Calling the ruling body of humanity for a meeting was a rare occurrence, requiring several problems otherwise it would be put off to till the monthly report. Jack Harper was quickly annoying the members of the democratic council as this would be the seventh meeting in a month.
"Commander Harper, I trust you have good reason to be calling us together today?" asked the Japanese elect, the man's stereotype appearance of a wise elder was diminished by the displeased look he had at the sight of the shamed XCOM commander.
Harper remained seated, allowing himself to look weak as he kept his posture bent, and his body language screaming 'tired'. The whole act presented the appearance of a man who was stressed, over worked, and weak. Those who knew Harper personally would never buy the act, in his entire history the man had never experienced a moment of weakness.
"Honored Council," Harper began, "I wish to ask for a new project to be undertaken for the sake of Humanity."
Many eyes narrowed, suspicion increasing, all off them had received the reports of the victory at Altakiril. The death tolls had been high, but well within tolerable levels and below the projected casualties. More than a few suspected that someone would use the victory to push for something, they just didn't think Harper would be the one so bold. "I wish for us to continue with the gains we made during operation outbreak, and choose more of the Ethereal races to use as troops for the continuing war."
The Council chambers erupted in chatter and outrage. Harper checked another mark on his list as things progressed as expected.
"What the hell is wrong with you Harper!" one man accused, red faced and spittle flying, "Operation outbreak was a disaster of biblical proportions! Why in the name of God would we allow you to even think of using your bastard monsters a second time!?"
Harper looked at the bellowing man, "For two reasons. I don't intend for us to use the Chryssalids again, and I don't intend for XCOM to be in charge of this project."
The sudden shift of Harper's usual methods caused more than a few minds to mentally jam. The room was flooded again as the Council bickered among itself. Many argued for the Fleet to have control of the project, headed by their own favored person. Others argued for the marines and another puppet of choice. The chatter went on for minutes, as each member argued over the who and what's, as long as it wasn't the slippery director running the show.
Finally, after a quarter of an hour of debate Frank Hummel stood from his seat and demanded the floor in a commanding voice. "What's your game Harper?" the brigadier general boldly accused, "Invictus was a disaster, and according to Intelligence delivered by your people there are still pockets of the mutated Chryssalids popping up on the borders of Turian space! Yet here you are saying you want us to resurrect more of the Ethereal monsters?"
Harper held up a lazy finger in polite protest, showing a little more energy in his step, "Resurrection implies that the creatures I had in mind were living to begin with."
"Meaning?" Hummel growled out with his usual dislike for the Commander.
"When the Ethereal attacked us years ago they had with them synthetic reinforcements. We use their repair drones for maintenance and construction, during the last census there are over six billion drones by the way, so why not use their weapons to fight our war." Harper reasoned, trying to be diplomatic. It wouldn't do to play the ace in the hole too soon or too often. "Every Sectopod that marches on a Turian bunker would replace the half a dozen human lives needed to properly crew a tank. Outsiders could be used to replace guards in the field, allowing our people rest. A Cyberdisk supporting a squad would be nearly twice as combat effective. Seekers could be used to ambush the enemy on any terrain. Even a Mechtoid could become an asset if used properly."
Harper looked at the pensive looks of the surrounding people, he caught Hummel giving him a nearly imperceptible nod. "Councilors, on Altakiril we saw vast numbers of our people die to prevent our extinction. Without the new warheads we would have lost when the Citadel reinforcements struck. Technology is not enough!" Harper proclaimed, "XCOM has stood guard over the DNA and designs of our enemies for two centuries, now we need numbers and allies. Once again I say we should use the power of our old enemies against the new! We cannot claim to give a damn about the people we lead, either at home or on the battlefield, if we do nothing to preserve the lives of those who fight for our freedom!"
The chatter started up a third time, many consulting with each other over this passionate speech. Hummel stood again, "Who would you have lead this project commander?" Hummel questioned bitingly, "After all it's obvious that unlike last time you thought this out."
Harper glared, finally standing to his feet, "How about you, Brigadier-general?" sarcastically bit back, slyly faking a loss of his self control, "you've done nothing to support this war effort apart from sitting on your ass!"
Hummel slammed his hands on his table in his own calculated display of rage, "Says the war hawk!" he spat out with venom, "You and your little elites' actions are the reason that the best we can ever hope for is a paper thin peace in this galaxy. If operation outbreak is ever revealed the galaxy would purge us all to the last man and child! Now you're trying to get us to bring back the nightmares from years ago! I know you and I know this is nothing more than one of your schemes!" he accused in his faux-display of rage.
More than one of the councilors leapt to their feet before the shouting match became a battle of blows. "Gentlemen! Stand down!" the Canadian rep commanded, the burly bearded politician making it clear that he could separate them by force if needed. John Stanton had been a XCOM major before retiring and while he respected Harper and Hummel, he would not hesitate to put an end to a conflict.
Both men glared at their rival with venom and fury burning in their eyes. Hummel stood defiant, hands clenched. Harper had retaken his seat, a snarl etched on his face.
The Canadian rep decided to stop the pissing match where it was, "Seeing how Harper failed to properly control the experiment the last time, I nominate Brigadier-General Hummel to be head of the new Resurrection Project. Who will second the movement?"
Hummel was quickly approved, to both Harper and Hummel's pleasure.
"Is there any other business to handle today commander?"
Harper took a moment to regain his composure and make sure his worn and weary act was still in place. "I would like to have XCOM personnel currently infiltrating the Citadel take a more active role. Due to the Council's recent... decision... I am required to request this before I can send the order. As I am sure you are all aware." He stated dryly.
A few members on the Council were annoyed at that choice already. The new restrictions had given the councilors a more direct control over the XCOM program, but also caused them no end of annoyance as the paperwork and daily reports alone flooded them. It was almost enough to make them revoke the choice.
"For what reason do you wish to reassign these soldiers," questioned a rep,"and for what reason?"
"The Turian forces on the Citadel have been displaying unusual behavior. Capturing Quarians for unknown reasons, transporting materials to and from a laboratory on the Citadel without using the security checkpoints, and finally..." Harper pulled up an image of a dead Chryssalid being dissected by an Asari in medical garb. Standing next her were two armed Turian guards, "The Turians have samples of the Chryssalids that they are doing god knows what with."
If the council had been upset before they were pissed now.
Hummel glared at the Commander, "I think I speak for the council as a whole when I say we want those samples destroyed." There were numerous calls of agreement. The thought of a Turian controlled Chryssalid was terrifying.
Harper stood proudly before the council, revealing more of his usual energy, "Invictus was my fault and a result of my poor judgment. As such, I will personally lead the operation and make this XCOM's priority mission."
The councilors agreed, leaving Harper to take his leave. The commander was on his personal comm before the doors of the council chambers had closed behind him.
"Ready the AXF Savior. Prepare all available black-ops squadrons. We have a mission."
Matriarch Nalia De'Nair was young by the standards of her people, having just taken the title of Matriarch less than three cycles before. Her family was not rich, influential, or even well known. There was nothing remarkable about her.
Nalia was a rookie diplomat, still technically under review before becoming a full Diplomat for the Asari people, yet now she was staring at the remains of the once unbeatable Citadel Assault Fleet that floated over Altakiril. Nalia's first assignment for the Council had once been thought of as her big break, now it would inevitably be the cause of her future nightmares. Before her eyes the mix of the strongest ship designs and greatest talent hadn't made a difference against the Alliance barrage. The three hundred strong assault force had died in a cerulean flash.
Whatever weapon the Alliance had concocted, it was undeniably effective. The orbit of Altakiril was littered with the wreckage and debris of nearly a thousand starships as proof. The void claimed dead floating with the wreckage only enforced Nalia's view that humanity was a threat.
The crew were justifiably terrified, it took minutes before any of them worked up the nerve to move much less talk, "Matriarch, what do we do?" one of them asked, a tremor of fear clear in the maidens voice.
Nalia had wanted to be a diplomat as a casual career at the end of her life, something to do in her twilight years, not be her cause of death. "Make sure the defensive guns are offline, lower all the shields except the basics. Make the ship look as nonthreatening as possible."
Nalia chewed her lower lip, hesitant to make the next order, her eyes still refusing to look at the terrifying scene before her. "Broadcast the first contact package on all frequencies, and pray to any goddess that will listen for our survival."
The comm officer of the Alliance Flagship Daedalus was shocked when the transmission was detected, a broadband signal transmitted on several mediums. It was obvious and detectable even by radio wave receivers. It was the kind of sign you put out when encountering something new...
"Sir, we're receiving some sort of signal from near the relay! Appears to be a first contact package."
General Williams joyous mood from his victory hours prior was cut short. "Report!" he barked, his mind shifting and ready to fight once again. "The reinforcements from Earth won't arrive for another six hours."
The Officer was on his A-game, the message downloading and translating as he made his notification, "It is a first contact package, audio and visual. Do you want me to play it?"
Williams nodded, still wondering how well they could defend against a third wave. "Put it on the main screen."
The first part of the video was short, sweet, innocent, and peaceful. Pictures of Alien children at play, images of DNA sequences and pictures of planets. The next part took a moment to understand. It showed an image of a roughly designed star ship firing at a clearly Asari ship, then flashes of black and a symbol that seemed to be their version of a 'do not' marking. It then showed the two ships undergoing a crude docking, if the pipe connecting the two was any indication.
"Sir, am I hallucinating?" Asked one crew member, "Are they seriously asking for us to talk to them? Didn't they just send a huge fleet to wipe us out?"
"Now I know what Harper feels like playing politics." Williams thought, feeling a potential headache brewing, "They just tried to end us, why the fuck would they try to talk to us?"
"What are the scanners telling us?" Williams asked, "Is something else coming out of the Relay?"
"Negative, sir. The Relay is currently dormant, no signs of activation. Fleet scanners show the signal is coming from beside the Relay. Energy signatures are small, possibly a civilian vessel."
"Send a Hyperwave transmission to Earth." Williams commanded, "This is beyond us now."
"Just what the hell are they playing at?" He wondered.
In warfare, gaining knowledge of your enemies is of the highest priority.
Troop placement could tell you if you had an advantage. Knowing the enemy biology could tell you ways to capture, kill or incapacitate. If you know the enemy armaments you can tell how well they can defend. Finally, if you can learn of the enemy chain of command you can predict, mislead, and counter their movements. In short, know your enemy and you hold an advantage.
After the Ethereal war the Alliance had a policy of learning everything the can about any extraterrestrial encountered. The moment they sent the first deep space probe in search of the Ethereal survivors and found the Citadel races instead, plans were made. Drones were sent to read and record any signals discovered. Any wrecked ships discovered were turned to scientific salvage. Special model MEC troops, both drone and human, were dispatched to watch over places of interest. It was a major movement in preparation for a threat that might never have occurred.
However, it did occur. The moment the Shanxi Relay Scientific team was reported to be shot down, the Alliance prepared for a long drawn out war. Like putting together a puzzle they took every piece of information they had extracted from every source available and put it together.
Some pieces were unfinished, some incomplete, many were without context. It didn't matter if it was incomplete – every little bit helped. Fashion tips could tell you about the enemy methods of fabrication. A series of news articles on a new transport ship design helped scientists predict a military counterpart. Even messages of entertainment methods contributed to the knowledge of how the various species thought.
However trying to acquire knowledge on one species was difficult, even in peacetime. Double the difficulty if you tried to keep your hidden cold war secret, triple it for every additional species. The Citadel was occupied by ten species. To learn and gain valid information from any of them needed more than little snippets. First hand experience would be needed. Records, logs of history, blue prints and designs. The lifeblood of a society.
Thus, Alliance Infiltrators were deployed.
Unlike the brutal machines that were their XCOM counterpart, Alliance Infiltrators used soft touch stealth operations. They were the ones who stayed behind enemy lines, impersonated the enemy and used every ounce of their training to gain more knowledge for the human race.
Alliance Infiltrators were trained in deep cover espionage, their psychic abilities honed to steal information from those around them without a trace. The best and most dedicated would undergo extensive surgeries to mimic a target identity, changing them down to a genetic level if needed. The strongest psychics could even take new bodies, using the powers of their mind to re-write the identity and transplant themselves into a new disguise in the event that they were ever discovered.
The Earth Systems Alliance had twenty-seven infiltrators concealed within the ranks of the estimated thirteen million aboard the Citadel space station. Deployed directly after Shanxi, they had been on the citadel a little over four months spending their time constantly digging for information, hidden by various disguises.
Commander Gerard Du Gale looked over the pristine scenery of the tranquil Citadel Presidium from behind the comfort of a window. The offices of a dozen diplomats surrounded the janitor's office he hid in. "Sargent Miller, please tell me your almost done re-wiring that console?"
Sargent Miller wanted to glare at the CO. "Sir it takes time to bridge between Earth tech and this Citadel crap. The fuckers don't even use wire, just this crappy omni-tool holographic garbage."
"The Turian diplomat is going to be back in three hours, you need to have that console under our command before then." Du Gale pressed a finger to his comm set, "Jefferson, Status."
"Snipers in position commander." whispered the reply, "C-Sec officers in the area are neutralized and concealed. All clear for phase two."
"The disguises are working. " A Russian accent replied, "We've been getting shifty eyes from Turians, but the other breeds are ignoring us. No conflict so far, ready to cover if needed."
"All teams get ready to move, once Miller gets control of security we move in. Remember, speak Quarian, act Quarian, make sure you fall back or fake a panic if your disguise gets damaged. If a human is spotted on the Citadel we'll be pinned by the Turians before we could dream of an evac."
"Uh, commander?" Jefferson cut in, "There is an unknown Quarian moving fast to your position. He's armed."
"Keep an eye on him, he might not be here for us."
"Rodger that." the sniper leader replied.
The Quarian in question ignored the surrounding people, boldly moving his way to the Turian councilor's office door. The snipers following his movements, ready for a swift execution if needed, when they noticed an oddity, "Commander, aren't the Quarians anti-robotic? This one has metal arms, looks like he's got enough tech to have a built in computer too!"
"Hold your fire. He could end up being an asset if we're lucky."
The questionable Quarian looked around, suspicious of watchers or cameras. An Omni-tool interface emerged from his right arm, interfacing with the office security keypad.
Miller jumped as sparks flew from his hijacked console. The once glowing lights of the machine had gone dark. "Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed, rushing to check what had happened, "The Quarian just shut down everything! The whole fucking system is down!"
"Are we still in the clear?" the commander questioned, already preparing for the worst.
The field engineer was already checking, "No sir! Whatever that Quarian did it ripped into the security before shutting it down! Every C-Sec office in this section of the Citadel has received a red alert! We've got minutes until they arrive!"
"Fuck!" Du Gale swore, he paged the surrounding squad members already on the move, "Ground teams, move in! Snipers, weapons hot! We've got incoming people! I want that data before we leave!"
The alert at the Turian Councilor's office wasn't only detected by Citadel Security Quarian's brute force breakthrough of the defenses triggered several standing protocols, firstly that all terminals used by the diplomatic members of the Citadel were forced into a backup and lock down procedure. This was to protect sensitive data. The second was a personal alert was sent directly to Counselor Sparatus' omni-tool. This was to protect Sparatus.
The alert was loud, startling, and unwelcome. The proud Turian glared at his arm when he heard the undesired tone of a security alarm. As quick as he could type with his talons several contingencies were activated, "Commander, someone has infiltrated my office." Sparatus barked into his communicator, "Send a full squadron to investigate, gather the samples, and prepare to call in reinforcements. No matter who is responsible the recovered materials must remain in Turian hands."
The members of the Alliance approached the office as quick as they could without drawing attention. The sudden shifty movement of a dozen Quarians wasn't enough to do more than cause a few murmurs, especially after the Turian ran C-Sec began rounding them up a month ago.
Du Gale had his back pressed to the wall of the Councilor's office, his modified Citadel assault rifle ready, "Levi, Rico! Move!"
The pair moved into the room, Rico aiming for the head of their mysterious Quarian as Levi checked the room for other threats. "Freeze! Don't move!" Rico commanded, keeping his aim steady, "Step away from the console!"
The Quarian complied, keeping its hands open and aloft in a sign of surrender. Inspection of the room complete Levi called back to his team, "Room secured Commander!"
The remaining ten members of the infiltration assault team rushed in, taking defensive positions to cover the doors and windows. Commander DuGale approached the unknown variable that had opened the door for him, "Do you speak Quarian?" he asked professionally, just because it looked like duck, quacked like a duck, did not mean it wasn't some killer android disguised as a Quarian. The figure standing before him dressed as a Quarian and held the same pose as one, but the arms and legs were not Quarian.
The figure crossed its arms. "Who are you? There is no way Migrant Fleet Marines are active on the Citadel." it accused.
Du Gale answered the question with a question of his own, "What do you think about the Turians?" he asked calmly.
"The Turians have been collecting and abusing Quarians for Invictus. They were once the elite military of the galaxy, now they have become a group of war hungry pyjak fuckers."
"Good answer." Du Gale gestured to Rico to lower his rifle, "I suppose you could say we are a Quarian special interest group." Du Gale said, "We're here to gain access to Councilor Sparatus' files. We're looking into the Quarian disappearances and what the Turians have been doing since Invictus, and I think your help would be greatly appreciated."
The Quarian stared at Du Gale, and the disguised human commander knew he was under intense scrutiny, "What is your name?"
"Call me Du Gale."
"There is no ship in the migrant fleet with that name." The Quarian stated, tensing up, "You're not Quarians are you?"
"No, we are not. However, let me assure you, we are not hostile to the Quarian people." Du Gale neglected to say 'for now.'
The tense moment was interrupted by Jefferson's warning, "Commander, C-Sec transports are landing. Looks like at least two full teams and they are getting in position to cut you off. Orders?"
Gerard scowled, "Issacs, Johnson, Demoman movement. Snipers free fire. I want a three man team on the entrance with heavy overwatch ready!" The commander turned to the Quarian, "Alright Quarian, plans have changed. If we help you get out of here will you help us steal the councilors files?"
The cyber Quarian stretched his arms. "My name is Aerin'zorah, not 'Quarian'. And don't ask me that like I have a choice."
Aerin'zorah ignored the hostile looks he was getting, instead marching up to the Councilor's console. "Network." he said in a commanding tone, placing his hands on the machine, "Integrate."
The robotic limbs opened up, several silver cords emerged and attached to the console's various ports. The Quarian made a noise like a cross between a growl and an unholy rumble of gears. "Boshtets!"
"What did you find?" Du Gale demanded.
"Get us out of here and I will share." Aerin'zorah countered, "I don't trust you not to take the data and leave me to die."
Du Gale scowled but nodded. "Fine." The commander tapped his radio, hearing the noise of a loud explosion come from outside, "Jefferson, report! What the hell was that?"
"More S-Sec transports sir. I took the liberty of shooting it down with my Widowmaker." There was a clear sound of an anti-armor rifle reloading, "There are more incoming now, if we're going to leave, now would be the time!"
A firefight on the Citadel would only end in a massacre and the discovery of Alliance agents on the Citadel. Not an option in the commander's eyes. "All units' psi and weapons free, capture is not an option. Self-detonation devices are authorized. If separated, all units are to evac and meet at rendezvous point Delta-Echo-Alpha-Four."
The commander muted his radio, he had to double check with the Quarian before adding his next orders, "Aerin, you any good in a fight?"
The Quarian extended his arms to the side, "Assault Armor. Dual Overload." A set of golden yellow-orange plates similar to an Omni-tool interface emerged to cover the Quarian's body, as the hands of the robotic arms began discharging electricity. "I can fight better in close range but I can use rifles or pistols as needed. " he replied.
The commander reactivated his comm, prepping a beacon from his pack and tossing it to Aerin. "Snipers, you're going to provide cover fire and long range support while ground team helps me evac our new principal. All units, principal will be carrying a beacon. He is to be escorted to the rendezvous point, dead or alive. Move!"
The outside of the offices had quickly turned into a war zone. The C-Sec officers had quickly been pinned by the scattered rooftop marksmen. Even without their usual armor piercing energy weapons the soldiers were quick to spot a target and quicker to send them to meet their maker. The sandcorn shots had less penetration power than the usual Alliance weapons, but the infiltrators were quick to adapt and adjust their shots as needed.
The eight man sniper team on the roof coordinated their shots with a group meld. The psychic flow of thoughts allowed for a perfect field of perception that covered the kill zone. Two ran cover, and two three-man groups executed their adversaries without hesitation. The first shot broke the mass effect shield, the second shot used to break any armor, the third was for a guaranteed kill. Between the eight of them, any Turian foolish enough to peek out from cover died before their weapon finished raising.
Positioned at the entrance to the offices were three heavy load out troopers. The need for camouflage prevented laser or plasma weaponry, however the Alliance was more than capable of ensuring a portable heavy weapon was available to their troops behind enemy lines. Their answer: a mass accelerator Gatling gun that fired sandcorn rounds at a maximum speed of six thousand rounds a minute. The GAU-231 Lucifer Gatling gun.
The Gatling guns were only at a third of max speed to prevent overheating, but the two thousand rounds a minute were more than enough to discourage the Turians from storming the doors. The super-heated sand sized rounds seared the synthetic metal walls and floor of the Citadel presidium, some even piercing the C-Sec officer's cover and wounding many in hiding. As the trio of gunners kept the enemy suppressed and pinned the remainder of the Alliance ground team slipped past, using the firefight as cover.
Even with the superior firepower and position, the fact that they were literally at the enemy's seat of power would inevitably mean failure if they didn't leave and soon.
"Boss, we've got more incoming! " Jefferson leveled his rifle with the incoming ships seeing a dreaded marking on its side, "This isn't C-Sec! The Citadel defensive fleet is reinforcing them!"
The lead marksman switched on his radio. "You need to move fast commander, the Turians have signaled the defensive fleet! I've got three troop transports en route with fighters en route!"
Du Gale replied immediately, "Evacuate now Jefferson! Capture is not an option!"
Jefferson looked at the approaching reinforcements, and rolled his head preparing to piss off his commanding officer. "With all due respect commander, if we abandon this post now then they will pursue and we'll all die for nothing. If you leave the heavies we can hold them and give you time to make it."
This time Du Gale paused, damning the reasoning. "It will take us five minutes at most to get to the wards, you better be gone by then!"
"Rodger that." The sniper turned off the radio, switching his headset into a music player. A blast of heavy instrumental music started playing in his ears and blocking out everything but the calming feel of his team's presence. His mind was already reaching out to target his foes. "Boys, it's been an honor." Jefferson stated calmly, shouldering his widowmaker. "Fuck em up!" he commanded, his first shot piercing the cockpit of the closet incoming transport. The ship tilted for a moment, the second shot ripping into the co-pilot finished the vessel allowing it to crash lifelessly to its doom. "Psionics out! Cut out the pilot's before the bastards can land!"
Below, the heavy's encountered renewed resistance as the lack of sharpshooters had finally allowed the C-sec officers to make their move. Using biotics to lift debris for shields the glorified police were moving closer, slowly, but still narrowing in on their targets.
Having had enough of the pests one heavy tossed an explosive, "Grenade!" The bouncing package tumbled across the path, coming to rest at the feet of a bundle of mixed aliens. They never knew what hit them as the blast ripped them apart, their make-shift shield doing nothing to protect them.
The battle had only begun.
General Williams felt the presence of the XCOM commander before his ship ever started to materialize out in the void. Those who were allied to Harper had long since learned to detect the powerful presence that the man constantly emitted. "What the hell is he doing this far from Earth?" the general wondered. William's confusion only grew when he saw the nearly ten thousand meter long form of XCOM's flagship materialize in front of his fleet. "No. Fucking. Way."
The Alliance-XCOM Flagship Savior was humanity's idea of an arc, war deterrent, and super-weapon rolled into one long mass of fuck off. Modeled after data taken from the Mass Relay that had once been in the Sol system, construction of the flagship had begun shortly after the end of the Ethereal war. The ship itself was always docked to be held as a 'just in case' rather than be used as a display of muscle.
The sleek designs of the spear shaped vessel concealed its arsenal. Thicker than a half-dozen super-carriers at its widest point the ship was built around its primary weapon, a massive laser. Despite the less than original designation the Savior's 'doom cannon' was designed to destroy a mass relay from a distance. The problem with using it as a more active weapon of war was the power requirements to use the weapon, the charging time, and finally the overheating issues. Twenty-two Elerium/Nuclear reactors were installed upon the AXF Savior, and at least Seventeen were needed to fire one shot from the gun at full power. Even at her most stressed during testing flights the AXF Savior only needed three generators running to keep the ship steady. After firing, the ridiculously named 'doom cannon' had a mandatory cool down time of just shy of an earth day, the reason being that it was to insure repeated usage didn't cause any damage to either the ship or its primary gun. It was estimated that anything more than two shots fired in rapid succession would cripple if not destroy the vessel.
"Why the hell would Harper bring that monster out of reserve?" General Williams wondered, unnereved.
Momentarily ignoring the usual regulations when on the command deck, many of the crew were openly gawking at the appearance of the XCOM flagship and already Williams could hear the excited chatter of his crew as their amazement grew. "Commander, incoming communication."
Williams sat back in the captain's chair, "Open coms."
Harper's smug grin filled the monitor, a cigarette was held between his lips as he took a generous drag. "Good evening general. I see that you've been busy."
Williams had an amused smirk on his face but cut to the chase regardless. "Harper, what in name of God are you doing with the Savior? Does the council know that she's been activated?"
"I am here with their blessing, General Williams." Harper replied tersely, "I am en route to aid a set of our operatives on the citadel. It seems the Turians have captured samples of the Chryssalid B.O.W. and have at least one of our people as a P.O.W."
"What the hell are you doing here then?" Williams questioned, "You should be heading to blow that lab out of orbit rather than meeting here to talk!"
Harper took another long, infuriating pull on his cancer stick. "Actually, it seems that I am needed here to talk."
Williams was struck dumb by the idea. "You're kidding. Your here as the negotiator?" he said, incredulous. "We need a peaceful negotiator, not a silver-tongued snake that looks like a man!"
Harper smiled in a way that made Williams believe the devil was real, "I disagree general. I am exactly who you need right now. We are on the edge between a galaxy wide war of species, and I happen to have a plan to even our odds."
Williams felt an all too familiar ache forming on the crown of his skull. "This wouldn't happen to be one of those plans that ends up with a lot of chaos, death, and a lot of people hating you even more than they thought possible?"
"I am hurt you think I could be so devious."
Williams snorted, "Drop the innocent act Jack. It doesn't suit you. So why are you here."
The XCOM commander smiled as he extinguished his cigarette. "I am going to use their little diplomat to move the Savior into range of the Citadel, rescue our forces on the station, destroy the samples, and as a bonus I might even cause untold havoc for the Turians while I am there."
"You're kidding." Williams stated in disbelief.
"I am not." Harper chided politely. "Excuse me General, but I have an Asari diplomat to traumatize."
Harper cut the connection and opened a new signal to the Asari vessel.
Nalia De'Nair was trembling the moment here ship received the transmission. The sight of the AXF Savior had driven whatever hope she had of the Citadel winning the war out of her mind. "It looks like a giant cannon with a ship built on it!"
Those hesitant nerves were frozen by shock when she saw the Human speak perfect Asari.
"Greetings Citadel Diplomat, My name is Commander Jack Harper of The Human Systems Alliance Special Operations Force XCOM. I have come as a representative of my people and request escort to your Citadel Council for the purpose of diplomacy."
It took every ounce of Nalia's willpower not to stutter as she replied, she was thankful her still trembling hands were outside of the transmissions range of vision. "I will forward your request. I must ask however, your vessel isn't diplomatic is it?" Nalia blushed at the jumble of words, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" she chastised herself mentally.
Harper smiled benevolently, "This is an Alliance Flagship. An all purpose vessel and show of arms to dissuade any potential attackers." he explained.
"The Citadel is a peaceful place!" Nalia protested, "There is no need for such a display!"
Harper's gaze unnerved her, a fact that he relished. "On that matter we will have to disagree. A race on your council has recently attacked us and committed an act of genocide on one of our worlds. An act of war, don't you agree?"
Nalia knew he had her by the head tendrils."I concede your point." she admitted reluctantly. "I will forward your request immediately."
"Take your time." Harper replied kindly, "After all, we will have plenty to talk about when I arrive at the Citadel."