20/05/2017

Thank you Pax Humana and Daisy Duck for beta-ing

Thank you to everyone who reviewed. You are the greatest.

Part 1 The Fall of Humanity
Chapter 6 The Fall of Humanity

-cfr-

Earth Year 2220 Outskirts of London

Francis sat by his radio. He felt old. God. When was fifty three old?

Oh yeah, that's right. Now. When the average age was 14 if you were lucky and it was steadily falling. Females had a slightly higher average age but that was due to childbearing. He was an aberration. Humanity was doomed. Of course, Humanity had been doomed for the last forty years, just no one wanted to admit it.

"Francis," the voice echoed slightly but was familiar. "I can't keep them away from you forever."

"Not much longer now, Maureen," he murmured, reading his notes.

"There is no time," she replied.

He looked over at the radio, his eyes sad. "Then what am I supposed to do?" He collapsed back. The radio was two way. "You can't access the information and I…" Francis paused, swallowing hard. "I can't work this out without you." He fought back tears.

"Francis," Maureen spoke his name gently and for a moment he could almost imagine she was here. "It's not that I can't access the information," she continued. "The information just isn't in our databases. As far as I can tell, it's not in anyone's."

"What about Harbinger's?"

Harbinger. For most of his life, no one had really talked about the super machines but lately it was all anyone could talk about. Their minions, the husks, cybernetic abominations made from Human corpses, rounded up everyone. They were as gentle as possible and Francis was one of the few who knew that the husks were being controlled by Human super machines. Maureen had told him as much, and she was doing her best to keep them away from him but it could not last. Already he'd heard rumours that husks controlled by Harbinger or Arshan were present and they were simply rounding up everyone and processing them. It had taken thirty years, but the ancient machine had realised that Humans weren't dying on his schedule and he'd retaliated, upping the production quota to 30 machines a year. They were close to the end now. Birth rates had already fallen as too few women remained. It could have been worse. He could have just killed them all, rather than giving them the chance to preserve their minds.

"I can't access Harbinger's memories," Maureen said, her voice so matter of fact that Francis fought back a smile. She'd been like that when she was here, always keeping them, James and himself, grounded.

"Damn it! What am I supposed to do? We know the mind is preserved," Francis said.

"I know, we have James to thank for that."

"Inquistio veritatais est aeternum," Francis quoted the words James had sent to them to say he was still alive, sort of. The quest for truth is eternal.

Those were the last words they'd heard from James and it was only after Maureen had volunteered and been processed did they discover why. Not all the super ships were the same, and not all of them were nice. James' one was dominated by a small group who kept the rest of the consciousnesses under strict control, something that had kept him from getting his message out for months. The controlling group was Human but they were not the best of Humanity. The super machine Maureen was a part of had put in a system that allowed growth. Strictly speaking, he wasn't talking just to her but to the entire ship but he didn't mind. They let her lead the conversation and that was a comfort. Her ship, she had explained, voted in a speaker to be their leader and the ship as a whole had taken the name Elysium.

The mind was intact in the super machines. The Systems Alliance had not lied. Yet once it became clear that Humanity's deception was over, and they would all be harvested in a few years, a new question had arisen. Human bodies provided the organic material that constructed the super machines. Their minds comprised the controlling supercomputers. But was the process only one way? Could the super machine recompose itself into its component parts?

Could Humanity live again? That was the question. Francis had been about to volunteer when it was posed and while it wasn't meant to be possible, he knew that somehow, his name had been removed from the lotteries. But he didn't have an answer and Maureen or any of the other Humans, who should have been able to answer, couldn't.

"Francis!"

"Huh!?" He started. Fifty three was too young to be woolgathering.

"Francis, pay attention," Maureen scolded him. "We need a new angle."

"Oh God, don't start please. I'm not Ja…" Francis trailed off, his eyes wide. It was so simple! Why hadn't he thought of it sooner? They had thought of it. They'd just dismissed it. Unethical. Gross. He chuckled, reaching up one hand to scratch at his still brown hair. His laughter grew until he was gasping. Those tags didn't matter now.

"Francis!" Maureen shouted his name but he continued laughing.

"Francis Harry Crick!"

That got his attention. "Maureen, it's so easy!" Francis said, wiping his eyes. He felt like the weight of the world had lifted.

"What is?" she sounded peeved.

"The main problem is that no one really knows what happens right? You went through the process and when you woke up afterwards, your mind was already in place, right?" Francis got up as he talked. He took off his lab coat, and reached for his jacket.

"Yes. There is no way to remain conscious through to the last, and even if you did, you'd be trapped in a state of sensory deprivation. The process deliberately knocks you out, if you haven't passed out already. Only Shepard went through the whole process conscious."

"Yes, but that means you don't see what happens to your physical form." He flicked his jacket on, making sure the car keys were in the pocket before he looked around for a sample kit and his portable analysis gear.

"No," Maureen said and while it was a denial he understood her meaning. "Not at the time but I found out afterwards. It was packed in with others and taken to the shipyards."

"Where you got put into the core of a super machine and woken up, I know."

"And? Francis, what is this thing you think is so simple?"

Francis picked up the portable radio. "Another angle. There is one sure way to know if the DNA was preserved in the process. The real problem is that no one knows if the physical body is broken down into component elements, carbon, oxygen and so on, or if it's just broken down into organic goo, which could still contain cells and DNA. There is one way to know for sure."

Maureen was silent. "No, you can't."

"Why not?"

"You can't! You don't know what it will mean."

Francis frowned. "As much as you Human super machines have tried to hide it, I know you've been landing to take on flora and fauna samples. We also know you've been scanning and, where possible, taking on cultural artefacts. The important thing is that I know one is grounded near here." He walked out of the building and got into his car. It wasn't really his car. Ownership had become rather fluid. It was a car.

Earth was quiet these days. There was no background noise from students because there were no students. He didn't know the exact population but it was about three billion, about a quarter of what it had been before the deal had been struck. That left a lot of empty buildings and most of the survivors were clustered around the processing centres. Some people ran, they were always tracked down.

"That's not the point," Maureen objected. "We can control the husks. We can make it so that you can get to the core but…"

"But what?" The drive was easy and he was soon on the highway. It wasn't that well maintained but it was good enough. In a few years, it would be covered in grass as evidence of civilisation crumbled.

"You won't be coming out Francis. None of us can control the security around our cores that much. You'd have one minute, maybe two before you are caught."

The mental calculations didn't even distract him from the drive. "That's more than enough time, Maureen."

"Francis, no!" He could hear that she was crying. "Think of what you are giving up? Immortality."

He bit his lip. It was tempting. It was so tempting, especially knowing it was true. He steeled himself. He couldn't show his pain. "Maureen, think of what we are giving up if I don't even try to find the truth."

"Damn it Francis! Does it matter? We are alive in these machines. Isn't that enough?"

He was silent as he drove. The tip of the huge super machine came into sight and Francis was thankful when the ship didn't lift off. Maureen could have asked it to leave.

"No," he answered her question after a pause. "It's not enough. And I know for sure that extinction wasn't in the plan.

"I don't want to pull another James, Maureen, but if there is another way, I'll take it."

"There isn't."

"Then can you please tell me the name of the ship I'm coming up to?"

"It's Hackett."

"What?" Hackett was one of the leadership group of Human super machines.

"The only super machine that doesn't have something from Earth is Shepard, and that's only because Harbinger questions him so much. Shepard has deliberately avoided learning about a great many things."

"Oh," Francis said, feeling quite stupid. He knew the Human super machines were helping but he didn't know the extent of their actions. He felt… he wasn't sure what he felt at this knowledge. The super machine loomed larger as he continued to drive and eventually he turned off the highway, driving down a much more pitted road towards the machine. He didn't get too close. There was a line of husks forming a perimeter and when he saw them Francis pulled up, not caring about how he parked before getting out. He clutched his kits to his chest.

He'd seen husks before. He even knew how they were formed. They were Human once but there was nothing Human in the way their glowing eyes stared at him accusingly. "Maureen?" He called her name softly.

"Yes Francis?" It was obvious she'd taken the last few minutes to compose herself.

"I'm sorry."

"I am, too."

Francis smiled and took a deep breath. The air was clean and crisp and the sun was warm. It was a good day.

Then a larger husk came forward and Francis forced himself not to run. "Come with me son." The voice was incongruous and while Francis didn't know what Hackett sounded like, he could easily envisage that voice being that of the famous Admiral. He didn't trust himself to speak but nodded and followed where the larger husk lead.

It was a long walk, first to the super machine, and then once inside, they continued trekking through a veritable maze of corridors. They branched off intermittently and Francis was well and truly lost. The husk didn't even hesitate as it led him deeper but eventually it stopped. "You'll need to go alone from here, son."

Francis gulped. "All right."

"As Elysium told you, I can give you one minute only. Every second after that is a boon I cannot guarantee. Make sure you speak your results. You are an alien inside me and this is one part of the ship not under conscious control."

He nodded. He knew all about the bodies immune system. It was odd that a super machine would have one but if they were partially organic then perhaps it made sense. The husk's voice was serious and Francis felt the situation fall on him again. It had seemed so easy just a few minutes ago.

"Then run. Go straight and you will know what part you have to test."

Again Francis nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He took off his coat. He wouldn't need it ever again and he picked up his kits before taking a few deep breaths.

"Go!" The husk shouted and the noise sent him running.

Up to this point, the insides of the super machine were well lit. Now they were gloomy but he didn't hesitate. The air changed. It was hot and dense and Francis felt his lungs labouring. this was not an atmosphere anything was meant to survive in. Then he saw it and he almost faltered. It was only the weight of the world that kept him going. The thing was huge and shaped like a Human. It was… He gulped. It looked like a Human made of metal but Francis knew the form was made from the millions of people who had gone into making the super machine.

He continued running and realised he didn't know how long had passed when he skidded up to the Human shape. He was somewhere near the stomach but that didn't matter. The path went inside and Francis forced himself not to think as he ran forward. If the inside of the super machine had been hot, now it was almost unbearable but the Hackett Husk had been correct. He knew exactly what he had to test.

With relief he stopped running, deliberately putting down his kits as carefully as he could before flicking them both open. There was a small chisel in the top of one and he grabbed it, moving to tap at the wall with one hand while the other held the sample dish below. He only needed a fragment.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to whoever it was he was sampling.

The first tap chimed. The second was the same and he applied more strength. The stuff was hard and Francis was reminded that Humans were mostly carbon and carbon could form diamond. "Just a chip," he muttered, swinging the small chisel as hard as he could. Sparks flew but his blade bit and a tiny piece flaked loose. He scraped it into the dish and carefully put the lid on. Now was not the time to lose his sample!

Francis' hands shook as he turned and it took him two tries to get the sample dish into the analysis machine. That's when he collapsed. The heat was oppressive and in the distance, he thought he heard something coming closer.

"Sample taken," he gathered his voice to shout, pressing the button to start analysis.

Francis fell back and he realised it wasn't just the heat. Gravity worked differently here. The thing came closer but he forced himself to focus on the soft bleep of the machine. This was for all mankind. Please let there be DNA still.

He wasn't the only one saying that prayer. Unknown to Francis, all the minds on the Elysium and the Hackett were watching, and through them as many others as could be risked without risking Harbinger's discovery. They all said that prayer because contained within it was the hope to be reborn.

Francis shuddered as gravity increased again and he turned his head. His analysis machine seemed fine, which was all that mattered now except the thing which came closer. The bleeps hit a crescendo and he smiled at the count down. Five more seconds and he'd know.

They'd all know.

The machine signalled completion and Francis looked over. Even in the dark and heat, with gravity pressing down on him, he smiled. The readout blinked. "DNA positive. Multiple samples present."

He read the words, shouting them as hard as he could and by the way the gravity lessened, just for an instant, he knew that the Hackett had heard.

"Francis!" It was Maureen's voice. "Francis, get up! Run!"

He smiled. "I can't Maureen." The gravity was far too heavy and he could already feel the heat burning at his body.

"Francis, no. You can't die here. It's not fair."

Francis actually laughed. "Life isn't," he said, not harshly, just matter of factly. Life wasn't fair but life now had a chance to go onwards. Humanity now had a way to survive and already he could see the future.

"Vita pergit," he whispered to Maureen. It was both his comfort and an instruction that she do what had to be done.

And with that, Francis Harry Crick died with a smile on his face.

-cfr-

Earth Year 2220, Citadel, Council Chambers

Jath'Amon looked down at his robes. They were old and shabby but they were all he had and he'd waited far too long to get this meeting with the Council.

"The Council will see you now," one of the two-eyed blue bitches said. He hated them. He hated them all! Pretending to care yet truly doing nothing.

"Ambassador," Irissa greet him and it was only through practice that Jath'Amon managed not to narrow his eyes at her. The Asari may be bitches but they knew how to read body language.

"Councillors," he greeted them pleasantly, the words hard on his tongue.

"How can we help you, Ambassador?" Linron, the new Salarian Councillor asked, going straight to business.

Jath'Amon wasn't sure what to think of this. Usually one had to dance in meaningless political niceties with the Asari councillor before anything of substance could be discussed. Getting straight to the point was nice but it could be a ploy to dismiss him as fast as possible as well. He decided to ignore it for now. Their answers would let him know.

"My people, Councillors, require assistance."

"Have we not been assisting?" Quentius asked.

The Batarian ground his teeth. An eight year expedition two decades ago was not assistance. All it had done was confirm what had happened to his people and that was something the Council needed to know, just as much as he had. After that, Council support had withered to nothing.

Batarians still survived in the Traverse but they were no longer a strong race. Instead small colonies existed, and warred with each other, all fighting over the few females who were pressed into service breeding to whoever had the strength to claim them. Bonding ceremonies meant nothing and female children were kept in secret until they were of breeding age and then they were sold to the strongest.

The only thing the bickering Batarians agreed upon was that the Humans had to pay! Yet extracting rightful vengeance on a species that refused to leave their home system, who had somehow moved a Relay to protect that system… that was a dream too far for most Batarians and the ruling Warlords spoke the rhetoric without meaning anything. It was his job now to convince the Council that they needed to strike the Humans.

"Council assistance in discovering the grievous attack on Khar'shan was greatly appreciated, but nothing has been done since to bring the Human scum to justice for the genocide of my people." Jath'Amon knew he would look pious because of his poor robes when he said that. Let them deny the words.

As expected the Council were silent for a few moments, and Jath'Amon could see the way the Councillors shot each other small glances.

"What would you have us do?" Irissa asked finally.

"For the last two decades, the Council has built up its forces. The Treaty of Farixen was modified and each of your species has built up your military fleets. Why else was this done, if not to strike at the Humans? I would ask that the Council use their strength to strike at the Humans, before the Humans destroy other worlds.

"Khar'shan was destroyed. Billions of my people lay dead and no justice has been granted to them." All three of the Council species had built up their military. They were the largest they had ever been, larger now than even at the height of the Krogan Rebellions. There was nothing stopping them from sweeping into Sol and removing the Human infection from the galaxy once and for all. Then the Batarians could claim Sol as their rightful property.

"You wish us to mount a military expedition, to the core world of the Humans?" Linron asked.

Yes, you stupid two eyed, short lived idiot! Jath'Amon plastered a pleasing expression on his face as he quashed the thought. "As member race of the Citadel, I demand justice for my people."

The old Turian Quentius looked thoughtful. "The Humans have been very quiet for decades, which is unlike them. It would be in our interests to send a probe," he said eventually.

"No," Jath'Amon objected. "It must be a military fleet! The Batarian people will not tolerate any further delays in bringing the Humans to justice!"

"You cannot tolerate any further delays?" Irissa asked and Jath'Amon knew he'd said too much. "What military forces will the Batarian people bring for the assault?"

Again he ground his teeth. The blue bitch knew that the Hegemony's remnants could not raise a military expedition. If they could, they would have already struck at the Humans.

When he did not answer, Irissa swept one blue hand through the air, dismissing him. "Do not forget your place Batarian," she said. "I am in favour of sending an expedition to Sol," she added after a moment.

Make sense bitch, Jath'Amon growled internally as he stood silent. He'd accept the dismissal from the Asari, this time, if she pressured the others into the assault.

"Legally, we can't," Linron replied before Quentius could say anything.

"Legally?" Irissa asked.

"It is one of the oldest Council laws. Each race may claim as sovereign territory, their home system, and nothing more, no matter whether they are part of the Citadel Conventions or not. Regardless of what the Humans may have done, Sol is their undisputed territory."

"And what of Harsa?" Jath'Amon could no longer stand silent. "Harsa is Batarian territory, yet we are not in control of it."

Linron ignored him since that wasn't the Council's fault. "I have also read the Turian reports. The Humans fought for their colonies, even knowing they were losing, the battles of the Rebellion were costly. Assaulting their homeworld could cost us every gain we have made in the last two decades."

"Surely not!" Irissa objected.

Quentius nodded slowly. "Councillor Linron is correct," the Turian agreed. "Turian projections for any assault on Sol indicated a huge loss of life. That was three decades ago. We do not know what defenses the Humans have constructed in that time but we cannot expect them to have been idle."

"So you are just going to leave them?" Jath'Amon shouted.

"The Humans have not shown any indication that they are going to attempt to break the blockade," Quentius explained.

Over the years, his feelings had mellowed towards the Humans and now, he didn't know what to think of them. The expedition publically reported the remains of Human ships around Khar'shan but the private reports were adamant that the Humans could not have mounted such a campaign. Time seemed to support that belief because if the Humans could have conducted that campaign then they would have repeated it. No, it was something else. They could not waste ships assaulting a race that was now passive.

"The Rebellion was just that," Linron said. "Despite the battles, the Council made no formal declaration of war. Did the Hegemony?"

Jath'Amon couldn't answer that, and the Salarian lizard had to know that. Even if they had, any declaration of war from one Citadel species, without the backing of the Council was useless. "I do not know," he ground out eventually.

"Then we will continue as we have," Linron dismissed him.

"Quentius, I want to see those Turian projections," Irissa demanded.

"Councillors?" Jath'Amon asked.

"No, Ambassador," Linron looked back towards him. "The Citadel Council will not assault the Human home system, though I do support the Turian councillor's suggestion of sending a probe."

"A probe?" Jath'Amon was incredulous. "Is that all the Batarian people are worth? A probe! Against an enemy who has shown unparalleled aggression. A probe is all you send!"

"Ambassador Jath'Amon," Irissa stared at him with intent blue eyes. "The Batarian people were once an honoured member of the Citadel species but it was your government who withdrew from the member races, over petty issues with the Humans. As a result, the fact remains that at the time of any assault on Khar'shan, while the Hegemony was allied with the Citadel Races, you were not a member species. As such, we had no obligation to help you. Yet we sent an expedition that cost us billions of credits, spending eight years in the void to discover the truth.

"At no point during that time, or since, have the Batarian people, or what remains of your government in exile petitioned for re-entry into the ranks of Citadel species, so it is not your right to make demands of us! For convenience, and for galactic unity we have allowed you to state that you are a Citadel species in the hope that one day it might be true. Yet you know, as well as I do, that your people no longer have a government.

"I want vengeance on the Humans but I will abide by the Council Laws because it is those laws which stand between anarchy and order and regretfully the Hegemony chose to reject those laws. You are a guest here from a minor power and you will remember your place!"

"I support the sending of a probe into Human space. After its results are analysed then, with new information, further considerations may be made."

Quentius and Linron nodded.

"You are dismissed, Ambassador Jath'Amon," Linron said formally, as the Council turned away.

"You can't do this!" Jath'Amon shouted, his eyes wide.

"It is done," Quentius said and the Council podium went dark leaving Jath'Amon alone with his thoughts.

-cfr-

Earth Year June 2222, Earth Orbit

Shepard adjusted his orbit, sliding closer to another of the Ascended. This was a hard time for all of them but for some more than others. Strength was needed, a kind he had never developed but one that this other consciousness had in abundance.

"Shepard." Maureen, again speaking for Elysium, greeted him. "You can't think about the loss."

"What else is there to think about?" Shepard's focus was on London. The last few years had already seen nature start to consume the city as the outskirts were depopulated. This was the final processing plant still taking on Humans. The others had shut their doors to new arrivals the week before. The small remaining populations had been shuttled to London. Harbinger had allowed the Human Ascended to do that much.

"The fact that we are still alive," Maureen replied. "We are all still alive and we are all still Human. They will be Human as well." She indicated towards the children being taken into the processing plant.

"Adapt and overcome." It was one of the mantras for his training.

"Always. I know you are angry but this was not your fault. This was the Council's fault."

Shepard was silent. He knew that beyond the Council, the Catalyst had truly set it up. Not the details, no, but the broad strokes, the ones that had condemned Humanity to die in their bodies, in order to 'save' them. He knew that, but the other Human Ascended hadn't been told. Not that any of them could actually try to kill the Catalyst. Every Ascended had that ban hard-coded in their base operating system. It's why they couldn't just kill the Council by blowing up the Citadel with them on it, why they had to threaten instead of carrying out their revenge directly.

The Ascended did not display emotion, not as organics did but Shepard still felt Maureen shudder. "What was that?"

"Another one discarded," she replied sadly. "I wish," she sighed. "No. I don't know what I wish for."

"You wish to save that child?" Shepard asked carefully.

"No, the decision has been made and Harbinger was clear. I only wish we had been able to keep some forces on Earth, to grant them a clean death."

"We all do." Shepard was the most at home in their new form, he had the fewest regrets, but right then he missed the ability to cry. He had never had much call for it while he had his body but it didn't feel right to watch this without anyone shedding a tear for the lost.

"It's for the best that we are not there. We'd all be tempted to intervene and someone would probably succumb."

Around them the rest of the Human Ascended fleet was in orbit. Only those who were not yet online were absent. Harbinger and the rest of the Ascended were in orbit though a few guarded the docks. There was nothing they could do to stop the events below.

"Grief is a weapon," Shepard said slowly.

"Grief must be directed," Maureen agreed. Watching was painful but she had gone through this already. No matter the information Francis had given them, he should not have had to die. "Grief must be funneled into anger and rage and then directed to the Council."

"You speak from experience?"

"Vita pergit," Maureen answered. "His last words."

Shepard paused, considering the statement before he realised what she meant. Latin hadn't been taught for decades, so the words had to have been spoken by someone old. Most had gone into the formation of ascended. There were no last words, just those last spoken in their Human form.

"Life goes on," he said, realising that there was more to what was said than he knew and Elysium had not volunteered the information.

"Life always goes on," she replied sadly.

"You are not a soldier." It was a statement.

"I am a scholar."

"Then you will watch over our youngest," Shepard ordered. "This one, and those still to awaken. They will need teaching. They will need to be shown what it is to be Human. You will teach them. You will show them. They must know that we grieved for them. They must know that we cried. They must know our sorrow and our joy. They must know what it means to be Human. I will not have our race divided."

"I'm not a warrior," Maureen objected using Shepard's words.

"Children do not need soldiers," Shepard retorted. "They need mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They need love. And the last of us Ascended will need that more than others. Name the last, teach them, love them."

Those children being processed now would not understand. They didn't know why this was necessary, what had caused this to be their reality. They would only know pain. They would need to be taught patience by example, with a steady unwavering hand. They would need a parent to love them.

Maureen was silent and Shepard knew she was still watching the harvest below. "We will teach them," Elysium said finally. "But when they ask to fight, you will guide their hand."

Mentally, Shepard nodded. When the children were grown and it was time to learn the ways of war, then he would teach all he knew. They returned to their vigil, burning into memory the final hours of Humanity as it had been for thousands of years, as it would never be again.

While not one moved, somehow the entire Human Ascended fleet shuddered when the doors to the last processing plant shut. There was an ominous feel to the watchers and ponderously the plant rose. It was a sealed box with engines, remotely controlled by one of the elder Ascended and eventually it broke through the atmosphere, moving through the gathered fleets as it was directed to the docks in orbit.

The Human Ascended shifted slightly, making openings in their formations as several other Ascended came forward, carrying asteroids. The rocks were released and the combined fleet watched as they burned through the thick atmosphere of Earth. The first one hit the remains of London, burning away what had remained, mercifully killing those who had been discarded. The ancient tube system filled with dust and fire and collapsed. The old buildings cracked and crumbled. By the time of the next cycle, they would be only lumps of rock.

Other asteroids burned through the atmosphere. They streaked across the sky in a beautiful display that only the animals saw. Then they struck. Some animals were lucky, they died in the first wave of heat that radiated. Others lived on but the ecosystem was forever changed. Volcanos were triggered as part of the attack, sending lava spewing over the ground and into the water, causing great gouts of steam to rise up. Sulphur gushed into the atmosphere mixing with the clouds of dust to block the light.

It was the end and Hackett wasn't the only Human Ascended moved at the sight. He had fought hard for the blue and white Earth that was now only a memory. Fires were blackening the skies, and even the blues of the ocean began turning grey with the ash. The old warrior mentally sighed. It was the only expression he allowed himself but within him, one mind whispered words of comfort. A proverb, a saying, Hackett didn't know what but it fit.

'So long as the memory of Earth lives in our hearts, she will never die.'

It didn't matter that their hearts were now massively compressed eezo cores, and that they burned with the thought of vengeance. Earth would never die.

The Ascended turned away. The cycle must continue.

Harbinger was waiting.

And beyond him, the Council were overdue for a lesson in justice.

-cfr-

This chapter made me sad. But vengeance is coming. Sweet, sweet vengeance.

As of 2222 the respective dreadnought numbers in the galaxy are as follows (Farixen Treaty was revised in chapter 3)

Turians - 85

Asari - 60 which is five above their allowance according to the Farixen Treaty but the Turians are looking the other way while they are concerned about an external enemy.

Salarians - 45 which is ten below their allowance according to the the Farixen Treaty. Turian and Asari have been nagging but the Salarians just haven't built the remainder.

Ascended (Human or otherwise) - More - Quite a few untrained or in construction. Construction on the entire Human Reaper fleet won't be finished until 2224 because it takes about 2 years to build them.