Hello there! A quick note before you read this story:

This will be a story set during the Clone Wars at which point the clone troopers will already have the phase II armor and during the ME2 events. I plan on doing ME2 first and then move on to ME3. Also, this first chapter was written to set the stage and yet have some action and banter in it as well, so I implore you to be patient with me.

Anyway, I hope you'll have fun reading this small fanfic of mine!

Dooku stared impassively at the enormous armada that orbited his home planet of Serenno. He was used to having a droid fleet hanging above his head, even though it was usually for show. There was no way for a republic fleet to invade his base of operations without him being alerted in time. Not to mention his master would warn him if an attack was coming. No, the standard fleet above Serenno was nothing more than a symbol of his power and his status as leader of the confederacy of independent systems. A sign of power and might of the largest droid army the galaxy had ever seen.

But still, this armada was much larger than what he was used to. There were at least a hundred of vessels ranging from the most common Munificent frigate to the rarer Lucrehulk or Providence. A mighty fleet with millions of battle droids that worked on board the ships or were stored away for ground battles. Dooku was all too aware of the sheer value that this fleet had for the war, it was only recently commissioned and would conquer dozens of systems in the outer rim. All according to his master's gran plan to return the Sith to their glory. A galaxy ruled by the Sith, without any Jedi to meddle with its affairs and a corrupt republic to cause suffering on a grand scale.

The count tore his eyes away from the large window and sat down in his comfortable chair behind his grand desk. The silence in the room was deafening and allowed him to think without being disturbed. Not even the four magnaguards and six commando droids that acted as a guard of sorts made a single sound. He was all alone, for now. Soon he would meet his most important subordinate, one that was more valuable than Ventress, Durge or any other lackey.

General Grievous, supreme commander of the CIS droid army.

While the general was sometimes too arrogant of his chances of success which led to failures in the past, he was still invaluable to Dooku and his master. Not only was he a warlord but he was also a proficient Jedi killer. His collection of lightsabers that he had gathered by taking them from his dead Jedi opponents was a testimony to his skill. In fact, most of his defeats were at the hand of the famous Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, something that Dooku could understand. Killing those two Jedi was sometimes more trouble than it was worth it. He still hadn't forgotten his little adventure on Florrum when he was in the hands of the pirate Hondo Ohnaka. Sharing a cell with those two still gave him a bad mood.

However, Grievous was still invaluable to the war effort and would play a major role in the end game. This fleet was also necessary to add more pressure to the outer rim republic worlds so the republic would send more reinforcements, leaving the inner rim vulnerable. It would be the end of the republic according to his master. Dooku was still skeptical but couldn't do anything else but follow along. His master was cunning and devious, a Sith lord and a ruler, a manipulator and liar, so escaping Darth Sidious was something he couldn't do even if he wanted to.

"Sir, the general's shuttle has just landed." A service droid reported to him.

"Good. Leave me." Dooku replied while slightly frowning.

The droid quickly left the spacious room and left the count with his thoughts. He would have to instruct his subordinate soon, a task he couldn't forget. As good as Grievous was, he was sometimes a blunt instrument. He could be stealthy when fleeing from a fight but when it came to a fight that warranted caution he sometimes charged in blindly. It gave the count a headache at times when he did this, results or no results.

Dooku looked down at the holoterminal on his desk before typing in a few commands. He didn't want to be disturbed by anyone, much less a separatist politician or Gunray. Hearing the viceroy moan about profits drove Dooku mad and he hated having to hear about it. He wished he could shut the man up but unfortunately Gunray was too important to the CIS.

The count looked up from his terminal once he heard the distinct sound of metal talons on his floor. He shut off his terminal as a figure made his way through the room. A tall, metal body with sharp features such as clawed feet and hands was partially concealed with a dark cloak that was clasped over its broad shoulders. Dooku stared at the cyborg's head that resembled a skull, looking deep into the former Kaleesh warlord's golden reptilian eyes.

Grievous walked past the droid guards without giving them any attention, not even as much as a glance. Instead he simply halted just in front of the steps to Dooku's desk and bowed. It was a sign of reluctant respect and their relationship.

"You summoned me, my lord?" Grievous asked in his deep voice as his head rose to meet the count's eyes.

"Indeed I did, general." Dooku said formally. "As you are aware we are about to launch a fresh invasion on republic strongholds in the outer rim. I believe it is unnecessary to remind you of the importance of this assault. We must press the advantage before the clone army and the Jedi manage to recapture their lost systems. You will depart as soon as possible with the new fleet and begin your campaign."

"And when will we commence our attack on Coruscant?" Grievous asked impatiently.

"All in good time general. Do not let your brash attitude get in the way of victory." The count chastised.

"Of course, my apologies." Grievous replied somewhat bitterly.

"I understand your desire to strike at the corrupt republic's heart. I certainly do." Dooku told the cyborg. "But we must think of the grand scheme here. We still have work to do before we can attempt such an offensive."

"Who will the republic send? Surely they'll choose Kenobi or Skywalker to push back our offensive. Those two manage to pull off a victory at almost every opportunity." Grievous pointed out.

"My master has informed that they're both being recalled for something of great interest to the republic and the Jedi. Of what importance I do not yet know." Dooku said as he intertwined his fingers.

Grievous let out scoff, "He seems to be keeping us in the dark about many things."

Grievous didn't know who this Sidious' true identity was and it irked him. He hated not knowing things like these, especially when they were incredibly important. Taking orders from Dooku was acceptable but Sidious was someone he didn't particularly liked taking commands from. He knew nothing about the man which made him all the more unpredictable.

"We need not be concerned with that." Dooku said dismissively. "For now we most keep our attention on the war effort."

"Speaking about the war effort, when will I get the exact details of this fleet? I must know all of the logistics before I can create my battle plans." The general informed him.

"I'll have it send to you once you arrive on your ship." The Sith lord replied. "I have made sure to give you enough resources and supplies to keep a hold on your conquered territory. The CIS parliament wasn't exactly fond of the expenses but they were necessary for the campaign."

"Bah, I hate politicians. You cannot trust them."

Dooku resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the general's comment. He himself wasn't all too bothered with politics itself, his status spoke volumes of that. Grievous on the other hand was best kept away from any social gatherings. Aside from his intimidating sight he was also very unpleasant when being bothered with useless conversations. He remembered the last time he brought the general to a party of a separatist fundraising. The horrors were still fresh in his memory…

"Be that as it may, they're the ones who are funding and building your army." Dooku pointed out. "Just make sure you make the best of it. Republic commandos have been targeting our factories as of late and it is wearing our advance down. You'll also have command over our latest Subjugator heavy cruiser. It's fully operational but make sure you don't let it get destroyed."

Grievous scowled at hearing about his defeat at the hands of Kenobi and Skywalker on the Malevolence. He had thought he had successfully defended the ship by blocking Kenobi's access to the hyperdrive. However, in the end the ship had been destroyed by sabotaging the navigation computer and steering the Malevolence into a moon. Grievous was lucky that he had left the ship to pursue his opponents. The failure still stung and added more fuel to his hatred for the two Jedi. At least that pesky padawan hadn't been present or the defeat would have tasted even more bitter than it already had.

"I assure you that it will not be as easily destroyed now that I have an actual fleet to defend its weak spot." Grievous replied, not resisting the urge to subtly hint at Dooku's own fault.

After all, it had been the count who had sent him away without a proper escort. If he had had even a single frigate it would have improved his chances.

"See that you do." Dooku glowered.

At that exact moment a door opened up revealing a single service droid. Dooku scowled at it while Grievous only looked mildly annoyed at being interrupted by a droid.

"Sir, you have an important holocall." The droid spoke up in a monotone voice.

"I did not want to be disturbed." The count replied tersely.

"It's a call from Coruscant." The droid merely replied.

Dooku's eyes widened slightly, "Put it through."

The droid nodded in compliance and did as it was told. Moments later the holoprojector on Dooku's desk activated, showing a blue hologram of a cloaked man. Grievous knew it was Sidious, the man had this dark aura around him that only a skilled dark side user could have, and his suspicions were only reinforced by Dooku who bowed before his master.

"Apprentice, we must make haste." Sidious told the count immediately. "Republic forces have discovered an ancient Rakata artifact inside a temple in the unknown regions. A science team was sent to investigate but failed to report in. Hours later they sent out a distress call after being attacked by the temple's automated defenses. The Jedi sent both Skywalker and Kenobi to investigate along with a few of their respective forces, and successfully secured the temple."

"And what does this mean for us, master?" Dooku asked with great interest.

Even Grievous was interested. The Rakata were known to have been advanced warriors who had successfully created an immensely large empire. Some of today's technology was based on theirs. Discoveries of Rakata artifacts were nowadays very rare but there was no denying its potential.

"Have you not sensed it apprentice?" Sidious replied, looking down on Dooku from beneath his hood. "The force is strong where this artifact is located and upon its discovery a ripple coursed through the force. We could be looking at a potential weapon of mass destruction. If the Jedi secure it before we do, it might be lost to us forever."

"I understand. Shall I dispatch a fleet to retrieve the artifact?"

"Yes, but not just any fleet." Sidious said. "General Grievous, take a small part of your new fleet to retrieve the artifact."

"And what of the Jedi and clones?" Grievous asked.

"Do what must be done. However, the artifact takes priority. If it cannot be moved then either secure the site or make sure it can never be used against us." Sidious declared sternly.

"It shall be done." Grievous said with glee.

He outnumbered Kenobi and Skywalker by a large margin, he would finally get to kill the two. Maybe even that padawan of Skywalker as well…

"We will secure the artifact as soon as possible master." Dooku promised and bowed to the elder Sith lord.

Sidious nodded before the hologram faded away. Dooku rose from the floor and looked down at Grievous with a hard gaze. There was no time to lose.

"You know what to do general. Take your fleet and secure that relic, or else we will both suffer the consequences." The separatist leader ordered sternly.

"Of course, my lord." Grievous said before standing up to his full height. "I will vanquish Kenobi and Skywalker before bringing the relic back."

"Just see that you do not allow them to stop you. If we do not get that artifact then my master will make us pay. You cannot allow your rivalry with Kenobi to cloud your judgement." Dooku told the cyborg general gravely.

Grievous narrowed his eyes but nodded nonetheless. With nothing else to be said he turned around and began to leave. Dooku's gaze lingered on the general's black cloak until the Kaleesh left the room, and only then he let out a loud sigh. He hoped that Grievous would indeed succeed and bring back Sidious' prize. The elder Sith lord would not suffer such failures, and most likely punish him and the general severely.

The doors to Dooku's private residence opened once more before the imposing Jedi killer of the CIS left the building and walked down the large courtyard. The droids were already leaving in the dropships, followed by the landing crafts and the droid starfighters. They were all headed towards the droid fleet that remained unmoving above the planet but was ready to go at a moment's notice. The coordinates of the temple would have already been delivered to his flagship by now, so Grievous simply had to give the order and they would be on their way.

He walked past the residence's stone statues and sculptures without missing a beat. Two magnaguards quickly flanked him as he saw his shuttle in the distance. A lone droid commander, easily recognized by the yellow markings, ran towards him with a datapad in hands. No doubt to inquire for orders and deliver the logistics reports along with any other relevant intel. The scene made him remind of the time he was sent to kill the traitor Ventress. He still hated the fact that he had needed to cease his hunt on the traitor in order to eliminate the witch Talzin.

"Assemble the fleet!" He quickly ordered once the droid was at his side. "We will recover an important asset from a site that has fallen into republic hands. Prepare the troops for battle. Ready the ships for combat and arrange for the ground forces to be deployed immediately upon our arrival. We cannot allow the Jedi to secure the asset before we do!"

"Roger, roger." The droid replied as it typed on its datapad to transmit the command to the fleet officers.

Grievous then walked off towards his shuttle with malicious intent to use this new fleet against his most hated foes.

"Master, I don't mean to question the council but isn't this a bit too much?"

Anakin Skywalker, prominent Jedi knight, famous republic hero and fabled chosen one could only groan at his padawan's question. He knew Ahsoka wasn't trying to annoy him but her continues remarks about their current situation was driving him crazy.

At the moment they were on an uncharted world in the unknown regions to prepare the extraction of an ancient artifact. After disabling the old temple's defense systems they had found the missing scientists inside the building's main chamber. It had been very disturbing to see the ravaged bodies of what remained of the scientists and their escort at the steps of a simple machine that resembled an orb being held up by four arms. It was a rather strange machine and gave Anakin bad vibes, as if the thing was nothing but trouble. Yet there was no denying the importance of the artifact considering the defenses and the records of the republic scientists.

So now here they were. Instead of sending a whole fleet, the republic and Jedi order had only sent a single Consular frigate to investigate. He, his padawan Ahsoka and his master Obi-Wan Kenobi were put in charge of the mission. Their company consisted out of captain Rex, the clone commander of the elite 501st legion who shared command over the clone troopers with commander Cody who was the officer in charge of the 212th attack battalion. Normally they'd have more men under their command but since this was a simple investigation they had only a handful of clones. From the 501st there was Hardcase, Kix, Fives, Jesse and Hawk while from the 212th there was Waxer and Boil. Nine clones in total to aid the Jedi in their mission.

"I know what you mean Snips, and I understand your frustration, but when the council makes a decision it's final." Anakin told his apprentice with a dry undertone.

"But wouldn't it be better if we had at least a destroyer in orbit? What if something happens?" Ahsoka pressed on.

The Togruta had been worried ever since they had left Coruscant. To her this whole mission felt wrong. The bad feelings she got from the mysterious artifact weren't helping at all to calm her down. Trouble wasn't far off and she knew it.

"Come now Ahsoka, we're both skilled Jedi and have Obi-Wan to help us. Aside from him there's also Rex and the boys. You saw how those rusty old security droids didn't fare all too well against three Jedi and nine of our best clone troopers." Anakin replied, trying to inspire some confidence.

Ahsoka sighed, "Whatever you say, Skyguy."

"I'm glad to see you two are getting along as always."

Anakin smirked at the teasing tone of his master and turned around to face the Jedi master. Obi-Wan was standing behind them at the camp just outside the temple's entrance where they had stored their supplies and parked their ship. The bearded man was smiling in mirth as he awaited an answer.

"When do we not?" Anakin jested.

"Ugh." Ahsoka groaned and rolled her eyes at the two's banter. "I'm going to see if Rex and the others need any help."

Once she was out of earshot, Anakin gave Obi-Wan a troubled look. While he tried to remain positive in front of Ahsoka he was in reality unnerved as well.

"Ahsoka's right though. I don't particularly like this either. We should have brought more men with us." He told his friend.

"I assure you the feeling is mutual." Obi-Wan replied honestly. "But we simply didn't have time to mobilize a fleet. Not with the pressure that the separatists have been giving us in the outer rim. I am actually surprised that the council could sent us to deal with this."

"It was surprising." Anakin admitted.

"However, now that we have secured the site we will have reinforcements soon enough. Master Windu told me he's sending fresh troops to retrieve the artifact and bring it back to Coruscant."

"Is that safe? We don't even know what the thing does." Anakin pointed out distrustfully.

"Which is why we're bringing it there. Coruscant has the best scientific equipment and minds to unravel the secrets of the relic. Though I have been looking at the writings on the murals, what I found was most interesting." Obi-Wan answered and stroked his beard while a thoughtful look formed on his face.

"Wait, you can understand what was written on those walls?" A baffled Skywalker inquired. "It looked like children's art to me."

"Then you should be very interested as well." Obi-Wan jested in good humor to which Anakin rolled his eyes. "But yes, some of it was readable. I brought a file with me about Rakata language and what hadn't been faded out I could translate. According to the inscriptions this was a device fabricated by the Rakata through the use of both technology and the force. It would explain why we've been feeling nervous around it since the Rakata were known to meddle with the dark side."

"Then this thing really is trouble." Anakin frowned.

"Perhaps." Kenobi admitted. "We should keep an eye on it for now. If anything strange starts to happen we'll have to destroy it if necessary. The murals were rather vague in its purpose, probably because of the damage it sustained over time. There were multiple mentions about some sort of gateway to a different location."

"What, like a portal?" Anakin suggested.

"Maybe. I can't say for sure. I took some pictures of other inscriptions that might tell us more." Obi-Wan mulled about it for a second or two.

In all honesty, Obi-Wan wasn't so sure of their safety anymore as well. At first it seemed like a simple investigation, hopefully a rescue mission until they found the corpses of the scientists, and now they had a dark side infested machine of unknown purposes except for the supposed gateway function. The jedi master could only sigh at his luck of being in the middle of this. Bad things tended to happen to him and Anakin in these kind of situations.

"Sir, we're done unpacking our supplies." The voice of commander Cody sounded to their left.

The 212th attack battalion's commander walked over to his general's side and gave a quick nod to both Jedi. His stance was rigid as usual, formal to the end when with his commanding officers. It inspired confidence but sometimes it saddened Obi-Wan that Cody never truly relaxed unless it was with his closest brothers such as Rex.

"Good job Cody. We might be waiting for quite some time until the fleet arrives. Having those munitions and supplies with us here in the camp will certainly help in case more Rakata war droids show up." Kenobi said in approval.

"The extra ammo we picked up will certainly help sir." Cody agreed. "In fact, we have more than necessary. I think we have enough weapons and ammo to last us an extended period of time considering we're only with nine men in total. I have Waxer and Boil carrying them inside the temple in case we need to fall back inside."

"Good thinking. The wildlife has kept their distance but I'm not too keen on meeting them up front." Anakin remarked.

As the generals and Cody talked about the mission, Ahsoka was sitting next to Rex as the other clones kept themselves busy. Jesse and Hawk were conversing about the frigate's engines to pass the time. While Hawk was a pilot and naturally knew all about them, Jesse was simply a soldier who had an extensive knowledge of machinery and tech. The 501st trooper somehow hooked up on every subject that centered around technology making him their resident engineer.

As for Kix he was busy with checking up on their medical supplies. It always reassured him when he did this even in his spare time. Helping the wounded was always his first priority and the health of his brothers meant a great deal to him. Whenever a brother died, on the battlefield or in a medical ward, it always bothered him greatly. After seeing so many of his fellow troopers die he had become very protective of those he had left. That drove him to learn more about medicine whenever he got the chance.

Ahsoka and Rex were sitting next to Hardcase and Fives at the campfire as they simply tried to relax. Of course they had to be alert at all times but that didn't stop the clones from just socializing. It made them feel more comfortable in this dark and ominous place.

"So let me get this straight." Ahsoka began with a small grin. "You played sabacc with admiral Yularen and lost to him?"

Hardcase looked away with a sheepish expression and said, "I'm just happy he didn't reprimand me and the others when he saw us playing in the mess hall. Apparently he had been quite stressed that day and needed some relaxation. Beating us at our own game clearly qualifies as that. I swear, that man has the best sabacc face I have ever seen!"

"Next time invite me. I'm sure I'd wipe the floor with him." Fives chuckled loudly.

"Careful there trooper." Rex said while smirking. "That's no way to talk about a superior officer."

"Of course, captain. Does that include calling the general's plans 'crazy' and 'incredulous' as well?" Fives smirked back.

Before Rex could say anything, Ahsoka beat him to the punch.

"You should have seen him back on Geonosis when we destroyed a separatist wall that acted as a fort." She told the clones.

"Oh, no." Rex groaned and put his head between his palms.

"Now this is a story I need to hear." Hardcase grinned.

"Okay, so we were trying to get past this enormous wall that was full with separatist cannons and droids. We had crashed a long distance away from our planned landing zone so we had to travel through terrain that we would have normally avoided. The ironic part of this is that just before the operation I had pointed out to my master that the droids had an impressive fort. My master however, told me we wouldn't even get near it. You should have seen the look on his face when we saw that giant wall." Ahsoka explained while making fun of her master.

"That does sound like the general." Fives commented.

"So we try to take down the wall by sneaking up on the cliffs, flanking the droids on the top and tossing bombs inside. Me and my master manage to get there and start cutting down the droids until they're all gone. We look for a hatch of sorts when suddenly two droidekas appear out of nowhere and pin us down." Ahsoka continued before looking at Rex. "Then Rex over here comes helping us out by taking down a droideka from behind. We destroy the last one and toss the bombs down a hatch."

"How did you escape in time?" Hardcase asked.

"We jumped off the wall." Ahsoka said grinning widely.

"In my book, tossing someone over the edge with the force is not jumping." Rex grumbled.

"No way. You actually threw the captain over the edge!?" Fives exclaimed while Hardcase burst out laughing.

"Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up will you." Rex rolled his eyes.

"I have never heard him scream so much like he did on that day." Ahsoka smiled, not feeling guilty at all about the whole ordeal.

"Looks like our fearless captain is scared of heights Hardcase." Fives jested with a wide grin.

"Oh the shame he brings to the legion." Hardcase joined in.

Rex scowled at them, "This captain can still give you sanitary duty when we're back on the Resolute." And here it was his turn to grin. "I believe it'll soon be nerf stew with Ahsoka's special recipe."

Both Hardcase and Fives quickly ceased their laughter and turned a shade of green. This did not go unnoticed by Ahsoka who wasn't amused.

"What's wrong with my recipe?" She asked while raising an eyebrow.

"Ah, well, um." Fives stammered. "Nothing ma'am. It's just that we, ah, Hardcase help me out here."

"Right! We like it, of course, but sometimes it can be a bit hard to digest you know." The normally loud heavy gunner softly said.

Ahsoka wasn't convinced that they were being truthful. Her scrutinizing gaze washed over all three clones, not a single one replying. Fives was looking away, Hardcase was staring at the campfire and Rex had the decency to politely avert his gaze.

"What is this I hear about digesting?"

The clones and padawan looked up to see an interested Anakin and Obi-Wan approaching the campfire. Anakin seemed to the most curious while Obi-Wan stroked his beard in silent observation.

"Master, what do you think of my nerf stew recipe?" Ahsoka bluntly asked.

"Ah, what?" Anakin stuttered at the bold answer, his hand quickly rubbing the back of his head almost sheepishly. "It's great! We all love it!"

He laughed nervously as his padawan gave him an unbelieving look. The clones were happy to be no longer targeted by Ahsoka's questioning, but when Hardcase sighed she shot them another glare. Fives almost gulped at her dreadful glare.

"So you guys wouldn't mind it if next time I make you all an extra portion?" Ahsoka innocently asked. "After all, you all love it."

The men blanched at the thought and Rex even looked as if he might have a coughing fit. Obi-Wan observed the 501st clones and their leader with more than just amusement now, this was pure entertainment for the Jedi master. Ahsoka knew her cooking skills weren't the best, she would have understood it if they had just told her they didn't really like it, but now she was enjoying the agony on their faces. Who was to say she couldn't get any payback?

"That would be, great, Ahsoka." Anakin said through gritted teeth and a fake smile.

The Togruta seemed satisfied with his answer and nodded in approval. Across the fire Fives and Hardcase looked as if they had just received orders to walk inside a droid factory with nothing more but a single pistol. Neither were happy with this and their commanding officer wasn't either, but he couldn't help but feel some satisfaction at having revenge on his brothers that had laughed at him only a minute ago.

"Culinary plans aside, we should probably get some sleep." Obi-Wan spoke up with a small smile. "I suggest two of us take watch. We can't be too careful with all of the wildlife and this place."

Anakin nodded in agreement, "Good idea. I suggest-"

"Generals!" Came Hawk's alarmed voice.

The elite 501st pilot came running outside of their ship with an expression that clearly portrayed his distress. He was running as fast as he could towards them while carrying his helmet between his left arm and side. His cry for the Jedi was enough to have everyone on edge and ready for action.

"What's wrong Hawk?" Anakin asked straight to the point.

"Sir, a droid fleet just exited hyperspace above the planet. One of their ships is headed for the surface, straight towards our position." Hawk immediately answered without any delay.

"A whole fleet?" Obi-Wan wondered perplexed. "That makes no sense. How did they even know we were here? Part of why we came with such a small group and ship was to avoid unwanted attention."

"If they came with an entire fleet then we're looking at battalions of droids." Rex grimly stated. "The odds aren't in our favor."

"They must be here for the artifact. How they found out about it doesn't matter at the moment, only that we hold out until reinforcements arrive." Anakin said determinedly.

"Uh, master?" Ahsoka spoke up and pointed at the sky. "You might want to take a look at that."

The Jedi and clones looked up at the inky night sky that was illuminated by the stars. At first they didn't see anything but then a dark shape moved through sky, one that had multiple lights on it. The massive form of a providence-class destroyer glided through the air as it descended towards the planet's surface.

"I know that ship, it's the Invisible Hand." Anakin stated with a foreboding tone. "It's Grievous."

"Our situation just got a lot worse it seems." Fives commented, his dual pistols already in his hands.

Rex frowned and looked up at the sky. He squinted his eyes while also focusing on a particular sound. It was faint but sounded familiar, one that he had heard countless times before. Moments later he could see three shapes headed straight towards them, which greatly alarmed him. He remembered where he had heard that noise before.

"Bombers incoming!" Rex yelled out in warning.

"Scatter!" Anakin quickly ordered.

The clones and the Jedi moved away from their campsite and the ship as the separatist bombers came closer. Three hyena bombers were flying overhead for a second before they were gone, their payload released and descending upon the earth. Their air strike had been a precise one as the bombs hit the republic ship. Explosions racked the unshielded hull and tore plating apart before igniting the fuel inside. A bright final explosion occurred before the ship was no more.

"Kriff!" Jesse cursed as he was thrown on the ground by the shockwave.

Fives and Kix quickly ran over to their brother, both worried that something bad had happened. Kix immediately kneeled next to him while Fives tried to support him.

"Are you alright? Any pain?" The medic asked.

"No, I'm fine." Jesse groaned. "Just some aching."

"Come on, we need to move." Fives said and helped Jesse up.

The three of them began running over to the rest who were gathered at the temple's entrance. Both Waxer and Boil had come out of the temple to see what was happening and were briefed by Hardcase upon their arrival. Cody and Rex were with the generals to discuss their strategy.

"Grievous must be here for the artifact. As long as we remain inside the temple he won't risk bombarding us." Anakin said.

"The hallways are narrow enough for us to keep the number of clankers limited." Rex added.

"Waxer, Boil and Hawk." Cody called out. "Grab the rest of our supplies and drag them inside."

"Yes sir!" They replied before getting to work.

The pilot and troopers ran towards the crates of ammo, food and medical supplies with haste. Waxer made a quick comment to Boil about how they were once again the ones to ferry supplies but Boil simply rolled his eyes. There weren't many crates left so they would be done fairly quickly. They needed to hurry too, the droids would be all over them soon, swarming them and trying to simply overwhelm them with sheer numbers.

"Everyone else, mount up for an attack." Rex ordered.

"We should get inside." Obi-Wan suggested. "Staying out here makes us vulnerable."

And so the republic troopers and the Jedi began preparing their defenses. Ammo was distributed among the men while debris from the aged temple was used to create barricades and cover. Stone blocks dotted the single hallway to the shrine and a few thermal detonators were placed as traps. Jesse was careful to set up three checkpoints of bombs to use when necessary. They had the advantage of the terrain but the droids had large numbers. Their defense wouldn't matter if they didn't get help in time. All they could hope for was that their reinforcements would arrive soon.

Once they were prepared they waited. A few tense minutes passed by before finally the first droid landing party arrived in the form of multiple droid gunships. Their blaster cannons couldn't hit the Jedi and clones inside but that did not matter. All they had to do was deliver the battle droids in the back. Six gunships landed in front of the ancient temple, blowing away dust and pebbles as they hovered above the ground, before beginning to offload the droids. Four squads of standard battle droids and two squads of super battle droids were deployed in a matter of seconds.

The droids powered on instantly before commencing their march onto the temple. A loud noise of metal feet echoed throughout the whole ruin, alerting the defenders of the threat.

"Here they come." Anakin said solemnly as he ignited hi lightsaber.

Obi-Wan and Ahsoka joined him as they stood in front of the covered clones to act as a shield. The clone troopers aimed their weapons and waited for the droids to arrive. No one made a sound except for the clanking noise of the battle droids. Everyone was tense, their eyes fixed on the other end of the hallway and their breathing steady.

When the first battle droid showed its faceplate, Rex put a blaster bolt straight in its chest.

"Here they come, open fire!" Cody ordered his men as more droids walked past the first slain B1.

The droids fell one by one as the clone troopers began blasting the tin cans. While effective in great numbers, the droids weren't as good as the clones when it came to the limited group size that was enforced by the close quarters of the hallway. Their aim left much to be desired and sometimes even missed their targets by a long shot, however, the battle droids kept marching as they tried to get closer to their foes. After a few more B1 droids were blasted to pieces the super battle droids took their place.

Rex was forced to duck when a B2 droid chose him as a target. The separatist soldier was firing at the clone veteran with its wrist blaster and didn't let up. Rex used the droid's repetitive firing pattern against it and popped out of cover from a different position. He was faster than the droid and much more accurate with his pistols, killing the super battle droid with three successive shots. Its sturdy armor was penetrated by the blue blaster bolts which immediately burned through the circuitry behind the grey plating. The B2 droid's lights flickered out before joining its fellow droids on the floor.

"Ahsoka, more droids on the left." Anakin told his apprentice over the sound of blasterfire.

"I got it!" She answered quickly.

The orange-skinned padawan dashed to the left to block more of the incoming blaster bolts that came from the battle droids. Some hit the stone floor tiles next to her but not a single one struck her or the clones behind her, all because of her lightsaber training. Through intense concentration she was able to deflect a few back to the droids. Jesse and Hawk made sure to thank her for the assistance by lessening the pressure on her. They supported her with their DC-15s carbines and did what they were bred to do.

"So this is what's it like for you guys on the ground?" Hawk asked.

"Pretty much." Jesse replied jovially. "Must be change for you Hawk. Are you sure you can keep up?"

"You know Jesse, next time I might accidentally forget to pick you up. How will you get back to the ship without transport?" Hawk retorted while hitting a droid in the head.

"Are you two seriously bickering right now?" Kix wondered incredulously, the medic sitting only a few meters away from them.

More droids poured in through the hallway, their bodies blocking any view of the entrance now. The sheer amount of battle droids was getting out of hand for the republic defenders who were now in a tight spot. They couldn't hold out for such a long time against the separatist forces but they couldn't allow the artifact to fall into their hands either. Not to mention that these were just the standard type of droids and they hadn't even seen a glimpse of a more advanced model such as the BX commando droid.

Obi-Wan deflected another bolt that had been aimed at him and Anakin before deflecting another one. This seemed to repeat itself for a longer period of time that he liked. At this rate he would tire himself out before the droids even reached their position.

"There's too many of them." The Jedi master concluded. "Cody, activate the first set of bombs."

"Roger that sir." The 212th commander replied.

Cody pressed the activation button on his forearm armor which led to the detonation of the thermal detonators in the front. One of the battle droids halted its march and looked down at a stone pillar next to the droid ranks. It hummed in curiosity and inspected the pillar, finding one of the bombs. The battle droid let out a squeak and flailed its arms around as it ran away into the other droids.

Then the bombs went off creating a miniature wall of flames and debris. All nearby droids were thrown away or on the ground by the shockwave while those who were in the blast radius were completely destroyed. The temple shook slightly during the blast but luckily the Rakata built to last. A few stones fell from the ceiling but none crushed anyone except for a single B2.

"That's more like it!" Hardcase cheered while firing down the droid ranks with his rotary blaster cannon.

"Kriffing hell, I thought that pillar would collapse right on top of us." Fives swore.

The ARC trooper was fighting alongside Waxer and Boil on the right, attracting the attention of a whole droid squad. Both Waxer and Boil were no pushovers though. Their partnership had carried them through some of the most difficult campaigns such as Geonosis. Back then they had to charge forward while being fired upon by tanks and geonosian soldiers, compared to this they were having a field trip.

"This is not what I imagined this mission to be." Boil commented grumpily.

"Cheer up brother, there are more droids for us to blast." Waxer said as he did just that.

"A bit too much for me." Boil answered honestly.

"Nothing to do about it except for fighting." Fives spoke as if it wasn't a problem, though he was getting worried as well.

The firefight had been going on for quite some time now and it showed with damage to the temple, dozens of broken droids and the impression as if there was no end to this tidal wave of enemies. The senior members such as the Jedi were aware of the problem that this represented. Help wasn't coming any time soon and once all bombs were gone they would have no fallback plan. They would have to escape somehow to fight another day.

"Master, this isn't going well." Anakin told Obi-Wan reluctantly.

"I'm afraid I'll have to agree with you." Obi-Wan replied. "At this rate we'll tire ourselves out while the droids just keep sending more to finish the job."

"We could try to make the entrance cave in and then escape through one of the underground tunnels we found earlier." Anakin suggested.

"But then the artifact will fall into Grievous' hands." Obi-wan countered. "Speaking of him, why hasn't he shown himself yet."

As if fate decreed it to happen, an explosion blew through the ceiling of the main chamber. The temple shook to its foundation while stones fell down to the floor, cracking many tiles and producing cover in the process. The Jedi looked up once the rubble and dust was cleared to see a separatist gunship hovering above the temple. Commando droids appeared on the edge of the hole in the roof as they began dropping down with blasters and vibroswords in their mechanical hands. They formed a protective line while more figures showed themselves above the firefight. Magnaguards dropped down as well, followed by a single figure whose body was made out of metal and flesh.

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes as the grimness of the situation truly set in. A raspy laugh echoed throughout the large chamber, the cyborg narrowed his reptilian eyes as well and he sneered behind the mask at his most hated foe.

"Kenobi." Grievous growled.

"Rex, cave in the entrance. Everyone else keep those commando droids away!" Anakin yelled urgently.

"Yes sir!" Rex confirmed.

The captain ran over to their supplies and picked up an unused rocket launcher, ready for action. He returned to his brothers and aimed down the hallway. Rex pulled the trigger, firing the rocket at the temple's support columns. Once again the temple shook as another explosion harmed it. The droids at the entrance stared up at the ceiling that began to crack and only seconds later came down on them. While many droids were crushed as a result, there were still enough left to keep the pressure on the clones going.

"Anakin, take Ahsoka with you and deal with those droids. I'll take on Grievous." Obi-Wan told his former padawan.

Anakin nodded, "We're on it."

Without any further distractions, Kenobi jumped passed the droids and landed near Grievous who had been expecting his arrival. The magnaguards activated their electrostaffs and spun them around in preparation for battle. Obi-Wan merely took his battle stance as he awaited their move.

"Back away!" Grievous snarled at the droids. "I will deal with this one myself. Focus on the other Jedi."

With a wave of his metal hand the magnaguards obeyed and left the two generals to fight amongst themselves. Grievous grabbed two of his lightsabers and ignited them, blue and green lights shining brightly as he did so.

"I must say, I wasn't expecting you of all people to show up." Obi-Wan commented.

"And I was thrilled to hear I could get the chance at snuffing your miserable life." Grievous retorted with a scowl.

"How did you even find out about this? I suppose Dooku's spy network must run deep into the republic's exploration branch as well." Obi-Wan said as they began to circle around each other.

Grievous chuckled in a raspy tone, "I do not care for Dooku's spies. All I care about is your demise, Kenobi!"

And with that the cyborg general of the droid army dashed forward with his lightsabers ready to kill. Obi-Wan was only just in time to block his strike with his own lightsaber. Grievous narrowed his eyes before continuing his barrage of swipes and slashes. However, Kenobi remained on the defensive and succeeded in blocking every attack which frustrated the general. Both had fought many times before over the war. They had dueled on the Malevolence, briefly on Saleucami, on Kenobi's ship as he destroyed the Jedi's fleet and even on the clone home world of Kamino. Yet every time they had both escaped alive, harmed for sure, but still with their lives intact.

Grievous kept on slashing, changing the directions of where his attacks came from to keep the Jedi on his guard. He struck hard by using his clawed foot to kick back Kenobi who indeed was pushed back. The Jedi doubled over in pain and a lack of air but still managed to bring up his saber in time. Two blades of energy were blocked by a single one, a force-enhanced push caused the cyborg to be the one to fall back this time and Kenobi got back on his feet.

"Why do you even want this artifact? What is Dooku's plan?" Obi-Wan asked in concerned curiosity.

"I do not care what he wants with it." Grievous snarled. "All I was tasked with was to retrieve it. However, killing you will be much more enjoyable."

"Empty words that you have spoken before, general. I have yet to see you succeed." Obi-Wan retorted, attempting to get to Grievous' head.

His tactic seemingly worked, the droid general narrowed his reptilian eyes in anger and let out a below of rage. Grievous sprinted forward while splitting his arms in two and activating his two other lightsabers. As he saw the angered cyborg coming, Obi-wan focused on his stance and readied himself for what was to come. Grievous spun one of his lightsabers around before bringing the full force of the blow down upon the Jedi master.

While the two leaders fought their battle, Anakin and Ahsoka fought their own. Both were dodging blaster fire from the commando droids while also simultaneously fending off the magnaguards that Grievous had sent their way. Anakin blocked a magnaguard's staff swipe but couldn't counterattack because of a commando droid that fired in his direction.

"Master, watch your back!" Ahsoka warned him in time just as a droid slashed its sword at him.

Anakin leaned to the left, dodging the droid's attack and cut upwards with his lightsaber. The droid let out a whine as its upper torso was completely bisected. Its vibrosword clattered on the ground as the two parts of the droid fell as well.

"Thanks." Anakin said while deflecting more blaster bolts. "Looks like Obi-Wan has his hands full with Grievous."

"I think we should focus on our own fight. As far as I can see, we have our hands full as well." His padawan replied as she took position at her master's back.

The droids began closing in on them and it didn't look as if they'd get any help any time soon. Rex and his men were still busy smashing droids while Obi-Wan was dueling Grievous. It was up to Anakin and Ahsoka to deal with the magnaguards. Not that they didn't have any faith in their ability, both padawan and master had faced off against magnaguards before. These droids were indeed much more dangerous than any other but they had enough experience to overcome this challenge. The problem lied with the commando droids that were too much of a distraction. When they'd get the advantage on a magnaguard they would be stopped by the blaster fire of a commando, while they'd also be pushed back by a magnaguard when they had the advantage over a commando.

For now they would have to keep blocking and dodging until an opportunity would present itself. Anakin deflected his bolts perfectly, even managing to send them back to their points of origin. Ahsoka on the other hand was better at simply deflecting them in all directions to gain momentum. Eventually the droids realized that only shooting at the Jedi wouldn't create any progress so the magnaguards once more jumped into the fray with their electrostaffs spinning in their hands.

"This is just great." Anakin grumbled, bringing up his saber to defend himself.

Ahsoka shared the sentiment. She used one of her sabers to push back against a magnaguard before using the other one to capitalize on the droid's lack of defense. However, in a moment of surprising intellect the droid ducked low and swung its staff upwards which forced Ahsoka to evade. It was clear that these magnaguards were some of the more experienced models, ones that had received training from Grievous himself.

She was about to attack once more when suddenly a commando droid came out of nowhere. It swung its sword at her but missed, yet that didn't stop it from kicking her away. Ahsoka let out a pained grunt as she quickly recovered from the blow and with a swift strike cut the droid's head off when it lunged at her again. The head rolled away, bumping against a rock, its previous body dropping as if it was a puppet that no longer had any strings attached to it.

"Watch out for the commandos. They're trying to pin us down." She warned her master, only moments before another droid began its assault.

"I've noticed." The Jedi knight dryly replied as he stared down at a droid he had just scrapped.

"General, the last of the droids are almost done for." Rex reported over the comms.

Anakin turned to glance at the entrance of the main chamber but could barely see the clones anymore because of the fallen debris. However, there was still the distinct sound of blasterfire coming from that direction where the clone troopers had put up their defense.

"Good work Rex. Try to clean up over there as soon as possible and then get over here to help us deal with these droids. It's only a matter of time before Grievous calls in more reinforcements."

"Understood, general." The faithful clone captain replied.

Anakin then jumped over a magnaguard that tried a horizontal swipe, his body pressed into a ball while in the air, before he landed gracefully in a crouch. Without any delay he swung his lightsaber behind him and succeeded in slicing through the droid's knee joints. Without the proper support it fell down hard on the ground, the tiles even cracked somewhat under its weight. However, the magnaguard was still pretty much operational.

"What the-" Anakin mumbled when he felt a hand latch onto his left boot.

He looked down and met the droid's gaze by looking into its red optics that still shone brightly. It had dropped its electrostaff during the fall but that didn't stop it from continuing the fight. Without any weapons left it resorted to using its bare hands to slow the Jedi down.

"Get off!" Anakin grunted, trying to shake the droid off since he had to use his lightsaber to defend against another magnaguard.

But instead the droid kept on clutching onto his boot which began to frustrate the Jedi knight even more. Anakin quickly used the force to push back his opponent so he could get his lightsaber free. While the second magnaguard flew through the air he stabbed the first one in its head. Sparks erupted from the molten part of the droid's head and soon its optics flickered on and off for a few seconds before completely shutting down. Anakin then managed to free himself just in time for another droid's attack.

"Master!" Ahsoka yelled alarmed.

Confused as to what was wrong, Anakin looked over his shoulder to see a magnaguard headed his way with its staff at a high velocity. There was no way he would be able to dodge or block without getting hurt. Luckily for him his padawan was there for him. Ahsoka sent a force push towards the droid which successfully hurled it away. The droid fumbled in the air before it finally crashed.

Right against the artifact.

Its body slammed into the Rakata artifact but failed to crack the obsidian orb. There wasn't even a dent in it even though the droid had been violently slammed into the ancient device. Anakin shot his padawan an incredulous look after seeing the spectacle.

"You almost wrecked the artifact!" He exclaimed in disbelief.

"I was trying to save you." Ahsoka retorted with an equally disbelieving look.

"And you couldn't send it anywhere else?"

"There was no time!"

"Uh, sirs?"

Both jedi looked past their opponents and saw the clones standing there. It was Rex who had spoken but that didn't matter, what mattered more was the fact that each trooper was staring at something behind the Jedi. Even the droids had seized fighting and were carefully watching something behind their backs. Anakin and Ahsoka shot each other a suspicious look before they too turned to look.

They hadn't heard it before because of their bickering but now they could hear the strange sound that was being omitted from the Rakata artifact. The humming sounded mechanical but also akin to some sort of music. It had a certain rhythm to it, one that was unsettling yet harmonic at the same time. They could even feel the vibrations of the sound in the air.

"What is going on?" Ahsoka wondered out loud, finding it hard to keep her eyes off the relic.

Anakin's expression was grim as he spoke, "I don't know but I don't think it's anything good."

At that exact same moment they saw Obi-Wan flying towards them before he landed on his behind in front of the two Jedi. He let out a groan of discomfort and pain but still managed to get up again. The light brown-haired Jedi master ran a hand over his head as he shook of the dizziness that he felt because of the abrupt landing.

"Glad to see you're okay." Anakin said somewhat teasingly, even while their situation didn't look all too well.

"Oh, I'm sure you are." Obi-Wan replied sarcastically. "It appears that the good general isn't up for conversation. What did I miss?"

"Kenobi!" Grievous shouted as he jumped over a block of rubble. "You won't get away that easily."

But then he stopped to see that no one was fighting anymore. Instead they were all focused on the artifact that was starting to act up. Grievous scowled at the strange relic and in that instance felt a chill run up his mechanical spine. Something about the relic was making him uncomfortable, and the humming wasn't helping at all. Before he could do anything else he heard his commlink buzz. Grievous frowned but nevertheless pressed on the comm device built into his 'ears' which caused a small antenna to extend.

"Yes?" He growled.

"General," His super tactical droid aboard his flagship spoke up over his commlink, "we are detecting large energy readings at your position. Our scanners are picking up a rising amount of dark energy."

Dark energy? This device was actually creating dark energy? Grievous was hardly a scientist and couldn't even comprehend anything about how the artifact was doing this but he did realize that whatever purpose it served, it couldn't be anything good.

"What have you done, Jedi?!" Grievous demanded to know as he scowled threateningly at the trio.

"We didn't do anything!" Anakin rebuked. "One of your droids slammed against it and now it's acting all up."

All of a sudden everyone was thrown on the ground as a shockwave of dark blue energy erupted from the orb. A beam of light shot out of the orb's top which went straight through the ceiling and even reached all the way up to the planet's orbit. The humming had drastically increased in volume, now echoing through everyone's skulls. The light was so blinding now that even the droids had to shield their photoreceptors from the intensity of it. Even the helmets of the clone troopers didn't do anything against it.

"Everyone brace yourselves!" Obi-Wan shouted as the light and sound further increased.

Before anyone knew it the energy seemingly expanded which caused the light to flare. With one final hum of the orb it suddenly consumed everything around it, including the droids and organics. The light even consumed the separatist flagship before all of the energy shot up towards the sky, broke through the atmosphere of the planet and erupted in a ball of energy in orbit.

The droid fleet's only organic officers watched as the light soon died out. Later on they sent troops down to the surface, all of them reporting a shocking development.

The Invisible Hand was gone.

The temple was gone.

The droids, clones and generals were also gone.

As if they had simply evaporated into thin air.

Deep within his secured sanctum the illusive man took another sip of his brandy while waiting patiently for Shepard to contact him. It had been little over half an hour since he had sent a request to the Normandy to speak with the revived ex-spectre. Normally he would let the commander do his thing and only contact when necessary, and this call was more than necessary. At first he was confused by what Cerberus' scanners had picked up but now he had a suspicion that it might have been linked to the collectors. There were doubts but when it came down to the Reapers, one couldn't be careful enough. The situation was also too important for any of his own operatives to investigate. Besides, Shepard was the closest asset in the area.

He was well aware of Shepard's achievements. Recruiting the famous archangel on Omega who appeared to be the turian Garrus Vakarian, bringing doctor Mordin Solus and his scientific genius in the fray, acquiring the services of subject zero or Jack as she goes around nowadays, then the krogan super soldier Grunt, the veteran mercenary Zaeed, the master thief Kasumi Goto, saving half of Horizon's colonists, saving the quarian Tali'Zorah so she would be able to assist and finally solving his problems with project Overlord that went rogue.

Speaking of the failed project that was meant to acquire a means to control the geth, he was still waiting for a report about the failure. Operative Lawson was late with her usual report. He was all too aware of what had happened down there but he still wanted to hear her story. He was also aware that the Normandy was currently docked at the Citadel so it wasn't as if she didn't have the time.

The illusive man mulled some more about recent events until the holographic communicator suddenly activated. Slowly but steadily the holographic figure of commander John Shepard, alliance soldier, hero of the Skyllian Blitz, hero of the citadel and ex-spectre materialized in front of the Cerberus leader. When the process was done neither said a word for a few tense seconds. The Cerberus saw the displeasure and disgust on Shepard's face and instantly knew the commander was no fan of the now scrapped project Overlord. Perhaps he wouldn't need that report from miss Lawson after all.

"Shepard." The illusive man greeted before taking another sip from his brandy.

"Tim." Shepard said.

Ah yes, Shepard had taken to calling him Tim. Sometimes the commander could be quite frustrating but it was nothing that the illusive man hadn't seen before. Though he did wish that Shepard would stop trying to antagonize him.

"I see that you have a clear opinion of project Overlord so how about we skip that subject?" The illusive man said in his usual calm demeanor. "In fact, I would prefer it if we kept this conversation short. I have news about a certain event that might involve our common enemy."

"The Reapers?" Shepard asked, his facial expression quickly turning more concerned than angered. "Did another colony get hit by the Collectors?"

"No, in fact, what has drawn my interest didn't happen in Terminus space." The illusive man replied. "Approximately one hour ago we picked up a strange phenomenon on a planet in the krogan DMZ. The readings came from a small desert planet in one of the closest systems to the local mass relay. What's so intriguing about this phenomenon is that we picked up massive readings of a discharge of concentrated dark energy on the planet's surface. We don't know what it means but what we do know is that it created something similar to a black hole, a portal of sorts."

"Hang on, you mean that we're talking about the possibility of a portal?" Shepard interjected, his left eyebrow raised in disbelief.

"That is all we could think of. We aren't sure about what happened but in case we are right about the portal theory, ask yourself who might have such technology." The Cerberus leader explained.

"The Reapers." Shepard stated grimly.

It was a logical assumption. Reaper technology formed the foundation of nowadays tech since they were the ones who created the Citadel and mass relays that spanned the galaxy. Even the Protheans would have had their own tech based off of theirs.

"Indeed." The illusive man nodded in agreement. "They might be trying to start their invasion by means of a portal. It's farfetched since it doesn't seem logical, after all, if they had this technology then they would have used it a long time ago, but we need to be certain. Even if it isn't Reapers what caused this we still need to know who or what did. Whoever has such power could be either a threat to humanity or a potential ally against the Reapers."

"And you want me to investigate this." Shepard clarified.

Once again he nodded, "That's correct. You're closer and better equipped to deal with this than any operative of mine. I'm asking you to investigate the site where we picked up the discharge and see if you can find those responsible. I advise extreme caution, Shepard. There's still the chance that the Collectors are behind this. You should also hurry, if we found out about this then there's the chance that others did as well."

And that was something that worried the illusive man, and rightfully so. If the council heard about this they would send in their own survey teams to investigate. While the council was equally well-equipped to deal with this they would try to cover up any traces of what had happened like they did with the geth and Sovereign. The illusive man was all too aware of Shepard's anger at their blatant disregard for his discovery and the coverup by stating that Sovereign was a so-called 'geth dreadnought'.

"My squad can handle it." Shepard stated confidently. "Just point us in the right direction. The Normandy is prepped to go and everyone is onboard."

"Excellent. I knew I could rely on you to deal with this. I've sent the coordinates to EDI along with any other intel that I have for you. Good luck, Shepard." The illusive man said before he disconnected the call.

Shepard stepped out of the conference room shortly after, his mind already focused on their next objective. He made sure to make a mental list of what to prepare and who he should take with him for this assignment. First off he would check up on what the planet they were going to looked like which included weather, atmosphere, gravity, etc.

"EDI, have you received the coordinates from the illusive man?" Shepard asked the Normandy's artificial intelligence, knowing she would hear him if he just spoke up.

"I have, Shepard." EDI replied. "Mister Moreau has been informed of our departure. We are set to depart in five minutes."

"How long will it take for us to reach our destination?"

"Approximately 2.5 hours once we reach the mass relay."

Shepard nodded in approval, "Good. And EDI, give me all information on our destination and what the illusive man sent us."

"Understood Shepard." The AI replied.

"Thanks EDI." The commander said as he stepped into the CIC.

Everyone was already hard at work at their stations it seemed. Shepard could see the numerous crew members of the Normandy manning their work stations inside the CIC and he could also see Kelly typing at her own terminal. It often surprised him how accepting he was of these people and often forgot that they were still Cerberus employees. Though he was sure that he could convince them to abandon the secretive organization, he wouldn't force them to. It was their choice to make even when it was the wrong one. But that wouldn't stop him from trying.

Shepard stopped near the command deck when the elevator doors opened at that exact same moment. He turned his head towards the elevator and saw his friend Garrus step out of it. He had met the turian back when he had been chasing after the rogue spectre Saren. Garrus was a C-sec detective at the time and had been in charge of the investigation yet couldn't do much because of all the restrictions and regulations that barred him from fully investigating the traitor. In the end he had come through alongside Shepard and together with Kaidan, Ashley, Wrex and Tali they had successfully proved Saren's guilt. After that the two had spent much time together aboard the old SR1 Normandy, during which they had bonded and had become good friends. It's why he was so happy to have found the turian on Omega after his revival at the hands of Cerberus' Lazarus project.

"Shepard, there you are." Garrus greeted, his ever-present visor illuminating the expert sniper's face. "I was wondering why we had to leave so soon. Are we going after our next recruits?"

"Not this time Garrus. Tim just contacted me about something that could be related to the Reapers. We're headed for some desolate world to investigate." Shepard replied and crossed his arms, a playful smirk crossing his features. "Do you think you're up for some action?"

"Does a quarian whine about tummy aches? Actually, don't answer that. If Tali finds out I said that she'll threaten me with her shotgun." Garrus jested in good humor.

"Sounds like a plan." Shepard said as he let out a small chuckle. "I'm going to take a look at what kind of place we'll be visiting. However, I want you to ask Zaeed, Jacob and Kasumi to gear up. They'll be coming with us for this one."

Garrus gave a curt nod, "Sure thing. I'll ask them right away. Any idea on what we'll be facing?"

"There's the possibility of Collectors and husks, but let's add mercenaries and local wildlife to that list. Nowadays everyone seems to want to have a piece of us." Shepard half-answered, half-complained.

"To be fair, back during the old days there were also many who wanted to kill us." Garrus pointed out with the turian equivalent of a grin.

"Touché." Shepard replied while smiling. "I'm glad you're here Garrus."

"Someone has to be the charming, expert marksman that the ladies fall for." Garrus bragged.

"Keep dreaming Scarface." Shepard said as he rolled his eyes at the turian.

Before Garrus could make a comeback, the PA system of the Normandy was activated.

"Hey commander, just saying that we're about to hit the relay soon. We'll be at our destination before you know it." Joker announced.

"Thanks Joker." Shepard answered their pilot.

Shepard didn't know what they were going to find out on that planet, but whatever it was, he was going to get to the bottom of this. He had a good squad to help him and friends to support him. If it really were Collectors or Reapers then he would fight hard to beat them.

After all, what was the worst he could find?