AdmiralSakai and Serketry
Edited by BatJamags
Authors' Note: Palaven's Dogs takes place, more or less, in the universe of College Fool's Renegade Reinterpretations. If you are fine with skimming the original work, Chapters 23 through 68 contain the vast majority of what will be relevant to the current story; otherwise, we have included as the next chapter a brief "Cliff's Notes" for the AU that outlines the information we consider most salient.
Content Advisory: Palaven's Dogs is a story about soldiers fighting a civil war, and as such is rated 'M' for a number of extremely good reasons. It may become very violent and is guaranteed to address a wide range of mature topics that may make some readers uncomfortable. Additionally, although it is not intended to be a political opinion piece, it may end up addressing issues that are currently somewhat contentious and we would appreciate it if ideological debates were kept out of the reviews section.
Prologue: The Reaper Crisis
"There is nothing noble about taking a course of action you believe would prevent our arrival, because that is impossible. We will come, Shepard.
In fact, we are already here."
As the first human Specter, Commander Elizabeth Shepard had already bought the galaxy nearly two years to prepare for the Reaper onslaught when she rescued the Council at the First Battle of the Citadel; reborn as an operative of Cerberus, she bought perhaps a month more when she turned the Collector Base over to her new employers. It was perhaps to be expected, then, that her destruction of the Alpha Relay in late 2324 would earn the galaxy less than eighteen days of peace.
The Reapers, when they finally did come, came in force. In addition to capital ships of Sovereign's class, quickly christened Beta Reapers, the primary mass relays disgorged a menagerie of vessels, ranging from hundreds of corvette-sized Epsilon Reapers to three massive Omega Reapers, each less a warship than a mobile weapons platform massing as much as a small moonlet and packing enough mass-effect capacity to disintegrate entire planets.
Omega One carved a bloody path through the Systems Alliance, completely obliterating several minor border colonies before setting out on a direct course for Earth with a small support force of Beta and Delta Reapers; Omega Two struck at the Terminus along with a sizable force of True Geth; Omega Three at Citadel Space, attacking the salarian colonies directly while Alpha and Beta Reapers engaged the Asari Navy and a fleet of smaller vessels pushed deep into the Turian Hierarchy.
Inside of six hours, casualty estimates had reached one billion. Those in charge of such things would soon realize that the number was entirely too optimistic.
Seeing opportunity amidst the chaos, the Free Hegemony catalyzed already-restive batarians within the Attican Traverse into open rebellion against the occupation government, fighting against humans and Reapers alike and further dividing the already thinly-spread Alliance forces. While the krogan initially fought alongside the Council's forces under the leadership of Urdnot Wrex, his death and the subsequent ascension of Urdnot Wreav during a True Geth attack on Tuchanka led them to withdraw into the DMZ en masse, leaving several major colonies undefended. When Omega Three and Fleet Alpha-Beta finally met the Asari Fourth Line at Illium, it became clear that the krogan would not have made much difference.
Those in power quickly realized that it would be impossible to counter the Reaper threat through conventional warfare alone. Plans were developed and put into motion: On the Collector Base, Commander Shepard was able to recover vital research data on the operation of mass relay technology from an army of husks and Indoctrinated Cerberus personnel; on Palaven's moon, she fought alongside Officer Garrus Vakarian to halt the Reapers' advance; on Tuchanka, she defended the followers of Urdnot Wrex from their fellow krogan and stopped a full-scale assault on the forces of the Heretic Geth ambassador Legion; deep within the Perseus Veil, she watched as Tali'zorah vas Neema became the first and last quarian to set foot on Rannoch in over 300 years, escaping with vital weapons data minutes before Omega Two reduced the planet to vapor and free-floating slag.
The Omega Reaper over Sur'kesh was destroyed by STG and civilian scientists, hastily repurposing billions of credits' worth of scientific equipment and several unique Prothean artifacts to generate and fire a miniaturized black hole that consumed it utterly. Cerberus exercised a previously-unseen command of mass relay technology in order to destroy the platform bound for Earth, disintegrating it on the molecular level by accelerating it on two perpendicular vectors simultaneously; Alliance operatives Jacob Taylor and Zaeed Messani sacrificed themselves to disable Omega Three, boarding it with a multi-species special operations team and destroying its primary reactor as it left Rannoch orbit.
Nothing stood any real chance of stopping the onslaught, but it did buy time, and in the end it bought enough.
After 78 panicked hours, Cerberus researchers completed work on their solution- a method of controlling mass relays on an individual level, hastily reverse-engineered from Collector, geth, and Reaper technology. Released in expurgated form and spread across the galactic communications net, Procedure 220-Calabasas provided defending forces with the capability to selectively activate and de-activate specific relays that even the Reapers themselves could not override. The living ships' inevitable march across the galaxy could be halted indefinitely without compromising the ability of others to regroup; individual targets could be permitted to advance through a mass relay only to find themselves ambushed by hugely disproportionate numbers of fresh, fully-equipped defenders employing prototype weapons designed to disrupt the Reapers' unique alloy construction on a molecular level.
Thus the end, when it did come, was not a spectacular one. Gradually and cautiously, Reapers were cleared from quarantined regions of space, while emergency supplies and military protection were incrementally returned to colonies still threatened by batarian rebels, Indoctrinated organics, and True Geth soldiers. Casualties were light in comparison to what had just occurred, with military forces, mercenary groups and even some of the better-funded criminal organizations fielding stationary "hunting" operations at Calabasas-secured relays across the galaxy. The Migrant Fleet and Asari Navy acquired far and away the highest kill counts in this two-week interregnum, with the Destiny Ascension alone having destroyed two Alpha Reapers, eight Gamma Reapers, and nearly thirty Epsilon Reapers in one hundred and fifteen separate encounters. The Systems Alliance Navy may have been able to claim still more had it not adopted more defensive tactics, clearing human space exclusively and subsequently devoting the bulk of its military attention to the Batarian Rebellion.
It is not known who exactly destroyed the final Reaper, several ships claiming to have done so simultaneously, but the effect was immediate. Across the galaxy, Indoctrinated beings fell into a strange catatonia, the telepathic signal that had long ago replaced their original will suddenly cut off. The vast majority of True Geth suffered a similar fate, abruptly deprived of the hierarchical Reaper commands they had incorporated into every level of their decision process. The effects on those more subtly Indoctrinated remain under active study.
Between the dead and those who now existed in a state that could not be called "alive", the total death toll in Council space approached fourteen billion, with a full two billion of those being Batarian citizens under Systems Alliance jurisdiction.
The extent of damage to life and property within the lawless Terminus is unknown save for vague, second-hand estimates.
The losses to the geth, both Heretics and what remains of the Orthodoxy, are impossible for organics to quantify.
Despite the incredible death toll and complete annihilation of a dozen or more planets, the aftermath of the Reaper Crisis had relatively little direct impact on the life of the average galactic citizen. The strongly geographic nature of the invasion and subsequent quarantine meant that entire communities were either utterly wiped out or completely untouched. As most of those who would grieve the lost had themselves perished, for most of the survivors beyond Palaven, Sur'kesh, or a few Alliance-occupied batarian colonies, the Crisis consisted of little more than three days of distant terror relayed over the extranet news, followed by a heroic resolution and anonymous, sanitized casualty statistics. Even reconstruction was a relatively simple affair: progressing through the galaxy with a strange, methodical thoroughness, the Reapers had not so much left ruins in their wake as cleanly pushed colonization programs back twenty years or more.
With the primary threat eliminated, Council forces were able to restore the DMZ around krogan space with minimal difficulty, although Tuchanka itself remains a hotbed of violence and the self-proclaimed capital of the "Second Krogan Empire". The situation in the Attican Traverse is more complicated- the Systems Alliance has officially declared the Batarian Rebellion crushed with the conspicuous aid of Commander Shepard, now considered one of the greatest military heroes in galactic history, but several batarian-majority colonies remain in open revolt and fighting in occupied territory is a daily occurrence. Most figures of note now doubt that any comprehensive "Batarian Solution" will be implemented in the foreseeable future, and indeed no such solution was ever attempted before the Crisis- while a thaw in relations with the Turian Hierarchy initially led to considerations of a mass resettlement program following the First Battle of the Citadel, this idea has since been abandoned due to the increasing Assimilationist tilt to Alliance internal politics.
Of course, the resolution of the Reaper Crisis also left the galaxy saturated with Reaper technology, the vast majority of which quickly disappeared into the black market or top-secret military projects. Of the three Omega Reapers, only Omega Three remains intact, floating dead in the expanding Trojan asteroid field that was once Rannoch, and the constant geth infighting throughout the Perseus Veil renders it inaccessible for study.
The Reapers' unusual tactics in their deployment of Omega platforms (more valuable as psychological weapons than as warships), their seeming inability to comprehend the development of Procedure 220-Calabasas to lead them into ambushes time and again, and the odd mathematical patterning of their surprisingly small fleet (exactly three Omega Reapers, six Alpha, twelve Beta, twenty-four Delta, forty-eight Gamma, and ninety-six Epsilon) all suggest that they processed information in a way fundamentally different from most intelligent life, synthetic and organic. The implications remain hotly debated by experts in sociology, psychology, and computer science.
Concerns about the use of Procedure 220-Calabasas itself as a weapon of war have been largely diffused by the wide availability of the technology- since the process can be easily engaged from either end of a mass relay, any unintended closures can be immediately and harmlessly reversed. Cerberus as a whole has revealed itself as an instrumental component of the galaxy's salvation and begun moving more openly in galactic politics, although the operations force has scrupulously avoided any further reference to the multivector weapon deployed against Omega One. Supposedly, this decision was made out of concern for its acquisition by hostile forces, but it is now suspected that Cerberus is in fact incapable of duplicating its achievement regardless of the circumstances.
Curiously, while the actions of Alliance forces in the Collector Abductions and beyond have dramatically increased militaristic sentiment in the Asari Republics and suspicion in the Salarian Union, human-turian relations remain unusually stable. Some analysts are skeptical of this process occurring due to any normal political trend, and have proposed explanations ranging from lingering Indoctrination to mass media manipulation orchestrated by some third party. The potential implications are unknown.
Author's Note (Adm. Sakai): The Reaper Crisis of Palaven's Dogs bears little resemblance to either canon Mass Effect 3's events or RR's own Reaper War outline, and for good reason. With various degrees of effectiveness, College Fool and EA wrote endings. It's the Reaper Crisis and not the Reaper War because it's just a beginning, a way to clear the board of excess pieces and set up circumstances for the bigger war still to come.
It should be noted that Palaven's Dogs is more or less completely "decoupled" from Mass Effect 3's additions to canon. This means that in addition to the obvious changes in what happened during the Reaper Crisis, any facts or elements that were introduced in ME3 but presumably would have existed chronologically before its events will be absent- a Crucible is not merely never built during the Reaper Crisis, but the plans for one never existed in the first place.
Additionally, we already know that we are slightly changing quarian facial features underneath their helmets (the ME3 version was far too humanoid) and completely restructuring what female turians look like (they have, in fact, been around us the whole time). We will likely be making other changes as well, but as a general rule, unless any material from Mass Effect 3 is explicitly introduced in PD, it can be assumed not to exist, and even material that has been brought over may be changed subtly or drastically.
That said, we have tried to preserve the original events of pre-Reaper-Crisis Renegade Reinterpretations more thoroughly, making only minor changes to fix obviously typoed material such as the existence of a "Turian Hegemony" and Kasumi Goto being not not a stickler for the rules.
Finally, we have made several small changes to the circumstances of earlier games. Instead of a single entity, the Shadow Broker is revealed to be a cabal of many powerful figures, and Liara T'Soni's attempts to investigate them don't go nearly as well (I won't say for certain whether she is even still alive or not- I have material planned for her, but it may need to be cut for time/space/relevance and simply killing her off heroically at some point in the past seems a lot easier than coming up with another explanation for why she is not in the story).
Furthermore, since their introduction as a technology in Mass Effect 2, thermal clips have always functioned as they do in Palaven's Dogs proper, and have never been an absolute requirement for weapons: instead, they are a disposable means of increasing the rate of fire beyond what the weapon's built-in heat sink allows (essentially a "turboboost" system).
Armor may have had a variety of modifications (for one thing, the infamous and wildly impractical female chest armor has been redesigned to not guide projectiles directly into the sternum), but if broadly restructured armor does exist it will be described later on. In something of the converse of our rule regarding Mass Effect 3, any material from the previous two games can be assumed to exist in its canonical form unless that is explicitly changed or contradicted.
Other Author's Note (Adm. Sakai again): The dumbing-down of the Reapers in PD is very much intentional. As presented in canon, there is simply no way they could ever lose except for a deus-ex-machina "off button" (and that would have to be found within hours of their arrival), so I made them a lot more like simple automatons than true AI and drastically decreased their numbers. That way, the defending forces at least could get an off button that required some actual cleverness to use.
There's actually some support for this in canon- certain things about the way Sovereign talks, most prominently its deflection of questions regarding the Reapers' desires and goals, put me in the mind of a relatively complex chatbot as opposed to a true AI. Basically, Sovereign actually fails even a rudimentary Turing test. If the Reapers had had the element of surprise, and hadn't let the Collector base with all its technology fall into enemy hands, and had done what they were intending to do in Indoctrinating Saren/Balak to come up with a proper invasion strategy for them, they would still be the juggernaut that trashed the Protheans. But their defeats in the previous Mass Effect games actually had an effect, and chipped away at them until they folded relatively easily. I am hoping that the implications of the Reapers being these rote automatons will be explored in the story; if not, I'll be sure to also type up a quick set of out-of-universe notes on the subject at some point in the future.