The four were tired. It was late and they had been looking over countless potential Spectre candidates. Whoever they decided on, would hopefully become the first human Spectre.
“Nihlus, you look like you want to say something?” Captain David Anderson asked. He asked just to make conversation. It was uncomfortably quiet in the room and the silence was getting to him.
Nihlus nodded as he looked over a file. David smiled when he saw the file’s name.
“I nominate John Shepard. Your second in command.” The Turian said.
Hackett nodded as well. “Hmm, yes. Shepard is a fine soldier.”
Ambassador Udina raised his eye. “What’s his background?”
Nihlus looked back at the file, reading it over quickly to make sure. “Shepard? He grew up in the colonies.”
David nodded. “You’ve clearly done your homework, Nihlus. Shepard knows how tough life can be out there. His family was killed when slavers attacked Mindoir.”
Admiral Hackett grunted, leaning back in his chair. “And he proved himself during the Blitz. Held off enemy forces single handedly on the ground until reinforcements could arrive.”
“He’s the only reason Elysium is still standing.” David added.
Udina scratched his chin. “Well we can’t doubt his courage.”
David stood, looking at those around him. “I've served with him for a while now and I can honestly say that he’s one of a kind. Humanity needs a hero. And Shepard is the best we’ve got.”
Udina cleared his throat. “Are we all in agreement? Nominate Shepard as a Spectre?” When everyone nodded, he got up. “Alright. I’ll go make the call.”
“Hey, Shepard! Wake up! Captain wants everyone on standby as we go through the relay. Pressley’s voice called out from the other side of the door, jostling John awake.
He groaned, rubbing his eyes as he sat up from his bed. He had been in the middle of a now shortened nap. In his dream, he had been about to win the Biotiball championship. Which was odd because he had never played a game of biotiball in his life.
John forced himself to get out of bed. He threw on a shirt, rolling his tired muscles as he did so. Another hour of sleep would have been nice.
“Shepard, did you he—.”
John cut Pressley off before the man could shout more. “I’m up!” That man has absolutely no patience.
John opened the door to his room and stepped out, frowning at Pressley. “Next time, just knock.”
Pressley grinned. “And miss the chance to use my great outside voice?”
John shook his head, grinning back. “True. It is pretty great. When it isn’t being directed at me at least.”
Pressley laughed. “Go on and get up to the bridge. I’ll meet you there after I finish checking that no one else is napping.”
John gave a salute jokingly and headed up to the command deck. He could hear Joker on the comms as he made his way towards the bridge. “The Arcturus Prime relay is within range. Initiating transmission sequence. We’re connected: calculating transit mass and destination. Relay is hot. Acquiring approach vector. All stations secure for transit. The board is green. Approach run has begun. Hitting the relay in three...two...one.”
John reaches the bridge just as Joker finished and the Normandy shot off through the relay. John stayed back a little bit as the Spectre, Nihlus, was standing behind Joker and Kaiden.
“All systems green,” Joker was saying. “Drift just under 1500 K.”
“1500 K is good. Your captain will be pleased.” Nihlus said before turning on his heel and leaving, giving a nod to John as he passed.
Nihlus has been flying with them for almost a week now. The Turian, although still serious like most Turians, was a little more down to Earth. John didn’t know what to think about him. He swore that Nihlus kept ‘accidentally’ bumping into him for some reason.
John stepped up behind Joker and Kaiden as the two manned the helm of the ship.
Joker snorted. “I hate that guy.”
Kaiden looked over at the pilot. “Nihlus gave you a compliment...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. So that’s incredible! Besides. Spectres are trouble. I don’t like having him on board. Call me paranoid.”
Kaiden shook his head. “You’re paranoid. The Council helped fund this project. They have a right to send someone to keep an eye on their investment.”
“Yeah, that’s the official story,” scoffed Joker. “But only an idiot believes the official story.”
John grinned. “You always believe the worst. Then you won’t be surprised when it all goes to hell. Which is usually does.”
“Well, bad feelings are an occupational hazard. Especially you big shooter types. But we don’t go anywhere unless there’s a good reason, so what are we doing here?” Joker muttered.
“Joker! Status report!” Anderson suddenly said over the comm.
“Uh, we just cleared the mass relay, Captain. Stealth systems engaged. Everything looks solid.” Joker said.
“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.” Joker said. Then to an aside to the others, he chuckled. “Captain better brace himself. I think Nihlus was heading his way.”
John raised an eye, grinning. The comm was still on.
Anderson cleared his throat. “He’s already here, Lieutenant.”
Joker winced as John and Kaiden laughed. “That was such an intelligent move, Joker. Really, I’m in awe.” John teased.
Anderson said one last thing before he turned the comm off. “Tell Commander Shepard to meet me in the comm room for a debriefing.”
Joker snickered. “You get that, Commander?”
John shook his head. “Great. He sounds like he’s mad.”
“Pfft. Is it just me or does the Captain always sound a little pissed off.” Joker asked.
Kaiden chuckled. “Only when he’s talking to you, Joker.”
John snorted with laughter as he left the two of them and headed to the comm/briefing room, nodding a greeting to Doctor Chakwas and Jenkins as he passed them. He opened the door to the comm room and stepped inside, surprised to see that only Nihlus was standing there. Anderson was probably still on his way.
Nihlus turned around and nodded a greeting as John walked over to him. “Commander Shepard. I was hoping you’d be here first. It will give us a chance to talk.”
John raised an eye. “What about? Got some juicy gossip you want to share? Wait, was this all a ruse to get me alone with you, you sly dog you! Ahh yeah, it’s always the strong silent types that surprise you. Well I have to say Nihlus, I’m flattered. Really, I am. But I’m going to have to decline your advances as you lack certain attributes I happen to fancy.”
Nihlus groaned, looking up at the ceiling. “Spirits. I sincerely hope you take your work more seriously than this.”
“Most of the time.” John said with a grin.
Nihlus’ mandibles twitched. “Anyway, I’m interested in this world we are going to—Edim Prime. I’ve heard it’s quite beautiful.”
John shrugged, leaning up against one of the chairs in the room. “I’ve heard it’s a paradise. But I don’t buy it; no so called paradise is ever as good as it appears to be.”
Nihlus nodded as he crossed his arms. “Yes...a paradise. Serene. Tranquil. Safe. Eden Prime has become something of a symbol for your people, hasn’t it? Proof that humanity can not only establish colonies across the galaxy, but also protect them. But how safe is it, really?”
“What’s your point? Trying to decide where to retire?” John asked.
“Your people are still newcomers, Shepard. The galaxy can be a very dangerous place. Is the Alliance truly ready for this?”
John peered at Nihlus cautiously. The Turian’s words almost sounded like threats.
Before he could say anything though, the door to the meeting room slid open and Anderson stepped inside. “I think it’s about time we told the Commander what’s really going on.” Anderson said to Nihlus as he walked up to them.
Nihlus nodded in agreement and turned back to John. “This mission is far more than a simple shakedown run.”
John snorted. “Well that’s obvious. I figured there was something you weren’t telling us.”
“We’re making a covert pick-up on Eden Prime. That’s why we needed the stealth systems operational.” Anderson explained.
John rubbed his chin. He didn’t like that he hadn’t been told earlier but he held his tongue. He respected Anderson and if Anderson had decided not to tell him, then chances are there was a valid reason. “What’s the payload, Captain? Getting some groceries for the Alliance?”
The corner of Anderson’s mouth twitched in a grin. “Not this time. A research team on Eden Prime unearthed some kind of beacon or artifact during an excavation. It was Prothean.”
“And I assume this beacon/artifact thing isn’t just like, an old Prothean flashlight or something? Ooo, maybe it’s a lovely old looking spoon! Now that would be well worth the trip.” John said with a grin.
Anderson frowned. “This is big, Shepard. The last time humanity made a discovery like this, it jumped our technology forward two hundred years. But Eden Prime doesn’t have the facilities to handle something like this. We need to bring the beacon back to the Citadel for proper study.”
Nihlus crossed his arms. “Obviously, this goes beyond mere human interests, Commander. This discovery could affect every species in Council space.”
John nodded. So that’s why the Spectre was there. “Well it never hurts to have a few extra hands on board.”
Nihlus’ mandibles twitched, something that would definitely take John some getting used to. “The beacon’s not the only reason I’m here, Shepard.”
Anderson put his arms behind his back. “Nihlus wants to see you in action, Commander. He’s here to evaluate you.”
John peered at them both. “Evaluate me for what?”
Anderson cleared his throat. “The Alliance has been pushing for this for a long time. Humanity wants a larger role in shaping interstellar policy. We want more say with the Citadel Council. And the Spectres represent the Council’s power and authority. If they accept a human into their ranks, it shows how far the Alliance has come.”
John sighed. Part of him wasn’t liking where this was going.
Nihlus walked in between the two humans and looked to John. “You held off an enemy assault during the Blitz single-handed. You showed not only courage but also incredible skill. That’s why I put your name forward as a candidate for the Spectres.”
John grunted, scratching his chin. “I take it this is good for the Alliance.”
Anderson nodded enthusiastically. “Earth needs this, Shepard. And if ever needed a hero, you would be the first choice. We’re counting on you.”
John snickered. “No pressure then.”
“I need to see your skills for myself, Commander. Eden Prime will be the first of several missions together.” Nihlus said.
“You’ll be in charge of the ground team,” Anderson added. “Secure the beacon and get it onto the ship ASAP. Nihlus will accompany you to observe the mission.”
John rolled his shoulders. “Just give the word, Captain.”
Anderson turned towards the door. “We should be getting close to Eden—.”
Joker’s voice suddenly sounded on the comm. “Captain! We’ve got a problem.”
“What is it, Joker?”
“Transmission from Eden Prime, sir. You better see this!”
Well isn’t that just a cliche. John thought as the three of them turned their attention to the wide monitor in the room.
A video played of what John assumed was Eden Prime. It was probably a body camera or something on a soldier. Gunfire was sounding in the background as what appeared to be a small unit was fighting an unknown force. A woman wearing white armor ran up to the person holding the camera. The woman was clearly Alliance. She was holding an Avenger and shoved the camera’s owner to the dirt, shouting, ‘Get down’. She turned and shot at something off camera before moving out of frame.
John frowned as the camera shook and then another soldier took hold of it. The man was freaking out. ‘We are under attack! Taking heavy casualties. I repeat heavy casualties! We can’t...argh! -eed evac! They came out of nowhere! We need—.’ The man’s voice was cut short as he suddenly fell. The camera shook again and turned to the surviving soldiers as they stared in shock up at an enormous dark purple ship. It almost looked like it had legs and was alive. And it made a deafening sound right before the video went to static. The kind of sound that crawls into your head and stays there. John snorted. He hated that sound.
“Everything cuts out after that.” Joker said over the speaker. “No comm traffic at all. Just goes dark. There’s nothing.”
“Reverse a couple seconds.” Anderson ordered and the screen went to show the giant ship thing once more.
John studied it. It clearly didn’t match any other ship signature he’d ever seen. If it even was a ship. But whatever it was, it was huge.
“Seventeen minutes out, Captain. No other Alliance ships in the area.”
Anderson hummed softly. “Take us in, Joker. Fast and quiet.” He groaned. “This mission just got a lot more complicated.”
John scratched his chin and shook his head. “I don’t know, Captain. I don’t like this. What the hell was that thing?”
“It doesn’t matter. We need that beacon, Shepard. Grab your gear and meet us in the cargo hold. And tell Alenko and Jenkins to suit up, Commander. You’re going in.” Anderson said as he left the room with Nihlus joining him.
John sighed tiredly and looked back up at the monitor again. “Ugh, I should have just told Presley to shove off and stayed in bed.”
“Your team is the muscle in this operation, Commander. Go in heavy and head straight for the dog site.” Anderson ordered as the Normandy prepared for the drop. As the hatch slowly opened, revealing a dark red atmosphere, John put his helmet on and checked his shields. He had a feeling that there would be fighting to be done down there.
Kaiden cocked his pistol. “What about survivors, Captain?” He asked.
“Helping survivors is a secondary objective. The beacons are your top priority.”
John snorted. He already knew what he was going to be focusing on and it wasn’t some random old dusty artifact.
“Approaching drop point one.” Joker sounded over the comm.
Jenkins, a young and eager corporal, turned to Nihlus who was readying a shotgun. “Nihlus? You’re coming with us?” Jenkins asked excitedly.
John liked the Corporal. He was brave and eager to prove himself. John knee Jenkins sort of looked up to him and was convinced that being a soldier was cool and honorable. But John knew better. Only he was fine with letting Jenkins learn on his own that being a soldier wasn’t everything the vids made it sound like. Even still, Jenkins was a good soldier with a promising future ahead of him. And John aimed to keep it that way.
Nihlus shook his head. “I move faster on my own.” The Spectre said before he jumped out of the Normandy.
“So cool.” Jenkins said with a grin.
John snickered. “All he did was say something stupid and jump out of the ship. Anyone could do that. I could say, ‘You’ll just slow me down,’ and jump out and it would be just as impressive.”
Kaiden gave a chuckle. “How about ‘I can do this all day.’”
“That works too.”
Jenkins sighed. “Ah, that would be so cool!”
Anderson coughed. “If I might get us back on track…Nihlus will scour out ahead. He’ll feed you status reports throughout the mission; otherwise, I want radio silence. And Shepard, take this seriously please.”
John smirked. Don’t worry, we’ve got his back, Captain. We’ll make sure Nihlus doesn’t get too carried away with being cool.”
Anderson frowned, suddenly regretting his decision to back Shepard as a Spectre candidate. “The mission is yours now, Shepard. Good luck.”
John gave a salute. “Aye, aye sir!” He turned to Jenkins and Kaiden and grinned. “Alright, men! As we jump out of the ship, let’s all say something really cliche and try and be like Nihlus. Jenkins, you first.”
John heard Anderson groan behind him but he paid the Captain no mind as Jenkins stepped out to the bay doors. He shouted, “Time to save the day!” And jumped out.
Kaiden looked at John and shrugged. “Eh, I give him a five. He’s got heart, he just needs to practice.”
John nodded. “Yeah, with our help, he might become one of the greats.”
Kaiden chuckled and ran out of the ship, shouting on his way down, “Let’s go kick some ass!”
John turned to Anderson. “So what do you think? Think that was an eight or am I being too nice? Cuz’ I think that was a solid eight.” He said, making his way towards the edge.
Anderson scowled at him. “Just get off the damn ship, John.”
John laughed and back stepped out of the Normandy after giving Anderson a small bow. On his way down, he shouted, “Cool, intense silence because I’m too cool to say something!”
As the Normandy flew off, Anderson shook his head. Over the comm, Joker laughed. “I’d say that was a good ten. Maybe even an eleven, right Captain?”
David groaned tiredly. “Joker…”
“Right, shutting up now.”