The Song of the Shepard: Canto 3 ~ The Search in Artemis Tau


 ⇐ Canto 2 ~ © Bioware  ~  Introduction
~ Stanza 1 · The Strike Team ~

Artemis Tau is a cluster of stars,
Middled aged stars, hot, pulsing red stars.
They glow in the distance like apricot moons,
Blazing unceasing in unfading noons.
The Artemis dust cloud, hanging in space
Glows like a tapestry red-gold with lace,
Half hiding the blaze of the great Milky Way
Returning the light of Artemis’ day.
Somewhere within this shining expanse
Is the only child of our foe’s confidant.
Whether Dr. T’Soni is friend or foe
At this point in time, I really don’t know.
But I fear the use she could be to Saren
And I hope she knows her mother’s location.

The Normandy’s all that they said she would be,
Quiet and fast and quite hard to see.
She runs like a dream (I think Joker’s in love)
Her drive core hums like a cooing dove.
The crew sails her well with eager intentions.
But under the surface, there’s simmering tension.
Presley, the Navigator and new XO,
Is clearly unhappy but won’t tell me so.
Gunnery-Chief Williams however speaks straight.
She doesn’t trust our alien shipmates.
She doesn’t like that they are aboard.
She grates me with her suspicious, sharp words.
‘Will this be a problem in combat, Williams?
I need you to be able to work with them.’
‘No, Ma’am. It won’t be. I can rub by.
It’s a matter of safety, of info-leaks.
But you ask me to jump, and I say, “how high”?
And if – “kiss a Turian”, well then, “which cheek”?’
She looks at me straight with bold black eyes,
Unabashed in her notions but bright in reply.
‘Well, I doubt kissing Turians will be necessary.
I’ll try not to ask you for something that scary.’
Wrex is merc, that is very true.
I don’t trust him and sometimes I rue
The impulse which led me to bring him aboard
Yet this is his job and he’s known for his word.
He chills and cracks tales in the hold below,
Makes no sort of trouble, deals no foul blows.
Tali – the girl’s barely more than a kid
Sent out alone, and for nothing she did.
The Quarian’s have a rite of passage
Which they call merely the ‘Pilgrimage’
The Migrant Fleet leaves them, all on their own
To sink or to swim when they’re barely full grown.
Those who return and bring back something more
Than they started out with, are brought back aboard.
Tali assures me it need not be much
Just something to prove that you don’t need a crutch.
Her people are nomads, floating in space.
They built the Geth – that fell robot race.
Their servants revolted. They fought for their lives.
The battle was lost and they took to the skies.
So they float ever in rickety-ships

Pressed for resources, counting their chips.
I can’t help but smile and laugh when I see
How amazed the girl is by the Normandy.
She’s made herself useful. She’s a sharp engineer.
Chief Engineer Adams likes having her here.
And eager young Garrus, the Turian cop?
He has already fought beside me.
In the dim and grungy back-alley
Young Tali’s would-be assassin he dropped.
Garrus left C-Sec over this case,
Sick of the red-tape, the time gone to waste
Grieved for the unavenged victims defaced
Enraged by this Turian disgrace.
And he is as eager as any man here
To track down this criminal, this scourge of fear.
No! I have no fear for Garrus!
Unless it just might be
That in his righteous anxiousness
To do the rightful deeds,
In his single-minded focus
On preventing some injustice
He may trample heedless over something just as large
And, unthinking, towards some evil innocently charge.
In honest cheer, he mentions once:
‘That’s what I like about the spectres.
How did you do it? It shouldn’t matter.
As long as you get the job done!’
‘Not if it gets people hurt, Garrus.
We have leave to ignore the red tape.
But the “how” darn well better matter to us.
We do things right. Are we straight?’
But it was the right he was talking about!
And not letting hurt happen for bureaucrats’ doubts!
At least Alenko does not seem to mind
The presence among us of alien-kind.
He has concerns for the mission, true.
He thinks that we’re in a political brew,
And he doesn’t quite trust large organizations
With all their politics and limitations.
The Council, yes, and the Alliance too.
They can be corrupt, unwise, and untrue.
The current struggle for clout and positions
Might get in the way of this critical mission.
But on the plain topic of ‘aliens’,
He doesn’t seem to think ill of them
He doesn’t claim any special mistrust.
He says:
‘They’re jerks and they’re saints – like us.’
When a distress call draws us from our course
To barren Edolus where lies the weak source.
It’s Tali and Garrus I take down with me
Down in the truck to look round and see.

~ Stanza 2 · On the Sands of Edolus ~

The sky is the colour of mustard brew.
The cold ground beneath us could never construe
A fleck of good earth on its sharp barren slopes.
Sand trickles round us in hard wind-blown ropes.
In our truck, the “Mako”, we search fruitlessly
The Quarian, the Turian, and human me.
The site is bare rock, sand, poison wind
Though we scour the ground where the signal rings.
But there’s scattered equipment about in the dust
Rent, as if gnawed, and half eaten with rust.
I know it still, the marks are still clear.
A squad of Alliance marines died here.
The killer soon finds us, a huge snake-like beast
With a foul ringed maw, and limbs many pieced.
I take the wheel and Garrus the guns.
Tali just tries to make sure the truck runs.
Long we give battle on pallid grey sands
Between the dark hills in their tumbling bands.
But the killer is killed by the Mako’s hot blasts
And Garrus’ quick eyes and his clawed hand so fast.
The marines who died did not send the call.
It was set up before, they were lured to their fall.
We cannot discover who did it or why,
Who set it up to send cries to the sky.
One well placed shot blows the death trap away.
We contact the ship, and we fly away.
No travellers more will be lured to its hands
But never those men will return from the sands.

~ Stanza 3 · World of the Ancients ~

Therum was formed many ages ago,
From the hot iron rocks that round Knossos flowed
For aeons it bloomed and blossomed and grew
Peoples there flourished, who we never knew.
Long since it was emptied of rational nau,
A few marks still stand, surviving somehow,
Where the land has not changed to bury them,
Where the sea has not risen engulfing them,
Where the mountains rose not to break them in pieces
Where they fell not as prey to weather’s caprices.
It’s chiefly for these few crumbling ruins
That the planet is taken note of at all
Few things now grow there
Wizened and small.
An ancient world, drawn close to its sun,
A sad, empty world, it’s days near done.

We turn to the miner’s posts. They send back our hails.
But no Asari is told in their tales.
So to barren ruins we turn our gaze,
Scanning for signs in each far hidden maze
Of recent activity, working machines
Or signs of life other than sad native gleams.
In a dry northern region not far from the pole
In a volcanic region where few things are whole
A ruin exists, extensive and crumbled
With quite recent structures, built-up and jumbled.
No one answers our hails, yet there’s movement below
So through the thin atmosphere down the ship goes.
I assemble two teams to search through the ruin.
I take Alenko and Garrus Vakarian,
The second I place under Williams’ command,
Assigning her Tali and Wrex as her band,
The Quarian mechanic and the big Krogan merc.
Show me you can, Williams. Make this team work.
We drop off Squad Bravo in a densely packed stretch
To search it on foot, while my squad takes the rest.

~ Stanza 4 · Dust and Ash ~

Over a rippled and reddened landscape
Lit up with the glow of the rivers that drape
Their hot molten ore across the worn bluffs
The Mako rumbles and climbs through the dust.
We call through the hot, thin, but breathable air,
We scan for fresh footprints on weathered stairs.
Our infra-red scanners are no good at all.
Volcanic activity makes life-forms too small
To stand out on the background of radiant heat.
We look with our eyes, there’s no way to cheat.
The sky is dark with volcanic smoke.
When the wind’s from the north the air starts to choke.
Garrus keeps checking we don’t dehydrate
And bits of heat training he coolly relates.
As Kaidan Alenko wipes sweat from his brow,
He points out that at least the humidity’s low.
They march cheerfully, stoutly along by my side
Combing the ruin in the dust, heat, and dry.
As we drive out of a rugged ravine
Onto a plateau that’s ripped up and seamed
I glimpse swift bipedals of polymer steel
I hit the accelerator, grip tighter the wheel.
‘Bravo Squad! We have Geth! Watch your backs!’ I shout.
‘Garrus! The guns. Lieutenant, scanner readout.’
A missile blast streams past
Crashes a cliff.
Rock flies into the skies.
The ground shifts.
This was the movement. Seen far from the sky.
They’re here for T’Soni, as foes or allies.
Those blocking our path fall to Garrus’ sharp aim
And we swiftly keep on by the rivers of flame.

~ Stanza 5 · The Guard at the Stope ~

Shortly we come to a pass through a cliff
So small and so steep that the Mako can’t fit.
We leave the truck parked and slip into the rift
And climb between boulders that crumble and shift
Till we emerge on a broad rising slope
That leads to a open, wide miners’ stope,
A recent built shaft leading into the ground
With modern metals and platforms framed round.
But the open equipment shed before it…
Our omni-tools’ radar is picking up hits.
Forward we dash to the shed and take shelter
Amongst the equipment which lies helter-skelter.
Then from the dust beyond the platform.
On four mighty legs like a spider deformed
There rises a huge and terrible Geth
Nearly as broad as the low structure’s breadth.
Great plasma bolts fly from its fearful head
Where the bolts crash, crushed metal glows red.
The lesser Geth fall as they come on.
But deadly, unmoved is the one beyond.
I lean out of cover to take a shot.
One moment I’m there, the next I am not.
I’m on the ground. My barrier’s down.
My limbs are numb, head’s spinning around.
Through foggy eyes, unfocused and red
I realize a Geth is come, over my head.
Crack! The sound of a lone sniper rifle.
The sharp scent of medi-gel through the air’s stifle.
And a big Turian claw and a strong human hand
Lift me back to my feet, and I find I can stand.
Of the small Geth, not one soldier remains.
The one Garrus shot was the last to be slain.
But still the colossus, huge in the gloom,
Hunts in the twilight of volcanic fume.
The walls are scorched with the plasma blasts,
The abandoned equipment is pulverized, smashed.
But we can still hide, make it guess where we are.
We don’t have to guess, it’s seen from afar.
Shot after shot, hurled biotic fields,
Little by little, we wear down its shields,
Til our blows against bare metal lash
And the monster topples; a screeching crash.

We sink down on the rubble bleeding and dazed
Exhausted and bruised, relieved and amazed.
Smoke fumes up from the wreck of our foe
On hot blistering winds to the ash clouds it blows.
We apply first-aid before we go on
Sitting under the ramp where the dark stope yawns.
The medi-gel seals our burning gashes
Cools inflammation from forceful crashes
Refreshes, revives, and clears our sore heads.
We rise, lift our gear, and march on ahead.

The stope leads steeply into the ground
Echoes rattle away as our booted feet pound.
Lamps flash up before us, lighting the mine,
Flicker out as we pass, dark follows behind.

~ Stanza 6 · The Maiden in the Ruin ~

Long we search through the ancient rooms
Their purpose lost in endless glooms
Til deep in the maze far under the ground
Where clatter of rock is the only sound
I see in the distance a pale cool light
Beyond the orange lamps, in the long buried night.
We follow and come to a gap in the wall
That seems to be filled with a waterfall,
Translucent, impassable, softly it glows
Over our faces its rippling light flows.
Suspended within it, a blue maiden floats.
To us she calls in mellifluous notes.
‘Hello! Hello! Can you hear me out there?
Please help me, I’m trapped, I’ve been caught in a snare.’
Her face is young, like a blooming girl
Smoothly away her pert head-tails curl.
Her eyes are as blue and as round as the sky.
Her small, dainty hands are work-hardened and dry.
She is dressed in a slender tunic of green.
That face is the sweetest that I’ve ever seen.
‘We hear you!’ I call. ‘We’ll get you out.
But what is your name? What is this about?’
‘I’m just a researcher, Liara T’Soni.
This is an old Prothean piece of security.
I turned the field on to hold off the Geth.
But I did something wrong…’ she seems short of breath.
‘-This was probably meant to catch persons of doubt.
Now the Geth can’t get in, but I can’t get out.’
‘Can you tell me how to shut down the field?’
‘Yes, there’s a button. Just past this shield.
It’s out of my reach, over there on the wall.
But you can’t get through here, that’s no good at all.
And I know of no other passage but this.
I cannot direct you to paths in the darkness.
‘We’ll find one.’ I say. ‘Stay calm, you’ll get out.’
‘The Geth have been trying, searching about.
Be careful out there, there’s a Krogan who leads them.
The Geth may be deadly, but beware of him!’
I call to the ship, let them know she’s been found,
But we’ll be some time for she’s bound underground.
We leave the blue maiden floating alone
And take a dark path leading off through the stone.

~ Stanza 7 · Farther into the Mine ~

Back and forth along the line
Through the dark and dusty mine
We travel scanning for a road
To lead us back into the hold
But paths all turn and twist away
Or turn to dead ends far from day.
At times we encounter small troops of Geth
Combing the labyrinth, searching the depths.
That they have pursued her is beyond doubt.
Garrus halloos:
‘Hey, Shepard! Check this out.’
It’s an old mining laser left here to rust
It’s worn, out of power, and covered in dust.
But he thinks he can get it to wake up and run
(He likes to tinker, it’s useful and fun.)
The miners left power banks, as shown by the lights.
Alenko sets out to the upper heights
To divert the power, whatever is left
And bring it down to the drill in the cleft.
I with my omnitool sound out the halls
The sonar bleeps testing the depth of the walls
The three of us haul the drill through the dark
To the spot that I’ve found, and set off a spark.
Red blazes hot in the narrow space
The three of us spin round and swiftly race
Away from the crack of rock, shatters of stone
As the drill breaks apart the earth’s granite bones.
Then the scream peters out and the light fades away.
And we make our way back through the settling stone spray
Of splintered rock and choking hot dust.
The drill’s power’s gone, the reserves hadn’t much.
But a broken path lies through the bone of the ground.
The granite still rumbles; a strange shifting sound.
The opening of the tunnel is wide
The rock sizzles and cracks as we walk inside.
The heat’s like an oven but air’s rushing through
The hot and the cold turning it to a flue.
As we go on it gets filled with crushed rock
Till near the end the path’s almost blocked
A biotic blast and then some hand-work
The narrow way widens. We climb through the murk.

~ Stanza 8 · The Quake ~

In the blackness we search for an upward path
Climbing old stairwells half fallen and crashed,
Counting the levels and measuring the depth
Making sure that our sense of direction is kept.
Our only light is the lamps on our guns.
Now and again, the uncountable tons
Of granite above us, grumble and shake,
Slow growing tremors, minor earth-quakes.
Finally above us, we see the blue light
And climb the last stairwell, blinking in bright.
‘You made it!’
Her voice falls like dew on the grass.
‘I was afraid there might be no way past!’
‘We couldn’t find one. So we made one instead.’
‘Oh. That’s what that was. The crash was widespread.
That panel, right there. It should release me.’
I reach out to touch it, but Garrus stops me.
‘Hang on, Shepard! You sure we can trust her?
Her mother’s with Saren. Where does that leave her?’
‘I am not my mother!’ Liara cries.
‘I don’t know how she joined Saren or why!’
Her voice is indignant, her head is held high
Her hov’ring form quivers, and flash her blue eyes.
‘The Geth are clearly pursuing her, Garrus.
And even if not, I’d still have to chance it.’
A moment’s work and the shimmering blue field
Flickers outs and collapses, the doorway unseals.
Liara lands lightly on slippered toes
And turns to face us where our white lamp light glows.
‘Thank-you. It was so long in the dark and the silence
… And the eyes of the Geth. You’re with the Alliance?’
‘Yes. I’m Commander Rosamund Shepard.
We came to find you, I take it you’ve heard
Of your mother’s friend and the people he slew.
Do you know why his Geth have come after you?’
‘No I do not!’ She shudders, and then:
‘You don’t suppose that Benezia sent them?’
Alenko speaks calmly out to her
‘You are a well known Prothean researcher.
Saren is looking for the “Conduit”.
He probably wants you to help search for it.’
Before Liara can answer a word,
A louder rumble, crashing, is heard.
The ground starts to shake and the stone above cracks.
Shattered rock crashes about in the black.
We’ve triggered an earthquake while under the ground.
This place is unstable. It’s going to come down.
‘Let’s go! No more words!’
I sprint through the trap.
Behind me, the three run behind in the black.
Without the orange lights, the way is more deadly
We run with our lamps held aloft so we see
The myriad pitfalls, precipitous drops,
The fallen stone heaps in leg breaking blocks.
Over my com, I hear Joker calling.
I do not stop. I answer while running.
‘That volcano, Commander? It’s having a fit.
We’ve got to leave soon or we’re going to catch it!’
‘Squad Bravo’s aboard?’
‘Not yet, Commander.’
‘What’s held them up?! Go get them, Joker.
We’re on our way now. I’ll send our nav-point.
And the Mako is parked. Near the gorge. Just adjoint.
Pick it up and stand by. We’ll be there. Soon.’
‘Okay, Commander. But she’s not immune.’
“She” is the Normandy, our beautiful ship.
Joker sounds worried…
                                           Crack! The wall rips.
Stone slides and crashes to depths we just guess.
Light shines ahead through a doorway, lifeless.

~ Stanza 9 · Envoy of Saren ~

In the chamber before us many Geth stand.
Silent and waiting, a cold statue band.
Through their ranks stumps a hulking orange mass.
Geth slide aside, and slide back when it’s past.
‘Just hand the Asari over, Human.
Or don’t. If you’d rather. That’s lots more fun.’
The maiden beside me stands straight and stiff.
The chamber walls shudder, an ancient sill slips.
‘This place is collapsing.’ I shout. ‘We can’t fight!’
He oafishly chortles: ‘Oh, we can alright.’
‘What do you want with Dr. T’Soni?’
‘Saren wants her for something, didn’t tell me.
You better come, girl. You’ll find out more later.
‘No!’ Liara’s voice rings through the air,
‘I will not go with you anywhere!
And I certainly will not help Saren the traitor!’
‘Thank-you, Liara T’Soni.’ I breathe.
I prepare to defend her. We all four will leave.
Alenko and Garrus, on our left and our right
Close quietly in, our circle grows tight.
The earth above groans in its own deadly fight.
Our barriers spring and our ring becomes bright.
‘You heard the Lady. Now let us pass!’
I speak mere defiance. He knows and he laughs.
His Geth slip tighter to seal fast the road.
‘One thing, ere we go-’ I add ‘-to what abode
Would you have taken her if she had come?’
‘To his ship!’ he snorts. ‘In space! Are you dumb?
Kill them.’ he croaks. ‘Except the Asari.
If you can help it. No skin off me.’
The change in the motionless horde is abrupt.
One moment they’re still. Then madness erupts.
The old dusty chamber so long dark and still,
Blazes with fury and gunfire screams shrill.
A whirlpool of chaos, of flying steel
Exploding plasma and biotic fields.
Tornadic winds send the dust all awhirl
Through the chaos the quake its sharp stone shards hurls.
On my right hand, Garrus’ rifle cries out
Back to my back, Alenko hurls Geth about.
n my left is the scholarly youthful blue girl.
But what is this? Around her light swirls!
I only half see her, beside as I fight
Yet her small hands spin masses of light,
Which form, coalesce into globes of dark blue
Pulsing and glowing with reflective hue,
And whirl away towards the mass of our foes
Catching them up in the field as they go.
The Krogan is dead. I saw not by whom.
Though we are battered, now fewer Geth loom
Driven back ‘neath our blasts to the walls of the room
Over our heads, the rocks itself booms.
‘Break off and come now!’ I shout to my crew,
And sprint up the steps to the chamber door, through.
‘Commander, where are you!?’ I hear Joker shout.
‘We’re coming! Hold on if you can!’ I call out.
Rock crashes behind, before, overhead.
I leap to the side and look back whence we sped.
‘Ahead of me! Go! Go! Straight up the slope!’
They hurtle past, in the dust, up the stope,
Garrus. Liara. Alenko. All there.
I swing in behind them and bring up the rear.
Light shines ahead, Therum’s dim, rusty day
Seen through the dust and the fallen stone spray.
We leap from the tunnel, are hit by a blast
Of scorching hot wind, choking and fast.
Through burned stinging eyes, we see just above,
The Normandy swoop like a great silver dove
Down through the dust and the smoke and the ash
Towards the slow spreading streams of earth’s blood that splash
Over the melting bones of the land
As the Mountain rumbles and coughs where it stands.
Before us she drops, her bay doors flung wide.
We sprint down the slope, and leap the divide.
The doors crash behind us. We breathe the cool air
As the Normandy bears us away from the flare.

~ Stanza 10 · In the Comm-room ~

The com-room is quiet, fresh, and clean.
Soft is the light from the circular walls
Silent the circle on which the light falls
Myself, T’Soni, and the two fire-teams.
I start to speak, but Joker’s wry tones
Come over the coms, in a sarcastic groan.
‘So, maybe, Commander, for next time, ya’know
Don’t have us land in an active volcano.
They tend to fry sensors, and sometimes melt hulls.
We almost went swimming like hot lava gull.’
Liara looks up as Joker’s tongue runs.
‘We nearly died and he’s making fun?’’
‘It’s a joke, he copes with stress that way.’
‘Oh. I see. I’ll get it someday.’
Williams gives me her mission report.
Her team hunted Geth up and down the old fort.
Urdnot Wrex, the biotic Krogan
Mistakenly calls his canon a shotgun.
In his wake a beeline of havoc burned
Structures fell and trucks overturned
The Geth he blasted from his path
Were trampled down in the crush of his wrath.
But little Tali, the Quarian girl,
With her clever fingers and purple swirls?
Way down low behind the lines
Out of sight and out of mind
Using mostly her omnitool
She hacked, overloaded, and the battlefield ruled.
Together they cleared posts near several stopes.
Williams’ tone is no-nonsense. Her tale fills my hopes.
I’d intended that they would do naught but search.
But they saw battle and she made it work.
The Asari researcher quietly sits
Watching us speak, her mild gaze flits
From one face to another, like a shy child
Though she’s held her own alone in the wild.
When I turn to her, she sits straight and replies
Looking up with her round, intense blue eyes.

~ Stanza 11 · The Archaeologist’s Tale ~

I explain the matter, the little we know
And ask of her mother allied with our foe.
‘No I don’t know if my mother is near.
We haven’t spoken in over a year.’
‘A year? Why so long? Did you two fall-out?’
‘Oh no. We’ve been busy, both travelling about.
I knew she was serving as Saren’s advisor
But I gave it no thought til I heard he turned traitor.
his only I know, the woman I knew
Would have never conspired, or consented to
An act such as that done on Eden Prime
No matter the goals or the passing of time.
I can only hope now, from where I stand
That she first went to hold back his hand
And draw him along to a gentler path
She’s done it before. I’ve seen it. She has.’
‘And what of this Conduit they’re searching for?
How does it connect to the Prothean’s war?’
‘I’ve never heard of the Conduit.
But, Commander, I can tell you this,
The Council is wrong, the Geth unit right.
The Protheans saw that terrible fight.
Something destroyed them. They didn’t decline.
This matches with everything I can find.
It’s said they just fell, as Empires do.
But I could find naught to attribute it to.
They didn’t destroy their resource base.
They had for their use everything found in space.
And their order, their structure, was maintained late
It didn’t fall to a slow, crumbling fate
Of corruption and layers of cancerous growth
Of disjointed complexities and broken troth.
It was cut off of a sudden. Still in its prime.
And all in a very, very short time.
And – here’s the thing – they were not the first,
They were not the only to be thus curst.
Such civilizations have risen before
Though they come barely into our lore.
The Protheans killed them? No. Not at all.
Though that is the reason most thought for their fall.
The dates are not right. It doesn’t add up.
If they had, they would interrupt.
But the latest known marks of the elder folk
Were abandoned before the younger awoke.
Almost nothing we know goes back farther in time
But the little I’ve found, suggests it still rhymes.
A cycle of rises and then sudden falls,
Externally forced, not natural.
The record is strange to be so incomplete
Small quiet ruins pop up like wheat…
It’s like someone’s consciously foiling us.
Like somebody wiped the Galaxy bare
And purposely hid the past from us.’

She pauses a moment, inclines her blue head.
I’m young, and my theory hasn’t yet been much read.
And the lack of specific records of this
Have prevented others from suggesting it.’
‘Well, just how young are you?’ I ask the young lady.
I know spans are longer among the Asari.
She blushes and takes a deep breath ere she speaks.
‘I’m only one-hundred-two years and eight weeks.’
Williams interjects, blithely amazed.
‘I hope that I look that good at your age.’
‘Among the Asari I’m counted quite young.
A child almost, a girl barely sprung.
But, Commander, this is what alarms me.
If I see truly what I think I see,
If this is a cycle, as it appears,
Predictable over an average of years
Then within my life-time the next wheel is due
And we will fall. If the pattern holds true.’
Nobody moves and no one replies.
The sights of the beacon swim in my eyes.
‘Commander,’ Liara looks up to me.
‘I do not know how much use I can be,
I’m not an engineer or a mercenary,
I don’t have the intel, and I am sorry,
But, let me come with you,
I will try to help you,
There’s few who know even the little I know
Of the last cycle spun so long ago.’
She sits, parted lips, hands folded before her,
Like a child facing a group of her elders.
But now that her explanation is oer
She look as though she’ll droop down to the floor.
Her eyelids flutter and trembling blue hands
Rest on unsteady legs still covered in sand.
‘Hey, you don’t look so good, Dr. T’Soni.’
Alenko bends forward, his arm on his knee.
‘How long has it been since you ate? Or slept?’
‘Yes!’ agrees Wrex. ‘You need need food and rest!
Your kind aren’t as hardy as mine.’
(The Krogan is gruff, but I think it’s meant kind.)
‘Maybe you should see the ship’s doctor.’
Alenko recommends to her.
‘I suppose … seeing a medic wouldn’t hurt.’
Liara agrees. She seems to exert.
‘Of course you must, I’ll send someone to guide you.
She gets first check-up, but the rest of you too.
But one more moment, before you all go
Our colony, Zhu’s Hope, on the planet Feros,
As I recall, was built on a ruin
Ancient, alien, and I think Prothean.
Anderson said that they’d seen Geth about.
What might they have done there, what did they find out?
It can’t be coincidence Geth were there too.
They went for the ruins, or I misconstrue.’
‘The towers of Feros!’ Her tired eyes light.
‘I’ve heard, but I haven’t yet gone to that site.’
‘Then come with us now, Doctor! We’ll follow his trail.
What I’ve seen matches far, far too well with your tale.’

Canto 4 ⇒

Mass Effect Poetry by Charlotte Ann Kent

The Song of the Shepard: Canto 2 ~ The Citadel

⇐ Canto 1  ~ © Bioware  ~  Introduction
~ Stanza 1 · In the Med-bay ~

I hear the engine’s whirring baritone
The prim Doctor Chakwas’ languid tones
Softly stepping people, going to and fro
A hoarse, gentle voice, which sounds like Alenko.
Through the gripping miasma of black,
Light starts to glow, and I struggle back.
The Normandy’s left Eden Prime behind.
We’re coursing through vast star-fields of sunshine.
The Alliance relief force made it there
And we left the colony in their care.
This fearful matter calls us away.
Geth have not been seen in many a day,
And ‘Sarin’, that Turian, who murdered Nihlus,
Who fought with the Geth in their horrible violence
Appears to be Saren Arturius
Another Spectre – a collegue of Nihlus.
No other ‘Sarin’ would Nihlus welcome,
Or let him do what it seems he has done,
The witness described him quite reasonably
The Council must know of his treachery.
And what of the beacon? Our mission there?
It’s gone. Overloaded. Mere dust on the air.
The second voice was indeed Kaidan Alenko.
He’s standing nearby, his eyes wide, voice low.
‘I … got too close, let myself get submersed.
The chief and I thought you were dead at first.’
For a moment the loss of so great a find
Weighs it’s great failure over my mind.
But I remember the light on the vale
And I cannot consider my team to have failed.
I nod. ‘Thanks for getting me back to the ship.’
He nods back, a faint smile appears on his lip.
‘The chief’, Ashley Williams, has been transferred aboard.
With Jenkins lost, we need more hands on board.
Alenko spoke well to the Captain of her.
He’s right, she is a remarkable soldier.
The two weary and grieved marines carried me
Back through the port to the Normandy.
And she didn’t set foot back on Eden Prime.
Her unit is gone, they transferred her quick-time.

~ Stanza 2 · Close Council ~

Anderson shortly strides into the bay.
‘How is our XO, Doc? Is she up today?’
We hold council together, the Captain and I.
We speak of the raid, of the hand in the sky.
And he asks a terrible question of me.
‘The beacon, Commander – what did you see?’
I bow my head, I remember too well,
But … not well enough, it’s too strange to tell.
A tangle of horrors storms in my brain.
But not vague. Ice clear. It’s like I’m not sane.
‘I saw synthetics, and what seemed wraiths of men.
Slaughtering people … butchering them.’
The words seem so small and formless and cold
Sick, petty horrors, not the great force that rolled
Over all, wiping out, turning to black
All trace of the light – the world on the rack.
The Prothean beacons stored information
That’s what it gave me in terrible form.
A warning? Of what then? We do not know.
More like a record of war long ago.
Here, in the now, we have been attacked,
A senseless massacre, a pointless act.
What would the Geth want on Eden Prime?
They took not the beacon, and left no sign
Of interest in anything there but death,
And that with heedless, wanton, zealousness.
Yet they may indeed have read the beacon.
As I did unknowingly without seeking.
What good to them would monstrous visions be?
What good to anyone, such sights to see?
Anderson posits his theory to me.
Saren thinks men a blight on the galaxy.
This attack was an act of war.
He wants to kill men. And he will kill more.
With an army of Geth at his command,
No colony now is safe from his hand.
But still it’s that beacon that fills up my mind.
I can’t just dismiss it and put it behind.

~ Stanza 3 · The First Contact War ~

When first man left the Charon Relay
Forging forward into space
We sailed unfettered along the way
Exploring every place
And opening up all relays we found
Surging onward in leaps and bounds
In a gleeful, boundless race.
‘Til a Turian vessel found us at work
At an unknown fast shut relay
And in a moment foolishness
They did not bid us stay
Teach us the reasons, ask us never more
To open a door and let terror and war
Loose where our homeworlds lay.
Instead a rash captain called an attack.
Of course, we at once struck violently back.
In the stretches of space our starships clashed
Then on Shanxti colony the Turians lashed.
At the might of their coming the defence was unmanned.
They surrendered, they fell to Turian hands
Our reprisal was swift and fierce and hard
Every vessel from out of the yards
Every marine and every spaceman
Bore down on the fields of Shanxti again.
And the Alliance banner was raised once more
Over hills and homes ravaged by fire and war.
The Council stepped in and arbitrated
A treaty of piece, and peace was created.
Now my generation never saw
A time when the treaty was not law.
On the high Citadel our Embassy sits
Beside the great Council Hall.
It is their duty to listen to this.
They will hear of our folk and their fall.

~ Stanza 4 · The Lieutenant ~

The Med-bay opens to a central Hall,
Low ceilinged, warm-lit, and pleasant withal.
The Mess can be found there, and so can too
Many an off-duty band of the crew.
Alenko is there when I leave the bay.
As I go to pass by him, I hear him say:
‘I’m glad that you’re up and about now, Ma’am.’
So I turn aside to speak with the man.
The vision hangs like a sword o’er my head
And the fearful attack, the swarms of the dead…
I welcome the sight of the kind, open face,
The soft-spoken words as we two retrace
The strange path we tread but hours ago,
Speak of his friend left behind, and the foe,
Of our fathers who both served long years ago,
Talk shop, we’re biotics, and share what we know,
Speak, of this beautiful, perilous, dark, and aglow
Galaxy we’ve only started know.

~ Stanza 5 · Into the Serpent Nebula ~

The Normandy’s swift, far swifter than light.
On our own drive core we outpace in flight,
The beams of the stars, the Milkyway’s blaze
We leave them behind and fly past their rays.
She takes the final mass relay
But days from the battle, though so far away.
We burst on vista of lavender light.
The great Serpent Nebula’s glowing alight
With the blazing of stars in their infancy
Young starlets and white, old vapours and bright
Radiant purple transparency.
Wreathed in the mists of this wavering cloud
Floats a vast silver structure, ancient and proud.
From a huge central ring, five wings fly out
Long, smooth, and curved, revolving about.
We skim through the billows, plunge through the veils
Towards this, the Citadel, rich of old tales.
From the Bridge where I, with my ground team, stand,
Prepared to disembark, as soon as we land,
I see the vast arms sliding by, ships in flight,
And one mammoth vessel of beauty and might,
A fleck beside it, is the Normandy
A gnat beside a monarch of the sea.
‘Look at that monster!’
Williams cries
A light of delight shining bright in her eyes.
‘She’s the Ascension. Asari flagship.’
Alenko supplies. I hear Joker quip
Something about its guns and its size.
But I see she is graceful, like our fair allies.
Yet she’s nothing like so large, not nearly,
As was the dark shape which hung over the valley.

~ Stanza 6 · Aboard the Presidium ~

We dock aboard the Presidium Ring
And walk among trees and fountains that sing.
Its like a deep canyon; a lake runs below
And above, the young sun-stars shine white as snow.
Along leafy terraces and through lofty halls,
Anderson leads us three, past waterfalls.
Around us are Turians, fierce and tall
The froggy Salarians, lithe and small
Asari star-women, blue and fair
And aliens stranger – their sounds fill the air.
Through the bud in my ear their words filter through
In translated syllables lucid and true.
‘I can’t tell the aliens from the animals.’
Williams remarks in an undertone drawl.
I glance over annoyed at this discourtesy
But she looks back quite innocently.
Great monuments stand alongside the streams.
There many a hero of old wars gleams.
Krogans, rough hewn, and lovely Asari
Stand tall beside many an alien tree.
And one, a mass relay, stands all alone
In a bed of white flowers, just freshly blown.
Alenko seems to be struck by it somehow.
It’s only a statue, doesn’t work anyhow.
Yet he stops and listens – where I can hear naught
Neither can Williams. It’s mere steel fine-wrought.
Far up in an office, high o’er the lake,
Earth’s Ambassador, Udina, awaits;
A surly, beetle-browed, frustrated man
Grumbling as loudly as grumble he can.
He’s displeased with the Citadel Council.
He’s displeased at the sight of us three.
He’s displeased with the state of the hearings.
And he’s displeased especially with me.
The colony attacked, the beacon destroyed…
Pure, wretched disaster, quite unalloyed.
They were considering you for a Spectre, see?
Now what this will do to your candidacy-’
Spectres are the Council’s most elite agents;
“Special Tactics and Reconnaisance.”
No human has ever been named in their ranks
Despite the schemes of political think-tanks.
Yet Nihlus, it seems, put forward my name.
It was partly for this on our shakedown he came,
To look after the beacon, but study me too
The ranks of the Spectres have always been few.
No wonder Udina’s so wroth and so red.
The beacon is lost and that hope is sped.

~ Stanza 7 · The Council ~

In the domed Council courtyard of warm rosy hue
Dressed in Citadel Security blue
We meet a young Turian, bright-eyed and trim,
His name is Garrus Vakarian,
An investigator assigned to the case.
He speaks with fury of this blot on his race
nd expresses frustration he’s had no more time
To build a good case o’er this heinous crime.
‘Saren’s a Turian. Why so eager?’
‘For justice! He’s guilty. I see that quite clear!’
The Citadel Council is made up of three
Salarian, Turian, and Asari.
Each stands for their race in this ancient place
The political meeting ground of Milky-Way space.
The Ambassador’s fears prove justified.
The councillors list not to his diatribe
Against their great agent, their Spectre bold
Not on such evidence as we have told.
They regret the attack, but they will not blame him.
They call it a raid on the council-space rim.
Saren is not even present and there.
He attends as a hologram standing on air
And scoffs at the word of a single dock-worker
Especially such an obvious shirker.
The Citadel Council will not disavow.
They’ve had other false accusations ere now.

~ Stanza 8 · Searching for Leads ~

Initial dismissal stops not our case.
We reconnoitre and pick up the pace.
If we believe truly, and he has gone rogue,
There’ll be other matters wherein it is told.
From here on the Citadel we can well reach
Numerous networks and search for a breach
In Saren’s cover and catch him in speech,
When he slipped up, or when overreached.
Many leads we follow up, many trails of facts we search,
Through the record’s sordid tales, look for things that do not work,
Combing, combing, finding out, little tips and hints that lurk,
Digging, digging, turning up, making contacts in the murk.
We pick up the trail of a Quarian girl
Of whom a ‘Shadow Broker’ agent heard
She called on C-Sec shortly since
With a claim to have damning evidence
‘Gainst an unnamed spectre who had done ill
But the cop on duty wrote her off as a shill.
Following sightings and news reports
My team heads to a clinic, down in the wards.
It’s more like a space station here below,
Clean and bright still, but no sunlight like snow.
With slow plodding steps the Elcor move
On their four trunk-like limbs, while silent and smooth
The strange Hanar people glide by in the air
Like aerial jellyfish, and, here and there
We see in the passages straight human forms.
And sometimes a keeper, six-legged and forlorn.
No word do these speak, and they never look up
Just trudge along with steps oddly abrupt.
They call them the keepers, for they keep this place
Like a strange, taciturn, dwindled janitor race.

~ Stanza 9 · In the Clinic ~

The clinic seems to be closed at first
But the door is unlocked. The latch is burst.
Thus clearly invited, we slip inside
Soft down a hall, to a room low and wide.
A doctor struggles in a gunman’s grasp,
His voice shouts threats with the sound of a rasp
But not to her and not to us.
Another is here, beyond in the dusk.
The captor’s gun’s in the doctor’s face.
I hear her breathing loud with fear
I shout and he looks for a moment’s space.
A rifle cries out sharp and near.
‘Fancy seeing you here, Shepard.
Thanks for the distraction.’
The gunman falls to the floor of the ward.
And out steps Garrus Vakarian.
The doctor’s alright, just shaken and bruised,
The gunman had asked, and she had refused
To tell tales of a Quarian who’d sought help from her
But she’s glad to tell lawful investigators.
Vakarian’s too, is on the Quarian’s trail.
He cannot believe how bad C-Sec failed.
The doctor well remembers the girl,
A young thing; enviro-suit purple with swirls.
Her wounds were light, but she seemed in danger,
And asked the doctor of the Shadow Broker.
An odd question that, but the doctor knew
Of a nearby agent, who she sent her to,
A local bar owner, named Amos Fist.
We check on him through the agent we know.
Yes, Fist was, a while ago
But now a Spectre connection exists….
We go at once, the girl is in peril.
She’s gone straight to Saren and may well be killed.
With us comes eager Garrus Vakarian.
He’s done with C-Sec. But not done with Saren.

~ Stanza 10 · Battle in the Wards ~

Garrus knows where this ‘Fist’ can be found
And swift leads us thither, he knows well these grounds,
To seedier places, and dim lit halls,
Far from the sound of the bright waterfalls,
To a back-end nightclub, closed and locked.
He stops at the door, and briskly knocks.
Perhaps we four look too military.
Perhaps our approach is far too scary.
But rather than asking us what we want
Or pretending there’s nobody left at this haunt,
They throw open the doors and gunfire flies.
We have to take cover and dodge to the sides.
We demand to see Fist, but they do not heed.
We fear that they’ve done some dreadful misdeed.
Through the door, to the dance floor, and over the counters
We fight past the armed thugs and big Krogan bouncers.
Even the janitors stand in our path
But they choose to take our advice not our wrath.
Vakarian notes my tack with surprise
‘ “Get a new job”? Well! Smooth improvise.’
Deep in the dark of the back-room office,
We find the hiding miserable Fist,
He thinks his time’s up, expects only death,
And pleads out surrender in quaking breath.
‘We’re not here to kill you. Call off your thugs!’
He sends them off from his place on the rug.
The Quarian came here, not to long ago,
He set up a meeting for her to sell info,
But, she won’t meet the Broker’s men
Those waiting there are assassins of Saren.
With any luck, we’ll re-catch this guy later.
But time is short. The girl is in danger.
We take the swiftest path we can
And reach the appointed dark dead end.
We quietly creep along the way
Listening to movement some ways away.
A young voice speaks, high-pitched, somehow canned.
‘Where is the Shadow Broker?’
The voice demands.
The answer is low and we cannot hear.
‘No. The deal’s off.’
The young voice holds no fear.
But weapons are drawn and flash in the dark.
Vakarian’s bullet is right on the mark.
The skirmish is brief. The assassins are few.
They had not expected me and my crew.
The girl comports herself well, and holds her ground.
She’s used to handling herself from the sound.
But when they’re gone, she thanks us the same
Putting her own naivete to blame.
Tali Zorah Na’rayya’s her name when we ask.
Her face hides behind a dark purple mask.
She hears our story of Saren and strife
‘Why then, I can thank you for saving my life.’
She recently encountered a troupe of Geth
Took down several, and escaped the rest.
She salvaged data from one’s memory banks
It was partly burned out and mostly blank
But she found a recording worth digging for,
Proud gloating words, heard just days before.

~ Stanza 11 · The Reapers ~

The checks are all run, the voice test bears out
The data’s combed back, origins check out.
The speaker is Saren, the listener Geth
Recorded but hours past the colonist’s deaths.
‘Eden Prime was a major victory.’
– His voice is filled with a terrible glee –
‘We’re one step closer to finding it.
One step closer to the Conduit.’
Then another voice, mellow and deeper:
‘And closer to the return of the Reapers.’
Reapers? Her voice, so low and so smooth
Crawls through my nerves, and I cannot but choose
That a sharp deadly chill takes ahold in my breast.
It reminds me of something – but I can’t see the rest.
As far as Tali can tell from Geth lore
The ‘Reapers’ fought in an ancient war.
Great terrible beings, nature unknown,
Who wiped out the Protheans, left crumbled stone,
The long silent beacon looms in my mind
The complete devastation, end of the line….
What is this conduit? None of us know.
Nor have our networks an answer to show.
He was there for the beacon, I am sure now.
And he read it, as I did, and understood it somehow.

~ Stanza 12 · Spectre ~

Back to the Council, we take his foul words
It’s been substantiated. This time we’re heard.
But Saren ignores the formal summons
He breaks off contact. He is not coming.
In the Council’s great Presidium hall,
A airy bastion broad and tall,
Warm with bronze leaves, yet smelling of spring
Filled the voices of warblers that sing,
The Council pronounces judgement on Saren
Tried in absentia for crimes against humans,
For perjury, treason, and acts of war
He’s stripped of his status. His funding is torn,
And he is declared a fugitive.
But they don’t propose steps more punitive.
They won’t send out ships to take the rogue down.
Last heard, he was in much contested ground.
Oh, the political ramifications….
Udina can’t swerve their determination.
And they will not hear of this ‘Conduit’
They say that the ‘Reapers’ are clearly a myth
Which Saren is using to win Geth support
A self-dooming way to set-up rapports.
But the beacon-
No, they won’t hear of that.
The Protheans fought too, and that is that.
‘Send me.
I, as your agent, could take it on as a case.
And my ship can go silent in Terminus Space.’
A moment of quiet. Then the Asari
Look to her fellows, looks back to me.
And I am named the first Human Spectre.
The Council’s ‘right-hand’, galactic protector
And told to go out and hunt down the traitor.

~ Stanza 13 · The Merc ~

Garrus comes with us, to finish the mission,
Avenge the fallen, vanquish the villain.
The Normandy strike-team is very small
For stealth, not fighting, we three are all.
A Turian could be of great help here
So I take him on as an irregular.
I also take Tali, the Quarian girl
She’s on a pilgrimige, travelling the world.
She’s smart and she’s able, and she asked the favour,
Which – after her intel, – how could I not grant her?
Also, the Quarians know the Geth best
Her knowledge may help in the coming unrest.
Straight from the Council, to the Normandy I go,
With Garrus, Tali, Williams, and Alenko.
But on our way there a Krogan meets us,
A great monstrous hulk with a blunderbuss.
He’s taller than Garrus and broader by far.
His wide yellow face is criss-crossed with scars.
His huge head is capped with a horny red crown.
His great humped back looms in the background.
He calls me by name, in a deep gruff growl,
Transfixing me with his alien scowl.
He had a job. That bar owner, Fist.
He wasn’t re-captured, the C-Sec raid missed.
We left him with such a fear for his skin
That he’s fled this station which we are in.
‘That was my job! And you did it instead.’
The Krogan looms grimly over my head.
‘And so! … I’m transferring the credits to you.
I don’t accept funds for things I didn’t do.’
That was … unexpected. I let go my gun.
As I rather expect my crewmen have done.
The Krogan’s quite friendly, name’s Urdnot Wrex,
He cheerfully offers his gun for my project.
He knows that Saren’s been named an outlaw
I’ve just been named Spectre. Coincidence? Pshaw!
He knows what’s up. And he wants in on it.
That’s where the action is. It’s just his fit.
A great hulking merc who’ll switch on a whim?
I go to refuse. I wouldn’t take him!
But … I don’t know, I can’t send him away.
He stands there grinning a few feet away,
Big, ugly, uncouth, a dirty hit-man.
A mercenary’s a thing I can’t stand!
But each time I go to say those few words
My voice dries in my throat. They are never heard.
I reach out and take his huge horny hand
‘Welcome aboard, Wrex.’
And he joins the band.

~ Stanza 14 · Farewell to the Captain ~

The Captain stands by the Normandy dock
Waiting outside the open airlock.
Udina’s there also, haughty and pleased.
They have advice for me, possible leads
There’ve been more Geth sightings since the attack.
A far distant colony’s reported back,
With tales of metallic, agile men
Haunting the cliff banks, lurking the fens.
A private research station exists
Hid in Noveria’s icy mists.
Supervision is low, security tight,
And Saren has ties there, out of the light.
And the lonesome voice from the Geth’s record
The one who spoke that terrible word
Belongs to one ‘Matriarch Benezia’
Of the Asari intelligentsia.
A well known elder, ancient and wise.
She’s long travelled space to help and advise
Her scattered people and other folk too
She’s not known to hate humans, or ever bring rue.
She has one daughter, Liara T’Soni
A scholar of Prothean archaeology,
… Who might be of help for her speciality.
But also, family of his inner ring
Might have insight on what Saren’s planning,
ight even know where her mother is now.
Last heard she was headed to Artemis Tau,
To an unspecified Prothean ruin.
But though they are many, they aren’t common things.
Anderson speaks of these much to me
As though I were captain, instead of he.
‘But, Captain,’ I say, ‘aren’t you coming too?’
He shakes his black head and bids us adieu.
‘A Spectre needs their own command, Shepard.
The Normandy’s yours now. Take care of her.’
Somewhere up the line the call has been made,
And though he is always steady and staid,
His voice is regretful, his words become few.
He bids us goodbye, the best man of our crew.
We leave him behind, alone on the dock.
I raise my hand to him; close the airlock.

The Normandy glides back out into space,
Out into the burning lavender waste.
The Citadel flickers and fades away
Lost in the haze of the endless day
I turn my gaze away from the station,
Away from my captain, to the constellations.
‘Attention all hands! This is the Commander.
You know we’ve been sent to catch the rogue Spectre.
But it’s not merely to justly avenge
Far more than that on our mission depends.
He’s searching for something, the “Conduit”.
This only we know; he must not find it!
This isn’t just for our own sake; Humanity.
It may matter to all who live in this Galaxy.
… Take us in to the Relay now, Joker.
Show us what the Normandy has in her.’

 Mass Effect Poetry by Charlotte Ann Kent
   Canto 3 ⇒