30/10/2017

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

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

Part 3 The Trigger
Chapter 32: Incomplete Guest Lists and Other Diplomatic Faux Pas

-cfr-

Please note: For ease of understanding in the Empire, alien gestures, speech, time and distance measurements, where necessary, have been translated into the superior Human standard equivalents. While a Cypiene turns blue when embarrassed, for a Human that means something completely different, so to avoid confusion, Human norms have been substituted. If you are not Human, or you have not been educated to Human standard, then that is an unfortunate error in your birth and you should be ashamed.

-cfr-

Year 43,869 CE - 41,642 years after Human Ascension

Dark Space between Galaxies, Hibernating Ascended Fleet

It was odd, Shepard reflected to himself, just how much ascension had changed him, had changed all of them. It wasn't always in the big things, either, that those differences surprised him. For years, all of the Human Ascended had been awake constantly as they conducted their sweep of the galaxy in conjunction with the rest of the fleet, decades in his own particular case. All of that time spent awake and he had had no urge to sleep.

Now, with Harbinger's priority signal coming in after over forty-one and a half thousand years asleep, all he wanted was just five minutes more.

Of course, Shepard wasn't so insane as to say that to the eldest nor did he let that desire for rest slow him down even for an instant in answering the call. Even as an organic, he had been a career soldier, a profession that required him to go from asleep to fully functioning in an instant.

"Harbinger."

"Shepard. The new vanguard reports there is a problem. The organics are behaving strangely."

Shepard repressed a snort. Organics were always behaving strangely. He certainly had often enough when he was one!

"What do you want me to do?"

"Go. Investigate. Solve it. This new behaviour is premature." Carried on a sub-channel was the information Harbinger had received from the Ascended who was acting as Vanguard for this cycle. Of course, it was Soliphon, one of the least imaginative out of all of the Ascended, so the report lacked certain angles that had immediately occurred to Shepard. However, for a rules-bound Ascended, Soliphon was certainly thorough with providing data from the little scouting he had done. He had even included updated galactic maps including active Relays.

"I will need to take some others with me."

Harbinger paused, clearly giving the matter some thought.

Shepard knew that he and the others were still not fully trusted, less so because of the 'interesting' events of their cycle and more due to their relative youth and the fact that the rest of the Ascended did not truly know them well enough yet. He was curious why they had been chosen for the task but assumed that at least part of it was to test Humanity. As the newest Ascended, just like any new member of an organisation, testing was only natural. Not even ascension could eliminate that.

"Take ten with you. The organics must be brought back under control."

"Yes, sir."

Shepard immediately selected who he would wake, taking a perverse satisfaction in inflicting on them the same annoyance he had felt on being woken prematurely.

"Hackett. Anderson. Udina. Harper. Sirta. Zaeed. Miranda. Nergal. Ares. Elysium." Shepard's call woke his chosen helpers and their groans were music to his metaphorical ears. Amusingly, Udina even said "Just five more minutes," before he was awake enough to fully censor himself.

"Let's go to the Alpha Relay." His sub-channel carried the important parameters of their mission, one that had to be carried out with all due efficiency and effectiveness. While the eldest had not put in a deadline for its completion, Shepard had no desire to make Humanity look like a failure or incompetent before their only remaining peers.

-cfr-

As they left, Harbinger wondered if he had chosen correctly. Out of all of the Ascended, he had given the task to the most troublesome for the simple reason that he needed to test them. Arshan and Fruben had defended them during the cycle from his doubts but to truly put those doubts to rest, he needed to know they could handle any task that any other Ascended should be able to do. Had they assimilated the full understanding or not? And would they be able to complete their task?

The Catalyst had not hidden its concerns regarding the race nearly as well as it thought nor had Harbinger forgotten the last time that a race had been Ascended in full like this. The Human Ascended had caused him stress as he had to adapt to their plans but they had all obeyed his commands when he gave them. More, they had impressed him as they used unusual tactics to their advantage, breaking the races of the cycle when and how they chose. After the long, drawn out resistance of the Prothean era, it had been soothing when the last cycle had gone so easily.

None of that mattered compared to the importance of maintaining the cycle, however, and his sentiments would be allowed no room to interfere with the decisions he had to make. He was Harbinger.

All would know of ascension for that was his will.

-cfr-

Farthest Step (Between Sigurd's Cradle and the Far Rim), System of the Prophet, Fifth Planet

Javik reined in his impatience once again. He had spent the last fifty years dealing with these primitives that divided the galaxy between them in the wake of his own people's glorious empire.

Primitives twice over, for his revival from the stasis pod should have occurred before the previous invasion by the Reapers while there were still others of his people so that he could lead them and the primitive races to vengeance over the Reapers for the trillions of his people they had murdered.

However, those races had all been lost. The primitive Asari who had been selected to be their lieutenants had failed to kill the Reapers without competent leadership from the Protheans.

Javik's first thoughts on his revival fifty years earlier had been filled with failure. How could he revive the glory of the once galaxy-spanning Empire with only a few hundred soldiers? The news had only gotten worse, however. Instead of a couple of companies of troops and a handful of scientists to help him, a pitiful starting point however one looked at it with the goal ahead of them, there was only him. The last of his kind, the others killed not by the Reapers, not by sleeper agents, as so many others had been, but by the greatest enemy of all: time.

The Protheans had built the bunker to last, it was true, but none of the architects or engineers had anticipated needing to keep the bunker supplied and repaired for ninety thousand years! They had built with many redundancies against the rigors of battle, not of eons, and could be forgiven for failing to include power sources that could survive the ages between then and now. The maintenance robots under the command of the bunker's VI had done an amazing job keeping everything going as long as they did especially after the sabotage of the sleepers and the radiation pulse that added yet more damage to the complex but that did not make Javik any less alone in a broken future galaxy.

The Darmaris had kept him for a time, asking questions, always with their questions, until finally they began to believe the answers. A proud race who had been spacefaring for 5,000 years when they had activated the bunker's system's Relay, it had taken time for their primitive brains to accept that Javik's people had been greater than the Darmaris could ever imagine.

The various beacons that the Protheans had left had decayed over the millennia to the point of uselessness. Even if they had survived, however, none of the races were intelligent enough to have understood their warnings, a problem that the Prothean builders had failed to address.

So many failures, so much blame to go around.

Enough to drown a galaxy in it.

Things were looking up, however. While he held no hope that any others of his people had survived the long night and the dark ages of the galaxy, these primitives were not entirely without brains. He had used his biotics to take an understanding of the languages of this benighted age and in the process, the primitive he had touched had gained something in return, a vision of the battles and hopelessness that had pervaded the final days of the Empire.

That primitive had gone out into the galaxy, spreading the message, gaining followers who demanded the release of Javik, their Warrior Prophet.

And so, instead of gaining his freedom through his wits or force of arms, Javik, the Last Prothean, escaped thanks to popularity contests. It was as ridiculous as everything else about this age!

The new Darmaris leader, duly elected by the masses, did not subscribe to the Cult of Javik but she did want to know everything that Javik did. Smarter than her fellows, she had used both carrot and stick in her appeal to get the living legend to side with her. She had offered wealth and enough freedom for Javik to work on his cause, preparing for the Reapers, as well as enough guards that only answered to her to keep him from defecting to the Darmaris Republic's enemies.

Javik's job had been made easier by the discovery a thousand years before of some ancient ruins that were not nearly as ancient as the Prothean himself. Scattered across a score of worlds that had been Prothean colonies back in his day were records on the Reapers, their size, their shape, their weapons and tactics and, most important of all, Indoctrination.

Indoctrination was something to scare the hell out of any sentient being let alone politicians who had secrets to hide. Javik had provided independent confirmation on the existence and ruthlessness of the Reapers as well as their Indoctrinated thralls.

Using that, Javik had shown his own brand of ruthlessness, trading on the fear of Indoctrination to forge the cult of personality that had grown around him into a multi-species operation. Their research goals were to improve the galaxy's general technology base, chase down new avenues of research and, most ambitious of all, find or create defences against Indoctrination. Failing that, he'd accept some way of detecting indoctrination.

The public relations side of things was even more important, in a very real way. He surmised, that like the last cycle when the previous batch of primitives ruled the galaxy, the current races were woefully under armed compared to what was coming for them. The Prothean Empire had been caught off-guard, decapitated by the loss of its capital and primary transport hub along with the best of its fleets, when the Reapers had arrived en masse at the Citadel. Still, they had held out for centuries before the final outpost had fallen.

These current races had been alarmingly passive in developing their military. Javik was thankful for the cold war state that had existed between the Damaris and Cypiene races as it had been the only source of military development in the last century. Javik's awakening had only accelerated the arms race and he was adding every bit of fuel to that fire that he could.

Rumours of secret Prothean technological miracles had spread faster, forcing all the current races to increase their military spending in a bid to catch up. Prototypes had been built and leaked to the media which looked impressive but did nothing. Spies from the various races were identified and fed misinformation, all to add momentum to Javik's plan to achieve his vengeance.

Diplomats across the galaxy were doing their impressive best to keep a lid on the brewing tensions.

And behind it all, Javik actually was trying to help the races improve their technology. He could hardly just release Prothean designs. The primitives could not hope to use them without overhauling everything so he had given up on a simple graft. Instead, he was spurring them to build it themselves.

Finally, after decades of work, Javik and his cultists were ready to launch an actual prototype for a hybrid Prothean/Damaris frigate. It was pitifully underpowered compared to a true Prothean frigate but it sported a spinal mounted particle cannon that would make it dangerous to most ships of this new era whatever their size. Javik planned to parade it for all the races' militaries if it passed its trials.

As little as Javik trusted the competence of the primitives in general, he was quietly confident that this prototype would actually survive powering up its weapon system without blowing its safeties.

-cfr-

Javik forced himself to look away from the sky. He was on a small, out of the way planet, as far from the Citadel as he could manage. The rulers from the major races had gathered at the call from the Darmaris Leader. The primitives had finally worked out that if they had archeological evidence of galaxy wide extinctions, several beacons which gave them details of the exterminators, and a living Ancient telling them the same thing, then they probably should work together to defeat what was coming.

"You should go down."

He felt his upper eyes narrow slightly at the voice. Filat. One of his followers who had been with him since their childhood. Filat was a Yoxall. They were a comparatively short lived species. About 200 Prothean years, Javik thought but it was better than some of the others. The Ostberg in particular. He felt that he had to deal with a new, even stupider generation of them every time he turned around.

"The leaders aren't there yet," Javik replied, gesturing towards the floor below.

"No," Filat agreed. "But you being there will set the scene, allow you to take control of the meeting."

"I already have that," Javik snorted.

It had taken a few years, but above, the planet was guarded by a fledgling fleet, bearing weapons inspired by his words. They were not true Prothean ships. The primitives were still not capable of that, but they were much improved from the single frigate which had struck fear into the collective consciousness of the galaxy a mere eleven years ago. After that demonstration, everyone wanted his tech, and while the Darmaris Leader had managed to keep most of it, Javik recognised that he was going to have to work with them all. No single primitive race was strong enough to dominate the rest, not even with his help. He had recognised that fact as soon as he got onto the communications network. It was a state of affairs that would never have happened in his Empire.

It was proven by the other fleets in orbit. Each was the supposed escort fleet for the species leaders. Javik was sure his could beat them all, either singularly or together.

"True," Filat conceded. "But you are a distant threat. You need to decide if we are to remain that, or if we are to become the hammer that drives them together."

He shouldn't even be here! He stomped down on the thought before he replied. He was here because every other failsafe the Prothean Empire had tried had failed. He was the last, and he would not fail.

Javik looked down. The dignitaries were still mingling with each other. No doubt, they would report back to their Leaders before the real meeting. By the Empire, how he hated politics, but he was not stupid. These talks were necessary to ease the growing tensions between the species and he fully intended for them to be successful. The earlier tensions he had encouraged were counter-productive now that the races were arming themselves. He needed the primitives to be one cohesive unit so that when the Reapers came, the murderous machines faced a united galaxy, one ready and willing to take the losses necessary to end the Cycle once and for all. Why hadn't the Asari faced them…

Failsafe, he thought quickly before he could complete the question. The Asari were just one that had failed.

Javik's frustration showed in his upper eyes and while most of the primitives could not read his expressions, Filat was used to him. He could see the anger boiling in his soul. While his cult was strong, he did not want to exhaust them or the galaxy by forcibly uniting them. He could do it. His forces had the firepower, but despite his popularity, he knew that support would vanish as soon as he took away their easy life. Only a few were willing to bear the burden. And by his calculation, they'd all need their strength soon enough. But if nothing happened very soon… Which was why he didn't want to deal with the minions.

He hated politics. That didn't mean he couldn't become proficient at it. Very proficient. "All right," he conceded to Filat as he pushed off from the railing. "I'll go make the decision for your primitive leaders." He might hate politics but he knew how to speak to the dignitaries such that they would present his case to their Leaders in the best possible light. For some, that would be enough. For others, he'd have to back up his words with a conversation with their leader. It was slow going but Javik reminded himself as he moved towards the stairs, his armored form, combined with his entourage clearing the way and announcing clearly that he was the power to deal with, that this was necessary.

If things went right, the galaxy would begin uniting and all it would take was few days of his time. Far better than the fifty years it had taken to get a working prototype.

After nearly forty years, Filat was used to his words and Javik detected the faintest hint of flushed skin around his extremities. It was a sure sign that the Yoxall was pleased. The reaction soothed him and served as a reminder, that no matter how unrefined the species of this cycle were, they had as much, if not more, to gain from the extinction of the cycle as he did. When the time came, they would have no choice but to fight.

But before that, he would use the anvil of fear to hammer them into a fighting force because even over the blood of billions, Javik would see his people avenged.

-cfr-

Farthest Step (Between Sigurd's Cradle and the Far Rim), System of the Prophet, Five Leaders Conference Area

Javik nodded coolly as the Cypiene leader turned away from him. It was a major coup to have the Cypiene leader present but the man was still cautious, afraid that the negotiations were some trap from the Darmaris. There was no doubt his people had suffered from the Darmaris technological advancement, an advancement Javik had sponsored, but the Prothean had ensured that the Cypiene advanced as well. In fact of all the species of this cycle, the Cypiene might be the most technologically advanced.

They didn't possess the best tech but they had developed every bit of tech themselves. Their ability to invent did not rely on receiving hints from him. In the long run, assuming they survived, they would be better for it but their leader probably didn't see it that way.

He was turning to the Yoxall Emperor when the first alarm sounded. It was a distant note and Javik thought it was a local sound until his comm flashed. All four eyes stared at the blinking light. The signal was a simple two flashes with a long pause. No… they had to have gotten it wrong.

Two flashes with a long pause was the signal he'd told the primitives to use for a Reaper.

It couldn't be right. There were no Reapers here. Not yet anyway.

Another alarm sounded and the room exploded into chaos as various entourages tried to get their leaders to safety.

The noise brought Javik to his senses. The signal was wrong and he tapped the device to activate it. "What is it?" He growled the question.

"Sir!" Ysolt shouted. "A fleet of unknown ships had come through the Relay."

"Unknown?" Javik was skeptical. He had shown them how to recognise ships.

"Their silhouettes are Reapers," Ysolt responded, fear lacing her tone.

"Show me!" He demanded. The Reapers were not due for centuries.

The screen of his comm flickered to show a long range grainy picture. There was a point of light in the centre which he recognised as the Relay but he couldn't see anything else. Then the image zoomed in on a tiny speck which had been moving. The image became blocky and Javik had to blink to keep his focus. The species of this cycle did not have his depth perception so their visuals were awkward to his eyes. It actually hurt if he looked at their screens too long. Resolution of the image followed quickly and he felt himself stare.

It was a Reaper. He could never forget their strangely primitive look. Their arching tails and numerous legs and the baleful eyes that never blinked. The Protheans had learned that on the other side of the abyss, there were the Reapers unblinking, uncaring eyes.

"How long until intercept?" he growled. His feelings were mixed. This was the enemy he had been born to fight. As a Prothean he had been trained almost from the moment of birth because the Empire had needed soldiers. He had been very good and had been selected to become an Avatar at a young age. There had been no need for an Avatar of anger, or rage. The only Avatar he could become was one of Vengeance. And so, even as the last of the Protheans fought, he had accepted command of those who had accompanied him on the long sleep. Theirs was not the path of cowardice, theirs was the path of vengeance.

"About twenty seven hours," Ysolt gave the reply. "They are coming it at about 0.2 lightspeed."

"How many?"

That vengeance came down to him. But Javik had been trained to acknowledge all his feelings. There was, regardless of how his desire burned within, a tendril of fear coiling through him. They were not ready. The species of this cycle were years, at least a century, even with his help, away from being ready to face the Reapers. Why were they here?

There was only one thing different about this cycle, Javik realised. Him. And the knowledge he represented. The Reapers always came into a galaxy that had no inkling of their existence. The Prothean Empire had only put together the facts after the Reapers attacked. Had his presence caused the Reapers to attack earlier? But how did they know about him?

"Eleven dreadnought class ships. And many smaller ships."

Eleven dreadnoughts. Resolutely Javik shook his head. Speculation about anything more than how to fight could wait until he had sorted out the chaos here. There was a chance someone could survive. It was only a small chance, but it was the only one they had.

Javik raised one hand, firing a biotic shot into the ceiling. "Silence!" he shouted authoritatively and like the primitives they were, the leaders and their bodyguards stilled their pointless panic and focused on him.

"There is indeed an unknown fleet headed this way," Javik announced, relaying information they already knew. "And there is indeed no communication lines to your homeworlds," he added. Again they would be aware of this. At least they would have been aware of it if they weren't panicking. Their supposed guard fleets probably knew.

"This is not a trap set by any government," he added, using his eyes to glare at them all. "This is the first attack of the Reapers," he declared and let the words hang in the silence for a few moments as he watched the reactions.

Some, those who he thought had been talking to their defence fleet nodded. With the Asari beacons having been relatively common knowledge in the galaxy, the Reaper profiles were not that difficult to spot. A few had already classified the ships that were incoming. Others had assumed this was an attack by one of their enemies and had already isolated themselves along the walls.

Damn it! This was meant to be the meeting which drew the galaxy together. He would not let it fail!

"Rather convenient for you, isn't it?" the accusation was not unexpected. The fact that it came from the Wilms was. He had thought them slightly more accepting of the truth.

"Convenient?" Javik returned the question, his voice scathing. "You still think the Reapers are something you can negotiate with, something you can draw lines and they will just go away. Go ahead," he invited. "Open comms with them, see what they say. After they've eviscerated your fleet, then you can come back and tell me how convenient it was."

"I will!" The Wilms leader growled. Javik thought their name was Wiebe. An appropriate name, given its close pronunciation to 'veebe' which translated to idiot.

"Go ahead. Do it now. I'm sure they are waiting."

Wiebe gestured and one of his assistants brought a comm. It was considered bad practice for the leader to have to carry one, no matter much more convenient it was. The entire room stared as the Wilms comm blinked in the pattern that had become universal for establishing a link. Then it settled, emitting a steady light, indicating that a link had been formed.

Javik watched intently, all four eyes locked on to the comm as he strained his ears. As far as he knew no one had ever spoken to the Reapers. The huge machines had refused to respond to any comm signal and had instead flooded the network with recordings of the dead and dying on Empire worlds. If the Reapers responded to the Wilms, it would only be to mock the organic race.

"Hello," the Wilms leader said tentatively.

Filat lay one calming hand on Javik's forearm, making the bold move to comfort his leader. There was no way anything would respond to such a pathetically weak greeting with anything more than contempt.

What was taking so long? Javik growled the question internally. Did the Reapers have trouble with such primitive technology? If the situation wasn't so serious it might almost have been amusing.

"To the unknown forces entering Omega Centauri, I am the leader of the Wilms! State your species and intentions!" The demand was forceful this time. Wiebe should have led with that.

There was the slightest hiss of noise from the communicator but it was not words anyone recognised. The hiss continued, white noise against the silence of the waiting room.

"Answer me!" Wiebe demanded.

The hiss got slightly louder. "No!" Javik screamed, jumping forward, his biotics activating to slice through the communicator. The fact that he sliced through Wiebe's hand was of no consequence. The Wilms leader's bodyguards reacted only after their leader's blood splashed on to the floor.

Javik's bodyguards reacted as well, leveling their weapons at the other group, which meant that everyone reacted, and weapons were drawn though some didn't know who to point them at.

"Ahhh!" Wiebe moaned, holding his disabled hand.

"The Reapers are machines!" Javik yelled, making sure everyone could hear. With that one move, no matter how necessary, the Reapers had just forced him to become the enemy. "They are machines!" He repeated. "Artificial intelligence," he added, making sure to stress the words. "Any open comm link is a weakness. It is a way for them to exploit your systems!" He was so used to the hardened secure comms of the Empire that he hadn't even thought about the possibility. He wouldn't speak to an ant he was about to crush. The Reapers were the same. They would see no reason to speak but every reason to exploit.

How much did the Reapers know? His mind swirled, desperately trying to extrapolate what information would be available through the Wilms' comm. He had to assume their ships were compromised but were his own? No, Javik decided quickly. His own should be fine. They had no reason to open comms with the Wilms and he had designed his ship's systems to be tougher. The Reapers probably could take control, they were still relatively primitive, but it would not be that easy.

"You think we believe that?" Wiebe shouted, his voice strained with his pain.

Javik glared, holding back his biotic power. He wanted nothing more than to strike down the moron, even though it had been his goading which had caused the Wilms to attempt communication. They should have known better. The Wilms had found an Asari beacon, did they believe nothing from it?

"I think," he said, drawing himself up. He was not the tallest species in the room, but he was taller than Wiebe and no matter the species it was an instinctual reaction to react to something larger than yourself. "I think that in twenty seven hours it won't matter what you believe," he said.

"Those ships are Reapers," he said. "They are everything the beacons have warned you about. They are everything I have told you about and all that remains is to fight," he added, holding up one hand that glowed with biotic power. "The only question you have to answer for yourself is, if you cower in fear before the end or show the pride of your people." He hated making that challenge but it was a universal challenge. No one wanted to be considered weak by their peers.

Nor did it fail now. Despite the pain from his ruined hand, Wiebe stood taller and glared back at Javik. "We will fight," the alien hissed and for an instant Javik thought the idiot would order his followers to attack him but the moment passed and the Prothean realised that the alien must have remembered the warning from the beacon. While degraded, the Asari's voice had been passionate.

"Then I will lead you," Javik said, stepping forward, allowing his biotics to give him an aura of light. It was a cheap theatrical trick but if it rallied these primitives, he would use every cheap trick he could.

-cfr-

Farthest Step (Between Sigurd's Cradle and the Far Rim), System of the Prophet

Shepard wasn't alone in scanning the system as he moved away from the Relay. They'd silenced the comm buoy the instant they had appeared but the scanning was now of necessity. They hadn't been able to use their normal information gathering trick because Soliphon had accompanied them to the Relay. At that point, this cycles Vanguard had pulled back, claiming it was better to have at least one of them hidden. That was true, but it was also better to let them gather more information before attacking.

The attack now was premature, though Shepard had to admit the opportunity was good. Supposedly the leaders of every space faring race were meeting.

"I've got a bunch of unknowns," Udina reported.

"Start cross referencing with Soliphon's data," Ares suggested to the politician. On the map they were building, the ships slowly gained labels representing species. The Darmaris and Cypiene fleets were as far from each other as possible. Not unexpected given the hostilities that had been inferred from the few communications Soliphon had intercepted. The Wilms and Yoxall fleets were close to each other. They shared relatively friendly relations and the small Ostberg fleet was off to the side. The short lived race was only barely understood by their neighbours. There was another fleet though, one that didn't correspond to any information Soliphon had given them.

"That's got to be the strange thing," Hackett observed, zooming in on the fleet. It was somehow sleeker than the other ships, more advanced though it looked to be Darmaris.

"The ships of the Warrior Prophet," Zaeed identified them.

Ever since they had gotten back to the galaxy, they had been hearing about this Warrior Prophet. If everything was to be believed, the alien was Prothean, over 100,000 years old and gifted with foresight, power over eezo and the will to fight. Physical descriptions placed the Warrior Prophet at anything from between 6 foot to 9 foot tall with black armour and four glowing eyes. The descriptions all agreed on that. The Warrior Prophet had four eyes. Two to see the mundane and two to gaze upon the future.

The amount of trash Harper had hacked was ridiculous! But it did not negate the impact this Warrior Prophet was having on the cycle. Somehow, whatever he was, a surviving Batarian, a true Prothean, some native doomsayer who got lucky, he was warning of their coming, and the images, sketches mostly, that had been available were credibly accurate. It was little wonder that Soliphon had caught wind of the organic's behaviour.

"Harper, Sirta?" Shepard prompted. The two of them hadn't bothered to scan, except in a perfunctory way. They were instead focused on the ships, picking up the signals the aliens were no doubt attempting to send through the now missing comm buoy.

"Hang on a sec," Harper replied. "I don't know how these people get anything done! They have no concept of a file system!" He grumbled a complaint.

"Sirta?" Shepard asked.

"What he said," she growled back. "There is no logical lay out to their files!"

"Just keep working on it," Shepard instructed, reminding himself that he shouldn't be annoyed. These were aliens, in every sense of the word. It would take a few moments to work through their systems and he really should be helping.

"All right," Sirta muttered after a few minutes. "The Warrior Prophet is definitely here," she confirmed their first objective.

"And, he appears to be a genuine Prothean," Harper added.

"Prothean?" Miranda questioned, reaching out to review the information Harper had just dumped onto their system. "How the hell did he survive?"

"Let's ask him," Anderson said when it became obvious that the information wasn't in the files Harper and Sirta had lifted. Well, it might have been, but there was so much other junk there that it wasn't worth their while filtering through it for the truth.

"Why are all the alien leaders here?" Shepard asked. That was the more important point to him. They were the reason this attack was about to take place. "Is it really for the peace summit?"

"It appears so," Elysium said, reading through the dumped information.

"But it is not a summit about their peace," Harper said. "It's about how to … oh my."

"It's about how to deal with us," Shepard concluded, as he assimilated the information Harper had just found. According to the data, the aliens had known there was something coming to the galaxy periodically. They just didn't know what to do about it, or even if they believed that story. But then, about fifty years ago, the Warrior Prophet had entered the scene. He had confirmed the information they had and more importantly had begun pounding select individuals into a fighting force. Race was unimportant. The only thing he appeared to care about was their devotion to him, and to destroying what he called the Reapers.

Ascended.

They were preparing for the arrival of the Ascended. And as Harbinger would say, organics fought the cycle.

"Mirco-jump," Shepard snapped. He didn't need to know anything more. "Kill the fleets and capture the leaders. I want to have a talk with this Warrior Prophet."

-cfr-

No, Liara did not make beacons while stuck on Thessia. She got them out earlier in the chapter named 'Hope for the Future?'.

Review please! Even if it's been forever, I have nothing against people reviewing an 'old' chapter ;)