Chapter 19

Serpent Nebula, Widow system, Citadel Station, Presidium Tower– 07.03.2183

"You're fired."

"You wot?"

Sparatus looked away from Harry, down to the datapad he was holding in his hand. Harry hardly needed to be able to read minds to pick out the awkwardness, though being a mind reader got him access to the rage and frustration and satisfaction buried much deeper beneath the surface.

"Suspended. You're suspended."

"Is that a real thing? I mean I've never really been one for reading the handbook, but I thought I had a feel for the by-laws of your guys' little club here. Being fired, or this suspension thing, definitely don't ring any bells. Most of us die before you have to worry about it, but-"

Tevos growled over him, her omni-tool glowing faintly with constant monitors following the medigel bandage across her crests and lower back, "We made it, special, just for you."

"What in the hell... why? I would've thought you'd be paying me. Maybe a medal or something, I know this is the terrifying future so like a holographic one, but still. I just..." Harry gestured helplessly at the room around him, "I spaced myself for you, which really hurts by the way."

The Turian actually met Harry's eyes, his gaze conveying genuine emotional weight behind his words, "We recognize your service and what you've done, we're thankful, but-"


Some of the frustration Harry noticed lanced to the surface as Sparatus shot a look at the Asari councilor, "That's hardly the most significant thing we have to replace."

They were meeting in a small secured room in the deep depths of C-Sec territory, a room which had none of the majesty that the council's former chambers had, but did possess a nice window that used to look out on the presidium and the Citadel Tower. Used to.

It would take weeks to get local gravity restored, especially across the whole station, and in the meantime the Council had called Harry to one of their alternate meeting rooms. Or rather alternate-alternate, an atrocious amount of resources had been centralized in the Tower, and with it gone they were down to fourth and fifth tier resources. This room was one more easily repaired by a bog standard grav-generation field unit, so it was here they would meet their 'savior'. Harry had initially admired the room, nice curved walls and arched ceiling, it had a delightful sense of space to it despite its size, but Councilor's Tevos' shriek bounced harshly off the walls, amplified by that same curious architecture.

Harry winced.


Her Asari pride shining through, the esteemed councilor from Thessia damn near shrieked, "You personally broke the Destiny Ascension. When you sent the conduit out of the docking bay you rammed it into the hull of the pride of the Asari fleet, which on top of catastrophic hull failure then meant we had to fight off the fucking battalion of Geth boarders which came popping right out of the damn thing. And this is on top of you breaking the Goddess-be-damned citadel."

"I... well... You're still alive?"

Somehow his hesitant tone didn't mollify the councilors. Tevos' head was still bandaged, Valern was refusing to meet his eyes more than usual, and Sparatus still seemed embarrassed. Damn Turian probably had fun getting into real combat again, and just wanted the whole thing to go away.

Into the silence Harry tried again, "In my defense, I can safely say I told you so about almost every single thing. I mean Sovereign, the Citadel being a huge relay, even the conduit. So there was a bit of damage to the station, I would think you might want me still looking into all this reaper stuff, everyone inside a ten lightyear envelope would be dead if not for me."

The Asari was just further incensed, evidently missing his last few words, "A BIT OF DAMAGE! Whatever you and that giant flying Hanar did stopped station rotation and caused complete power outages all along every ward! That's without considering that there isn't a goddamn Citadel tower anymore! You crippled the center of galactic civilization, destroying a space station that has stood since the end of the Prothean race! We literally don't possess the technology to repair the segments of the Citadel you destroyed!"

"Well what would you have had me do? Did you want a mass free corridor from here to the depths of dark space to open, with god only know what on the other end of it!?"

For the first time Harry's tone matched the councilor's, and in response to him there was only silence. Tevos' fixed her eyes on his console, flicking through a number of screens and refusing to look at the agent standing before her.

"We recognize much of what you said was true, and if you had any evidence supporting any of your frankly absurd claims we may have paid more attention. You can't deny the lunacy of your own words in the context they were given to us. It is not as large of a leap of logic as any of us would like to go from what we witnessed personally to finding truth in the rest of your claims."

Tevos' eyes refused to leave her console, which still flickered from screen to screen faster than anyone could reasonably read its contents. Her voice continued to fill the space left in the air after the hum of the generator behind her.

"Th-thank you for your service. Your actions saved us from a direct invasion of the center of galactic civilization, but at an expense we are literally incapable of calculating. You just need to go. Thank you, we appreciate what you've done, now fuck off."

Serpent Nebula, Widow system, Citadel Station, C-Sec Academy– 07.03.2183

The Asari were the first species in the current era, in terms of absolute chronological order, to get to space. They also claimed to be the fastest to advance to that stage, and almost as a rule were not shy about making either of those claims.


And at length.

From news agencies to forum trolls, the Asari were rarely shy about bringing up their superiority in technological fields, general culture, and whatever happened to be the topic at hand. A neat trait of the species, which was frequently tedious.

But! There was one field in which the classical Asari arrogance and sense of superiority were well deserved. It was one of the key technologies crucial to societal advancement, and across the galaxy was typically one of the first technological advancement found in every developing culture: Alcohol.

So as Harry returned to the Normandy with a heavy heart, he also returned with something to address that condition, namely two liters of top shelf Thessian alcohol. A brand delightfully named Elasam, it was guaranteed to make him forget his troubles, or his money back. Harry suspected a hidden pharmacological component, especially if that claim held water in a galaxy that contained Krogan, but after the month he just had, alcohol laced with drugs sounded like a fine way to wind down.

Harry paid for his purchase and made his way through the C-Sec academy to the secure berths there. If C-Sec had been high security before, when it merely held traffic control and station security, it was Double-Plus-Secure now. Additional checkpoints were set against nearly every entrance, and the older rapid-transit points had all been directed outside the section. Sadly that meant that, without Spectre credentials, the scanners he passed through flagged him and his bag of delicious intoxicants for a secondary inspection. As the officer approached, Harry couldn't help the kicked puppy expression that formed on his face. He clutched his alcohol to his chest like it was his firstborn, and prepared to do whatever he had to in order to make it to his ship with his booze intact.

Then, in a moment that proved with angelic clarity why it was so worth it to make friends in a cold and uncaring galaxy, Jeff Moreau stepped next to him and quickly shoved Harry's bag into his own. The Drell officer walked up to the pair, scowling at the pair of them. Without a word being spoken Joker presented his identification which, as a crippled ranking member of a foreign armed service, blared those two amazing words across the top: Diplomatic Immunity.

The C-Sec officer's scowl intensified to a point physically impossible by Human standards, in response Joker smiled placidly back at him, and lead Harry around the man and to the elevator to the secure ship berths.

The two men basked in silent solidarity for the first half of the nearly eternal elevator ride to their ship before Joker could no longer contain himself, "Rough day at the office?"

Harry sighed and looked away.

"I had a feeling, what with that pathetic expression on your face and you grabbing your precious cargo like it was all you had left in the world. Not many people go to 'Quarian Liquor Emporium: Very Good Cheap' so you must be celebrating something."

"They're suspending me. I'm not a Spectre any more."

Joker's eyes widened and his mouth formed a small 'O', after a moment of thought the pilot looked shrewdly at his elevator buddy, "You didn't want that job in the first place, why are you upset about this?"

Harry could hear the incredulous tone in his friend's voice, "Oh I don't give a shit about the job itself, but man, those credentials. I had a legal in to almost any network, I had a pass into every system and priority comm access anywhere in Citadel space, not to mention the weapon tech they had."

"Why is that even a thing you want? Do you even need it with...?" He made a vague hand gesture that Harry could only interpret as 'Magic!'

Shaking his head, he responded, "War is coming, and having that access would have been really helpful. I have a few friends that could have pulled a lot of useful data, and I neglected to do everything I could have while we were running about."

Joker looked at him seriously, "What do you know, about what is coming I mean? You killed Sovereign, no one detected any significant SOS from the thing as it died."

Harry shook his head, a rueful glint in his eyes, "I've killed the big bad guy before. Hell, I've killed the resurrected spirit form of the big bad guy before, my teenage years were a trial, let me tell you. It never ends at just one though. We don't know enough. We'll meet Sovereign's friends soon enough. It's happened before, I just wish I had seen this coming sooner. I should have."

Joker seemed to accept this, nodding and looked forward again.

"Politics get me every time, it's a bit of a personal blind spot."

From the stories Harry had related, that certainly did seem to be the case. Though if even half the things the man said were to be believed, he'd been out of the game for long enough that he could probably be forgiven for it.

As they exited the elevator to the docks from C-Sec it finally struck Harry that he just shouldn't have left bed today. Nothing would have been different, but it may have at least given him a day to bask in what felt like one hundred percent success.

Udina and Captain Anderson stood on the boarding ramp, a victorious smirk and an uncomfortable grimace painted across their respective faces.

"I can only assume you're here to do something else to bollocks up my day, so what is it going to be? The ship, isn't it?"

Anderson had difficulty meeting Harry's eyes, "Er... as you are no longer an active duty Spectre, the Alliance has withdrawn its formal support."

Joker started at the news, "It's Harry's ship! He was given command, he put his blood on it any everything."

You could see Udina's triumphant expression die as he processed Joker's words, "Ah. If you'll recall it's an alliance ship on loan to the Council officially, and Lieutenant Commander Shepard was given command."

Harry seemed resigned to it, "Seriously? Humanity as well? I sort of hoped my own species would do something for me."

Udina's expression grew teeth, "Right wing factions in the hierarchy and among the matriarchs are already talking about 'reparations' due for the damage done to the Citadel. The fifth fleet lost seven ships to collisions and battle damage in the clean up after you killed Sovereign, and you've put aliens with advanced engineering degrees onto the single most expensive naval asset the alliance has constructed in nearly fifty years."

Harry swiped a hand through his hair, looking away. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, and it probably had been, but it wasn't like he didn't see where the bastard was coming from. Udina seemed to be making it awful personal though.

"So the Alliance isn't happy?"

"No one is happy," Anderson confirmed in a monotone.

Serpent Nebula, Widow system, Citadel Station, Alliance Secure Berth– 07.03.2183

Refreshing adult beverages were passed among the ground team, and to a few stragglers from the analysis section, and when that was done they collectively sat down to ask themselves and each other what in the fuck had exactly happened in the last three weeks.

Joker, in about thirty percent jest, offered in a frank tone, "You know boss, you could probably just take the ship and go."

Greico, from analysis, was also disturbingly quick to offer up his own tidbit, "Citadel traffic control is down, got hit by debris from that Turian frigate that got cut in half, I checked."

The cute redhead whose name and contact info Harry was now really regretting not remembering spoke up, "I'm prepared to be 'kidnapped' for a bit. I haven't had proper shore leave in months, you could drop me out in Asari space somewhere in a few weeks.

Harry felt a pang of sadness for the peculiarities of his biology, but shaking his head dismissed the feelings, "No, this is for the best. It's been fun, I'd forgotten what active military service is like, and being with you guys has been one of the best postings I've ever had, I mean it," Harry raised his drink and many of the other followed suit, "But really everything has been terrible since you jerks picked me up on Eden Prime, and I want to go home."

Jenkins looked up from his Alliance standard issue alcohol ration, and with curiosity in his tone asked, "What do you mean?"

His question which forced a sigh from the now former Spectre, "Well, do any of you guys know where you got those nice weapons, or the fab-rights to those nice suits of armor with each of your names on them down in the armory? Because the Alliance and the Council sure as hell didn't pay for them. I mean Christ, I could barely get them to cough up money for the fab-rights to my set. All your sets, humanoid and not, all came out of my pocket, and all of your super fancy guns. I mean Wrex," the lizard man looked up as the room's attention slipped to him, "You now carry probably the single most powerful personal weapon in the galaxy. I studied for over a decade to earn the skills I used to make it, and when I earned a mastery I was made to take oaths so I could never do what I did for you. If any one of my people were still alive I would have fallen dead where I stood for breaking them."

Harry shook his head and the room all quietly sipped their drinks, most eager to move past the awkward moment.

"So really our success can be laid at the feet of the extinction of my people, and all of the filthy pornography I've bought, sold, and otherwise traded in since I left Earth. In fact, if anyone asks, pornography paid for it all. Degenerate filth kept you all safe," he said, pointing around the room.

Ashley coughed at those particular words, some of her drink painfully coming out her nose, she managed to choke out, "Somehow I don't think that's the quote that'll make it into the history books."

Swirling his drink Harry took a sip and smiled, "But it's true none the less. Though in fairness some did come from hidden vaults of dark wizards hundreds of years ago," he said, allowing his voice to waver and making a spoooky hand gesture to go with his words, "and of the two explanations, I think I know which the Alliance News Network would find more fit to print."

"No," Harry said decisively, "This is for the best."

[A/N]: I had originally written a bit more, designed to give everyone a taste of what the events of Mass Effect 2 would be like through the lens of Harry's insanity, but upon review and re-writing I've decided to call it good here. This story should weigh in around the 80k mark, which is respectable enough for me to call it.

I've already begun work on the sequel. I don't have a title yet, but I'm getting there. The first chapter is about 30% done, and it should be a big one. For now I'll leave you with this: