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Heaven Knows, We Belong Way Down Below

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Shepard stumbled out of the sleeper pod, turning to growl at it - though it was pointless. Stupid inanimate objects. Giving a huff, she ran a hand through her short hair before making her way to the mess. No one was in there, of course, as only the skeleton crew was up and at work. Her pinkie twitched, and she absentmindedly rubbed it as she looked for breakfast.

The pre-packaged meal bars for biotics were nasty, but she swallowed two of them down with coffee before grabbing her gear. The Normandy had a guest: a Turian by the name of Nihlus Kryik, a Spectre for the Council - supposedly here to check out their stealth system. Shepard had scoffed at that. He was here for something else, but no one was saying. She didn't like the man, not for being a Turian, but for hiding something; something that could be important.

Joker was in the pilot seat, fingers flying over the controls. She was not shocked she was up, although she hoped he had gone to bed at some point. What surprised her was that Alenko was sitting in the co-pilots seat. She internally scowled; the man had a serious crush on her, and it was beginning to affect his duty. He was a good soldier, and a good biotic - despite the L2 - but he needed to get his head out of the clouds.

"I hope you slept," she spoke her thoughts to Joker.

He jumped, obviously oblivious to her approach, but he did not stutter his response. "Yes ma'am. Six hours."

She nodded - more than she had gotten. "Good."

"Commander Shepard, good to see you up also."

Shepard turned, finding Kryik walking up towards the cockpit, already in combat gear. "Spectre."

Nihlus nodded in return, turning to look at Joker. "Status?"

"Board is green, approach run has begun."

The mission to Eden Prime must have been cleared then. An odd mission, a scientific one, but she was eager to get off the ship after months of just twiddling her thumbs.

"Hitting the relay in 3...2...1."

The Normandy shuddered slightly as the Mass Relay grabbed hold, but the ship easily maneuverer and shot off in a blue bullet.

"Thrusters: Check. Navigation: Check. Internal emission sink engaged. All systems online. Drift: just under 1500K."

"1500 is good. Your Captain will be pleased." And as simple as that, Nihlus walked off.

Kaiden and Joker looked at each other. "I hate that guy," Joker huffed.

"Nihlus gave you a complement, so you hate him?"

"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. I don't know, man, he creeps me out. There is no reason why a Spectre should be here."

"Be quiet, the both of you. You are disrespecting a superior officer," Shepard snapped, although without as much malic as she normally would – she agreed with her pilot.

Joker winced, and Kaiden quickly looked away. "Sorry, Commander," the later apologized.

The cockpit's comms bleeped to life, and Anderson's voice came through. "Joker, status report."

"All green, sir."

"Good, find a comm buoy, and link us to the network. I want mission reports linked back to the Alliance before we even hit Eden Prime."

"Yes, sir. You better watch out, Captain, I think Nihlus is headed your way."

There was a pause. "He's already here, Lieutenant. Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for debriefing. Anderson out."

Shepard scowled. "You just pissed the Captain off, and now I have to pay for it. Stay on focus Joker." As she walked off, she had to fight to get her temper down. Joker was a good pilot, the best, but his quips were completely unprofessional.

The Captain and Nihlus were already talking when she reached the comm room, but they stopped to look at her when she entered. Anderson grinned at her, the old fool completely ignoring rank. "Jane, good to see you up and ready."

"Anderson. What's all this about?"

Nihlus stepped up at this one. "I'm interested in this world we are going to: Eden Prime? I've heard it quite beautiful."

Shepard shrugged. "I'm a marine, not some tourist."

"It's more than that, Shepard. Eden Prime is a perfect symbol of hope for your people, a little slice of heaven on the edge of your territory. Proof that humanity can establish themselves across the galaxy. How safe is it, though?"

Shepard growled, her stance tightening. "Are you threatening us?"

He ignored her. "Your people are still newcomers, and the galaxy is a dangerous place."

"I will ask you again: are you threatening us?"

"Nihlus enough. I think we should tell her what's really going on," Anderson remarked, stepping between the two. He knew Shepard, and those comments Nihlus was saying almost sent her over the edge.

"This mission is more than a shakedown run," Nihlus said, oblivious to Shepard's anger.

"No shit."

"Shepard!" Anderson gave her a sharp look. "We are making a covert pick up on Eden Prime."

"I don't like being kept in the dark, Captain."

"Need-to-know basis, Shepard. If I could have told you, I would have. A research team unearthed something, something they believe is a Prothean beacon."

Shepard frowned. "They vanished over 50,000 years ago."

"Their legacy remains," Nihlus spoke up, "in the mass relays, the Citadel, our ship drives. All based off of Prothean technology and knowledge we have found."

"Yes. Shepard, this is big. The last time we found something like this on Mars, technology on Earth jumped foreword two hundred years. But Eden Prime can't handle something this big, so we are charged with brining it back to the Citadel for safety and to study."

"Obviously this goes beyond human interests. This involves all Citadel species."

Shepard fought to roll her eyes. "Why are you here, then? We don't need you for a simple pick-up-and-relocate."

"Unless something goes wrong."

Anderson waved his hand, forcing Shepard to look at him. "Nihlus isn't just here for that, Shepard. He is here to evaluate you."

"Like hell he is. What for?"

"Shepard, this goes beyond you and me. Humanity deserves a bigger peace in this galaxy. Spectre's represent the Council's power and authority. If they accept a human into their ranks, it shows how far the Alliance, how far humanity, has come."

"Me? As a Spectre?" Shepard sputtered.

"I saw the reports on Torfan. A grim decision, but it got the job done. That's why I put your name foreword as a candidate. I believe you are a good choice, Shepard, but I wish to see you before I make my final report."

Shepard frowned. "Why would a Turian want human as a Spectre?"

"I know you don't hate all species, Shepard, and Turian's are the same. Most of us feel humans are ready, including myself. I don't care if you are human, I care if you get the job done, which I know you can."

Shepard huffed, but he did have a point. She wasn't completely xenophobic (Batarians), but a Spectre? "What do I have to do?"

"I need to see your skills for myself, Shepard, hence Eden prime."

Eden Prime, of course, had to go to hell.

"Geth! Why the fuck did it have to be Geth? Why couldn't it be fucking Krogan?!" She cursed, taking cover behind a rock while Geth shot at her. They had lost Jenkins, a rookie Corporal who had been on her squad, and the ground troops had been destroyed save a Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams. Her biotics were utterly useless in this fight, so she had to rely on her marksman ship to get her through.

"Krogan, ma'am? Are you insane?" Ashley yelled from across the field, popping up to land another hit on a Geth.

"I like the Krogan! They're fun!" The last Geth fell with a mechanical groan, before falling silent. Taking one last look at her scanners, and listening, she called: "All clear!"

Ashley and Kaiden jogged up to her, looking a little haggard. "You like the Krogan?" Ashley asked.

"Hell yeah. They know how to have a party."

She could see Kaiden roll his eyes. "Ignore her. We swear she's part Krogan."

Shepard huffed. "Let's go. Nihlus, you read me?"

"Loud and clear, Commander. I've run into some Geth, but no other problems otherwise. Have you located the beacon?"

"No. It's been moved." The platform she was told held the beacon was empty, with no trace of where it had gone.

She heard Nihlus swear something that didn't translate. "Roger that. Keep an eye out. Nihlus out."

“You heard the man…Turian. Let’s get the beacon.”

Despite the urgency, they moved low and slow, keeping their eyes and ears open for anything that wasn’t human. There wasn’t anything cresting a hill, but the smell of death and fire got stronger was they walked.

At the top of the hill, three metal work units had been set up. Now, two were demolished; one still on fire. Bodies and wreckage littered the ground, and more bodies were put upon spikes – the Geth were putting them on there, as she could recall just moments earlier while trying to save Ashley.

“I wonder what those things are for? It’s horrid,” Ashley whispered, shoulders shifting at the discomfort she was feeling.

It wasn’t hard to figure out, however. As soon as the trio came within a few feet of the spikes, they lowered, allowing the now moving corpses to attack them.

“Zombies!”

They were nasty things; skin grey, wiring coming out from all parts of them. Despite being dead, they moved fast, and took a good number of shots before going down. One got close enough to Kaiden, and zapped him with enough electricity to disable his shields.

“You alright?” Shepard asked him after one last perimeter walk.

“My ego is bruised, but I’m alright.”

“Good. I noticed the third unit was locked. Anyone up for some hacking?”

Hacking was not her forte, neither was it for the other two, but they managed to get the door open with little trouble.

“Humans! Thank the maker!”

Shepard swore, moving her finger off the trigger and swinging her gun away before her instincts kicked in. Two humans – one female, one male – huddled in the unit, both wearing civilian clothing. The woman eyed the weapons wearily, but the man was crouched on the floor, muttering to himself; he hadn’t even flinched when they walked in.

“Are you two alright?”

The woman nodded. “As alright as we can be. We grabbed what we could and ran to the shed as soon as we saw the ship land.  The marines tried to hold them off as long as they could, but they saved our lives. “

“No one is saved,” the man muttered, shifting to rock back and forth. “The age of humanity has ended. All ruins and bodies. No one is safe.”

The woman didn’t seem fazed by this, but it creeped Shepard out. “What the hell is he going on about?”

“Manuel is a genius, but he isn’t quite there. He takes medicine to help, but I think this has pushed him.”

The man – Manuel - was still muttering and rocking back and forth. “Where did the beacon go?” Ashley asked.

The woman shrugged. “I just know it was moved to the spaceport this morning, but I don’t know if anything happened to it after that.”

“Let’s hope it’s still there.” Shepard turned to move out, but then paused. “Did you happen to see a Turian wonder through here?”

Manuel’s head snapped up, eyes wide. “I saw him. The prophet. Leader of the army of darkness. He was here, before the attack!”

Shepard frowned. “That’s impossible. Nihlus has been with us until we landed here.”

“I’m sorry, Manuel still unsettled. We haven’t seen anyone since we hid in here.”

“Right. Do you have any idea what the beacon is?”

“Yes!” The woman’s eyes brightened. “It’s a data module! It could be the greatest discovery of our time!”

Manuel scoffed. “We have unearthed evil! Awakened the beast! Unleashed darkness!”

The woman winced. “Sorry. Genius and madness are two sides of the same coin.”

“Is it madness to see the future?” Manuel cried. “To see the destruction rushing towards us? To understand there is no escape? No hope? No, I am not mad. I am the only sane one left!”

Shepard scowled. “Shut him up before I do.” Seeing the woman nod, she turned to Ashley. “Williams, take us to the spaceport.”

With one last look to the two survivors, they moved out. The spaceport wasn’t far, according to Ashley, just over the next hill. There still weren’t any signs of activity, and it was starting to bring the paranoia out in all of them.

A shot rang out, followed again by silence.  All three of them looked at each other, before looking up as an engine came to life. The ship was huge, easily the size of the Citadel. It crouches on four ‘arms’ before taking off, and she realizes it’s not just a ship, but also the ship she saw in the video before landing.

The echoing of engines brought out a handful of Geth and those zombies, forcing them to duck and cover before they got hit. The Geth were using the zombies as cannon fodder, sending as many as they could, hoping one could get close enough to take down their shields before striking with heavier weaponry. Her throw is effective to a point, but she gives up wasting her energy and used her biotics as a shield. By the time all the enemies are dead, they are all shaking with exhaustion.

“Any injuries?” Shepard asks.

“My biotics are tapped out, and I’m out of bars, but I’m good.”

Shepard nodded, digging into her back to grab an energy bar. “Here, you need this more than me. Williams?”

Ashley shook her head. “A few cuts and bruises, but nothing serious.”

Shepard vaguely heard Ashley’s answer, but she is watching Kaiden, who is looking towards the spaceport. “Alenko?”

“Nihlus…”

His stunned response is accurate. The body lying on the ground was unmoving, the blood surrounding it confirming the death. The armour is familiar, as was the facial painting when they turn him around.

Nihlus was dead.