A Mass Effect AU Fic by TallYapflip
From Sand to Dust, and Dust to Earth, I am drifting In a World I Don't Belong. I Remember Dying, Shifting Into Black. I Remember Dreaming of a Second Chance.
Chapter 1: Rebirth
Haddock Stratton stood before his wall-spanning window that gave his office a wonderful view of the Imperial Legislature Square, resting on the former city of Washington D.C.'s Capitol Hill. He watched with a swelling sense of pride as the planet's daily life passed by. Civilians walked through the streets, Police officers strolled along the sidewalk, and cars hurried to and from their place of work. The thought that such a planet was on the receiving end of an invasion 900 years ago seemed almost foreign as he saw the content populace go about the relatively unimportant business of their day-to-day activities. He found himself losing his sense of reality to the memories of the past, when they came.
The blue-skinned aliens, the Birds, and the Lizards, all bearing their lies of peace and co-prosperity. The United Nations Coalition listened to their hollow promises for a time, but when it was revealed that they wished for Humanity to join them as a vassal race, they refused. Talks broke down, tensions grew as their diplomats came to be hated by the race that they had lied to, and it all culminated in a single devastating war.
Even with early 21st century military technology, the Humans held their own for a time, despite being cornered to a single world, while the aliens could pull forces from across the galaxy. The nations of Earth, for a glorious three years, stood united against a threat to Humanity's very right to rule itself: the Citadel Council.
The UN Coalition fought tooth and nail for every inch of Earth's soil, with the Humans showing their tenacity as the war dragged on. The frail Salarians were easy pickings for the average soldier, but the Asari and Turians proved a greater threat. The Asari were among the worst. Their uncanny resemblance to Human females was unnerving to say the least, as was their capacity for diplomacy. Their natural abilities to bend space to their will proved an asset against the human resistance, but even they fell short of the horrors that the Turians had inflicted.
The relatively small, by Turian standards, fleet that rested over Earth during the war proved to be the ultimate undoing of the Human species' ability to wage war. Every nation's surface navy was destroyed in a matter of weeks, hit by precision orbital strikes. The few weapons that were capable of fighting the orbiting fleet were expended within a few hours, with minimal losses sustained by the Turians. As the fighting on the surface grew worse and worse, so did the tactics of the Turians. Seeing Turians wielding flamethrowers was not an uncommon sight, nor was seeing a Turian orbital strike blanketing an entire city in hellfire. The official death toll was still in debate, but it's assumed that the war claimed at least four billion human lives, half of the population.
As if their total destruction of the Homeworld wasn't enough, the aliens simply continued their campaign, blanketing the planet in mass accelerator slugs and low-yield nuclear weapons. Once they felt their destruction was complete, they simply left a shattered and broken Earth and Humanity behind. The one thing they couldn't break was the Human spirit… and desire for vengeance.
Once the Aliens left, taking their pyrrhic victory with them, Humanity remained united. It still stood as a surprise to him when Stratton would look back through history and see the lengths that the survivors went to in order to ensure the survival of Humanity. Any remaining military assets reconnected with one another, working to restore a sense of order. For the first time in Human history, all of the species was united in a single, common goal: Survival in this harsh, unforgiving universe. The arrival of the council was a rude awakening for the complacent Human civilization.
Within 20 years, order was restored to most of the planet, with a preliminary government set up under military leadership. The wealth of technology left behind by the destroyed Council vehicles proved essential for achieving Humanity's next goal, reaching the stars. In 2046, twenty one years after the end of the war, the first human spacecraft was put in service with the United Earth Navy. It was given a singular mission, prove that Humanity could earn their place in the stars.
The Aliens' method of transportation was discovered orbiting Pluto, a massive construct in the void designed to propel ships at high-speeds. It was named a Mass Relay, according to a decoded copy of an Asari Codex. The budding Human Navy searched the entire Sol System, surprised to not find a single trace of the Council anywhere. They took it as a blessing and began their work.
Over the decades, Humanity began recovering. Cities were rebuilt, infrastructure repaired, and colonies established on Luna and Mars. The Provisional United Earth Government slowly evolved along with the technology, eventually becoming the United Human Empire in 2096. A leader for this government was needed, so the Chancellorship was created. The Chancellor, similar to an Emperor, would be Humanity's leader through the turbulent cosmic ocean, working tirelessly to secure its place among the stars. It was an honor, and that honor was now Haddock Stratton's.
In the 900 years since the founding of the United Human Empire, Humanity had finally earned their place. The Empire spanned thirty worlds, a number made possible by the development of the Void Drive Trans-Light Engine in 2151. Much like the technology from science fiction, the Void Drive alters the effect of gravity on light, exponentially increasing the relative speed of light. Of the technologies that the Council possessed, Element Zero Engines and Drive Cores were an impossibility for the Human Species. Given that there was no notable deposit of the new element within the Sol System, Humanity needed a method of FTL travel, and necessity is the mother of invention.
These thirty worlds, bearing a collective population of thirty six billion humans, given the situation, needed a military to defend them. And thus, the Imperial Navy was christened in its current state in 2164. As of 2996, the Imperial Navy included upwards of 2,500 warships, with 1,000 of them being Heavy Cruisers or larger. One of the many benefits of not being restricted to Element Zero engineering was the lack of a feasible size restriction on naval vessels. Council ships could sparsely be longer than a single kilometer. Light Cruisers in the Imperial Navy were always at least 1 kilometer, with the largest of Super Dreadnoughts stretching an impressive 17.7 kilometers in length.
Thankfully, with the advent of the Void Drive, the Human Colonies were completely inaccessible to the Council, as they existed well out of range of any Mass Relay. The only real security concern was the Sol System, as the Council could feasibly transport warships into the system in a matter of minutes, which led to the massive fleet of 120 vessels constantly guarding the deactivated Sol Relay. According to the Shadow Protocol, upon activation of the Sol Relay, all UHE vessels are to immediately return to the Sol System and prepare a defense of the system. Somehow, some way, the relay lay dormant for almost a millennia.
Stratton was shaken out of his thoughts as the sound of boots clacking against the tiled floor of his office reverberated in his ears. He turned around, unsurprised to find the current Lord of Admirals, Steven Hackett, had stepped into his office. "Chancellor Stratton, you asked for me?"
"I did, Steven." Stratton said, sighing. "Do you have any idea why?" Stratton motioned for Hackett to take a seat in one of the three padded chairs that faced his desk.
"Frankly sir, I do not." Hackett responded, taking a seat.
"It's a rather troubling issue that I'm facing right now…" Stratton said, sitting down in his own chair and grabbing a small bottle of scotch from beneath his desk. He produced two glasses from a small drawer in his desk, filling them both with the golden liquid and sliding one over to Hackett. "The Senate thinks we're ready."
"Are they insane?" Hackett asks, his eyes widening. "If we broke the Shadow Protocol now, there's no telling what could happen! We have no means of gathering intelligence outside of our own space, not without making our presence known!"
"That's just the issue… a lack of knowledge." Stratton agreed, kicking his feet up on the desk. "The Navy has no means of leaving our space undetected, and that's a problem. Our current FTL drive simply releases far too much energy upon activation or dropping from FTL."
"We simply don't have any stealth warships." Hackett agreed, taking a drink from his glass. "All of our ships are suited for frontline combat. And our Stealth ships are woefully outdated when compared to our combat vessels… we simply never needed stealth ships for our colonization efforts. Not even mentioning the fact that we use a completely different technological basis for our ships."
"Exactly why your new mission is so important." Stratton said, slamming back the remainder of his liquor. "As of right now, I'm giving NAVSPECWAR a blank check to design a warship that can effectively move through Council Space undetected. And I need it done by the turn of the millennia."
"That's a tall order, even with a 'blank check'." Hackett said, giving the Chancellor a rather incredulous look. "You're talking about designing, building, testing, and fixing a completely new class of vessel within the span of three years."
"Exactly why I'm giving your division the order." Stratton replied, smiling slightly. "If any singular entity within the UHE can accomplish something like this, it would be yours."
"I appreciate the flattery, but I'm still not sure that it's even possible." Hackett responded, sighing. "But that won't stop us from trying our damndest. Consider this project underway."
"Excellent." Stratton says, smiling. "I feel like this goes without saying, but you're going to need a crew, and a damned good one."
"I've got the entirety of the Navy's Special Warfare Operatives Division under my command, I'll get the best we have." Hackett responded.
"I'll leave the decision for the crew up to you." Stratton said. "You know your men far better than I do."
"I already have an idea for the commanding officer." Hackett added, thinking to himself.
"One of your N7 Operatives?" Stratton asked.
"Indeed… She shows quite a bit of promise. She's only 22 and she's already outperforming her own instructors." Hackett said, nodding.
"Your N7 Commandos never cease to impress me, Hackett." Stratton said, grinning. "She seems like a perfect fit. Who is she, so I can pull up a dossier on her?"
"Lieutenant-Commander Annalise Shepard."
Annalise sat up in her normal perch, staring down the scope of her rifle. She watched as the small squad of UHE Marines scanned the forests around her, searching for the hiding operative. Her optical camouflage module rendered her almost completely invisible, and her still state made hearing her a complete impossibility. She quietly powered up the electromagnetic coils of her rifle, the soft thrumming brining a familiar comfort.
She watched in rather detached interest, waiting for the proper moment to issue the order. Her Heads-Up Display showed the large rectangle of land that the entire squad of Marines would have to be in before she could give the order. Her aiming reticle followed the NCO of the squad, waiting for that moment to come.
The very instant the final rifleman stepped into the ambush zone, Annalise lit up the HUDs of her team with the signal. Within an instant, four silent slugs flew from the treeline, one of which was Annalise's. Hers connected with the helmet of the NCO, while the other three knocked out the three corporals within the squad, leaving only ten stunned Marines. The remaining ten marines all fell to one knee, forming a square to provide maximum visual coverage of the surrounding forest. They began firing into the forest in a surprisingly controlled manner. Annalise was honestly rather surprise, Hackett must have sent some decent soldiers this time.
Annalise remained steadfast in her observation of the startled Marines, watching them blindly fire into the forest beneath her. She waiting until their rifle's magazine clicked empty, then watched in amusement as their helmets were struck by a quick sub-sonic coilgun round, locking up their armor and knocking them out of the fight.
The Marines, upon seeing two of their comrades fall, attempted to scatter for nearby cover, only to be met by a hail of automatic gunfire from the four concealed Operatives, knocking all of them out. Annalise didn't feel like toying with the Marines any more than was required today. Once the final Marine's armor was locked by the soft-bodied coilgun round, all of the Operative's weapons were powered down remotely, and the all-clear was given to their HUDs.
"Whoo!" Ashley cheered from the tree opposite of Annalise. Ashley Williams was the Designated Rifleman and Combat Lifesaver of Annalise's squad. She and Ashley had been friends ever since they were both barely old enough to walk, and were both lucky enough to be placed in the same squad for their training as N7 Operatives. Ashley dropped from her perch in the treeline, slinging her rifle over her back.
Ashley's armor was the same as all N7 armor. It was a matte black, completely covering all parts of the wearer's body. It had an internalized exoskeleton used to assist in load-bearing, sets of advanced alloy plates covering almost all of the wearer's body, as well as a set of synthetic muscle fibers that greatly enhanced the strength of the wearer. Every suit of the N7 Armor was specialized to the role of the solider, and as such, Ashley's was suited for a medic. It had a wide array of medical sensors, bio-gel canisters, and various medical implements built directly into the armor. "You guys lasted ten minutes this time!" Ashley mockingly congratulated the now-recovering Marines. "Thirty second improvement."
"Fuck off, Williams…" The Marines Squad Leader said, standing upright slowly.
"I dunno, Williams…" Kaidan Alenko responded, dropping from his own perch. "Maybe we're just getting soft. This is the first Combat Sim we've had in the past few months, after all." Alenko was the team's resident Vanguard, or heavily-armored front line combatant. N7 Vanguards were equipped with much more heavily-armored sets of armor, and were generally seen carrying Coil-assisted Scatterguns of some kind. Alenko preferred his small PDWs that he kept attached to his thighs, which he affectionately referred to as "his babies". Annalise had come to know Alenko as the rather soft-spoken, yet highly effective combatant. He was certainly thoughtful and respectful most of the time, but it wasn't above him to crack the occasional joke at another's expense. Despite his soft-spoken nature, he got along rather well with the rest of his team.
"We certainly could have done better." Miranda Lawson, the squad's resident CQC and Sustained Stealth Operations Specialist, commented. Miranda's armor was lighter than most variants of the N7 Combat Armor. It was designed for mobility, as opposed to durability. The blockier armored plates had been replaced with curvier, rounded plates, and the helmet was outfitted with all manner of sensors to detect, mark, and track all nearby entities. The brighter blue light behind her thin visor was indicative of her armor's greatly expanded-upon HUD, featuring motion trackers, IFF Scanners, Thermal Scanners, and the works.
Relations between Annalise and Miranda had started off a bit rocky back in the day. At first, Annalise attributed the unlikable nature of the Australian-born woman to a combination of her snobby-sounding accent and her resting bitch-face. Annalise's rather upbeat and spontaneous personality clashed rather strongly with Miranda's more detail-oriented one, leading to quite a few arguments over rather mundane issues. As the time went by, they slowly came to settle their many differences enough to consider themselves friends.
"I thought that was perfect." Annalise responded with a shrug, slinging her Coilgun across her back. Annalise was the Designated Squad Leader of N7 Squad Apex-1, and her armor reflected her role. Unlike most other variants of N7 Combat Armor, her armor was outfitted with a primary Quantum Entanglement Communicator, as opposed to the standard Tightbeam System that the rest of the variants used. It was capable of communicating with any UHE Military Installation from any point in space, as well as keeping in constant contact with any and all UHE Military Assets. Her armor's overall design was no different than Ashley's, with the exception of it lacking the medical equipment.
"Why do I always get pitted against Shepard's team?" One of the Marines asked to no one in particular. "What did I ever do to deserve this torture?"
"Aww, c'mon…" Annalise said, smirking underneath her helmet. "You know you love it." She helped the Marine up to his feet, a gesture that he begrudgingly accepted. Once the Marine was back on his feet, the holographic environment being projected around them dissipated, leaving a drab gray room in its place. "Maybe Hackett'll actually let you guys rest for once, now that my team's shipping off to Specialization."
The NCO let out a sarcastic, barking laugh. "Nah, we're probably gonna wind up as the next Generation's punching bags. At least it pays well."
As the groups left the simulator, they were greeted by a truly unexpected sight. Before them stood Admiral Steven Hackett in his formal blue uniform, his facial scar barely hidden by the shadow cast on his face by the cap her wore on his head. Standing on either side of the Admiral were members of the UHE's Internal Intelligence Corps, their black uniforms standing in stark contrast to the pale walls of the hallway. All of the soldiers before him snapped to attention immediately, their arms bending in a salute. "Admiral on deck!" Annalise declared.
"At ease, lieutenant." Hackett said, waving off the formal stance with the flick of his wrist. "Marines, you're dismissed."
"Aye sir!" The NCO said, standing at rest. He walked off with the rest of his team trailing behind, leaving the four young soldiers standing before the aged Admiral Hackett.
"Lieutenant Shepard. It's time we broke the Protocol." Hackett said, grinning slightly. "Come with me, it's time to discuss your Specialization Training in specific."
Councilor Tevos barely resisted the urge to massage her temple, having been sitting around a conference table with the two other councilors for the past seven hours. Ever since this pointless conference started, it had been talk of nothing more than equally pointless topics. Expansion of Eezo Mining to the outer areas of the Traverse, the creation of a second Volus Dreadnought, and the icing on the proverbial cake was the topic of discussion for the past three hours, Quarian Migrant Fleet movements through unoccupied space. She had nearly dozed off at least six times since Mesu and Valern started this pointless discussion, and had elected to ignore most of it. A single sentence drew her back into the conversation.
"What about the inactive Relay in the Exodus Cluster?" Valern asked, looking to his colleagues. "It is well-within Traverse Space, and it has somehow been caught up in a bureaucratic loop to prevent its activation. I propose that we activate it, and explore into the rest of the Galaxy."
"How long has the proper paperwork been in the works?" Mesu asked, his Salarian nature making his speech almost too fast to follow.
"Upwards of ten years." Valern replied, sighing. "The Hierarchy petitioned to activate the Relay after the Traverse was cleared for colonization, but it was stopped at some point along the way by the bureaucracy of the Citadel. I would like to expedite the activation of the relay."
"That arm of the Galaxy is still unexplored." Mesu agreed, rubbing his chin in thought. "Imagine what we could find."
Tevos nodded. "Understandable… I believe you're all right, it's time to activate the Relay. We will be exercising standard procedures, however. A fleet will be in the system to prevent any mishaps."
"Excellent, I'll bring this to the Hierarchy immediately. We can have this Relay activated by year's end." Valern said, standing up.
The remainder of the day passed rather uneventfully. Another petition for a Council Seat by the Volus, more Hanar preachers in the Presidium, and more incidents along the Traverse with Batarians. At the end of the day, Tevos simply stepped into her personal quarters and sat down in her comfortable chair, and powered on her terminal. Something had been nagging at her all day… just why was this Relay barely present in the Citadel's historical archives. The only information regarding it was that it was discovered just over 900 years ago, and has yet to be activated. Tevos knew all too well that the bureaucracy of the Citadel was slow, but she had never heard of something like a Relay on the border of heavily-defended Council Space taking almost a millennium to activate.
She spent the better part of three hours scanning over the same documents from the Archives, none of them more than a single page in length. After her eyes started to grow weary of staring at a holo-screen for an extended period of time, she simply gave up and closed the terminal. Even after reading over the same documents for the past four hours, she still had a nagging feeling about this Relay. There was simply too much that didn't add up.
UHE: The United Human Empire, the government born in one war and forged by the threat of another. An empire that spans across 30 garden worlds and 31 Star Systems, completely independent of the Citadel Council. For the past 900 years, it has been building up its forces, biding its time until it could make itself known. It began as a collective government between the North American Federation, European Conglomerate, and the Slavic Union, all of which are responsible for forging the culture of the UHE.
Imperial Navy: The Might of the UHE, the largest fleet in the known galaxy belongs to the UHE, numbering in at exactly 2,521 combat vessels of Corvette-Weight and larger. It is responsible for securing all corners of Human Space, and is easily the largest branch of the UHE's massive military machine.
Imperial Army: The backbone of the UHE, the Army is the primary fighting force of the Human Military. Its total active-duty personnel numbers in at 100 million personnel, including members of logistics along with combat soldiers. There are about 30 million active combat personnel in the UHE Army, making it a force to be reckoned with unlike any other.
Imperial Marines: If the Army is the backbone of the UHE, then the Marines are the heart. They are some of the most elite soldiers of the UHE, and they are also the smallest branch of the military. Altogether, there are only 4 million active Marines, with 1.5 million combat-ready soldiers.
NAVSPECWAR: Naval Special Warfare Command, the relatively small division of the UHE Navy responsible for overseeing all experimental projects, as well as all sections of the Navy's Special Forces. It is under the direction of Lord of Admirals Steven Hackett.
Shadow Protocol: The enduring protocol for all Human movements through space. No Human vessel or person is to make the continued presence of the Human Species known without express permission from the Chancellor himself. It also includes the Human Military Doctrine of remaining isolated to the Orion Arm of the Milky Way, staying quiet and building up in secret. Any attempt to break the Shadow Protocol willingly is generally considered treason, and punished by execution.
Void Drive: The main human means of FTL travel. It functions by utilizing the advanced reactor core of all human ships, a Neutronium Reactor, and creating a micosingularity within a contained space in the ship's vicinity. This microsingularity acts upon light, using the immense gravitational pull to alter the relative speed of light. This altered Space-Time spectrum is contained by a bubble of Real-Space that surrounds the vessel upon activation of this Drive. It is commonly accepted that the Void Drive is capable of relatively limitless changes to the speed of light, and thus having no measurable limit on the speed of which the vessel utilizing the drive can move.
Neutronium Reactor Core: The energy basis for all Human Warships and society. Humanity's massive power needs required a rather strange alternative to nuclear fusion or fission, and that was Sustained Neutronium Pressure Reactions. Neutronium, a collection of matter comprised entirely of neutrons, existing in an incredibly dense state. A ball of Neutronium is contained in a highly pressurized sphere of alloyed metals, with the pressure used to extract single molecules of Neutronium at any given time. Once a molecule is separated from the larger cluster of Neutronium, it begins to break down over the course of roughly twenty minutes, releasing upwards of twenty eight megawatts within the first second of the reaction taking place. It is by far the most advanced energy solution ever derived by the human mind. The first planetary Neutronium Reactor was created on Earth in the year 2364, and remains in service to this day. It alone can provide power for the entirety of the North American Continent.
Haddock Stratton: Current Chancellor of the United Human Empire, appointed by the Senate to serve a life term, as have all Chancellors before him. He is a native to Earth's North American continent, and is 36 years old as of 2996. He is a decorated member of the UHE Naval Air Forces, awarded the Imperial Ace's Cross by his predecessor, Chancellor Edwin Volker.
UHE Senate: The Primary legislative body of the UHE, with each planet receiving a pair of Senators for representation. Earth is the one exception, as it receives three. The Senate holds a fair bit of legislative power over the laws, but still requires the signature of the Chancellor in order to enact any sort of legislature. All Senators serve a single ten year term, then are replaced in a general election.
N7: The Elite Special Operations force of the UHE Navy, answering directly to NAVSPECWAR and Admiral Hackett. Each N7 Operative is hand-picked at sixteen years of age and undergoes the most rigorous training of any UHE Military role. Their six-year basic training is spent in the Imperial War Academy on New Eden, Humanity's first and most well-defended colony. They are trained in squads of four, with each squad given a single NCO that serves as their own for the entirety of their training. Their basic training goes far beyond physical rigor, but includes mental rigor as well. Each N7 prospect also takes classes in physics, tactics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and history. Top marks are required in all classes in order to remain in the program. Once their six years of basic training is completed, the squad will attend an additional two years of Advanced Training School on Earth, where their squad and personal specializations will be given. Once Advanced Training is complete, the squad is officially active.
N7 Operators are generally given some of the most advanced equipment in the UHE's expansive arsenal, along with limited biological, genetic, and cybernetic enhancements. The UHE Government officially values a single N7 Operative as being worth 45 UHE Marine Companies. There are only fifteen active N7 Squads, totaling at 60 Operatives.
N7 Armor: The Tactical Exoskeletal Battle Dress Uniform, or TEBDU, is the standard combat attire for all N7 operatives. It features an exoskeletal frame concealed under the armor itself, as well as synthetic muscle fibers, automatic bio-gel dispensers, all manner of optics, and basic communications equipment as standard. It is the most advanced suit of armor ever created by the Human species, and is reserved entirely for the elite N7 Operatives. Each set of armor runs the UHE upwards of six million credits in costs, and his highly customizable. Many N7 Operatives choose to add onto their personal set of armor as their career moves forward, giving them their own unique appearance.
Coilguns: The standard small arm of the UHE Armed Forces. The Coilgun functions in a similar manner to the average railgun, but uses a slightly more-accurate coil layout for its magnetic inductors. UHE Coilguns come in all shapes and sizes, from small pocket handguns to massive assault cannons carried by exoskeleton-sporting Heavy Troopers. Most are capable of propelling their small metal slugs at speeds in-excess of MACH-10, making them exceptional at defeating armor.