and not a high-ranking turian officer, or a diplomat?’ he asked, ‘Do you know something we don’t?’

The door behind him opened and through it strode Captain Anderson. His expression was serious as he answered Shepard’s question, ‘I think you already know the answer to that, Commander. You knew it before even coming aboard.’ He eyed Nihlus. ‘I think it’s time we told him what’s really going on.’

‘This is far more than a simple shakedown run,’ the turian explained.

‘That’s obvious enough,’ Shepard said pointedly, meeting his eyes.

‘The secrecy is necessary,’ Anderson said, ‘This comes from the top, Shepard. We only got word a few hours ago and the order came through almost immediately. We’re making a covert pickup on Eden Prime.’

‘Who is it?’

An odd look came over Anderson’s face and he spoke slowly, ‘Not who, Shepard - what. An artifact was recently uncovered on an excavation site near the main colony. A beacon, to be precise.’

Anderson stopped and his next words seemed isolated, apart from the constant rumble of the ship.

‘It was prothean.’

Shepard froze. He was aware that Nihlus was observing him carefully but he didn't care. His only thoughts were on the ancient alien empire that had preceded them all, and had paved the way for humanity’s expansion beyond their solar borders.

‘The protheans vanished fifty thousand years ago,’ he said, pulling from his memory everything he had learned about them throughout his life, ‘You’re saying this is a working beacon? An actual functioning piece of prothean technology?’

Anderson nodded. ‘Now you see how serious this is. Humanity discovered a small data cache on Mars and not long after, we uncovered the Charon relay.’

Literally, Shepard thought to himself. The relay had been previously encased in ice and mistaken for Pluto’s moon until data from the Mars site led them to discover its true nature.

Nihlus took a pace forward. ‘Humans weren’t the only ones. The technology left by the protheans laid the groundwork for every drive core ever developed by a sentient species. Their mass relays allow us to travel the galaxy while their Citadel is home to the leaders of our civilisations. Without the protheans, galactic society would not exist as it does today.’

‘It’s not just the possibility of groundbreaking technological advances we’re excited about,’ Anderson added, ‘A beacon like this could have been used in a communication network that spanned the galaxy. It could contain records, archives, something that may give us a clue as to why the protheans disappeared.’

The news was overwhelming and Shepard leaned over to clasp the railing that surrounded the area, steadying himself. No wonder they had kept the truth so close to their chests. If word of the beacon were leaked then Eden Prime could become a battleground, both overt and covert, for any number of parties intent on claiming the greatest discovery of the century.

He straightened and gestured towards Nihlus. ‘Is that why you were added to the crew roster?’

‘No,’ the turian replied, ‘I was assigned months ago, right from the very beginning.’

He let Anderson explain, ‘The decision to bring Nihlus on board came at the same time as the selection of our XO.’

Frowning, Shepard remembered his meeting with Anderson on Earth, only a couple of days before coming to Arcturus. ‘I don’t understand, Sir. I only transferred to the Normandy this week.’

‘That’s true, but the choice was made a long time ago. I knew there was no one else I wanted in this job, but your role here was also a cover. Shepard, Nihlus is here to evaluate you for Spectre membership.’

The revelation made Shepard feel light-headed. He opened his mouth to ask something but too many questions came at once.

Nihlus anticipated them and answered, ‘We need people like you, Shepard. During your years of service in the Alliance, you’ve done more than any one man to preserve the peace and safety of the galaxy’s citizens. Your actions on Torfan, the Theshaca Raids, they all brought about an end to the piracy and slavery ring that had plagued the Skyllian Verge for generations.’

The mention of Torfan brought a grave shadow over Shepard’s eyes and again, Nihlus sensed his thoughts. ‘I studied the report on Torfan extensively before I came aboard. A grim business. Many men would have succumbed to weakness; leaving your team, giving the execution order on the batarian ships, but you took the chances you were given and stopped the slavers from regrouping. The monitoring devices you planted during the Theshaca Raids enabled the Alliance to drive away the slaver fleets. You've already done far more than can be expected of any one man. I believe you're capable of more.’

It was not reassurance the Spectre gave but admiration. Some would have thought it odd to hear a turian praising a human but Shepard had not seen the First Contact War. He cared nothing for the bitterness that many of his people had towards Nihlus and his people. Then again, he could not say the same of the turians themselves, nor if Nihlus was truly being sincere. All he could do was dip his head in acceptance.

He turned to Anderson. ‘This is a little overwhelming, Sir. There’ve got to be at least half a dozen N7’s with better service records. Why me?’

‘Because the Council doesn’t want flawless moral characters. They want sound judgement, the ability to make tough decisions and more than anything, the will to see them through no matter what it takes.’

Nihlus bobbed his head. ‘Many times the galaxy has stood on the brink of war, saved only by a costly yet necessary sacrifice. Sometimes blood has to be spilled to prevent greater conflicts - that’s a truth you humans have known for thousands of years. You, Commander, are proof that humanity is already equipped to do a Spectre’s job. All you need is a chance to show what you can do.’

Shepard flashed him a cautious glance. ‘Not that I'm ungrateful but that's a strange view for a turian.'

Nihlus grunted, offering a thin smile. 'I consider myself a Spectre first and a turian second. Any resentment my people harbour towards yours is no business of mine. The same thing would be asked of you. Should you accept, that is.'

A Spectre. To Shepard, the idea was both tempting and unsettling.

Anderson stood beside him and murmured quietly, 'You said things were quiet. Well, now you'll never have to worry about a lack of work. Politics aside, I think you need this, Shepard. Earth needs this. We both know you joined the Alliance for a reason. Now you have the chance to make a real difference for everyone in the galaxy.'

It was something Shepard had often thought about. The truth was the slavers of the Skyllian Verge had never been a solely human problem. Innocents of every civilised species had fallen victim to them and Shepard had never lessened their suffering next to his own. Now that he thought about it, he could not remember ever making the separation between Alliance civilians and those of the asari or salarians to begin with. Perhaps Anderson was right.

‘Making a real difference?’ he said, mulling the idea over, ‘You sound like an old recruitment poster.’

A rare note of warmth entered Anderson’s voice, ‘And you know you won’t get a better offer than this. You’re not the upper echelon type, Shepard and you know it. Frankly, it’s been painful watching you try to play at being an officer the past few days. You’re a field agent and the Spectres are the ultimate test of those skills. You’ve spent a long time maintaining peace and stability in Alliance space. Now it’s time to take it a step further.’

Shepard hesitated before looking back to Nihlus. ‘If I’m accepted, who has authority over me? The Council or the Alliance?’

The question seemed to make Anderson uncomfortable and Nihlus took advantage of his silence, ‘As a Spectre, you’ll report only to the Citadel Council. Your ties to the Alliance will remain but you’ll be under no obligation to follow their orders. A Spectre can’t split his loyalties. While you’ll have the freedom to assist the Alliance wherever possible, the greater galaxy is your main concern. The needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few.’

The seconds stretched with a tension that tugged at Shepard’s gut. He remained silent, looking at the picture of Eden Prime on the screen while Anderson averted his eyes. Shepard could tell the captain had something to say on the matter but while Nihlus was present, he would not discuss it further.

Shepard understood and changed the subject quickly, ‘So, what now? I assume you’re going to be keeping an eye on me?’

Nihlus paced the room calmly, his eyes searching Shepard a little too closely for his liking. ‘In a manner of speaking. Eden Prime will be the first of many missions together, some with the Alliance and some Council assignments under my direct supervision. I’ll need to see how you cope under varying circumstances before making my recommendation.’ At the last, a hint of enthusiasm entered his voice. ‘From what I’ve seen, I think you’ll do just fine.’

‘Do you have any questions before we touch down?’ asked Anderson, ‘You might not get another chance.’

The mission was simple. A prothean beacon, an artifact of overwhelming importance to galactic civilisation, had to be retrieved. Though part of Shepard still questioned the decision to send a Spectre, he knew there could be no chances taken. The beacon had to be secured, no matter what and the Council would have been fools to take chances on the colony’s security. Nothing was guaranteed in the galaxy, least of all peace.

Filled with a sense of purpose that he hadn’t felt since Torfan, Shepard nodded to Anderson. ‘I know everything I need for now. What’s the loadout?’

‘The mission will be covert, so we’ll be landing away from the main settlement, close to the dig site. You’ll be moving fast over rough terrain. Take your Mantis and pistol, I know you’re more comfortable travelling light. It’ll be a three man squad composed of Lieutenant Alenko, Corporal Jenkins and yourself.’

‘Jenkins,’ Shepard murmured, recalling the over eager young man, ‘I don’t know, Sir, he hasn’t seen real action yet.’

‘He’s capable enough, Commander, and he wants to prove himself. We haven’t had any direct threats on Eden Prime, or any intel to indicate anyone else knows about the beacon. Nihlus will scout ahead, just in case.’

Shepard had no choice but to accept. ‘What about pickup?’

Nihlus spoke with no small amount of satisfaction, ‘The Normandy has a low enough mass to manage a planetside landing, unlike other frigates. The ship will be picking us up directly, so there’s no need to worry about a vulnerable shuttle transit.’

‘Bad experience there?’ Shepard queried.

The turian grinned slightly. ‘Far too many to count.’

‘The plan is to extract from where we dropped you off,’ Anderson finished, ‘The ground is far too broken to pick you up from the dig site itself and any closer to the spaceport will attract too much attention. There simply aren’t enough viable landing zones for us to be picky.’

‘Support?’

‘Only Nihlus. We’re not going to send the Mako in; again, it’ll draw too much attention. Four men will be enough to move quickly and deal with any unexpected surprises along the way.’

Shepard agreed. Torfan had shown how potentially vulnerable the tanks were in unknown terrain and though Eden Prime was a friendly colony, there was no accounting for sleeper agents or insurgents hidden among the locals.

He had heard of ‘interventionary evolutionist’ cults among Alliance colonies and cities, religious groups that proclaimed the greatness of the protheans, even suggesting the ancient empire had been early humans that had become isolated on Earth. Such groups had been responsible for thefts, bombings and targeted violence against excavations and their staff. While Shepard doubted any of them had the means to learn of the beacon so soon, it always paid to be cautious.

As if in response to his thoughts, the Normandy quietened, its engines shutting down to allow the vessel to drift in space. Without air friction to act against it, the same speed would be maintained indefinitely and the ship would have one less thing giving away its position.

It was like the calm before a storm. Back on Mindoir, Shepard recalled the utter stillness of the air in one moment, but he had only to look up in the next to see an angry line of cloud darkening the horizon. It would all hit at once; raging winds propelling yellow grit and dust that would take off unprotected skin in moments.

Shepard felt the same hollow feeling now as he stared up at Eden Prime’s perfect lines. It was a colony a thousand times more idyllic than his former home, and yet he felt no safer going in.

~~ME-DS~~



‘Not long now,’ Joker mumbled to himself, his mouth stretching into a yawn, ‘I can’t believe they woke us up at three AM for this. I’m seriously thinking of going AWOL down there, just to get some shut-eye. Non-stop flights between the Citadel, Earth and Arcturus for damn near three weeks and this is the thanks I get.’

Alenko looked at him with obvious curiosity. ‘You're kidding. You’ve been to the Citadel? What’s it like?’

Joker hadn’t seen as much of the great prothean station as he liked to let on, but he still enjoyed the sense of mystique it generated among the crew. Most of them hadn’t seen the Citadel and it held an almost magical reputation among them.

‘It’s big,’ he answered simply.

Big?’ Alenko echoed with a raised eyebrow, ‘The seat of the Council and the largest deep space station in the galaxy and the only word you can use to describe it is “big”?’

‘There ain’t no other word for it. Trust me, once you see it that’ll be the only word that comes out of your mouth.’

‘I doubt that.’

The main bridge terminal beeped and a light flashed red, breaking the silence with an urgency that made Joker frown. He traced the comm terminal with a finger.

Alenko noticed his hesitation. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Distress call,’ Joker replied, still eyeing the display. It wasn’t the signal type that had him worried, however. It was the location.

‘It’s coming from Eden Prime.’

~~ME-DS~~



Joker’s voice burst into the FTL comm room, making all three men inside look up sharply, ‘Emergency transmission from Eden Prime, Sir. You’re ‘gonna want to see this!’

Anderson’s expression hardened. He turned to the large monitor beyond the FTL terminals. ‘Bring it up on screen.’

It was almost the same image at first. Shepard squinted as the sky turned from blue to a fiery red and the seamless towers were suddenly engulfed in smoke. Trails of it rose like black threads into the air and the small room was plunged into a noise that was achingly familiar to all of them.

The clatter of rifles and explosions punched through the comm room, along with something else, something unlike anything Shepard had heard before; a hollow boom that made the terminal speakers crackle with bass.

Shepard’s eyes travelled from Anderson to Nihlus, taking in each of their expressions and the turian’s mandibles twitched thoughtfully as a female soldier clad in white and pink armour materialised in the grainy footage. She had barely come into focus before she shoved the cameraman to the ground.

‘Get down!’ she cried as she raised her rifle and loosed a burst at an unseen enemy.

The face of the cameraman came into view. He was another Marine, a lieutenant judging by the insignia on his armour. He looked into his omni-tool with unblinking eyes, his terror palpable.

‘...repeat, under attack,’ he mouthed, though most of the words were drowned out by the roar of battle, ‘...need an evac! They came out of nowhere. We need to-’

A loud crunch silenced him and the lieutenant slumped over, just out of view. More shouts erupted and Shepard’s brow tightened into a knot as another noise rose above the others. It was impossible to think that anything could have been louder than the frenzied gunfire but there it was - a grating whine that sent the camera into a fit of static.

Shepard’s pulse was rapid when the vid finally fizzled out into white noise. Too much of it was familiar. The panic, the fear, the smoke and noise. But he knew even as the idea formed that slavers would not dare attack a Marine garrison. Still, something had sent those men running and Shepard couldn't fathom what it could be.

One glance at Nihlus saw the same thoughts running through his head. His white-slashed brow plates pressed together in fevered contemplation, his eyes darting across the screen.

Could it have even been the turians? The idea was even more difficult to conceive of as that of slavers but nothing was beyond possibility.

Anderson spoke, drawing their attention, ‘Joker, reverse and hold at thirty-eight point five.’

The screen became a blur as the vid rewound and settled on a single image. Shepard glared at it, unable to hide his confusion.

It looked like a hand of sorts, descending from the maroon clouds, a thing of shining blue-grey reaching out with thick metallic fingers. Around it, red-tinted electricity forked to the ground and Shepard knew then it was that ship making the strange noise at the end of the transmission.

Was it a ship? He could not tell but what else could it be?

‘Tell Alenko and Jenkins to suit up, Commander,’ Anderson ordered, his eyes still set grimly on the video feed, ‘This mission just got a lot more complicated.’

~~ME-DS~~



Alenko’s boots thundered on the deck as he jogged to his locker. The armoury was located in the hangar bay with the Mako, in the belly of the Normandy. The elevator door slid down smoothly to reveal the dark bay, with Corporal Jenkins already busying himself donning his armour.

He looked up at Alenko, his teeth bright as he grinned excitedly. ‘Hey, Lieutenant! Can you believe it? We’re actually going down there! With Nihlus and the commander!’

His eagerness was still a little too much for Alenko to handle but his lips cocked into a smile nonetheless. ‘That’s right, Jenkins. You nervous?’

‘Excited, mostly. I get to go on a mission with a freakin’ Spectre, for cryin’ out loud! Not to mention Commander Shepard himself.’

Alenko paused, his smile vanishing. He ran a mental check of everything he knew about Shepard but most of the man’s file had been classified. It was not unexpected for an Infiltrator but it still left Alenko with a nagging worry that he and Jenkins might become the commander’s next victims.

‘You’re not worried?’ he ventured. The officer in him stopped short of mentioning Shepard directly and he silently cursed himself for the slip.

‘I’m pumped, Sir. In fact, knowing what the commander did on Torfan only makes me more excited. They wouldn’t send a guy like that on a do-nothing mission. We’re going to see combat today, I just know it!’

‘Settle down, Corporal. Now’s not the time to get worked up.’

Alenko fell silent to slip on his armour. It was a routine for him now after many operations over the past few years, from anti-piracy and peacekeeping to humanitarian missions. As one of the first generation of biotics in the Alliance military, he’d always been drilled hard and after only a couple of minutes, he had beaten Jenkins to fastening his gloves.

The deck rattled underfoot as the Normandy settled into a low orbit around Eden Prime. Alenko could almost see the gentle blue curve of the planet outside the bulkheads, ringed with a halo of blinding white.

The engines groaned and pitched as they entered atmosphere, and Alenko’s hand shot out to snatch a rifle as it fell from his locker. He stowed it back and took out a standard issue Kessler sidearm.

Jenkins cocked a brow as he slid on a half-visored helmet. ‘Not taking anything bigger, Lieutenant?’

Alenko’s small grin returned as he slipped on his own helmet, testing the neck seals with a finger. ‘I’m not a big fan of guns, Corporal.’

After a moment’s confusion, Jenkins gave an embarrassed look as he realised what Alenko meant.

Biotics were looked upon almost with superstition out in a backwoods colony like Eden Prime and Alenko had long grown used to the superstition his kind of talents garnered among the rank and file.

The sound of the elevator brought their heads up and both men straightened as Commander Shepard, Nihlus and Captain Anderson entered the bay. Shepard’s gaze swept the room before locking onto them and with long, determined strides he made his way over to them while Anderson and Nihlus spoke in hushed voices.

Alenko saluted formally. ‘Ready to go, Commander. What’s the situation?’

Shepard was all business as he opened his locker and withdrew a battered old Mantis rifle and Predator pistol. ‘Eden Prime is under attack. We don’t know who or what. All we know is they’re heavily armed and capable of either overwhelming or out-manoeuvring the Marines down there.’

That alone was enough to draw their concern. Ever since the First Contact War, Alliance Marines had gained a reputation as some of the most formidable regular infantry in the galaxy. That the planetside garrison had been beaten so quickly meant their enemies were either exceptionally skilled or had a great advantage in numbers.

Neither were good and Alenko could now see why Shepard had been chosen to lead them. Their greatest weapon was not being detected at all and that was the commander’s speciality.

Anderson approached and his uniform ruffled as the ship’s loading ramp lowered, letting in a roaring blast of air.

‘Your team’s the muscle in this operation, Shepard,’ he shouted over the winds, ‘Hit the ground hard and head straight for the dig site. Co-ordinates have been uploaded to your omni-tools but otherwise you’ll be going in blind. It’ll be up to you to improvise and adapt as the situation dictates.’

Alenko looked out of the bay and caught his first glimpse of Eden Prime. The sky looked as if it had been washed with blood. Smears of dark clouds hung low, casting burgundy shadows across the once-green fields.

‘How did this happen?’ he wondered aloud. ‘I’ve never seen a sky like this, not on a garden world.’

‘That’s one of the hundreds of questions we’re hoping to answer, Lieutenant,’ Anderson replied, ‘We’re dropping Nihlus off first. He’ll approach from the east while you’ll enter the dig site from the south. Keep it fast and quiet, and engage only when necessary.’

‘What about survivors, Captain?’ Alenko asked, ‘There’ve got to be hundreds of people down there from the research teams alone, not to mention the locals.’

The answer was stern and uncompromising. ‘We’re not on a rescue mission. Rescuing survivors is not our concern. An Alliance task force is scrambling from Arcturus as we speak; they’ll clean up down there. The beacon is what matters. Do whatever it takes to retrieve that beacon.’

Shepard gave a nod and pulled on his helmet. ‘We’ll get it done, Sir.’

‘I know you will, Shepard,’ Anderson said with certainty.

Behind them, Nihlus quietly checked over his equipment. The nervous tension that always came before an operation set in on them all, made worse by the frantic gales that tore at them up the cargo ramp. The ground loomed in quickly, thick with trees and large blocks of grey stone.

Alenko's heart raced as the land flew by beneath them in a blur. Before he could think, the ship had slowed down enough to allow Nihlus to jump from the ramp. He watched the turian disappear beneath the belly of the ship and then kept his eyes firmly on the horizon.

Their turn to jump came shortly after.

~~ME-DS~~



The air in Chief Williams’ ears still shivered and rang with the strange noise, like she had been standing too close to a loud amplifier. There was nothing she could do about it, no matter how much she rapped on her helmet or shook her head.

It was not as if she’d even had the opportunity to take stock of her senses. She could not even remember the point at which Nirali had died. She had simply found her friend lying on the grass, her face plate cracked and seeping blood, her armour fused and scarred.

Now Williams was alone. Her throat stung with the sharpness of her rifle’s discharge vapours and her eyes burned with spent tears. She couldn't even remember having shed them.

The ground was hard beneath her body and the smell of soil inched up beneath her visor. She pressed herself into it as hard as she could, praying that she would not be seen.

They passed by above her but she only saw their shadows, indistinct wraiths upon the grass and mud by her side. They clicked and whirred to one another in their strange language and Williams could hear them perfectly as she held her breath.

If the geth discovered her now there could be no escape. She had seen them strike with pinpoint accuracy at a hundred yards while on the move. She would die in moments and it took all of her nerve to remain still.

When the ground began to shake beneath her, she thought it was an army marching her way, or perhaps that enormous ship the geth had arrived in. It was only when she heard the telltale grumble of an Alliance drive core that she knew hope.

She dared to raise her head, expecting a plasma shot to thump into the back of her helmet at any moment and end it all, but the geth had passed.

A ship soared in over the trees, its outline unlike any other in the navy and only the Alliance colours and insignia brought her shakily to her feet. It was a rescue. It had to be.

She ran. She did not care if the geth were near, or if they could see her. All that mattered was reaching the strange Alliance ship before it disappeared. Her pace increased as she heard the insipid whine of geth reconnaissance drones at her back.
Mass Effect: Dark Saga - Chapter 8
Epic thriller spanning entire Mass Effect trilogy and more.

Commander Shepard has been sent to the peaceful human colony of Eden Prime to retrieve an artefact that could alter the course of galactic civilisation, but an attack by an unknown enemy may jeopardise everything the Alliance hopes to gain...


Epic-scale fan fiction spanning entirety of Shepard's Mass Effect life, from Mindoir to Torfan, through all three games and all DLC. Themes will include some dark/mature subjects, including depression and addiction.

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(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)
Title: Mass Effect: Dark Saga
Author: Mothbanquet
Game: Mass Effect trilogy and all DLC
Characters: All characters
Pairings: ME1 - Shepard/Liara, Post-ME1 – Shepard/Tali’Zorah



Chapter Seven - Shakedown




Another gasping breath exploded from her throat.

She looked about, her senses aflame with adrenaline as she surveyed the scene with wide, brown eyes. They swivelled beneath the half-lowered visor of her helmet, a white dome patched with pink. The coloured panels matched the sky now; it had been a deep shade of blue only minutes before - when had it turned into an image of Hell?

‘Come on!’ someone yelled out hoarsely, ‘Push them back! We have to retake the dig site!’

Another voice spoke, cutting through the fuggy haze of battle. It was Nirali, the servicewoman whom she had befriended on joining the battalion.

'Retake what? You'll get us all killed just for a bunch of ruins?' Nirali was dark-skinned and beautiful, and always looked younger than she really was. Now though, the soldier's voice seemed much older as she cried in terror, ‘The dig site’s been overrun! We have to fall back to the spaceport!’

The man who spoke before did so again; their squad leader Lieutenant Perez, an inexperienced man who gave rushed, conflicting orders, ‘You’re under my command, Bhatia! That means you do whatever the hell I tell you!’

Weapons fire thudded around them, though it was nothing like what Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams had experienced before. She’d spent a long time on the ranges, had fired rifles of almost every kind in the Alliance arsenal but this was something else.

The humming, pulsing beat of the enemy guns was almost hypnotic, like the music of the clubs in the main settlement, and with every sound came a burst of plasma, searing a blue trail through the air.

‘Williams, wake the hell up!’ her lieutenant shouted, ‘I said cease fire!’

Williams blinked. She eased her finger slowly from the trigger and her Lancer rifle ceased its rumble.

The tree line on the hill above was nothing more than a silent row of tattered stumps and shredded trunks but there was no sign of enemy dead. How? How could a whole squad unload everything they had and yet hit nothing?

She spotted a light among the trees. It was as bright as a lamp; a piercing circle of icy blue. Below, a body moved lithely and silently, and with it rose the a strange, bulbous rifle.

‘Get down!’ Williams cried. She used her free hand to shove the bewildered Perez to the ground and returned fire, the squad following her in ripping new lines through the foliage.

The lieutenant gathered himself and keyed his omni-tool. ‘This is Lieutenant Riley Perez of the Two-Twelve,’ he said breathlessly, ‘This is a priority distress call. We are under attack, enemy unknown. Taking heavy casualties, repeat, heavy casualties! Requesting evac.’ He glanced up at the tree line and his voice filled with panic. ‘Repeat, we need evac! They came out of nowhere. We have to-’

He shuddered, then slumped as a plasma round tore into his chest. There was no blood. The projectile fused his flesh on contact, melding skin with armour.

Williams saw him go down and called out, ‘Lieutenant Perez is down! Squad, fall back! Fall back!’

~~ME-DS~~



The Arcturus system flowed smoothly past the SSV Normandy. The ship was a series of smooth curves, its pristine new Alliance paint job shimmering as it glided through the void, the words Normandy SR1 emblazoned upon it like a banner. The engines mounted on its low-slung wings glowed a brilliant blue as the ship accelerated.

The lustrous stars formed a blanket upon the deep black of space, though their brilliance was outmatched by the instrumentation of the crew stations inside. Hundreds of yellow and orange LEDs blinked and fluttered, forming a flickering cocoon around the helmsman and bridge hands as they silently went about their work.

It was a little too silent for Flight Lieutenant Jeff Moreau. As the pilot, he knew just about everything that could be shown by the warbling instruments over his head by the feel of the ship alone. It rumbled beneath him in response to every input he keyed into the haptic panel before him, the motions requiring little thought.

When you were as good as he was, boredom set in quickly. Luckily, he had a few ways of manufacturing excitement if things got too quiet. Without a change to his even expression, he nudged the throttle lever up a fraction.

From the co-pilot's chair came a voice, smooth and husky, 'Easy now, Joker. The relay isn't going anywhere.'

Joker. That was what they called Moreau, to the point where he barely remembered his real name.

With a slight scowl, the young man scratched his beard. It was an old naval tradition, to relax shaving routines on long periods afloat and his current effort was his best yet, forming a thick layer of brown bristles over his jaw.

He adjusted the Alliance cap on his head and made a correction to the ship’s heading. ‘Come on, Kaidan, you tryin’ to tell me I can’t stretch her wings a little while we’re out here in the middle of nowhere? They call it a shakedown run for a reason, ‘y’know.’

His fellow lieutenant, Kaidan Alenko, smiled. His dark hair was longer than a regular Marine would be caught dead with, but then he was no ordinary Alliance soldier.

He answered Joker’s tweaking of the ship’s throttle with an adjustment to fuel intake and the haptic panel in front of him bleeped an objection, which Alenko immediately overrode.

‘Until Adams knows how the Tantalus can cope with the stealth systems engaged, I don’t think we should tax her too much,' he said, 'You know how engineers are.’

‘Ugh, fine,’ Joker grumbled. He lowered the Normandy’s speed, visibly chafing at the restriction.

‘Don't forget our guest either,' Alenko warned, 'If he's reporting to the Council, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a good idea to burn out the drive core before we’ve even made it out of Arcturus.’

‘Which ‘guest’ you talking about? The alien or the crazy guy?’

Alenko's smile tightened and his tone became serious, ‘Referring to our new XO as ‘the crazy guy’ might not be the best way to go about making a good impression.’

‘Oh come on, you know what they say about Shepard. He’s the Butcher of Torfan, the guy who got more Marines killed than the turians and gonorrhea combined.’

‘That’s disgusting. And no, I don’t know what they say about him. As far as I’m concerned, they dropped the Torfan charges for a reason, so anything else is pure hearsay.’

Joker fell silent as the Normandy passed through a particle cloud. Outside the windows, the shields fluttered in waves of blue as they deflected invisible, deadly pieces of debris, any one of which could punch a hole through an unprotected hull.

When the danger had passed, Joker let out a quiet snort. ‘Hearsay isn’t always a bunch of crap, you know. I got a friend over at Jump Zero who was with one of the Torfan battalions under some guy named Fairburn, back when they still had ‘general’ as a rank. She said the brass wanted to burn Shepard at the stake for what happened; a whole squad of N-School candidates dead and a bunch of hostages too. As if that wasn’t enough, he apparently went wacko and started mowing down the prisoners who’d surrendered.’

Joker mimed the action, an invisible pistol jerking in his hand. Alenko shook his head.

‘Just sayin’,’ Joker continued, raising his hands, ‘he might not be the best guy to put in charge of crew welfare. Then there’s the other guy...’

Footsteps thumped the deck behind him and a shadow fell across the bridge terminals. Joker leaned back to look over his shoulder and his face slackened nervously at the sight of a large turian clad in imposing slate and burgundy armour. His skin was the colour of charred redwood and his features were edged with slashes of brilliant white paint.

Joker had always found turians somewhat intimidating and Nihlus was no exception. If anything, knowing who and what he was only made Joker even more anxious.

Nihlus spoke and the warm flanging of his vocals filled the bridge, 'How long?'

Joker cleared his throat, wondering how much the turian had overheard. ‘The Arcturus Prime relay is in range,’ he said, the epitome of professionalism, ‘Initiating transmission sequence.’

~~ME-DS~~



Shepard strode purposefully through the Normandy’s Combat Information Centre as he fastened the last clasp on his Onyx armour. The red-on-white N7 stripe running down his right arm was a signal to all and the crew hurried out of his way.

Already he could feel the telltale shudder running through the deck as the ship synced itself with the approaching mass relay and he cursed himself for running so late. He picked up the pace, his steps quickening as the ship’s trembling grew stronger.

‘We are connected. Calculating transit mass and destination,’ he heard Joker pipe over the intercom.

Shepard entered the narrow tubular passageway leading to the bridge. Already he could see flashes of pale skin as Joker’s arms passed over the flight controls. Directly behind the helmsman, the dark bulk of the turian Nihlus stood motionless, his arms folded as he watched the stars slip by.

‘The relay is hot, acquiring approach vector.’

The Normandy turned, though in space there was no sensation to accompany the movement. Instead, the galaxy itself shifted outside the windows.

‘All stations secure for transit.’

The warning to the crew had been given. Shepard knew he almost was out of time but he could not bring himself to jog the last few feet. He restrained himself and came to a halt at Nihlus’ side.

The turian did not so much as glance at him. His focus was on the vast, shimmering spike of metal hovering ominously in the void before them; the mass relay.

A blue orb hung at back of the relay like a false sun, around which giant rings of metal rotated, so massive they dwarfed the approaching ship.

Shepard was close enough now to hear Joker speak, ‘Board is green. Approach run has begun.’

The relay loomed to the left of the bridge and as they neared, arcs of energy flashed from the orb, grasping the Normandy with blue fingers. The ship vibrated slightly but its speed and heading did not change.

Shepard stared ahead blankly, hiding his apprehension. He'd been through the relays many times before but it had been while hiding in cramped cargo bays and mess decks. It was a strange, even frightening thing to witness firsthand but he did not show his tension while the crew watched.

Without warning, the relay took hold. Shepard ground his teeth as tendrils of energy wrapped themselves around the Normandy and propelled it with a resounding thrum into the blackness of space.

It took only a moment. As Shepard blinked, another relay emerged on his right, so instantaneously that at first he thought it was the same one.

Everyone else on the bridge seemed relaxed. Joker prodded at his haptic panel as he read the post-transit report aloud, ‘Thrusters...check. Navigation...check. Internal Emissions Sink engaged. All systems online. Drift...just under fifteen-hundred k.’

Nihlus replied, his tone empty, ‘Fifteen-hundred is good. Your captain will be pleased.’

Without another word, he turned and left the bridge.

Joker let out an irritated breath. ‘I hate that guy. Anyone else would’ve given me a medal for a jump like that.’

Shepard frowned slightly. Joker was an excellent pilot but more prone to speaking his mind aloud than an officer should be, at least aboard a warship.

‘The guy just gave you a compliment,’ Lieutenant Alenko retorted, ‘So, you hate him?’

‘You call that a compliment? You remember to zip up your jumpsuit on the way out of the bathroom, that’s good. I just jumped us halfway across the galaxy and hit a target the size of a pinhead - that’s incredible.’ He threw a quick, bitter glance over his shoulder. ‘Besides, Spectres are trouble. Just having him on board gives me the creeps. Call me paranoid.'

'You're paranoid,' Alenko said immediately, 'The Council helped fund this project. They have a right to send someone to keep an eye on their investment.'

Joker scoffed. 'Yeah, that's the official story. 'Course only an idiot believes the official story.'

A touch of annoyance crept into Shepard’s voice, ‘That’s enough, Lieutenant. Whatever’s going on, we’ll find out when and if the time comes. Until then, enough with the chatter, both of you.’

Joker’s mouth snapped shut.

Alenko’s response almost sounded triumphant, ‘Sorry, Commander.’

The bridge intercom chimed and Captain Anderson’s voice filled the air, ‘Joker; status report.’

His clipped tone cut through them all, though Joker seemed used to it. ‘Just cleared the mass relay, Captain. Stealth systems engaged, everything looks solid.’

It was an important point, despite Joker’s businesslike assessment. The Internal Emission Sink stealth systems were an integral part of what made the Normandy so special. They stored and concealed the ship’s radiation and heat emissions, while the unique hull reduced its RADAR and LADAR profile. They all combined to render the ship practically invisible to enemy sensors, though there had been fears over how well the IES would take to relay travel.

If Anderson was grateful for the success, he did not show it. ‘Good. Find a comm buoy and link us into the network. I want mission reports relayed back to Alliance brass before we reach Eden Prime.’

‘Aye, aye, Captain. Better brace yourself, Sir. I think Nihlus is heading your way.’

‘He’s already here, Lieutenant.’

Shepard resisted a smile at the curt reply.

Joker closed his eyes in embarrassment, shaking his head and Alenko threw him a sharp look of disapproval.

‘Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing,’ Anderson said before cutting the signal.

‘You get that, Commander?’ Joker asked meekly.

Shepard gave a short nod. ‘I’m on my way.’

Joker glanced back to watch him leave. ‘Is it just me or does the Captain always sound pissed off?’

‘Only when he’s talking to you, Joker.’ Alenko answered.

~~ME-DS~~



Shepard walked, not too quickly, back down toward the CIC and Joker’s earlier words came to mind. The helmsman had a right to be suspicious but he was unused to sensitive operations.

As Anderson had said back on Earth, secrecy was part of the job and from the whispered chatter Shepard caught between the crewmen, it seemed very few of them had been involved in anything this covert. The commander resigned himself to having to deal with rumour control as best he could.

As he approached the terminals surrounding the CIC’s main platform he caught sight of Navigator Pressley. The lieutenant was an older man yet still in fine shape, with a bald pate surrounded by a neatly-trimmed ring of greying hair.

He was speaking into an intercom, just loud enough to be overheard, 'I'm telling you, he walked by just now and he wasn't 'supervising' anything. Just steamed right on by, like he was on a mission.'

'He's a Spectre, he's always on a mission,' came a droll reply.

Shepard recognised the other voice as that of Chief Engineer Adams, a fellow officer and the man in charge of the Normandy's smooth running. His voice was deep and gravelly in person - more so over the intercom speakers.

'Yeah, and we're getting dragged right along with him,' Presley complained.

The intercom clicked as Adams chuckled. 'Relax, Pressley, you're going to give yourself an ulcer.'

Shepard's brow knotted in frustration. He stopped and cleared his throat, prompting Pressley to turn. The navigator started slightly but quickly composed himself and saluted.

'Congratulations, Commander, looks like we had a smooth run. It's always touch and go when we put a new ship through a relay, let alone one with something as advanced as the IES system on board. That's one less worry on our minds.'

A pang of guilt at having to nitpick almost made Shepard nod and walk away but he was the Normandy’s XO. Anderson expected him to do his job, no matter how rusty he was at enforcing rules of conduct.

'Do you have a problem with our turian guest, Lieutenant?' he asked evenly.

A momentary look of alarm passed over Pressley at having been overheard but there was nothing to be gained from denial. He let out a resigned breath, 'Look, Commander, with respect I just can't help but feel that we're out here under false pretences. Even if the Normandy is an experimental vessel, this is just a shakedown run. We're only supposed to run a few laps around Eden Prime to test the stealth systems, so why the full crew? It also doesn't make sense to have Captain Anderson, one of the most decorated soldiers in the service as our CO. I can think of a dozen captains with decades of experience commanding warships, all of whom would be a better choice.'

Shepard kept his expression blank as his earlier concerns were echoed. 'You don't approve of Captain Anderson?'

'Don't get me wrong, I approve of him well enough and I know his reputation is well-earned. I just question why a leatherneck like him is wasted here? And then there's Nihlus...'

'I heard you talking about him with Adams. Nihlus is just an observer, someone the Council sent to keep an eye on things. The turians helped us build this ship so it makes sense to have one along.'

Pressley's eyes hardened. 'Certain aspects of the design might be alien, Sir, but the real ingenuity - the Tantalus drive core, the IES stealth systems - is all human-engineered. We might have to make nice with the turians nowadays but we don’t need them looking over our shoulders on our own ship.’

Shepard narrowed his eyes slightly. It had been said that he was good at reading people and judging their responses, though he knew it was simply part of being an Infiltrator. Combat was only part of the job; another was to gather information and act, and the skill often came to the fore naturally whether Shepard liked it or not.

‘So you don’t like him because he’s a turian?’ he asked.

Pressley shrugged. His reply was unapologetic, ‘Runs in the family. My grandfather served in the First Contact War. We lost a lot of good men back then.’

‘Nihlus wasn’t there thirty years ago,’ Shepard pointed out, ‘You don't think it's a little unfair to blame him?’

‘I’m not blaming him, Commander, I just...’ Pressley trailed off as tried to give voice to his frustration. ‘It’s not only that he’s a turian. He’s a Spectre. An elite operative, one of the best in the galaxy and the right hand of the Council. Just like Captain Anderson, he doesn’t fit. The whole crew feels it, Sir.’

Shepard expelled a breath through his nostrils and glanced about the CIC. The crew were busy with their duties but the subtle tension Presley spoke of was there, like a heavy presence in the air.

‘All right,’ he said quietly, ‘I get it, and for what it’s worth, I’m just as in the dark as you are. Nobody likes being kept in the dark. But you’re an officer, Pressley and I expect you to set an example. Info is on a need-to-know basis right now and there’s nothing you, I or Captain Anderson can do about that. Until that changes I need you to show the discipline we’d want from the rest of the crew. Am I clear?’

Something like relief flooded through Pressley at the order. Perhaps he simply needed to get it off his chest.
He saluted. ‘Clear, Commander.’

Shepard nodded and continued on his way, skirting around a Marine coming the other way. To his left, the command dais rose on a ramp to dominate the room, in front of which the galaxy map swirled. The projection was impossibly complex and from a console at the top of the dais, could be manipulated to show every inch of charted space from clusters to systems, right down to individual planets.

He blinked as he caught another voice rising above the CIC’s steady bustle, the tone light and eager, ‘I grew up on Eden Prime, Doc, it’s not the kind of place Spectres visit. There’s something they’re not telling us; Nihlus, Captain Anderson, Commander Shepard too.’

It could only have been Corporal Jenkins, the same Marine that had accosted Shepard immediately on his arrival onboard to express his admiration. Shepard knew his performance in the Skyllian Verge was much talked about but had never enjoyed the fame it brought him.

Jenkins was speaking with the ship’s Medical Officer, Doctor Chakwas and Shepard fought the urge to roll his eyes as he realised what they were discussing. How many times would he have to hear the same whispers?

All part of the job, he could almost hear Anderson say, with his traditional smirk.

‘You’ve been watching too many spy vids, Jenkins,’ Chakwas said with a laugh as Shepard approached.

She was a proper, well-spoken woman and it was always somewhat odd to see her so relaxed around the lower ranks. Her appearance was as meticulous as the way she went about her job. Her hair hung in ashen grey curtains, trimmed neatly above the collar of a white-patched Alliance medical uniform that clung tightly to her slim frame.

Jenkins’ eyes snapped to Shepard and he saluted immediately. ‘What do you think, Commander? We won’t be staying on Eden Prime too long, will we? I’m itching for some real action!’

Shepard looked him over. Jenkins had served well, earning his promotion to corporal without having had a combat mission. It was not unheard of in these quiet years after the Blitz but it still amazed Shepard at times.

‘I sincerely hope you’re kidding, Corporal,’ Chakwas replied sternly, ‘Your ‘real action’ usually ends up with me patching up crew members in the infirmary.’

Shepard allowed himself a small grin. ‘That’s what the corporal signed up for,’ he explained, ‘He’s a Marine, it’s his job to fight. You just patch us up when we’re done.’

Something flashed across Chakwas’ eyes and she stiffened subtly. ‘I know how things work, Commander. I’ve seen my share of combat but it’s foolish to go looking for trouble.’

At that, Shepard chuckled soundlessly, dipping his head. It was difficult not to like Doctor Chakwas but a part of her was still the idealistic young doctor she had once been when she signed up.

‘You say that like we have a choice,’ he said quietly before turning back to Jenkins, ‘But the doctor has a point. You’ll see your share of combat, so be patient.’

‘Easy for you to say, Sir, you proved yourself on Torfan. We already know what you can do. Hell, we’ve got Captain Anderson himself aboard! I’m not going to get an opportunity like this again - I have to show him and Nihlus what I can do!’

Shepard’s smile disappeared. ‘This isn’t about personal glory, Corporal. The mission is what matters. Don’t do anything to jeopardise it.’

Jenkins nodded. ‘Don’t worry, Sir, I’m not going to screw this up.’

A thought crossed Shepard’s mind and he folded his arms, relaxed. ‘You’re from Eden Prime, aren’t you, Jenkins? What’s it like?’

Shepard thought it was a fairly transparent attempt to garner a reason for the Normandy’s mission but Jenkins didn’t seem to notice.

He replied eagerly, ‘It’s a colony world, real peaceful, mostly farmland. They house the settlements in vertical towers to cut down on noise and pollution; ‘learning from Earth’s mistakes’ they always used to say in the vids. As I got older though, I knew it was too calm and quiet for me. There’s nothing out there that a Spectre would be interested in.’

Not that it would stop the rumours, Shepard thought sardonically. He changed the subject quickly, ‘I’ve worked with alien Special Forces before, Council races mainly but I’ve never seen a Spectre. What do you know about them?’

Jenkins became very animated at that, to Chakwas’ obvious amusement. ‘They’re the Council’s top covert agents. When they don’t want to send the Citadel Fleet in, they send a Spectre. Each one is hand-picked from the best of the best of all races. They’re authorised to go anywhere, do almost anything to get the job done!’

Chakwas laughed. ‘The corporal is confusing romantic legend with reality, Commander. Nobody really knows what Spectres get up to. All we know is their activities are highly classified and they’re dispatched on missions to maintain galactic stability, with a mandate to preserve it by any means necessary.’

‘Kinda like what you do in the Alliance,’ Jenkins said, motioning to Shepard, ‘What you did on Torfan - that’s what they look for in the Spectres. Ruthless efficiency, willingness to do whatever it takes, getting the job done no matter the cost!’

A shadow fell over Shepard’s features. He remembered faces, smells, the taste of blood on his tongue, all long-buried.

‘I didn’t enjoy Torfan, Corporal,’ he said softly, ‘I just...did what I had to do.’

‘I...I’m sorry, Commander,’ Jenkins stammered, ‘I got a little carried away, I didn’t mean any disrespect.’

Shepard waved his hand dismissively. ‘In any case, I heard they only let members of the Council races into the Spectres. I doubt that'll change in my lifetime.’

‘Only a matter of time, Sir,’ Jenkins replied optimistically, ‘It only took us thirty years to get an embassy on the Citadel. Some species have to wait centuries for that honour!’

‘The turians didn’t like that one bit,’ Chakwas interjected, ‘I can’t imagine they’d be any more eager to accept a human into the Spectres.’

Shepard was about to respond when he remember Anderson’s summons. He smiled politely. ‘The captain’s waiting for me. It was good talking with you again, Doctor. Corporal.’

Chakwas and Jenkins murmured a farewell that was quickly lost as Shepard’s boots thumped on the deck. The comm room was nearby and his heart quickened at the thought of finally discovering the Normandy’s true objective.

~~ME-DS~~



‘They’re moving!’ Nirali exclaimed as she pointed over the scope of her Lancer. She loosed another burst and the rounds sent clumps of mud flying from the hillside.

Williams grabbed her by the arm, pulling her away. ‘Don’t fall behind, come on! We have to keep moving!’

Giant cubes of rough-cut grey stone lay scattered over the countryside, painted red by the crimson sky. From behind them, plasma bolts poured onto the fleeing soldiers. The deadly rounds scorched the earth wherever they fell, blackening the grass and soil and turning it to glass.

Nirali struggled against Williams’ grip. ‘They’re still alive! We can’t just leave them!’

‘If we turn back now we’re all dead!’ Williams argued back, her teeth bared beneath her visor. The gunnery chief was taller and stronger than most women but Nirali was frenzied with grief and fear. She was difficult to control as she struggled wildly.

‘They’re still moving!’ Nirali screamed. She fired her rifle with her free hand and the slugs fell scattered, impacting harmlessly on the distant rises. ‘They’re still there, on top of those...those things! They’re still alive!

Williams did not know what she was talking about anymore. She'd sent Nirali out on a scouting run with two others in their squad when Perez had died, right after they had lost the first group of attackers. It hadn’t been long before Nirali returned alone. Her shields were burned out and she’d spoken nothing but nonsense ever since.

With a grunt, Williams adjusted her hold, clasping Nirali firmly around the waist. ‘Don’t give up on me. There’s only five of us left now, Nirali. We need you!’

‘Still alive,’ Nirali whimpered. Tears streaked her skin, their trails glinting pink. ‘Geth. They must be... Nothing else could...’

‘The geth don’t exist!’ Williams shouted. She couldn’t believe it and yet the brief glimpses she had caught of their attackers spoke of what had long become galactic legend - cold, blue metal and a limbs that curved at angles that matched no organic species she knew of.

They don’t exist, she told herself again as she hauled Nirali behind her, her boots cutting into the soft ground as they scraped along. This isn't really happening. It's all a nightmare and I'll wake up any second now.

A hissing explosion made Williams flinch, sending a shock wave of pain through her body that denied all her assurances. She looked up, her eyes filled with desperation.

They do not exist.
Mass Effect: Dark Saga - Chapter 7
Epic thriller spanning entire Mass Effect trilogy and more.

Lieutenant Shepard, agent of the deadly Infiltrator Corps of the Systems Alliance, is dropped behind enemy lines as part of an assault on the pirate moon of Torfan. The mission does not go as planned however, and will set in motion a chain of events that will change the galaxy forever...


Epic-scale fan fiction spanning entirety of Shepard's Mass Effect life, from Mindoir to Torfan, through all three games and all DLC. Themes will include some dark/mature subjects, including depression and addiction.

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(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)
Title: Mass Effect: Dark Saga
Author: Mothbanquet
Game: Mass Effect trilogy and all DLC
Characters: All characters
Pairings: ME1 - Shepard/Liara, Post-ME1 – Shepard/Tali’Zorah



Chapter Six - Unforeseen Consequences




Shepard’s hands clutched at the yellow dirt, digging into it until it coloured his nails a sickly brown. He kept his mouth shut and breathed through his nose like he'd been taught but it did little good. He coughed hoarsely, the sound muffled by his closed lips.

He doubted anyone would hear him. Aside from the winds that battered the hills, the bestial roar of the strange ships beyond the ridge would mask his approach.

Shepard looked up at his father, who was scaling the slope several feet ahead, and then back down at their shuttle. They had covered it with a rough, sandy-coloured tarp that rippled in the wind, making it all but invisible to aircraft. Men on the ground would be able to see it plain as day, his father had said, but by then it would not matter.

That had frightened Shepard. He wanted to stop his dad, to ask him what was happening, why they had to park so far from the settlement but he knew he wouldn’t get an answer. Even on the shuttle ride over, his father's grim expression alone had scared him into silence.

Shepard’s suspicions were confirmed when he saw the old Mantis rifle again, taken from its case and loaded with live ammunition. Something had arrived on Mindoir and his father was preparing to fight it.

They came to the crest, though before Shepard reached the top, his father stopped him with a hand.

His eyes were fierce as he spoke, keeping his voice low, ‘No more than one of us at a time. Whatever you do, don’t stand up. At this distance your silhouette will be spotted in seconds.’

Shepard nodded. He settled, pressing himself down, as if trying to sink into the rock.

His father made some adjustments to the Mantis and took a deep breath before bringing the weapon to bear. He guided his eye to the scope and Shepard would have given anything to see what he was seeing.

His father let out a low growl. ‘Slavers. Batarians, mostly. A couple of turians.’ He shifted slightly and a layer of soil trickled from beneath him. ‘Basic gear. ERCS, BSA, some expensive Ariake armour. Shotguns, pistols, almost all short range and deadly stopping power.’

He was speaking to himself, Shepard realised, going over every factor of the coming battle. He could almost see the plan taking shape in his father’s head.

‘Too much visibility,’ the old man muttered, biting his lip, 'A lot of ground to cover. The majority of them are focused to the west, though, that's good. That’s good...'

He pulled away from the scope and his eyes flickered from side to side thoughtfully before turning to his son. 'I need you to take the rifle.'

'Dad, I can't...' Shepard said fearfully,  'I've never...'

'Killed a man?' his father finished. He smiled sadly, the weathered edges of his eyes wrinkling. 'It's not my place to make you do that, son. Taking the life of another should always be your choice. But I can't use this. I need to move fast and in close quarters it'll only be a liability. There's an old Kessler sidearm in our bedroom. I'll grab that if need be, but if all goes well I won't need a weapon to begin with.'

He withdrew the Mantis from the crest of the hill and handed it down to Shepard. 'Get back down to the shuttle and wait twenty minutes, not one second longer. If I'm not back by then, get out of here. Send the distress call and the Alliance will answer.'

'Dad, don't go alone,' Shepard said pleadingly. He felt like a child; frightened and helpless. He felt cool tears sting the corners of his eyes and his voice started to crack, but he spoke the words anyway, fueled by nothing but desperation, 'Please, I can help! Let me go down there. I'm fast, and you can use the rifle, and...'

There was no use in arguing. There never was. The elder Shepard's eyes glistened as he fought to hide his pride and sorrow.

'Do as I say, son. I can’t...I can’t lose you all, not now, not like this. Stay out of sight,' he repeated.

His voice wavered, and he reached out to ruffle his boy's hair before letting his hand fall to cup his cheek.

'I love you, my son. So does your mother, and Jane. No matter what happens, never forget that.'

He did not wait for a response.

Shepard watched his father scramble over the summit of the hill and the scraping of his feet could be heard for many long moments after. Shepard clutched the Mantis to his chest. It was the last piece of his father left and he thought he could still feel his warmth in the metal casing.

He squeezed it tighter when the shouts came, and then the gunfire. His eyes were shut but he could still hear the screams of anguish. They lingered even after the pale sun of Mindoir had set and Shepard still lay cradling his father's rifle long into the night.

~~ME-DS~~



The taste of earth was still strong on Shepard’s tongue and it mingled with the bitter blood that stained his teeth.

What little of the dusty scarlet light that managed to reach him painted his armour with a ghostly sheen, leaving him looking as dead as he felt.

He had been brought to a tiny cell within Kashek’s stronghold, appropriated and used in the most ironic way possible; to hold the slaver prisoners. The place reeked of decay and despair, its walls littered with the graffiti of generation upon generation of slaves. As he lay on the single narrow bed, Shepard's mind wandered until he thought he could see them - huddled, shambolic figures, some weeping, some silent, some simply breathing, broken and resigned.

Perhaps it was the sight of Jane among them but Shepard was oddly unafraid of what would come next. He had found her at last and brought her vengeance, if not freedom. It was enough.

He scratched his chin, guessing at what a mess he must have looked. His hair was dark and sodden with blood and sweat, and the whiskers on his jaw rasped against his armoured fingers. Hot showers seemed a distant memory.

Something clanged behind him. It was the heavy sound of a door lock and in spite of his resignation to his fate, the long-instilled core of Shepard's discipline reacted. He levered himself upright, hissing as a forgotten pain in his ribs made itself known.

The cell door opened and through it strode an Alliance officer. The gold banding on each cuff of his dark blue uniform denoted the rank of captain and Shepard slipped off the bed to salute, unable to contain it.

It was not the crispest of motions but the captain seemed surprised to see it. He was a man of elder years, with leathery, mahogany-hued skin and thinning hair. His body was still strong despite his age and his eyes locked on Shepard’s keenly.

Rather than returning the salute he spoke, deep and clear, ‘Lieutenant Shepard, I assume. Take a seat. You don’t look too good.’

The voice was relaxed and Shepard frowned slightly, unsure of how to take it. Still, he obeyed and perched on the edge of the bed, resting his elbows on his thighs. ‘I’ve been better. The slave cot sure isn’t doing my back any good.’

‘You’re lucky to be alive at all, after what you went through. I’d say a night in this place would be paradise by comparison, even under the circumstances.’

At that, Shepard could not help but grunt in amusement. He couldn’t laugh, but a weary smile traced his lips. It quickly vanished and he looked into the captain’s brown eyes. ‘And here I was thinking you’d just be another officer come by to tell me how much trouble I’m in.’

‘You assume I'm familiar with what's going on here at all. What makes you think I know anything in the first place?’

‘Well,’ Shepard said, fighting a groan as he stretched his arms, ‘the look in your eyes, for a start. I’ve had a lot of men and women come by today telling me I’m going to prison, that I’m being court-martialled, even saying they could push for the death penalty.’ He smiled again, briefly and humorlessly. ‘But you're not doing any of those things.’

The captain offered his own small grin in response; a thin tilt of his lips, barely visible. He paced the cell and his polished shoes clicked on the stone floor.

‘I’ll cut to the chase, Lieutenant. My name is Captain David Anderson. I’m here to discuss your mission today.’

A look of shock painted itself across Shepard’s face.

Anderson didn't seem surprised to see it. ‘You’ve heard of me, I take it?’

‘Who hasn’t?’ Shepard replied uncomfortably. It wasn't quite awe that made him uneasy, not a soldier as experienced as Shepard but it was certainly something beyond mere respect. He dipped his head slightly. ‘What I mean is, I don’t think there’s a Marine out there who doesn’t know you, Sir. You’re a hero to a lot of people, not to mention the first N7.’

For a moment, Anderson looked as if he would laugh, but he brushed it aside with ease. ‘You’ve been in this line of work long enough to know there are no such things as heroes, Lieutenant. My name might be worth a great deal to some but my hands are as dirty as anyone else’s. In any case, that’s not why I’m here.’

He stopped his pacing and turned to face Shepard directly. ‘Lieutenant, I’m here to find out what really happened on this moon.’

The statement made Shepard blink in surprise. ‘General Fairburn’s story not enough for you, Sir?’

‘General Fairburn is facing an investigation of his own. So is Admiral Walsh. Every man and woman on Torfan is having their dirty laundry aired out and they all have different stories to tell. Walsh would have the brass believe the blame lies with just about everyone under his command, that Fairburn jumped the gun in landing his Marines, that Admiral Hackett’s intervention ruined a carefully-orchestrated plan. Fairburn’s no better. He blames you for going AWOL, abandoning Major Kyle and his team and getting over a hundred hostages killed.’

‘I only moved because Fairburn wouldn’t move at all,’ Shepard growled, clenching his fists, ‘Those people were dead long before I arrived. Kashek probably pulled the trigger himself when he realised we'd taken the first bunker.'

Anderson shook his head sadly. 'You're probably right. Kashek was an evil bastard, a real scourge on the galaxy. I'm not sure about the Alliance brass but I know a lot of colonies will sleep easier tonight knowing he's dead. Look, Shepard, I'm not going to play games here. I know what a whitewash looks like better than anyone and neither Fairburn nor Walsh's version sits right with me. I'm here now because I want the truth.'

'What does it matter? The Alliance needs a scapegoat and nobody's more deserving than I am. The truth, Sir, is that I did leave Kyle and his men - my men - to die. I disobeyed the general's orders and got everyone killed. If they want to throw the book at me then I’m not going to stop them.'

His tone hard, Anderson raised his voice, 'The Butcher of Torfan. That's what they're calling you out there. Do you think you've earned that name? That you deserve it?'

Shepard stood up and shouted, 'I killed five prisoners in cold blood, of course I deserve it! If someone hadn’t stopped me I'd have killed more! Those batarians had surrendered and I gunned them down without thinking!'

Anderson's response was quiet. 'Exactly. You weren't thinking and it wasn't calculated. More than anything, it wasn’t typical of you and to me, that’s the difference between humanity and inhumanity. I’ve seen people kill others far more innocent than those slavers and excuse their deaths as ‘necessary’. In my books, what you did was excusable.’

There was knowledge in Anderson's gaze and after a few moments, Shepard sank back onto the bed, allowing him to continue.

'I know about Jane, Lieutenant. I studied your files. Slavers invaded Mindoir in ‘70, leaving you orphaned and your sister in captivity. It doesn't take a genius to see why you enlisted the first chance you got, or why you put yourself forward for every covert op in the Traverse. You've spent the last eight years tracking Jane down and when you found her dead, you took it out on the first slavers you came across.' A look of discomfort, perhaps even guilt passed over Anderson's features. 'Under the circumstances, I might have even done the same. I can't condone your actions, Shepard but I sure as hell understand them.'

'I appreciate your understanding, Sir but the fact is I broke just about every Alliance regulation in the book just to follow my instincts and for what? Dead Marines, dead hostages, dead slavers; it was all because of me! Kyle was the only one left, of a team of eight!'

Anderson fell quiet and walked to the cell's only window. The light gave his skin a reddish tint that Shepard couldn't ignore. Everything on Torfan seemed to be stained red, either by its infernal planet or the blood of war.

'You didn't kill your men, or those hostages,' Anderson said softly, 'I went over the transcripts and I know you learned about them when you first tapped into that communication tower. If Fairburn had allowed you to act sooner, they might have survived. If Walsh had given Fairburn the resources he needed from the start, he might have been able to spare your team to extract them. That's the thing about hindsight. It has a funny way of making all your decisions seem like the wrong ones.'

He turned and Shepard thought he could see a trace of regret in Anderson's eyes, quickly concealed.

'The point, Shepard, is that if just one little thing had been different, you wouldn't be here in this cell. You’d have been celebrated as a saviour and all Fairburn's charges against you wouldn't mean a damn thing. They'd be calling you a hero, not a butcher.’ He glanced about, taking in the cell, then the filthy slat of a mattress Shepard sat upon. 'So I’m going to ask you again: do you deserve this?’

Shepard let out a long breath and his head sank into his hands. He replied from between his fingers, ‘I don’t know. Maybe. I just don’t know.’ He looked again at Anderson. ‘Is that why you’re really here, Sir? To appeal?’

He didn’t have the first clue why Captain Anderson, one of the most celebrated and prolific soldiers in the Alliance military, would take an interest in him. He dared not let hope rise.

‘Let’s just say I know how it feels, to do everything right and then have it all taken away. I was supposed to be your N7 evaluator for this mission, Shepard. It was up to me to decide who out of your team would make the grade. I’m here to tell you that you’re exactly what the Alliance needs - someone who can make decisions, work independently and do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.’ He took a step toward Shepard. ‘I might not wear an admiral’s rings but I won’t have Fairburn dictate what happens to the soldiers under my command. I’ve already worked with Admiral Hackett to make sure nothing comes of these charges. As of right now, you can officially consider yourself N7.’

Anderson stretched out a hand. ‘Congratulations, Lieutenant.’

Shepard could only stare at the hand blankly. The cell had turned into a mass of murky, swirling colours as everything shifted out of focus. The reality of what Anderson was offering hadn't begun to sink in and somewhere deep down, Shepard felt a stab of guilt.

He gave voice to it, ‘I can’t, Sir. I can’t accept that someone can do everything I did and walk away with his career intact. I murdered prisoners of war. I cost my team their lives. No matter how you look at it, those are facts.’ Exhaustion overtook him and his head drooped slightly. ‘I appreciate the offer, really, I do. But I can’t be rewarded after all this.’

‘What makes you think you’re getting away with anything?’

The question made Shepard look up. Anderson’s expression was hard and unflinching.

‘You’re the Butcher of Torfan now. It’s a name you’ll carry with you the rest of your life. People will look at you and see a killer, a ruthless son of a bitch who spends his soldiers like credits. Everyone you meet will think they already know you, already know how you think and how you’ll act. Your reputation will define you.’

His words settled on Shepard like a dead weight. Once more, the certainty in Anderson’s voice brooked no argument or question. He was telling Shepard how it would be and he had little choice but to accept it.

‘Now shake my hand, Lieutenant. You’re not going to get a chance like this again.’

Shepard knew he had no choice. He reached up and clasped Anderson’s hand firmly.

‘Can you walk?' the captain asked wryly as he helped Shepard to his feet, 'I’d prefer not to have to carry you out of here.'

Shepard chuckled. ‘I made it this far, didn’t I, Sir?’

‘That you did. Come on, let’s get you to a medbay. We need you at full strength ASAP.’

Shepard looked at him curiously as they made their way to the cell door. ‘What’s the rush?’

‘Torfan was just the beginning. There’re still a lot of slaver strongholds in the Verge and after what happened here, their leaders aren’t going to stand and fight. We’re expecting the pirates to go mobile, to move from planet to planet and present a difficult target. Between this and the Blitz, I don’t think we’ll have to fight a major battle with these sons of bitches again. It’ll all be cat and mouse from here on out.’

They passed into a cool, darkened corridor that rang with the raised voices of Marines and slavers. Anderson fiddled with a button on one of his cuffs and stepped aside to allow a prisoner and his escort to pass.

‘The key now is to pinpoint exactly where the slaver fleets are and learn their movements,' he continued, 'When the time is right, we strike. This moon was a bloodbath, Shepard, everyone knows it. It’s time to take these bastards down quick and clean, just as you’ve been trained to. Once you’re patched up you’ll be sent on operations throughout the Skyllian Verge, recon mostly. Some wet work.’

Shepard had been on enough black ops to know the routine. ‘Sounds like being N7 isn’t too far away from an Infiltrator.’

‘N7 is just a rank, Shepard, not a job. It just means the Alliance knows what you can do and they won’t hesitate to send you on the toughest, most dangerous assignments they've got. As an Infiltrator though, you’ll be expected to work alone or with small teams. Regular Marines and biotics with the N7 badge still operate within their units but you’ll always be on the move, constantly working with different species and slipping under the galaxy’s net anywhere and at any time. You were a ghost before. Now you’re truly invisible.’

It all sounded familiar to Shepard, and there was comfort in that familiarity. He straightened visibly as they walked, his wounds forgotten and pains dimmed.

‘Will you get into trouble, Sir?’ he asked, ‘With getting my charges dropped, I mean? Admiral Walsh is bound to still have some pull, even after all this. Not to mention Fairburn.’

‘Forget about both of them,’ Anderson replied sternly. It was an order. ‘You’re under my command now. When you leave this moon, neither Walsh nor Fairburn will ever see you again.’

They passed through a doorway and into the open air. This time, Torfan's surface did not seem so oppressive to Shepard and he took in a deep breath, seeing everything clearly once more. This was a different part of the base, a loose smattering of structures dominated by a large, dusty plain. Three shuttles waited nearby, their thrusters hissing impatiently.

Anderson stopped and looked at Shepard intently. ‘Lieutenant, before we go through with this, I need you to understand something'

Shepard waited patiently for him to continue.

'Humanity now has a place in a galaxy, bigger than we ever thought it could be. You’ll be tested by everyone around you, and not just humans. The turians, salarians, asari; they’ll always be watching us, judging us. The mission always comes first, Shepard, before family, before friends and before yourself. Can you leave the past in the past?’

The more Shepard thought about it, the more difficult such a thing seemed. He'd spent so long chasing Jane, every one of his thoughts and actions devoted to finding her.

He took a few moments simply to breathe, to try and think clearly. Jane had been avenged, many times over. It was often said that revenge was meaningless but at that moment he felt content,  a sense of closure he'd longed for so many years.

He had found his sister at last and the men who had taken her were either dead or imprisoned. All he could do now was make sure it happened to no one else.

He was a Shepard, in name and deed.

Perhaps it was the sense that his father was watching him, but Shepard felt a gravity to the moment as he looked into the eyes of Captain Anderson and answered honestly, ‘Yes, Sir. My family is gone. I’ve done what I needed to do and I’ll gladly give everything I have to safeguard the people of the Alliance, no matter what.’

‘No matter what,’ Anderson repeated softly. He saw the resolve in Shepard’s gaze, the same tenacity he'd shown while trudging across Torfan’s pitiless landscape to mount a futile rescue.

It was in that moment Anderson knew he had made the right choice.

‘Come on,’ he said, motioning to the shuttles, ‘Let’s see how far you’re really willing to go.’

~~ Five years later... ~~



The city of Vancouver towered over Anderson, a bustling forest of clear, pristine skyscrapers laced with the glinting noon sun. He sat relaxed at a favourite cafe of his, a small, modest place that had thankfully remained undiscovered by the Alliance officers stationed nearby. It was placed on the edged of a lush green park, affording a sweeping view of the Alliance headquarters building, itself little more than a squat, wide mirror, reflecting the city around it in more than just its windows.

Perhaps that was why he liked the cafe, Anderson mused. When so much around him was homogenous, superficial even, it was a genuine pleasure to see something that had looked the same way for decades, maybe longer. His home city of London was like that; the centuries-old Houses of Parliament and Big Ben sitting stubbornly among the gleaming skyscrapers like obstinate old men among youths. One thing they had in common, he thought with a smile.

A shadow fell over the table and Anderson looked up to see Commander Shepard in a dark t-shirt and combat trousers; just another off-duty Alliance soldier. His skin was lined from years of fatigue and physical hardship but it was borne easily. In Shepard's hard, lean features Anderson could read every mission he had undertaken and he had only grown stronger in the years since their first meeting on Torfan.

'Take a seat, Commander,' the captain offered, gesturing towards an empty chair. 'How are you feeling? The gravity getting to you?'

It was Shepard's first time on Earth and he felt it. The air was different - false, in some way, as if it had been scrubbed suspiciously clean before entering his lungs. The gravity had been the least of his worries. Though his bones ached subtly and his muscles occasionally twitched, it was the light that made Shepard truly uncomfortable. It was bright, far more so than most colonies and it was starting to give him a headache.

'I'm fine,' he lied, 'It'll just take some acclimatising.'

He sat down and a waiter brought two tall glasses filled with ice, along with a large pitcher of water. Anderson nodded at the city as he stared across it thoughtfully. 'Don't get too acclimatised. We'll be heading out to Arcturus in a few hours.'

'Arcturus?' Shepard asked, puzzled. The station was named for the star system in which it was built, the destination of the Charon mass relay. It was the Alliance's largest and most important deep space station and the launching point of most major operations. 'What's going on? I thought things were pretty quiet out there?'

Anderson smiled. ''Quiet' is rarely a word we use in our line of work but yeah, compared to the last few years, we're doing okay. No major incidents to speak of but you know as well as I do it's a fragile peace, easily broken.'

'Still, we've come a long way since the Theshaca Raids. I was starting to worry they wouldn't need us any more.'

'Thanks to you,' Anderson pointed out wryly. 'You did your job too well, Shepard. Six months after Torfan and your intel helps us drive out the slavers for good. I know the past few years have been a little dull by comparison but that's part of the reason I called you here.'

He touched a hand to a datapad lying on the table, pushing it slowly in Shepard's direction. 'It's time you rejoined civilisation, Commander. I'm putting you in a command position as Executive Officer of a brand new warship. It's a top-secret project co-developed between us and turians.'

Shepard snatched up the datapad, his brow furrowed. 'The SSV Normandy,' he read out before turning his eyes back to Anderson. 'I'm not a Navy officer, Sir. Are you sure you don't want to pick someone over there?'

He dipped his head towards the monolithic Alliance headquarters building.

Anderson chuckled, 'I'd take one Shepard over a thousand Naval officers any day of the week. You're a soldier, Shepard, like me. If anyone's going to be my XO, it'll be someone I know can get the job done. Just try and recall some of your protocol on the flight to Arcturus. The crew will be small enough that you can afford some familiarity and I'll fill in the blanks but you'll need to work in a little pomposity, if only for appearances' sake.'

A ship. It had been so long since Shepard had served any length of time aboard a true warship and part him was still concerned because of it. He was used to working with people that, for all intents and purposes, were little more than assets used to complete his objectives. A ship was extension of one's own family and he wondered if it was something to which he could adapt.

That, and something else, a thought that nagged at him. He toyed with one of the empty glasses, swirling the half-melted ice cubes around before looking back up at the captain.

'Sir, what's so special about this ship that it needs a decorated Special Forces veteran and an N7 Infiltrator?'

The smile fled from Anderson's lips and his expression became stern. 'I'm afraid I can't tell you, at least not now. This is classified stuff, from the highest levels. I know you understand.'

Shepard nodded his agreement. Both of them were accustomed to the culture of secrecy and each knew that the most innocent of facts in the wrong ears could lead to blackmail, theft, even assassination. The commander finally poured out some water and drained the glass in a single gulp.

'When do I meet the crew?'

Anderson took a small sip of his own water. 'They're already aboard. You're the last man to be added to the roster. I'll introduce you to the officers but as you know, you'll have to get to know the servicemen and NCOs yourself. They're all hand-picked so there shouldn't be any discipline issues.'

He set the glass down and his mouth flickered with his trademark half-smile. 'I think you'll get along with them just fine.'
Mass Effect: Dark Saga - Chapter 6
Epic thriller spanning entire Mass Effect trilogy and more.

Lieutenant Shepard, agent of the deadly Infiltrator Corps of the Systems Alliance, is dropped behind enemy lines as part of an assault on the pirate moon of Torfan. The mission does not go as planned however, and will set in motion a chain of events that will change the galaxy forever...


Epic-scale fan fiction spanning entirety of Shepard's Mass Effect life, from Mindoir to Torfan, through all three games and all DLC. Themes will include some dark/mature subjects, including depression and addiction.

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(Contains: violence/gore and strong language)
Title: Mass Effect: Dark Saga
Author: Mothbanquet
Game: Mass Effect trilogy and all DLC
Characters: All characters
Pairings: ME1 - Shepard/Liara, Post-ME1 – Shepard/Tali’Zorah



Chapter Five - A Butcher Born




‘What is it, Dad?’ the young Shepard asked.

His dirty yellow hair was a mess thanks to the strong winds and dust rushed past him in flurries of brown. He had learned to keep his back to it as much as possible so it did not get onto his eyes and mouth.

It was then he heard the noise that had alarmed his father. It was the throaty groan of a ship fighting against the atmosphere, its intakes warring with the gritty air. Shepard could not see the ship but he knew the sound well enough.

His father threw him a glance, his blue eyes glistening. 'Listen to that drive core. What can you tell me about it?'

Normally, Shepard would have rolled his eyes at the question, dismissing it as yet another of the little tests his father loved to set. Such questions were always asked with a small, quirky smile but there was no sign of it this time. Now his father’s face was as stone, hard and motionless.

Shepard answered him seriously, 'It's bigger than the shuttles we use but smaller than a frigate. The intakes can’t deal with this atmosphere and they're under strain, so I’m thinking a commercial freighter. Why?’

His father simply nodded. ‘Come on, we need to get back.’

Shepard did not understand. ‘What? Why? We haven’t even set up the sensors yet.’

‘Don’t argue, just get in the shuttle,’ the old man said, the parade ground snap of his voice returning as it always did when he needed something done right away. ‘Forget the equipment, we don’t have time.’

At that, the Shepard boy frowned but he did not argue. He broke into a run, covering the rugged ground easily and leapt into the shuttle’s passenger seat before the doors had fully opened. The craft lurched and moaned as his father warmed up the element zero core and within seconds they were airborne, racing over the hills as fast as the winds would allow.

~~ME-DS~~



The roar of engines dimmed in Shepard’s ears. He moved his lips, wincing at the sting of a cut while his throat choked out a sound, dry and hoarse.

Slowly, his eyes opened to the sight of a large room stacked with wide haptic displays and tactical readouts. The room was deserted with the exception of a thickset batarian standing over him, a cruel smile lighting up the alien’s square face.

‘Looks like our uninvited guest is awake,’ the batarian said. He flexed his gloved hands and even through the armour Shepard could hear the crack of his knuckles. ‘Good thing, too. We’re almost out of time.’

There was another beside him, dwarfed by the towering stature of his companion. He spoke quickly, fear pulling the words from his tongue, ‘Come on, Kashek! The ships won’t leave without your command and the Alliance is moving to intercept our escape route! If we don’t leave now we’re finished!’

The batarian quailed in Kashek’s shadow as the bigger man rounded on him.

‘We’re leaving when I say we’re leaving, not a moment before!’ Kashek locked eyes with Shepard again. ‘This one has batarian blood on his hands. Isn’t that right, scum?’

Shepard realised he was seated and he tried to rise, only for his arms to tug against solid bindings. Licking his bloody lips, he looked at Kashek.

‘I’m here for the hostages,’ Shepard said as clearly as his parched throat would allow, ‘I don’t care about you or your men, Kashek. Right now the entire Alliance fleet is converging on this base and you don’t have time to carry out whatever it is you’re planning. Leave now and you’ll have a chance to escape. Trust me, if you leave the slaves behind the Alliance won’t bother chasing you far.’

His eyes drifted beyond Kashek, to where his Predator pistol lay on a large table with other confiscated devices. Too late, Shepard realised his mistake.

Kashek followed his gaze and smiled, shaking his head. ‘Let you go, eh? Just to feel a slug in my back? You must think I was born yesterday, human.’ He stepped forward, flexing his great fists. ‘Luckily I have time enough to make the last moments of your life very painful. I will use that time well.’

Kashek’s armoured fist lashed out, smashing against Shepard’s temple with a dull smack. The lieutenant grunted and gasped, rocking back in his chair.

Another punch came, then another, each a wet slap that sent Shepard’s senses spiralling. Darkness came and went, and only the steady rhythm of the blows marked the passage of time.

Shepard’s only solace was that it would not last long.

~~ME-DS~~



Webber had fallen.

Kyle could still see her in the hallway, the holes in her torso shimmering wetly. He had to tear his eyes away from her constantly to pick targets as they tried to rush the corridor and with every attempt, the glaring blue muzzle flashes would flicker across her body.

He could scarcely breathe for the smoke.

‘Rodriguez, you still with me, buddy?’ Kyle shouted to his last standing lieutenant, who shouldered the doorway beside him.

The woman’s face was black, streaked with bright red. ‘I’ll hold them here, Sir,’ she yelled back, ‘Fall back with Mason, I’ll cover you!’

Slugs ripped through the corridor, chipping stone and metal around Kyle’s head as he ran fast and low. He found Mason where he’d left him, propped up against a wall, out of sight of the encroaching army.

No matter how many slavers the Infiltrators killed, more took their place. It was as if the darkness of Torfan itself were spewing them out, each slaver striding over the body of the last in a desperate crush. It was unlike anything Kyle had seen before.

They were suicidal or mad. Either way, they would not stop.

A grenade went off back the way Kyle had come, making his ears pop. He thought he heard Rodriguez scream. The explosion snapped and echoed through the bunker, bringing with it a stillness that meant only one thing.

Rodriguez was dead. Kyle ground his teeth and lifted Mason over his shoulder.

‘It’s just us now,’ he murmured to his lieutenant, ‘We can do this. We can hold them.’ He repeated the words, as if doing so would make them true. ‘We can do this...we can do this...’

They had one more room to flee to. After that, there would be nowhere left to run.

~~ME-DS~~



Kashek’s knuckles dripped with red. His armour was spattered with it.

Before him, Shepard’s head hung forward, limp and lifeless. Every breath brought new agony to the lieutenant. His eyes were closed, his breathing reduced to a constant, bubbling hiss from his nostrils. His face was a patchwork of cuts and swollen flesh and one of his eyes was almost black with blood.

'Had enough?' Kashek smirked, panting with effort, 'You humans are all the same. You're soft, too soft to survive against us. While you pander to the Council, we nurture our hatred, ready to feed from it when we take the Verge back from you once more.'

'Come on, Kashek!' the other batarian shouted, his voice almost delirious with panic, 'The Alliance will be upon us at any moment!  If we don’t move now we're dead!'

'He's right,' Shepard muttered. His words were slurred and bloody spit seeped from the corner of his mouth. He lifted his head and rasped, 'You're just signing your own death warrant by staying here. Hell, it’s probably too late.'

'Shut up! I don't take advice from human vermin! And you, Arghur,' Kashek roared, pointing at his subordinate, 'If I hear another word from you I'll tear out your entrails with my bare hands!'

Arghur stiffened with resolve, his voice hardening, 'No, Kashek. I won't let you bring death on the rest of us, not while we have a chance to escape. Our men are standing by in the shuttle bay waiting on your order to take off and without it, they’ll never get away in time. If you don't go out to them right now, I will!'

Kashek’s face darkened with rage and he stepped close to Arghur before jabbing him sharply in the chest with a finger.

'Just try it, whelp,' he snarled, 'You know why I lead this army. You know I alone am the reason we are feared. I am why the Hegemony sent us their weapons, their tanks and heavy defences. I will not be challenged by a pathetic scrap like you, do you understand me?'

Arghur wavered uncertainly and Shepard saw his chance. He fought against his agony to shout, 'He'll get you all killed, Arghur! Forget Kashek, you need to get out while you can!'

'Silence!' Kashek spat and the back of his hand cracked across Shepard's face.

Shepard took the blow without taking his eyes from Arghur. 'You can walk away now. Just leave and save yourself. Kashek only wants his revenge, he doesn't care about any of you!'

Shepard saw his words were having an effect. Arghur trembled, his body clearly itching to simply turn and run.

Shepard held his eyes. 'Just walk away.'

Making his decision, Arghur nodded slowly and turned his back on them both. He took only a few steps before Kashek’s hand clamped on his shoulder, turning him roughly on the spot. The other hammered into Arghur's face.

The slaver staggered under heavy punches. He tried to bring up his arms but Kashek’s strength was too great for him to weather. With a pained yelp, Arghur tumbled to the floor.

Shepard rocked his weight forward, enough to tip his chair and plant his boots on the ground. Hunched double and grunting against his restraints, he sped towards Kashek and crashed into the batarian, knocking him from his feet.

Kashek spat and cursed. He fumbled with Shepard’s weight but the human was too heavy in his armour.

It was not long before Arghur loomed over his master, his face streaked with dark blood and his eyes murderous.

Armour thwacked against flesh, Arghur’s punches forming a sickly beat as he knelt on Kashek's neck and pounded his face. Kashek tried to cry for mercy but there was none to be given and his voice was stifled by the relentless blows.

Arghur’s teeth were bared and quickly became speckled with gore.

'For years,' he said breathlessly between punches, 'we have been made to fear you. You execute any who oppose you, force us all to perform acts beyond our own consciences and what? For what, Kashek? For the Hegemony? No more! No more!'

Into his fists, Arghur poured of all his grief until the body beneath him finally stopped twitching. Gasping, he rose to his feet and blinked. The room seemed much smaller now Kashek was not standing in it and when he'd caught his breath, Arghur looked down at Shepard.

The chair had broken beneath Shepard in the impact and he now lay dazed, his chest heaving painfully. Beads of sweat travelled the lines of his forehead, running into the cuts above his eyes and making them burn mercilessly.

He gathered his senses and tried to sit up, only to freeze at the sight of a gun barrel hovering between his eyes.

Arghur’s grip was shaky but his gaze was steady. ‘You killed many of my brothers tonight.’

Shepard stared at him, looking past the barrel and into Arghur’s eyes. He said nothing, and could only wait for his death to finally come.

‘If you hadn’t, then Kashek would have been my doom.’ Arghur released his grip on the pistol and spun it on his palm, offering it to Shepard. ‘Consider the debt repaid, human.’

Shepard’s hand snapped out and took the pistol without hesitation. He clambered upright groggily and the room spun around him. He took a second to master himself before looking back to Arghur suspiciously.

‘The Adaean’s Mercy - the ship - where is it?’ he asked.

Arghur did not play coy. He dipped his head toward a door beyond them. ‘Through there. The Mercy is Kashek’s private vessel, a freighter, though it has a drive core to outrun a turian frigate. The slaves you seek will be in the cargo hold.’ He paused then, and gave Shepard an uncomfortable look. ‘He was not a gentle man. Don’t be under any illusions as to what you will find there.’

Shepard snorted as he checked his heat sinks. ‘Don’t act concerned. You’re a slaver, the suffering of those people means nothing to any of you. It’s only because you spared my life that I’m letting you leave with yours.’

‘I’ll take what I can get,’ the batarian replied with a nod. He brushed past Shepard, his legs stiff with pain. ‘I’ll take you to the hangar and tell them about Kashek. We’ll leave and you can secure the Mercy without fear of guards. A mutually beneficial arrangement.’

Knowing he had little choice but to accept the help, Shepard was left to stare distrustfully at Arghur’s back as he led the way through the slaver compound.

~~ME-DS~~



The air was solid with pale grey smoke. Fairburn suppressed a cough at its acridity as he passed through the bunker corridors, his body cutting a dark path through the mist.

He stepped over the bodies of pirates laid upon one another as thickly as mulch on a forest floor, his eyes tracing them in sheer astonishment.

The Marine column had arrived in a hail of fire, with the Makos bringing death from the ridge lines in overwhelming torrents. The well-ordered assault had finally broken the slavers and they'd scattered in all directions, perfect fodder for the drones and recon groups while the Marines broke through at last.

The hills were now carpeted with slaver dead but the carnage inside the bunker was something else.

Fairburn’s nostrils flared at the wretched stench of emptied bowels and he lifted his eyes rather than see where the smell was coming from. The corridors twisted left and right, the corners coming suddenly in the impenetrable smoke.

Stopping, Fairburn jabbed a hand to his right and the squad behind him tramped down an adjacent hallway, the thumping of their boots hypnotic in the dead silence.

‘Sir,’ came the voice of the sergeant he had sent ahead through his suit radio, ‘You need to see this.’

‘What is it? Is it Kyle? Is he alive?’

‘He’s alive, Sir.’

Something in the sergeant’s tone made Fairburn’s pulse quicken. ‘What’s wrong, Sergeant? Is he hurt?’

‘I...’ The man’s voice disappeared, only to return moments later, filled with sadness. ‘I don’t know, Sir.’

Fairburn was there in minutes, striding into a dark storage room, expecting the worst.

The enemy dead were piled around the door and the ground was streaked with batarian blood. A long smear of blue caught Fairburn's eye and he cocked a curious brow at the sight of a turian amongst the corpses, its doubled-jointed legs splayed at unnatural angles.

'Where is he?' he asked the first man he came upon.

The Marine saluted and led Fairburn to where a small group of soldiers were clustered around the far wall. The lighting was dim there; a single red emergency lamp edged the men with an ominous crimson glow.

They moved aside for Fairburn and the general froze in shock at the figure who sat propped against the wall.

It was Major Kyle. The man was covered in brown and red gore, his face slick and scalp mottled with it. His armour was cracked and scarred and two holes had been punched through the plating on his left arm.

To Fairburn's surprise, the major spoke.

'I failed to protect them.'

Fairburn was silent. He glanced at the Marines but they did not know what to say. The only sound came from Kyle, a constant murmuring that sounded almost like chanting.

'They were my children but I failed...I failed to protect them.'

It was then Fairburn noticed something in Kyle's lap. Though the smoke and darkness that smothered them all, he could make out the vague shape of a body draped over the major like a rag doll. It wore the onyx armour of an Alliance Marine.

He recognised Lieutenant Mason, though the face barely resembled that of a human.

'I failed, I failed, I failed... They were mine. My children,' Kyle mouthed softly, over and over.

The sergeant beside Fairburn spoke loudly to cover Kyle's voice, 'We found him like this. Our guess is the slavers cut and run at the last moment, leaving him alone. He's lucky to be alive.'

Somehow, Fairburn could not bring himself to agree.

Major Kyle looked up at the general, his eyes two wide circles of white beneath the bloody filth. He spoke to Fairburn, and yet somehow beyond him, 'I failed to protect...my children!'

His final word dissolved into a fit of sobs that echoed emptily against the bunker walls. It was only a single, gasping moment, and Kyle let it go on until his breath was spent. Tears ran freely down his cheeks, drawing lines through the encrusted dirt.

Fairburn turned to the sergeant and attempted to work the unease from his voice, 'Get a casevac ready on the double and find the rest of his team. I want them off this God-damned moon.'

The Marine saluted again and immediately poured a string of orders into his radio while Fairburn marched from the room, Kyle's anguished cries haunting his every step.

~~ME-DS~~



The airlock door whined, its gears fighting against rust and decay. Shepard squinted briefly at it before turning back, stretching his pistol out cautiously to scan the grubby bulkheads behind him. It was hard not to jump at shadows. For so many hours now Shepard had been forced to heighten his senses and every small noise was a potential threat.

As Arghur had promised, the Mercy was deserted, its crew fleeing aboard the ships that had awaited Kashek's authorisation to depart. Shepard could hear them outside, their drive cores sending shivers through the floor and into his legs.

It was bizarre, surreal even, to think that only minutes ago the Mercy had teemed with shouting men. Perhaps those same men were now thinking how lucky they were, to escape the wrath of the Alliance against all odds.

That particular pill was still a bitter one for Shepard to swallow but he cast aside his doubt with a shake of his head.

He had to do whatever he could to rescue those hostages, even if that meant allowing a few slavers to escape for the time being. If they had all been as dangerous as Kashek, he might have thought twice about the arrangement.

The airlock opened haltingly, the doors sticking to their grimy frames and Shepard advanced carefully into the cargo hold. It was dark and filthy, and from the scale-encrusting pipes lining the ceiling dripped a pale fluid that spread in a pool across the deck. The smell hit him next; a sour, heavy stench that reminded him of something he could not quite place..

It did not take Shepard long to find them. He lowered his weapon and his mouth dropped open at the sight of dozens of bodies, their arms and legs akimbo and greasy hair stuck to their dull, staring faces.

Blood ran from their perforated bodies in rivers.

Shepard stared numbly at the dead hostages, as if they would blink and rise to their feet at any moment. He loosed his grip on the pistol and it fell to the ground with a clang. He stumbled forward but his legs buckled suddenly, forcing him to his knees.

‘No...’ he whispered. It was the only thing he could say.
His eyes searched the splayed corpses, trying to assess how long they'd been dead, how they had been killed but his mind wouldn’t respond. His every instinct reeled. He couldn’t have been too late. He had gotten there as quickly as he could.

The knees of his armour scraped across the ground as he shuffled closer to them. One face in particular stared at him pleadingly, her eyes piercing blue. They were the same shade as his and her hair was a vibrant red, though it had grown thin through years of slavery.

Shepard ground his teeth in anguish and squeezed his eyes shut, unable to look at her.

He barely noticed his suit radio chime. It beeped at him, trying to draw his attention and the high sound reverberated throughout the hold.

Shepard tried to think then, knowing the world would not wait on his grief. He took in a deep, long breath and forced some composure.

‘Shepard here.’

His voice was tired and coarse.

‘Lieutenant, this is Sceptre Two-One,’ came the response.

Shepard frowned. Sceptre Two-One was a very specific call sign, the leader of an interceptor squadron, as he recalled. That they were contacting him must have meant the fleet were granting him air support.

‘Lieutenant, do you read?’ Two-One asked.

‘Loud and clear,’ Shepard answered, climbing to his feet. He paced the cargo hold, keeping his gaze firmly away from the dead slaves as he walked. ‘Go ahead, Two-One.’

‘Sir, we're reading large numbers of bogies in your airspace, estimate fifteen to twenty. We are en-route to engage but command have warned of possible civilian hostages aboard those ships. Please confirm, Lieutenant, are the hostages on board?’

Shepard stopped. The breath escaped his lungs in a slow trickle and his lips hovered open slightly as indecision gripped him.

He remembered Arghur and the deal he had struck with the batarian. It would have been easy to lie, to say the slaves were on board and allow the pirates to get away, keeping up his end of the deal.

Swallowing hard, Shepard took a long look at the dead men, women and children at the other end of the hold.

His tone was even, without the slightest trace of emotion, ‘Negative, Two-One. Hostages are already KIA. You are free to engage.’

‘Wilco, Lieutenant. There won’t be a slaver left alive up here. Two-One out.’

The line clicked off and Shepard blinked, his mouth dry. He almost saw Arghur’s face, his features filled with disbelief as his ship was torn apart but Shepard found the image easy to push aside. It was the red-haired girl whom he could not tear his eyes from as she lay tangled among the dead.

Her sallow skin was flecked with dirt and he wanted to wipe it clean, as he had done when she was just a little girl.

He still remembered how she used to shout and beat her small hands against her big brother’s chest, and how she'd hide under his bed when their father was looking for her.

Her name was Jane Shepard. She looked just like he remembered, before she was taken from him, now an image of their mother in death as well as life.

Though he wanted to weep, all Shepard could do was turn away, his heart filled with black fury at the batarians and all they had done to him.

~~ME-DS~~



The slavers offered little resistance when Fairburn’s column finally made it to the main base. The Marines formed a dark trail leading back through the valley, Mako tanks dotted along the line like watchful hounds.

Heavy communications and medical shelters were set up on the outskirts of the base while prisoners were herded into groups just outside the entrance to the command bunker. Every few minutes a patrol would bring out another few captive slavers from its depths, their hands raised and heads hanging in fear and shame.

Arbas stood among the sullen prisoners. The defeat was a heavy weight on the shoulders of his men and no one spoke. A few pillars of smoke rose lazily above the pale structures around them, orange flames licking up the wispy strands. He thought of his cousin, and wondered idly if Kashek had made it off the moon.

He glanced to the sky, where the flaming hulks of heavy freighters were burning a path to the ground, outdoing the very stars with devastating explosions.

Seeing such devastation brought Arbas a trace of satisfaction. Their foolish leader was surely no more.

He head swivelled gradually, taking in the might of the Alliance military machine. What had made Kashek think any of them could withstand such a foe? Did he honestly think the Hegemony’s paltry gifts would save them?

Shaking his head bitterly, Arbas lowered his eyes to the black ground under his feet. The death of Kashek was a mercy. If he’d known Arbas had surrendered to the humans not even their shared blood would have stopped him taking his revenge.

Arbas straightened as more slavers were brought to the miserable group. Their hands were placed behind their heads and one by one, they were forced to their knees. None of them looked at Arbas and for that, he was grateful. He did not think he could bear their shame as well as his own.

He looked towards the bunker entrance in time to see a shadow fall across it from within.

Leaning against the doorway, a tall human soldier stopped to gather his breath. He was clad in different armour from the regular Marines; a light suit as grey as Torfan’s hills.

The man’s face was a mess of cuts and bruises but even from a distance, Arbas could see his eyes glint dangerously beneath his injuries.

~~ME-DS~~



Shepard’s head felt light as the cold air hit him and he steadied himself before moving on.

Where before he had snuck carefully across the empty ground, he now strode through it without fear, surrounded by soldiers who stared at him in open curiosity. He did not answer their stares.

Nothing mattered to him, not any more. The taste of metal and decay was strong in his mouth and his face was bathed with blood. And it had all been for nothing. Everything he had worked for, all that he had done since Jane was taken from him, it was all undone the moment he met her lifeless gaze.

The Predator was a powerful weight in his hand, making him feel strong. The sound of his own beating heart was the only one in his ears. Marines surged past him. Perhaps one of them tried to speak to him, he wasn’t sure. All he saw were the batarians kneeling in the dust a short distance away.

Slowing his breath, Shepard started towards them. He heard a shout, one of alarm, or perhaps panic. The sound fled into the rushing, pounding rhythm in his head.

His pistol flashed and juddered in his hand.

Men screamed.

Bodies peeled away from one another as the captive slavers tried to get away but Shepard saw only the ships that took his sister from him, leaving his parents and friends smoking husks on Mindoir’s chalky surface.

‘Stop!’

The voice broke through the haze, jarring Shepard back to his senses. His weapon arm had been forced up by a thick, strong hand.

‘Come on, Lieutenant, that’s enough!’

Shepard blinked hard. The Marine that had stopped him was enormous, a barrel-chested private who held Shepard’s wrist, matching his strength with ease. He wore a helmet but Shepard could tell he was young by the lightness of his voice.

‘Let go of me,’ Shepard said slowly.

‘Can’t do that,’ the Marine replied. He stood his ground, unafraid and poised to throw Shepard on his back if given cause. Judging by the size of him, Shepard did not doubt he could do it.

Looking past him, Shepard took in the sight of five batarian prisoners, their mouths open and spilling blood across the ground. As the rage seeped out of him, the sight gradually became more sickening.

After a few moments, Shepard looked into the Marine’s visor and gave him a nod, releasing his grip on the pistol. The private took it from him but did not try to restrain Shepard further. Several other soldiers had detached themselves from the main column, their rifles held low and ready as they walked over cautiously.

‘I could have shot you,’ Shepard murmured. It was not a threat, nor a boast. Even to his own ears, Shepard sounded appalled.

The Marine shrugged. ‘I figured I could stop you. Not that I don’t blame you for wanting any of these guys dead but the fight’s over. Time to stop.’

Though the world around them had slowed to a standstill and his eyes were clouded with images past and present, one detail presented itself to Shepard with perfect clarity.

He glanced at the name plate on the Marine’s armour.

‘Private Vega,’ Shepard read aloud.

He looked at Vega, his eyes finally clear. He wanted to say more but the words did not come. Instead, Shepard turned to face the men that had come to bring him in.

~~ME-DS~~



Arbas watched as the mad human was led away.

The big man who'd stopped him answered the questions of others, while more came to drag away the bodies of the men who had been gunned down.

The batarian grimaced. He had been standing next to one of them and his blood now grew cold on Arbas’ skin.

The others looked on, afraid. Many had muttered that the humans would never forgive them for taking their people, that they would be tortured and executed without trial or mercy.

Arbas had tried to calm them, to make them see that surrender would see them safely back home, that the Council would force the humans to treat them well.

Now, as the bodies on the ground twitched their final thoughts away, all Arbas could do was roar at the Alliance soldiers before him, ‘Is this your mercy?’ he cried, ‘Is this your honour?’

His shouts echoed against the hills but the humans did not so much as lift their heads to him.

He sank to the ground, broken.

Torfan and its scarlet planet did not pity him, and the wind chilled his bones as he knelt trembling in the dust.
Mass Effect: Dark Saga - Chapter 5
Epic thriller spanning entire Mass Effect trilogy and more.

Lieutenant Shepard, agent of the deadly Infiltrator Corps of the Systems Alliance, is dropped behind enemy lines as part of an assault on the pirate moon of Torfan. The mission does not go as planned however, and will set in motion a chain of events that will change the galaxy forever...


Epic-scale fan fiction spanning entirety of Shepard's Mass Effect life, from Mindoir to Torfan, through all three games and all DLC. Themes will include some dark/mature subjects, including depression and addiction.

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mothbanquet
Moth/Moff/Grand Moff/Moffles
Artist | Professional | Literature
United Kingdom
My name is Mothbanquet, author and creator of Mass Effect fan fiction for nearly three years. I pride myself on writing good quality Mass Effect fiction, both original and canon, as well as offering advice and critique to other writers in the community. I have released two full-length stories so far, Mass Effect 2: Dark Rendition, a gritty and emotionally complex retelling of Shepard and Tali's romance, and Interceptor, a riveting espionage thriller set months before the first game. There are two more projects in the works, the details of which will continue to be posted in my journal entries.

I believe in a few simple things; quality writing, deep characters and well-constructed plot lines. I do not write fluff or fan-pleasers. Instead, I try to bring something new and fresh to the Mass Effect audience, something they will enjoy and always remember.

Thank you for visiting my page and remember to check in often - content is updated on a regular basis!

If you like my Mass Effect stories, please feel free to check out my original work under pen name J J Grimshaw.

Finally, these are some of my favourite DA peeps, so please check them out and give them lots of love and support:

:icondementedassassin::icondeliriumgothique::iconriocyan::iconripleynox::iconopheliabell::iconezri-krios::icongodzilla2003:

Keelah se'lai!
Interests
  • Mood: Artistic
  • Listening to: The blues
  • Reading: War and Peace (cont.)
  • Watching: Ghostbusters
  • Playing: Dragon Age II/FIFA 14/Dead Space 3
  • Eating: Too much fruit
  • Drinking: Too much fruit coffee
The real world is a funny thing. Not always amusing, it is however, always strange. The wheels of history turn and we find ourselves caught up in them like an errant cyclist's foot.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Crimea, the developing situation in Iraq, even the more sedate topic of Scottish independence - it all serves to remind the observer that the opportunity for inspiration can come from a single news report as much as a sublime panorama or a beloved tune. Has anyone else been taking notes from all this history-in-the-making we're experiencing?

In other news, I've just released another original Eternal Empire short, if anyone's interested. No pressure. :)

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:icongodzilla2003:
Godzilla2003 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, bollocks.
I forgot to wish you a happy Halloween. :B
Ah, bugger it!
Happy belated Halloween, moth! Hope you had a good one! :D
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014  Professional Writer
And a belated thanks! I did bugger all for a whole week save attend a party dressed as a Payday character. Hope you too had a good 'un!
Reply
:icongodzilla2003:
Godzilla2003 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I did indeed, thanks!
Nothing for a whole week besides a single party?

Sounds like my kind of shindig!
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:iconopheliabell:
OpheliaBell Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2014  Professional Writer
Warning... I've tagged you. I hope it doesn't hurt too much.
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Professional Writer
Ouch...
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:iconaillin1:
aillin1 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014   Writer
Happy Birthday, mate!
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2014  Professional Writer
Thanks, it was a great day.
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:iconcci545:
CCI545 Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Happy Birthday!
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:iconmothbanquet:
mothbanquet Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you, that's very kind! :)
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:iconexileblaze:
ExileBlaze Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014
Happy birthday!
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