Thanks to Reikson.
Kaidan Alenko hacked his way through a door that lead into a warehouse. They should be two floors above Xander's team and would meet them inside.
The door opened reveal to a Geth Shock Trooper handling a shotgun. A burst of plasma streaked across the narrow space and Kaidan reflexively raised a Barrier but the shot exploded against a force shield before it ever reached him.
He looked around and noticed Liara T'soni standing just behind him, a hand raised and her eyes glowing with power. She had generated the force field.
"Nice, Doc. As Xander is fond of saying; always bet on the blue girl." Shepard smirked.
Kaidan nodded. "Get ready to drop your Barrier, Doctor T'soni." he said, raising his omni-tool, ready to fire an Overload at the Geth.
At his nod, Liara's Barrier shimmered and died as Kaidan made the Geth's shield short out. Shepard brought up her shotgun, hurling the Geth backwards with a fiery blast of incendiary-modded shot.
But several Salarians were now charging them, their guns barking. Shepard fired another blast at a nearby containment pod, which exploded and sent cryogenic gas spewing into the air.
The Salarians stumbled but kept on coming, screeching incoherently as they ran towards them. Liara's arms swept forward, moving like a ballerina as her biotic energies swirled around her. Several of the attacking Salarians were thrown into the air, smacking into walls and floors.
Kaidan felt a little jealous. For humans, biotics were still a raw, new thing, a tool and sometimes a weapon. For Asari, biotic power was an extension of their bodies; a part of the self.
A sweeping hand created a Pull field that snatched a weapon from the hands of its dazed owner.
A sweeping foot created a Lift field or a Throw that tossed enemies around the room like they were toys.
A palm thrust sent a Warp at the few remaining Geth, a violent storm of gravitational power ripping several of them apart.
Freezing others in their place with powerful Stasis fields.
Watching Liara use her abilities was like watching... magic. Or, at least, what Kaidan thought that real magic, if such a thing existed, would look like.
Shepard looked at the Salarians lying on the floor.
"Captain Kirrahe's men. But why are they fighting with the Geth?"
"Brainwashing, maybe? But can you brainwash a Salarian? I thought they were, like, super-smart." Kaidan pondered.
"Intelligence is no protection against mental domination, Lieutenant," Liara
explained. "One needs only to have a will strong enough to overpower a mind's defenses."
"Can you do it?"
Liara shook her head. "No, my abilities are more combat-oriented."
Kaidan sensed the Asari was holding something back. "...But you've heard of the ability. You've heard of Asari who have that ability?"
"My mother has the ability. Abilities like Dominate will often appear in families with..." She paused, as if embarrassed, "Purebloods... they often retain abilities like Reave as well."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." he speculated.
"Purebloods are prone to certain genetic abnormalities that are considered... shameful. The biotic abilites they possess are often seen as signs of their genetic weakness, a mark of their inferiority."
"Genetic weakness? Inferiority? You've got to be shitting me." Disbelief colored Kaidan's words.
"I am not... shitting... you, Lieutenant." Liara replied flatly. "The Asari place great value in genetic and cultural diversity. Conversely, Asari see pureblood offspring as... promoting weakness and stagnation; they are... embarrassments."
"Doesn't that seem a little... bigoted?" he ventured, not really wanting to tread what was clearly a sensitive subject.
"I assure you, Lieutenant, few Asari would ever discuss things like this openly with an outsider."
"...and yet you seem okay with talking about it. Why?"
"I am a pureblood. I see no shame in what I am and as for how I am treated by my own kind... well, there's a reason that I've spent the last fifty years on isolated worlds studying a dead species."
Shepard was silent. She'd discussed most of this with Liara in private, especially after encountering Benezia on Noveria. To hear Liara talk about it so openly, however, with her voice raw and stripped of emotion... It was sobering to hear Liara speak so openly.
A part of her, that she'd tried to ignore for a long time, began to tug at her insides. That part of her wanted to reach out to the young Asari, to hold her and, if she could, to protect her as well.
Kaidan kept the rest of his thoughts to himself as the three of them moved further into the base. Opening a door, they could look down and saw a series of cages. Shepard could see Salarians sealed in them, murmuring to themselves.
"They're just like the others. They barely know we're here, Commander," Kaidan whispered.
"I'm beginning to wonder if breeding Krogan is all they do here?" T'soni mused.
Shepard looked and saw a doorway. "The entrance is through the next room. I want to check this out."
They moved through a door, hearing gunfire in the distance.
"That sounds like Team Two. Let's get this mystery solved before Xander gets here."
Kaidan listed to the sounds. "Sounds as though they're upstairs from us. How'd they get ahead?"
"We'll ask when we see them," Shepard snapped. "Let's focus on the detention level right now."
They opened a door and Liara gasped. The sight of several Salarians crouched in cages and whispering to themselves was horrifying. Shepard grimaced as she walked past them, ignored by all save for a single Salarian in a cage off to the side.
"Hello, is anyone there?" he asked hesitantly.
"Shepard, Council Spectre."
"A Council Spectre out here? On the fringes of Terminus Space?"
"You're STG, right? We got your call for help. The Council thought that sending me was better than a whole fleet. Your Captain's attacking the front of the base, we're the shadow team."
"Gonto Imnes. I was captured while on recon. If I know the Captain, he'll be planning on blowing the facility."
Shepard nodded. "That's the plan. You know where the breeding pens are?"
"Breeding," Imness snorted. "The Krogan aren't nearly the threat that the indoctrination is."
"I was wondering about that. I've met some of your fellows. They're fighting for Saren now."
"They've been indoctrinated, all of them. I've never seen anything like it. Good men turned into mindless husks."
"Most succumbed within a week. Some kind of energy field, I've even detected signs of infrasound. Saren's doing something else with the Krogan. Injections; the substance is some kind of nanotech suspended in a fluidic compound. One hit and a process that normally takes days happens in seconds."
"His genophage cure." Shepard realized.
Imness nodded. "I don't know how it works, but it only takes one injection. And the Asari that I spoke to, she said that once it's in their system, it'll not only affects them but any progeny that they produce."
"Asari? You mean Benezia or someone else?"
Imness shook his head. "Her name's Rana Thanoptis. She's a researcher. Saren keeps her and that human doctor busy upstairs, but she came down here today, let out a bunch of my people, and armed them."
"You mean your fellow soldiers? They've all had this done to them? What could've possessed Saren to do something this despicable?" Liara asked, her voice a mix of fear and disgust.
"I think he's testing it, trying to find a way to control the process or even..."
"...reverse it," Shepard whispered. Then it hit her. "He isn't in control. He must be afraid of relying on it too much."
A door opened at the top and they looked up to see Xander, Wrex, and Garrus crossing the balcony.
"Sorry, boss!" Xander called out. "We got a little ahead, busted up a lab, and killed ourselves a Krogan scientist."
Garrus sighed, "Krogan and scientist... there's two words that I never thought I'd hear together."
"Anyhow," Xander said pointedly. "Wrex got a hold of that genophage cure."
Kaidan saw Shepard's lips curl in anger. "Did he take it?" she demanded.
"Nah, he wanted to see how it works first. Maybe figure out how to make more of it." Garrus rumbled.
"Get down here, NOW!" she snarled.
The three jogged back through the lab and came though the door. Shepard reached out and grabbed Wrex, force-marching him bodily across the floor and steering him to look at the Salarians.
"This is what your damn cure does. This is what you become. He injected that garbage into them and he did the same to your people, Wrex. It turns them into these mindless lumps!"
Wrex looked at the Salarians and the way they were staring at the open door of their cell and how they didn't react at all.
"They're barely alive, Wrex," she hissed. "They'd let varren gnaw off their limbs if Saren told them to ignore it. So is that what you want for them? Is this all that you think the Krogan are worth?"
"I'd rather be dead then live like that." Wrex muttered.
Shepard held out her hand. "Give it to me, then," she ordered.
Wrex dropped the vial, glowing with a sinister blue light, into her hand. She tossed the vial into the air, drew her pistol, and shattered the fragile tube with a single shot.
"I get that you want to free your people, Wrex. But this... this isn't freedom. It's the worst kind of slavery. And if this is what the Krogan have to become, they'd be better off dead."
They looked at each other a moment before Shepard nodded decisively and turned to Xander.
"Sergeant, if you could let Mister Imness out of his cell? I'm sure that he'd like to get as far away from this facility as possible before it's a smoking crater."
Xander opened Imness's cell and watched the Salarian as he stepped out and walked past the cell with his fellow soldiers. The immortal wondered if the shudder that went through Imness was from weakness or the pain of seeing what had happened to his fellow soldiers.
"Don't look back and hope to avoid the blast, huh? A better chance then I had before you showed up. Good luck, human. I think you'll need it."
Kaidan watched the other Salarians sadly. "Are you sure there's nothing we can do for them?"
"Leaving them to die in the blast seems cruel," Liara said. "But I suppose it can't be helped."
Xander thought about the months that he'd spent as slave and personal servant to Dracula. Finally, he said, "I'd rather be dead than be left like this."
"Wrex?" Shepard's voice was curt, but her meaning abundantly clear.
Wrex shuddered, still looking at the Salarians with a haunted look on his face. Finally, he said, "Make it quick, Shepard. They're warriors, and once fought like warriors. They deserve to die like warriors as well."
"Agreed." Shepard nodded, taking her pistol in hand.
Kaidan looked at his commander, shocked. "Ma'am, are you sure about this? I mean, just mowing them down, that just seems a little..."
"...no, Lieutenant, it's a lot." she snapped as she fired two rounds into each of the brainwashed Salarians. "You'd honestly leave a fellow soldier to suffer like this? Just so your hands stay clean?" she asked him, her voice cold.
"I took an oath, ma'am. I... I have to live with my conscience."
"...and what happens when your oath and your duty conflict with your conscience? What if the life of your squad depends on you putting your conscience aside for the good of the mission?"
"Thankfully, that hasn't happened."
"Yet, you mean. And that happened to me, Kaidan, and there are soldiers alive today because I did the right thing for them. Not for my conscience, for the people under my command who depended on me for leadership. If I have any regrets about Torfan, it's that I waited too long to do what was necessary."
Then she got in Kaidan's face, his hardsuit in her grip, her lips curled into a snarl.
"I became the Butcher of Torfan by choice, Alenko. But I also did it out of necessity. One day, you'll have to decide what's more important; your clean conscience or your duty. I hope, for the sake of the men depending on you for leadership, that you do the right thing."
Kaidan paled. "Ma'am, I never meant to imply..."
"...Damn right, you did." Shepard hissed. "When you're in command, you get to make that judgment call. But until then, you follow my lead. Is that in any way unclear Lieutenant?"
Then she turned to the rest of the squad. "We're done here, people. Move out."