Finding The Migrant Fleet again wasn't too much of an issue for Yalo, the vast array of ships having recently been noted as being close to The Phoenix Massing cluster. Yalo would only have to take a few mass relays to jump into the system and then it was just a matter of flying the rest of the way until he came across them. They appeared on his sensors first, then as he adjusted his course and looked out ahead he eventually saw a strip of bright shimmering objects streaking against the black between the brighter shimmering stars.
"There they are," he said to himself. "I'm finally back."
Something about seeing the vaguest signs of the Flotilla churned his stomach a little. Thoughts and memories came flooding back to him from the months that had passed since he'd left, almost as clear as they were when he'd experienced them. In his mind's eye he saw the surface of Elysiala once more and remembered what it was like to stand upon his first planet and gaze out upon the seemingly endless expanse of nothingness. He remembered taking his first mercenary job even though it was simple guard duty during a negotiation, and when he first met and worked for Talan Jol. He remembered when he took his first life: a salarian mercenary during the one deal in his early mercenary career that went sour.
He remembered marveling at the turian homeworld of Palaven, having never seen such a populous planet before, and drugging the turian guarding him with a simple levo-amino injection. Images of him meeting Intarr on Iolciom and them trapping Haedian came to him, as did him signing up with Gonamida and the other krogan. He remembered Lylanya's mysterious assault on the krogan's base that led to him betraying them, the salarians raiding it soon after, followed by Intarr asking to follow him.
Next it was Lylanya's intrusion into his room at Talan Jol's bar, then the three of them going to Mannovai and infiltrating the secret Salarian Union research facility. He recalled Haedian agreeing and them escaping, Lylanya chastising him for so ruthlessly killing those in his way and then the story she told him about her past. He recalled the reactions of Binary Helix on Noveria, then going to Earth where Intarr discovered the truth about what happened to Gonamida and the others and almost killed him.
And finally, his having to --to coin a human phrase-- make a deal with The Devil to get what he wanted. In order to save his people he'd worked with Cerberus, possibly the most dangerous organisation he could possibly work for given their views on aliens and dangerous experiments. But it was all going to be worth it if his plan worked.The gift must not be gained by harming another
, Yalo heard Linna's voice say. Quarian or not
It was a sentence that had run throughout his head so many times, even before he'd left for his pilgrimage. It was the very next thought that had entered his mind when the idea to enslave his race in order to free them had come to him. He'd dismissed it himself at first, thinking the concept was too extreme. But the more he read about it happening in other cultures over time the more it burrowed into his mind and the more he believed that his people were never going to thrive again without some sacrifices. There was no simple or easy answer to their problem, and only an extreme solution would solve it.
"Perhaps this isn't a pilgrimage gift then," Yalo said aloud. "Perhaps its something else. Something more than that."This is it though
, his sister's voice echoed from the back of his mind. There's no turning back once you go aboard one of those ships
"I know," Yalo said firmly. "I'm prepared for that."Are you sure?
"Yes. I'm sure."Then why do you still hear the niggling doubts? Why do you still hear the thoughts that tell you to turn back and tell you that this is wrong? Why do you still hear my voice?
"Because part of me still regrets what needs to be done," Yalo admitted. "Part of me wishes it didn't have to be this way."And part of you believes that it doesn't have to be this way.
"No! You're wrong!"Look inside yourself, Yalo. Deep down you know there's always another way. You've never believed in only one answer to a problem.
"Shut up! Stop telling me what to think!"She was right, you know. The only one who can change your mind is you. You can still turn around before it's too late. You can still find another way.
"Get out of my head!" Yalo yelled, grasping at the side of his helmet and becoming stuck in a struggle halfway between trying to rip it off and trying not to. "There is
no other way! The only way is forwards!"You don't believe that. You've merely convinced yourself that you have, but deep down... you don't
"Shuttlecraft Spero, you are entering a restricted area. Your ship is identified as being under the possession of Yalo'Pala nar Lerta. Verify."
The voice came through on the ship's communications system. Yalo went to to manipulate the control panel but froze. Linna's voice returned.You could make it easy on yourself. Just give him the wrong phrase and they'll open fire. All it takes is once message and it's all over.
Yalo remained paused, only a few millimetres away from activating communications.
"I repeat, Spero," the voice said again. "Verify."
Yalo thought for a few seconds more, his hand twitching a little. Finally, it made contact with the glowing interface.
"From star to star I ventured to seek the knowledge that was not here; now I bring that knowledge back with me so that it remains forever."
There was a long silence after Yalo had spoken his message before the same voice came back through the speakers.
"Verified. Welcome back, Yalo'Pala nar Lerta. Your parents aboard the Lerta welcome you too."
"Send my regards," Yalo said. "I would like permission to dock with the Rayya, if possible."
There was another pause, though not as long this time.
"Permission granted," the voice from the other end said. "Proceed."
Yalo sighed, and then Linna's voice returned.Can you really do it, Yalo? Can you really go ahead with this knowing that it's going to doom our race to suffering and death?
"No it's not! It's going to save them!"You believe too much in the cause of your task to give up, but do you really believe so much in the means and methods you're using?
Yalo paused, his hands once again clasped around his helmet and his breathing heavy. The specks before him were closer and seemed larger, and he could even make out the vaguest shapes of some of the larger ships, including the massive Liveships. He just stared out at them for a while, his mind again going over everything at a fantastic speed.
"I can't..." he uttered, and then sighed.
"I can't turn back now. I've come too far, he responded."
It wasn't until after he'd already finished speaking his mind clicked. Those last words weren't a voice in his head, but were real and spoken. He spun around to see Lylanya standing there at the rear of the compartment, a sad look of concern on her face.
"What are you
doing here?" he exclaimed. "How did you get aboard?"
"I used this," she said, raising her forearm to point at a familiar device on her wrist. "As soon as you disappeared inside your ship I activated it and snuck aboard before you could close the hatch. I've been hiding in the rear compartment ever since. Regarding your first question, I'm here to make one last attempt to try and change your mind."
"You're wasting your time then, my mind is already made up," Yalo said firmly. "Just I just said, I can't turn back now because I've come too far. I've worked too hard and set up too much in place to give up. And if my dead sister who I cared about and loved more than anybody else that's ever existed in this fragile universe can't convince me, then nothing you can say will be able to either."
Yalo turned away from her and looked back out at the ever closing ships before him.
"I'm sorry, Lylanya," he said.
"So am I," she responded with a regrettable sigh, closing her eyes.
Yalo abruptly heard a whirring and snapping sound behind him and he spun around to see Lylanya with her gun held out at arm's length and pointed directly at him. Yalo took a couple of steps back and paused, and he could see her expression had changed from concern to a more stern visage.
"I can't let you do this, Yalo!" she said. "I can't let you enslave your entire race! I gave you chance after chance after chance, and yet you persisted! Now... I have no choice but to force
you to stand down directly."
"You're going to shoot
me if I don't stop?" Yalo asked.
"That's right. If I have to," Lylanya responded. "Don't make me have to."
"Just because of your moral values?"
"If it were only that simple," Lylanya sighed, shaking her head. "No, when I said that I couldn't let you do this, I really meant it. I'm obligated
to stop you."
Yalo was about to ask what she was talking about, but stopped when he noticed her reaching into a pouch on her right thigh with her free hand. She produced something small, black and rectangular from it, then flicked her wrist to open it, exposing a small, silver badge. The light flared off its surface and as Yalo looked carefully he realised he's seen the symbol once before, all the way back on Bersilius through the scope of his sniper rifle. It had been on the breastplate of the armour worn by the salarian leading the strike force that captured Gonamida and the other krogan.
"Yes, I'm a Spectre," Lylanya said, putting the badge away. "I work for The Council, and I can't let you take this any further."
"If you're a Spectre-- If you've been
a Spectre all this time, why are you doing this now?" Yalo asked angrily. "Why didn't you stop me ages
ago? You've known my plan since Noveria! You've even helped
me carry it out! Why now?"
Lylanya sighed and her arm dropped slightly. She quickly corrected and straightened it firmly again and Yalo could see disappointment on her face.
"Because I did something I shouldn't have," she said with reluctance. "I let it get personal and I let you get to me."
"I don't understand?" Yalo asked.
"Dammit! I started to believe in you and what you were trying to do!" Lylanya said, sounding more like she was condemning herself than explaining to him. "Not how
you were doing it of course, but the overall goal. At first it was curiosity and merely wanting to find out what you were doing. All because of what Doctor Haedian told me while I was taking him back to Mannovai. He didn't know I was a Spectre and starting going on about what he was doing. I was initially going to continue investigating him if possible or at least report what he said back to The Council, but he also brought you up. He said you had some major plan to save your people and how mysterious it was to everybody. I was intrigued, so I found you again and tried to get the information out of you. When I discovered that you wanted to track down Haedian again, I thought I could cover both angles at once, and that I could get you to help me investigate Haedian and the secret project The Salarian Union were unofficially working on at the same time. You wanting to get Haedian aboard only made it easier.
"Once that was done I was still curious about your plan, so I stuck around, wondering what it could be. My curiosity got the better of me, especially with you going on about how supposedly dark the nature of it was. By the time you had revealed the true nature of your intentions I realised that I had to stop you, but I couldn't help but admire your overall goal and wonder if there was some way to make your plan work and to give your people a homeworld without the need to enslave them. I felt sorry for your people and wanted to help them too, so I kept helping you with the hope there would be another way. On top of it all you seemed to come across new information that The Council would be very interested in with almost every step. The Salarian Union, Binary Helix, Cirrostratus Industries and, most of all, Cerberus. These were all organisations opening up to you and thus giving me an opportunity to gather crucial intel for The Council.
"But in the end most of it all was just excuses for me to keep going when I should have stopped you long ago. I got emotionally invested in the goal of your quest when the mission is supposed to come first and nothing else should matter. I was supposed to be a rock and maintain my facade. For years and years I've been able to do it without issues... it's been my greatest strength. Some Spectres are like police without any leashes and some are unstoppable machines of destruction who let nothing get in their way. I wasn't supposed to be either
of these types. I'm the type of Spectre who takes on a role and plays it to get what she wants, and when necessary uses her charms and special gifts to manipulate people into giving up what they usually wouldn't. I'm supposed to blend in when I need to, and stand out when I want to. I'm supposed to be under the radar and never be myself. But the more I worked with you the more my facade slipped. I became more and more like myself and less and less like the Spectre I'm supposed
"So there's your answer, Yalo. I'm bringing you in now because up until now I've failed at my job because I simply let myself have an opinion of the things going on around me, rather than being a good little agent for The Council. Because that's what I'm supposed to do and what I'm supposed to be: I'm supposed to give up my life so that others can live theirs. And now I have to make up for it."
"So everything you told me before was a lie then?" Yalo asked.
"Not everything," Lylanya sighed. "Those stories about my past, they were all true. I really did get brought up on Thessia by my mother and get sent to join the military after attacking a drunk turian investor. I really did run away from asari commando training and become a mercenary. And I really did kill my best friend over a stupid misunderstanding."
She paused to compose herself, blinking away a few tears.
"And a few years later, when I was at one of the lowest points in my life, I got noticed by a turian Spectre I was sharing a cell with. We had both been captured by batarian slavers, and neither of us really knew who the other was. To escape I seduced the guard and read his mind, allowing me to input the code that allowed us to escape. He killed the slavers and freed all the slaves, and afterwards he told me what he was and how much I had impressed him. I was a bit older and wiser then, and the idea of finally doing something to help people appealed to me. I thought that perhaps this way I could somehow make up for what I had done to Dri'ala by making the galaxy a safer and better place. After some training and hard work I eventually became a Spectre myself."
"So the real you doesn't like to kill?" Yalo queried.
"No, I don't," Lylanya said. "I will always find another way if it can. That's probably another reason why I waited so long to stop you: I was looking for another way."
"Then I think I'll refuse your offer," Yalo responded, and he whipped out his own pistol and trained it on her as well.
"Don't be foolish!" Lylanya growled. "I'm still a Spectre. I don't want
to kill you, but I will if I have to."
"I don't believe you will," Yalo said confidently. "You're too much of a pacifist. It's not your way to just kill me like this."
"Dammit, Yalo! It doesn't have to go down like this. You've lost, now just put the gun away and come with me. It's over."
Lylanya's teeth were gritted and her hand was beginning to shake. He looked into her eyes to see if he could read her, but all he could see was frustration and anger. For a while they just stood there, guns on each other in silence. Lylanya shook her head slowly at one point and mouthed something quietly that Yalo couldn't pick up, but if he'd read her lips right it looked something like "don't do this." The silence was eventually pieced by a voice coming through on the ship's communications system, different from the one before.
"Shuttlecraft Spero, you are entering docking range and our systems note you are still on autopilot. Please switch to manual control."
"Excuse me," Yalo said. "If I don't deal with this, we'll both
He slowly turned around to manipulate the control panel behind him, while keeping his gun on Lylanya the whole time. She stared out past him and finally noticed how close they were to The Migrant Fleet now. At least two dozen large ships drifted before her, all facing the same direction like a line of elegant metallic tadpoles within a speckled pond of ebony. Most notable was one of the Liveships, which had to have been one of the largest vessels even Lylanya had seen in her long lifetime. A gigantic sphere the size of some small moons gradually rotated at the front of it, surrounded by a ring around the centre and trailed by the same compartmentalised tail as most of the other ships surrounding it. They appeared to be heading towards the very heart of the fleet, where the most important ships were.
"Yalo to Rayya. You'll require a quarantine team in the docking bay, I have a... companion with me."
There was a pause.
"Acknowledged," the voice responded. "A quarantine team will be there in a few minutes. Upon docking, please wait until signalled before opening your airlock."
Yalo carefully manoeuvred his vessel towards one of the Rayya's
docking tubes and connected with it, then shut down the engines.
"You'll have to stay aboard while I rejoin the fleet," Yalo said to Lylanya as he turned back to her.
"You're not going to rejoin them," Lylanya responded. "I can't let you do this."
"And I can't let you stop me, Lylanya," Yalo said. "The only way you're going to stop me is if you shoot me, and I don't think you're going to do that."
"I will if you don't stop this right
"Remember how this went the first time we met?" Yalo asked. "You couldn't shoot me then, and you won't shoot me now."
"I'm giving you one last chance, Yalo," she answered. "Stop. This. Now."
Lylanya sighed, then frowned in determination. The next few moments went by in only a few seconds, but the entire experience seemed to travel in slow-motion for both of them. The muzzle of Lylanya's pistol flared with a bang, causing a blue shimmer to appear between it and Yalo. Yalo's pistol fired soon after and then the wall behind Lylanya sparked. Another shot fired from the asari's weapon directly at Yalo's head just as the quarian realised what had happened, and he moved his gun partially to his left to fire another shot, as his kinetic barriers flashed again. When the wall simply sparked again he began to sweep his weapon to the right, but before he could fire Lylanya's weapon fired a third time and there was no longer anything to stop the sliver of mass accelerated metal from hitting its mark.
Yalo's visor was punctured right in the centre, and he stumbled backwards. For a moment his body just seemed to stand there, the slightly cracked hole in his helmet almost staring at Lylanya like a single, black eye. The gun in his hand swiveled and rocked on his fingers and then his whole body crashed to the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been freshly cut. Yalo's head swung lifelessly to the side on the ground and something glinted from the hole in his helmet shortly before a thin stream of thick dark liquid ran out of it and trickled onto the floor.
Lylanya touched her wrist, and her image shimmered into nothingness, while another shimmer just to her left became her again. She stared down at Yalo's body with wide eyes, filled not with joy or satisfaction, but with the first droplets of bitter tears. Her lips began to quiver and the only sound besides a distant hum that filled the ship was a mournful sobbing. Her eyes drifted from the body and focussed on her weapon, and she stopped weeping to regard the weapon for a moment, holding it closer to her face: jet black, with a horizontal green stripe that angled down the handle. Her lips and lower eyelids quivered again, and just as she looked about to cry again she instead frowned, and then the frown turned into anger.
Lylanya screamed in rage at the gun, then drew her arm back and threw it across the other side of the room, letting it clatter against the wall and rebound off the panels and scarce furniture in the place. The end of her scream melded slowly into a steady sobbing as she stumbled back against the left wall, collapsing against it and sliding down onto the floor. Clasping her knees to her chest and letting the tears flow, she just let all her emotions out until the quarians arrived.
A few hours later, in an unknown sector of space, a lone figure sat and waited, smoking a cigarette and gazing out upon swirling flames upon a shifting orb. The sound of high heels upon a hard surface brought a datapad to his hands, and his glowing blue eyes scanned across it before they were partially obscured in a frown. The datapad was sent over his shoulder and he blew out a plume of grey smoke.
"Cancel the operation," The Illusive Man said. "I want Operative Duncan informed ASAP, and there to be as little linking this to us as possible even quicker. Keep the eezo secured though. There's no reason we can't still benefit from this in some
The datapad disappeared along with the fading sounds of shoes on floor, leaving The Illusive Man alone once again with his smoke and his thoughts, and yet another reason to dislike the quarian race.
It had been almost two weeks since Lylanya had left The Migrant Fleet. Upon entering the Spero
the quarians had initially been both confused and hostile at the scene of a crying asari and one of their own lying dead on the floor, but things calmed down a bit as soon as they saw the Spectre insignia she carried. The quarians informed the captain, who thought it best to things kept quiet for the moment. Lylanya was unofficially brought to see The Admiralty Board where she told them all she could. It wasn't a trial, but to her it felt like one, but she knew in a way it would be good practice for her reporting back to The Council. It had been decided to not let Yalo's intentions spread, and to merely tell his family and those that knew him that there had been a docking accident.
Having returned to Citadel space, Lylanya had sent her report to The Council on the whole affair. Over the past week and a bit they had dealt with certain aspects related to the recent events that had taken place that she couldn't do alone. Lylanya had hoped the whole thing was behind her now and that she could move on and forget it all, but now hat it was all taken care of, she had been summoned for a follow-up personal meeting with one of The Council representatives to finally put it all to rest.
Lylanya walked into a dark room, stepping into a soft beam of brightness in the centre that was the only source of light. This light streamed down from somewhere above and seemed to dissipate instantly; the transition from the edge of the beam instantly becoming pitch black. Lylanya stood there for about ten seconds by herself, looking ahead at nothing with no hint of emotion upon her face and adorned in her asari commando armour. A green-striped pistol hung from her hip. Another bright light flared into existence, appearing ahead and above her. There was nothing in the light, but instead the light itself formed a humanoid figure; feminine in form and wearing long, elegant robes. There was no natural colour to the form, instead it taking on a peachy hue. It's eyes were an almost blinding white glow rather than having any discernible pupils or irises, and the overall projection itself was almost twice the actual size of the individual being represented.
"Agent Lylanya Alanthios of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch. Thank you for coming."
"Of course. I serve The Council."
"Before we begin on your mission report, I feel that I should tell you that your field-testing of the prototype image-shifter has produced some interesting results. Your feedback has been interesting, but we're not sure how practical the device will be and need further testing. The main concern is that tech-based tactical cloak technology has actually made a few leaps and bounds in the last half a year or so, so we have to way up the costs and benefits of both and see how feasible and functional it is in comparison. As of now we have given another two Spectres these devices for testing. You may continue to use yours if you like, though I'd recommend getting it upgraded, since we've made a few improvements on it since last time.
"Now, onto the matter at heart. We've gone over your reports from what has been often referred to lately as 'The Yalo Disturbance' amongst The Council. I'm not entirely sure how much you know of how the events outside of your own influence have played out, so I hope you'll forgive me if I go over some of the key points your report I feel need clarification and discussion, and then relate it to the events in question."
"Of course," Lylanya nodded.
"Very good. According to your report, you met the quarian Yalo'Pala nar Lerta while on your mission to extract the salarian scientist Doctor Haedian from the krogan gang led by Durrlex Gonamida. Yalo was not affected by the gaseous substance you used to disable the krogan, and you were forced to negotiate with him in order to retrieve Doctor Haedian. Later when Agent Vaetorals and his squad assaulted the base, Yalo and one other krogan simply known as 'Intarr' were not present, and somehow escaped said assault. While returning Doctor Haedian to Mannovai, he began to speak of his work with The Salarian Union, unaware of you being a Spectre. He also spoke of the quarian Yalo, and told you of this quarian's plans to save his people. After returning Haedian to Mannovai, you contacted us again to report and received additional orders to find and infiltrate The Salarian Union's base on Mannovai. Is this correct so far?"
"Good. Now, your next step wasn't staying on Mannovai and discovering the base, but instead tracking down this quarian who you'd met and then heard so much about. Can you explain why you came to that decision?"
"Haedian had told me a lot about Yalo on the journey as I had said. What I had heard intrigued me, and I thought his intentions were worth further investigation. He also seemed like a very capable individual in my prior run-in with him, especially when it came to tech-based skills. I thought that I could perhaps seduce the information out of him, and even get him to help me find Haedian by planting an idea that Haedian was the key to his plans in his mind. It half-worked."
"You then go on to say that you agreed to help this quarian with his own quest, citing that 'curiosity' was the main driving factor for it," the hologram said. "Tell me, Lylanya... had you initially planned to help him see his mission through as far back as that, or was it merely a ruse on your part that, for one reason or another, didn't end?"
"It had initially intended to be a ruse on my part, yes," Lylanya answered. "But by the time we were almost through accomplishing my primary objective, Yalo's own plan had become more than a growing interest to me. He purposefully kept the true nature of it veiled, but continuously intimated at a very dark nature to it. It was clearly no small feat, and he was clearly determined. Before we even had Haedian and the answers to what he had been up to in secret, I had already come to the conclusion that Yalo could no longer be ignored, and that if anything he
was up to something far more critical and worth investigating."
"I see," the figure of light responded. "To skip ahead a little, you later go on to say that at some point the interest became personal. When exactly did this happen?"
"I... I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"No, I don't," Lylanya said firmly. "If mere curiosity was the genesis of it becoming personal, then as soon as Haedian told me about him enroute to Mannovai. Beyond that, I can't answer that. When does a thought become a memory? When do you go from merely liking somebody to being in love with them? Where does one day stop and another begin? The answer is in there somewhere."
"But you do fully admit that it did
become personal for you. You admit that somewhere it became less about being a Spectre and more about you doing what you wanted to do. You specifically say in your report --and I quote-- that 'genuine reasons to follow him personally became less and less genuine and more and more personal.' Why did this happen?"
"Curiosity at first, like I said," Lylanya admitted. "The further things went and the more they unravelled and yet didn't, the more I wanted to know. On top of it all he had a charisma to him, and something that made you want to follow him. I don't even think he realised he had it himself. There was a determination and strength to him, and deep down he was fighting for a noble cause. By the time I found out the nature of it and what he was actually
planning on doing, I was already pulled in. I knew I had to stop him, but then I thought about what he was trying to accomplish and thought that perhaps he could save his people another way, through another means. And I wanted to help him with that."
"So you admit to helping him see out his plan, knowing full well what he was trying to do?"
"Yes," Lylanya said, and she paused, then continued on somewhat reluctantly. "I think, in some ways... I admired him a little more for what he was doing when I found out. Not because of what it was, but for the nature of it. I could relate to it."
"Because deep down we weren't that different," Lylanya said. "We were both doing things we regretted for what we perceived to be the greater good. I serve The Council, trying to make the galaxy a better place, but I often have to do things that I regret to get results. He was doing the same thing to help his people. I didn't like it, but I could understand and relate to it. Especially when he brought it to my attention. He got to me on a personal level I haven't felt for a long, long
time, and for the first time in decades I felt like I could be myself, as much as I tried not to. I suppose the main thing is I at least managed to hide the side of myself you
wanted me to."
"I see," the glowing figure said, and there was a long pause before she spoke again. "Despite all of this, you managed to uncover a rather disturbing and insidious plan by this quarian, even if you intentionally helped it along the way. This eventually led to the involvement of two major corporate powers, namely Binary Helix and Cirrostratus Industries, and then eventually the human terrorist organisation Cerberus. I suppose you'll be wanting to know what came of our work in chasing down these parties?"
"I would," Lylanya admitted with a sheepish nod.
"Well, Binary Helix are fairly well in the clear it seems. They never agreed to sell their eezo-rich planet to Yalo, and in fact --according to your report-- outright refused
to for reasons that all of us I'm sure would admit are correct. They did sell it to Cerberus, but in doing so they never directly broke any laws. If anything they've benefitted from this whole affair, since Cerberus paid a lot of money for something they couldn't even afford to take advantage of anyway. Ironically, now they probably could, but they no longer possess it."
"What of Cerberus themselves?" Lylanya asked.
"We haven't managed to find or track down this 'Operative Alan Duncan' you mentioned, unfortunately, and beyond that the organisation seems to be laying low. They own the eezo-filled rock now of course, and our sources report that is has definitely been secured by a group of humans that could
be Cerberus, but there's not enough evidence to prove it. As of now all they've done is secure the place, there's no indication of any illegal or questionable operations taking place there. We'll continue to watch, but for now, that's all we can do. Besides all of that, it's located in The Terminus Systems. We have no jurisdiction there. The best we can hope for is that somebody bigger than them comes along and bullies them out of it."
"They've taken the biggest fall by far. More from the press than anything. They got wind of Ivan Levine being linked to Cerberus, and his reputation has taken a nosedive from it. The company is already starting to struggle and Levine's entire share market is crashing and burning. Then there's his working on unsanctioned technology, thanks to our friend Haedian's involvement with the whole thing. The Salarian Union of course fully denied they had anything to do with the prototype at all, used Haedian as a scapegoat."
"But Haedian has evidence in his possession that proves they were developing it first!"
"Yes he did, which he's used to by amnesty from us. His involvement is all going to be kept very under the radar. The Salarian Union has since seen the evidence and finally admitted to the research. The Council is still debating what to do about it at this time. Overall the crime is rather minor, since the technology isn't strictly illegal, but is merely unsanctioned and unapproved by The Council. Especially since all evidence points to the device actually being used for what it was intended. The most likely outcome is that all research related to the project will be seized and destroyed, and that Council appointed inspectors will make mandatory inspections of all salarian research facilities for a set period of time."
"So where is Haedian now?" Lylanya asked.
"I don't know, actually. He bought his freedom, and we honoured that agreement. He could be anywhere."
"Is there anything else?"
"There is just one more thing to speak to you about, yes. The Council wishes to at least acknowledge that your mission was a success, even if you performed in a rather unorthodox manner. We are, however, concerned by this. While your delayed action in these matters may have actually given us a good result, it also ran the risk of causing a lot more harm than good. Had you hesitated to do your job any later the results could have been catastrophic. That being said, you are a Spectre, and it is your call how you deal with things. The important thing is that we got results, but we urge caution next time nonetheless. We appreciate your honestly and openness in giving a full report, which is something not all Spectres do, and sometimes we prefer it that way too.
"The Council feel the more crucial matter here is not the way you went about things, but the fact that you let the job get personal; something you fully admitted to in your reports. You are a Spectre first and foremost, and mustn't let any personal feelings get in the way of the mission. This is why The Council had decided to grant your request of three weeks leave, effective immediately. You will then return to the service of The Council as a Spectre, as well as assume a new identity. We feel you may have overexposed yourself on this mission and need a blank slate before you can continue your work. Use this time wisely, Lylanya, and learn from your mistakes. By the time you return, you must once again be prepared to put your feelings, your beliefs and your opinions aside for the sake of the galaxy. That is what you have been trained for, that is what you are. Don't forget that."
"Yes, ma'am," Lylanya nodded firmly.
"Very good. You are dismissed."
"Before I leave, may I speak candidly?" Lylanya queried.
"Yes?" the figure of light said curiously.
"I just wanted to say that he was right," Lylanya stated firmly. "Yalo, I mean. About the quarians. They've been exiled from The Council for three hundred
years! Haven't they suffered enough?"
"That's not for you to decide," the voice said back, booming and devoid of emotion.
"Who does get to decide that?" Lylanya stressed. "Who will
decide that? Why are we continuing to punish the quarians for a mistake they made so long ago? Of course the salarian government is probably only going to get a slap on the wrist for what they just did, yet the quarians get kicked out of the club permanently for circumstances that aren't much different. Are they still serving an unjust, overly harsh sentence, or have they merely been forgotten? Or is it just because they weren't as important as the salarians are?"
"You have said enough! Leave!"
"Who cries for the quarians who are still paying for one
little mistake that nobody else cares about any more? Who?! If The Council hadn't forced them to adrift without any help at all, then Yalo wouldn't have needed
to take such extreme steps to save his people!"
are the cause of this! You
the ones who created this problem, and still complain when you have to clean up the mess! They deserve another chance, and all you have to do is give
it to them!"
"Agent Alanthios! Leave now
! This is your final warning!" A pause. "As I said, it is not for you
The room went dark, and soon after a semi-rectangular opening appeared at the edge of it, with brightness beyond. Lylanya sighed and slowly made her way towards it, disappearing into the light. On the other side a turian adorned in red and blue robes greeted her. He had dark blue eyes, and an unmarked face of pure dirt-brown complexion.
"How did it go, Miss Alanthios?" he asked.
"Better than I hoped, worse than I feared," she said, standing before him like the very life had been sucked out of her. "But I've got my time off to think about things."
"Anything I can do to help?" the turian questioned.
"Yeah. See if you can charter me a flight to Earth, as soon as you can. Washington D.C. if possible."
Lylanya stood up a bit taller, then twisted her neck, a more determined look on her once seemingly defeated face.
"I have somebody I need to apologise to."
The turian gave a polite bow, turned around and swiftly left. Lylanya turned about and walked to a large window that looked out at the void of space. She placed her palm against the glass and gazed out at the shimmering specks, nestled amongst gentle interstellar clouds of navy blue and deep purple.
"There are too many lives out there for me to make up for," she sighed. "But still... I have to try."
That's it. It's finally done, after almost two years. I'd like to thank all the readers who have followed me through this journey; one that started before we even really knew anything much at all about Mass Effect 2 beyond the fact it was coming. I'd also like to thank any readers who haven't started this story until after I've already written these notes. To those who gave me feedback, extra special thanks, and even more thanks to those who were willing to give constrictive criticism and point me where I went wrong.
Super special thanks to Christina Nordlander-Dawson, who has sort of been somewhat of an unofficial editor for this story for me, even though she hasn't even played the games or read the existing novels. I never really considered a chapter complete until she'd at least gone through it and given me some feedback and then I'd edited it again in response.
Thanks to BioWare for making the two games on which this novel was based on, particularly the lead writer for the original game and writer of the (so far) three official novels: Drew Karpyshyn. I always loved your style, and I'd like to think it's influenced my own for this fan novel. Thanks to BioWare Social Forums members GodWood and Calla S for contributing two of the characters featured in the final chapter after heeding my call (namely Operative Alan Duncan and Dr. Abigail Morgan respectively).
Finally, I'd also like to outline to you, the reader, what my basic objectives were for this story. I like to say that first up I prefer to think of it as an unofficial, online novel rather than a fan fiction, but in the end that's for you to decide. In either case, here's the basic story behind the story Mass Effect: Digression.
The idea actually came to me shortly after reading the second official novel, Mass Effect: Ascension. I was already a big fan of the quarians and this book opened them up even more than the first game and galactic codex already had. The basic idea and concept that enslaved people often rise up against their oppressors due to the overall driving need for freedom had often intrigued me, and I thought that I could apply this to the quarians, and also make the story somewhat of a mystery by not actually revealing the concept until past halfway through it. I basically came up with the concept of the main character of Yalo, decided to write up a single, first chapter to see how it came together and then would see where things went from there. The first chapter seemed to write itself, and fans were interested, so it grew from there.
One I had it started, I immediately wanted to achieve three basic things with this story. If I could do this, I felt the story would be a success. Again, it's up to you, the reader, as to whether these goals were attained or not, but here they are.
1) To make the story fit in with the canon and mimic the official novels. I wanted a story every Mass Effect fan could enjoy by doing it in the same style that Drew has and exploring more of the Mass Effect universe with fresh characters that don't interfere with established canon. This was the main purpose I felt, and the first basic rule and concept from the very start. I have no interest in writing about my Shepard because my Shepard doesn't appeal to everybody on the same level. An original story with original characters can, because every reader can enjoy it on the same level. I also wanted to make it somewhat epic and grand in scale, but not so much that it interfered with the games and the main story and wouldn't contradict other people's Shepards. Simply put, I wanted readers to be able to make it a story that could be unofficial canon to them... sort of an unofficial novel.
2) To make a story with almost no human characters set in the Mass Effect universe and keep it interesting. While there are humans in the story, all the main ones are aliens. I thought it was fairly easy to centre a story around a human and make readers identify with them, but it would be more of a challenge to make most of the main cast aliens and push humans into the background. The official storyline deals with humans a lot, as do Drew's novels, so I wanted to try and explore some rather different territory. In fact in gereral a lot of stories --especially sci-fi ones-- purposefully put humans at the centre stage, and I wanted to break that trend. I'd like to think that this story has proved that you don't need a human as the focus to keep fans interested.
3) To create a story where there is no villain because the protagonist is also the antagonist. The main character in the story isn't exactly what you'd call a noble or even good "person" so while he is technically the protagonist of the story, he's also in some ways the villain as well. He's quite often conflicted and has goals that are understandable and even admirable, but the methods he uses are more than a little questionable. He's torn and knows what he's doing is wrong, but he feels it is necessary. If any body is the hero of the story it's actually Lylanya, not Yalo, so in a way the hero of the story isn't the main character but instead the supporting one.
That about covers it I think. Once again, thank you all. Keep reading, and here's to Mass Effect 3 (and it hopefully not contradicting anything in my story too much).
- Kenneth White