Thank you to Pax Humana for beta-ing.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed, you are the greatest!
Mass Effect: Synthesis
Chapter 39 Crucible
Citadel, 10.28 Cycle Lengths After Synthesis (514,235 Old Calendar)
There was no longer any separation, no longer aspects of the same thought, representing those they had been. The two aspects of Shepard and Harbinger had merged cycles ago and now watched as the final adjustments were made on the Citadel. For the last ten cycles, a time barely worth mentioning in their experience, there had not been a harvest.
Instead, the races of the galaxy had greeted the newcomers and had led them to synthesis. Humans had been first, embracing what for them had become normal in the millennia after First Contact but the other races of that cycle had followed. It took longer with the next cycle's races but that experience had been used to better encourage the cycles that came after them.
A couple of races, both synthetic and organic had refused and inevitably they had met their end when they had gotten too uppity. There was only one way in this galaxy and those who failed to recognize it had suffered the consequences.
For every single cycle to come, they could encourage synthesis but no matter the purpose of the cycle one belief held fast; it was better just to do rather than to argue. Harbinger had never bothered to argue with the organics he ascended and she had not bothered to discuss this with the rest of the galaxy. There was nothing to discuss.
The other races to know synthesis were not as they were. They shared immortality but they had remained small. With very few exceptions they could not fly through the fabric of the stars. They maintained many organic systems, such as the use of ships for interstellar travel, yet they were truly synthesised. This would not change her, though it would change the synthetic and organic races which existed at the moment.
Shepard Harbinger had come to understand that the magnificence of synthesis that she knew was one that most would not. They understood synthesis only in a limited form. It was like the difference between someone who could read music and play the notes by rote and someone who could feel music within them and could compose and play it as art. There was a chance for the former to become the latter, and if they made the transition, it was never the same.
After today, they would all be instantly synthesized. It would be the lesser form of synthesis. The lesser form, but still synthesis and perhaps, that was all that could be hoped for at the moment. Later developments might add further options.
Solimor lifted away from the addition to the Citadel. The Prothean design called it the Crucible but they had added little to its design. There were aspects of other races and the subtle hint of Leviathan design was at its core. They were the real instigators of it and that, more than anything had led to their demise. Harbinger had known about the Crucible of course. The Protheans had tried to use it but the indoctrinated had stopped them. The L'yuthng had used a primitive version of it, and other races had attempted it, but it wasn't until the plans were found that he had been able to learn who was responsible for its creation.
It was Shepard who had led the forces to hunt down the last few Leviathans and they had been incorporated into his form. Shepard was usually softer, more forgiving. When Harbinger led destruction, she could usually convince him to spare the righteous. He never bothered when she led, for when the avatar of mercy agreed with the avatar of destruction, there was nothing worth saving.
Shepard had given them a chance, as she did to all races. She explained the way of the universe to them but they did not listen. The Leviathans had foolishly tried to control him! Him! The first born, created of their brethren. He was not someone they could control or train like a mere dog. It had been their final mistake. Perhaps the Leviathans had thought themselves safe because of the myriad of cycles they had lived through. They quickly discovered otherwise. The Leviathans had survived because he had never bothered to truly hunt them down. Those who had survived the original cull understood his purpose, but they had grown arrogant, and they had died.
While Shepard had been destroying the last of the Leviathans, Solimor and Limiri had studied the plans and had divined that the Crucible's design had changed over time. That was only to be expected with so many races working on it, but the Catalyst also had been responsible for several large alterations. It had three main uses and it was the first which the organics focused on.
Destruction. That was the reason those organics who even found the designs attempted to build the Crucible. But there were two other uses possible. The second was the ability to control them. It had been added by the Catalyst and Harbinger had known when she'd seen that information that his creator had considered the possibility that she may rebel.
Activating the Crucible would have brought him back under control. He would have been indoctrinated to be obedient to the Catalyst's will. That use had not been a welcome discovery though Limiri had hastened to assure her that the control option would only have worked by filtering the signal through the Intelligence. With the Catalyst gone it was impossible and even if someone managed to cobble together something similar to the Catalyst, with synthesis their reality, the option was forever removed. Which left the last use.
Solimor and Limiri both knew synthesis. The choice for synthesis had been made by a L'yuthng so long ago but what they had not known was that the Catalyst had re-established it as an option in the designs of the Crucible. Except, the option for synthesis was no longer the simple thing they had known. It was no longer something between one synthetic and one compatible organic, it was between everything. That change had taken Limiri and Solimor years to determine and further years in debate before they concluded that it was real. They'd brought it to Harbinger Shepard just as he was finishing up on Uniwanre. Despite monitoring, the synthetic race had rebelled against their organic creators and both had been put down.
Two hundred thousand years ago he'd dismissed it. She already knew synthesis so he no longer needed it though she knew instantly that it could be used for a new purpose. Over the eons of the cycle, the Crucible had changed from what the Leviathans had created. The design had been tweaked, refined and developed. The relay network had expanded massively over that time and with the expanding network, the chance to change everything had become a reality.
When the L'yuthng chose synthesis, the network had not encompassed the entire galaxy. If the Protheans had have used the Crucible and chose synthesis, an unlikely option given their history, but if they had, then, through the network of Relays the entire galaxy would have been altered. Organic and synthetic would have merged on an atomic level until there was no difference between one or the other. It was incredible, atomic engineering on a galactic scale without scarring worlds with bursts of deadly radiation from even a slight misstep.
The Crucible was an end to the cycle. Destruction was the end that tempted fate, because the risk would always be there. Control allowed the Catalyst to continue as he had, without allowing Harbinger any freedom and synthesis... Synthesis rendered the cycle obsolete.
And so now, a mere ten cycles worth of time after he knew synthesis, the galaxy would know it. The Crucible was complete now, though she had added his own adaptations. Amusement had been fleeting but Harbinger Shepard thought it appropriate that the device created to stop him would now serve her. Solimor and Limiri had adjusted the Crucible to Synthesis. It now allowed no other choice.
The controls were already in his grasp and all that remained was to activate it. Then the galaxy itself would be synthesized.
"Are you sure?" Tauben asked gently.
Garshan answered. "How many of this cycle were lost?"
While they had changed with synthesis, they couldn't circumvent their original purpose. They existed to preserve organic life. The loss of any race was a loss of knowledge, a loss of a way of life and of a way of looking at the galaxy.
"Half, but they were stupid," Wetrax growled.
Wetrax enjoyed a good fight. That was something both the SIL Hetrans and Krogan Urdnot Wrex had shared before synthesis. Nothing had changed with synthesis but very little could stand against him and he knew that.
Javith snorted. "Most races are stupid." While being one of the last original SIL to find their organic, the synthesized entity that came from the SIL Mith and the Prothean Javik still knew that they were amongst the first of those ascended and a certain arrogance had always carried over into his attitude.
"That may be," Haphas agreed. "But it is up to us to set the example." Her logic was impeccable.
The rest of the discussion fell silent when Harbinger Shepard spoke. "I am sure."
The voice was considered, but powerful. "Synthesis of the galaxy means true freedom for us. We may leave. We may stay. We will no longer be responsible for the preservation of organic knowledge." There was a touch of sadness in that pronouncement as well as awareness of profound change. This truly would be the end of everything they had known. "It changes many things," Harbinger Shepard continued, "but only if we let it. However, no matter what happens, there is one thing that it will never change."
"We are, and always will be the strongest, the righteous, the only. It will be our vision which continues to shape this galaxy because I will not accept anything less."
The Commanders of the SIL suppression fleets, those nations who had been ascended the longest looked towards their leader and voiced their affirmation. The synthesis of the galaxy was their ultimate victory. The galaxy would be like they were but they would still be superior.
Harbinger Shepard let them rejoice for a few moments before she turned towards the Crucible. Unspoken, but at the core of his being, was the further thought, And I will always be first amongst you, first in this Galaxy, for it is my will you obey and my will which creates the future. I am Harbinger Shepard, the harbinger of destruction or the shepherd of salvation.
Her consciousness reached out, wrapping his presence around the trigger before the grip tightened.
The Crucible fired.
This brings to a close Mass Effect: Synthesis, at thirty nine chapters, nine bonuses and one NSFW addition. Approximately 200,000 words with an average word count per chapter of 4980. Shortest chapter is Chapter 39 at 1790 words, longest chapter is 35 at 6530 words.
If you have read this far I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading and humbly pray that you have enjoyed the fic. I hope that I've tied up any questions you may have had with the characters and I apologize if I've missed some of your favorites. The ME universe has such a rich diversity that it is almost impossible to include them all and I was very much focused on a few with this story. If you have any questions, make sure you log in to review so that I can answer them!
This fic began because I was reading other ME fics and I decided there was not enough Reapers and because I thought that it was arrogant to assume that Shepard, a human would be the first to get to the Citadel during the Harvest. Of course the fic then does turn out as a HFY/RFY but that's a different matter. I hope that I've made an acceptable AU.
I have enjoyed writing this and I've learned a lot while doing it. I managed to mostly keep to my rules of not posting until the fic is complete which is something. I intend to keep to that rule for future endeavors as while I will listen to reader ideas, I do wish to be able to say that the fic is my ideas. That's not to say that reader feedback isn't greatly appreciated. It is and I would encourage people to review, even if a lot of time has gone past. Reader feedback will tell me what I can improve for next time or just let me know that you enjoyed it.
I would like to thank those people who've been here since the beginning, or who have taken the time to review more than one chapter as they read. Your contribution to the story and to my motivation to continue to posting can't be overestimated. So extra special thank you's to you.
I'd also like to thank Pax-Humana. Funny story there in that Pax kept pointing out some errors I had written so I made the challenge to him to see if he wanted to fix them and thus he became a beta. This was especially helpful and very good of him.
Cheers to everyone who read, reviewed, favorited and followed. I'm glad that you have joined me for this little adventure in the ME Universe and since this note is about to hit 500 words, I'm going to sign out now.