12/09/2017

Thank you to Pax Humana and Daisy Duck 39 for beta-ing.

Thank you to everyone who reviewed, you are the greatest!

Part 2 The Fall of the Galaxy
Chapter 18: Important Recycling

-cfr-

Trebia, Palaven Orbit, Human Ascended Attack Fleet

It was because Shepard was watching for it that he heard Fedorian's transmission go out almost at the same time as he cancelled the call from the Council. He recorded Fedorian's frequency for later before he turned his attention away. The Primarch was a distraction, as was the Council and he had postponed speaking with Harbinger for long enough.

"Better pucker up Shepard," Joker taunted but even he understood the potential consequences of their actions.

"Forgiveness," Pressly replied. "Remember, it's easier to ask forgiveness than for permission."

"We'd better pipe down," Annie interrupted before a full scale argument could break out. "Harbinger will not care for our internal arguments," she added and with Shepard's tacit permission she tucked away the voice files of the last few minutes, driving them deeper into the layers of consciousness. Harbinger could find them if he looked but if he had no reason to look, then there was nothing to find.

A moment later, the sublayers of Shepard's consciousness calmed into orderly layers as they each took up their assigned task. They became the perfect picture of an Ascended, rigid, yet flexible. Bearing the marks of organic production but completely ordered.

"Harbinger," Shepard opened the comm link to the Ascended leader.

"The Turians are compliant?" Harbinger didn't bother with any greeting preamble.

"Soon," Shepard replied, his sub channels indicating that it would take another three or so days to break the Turians.

"Why?" Harbinger demanded. None of the remaining organics for this cycle should take very long to break.

To answer Shepard allowed the Ascended Leader to see his memories of Palaven. He paid particular attention to the defences, subtly highlighting that for an organic species the defences were quite pervasive. More so than Earth's had been and far more so than Khar'shan's. As Harbinger examined the information, Shepard could feel that the Ascended Leader did not yet truly know what was happening and he steeled himself for the 'discussion' he knew would follow.

"Three local cycles?" Harbinger questioned. "It shouldn't take more than a few sub-cycles to destroy them."

One thing Shepard had not yet truly appreciated was that Ascended had their own sense of time. When referring to small amounts they were rather imprecise. Precision came with the way they communicated. The sub channel information told Shepard exactly how much time Harbinger thought it should take.

"That will not be necessary," Shepard replied.

The answer aroused Harbinger's suspicion and Shepard felt the Ascended Leader once more trawling through his thoughts. Before Harbinger found it, Shepard spoke, volunteering the information.

"The Turian homeworld will be neutralised completely." With his words came the fuller explanation that Menae was destabilised and would collide with Palaven in three days time. Carried with the explanation was Shepard's regret and his understanding of what the destruction of Palaven would cost. It was part of the code that the homeworlds were Ascended to truly preserve the essence of the species.

Harbinger was silent as he went through the information. Shepard was wise enough not to allow any feeling of hope seep into the connection.

"The ones you deemed untrained will make up for your incompetence." With Harbinger's words came the knowledge of what he proposed. The newly Ascended would now be used in the assault on Turian space. Harbinger would order them to attack Digeris.

"No!" Shepard objected.

"You dare!"

"I dare!" Shepard growled his reply. "The untrained will help," he made the counter offer to Harbinger, aware that the elder Ascended was not truly enraged as he had been over Earth but was not willing to be challenged. "They will conduct the ascension of the Turians, but only after we have cleared the way."

"This is not the way of the Ascended," Harbinger snapped.

"I do not wish them to be damaged," Shepard said, highlighting the fact that one of the supposedly fully trained Human Ascended had been injured by Palaven's defences.

Harbinger dismissed his concerned. "That is the homeworld. All organics fight for their homeworld."

"Digeris is one of their oldest colonies," Shepard countered. "Its defences are almost as strong as Palaven's and we were caught unawares by them!"

"Because you are young."

"Then the newest are even younger." Let Harbinger refute that.

"They are Ascended and Ascended serve the cycle."

Shepard was silent for a moment as he realised Harbinger's mind was made up. "Let us clear the way for them," he repeated. "It will result in the survival of more Turians for ascension" he added, relaying several plans to Harbinger, showing how what he considered a trained Ascended would be more efficient than one newly awoken.

Harbinger considered the information. There was nothing that could be refuted with it because it was the truth and even Ascended had to acknowledge that. "I will set the time frames for you to clear the defences," Harbinger countered.

"Agreed." Shepard sent his confirmation quickly.

"And you will destroy no further planets! This was not a part of our agreement."

Shepard didn't reply.

"Shepard." Harbinger prompted.

"Should the need arise to bombard another planet as thoroughly as Palaven, I will consult with you first," he countered.

Harbinger didn't possess the immediate emotions of organics but Shepard could feel that he wasn't pleased with the reply but only an instant later came the acknowledgement that it was acceptable. Barely.

"Ascended serve the cycle," Shepard said, "but vengeance shall be mine," he added.

Harbinger broke the connection.

Shepard would have sighed if he was still Human.

An instant later, Anderson sent a signal to him. "Do not be concerned," came the familiar voice when Shepard accepted the comm.

"About?"

"Harbinger," Anderson replied.

"Ascended serve the cycle," Shepard said. "And the cycle dictates that the homeworld is Ascended."

"Humanity dictated that Palaven burns," came the soft retort.

"What?" Shepard demanded. Carried in Anderson's words was more than just the meaning. There was a deeper plan there.

"The plan for ascension may not have been fulfilled," Shepard's former commanding officer said, "however the Human plan to destroy the Turians went perfectly."

"This was not the plan!" Shepard objected.

"Not your plan," Anderson said. "We couldn't tell you, Shepard. Not before. You have a more personal grudge against the Asari because you were involved in the politics, you know where the driving forces for the Council's hatred came from. Most Humans saw the Turian fleet. It is them they hate and so most of us had no intentions of ascending Palaven."

"That is not the cycle."

"The cycle can wait! Harbinger promised us that we could wreak vengeance and we will."

"But the cycle."

"Will wait," Anderson's voice was firm. "We will fulfill the cycle," he continued, assuring Shepard that the deal between Humanity and the rest of the Ascended would be upheld. "The Turians will be Ascended but they are lessers! The full glory of ascension is not theirs to know."

For a long moment, an eternity to an Ascended, Shepard said nothing. "No more hidden plans," he growled finally.

"Agreed," Anderson replied. "It was a pain keeping the information away from you anyway."

"I'll make it more than a pain if you do this again."

"Which is why we are not going to," Anderson laughed. "This is good enough for most," he added, sending the image of Palaven burning to the Human Ascended commander. "It's enough."

Shepard sent back an image of Thessia. "Not yet enough."

-cfr-

Palaven, Cabal Village

Notchimus sat, leaning against the remains of the wall. Dust and ash were thick in the air, barely filtered by the scrap of cloth over his nose. It was the best he could do and he was trying to keep his breathing shallow. He should just breathe deep, let the particles into his lungs so that they could kill him but he didn't deserve that quick a death. It was all his fault. All of it.

Around him was the remains of his village. The houses were broken and scattered. There was not a single one intact and the wall he was leaning against was perhaps the largest Turian built structure still standing. The remains of his Cabal were broken and scattered over the village. He didn't have to look far to see them.

Awendea's sightless eyes stared at him from across the road, her body twisted at odd angles and left where it had fallen. He thought it was a bit of Scipius behind her and over on the left, half trapped beneath a pile of rubble was old Caesa. They had bodies at least. The thought of what happened to Yordana, his teacher, made him convulse.

The troop transports had landed near them. That was his fault. He'd been manning one of the AA guns but he wanted to fight. He wanted to see the light die in the eyes of the enemy and had been not quite as careful with his aim as he should have been. Everyone thought they were Human and who wouldn't want to kill Humans!

The enemy had taken advantage of his lapse, landing their vessels close to his village and swarming out to attack.

Except they weren't Human. He'd felt sick when he saw that. They were bipedal, like Humans but that didn't mean anything. Everyone except the Hanar and Elcor were bipedal! They were about the same size as a Human but again, so was a Turian, an Asari, a Drell… But it was about there that any similarity to a Human or to a species he had seen ended. They had two eyes but they glowed and other marks on their bodies flickered with energy. For a moment Notchimus had thought they were biotic, right up until Yordana's warp lanced into the lead group, obliterating them.

Other members of their village had pulled guns and were pouring rounds into the invaders. Weaklings, he'd thought at the time, as he charged his own biotics, sending several of the invaders sprawling. They rose again and Notchimus had felt a wave of joy surge through him then. They at least offered a fight. Perhaps the fact that they weren't Human was better.

He'd thought that until the first one reached a defensive line.

And blew itself up. Notchimus hadn't been the only one left staring.

What kind of force were they facing? More of the enemy reached their lines and they too blew up, releasing a wave of crackling electricity that caused severe burns in anyone too close. Burns, which combined with the mundane damage caused by the shrapnel of their explosion, ensured death for the defenders.

With Yordana's shouted orders they'd rallied then, joining together as a group to form a biotic barrier they had used to literally drive the invaders back. The effort collapsed a few of the weaker Cabal but allowed those remaining to once again utilise long range attacks – both biotic and mundane.

At the end of the battle Notchimus had been panting with effort but he'd felt triumphant, just like the rest of the Cabal.

That is, until kinetic strikes had lanced down near them. A couple had been able to put up barriers in time. Most had been driven back. The lucky were knocked over into some shelter. The unlucky were swept away or into solid structures that crumbled with the force, but only after breaking their bodies. Awendea was one of those. Her barrier hadn't held and she'd been swept away, her body tumbling over and over until it lay on the ground, her limbs shattered and twisted and her eyes staring sightlessly at him.

The strikes hadn't been the worst. The worst had yet to come and come it did, in the form of one of the invaders. The ship was huge. It towered above them and the ground quite literally shook each time it moved one of its legs. It was using mass effect fields though. It had to be. There was no way it could maintain that much mass in the gravity well. The AA guns had fired at it. At first they hit nothing. The ship was too far away. Then as it came closer, they hit but that only lit up shimmering shields.

Then there was return fire. It was only when the rounds hit did Notchimus truly appreciate how much damage a capital ship's weapons could do in a gravity well. The AA installations weren't so much destroyed as vapourised. The surrounding buildings collapsed. That's how old Caesa had been caught.

He'd been able to jump over the remains of a wall to hide but the ship had come closer and once again, Yordana had rallied them. She'd understood what they were fighting for and why surrender was not an option. Yordana had ordered those remaining to form a small team, then she'd led them towards the huge ship. It had been a nightmare.

The atmosphere was hot, hotter than it should have been, even with all the kinetic strikes and Notchimus realised that the dreadnought was bleeding off heat. Beyond that, there was dust and debris flying everywhere and rounds rained down around them. It was a precarious position but they had managed to get close enough.

"Cover me," Yordana had ordered before she'd done…

Well, Notchimus wasn't sure what she'd done. Something that had seemed to be condensed darkness which she'd then flung at the huge ship. For a moment it appeared to do nothing, then there had been a flash and a boom and Notchimus realised a small part of the ship had exploded.

He had no time for further realisations. Yordana didn't even have time to celebrate. She was suddenly outlined in fire. There was no time to scream. Notchimus was left staring at her form, what was left of it. There was steam rising from where she had been standing and the smell was of burnt flesh. He'd gagged, retching but nothing came up. Yordana had been covered in molten metal and not even the shape of her body remained.

It was only because he forced his eyes away from the steaming mass that had been his teacher that he managed to duck when the giant ship moved one leg. The pressure wave passed over him and Notchimus screamed, the shield he had managed to put around him breaking as he was drawn along in the wake of the massive leg. That's when he'd hit the wall and everything had gone black.

He wasn't sure how long he'd been out. With all the dust in the atmosphere he couldn't tell the time. It was day, he thought. There was a dim glow through what passed for clouds so it could only have been an hour or two. The ship was gone, as were the strange troops. The air was hot and he'd ripped cloth from his tunic to cover his nose. He could hear roaring in the distance and the crackle and burn of fire much closer. He couldn't hear the screams of the Cabal. That was what scared him.

Slowly, he took a deep breath, rubbing one shoulder against the wall. There was a dull ache in his head, one he recognised as coming from the overuse of his biotics. He forced himself to think through the haze.

What did he do now? The Cabal was dead. Looking around, it was doubtful that any transportation was in working order. Notchimus was like most, he could fix simple things but he had not been trained as a mechanic, so that left him trapped here. With a groan, he lifted his arm, flicking on his omni-tool, which was battered but otherwise intact. If there was a signal, then perhaps he could contact someone. They'd still be fighting and Notchimus would be darned if he'd just sit here, waiting for rescue when he could be killing the enemy.

He scanned through the frequencies, ears straining to hear the slightest sensible noise from the static. With the constant background noise, it's understandable how he missed the approach of the enemy forces. They had landed at a distance, heading towards Notchimus' village because most resistance had already been put down here.

Notchimus looked up. Dim lights were visible in the swirling dust. He realised almost instantly that they were not the lights of vehicles. He couldn't work out what they were though and he kept his eyes on them, squinting slightly. The lights were irregular but they were coming closer. They were not that far from him when he realised what they were.

Enemy troops.

He jumped to his feet. The motion attracted attention and Notchimus leapt over the remains of the wall as the things approached him. There were hundreds of them. Notchimus raised one hand, focusing his power. A small spark appeared but nothing like it had been earlier. He was too tired and the stresses of the day were bearing down upon him.

Still, he wasn't going to go down without a fight.

Notchimus raised his head slightly, targeting one of the aliens and sending a pulse of power towards them. The thing blew backwards, taking several others with it but the group wasn't affected. They turned to him and Notchimus strained, focusing again as he sent another wave of power out.

Before that wave hit, he crouched back down, looking around for any weapon at all. The only thing around him was rubble and with a wave of frustration Notchimus stood back up, ignoring the headache that was rapidly forming from his overuse of his biotics as he sent a third wave at the invaders.

He stepped back slowly and a fourth wave followed immediately, the surge of panic fuelling it as he realised the enemy troops were at the wall. Notchimus turned to run then but something grabbed at his leg. He looked down as he kicked. One of the enemy troops had jumped the wall and had latched on to his leg. Another followed, catching one of his spurs.

Notchimus leaned forward as he took a staggering step, then a second before another enemy barrelled into him, tackling his chest and he staggered to the ground. He tried to focus his biotics but pain stabbed through his head and no matter how much he wanted to, the power just slipped away.

Then the enemy troops hoisted him up. They were strangely silent but no matter how Notchimus struggled their grip didn't abate. He tilted his head back. Upside down it was hard to see but several of the alien troops were stepping back from some sort of construction. It was a tripod type thing that looked like it could be some sort of upward facing laser except he couldn't see any power source for it. The aliens kept dragging him towards it and then they pushed him onto the top.

For a moment Notchimus was confused, then the pain in his head was flooded by pain in his gut and he looked up to see a spike impaling him. He screamed, blood fountaining from his mouth as he was hoisted into the air.

Spirits! No. This wasn't meant to be.

Notchimus didn't even know what the enemy was. He struggled to breathe but as his vision faded it hardly seemed important. He coughed one last time, tasting blood and hearing the fires that burned through his village.

There was nothing left to fight for.

-cfr-

Trebia, Palaven Orbit, Human Ascended Attack Fleet

Necromancer sighed over the Human net. "Shepard, this is boring."

"Yeah, the birds haven't made an escape attempt in hours!"

"And they haven't made a rescue attempt since yesterday," Aphrodite added.

"Did you really expect them to?" Shepard asked, his voice sardonic.

"Come on everyone, we always knew this bit would be boring though you could always get in on the betting pool," Archangel made the suggestion.

Shepard reached out, pulling the information to him and was hard pressed not to laugh. Those within him felt no such restraint. Joker was particularly vocal and while Adams managed not to laugh, he did filter through the information Shepard had collected to determine the odds of Fedorian begging.

"What are they using as marks?" Adams asked.

"Adams," Shepard growled warningly.

"If you are that bored you can go help on the mining detail," Shepard suggested.

"Actually we can't," Aphrodite replied. "Sirta has got that covered."

"The survey team?"

Necromancer sent through a negative indication. "They've already scanned the entire system for 80 light hours in all directions. Once we hit the comm buoys on the way out, there will truly be nothing left."

"Good work," Shepard sent over the Human network. The scanning had been completed but he hadn't really sought out the details.

"So, that just leaves us bored," Necromancer repeated.

"You can't hold out for another day?"

"Oh I suppose so," came the reply. "But the impact will break the Turians and attacking their colonies is not going to be that interesting."

"It will be necessary."

"No one is denying it will be necessary," Aphrodite hastened to assure Shepard. "But with the main Turian strength broken, we cannot expect them to fight as well."

"Digeris has a good reputation," Spectre said.

"That is true," Necromancer agreed. "But we already know what we face there. Shepard hasn't told us the plan but it's easy to guess. We go in, bomb everything and collect the survivors for ascension."

"Did we get enough Turian husks from Palaven?" Shepard asked. He'd allowed Miranda's forces to lead the way there. They had lost the most.

"We got those who haven't bunkered down," Miranda reported. "The rest would cost us more than we would gain."

"Was it enough?"

"With further Turian colonies it will be."

"All right," Shepard said and the Ascended could hear him thinking. "Necromancer, Aphrodite, help Harper in his trawling of the 'net. I want to know the names and locations of all the so-called Human sympathisers."

"You want to save them?"

"Of course not! Well… they might be Ascended. I want to see if we can use them."

"They aren't indoctrinated."

"No, but they can still cause confusion," Shepard said. "Spectre, Eternity, Saraswati, Taylor, I want you to comb through the information we liberated from the Turian forces. I want you to make a list of every single one of their ships, settlements and stations and their locations. We are going to sweep through Turian space and we don't want to miss anything."

"So what about the rest of us?" Nergal asked.

"You can play with half the ships we've captured. The merchant ships."

"Why the merchants?"

"Because the Turian ships will be needed for training," Shepard explained.

"Darn it, Shepard, can't I play too?" Taylor complained.

"When the list is done."

"Didn't Harbinger order the young ones to capture Turians for ascension?"

"He did," Shepard agreed. "But it will still take us some time to clear out the defences. Elysium has been quite positive about the use of the ships in training. And besides, the young ones will need to see what Turian ships look like in case we miss a few."

"We aren't going to miss any."

"In case others stupidly jump in, then," Shepard altered his previous statement.

"Yeah, they'd be that stupid."

"I'm glad we are in agreement."

"All right!" Several Ascended broke from the cordon. "What games can we play?"

-cfr-

Sol System, Turian Patrol Cruiser Gover

"Illo!" The voice was familiar but he did not reply.

"Illo!" Elysium actually sounded worried.

"Illo Nazario! Answer me," the ship demanded in the tone of a mother scolding an errant child.

"Elysium?" Illo coughed, blood laced vomit fountaining over his chin onto his chest. How was the ship getting the transmission through? Illo knew for a fact that the comms were meant to be locked down.

"I'm sorry, Illo," Elysium continued, relief evident in the tone.

"Sorry?" he questioned, trying to remember what had happened. He was in too much pain for coherent thought. Everything hurt and he was lying on something that was digging into his side. Something dripped in the distance and there was a putrid smell permeating the ship.

"Sphinx didn't know better," Elysium said.

"Sphinx?" Illo would have frowned if movement, any movement, hadn't hurt so much. As it was, the breath he took to say the name set off a coughing fit and it was several long moments before he could carefully gasp for more air. The time jogged his memory though and slowly through the pain he pieced together what had to have happened.

The Gover had been shaken, far worse than any other training session. But it was not meant to be 'helping' in training. Every day, Elysium gave them four hours of peace, four hours in which the surviving members of his crew could eat or sleep and not be sick. Four hours in which there was no training.

Illo didn't know how much time had passed when the Gover had been shaken. He was sure that it was less than the full four hours.

"Sphinx wanted to train as well," Elysium continued, adding the explanation. "She saw her brothers and sisters working with your ships and wanted to be involved."

"Involved?" It was all he could say as memory gave him a new pain. Grief this time. Grief for his crew. None of the surviving crew had been able to stand and after the first minute or so, all they had been able to do was hold on and hope.

Hope in vain as it turned out. The shaking had continued and the internals of the Gover had been loosened and even those few members of his crew who had wedged themselves into the tightest gaps slipped loose. They joined the dangerous amounts of debris flying through the air, slamming into the walls and bulkheads. Their screams had been terrible. Turians were meant to be controlled but no one could be controlled in that situation. Fear, pain, anguish had all sounded in their voices.

"Sphinx is not ready to train with live ships," Elysium said firmly, as one might say when referring to a pet.

"Won't… won't matter," Illo said as blood leaked from the corners of his mouth.

What was worse was the way his crew's voices had become wet, much as his was now. Their screams had become gurgles before they finally stopped. It was a mercy when they died but Illo had survived until now.

"Of course it matters, Illo."

"Won't," he repeated. Elysium didn't understand what he was referring to. For once, the ship didn't know and couldn't control everything. "Dying," he added. There was freedom in the word, though nothing showed in his voice but the wet blood he spoke around. Illo could feel it though. Soon, it would be over.

"You're dying?" the great ship seemed distressed. If a two kilometre long dreadnought could be distressed.

Illo breathed lightly. The smell of blood and worse permeated everything as he looked up at the ceiling. The metal was dinted and in places liquid congealed and dripped. Illo didn't want to think about what was dripping. He was in the crew quarters, not the galley.

"No, Illo, you are not allowed to die," Elysium announced when he remained silent.

He laughed. Or at least the cough was an equivalent, but the expected fountain of blood was only a dribble. That was why he was becoming light headed. "Don't get a choice," Illo replied.

"I do." It was the way that Elysium said it that gave the Turian captain pause. So certain, as if the galaxy would bow to its desires. "Shepard!"

It took Illo a moment to realise Elysium was no longer speaking to him. But why would the ship be talking to Shepard?

"Elysium," came the reply only a moment later. Illo recognised the voice. Just after they'd been captured he'd looked Shepard's file so even through his pain he knew what the first Human Spectre sounded like. "Is something wrong?"

"Sphinx got to the training Turians."

That's all he was, Illo knew. A training aid. Elysium had made that clear but that didn't explain the worry that had been present in Elysium's voice earlier or the underlying note now.

"They're dead?" Shepard's voice was completely detached and mentally, Illo could imagine that the man had just asked 'Oh, so you like red' rather than a question about life and death.

"Almost all of them."

"We can bring you more shortly."

"No!" Illo objected quietly, not even realising that the mic was still on at his end. Elysium was in control of that. He was in no condition to move, with blood slowly leaking from his body and pain still throbbing through his limbs.

"Oh! That's a live one?" Shepard almost laughed.

"That is one of the first ones," Elysium said.

"He doesn't sound good." It might have only been one word but Shepard had obviously picked up on the wet feel of Illo's voice.

"I want to ascend him."

Shepard's silence was more eloquent than any expression could have been.

"Illo is the Commander of the Arcturus Patrol," Elysium said in a rush. "It would make a nice symmetry that the first is Ascended," the ship continued, attempting to explain.

Shepard remained silent and Illo had the absurd impression that it was Elysium who was the child, attempting to justify to a parent why they should keep the baby pyjak.

"His command has been useful and he should be rewarded for their ability."

Shepard still remained silent and Illo could hear a note of unease creeping into Elysium's voice.

"We need to ascend Turians."

"We do," Shepard spoke the agreement though there was no feeling in his tone. "I was going to ask you to give them a day off tomorrow."

"What happens then?"

"I'll explain shortly. Ascension?" Shepard prompted, fishing for further answers.

"It would be a waste to destroy them all."

"Elysium, we are going to do that anyway."

It was Elysium's turn to be silent though Illo went cold. It wasn't just the loss of blood it was the causal way Shepard's voice had replied to Elysium. Destroy them all? Every Turian? A month ago, Illo would have laughed. Today, he didn't and it was not just the pain laughing would bring which stopped him, it was the cold reality that he believed Shepard's assertion. The Humans or Ascended or whatever Elysium was calling themselves, they could destroy his entire species.

"It would still be a waste."

"Are you sure it's not something else?" Shepard probed.

"There's nothing."

"You called the Turian Illo," Shepard replied, the tone full of amusement.

"Illo is his name," Elysium said though the Turian could hear a slight note of defence.

"Training aid is his designation," Shepard returned. "UnAscended organic is the designation for other Turians. Is there something you are not telling me?"

Illo didn't know how he knew but he realised suddenly that Shepard was teasing Elysium. The one Elysium named Shepard had no interest in him but somehow the ship, which Illo knew was hovering just outside the Gover couldn't feel that.

"Look, Shepard," Elysium's voice had an edge to it, one that said they were running out of patience. "May I ascend him or not?"

"You may ascend him if you want," Shepard replied. "It doesn't matter to me," the voice added, "though are you sure the Turian will survive?"

"He'll survive," Elysium replied, with the surety that Illo would survive ascension, whatever that was.

"Well, you'd better collect him and get him into a processing tank," Shepard said before going silent. It took Illo a moment to realise that the comm link had been dropped.

It didn't matter to him. All he could do was lie on the debris and stare up at the ceiling. A grinding noise echoed through the Gover but Illo didn't really pay attention. There was nothing he could do and it wasn't until he heard the clump of something making its way towards him that he began to worry.

"Hold still, Illo," Elysium instructed. "My forces will bring you to me," the ship added.

He forced open his eyes. Elysium's forces? Would he finally get a glimpse of the crew that had to be inside the ship? Something fell near him but Illo couldn't see. By the sounds of things, it picked itself up and there was more than one. He didn't even feel it when something gripped his leg, what he felt instead was indescribable agony lancing through his body when they pulled. The scream was more gurgle than noise but it was loud enough.

"Gently!" Elysium admonished.

It actually seemed to work and whatever was grabbing at him did so slower, more tentatively. Illo looked at them and froze, stiffening at the sight.

He had expected a Human. One in a space suit, perhaps, but a Human. He didn't know what was grabbing him. Bipedal, like a Human yes, but the similarities stopped there. It looked like a combination of rotting flesh and ambulatory cybernetics. Its eyes glowed and where a mouth should be was a black abyss. He couldn't see much more, a fact for which he was grateful.

"Gently, gently," Elysium coaxed.

Illo felt something lift his legs. It hurt worse than before and he screamed. His mouth was clear this time.

"Careful!" Elysium's voice growled but Illo heard nothing more.

The dark which had been flickering at the edge of his vision flooded everything. It was soothing and Illo didn't fight when he was overwhelmed.

-cfr-

Palaven Orbit, Human Ascended Attack Fleet

Shepard reached out towards the comm system he'd felt earlier. Unless he got a response, he couldn't be sure Fedorian heard but he felt obliged to say goodbye to the Primarch. It was only polite. He sent the image of himself as a Human captain in his transmission.

"Primarch Fedorian, Palaven has fallen," Shepard said simply before he paused, waiting to see if there would be a reply.

Nothing came but he was fairly sure the Primarch was still alive.

"By now, you know you are the first but that's just a function of history. We're too alike you know. Our species. Oh I don't mean physical form or anything so superficial. Rather our thoughts, our actions, the way we do things.

"If you had the chance you would have conquered us in the First Contact War, but of course, the Asari held you back. And then there was the Betrayal War. If you had of listened to me, you could have foreseen the end of that conflict. Of course, no one wanted to listen to the newcomers.

"So don't be ashamed that you are the first. You would have done the same in our position. And you had no hope to win against us. In about an hour, I'll be finished with Palaven, which means I'm finished with Trebia, and thus finished with you."

There was a crackle of static. "What happens now, barbarian?" the words were spat at him and Shepard was hard pressed not to chuckle as the connection was made with him. It was audio only and encrypted in an attempt to prevent him hacking it. Too bad for them that Harper had already stolen every Turian encryption key. He rode the signal, though, enjoying bouncing around Palaven's few remaining facilities until it went back to the source. Then Shepard pushed the connection open, looking around through what few security cameras there were.

Fedorian had aged. In the space of the last few days of the Ascended's actions, the Turian Primarch looked at least five decades older. He twitched slightly and Shepard recognised the marks of fatigue on his features. No doubt the Primarch hadn't slept in days and there were several Turians in the space Shepard could see who were passed out, or dead. Shepard couldn't tell for sure through the strangely fish-eyed visual.

"After Menae hits, we will destroy the last few comm buoys and continue on to other Turian colonies."

"Not with us," Fedorian seemed frustrated. "With the galaxy," he clarified his question.

"Ascension," Shepard answered. "I would have Ascended Palaven, but Digeris will substitute. It's sad though, the Turian Ascended will not love Palaven the way I still love Earth."

"Ascension?"

"Ascension is the way of the galaxy," Shepard explained, attempting to put it in terms a mere organic like Fedorian might be able to understand.

The Primarch shook his head and Shepard could see he did not understand. "So this is my place in things?" Fedorian growled the question. "This is the place Humans would have the Turians?"

That was better. Anger was easy to deal with. "This is the place the Turians would have put Humans," Shepard responded.

"No," Fedorian was firm. "I told you, we veto'd expeditions to Earth."

"So the fleet that was coming, the fleet that found the Relay moved, the one comprised of Turians, Asari, Salarian and Batarian forces was not going to rape Earth?" Shepard countered, knowing full well that at that point the Turians had intended invasion. They had slipped over the line and viewed the Humans as a savage species, one that needed to be put in its place and carefully monitored. It was true that the Turians did not mean to commit genocide but that would have been the eventual outcome. Humans would not have lived quietly under the yoke.

"It is too late for recriminations now," Shepard said before Fedorian could answer. "What is done is done and I am done here," he added. "Good bye, Fedorian. May your ancestors grant you peace." He cut the signal but left the connection open, sending Fedorian a live feed of what he could sense.

As the Primarch of Palaven, Fedorian really should be allowed to see what happened.

-cfr-

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