A/N For the purposes of our Galaxy the FTL comm buoy network extends along all major trade and routes and wider to cover the Citadel races military needs. But further out, around the edges of the ‘known’ Galaxy and in many parts of the Terminus systems the FTL buoys are replaced with tight beam buoys/satellites which have varying degrees of time delay although they do utilise relays where possible.

Normandy, landed on the Planet Urksone

They had been on the planet for over twelve hours. The death and casualty numbers were not as high as the toll on Taetrus, and thankfully this was not deemed an appropriate environment for children, but they were significant enough.

Shepard had set most of the crew to help with search and rescue. They had also supported the medical personnel to get the mobile hospital up and running which was oversubscribed as soon as it opened its doors.

The site of the second blast was where Shepard, Mordin and Miranda headed. The chemical factory that had stood on the spot was all but obliterated along with the three hundred workers who had been on shift.

“Are we getting any readings at all,” Shepard asked through her suit comms the contamination making full hard suits a sensible option.

“No unlike the previous site it would appear the blast destroyed completely whatever was on or close to this position,” Miranda said still taking scans of the area.

“Would be better to get samples Shepard, may be able find some trace of what was here,” Mordin said taking readings on his omni tool from the drone he had dispatched.

“Ok we’ll get a proper survey team out here but we’ll need most of the ground team to continue working on search and recovery until the cavalry arrive,” Shepard was referring to the two Corporations who had suffered the explosions own emergency services. There was only the barest of Citadel support for Corporation owned planets and the Normandy had delivered all that was coming.

Shepard had taken a break from working alongside her team at the Eezo factory blast site and was waiting in the conference room for the Corporate Inspector that had arrived shortly after the Normandy had landed.

Of course Shepard was doing her own investigation but she wanted to take advantage of this experts’ point of view.

“Thank you for briefing me in person,” Shepard said in a conversational tone offering a handshake to her visitor, “its Inspector Betress?”

“Yes Commander, I’ve been a safety and accident inspector for over fifteen years. And when a Spectre asks you to meet with them it is not wise to refuse,” the human woman was a surprise to Shepard as neither company were human owned. Shepard sensed a nervousness that belied the woman’s confident demeanour.

Shepard smiled, “can I get you a drink? It must have been tough making any kind of assessment given the amount of damage?”

“Well I wouldn’t say no to strong drink, human if you have it,” the woman sat down where Shepard had indicated and after placing a drink down for her guest Shepard continued.

“Have you managed to come to any preliminary conclusions?” Shepard asked already knowing what the answer was going to be.

“Nothing preliminary about my findings Commander, it’s an Eezo factory you only have to put the wrong level of voltage through and you have yourself a very nasty explosion. All the equipment maintenance records were up to date. The data feeds right up to the moment of the explosion all looked normal so the Company isn’t at fault. An accident pure and simple,” the Inspector finished speaking with an air of finality.

Shepard thought for a moment and decided to go for the questioning approach, “Altai Mining Works have a very solid safety record and let’s face it they’ve been processing Eezo longer than humanity even knew it existed,” Shepard could see the woman’s discomfort and pressed on, “their CEO Liyasha Losine is adamant it was not an accident.”

“Well that’s the Asari for you nothing is ever straightforward,” she stood up and was beginning to look extremely agitated, “thank you for the drink but I really must be getting on I have a report to write.”

Shepard stood up and gestured to the door, “of course but I am quite surprised you could come to a conclusion this quickly given the extent of the damage.”

It was a parting shot that wouldn’t have any effect on the outcome but Shepard wanted the woman to know she was not buying the cover up.

The inspector left without responding and Shepard was left to wonder whether this was an insurance fraud or corporate sabotage that she had inadvertently wandered into rather than anything Reaper connected.

Eighteen hours later Shepard led her ground crew up the Normandy hanger ramp and onto the ship. They were all exhausted and filthy dirty from their searching through burned and destroyed buildings for survivors.

The residual heat from the explosion made using thermal imaging drones difficult and when they found signatures that could indicate a trapped survivor they had to manually dig them out.

The mix of eezo, chemicals and heat made it a dangerous environment that could spark into flames or small explosions given the wrong combination of factors.

Shepard’s survey team had completed their search of the secondary site and were processing the results in the Lab but Mordin had given her a preliminary report an hour earlier. There had definitely been some form of Prothean device buried deep under the chemical factory.

She stood at the top of the ramp and gave nods to her crew members as they walked past her.

“Well done,” Shepard said and followed it up with, “you saved lives today good job.”

It had been bloody. They found more body parts than they did survivors but without the Normandy more would have died without treatment not just from their blast and burn injuries but the toxic poisoning from both the eezo and chemical factories.

And they had pulled out twenty survivors although not all of them would survive.

When all her crew were back on board she followed them to the lifts but her first stop was the CIC rather than the hot shower, food and rest which is what she had ordered for her ground teams.

“Joker get us off this rock and set course for Thessia,” Shepard said placing her helmet down next to the tactical station she was standing alongside.

“Commander you need to get some food and some rest as well,” Miranda said as she came to stand next to Shepard.

Shepard smiled, “aw come on Miranda you built me stronger than that.”

“I’m more concerned with your lack of sleep Commander,” Miranda said quietly so other crew members couldn’t hear.

Shepard gave her a nod, “yeah I’ll just catch up with Mordin, make my report to the Council

Chapter 59