"It's like the Normandy on steroids." Joker commented with a combination of awe and disgust as he sat in his pilot's chair and looked out at the large vessel that seemed to dwarf the Citadel.
"Beautiful, ain't she?" Harry grinned.
"Is… is that the Crucible?" Liara asked.
"Nope. I told them not to bother building it."
"But the records say it was supposed to defeat the Reapers!"
"The records lacked a few vital pieces of information." Harry retorted. "Like the what the so-called 'Catalyst' is."
"But the geth determined that it is the Citadel." Tali argued.
"The Citadel contains the catalyst, but it is not itself the Catalyst."
"But how can you be so sure?" Liara asked.
"Because the geth and Avina know every part of the Citadel and… well they refuse to go near it, which is why we are here."
"Now I'm worried." Kasumi muttered.
"So what's the name of that behmoth?" Kaiden asked, quickly changing the subject.
"That is an Overlord class Dreadnaught." He said proudly as he gestured to the immense ship.
"As in Operation Overlord, also known as 'D-Day'." Lefty explained. "It was the turning point of the Second World War on Earth during their Twentieth Century. It comprised of simultaneous assaults by allied forces on five beaches.
"It was the codename for what was the Battle of Normandy. Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank of the invasion."
"Yeah… we felt that we should stick with the theme." Harry nodded. "Especially considering that like the Allies, we are fighting for survival and freedom."
"There were five beaches, Harry." Shepard pointed out. "Will there be another three Normandy class frigates joining us?"
"The Sword, The Gold and the Juno are already docked and fully crewed by soldiers from the Emissary's Free People."
"And this is to be the main ship of the Emissary's First Fleet?"
"Yes. I believe this will be the biggest ship you have ever commanded." Harry grinned at him.
"I have no idea how to command a fleet like this, Harry." Shepard sighed.
"Well, you see, when I called you the Fleet Commander, I actually meant that you lead the Free People's military. The First Fleet is the flagship fleet and the one responsible for ferrying you around. But it is actually under the command of… someone the geth recommended."
"What? How the hell did you guess that?" Harry demanded.
Shepard just smirked. "You are the geth. Your recommendation is their recommendation. They trust who you trust. Anderson is the only one who fits the bill… other than Hackett, but you know he has a duty to Earth first."
Harry pouted all the way to the Citadel docks.
The entrance to reach the Catalyst involved a long walk through many corridors in parts of the station that no one but the Keepers had seen before.
It made the team realise just how huge the Citadel was. Bigger than some moons.
"Alright people, this is as far as all but Vega's team go." Harry stopped them on a large platform.
The area was much like the Presidium, composed of white metal and well lit.
"What do you mean? We didn't come this far just wait on the sidelines." Ashley argued.
"For this particular encounter, you did." Harry said firmly.
"Sorry Tali, but the geth won't let you past. They've already lost four highly populated platforms beyond this point and they do not want to risk an organic with nanites."
"Then why are you going?" Shiala demanded.
"Because I have more than just nanites to aid me. I have my magic."
"We've got his back Chica." Vega assured them.
This declaration was met with Kasumi making use of her new biotics to lift Vega into that air and glare at him. "If you even think of ignoring Harry's orders I will eviscerate you!"
Seeing the large Hispanic being thoroughly intimidated by the petite Asian was… an 'interesting' sight.
Kasumi dropped Vega and turned away before kneeing Harry in the groin.
Harry just stood there.
"Damned armoured cod piece." She muttered. "Listen, if you make Tali cry again I will… I will do unspeakable things to you."
"Like?" Harry asked curiously.
"It will involve collaboration with the female krogan clans." She glared at him.
Harry's eyes just widened in fright. "I'll be good."
Harry had led Vega and his team onto a nearby platform and activated a console. The platform had risen up and taken them to what appeared to be a huge power source and computer processor.
Harry was feeling lonely. The geth had left his brain and body and his QEC had been shut down. For the first time since he had arrived on Rannoch he could no longer hear the geth.
The silence was worse than anything the Dementors could dredge up.
Harry was also feeling pretty pissed. "I don't care who you think you are, pick another form." He growled at the ethereal projection in front of them.
"You know this chica?" Vega asked.
Standing in front of them was a poorly formed projection of a young girl, barely seventeen years old with wide eyes and a pixie face. There was no colour in the projection, it was formed purely of white energy.
"This is just an image of an old friend." Harry glared at it. "Luna Lovegood was one of the most cryptic people I knew, she was also one of the best.
"Choose a different form." Harry repeated.
"This form was chosen because it represented wisdom in your mind." The projection responded.
"It represents innocence and friendship and I won't have you marring that memory. Pick Voldemort for all I care, but don't pick my friends."
The image flickered and morphed into a tall old man with a thick white beard wearing robes.
"Well, it'll do." Harry rolled his eyes. "Abeforth is definitely better than Albus."
"Abeforth is considered neutrally in your mind." The entity explained.
"Right, so considering you can read my mind to some degree, you know who I am." Harry nodded.
"We can read your emotions." The entity corrected. "We know these people from your digital records."
"I knew there was a downside to Hermione putting my life on the Internet." Harry sighed. "Alright, who are you? Technically you are the Catalyst, but who made you and what is your true purpose?"
"I am the architect of the Harvest. I created the Reapers." It said in a simple manner.
"If I shoot it, will it die?" Milque growled.
"What about if we blow up this fancy tech?" Essex asked as he eyed the various conduits of raw flowing power around them.
"Not till we get more answers." Harry shook his head, never looking away from the glowing projection of Abeforth Dumbledore. "Explain. Why harvest other species? Why commit mass genocide?"
"It is what we were created for. We were tasked with preventing the total destruction organics by the machines they create. Our solution was the Reapers. They harvest the advanced civilisations, leaving the younger ones alone. They are the next cycle."
Harry stared at the projection for a few seconds.
Vega, Milque and Essex were getting worried.
"You kill organics to save organics?" Harry asked calmly.
The team took an unconscious step back.
"We help them ascend." It corrected. "We take their essence and they become part of the next generation of Reapers."
"Ok…" Harry said slowly. "Let me see if I am getting this straight. You are a machine, created by organics, yes?"
"Essentially correct for the purpose of this discussion. You know our creators as the Leviathans."
"Right… You were created to find a solution to the issue of machines turning on their creators and wiping them out, right?"
"Correct. Our mission is to ensure the preservation of organic life."
"And you have been doing that by killing any organic life that manages to create machine life?"
"That is the primary criteria for a race to be harvested. Any race that has contact with machine life is harvested."
"So if the geth had come to Earth a thousand years ago and we were still in the stone age… you would have harvested us?" Milque asked curiously.
"Other factors would need to be considered, but the interference of machine life would raise your harvesting priority." The projection agreed.
"Dios mios." Vega muttered.
"Well congratulations, you have not only completely failed in your 'harvesting' mission but you have become the very problem you were meant to fix." Harry said sarcastically.
"That is incorrect. The harvest has prevented the extinction of all organics."
"That is an assumption." Harry retorted. "You can not know if the harvest is responsible unless you actually allow nature to play itself out. You don't allow the various races (both organic and machine) to evolve."
"All calculations and projections show that machine life will turn on their creators and destroy them." The projection stated in its calm and sure manner.
"And who made those calculations?" Harry asked.
"Right, flawed calculations from a flawed machine." He sneered.
"Our calculations have been evaluated with every cycle."
"You couldn't even complete a proper harvest!" Harry argued. "You failed to eradicate the Leviathans, every organic for several cycles has left managed to leave remnants of itself, hints of what it faced from you for the next cycle… there is living prothean downstairs!"
"We were unable to account for all variables." It admitted reluctantly. "These were anomalies that we have sought to rectify."
"But you failed!" Harry said in exasperation. "True or false? You have made mistakes?"
"Therefore, if you made mistakes before… and are still clearly making mistakes, then it stands to reason that your entire 'solution' is flawed."
"Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Milque whispered to Essex.
"Shut up!" Essex hissed.
"Based upon the presented data we are forced to conclude that there is a degree of probability that we erred in our solution." Abeforth's image admitted reluctantly. It then straightened its shoulders and adopted a more confident air. "This does not preclude our solution as being correct though. All evidence shows that the harvest has been effective in preventing the extinction of all life."
"No… it merely prevents us from ever knowing definitively." Harry corrected. "Like I said before, unless you allow life to evolve naturally, without your interference then you will never know if machine life can learn to exist peacefully with organic life.
"Until that is allowed to happen you are the very thing you seek to prevent… the annihilators of all organic life."
"You forget that we do not harvest all organics." It reasoned. "We leave lesser evolved species for the next cycle."
"Which is a gamble." Harry nodded. "Ever heard of Mutually Assured Destruction?"
"An Earth concept whereby one or more parties of a conflict will enact a plan that will see all parties to ensure that the opposing parties can not succeed or at the very least, can not benefit from their success."
"And one day there will come along a race that has seen what you have been doing for all these cycles and they will declare: 'enough'.
"They will put an end to all life in this galaxy to prevent you from torturing future species.
"It will be all because of your 'harvest'. You will be the cause of extinction of not just all organic life, but also all machine life."
There was a long pause.
"We could take steps to prevent this."
"No, you couldn't." Harry shook his head. "You've already failed. Here I am, standing in front of you with three humans. I am the perfect combination of organic and synthetic. Downstairs is a group of people who will destroy this Citadel if we do not return.
"Bottom line: Even if we don't survive this cycle, you won't either. The next cycle will happen without your aid. Are your Reapers smart enough to combat faster evolving species?"
The image looked at him thoughtfully. "You have already implemented the means for Mutually Assured Destruction."
"And you are the one with your finger on the button." Harry smirked. "You will be the hypocritical synthetic that does what it was made specifically to prevent.
"You will destroy all organic life."
The rest of the team had been waiting around below the area where Harry and Vega's team had risen. They were worried and bored.
Tank and Grunt had taken to wrestling whilst Jennifer cheered them on.
At least it was a distraction.
It was forty minutes later that they snapped into a defensive formation as the platform began to descend again.
They relaxed when they saw the group returning unharmed.
Aside from the fact that Harry was far too smug and Essex and Milque looked a little shell shocked. Vega looked confused.
"Report." Shepard ordered.
"He fucking Star Trekked their ass!"
"Essex! Shut up." Vega snapped.
"What?" Jacob couldn't help but ask.
"Erm…" Vega looked uncertainly between a curious Shepard and a grinning Harry. "He sort of reasoned with the Catalyst. It was some sort of AI. It said it was made to prevent the extinction of organic life due to synthetic life and that… Harry said that it was causing the extinction of all organic life.
"Well… there was more, but that's what I got from it." Vega scratched his head as he still tried to comprehend what he had just witnessed.
"What?" Jacob asked again.
"Jacob, if someone were to tell you 'Everything I say is a lie', would they be telling the truth?" Miranda asked her colleague.
"If they were a liar I suppose they would be." Jacob shrugged.
"But then that would mean that they lied about being a liar." Kaiden pointed out.
"Ah… I see, a word game." Liara nodded. Then she looked at Harry and frowned. "You defeated the most dangerous entity in existence with a word game?"
"I prefer to think of it as logic and reason." Harry said snootily.
"Right… you Star Trekked its ass."
"A paradox?" Anderson asked with that same tired expression that one usually wore when dealing with Harry after one of his adventures.
"It's a machine based on logic." Harry shrugged as he stood on the Petitioner's Platform in the Council Chambers. "But it is a flawed machine and came up with flawed solutions using flawed data.
"What would you have preferred? That we got ourselves killed trying to shoot down every Reaper out there?" He asked.
"Couldn't you have done this earlier?" Aethyta scowled as she appeared holographically from Earth.
"Only if I actually knew about the Intelligence." Harry shook his head. "I knew about the Reapers and that the Leviathans made them, but I didn't know why they made them. I only found that out on Despoina."
"Aethyta, the last thing we need to be doing now is trying to find a reason to blame the Emissary." Quietus chastised. He was quite firm considering his usual calm demeanour.
"So is this 'Intelligence' still there?" Anderson asked before Aethyta could respond.
"Nope! It shut itself down and is completely inert unless I or someone else reactivates it." Harry grinned.
"I'm sorry but this is ridiculous!" Aethyta said in frustration. "You really expect us to believe that the galactic super computer that has been responsible for the current invasions and the decimations of previous civilisations was taken down through the logic of a boy who barely manages to pass for responsible?"
It was a good thing this was a actually a private meeting and that only Shepard and Harry were present to speak with the Council. If anyone else was there then they might actually believe that Aethyta was accusing Harry of lying and not that she was just having trouble comprehending the facts.
"You have to remember that this AI was suffering from a severe case of denial." Harry explained for her. "The data it needed to make these conclusions itself was always there but it filed them away under: 'Anomalies'. It refused to entertain the notion that it could be wrong and declared that any data that said otherwise was in error.
"Until now, no one has been able to talk to the AI. All I did was force it to look at those anomalies along with the rest of the data. It had no choice but to declare its 'Solution' as a grievous error and accept that it was leading the galaxy to total annihilation."
"And the Reapers, what about them?" Quietus asked. "They have been reported as leaving the systems and heading straight for the nearest suns."
"With the Intelligence shut down I was able to commandeer the Reapers." Harry nodded. "They are abominations built on the atrocities committed in each cycle. I ordered them to self-destruct in the suns so that there would be no evidence."
"So the war is finally over? We can come out of hiding?" Aethyta asked hopefully.
"Yep, time to start rebuilding." Harry smiled. "The Free People will be heading to Earth and Palaven to help with the reconstruction. Wrex has even started ordering my clans onto ships to help out."
"What about Thessia and Sur'Kesh?" Anderson asked.
Harry groaned at the thought. "The salarians will need to be thoroughly tested before they can have their quarantine lifted. The Reapers are gone but we don't know enough about indoctrination to know if the effects will last.
"As for the asari… " Harry frowned thoughtfully.
Shepard leaned over and whispered in his ear.
Harry looked at him and grinned. "Genius." He turned back to the Council who now looked worried. "The war is over. I officially relinquish my wartime powers, barring the quarantine on the mass effect relays for Thessia and Sur'Kesh.
"I will lift them at the discretion of the Council."
"You're… passing the buck?" Anderson couldn't help but chuckle.
"Bastard." Aethyta mumbled.
"Insolent… arrogant… incomprehensible…"
"Is he ok to drink alcohol?" Kasumi asked Tali as the pair watched Javik sit at the bar in Anderson's apartment on the Citadel and drink himself stupid.
"He hasn't thrown up yet." Tali shrugged.
"The entire galaxy is partying and celebrating the end of the war but he's drowning his sorrows. What's up with that?" Kasumi grumbled. "You'd think he'd be appreciative of what Harry accomplished."
"Accomplished?" The Last Prothean asked derisively, revealing that he had heard them. "The primitive ape won a war that spanned the entire galaxy and lasted millions of years with a conversation that took less than an hour!
"Trillions of trillions of trillions died and he ends it all with words."
"What? You want a bloody battle where half of us die?" Kasumi spat.
"At least then there would be a sense of accomplishment." He scowled. "Instead it is like a group of politicians bickering away… we had a very strict policy on politicians in my time." He said meaningfully.
"The Chief is not a politician." Tank said calmly as he took the seat next to Javik.
"But he does prefer to talk instead of fighting." Grunt admitted as he took the seat on the other side.
"He talks too much." Javik retorted. "Wherever we go his mouth opens and nonsense spills forth." He said as gestured with his glass.
"The Chief is one of the few beings who can win the same battle with either words or weapons." Tank mused. He looked around Javik to Grunt. "I disagree Brother, Chief Harry does not prefer to talk, he merely chooses his method of winning based on his opponent."
"You mean his method of fighting, right?" Kasumi asked. She moved round to the serving side of the bar with Tali so they could talk easier.
"You do not enter a battle unless you expect to win." Grunt scowled. "You might as well swallow your gun barrel."
"But Harry has gone into lots of battles not expecting to win." Tali countered. "He went after the Collectors to save the colonists at the Omega 4 Relay and knew he would be stopped by the kinetic barrier."
Tank shook his head. "The Chief won't do something if he knows it won't work. He will find an alternative."
"You have missed the point." Grunt rumbled as he sat up straight. "When you go into battle without any hope then all you are doing is wasting your future, your opportunities."
"What about false hope?" Kasumi asked curiously.
"Self-Delusion." Tank nodded. "There is little difference between false hope and no hope."
"None of this changes the fact that the ape ended an ancient battle with an immortal foe with words." Javik spat.
"Words that caused his enemies to kill themselves." Grunt said as he puffed his chest proudly. "The Chief is so feared and powerful that the mere mention of his name can cause enemies to kill themselves instead of having to face him personally."
"I suppose the same could have been said of my people." Javik allowed. "All races were considered 'Prothean'. Either by choice or by force. The galaxy was ours.
"So the ape intends to rule the galaxy." He mused. "He has a long way to go before he reaches the might of the Prothean Empire."
"According to all prothean records, it took you nearly ten thousand years to control a mere ten percent of the known galaxy." Tank chuckled. "Chief Harry controls that much in less than three years."
Javik scowled at the implications before downing the rest of his drink.
The party had left many of the team extremely inebriated. Some like Shepard and Harry were too mired in paranoia to let themselves relax that much and made use of their nanites to stay sober.
Others like Samara and Anderson felt the need to maintain their dignity and drank in moderation.
Miranda managed to get so drunk that she had gotten into a heated and nigh on incomprehensible argument with an equally drunk Kasumi about her breasts and how Miranda believed hers would be far more effective at enticing Harry as she was genetically perfect.
Kasumi had retorted that it didn't matter how much effort went into crafting a work of art, it meant nothing if it wasn't appealing to the beholder.
Harry tended to agree with Kasumi as she had much smaller breasts than Miranda, but so did Tali. Shiala had the largest of his fellow lovers.
Whilst he would admit that Miranda was attractive, it didn't necessarily have anything to do with the size of her bust.
Harry cast a Confundus on the pair when he noticed Thane looking longingly at his dagger.
Joker wasn't pleased as he had been enjoying the debate.
Eva and EDI began their own discussion with Joker on the pros and cons of various body parts.
He was lucky that digital life forms were logic based otherwise he could have been in a lot of hot water.
After the party the team had boarded the Utah with Anderson and docked with the Overlord. The main frigates of the First Fleet didn't have to enter the hangers as they had specific docking ports that allowed them to seamlessly become a part of the hull. This turned the Overlord into an alternative to the connecting tubes that the Fleet had used with the Tiger-Lilly.
The Tiger-Lilly was the only ship of the First Fleet that didn't have a place on the hull. It's asari profile mean that it wouldn't fit in as well so it used the hangers.
"Are you trying to say something Emissary?" Anderson asked with a raised eyebrow as he indicated the chair on the bridge.
"Yes. All ships should have seatbelts and standing up during a battle whilst the whole ship is rolling everyone around is a hazard to everyone's health."
"This is another Star Trek thing, isn't it?" Ashley laughed.
"Well they did get thrown out of their seats a lot." Harry pointed out.
"Having personally commanded the Normandy last year, I have to agree with Harry that a lack straps to hold people in place is fairly dangerous." Garrus agreed. "Just ask Carson. I nearly killed her when we took a hit and I nearly landed on her whilst we fought some Hegemony pirates."
The basic layout of the CIC was the same. The galaxy map was set some way back from the cockpit. There was a ring of consoles around the map but now they all had chairs with harnesses.
The use of harnesses was mandatory but not an inconvenience as they automatically engaged and disengaged and did not restrict movement.
They were actually a part of the uniform that the various batarians and quarians of the Emissary's Free People wore. The uniform was a type of thick uniform that could handle a lot of blunt impact. It was a fairly light blue set of trousers and t-shirt styled clothing.
"Admiral, care to take us back to Earth?" Harry indicated the seat.
"Shouldn't you have the honours?" He asked. "I might be the Admiral of the fleet but you are the Commander in Chief."
"I'm the ranking dignitary." Harry snorted. "My job is to relax and enjoy the ride whilst continuously asking if we are there yet."
"Fleet Commander?" Anderson turned Shepard. "You are the ranking officer."
"True." Shepard said with a small smile. "Admiral Anderson, take us to Earth." He ordered formally.
Anderson sighed and saluted before beginning to enter the destination into the galaxy map.
"Attention all hands." Came Joker's voice from the Overlord's cockpit. "Prepare for Mass Drive Jump."
"What?" Anderson asked with wide eyes.
"I know everything about Mass Relays." Harry told him with a bemused look. "You didn't really think it would take long for the geth to get my idea of a Mass Drive and make it a reality?"
"What exactly is a Mass Drive?" Shepard asked.
"Similar to a Relay, only it can generate its own mass free corridor and then travel down it. We should be at Earth in less than an hour." Harry said as he walked off towards the cockpit.
"It is a really good thing that the Free People are not part of the Council." Anderson sighed. "It is still going to be hard to convince the asari, turians and salarians not to go to war against him for creating a superior vehicle."
"What about humanity?" Shepard asked.
"The only thing the Emissary and his people have to worry about from humanity is Cerberus… and most of humanity wants them dead as much as he does."