Alex clenches a fist, flipping back up and dodging Wrex's stomp. Jamming out the fingers on his right hand, they extend into claws, the material of his arm becoming bouncy, malleable before he winds up and swings. The arm becomes like a cord, whipping out into an extending sphere towards Wrex, who calmly steps into its path, letting it dig into his stomach. Grinning, the Krogan warlord grabs the cord, wraps it around his fist, and pulls.

And Alex can only think I've bitten off more than I can chew before Wrex swings him into the wall by his own arm.


...


Councillor David Anderson is, on paper, the most powerful human in the known Galaxy. Given, only about 1% of said galaxy is explored, but he's quite sure there isn't another Earth. That being said, it isn't like he wanted the power. It isn't like he likes the power. Sitting at his crescent desk in his office on the Presidium, he mentally goes over how much he misses just captaining a ship.

The dark skinned human in the later years of his life has developed more than a few aging creases along his eyes and mouth over the past two years. Friends gone, one returned, threats he knows about he wishes he didn't.

Still, that's for other times. Right now is the present, and he needs to give orders.

"Have you had any luck tracking down this 'Illusive Man?'" he asks.

Before him, the Agent of the Council, the Spectre, glows along its head.

"This one has had some success with leads. This one knows from Shepard's records that the Shadow Broker exists in opposition to the leader of Cerberus, and has made contact with several of his agents. This one has come to the belief that the Illusive Man is older than Humanity's time in space."

"Interesting theory, Blasto. How do you figure?"

"Cerberus is but one facet of a larger conspiracy. There is no way the resources that Cerberus wields could be put together in a century, much less a half century. Even counting that humanity is resourceful and adaptable, there is a hidden hand in Cerberus that must be accounted for."

Anderson nods. He had suspected that there was more to the group Shepard had broken from than met the eye. The information she brought with her was a gold mine, allowing them to root out any influence Cerberus still had in the Alliance, but they were still going strong.

His thoughts, though, are interrupted by the whine of the alarm over the artificial spring of the Presidium, the blue sky depolarizing to show the view of the Widow star and the nebula surrounding them.

Banging on the communications console on his desk, he feels the station list.

"Anderson! Report!"

"Long range sensors picked it up out of the Widow relay. Something big and...losing power, prop-...sion- eapons-..."

The comm dies in a scream of static. A hologram appears on Anderson's command, the Councillor standing up to see the entire Citadel defense fleet coming to a halt, retrorockets flaring to bring them to a complete stop as lights flicker off over them.

Even the Destiny Ascension, the great behemoth and flagship, comes to a complete stop. Lights flicker and the main gun ceases its endless glow, as something moves in the shadows of the nebular.

It is two kilometers long. It is shaped like a great cuttlefish, red lights played over its surface and crackling like lightning. Four eyes, glowing blue are at its bow, and as soon as it arrives...it stops. Waits.

And then another window opens. Only sound, a vibrating line.

"This is Councillor David Anderson of the Citadel," he says, keeping the shaking out of his voice, recognizing the thing now hovering over them, "Identify yourself and-"

"We know you," the voice booms back, low, grating, demonic, "Introductions are unnecessary."

"Who are you?"

"We are Harbinger."

A pit in his stomach. The same name Shepard mentioned when she returned from the Collector base, carrying the first real evidence of the Reapers.

"What do you want?"

The door opens. Udina scrambles in, looking past Anderson to find that the great bulk of the ship is now oriented to stare directly at them.

"Shepard."


Chapter 2: Food for the Gods


The doors to the lift open. Shepard walks out into the cargo bay just as Wrex hefts another cargo container into the corner. She can see a single tendril weakly flapping about underneath the pile, pathetically reaching for some sort of succor or at least mercy and finding none.

"Wrex," she says.

"Shepard," he responds, and tosses another crate onto the pile.

Sighing, Shepard walks over, squatting down in front of the tendril as it shifts and forms an eye which stares at her pathetically.

"So," she says, "What have we learned? We've learned not to fuck with my crew. Okay?"

The eye nods back and forth.

"If you try this again, I have Grunt beat you up," she says, "And since Grunt's going through puberty, he'll then try to have sex with you. Understood?"

The eye nods again, opening wide in alarm.

"Wrex, get him out of there. Give him some normal clothes. I don't want him walking around naked on my ship."

Wrex nods, grinning.

"And if he gets out of line again?"

"Eat him," she responds, standing up, "Legion's just told me something bad. We're heading to the Citadel as fast as we can. Make our guest presentable."

Wrex nods, and begins pulling off crates. As Shepard ascends into the elevator, she watches as he pulls off just enough of the pile to begin urinating on Mercer. Rolling her eyes, muttering about macho bullshit, she taps the button for CIC and tries to file away the image from memory.


...


Pulling the hood of her white, red lined cloak over her face, she blinks under the lights of the Presidium as she enters. The lights on the transport were not as bad, but the Presidium is also a natural light, more like sunlight than the florescent that lined the ceiling of where she spent her days. Blinking yellow, black rimmed eyes, she tightens her head tendrils tighter, a shiver of nervousness running up and down her spine.

Whispers in the wind behind her. A hanar, preaching to the Enkindler's message as she passes the bridge, feeling the sights and sounds around her with closed eyes and pursed blue lips.

Her destination comes in sight. Formed of a tower stretching rimwards, she can feel the palpable presence emanating from it, her gloved, wringing hands clenching tighter as she approaches, biting her lip as she passes by the terminal on the outside and enters the reception area, blue skinned girls dressed like dancers and strippers sitting with men of varied species and talking with them.

The receptionist, a cheerful Maiden in blue and white, smiles as she enters, standing up from her desk.

"Good day, fellow sentient," she says, "I welcome you to the offices of the Consort. How may I..."

She trails off as she turns. Their eyes meet, and the girl's eyes go wide with horror, a shrill scream escaping her lips, alerting the other girls as she enters, showing neither alarm, anger, or aggression as she enters. Several of the girls are already up, their eyes already glowing, the blue glow wrapping around them like a warm embrace, holding out their hands at her, as if they had the ability to force her back if things came to violence.

"I only wish to speak to the Consort," she says in a soft voice, her accent betraying the distant, backwater world of origin, deep in Asari space, "Though you know that which I am, I pose you no threat. Please, allow me to pass."

"Let her pass."

The girls start, lowering their hands as the biotic glow relaxes. Older than them, on the cusp of her Matriarch stage, her tendrils longer and her face showing the chiseled wisdom of experience, the Consort enters, the patrons visibly relaxing at her presence.

"I sensed you coming when your ship docked," she says, smiling, "Come. Let us go somewhere quiet."

Glances of bewilderment from the girls. A patron passed out on the couch from excitement, a Turian general. The Consort places her hand on the woman's shoulder, leading her up the stairs, the door closing behind her as she leads her to the center of the large room, standing before her. Slowly, unbidden but silently requested, the Consort draws the hood back, revealing the young Maiden's face, her yellow and black eyes glowing with contained power.

"I am the Consort," her host says, "What is your name?"

"My name is Ariadrila," the girl says, "And you know what I am."

"Ardat Yakshi."

"You say it without fear," the girl says, allowing herself a small smile, "Thank you."

"I am learned of the galaxy, dear child. I find the prejudices we carry upon the homeworld have little bearing to the reality we find ourselves in. Why have you come to the Citadel? It is rare for one such as you to enter the greater space of the Council."

Ariadrila bows her head.

"I have come to find my mother," she says, "And to find why my sister had to die."


...


The visual screen flares, the swift tunnel of the mass relay jump replaced by the Serpent Nebula. Engines flaring, the Normandy re-enters real space...and then swerves, ducking under a Turian frigate that hangs in space a handful of kilometers from the Relay. Retros flaring, the Normandy turns, a blue field emitted from its underside, surrounding the frigate and dragging it from the Relay before continuing on its course.

Intact ships hang in space, lights shown through the windows and viewports but neither engines nor weapons glowing.

"Commander, all combat ships surrounding the Citadel are showing negative on engines or weapons. I am reading positive on their life support and kinetic barriers."

Shepard exchanges a glance with Joker, nodding.

"Makes sense," she says, "Citadel technology's based on the Reapers. They should have some backdoors."

"Why didn't Sovereign do this?" Joker asks.

"I guess it's because Sovereign was an asshole. Take us in. Nice and slow."

Joker nods, hands gliding over the transparent, hovering controls. The Normandy's engines flare, pulse, guiding the ship through the iridescent gasses of the nebula.

"Commander? You have an incoming message."

Joker and Shepard stare at each other, and Shepard sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose as Kelly trots into the cockpit, wringing her hands.

"Who is calling us?" Shepard asks, "Tell me that's Anderson."

"It's the SSV Orizaba," Kelly says, smiling briefly to hopefully defuse the tension, and failing, "Priority communique."

The overhead speakers crackle, and Shepard assumes her normal position, her hands clasped behind her as the build in hologram projector normally assigned to EDI forms into the free floating image of a woman in her late middle ages, with a remarkable resemblance to the Commander.

"Mom," Shepard says, "This really isn't a good time."

"Well, this is important," Hannah Shepard says, "We've got a problem. Is the Normandy enroute to the Citadel?"

"Yes," Shepard says, glancing out the front port, seeing a 2-mile long problem hanging above the outstretched arms of the massive space station, "And we're aware of what the problem might be. Can this wait?"

"No."

Hannah's glare steadies. Joker tries to hide his smirk, holding himself back from mentioning that the Commander got her 'look' from somewhere.

"Jane, it's Jack. I can't reach him."

Shepard blinks. Joker raises an eyebrow, turning slightly towards his commanding officer.

"Mom," Shepard says, "He wouldn't happen to work in the Presidium, would he?"


...


Business as usual attempts to resume, although not succeeding completely. The hovering cuttlefish standing between the star Widow and the Citadel remains and unmoving reminder, but sentients are resilient, and have a tendency of ignoring the end of their existences. One such sentient is currently staring at the massive ship, wondering if it's another Geth attack. Noting that he should probably find a bunker or such to hide in, the young man with short cropped red hair and a clean shaven face, which still retains a boyishness despite the fact that he's 31 years old, pulls at his suit's blazer and continues walking across the bridge, adjusting the collar of his shirt and nearly tripping over his new, polished, and not broken in shoes in the process.

The Elcor ambassador needs his documents, the Executor wants to know what the hell is going on, and the Asari Councillor, his boss, is going to start breathing down his neck in that remarkable calm and not at all demeaning way Ms. Tevos has that either makes him feel like a disappointingly incapable child, despite the fact that she never actually is displeased with him. Which is good. Mainly because of how insanely hot she is.

Right. She's probably telepathic, he thinks, and also believes she hears at the same time.

SHEPARD.

A flash of light from the giant squid ship. It pierces the sky dome, a blue force shield already in place to prevent atmosphere leakage, and the pinprick of light slams into the bridge in front of him, the reinforced concrete and metal framework holding despite the ripples of the water underneath them. Metal peals outward like a blossoming flower, a form, humanoid, bipedal, feminine, rising from it, glowing eyes underneath a helmet staring at him.

And John Shepard, adjucant to the Council, diplomatic attache and brother to the pre-eminent galactic hero, screams like a little girl when the figure lunges at him.


...


"Well, this is where it's going to get interesting."

Pressure seals on the armor lock. The Kestral Armor, recently acquired from the former Lazarus Base, glows blue along the highlights. The rounded shoulders hum as the shield capacitors come to life, the rest of the black weave armor in contrast to the iridescent piping. She cracks her knuckles under her gauntlets, and a small grin crosses her features.

Yes, she is worried about her brother.

Yes, she is worried about those she calls allies and friends on the Citadel.

But this is important. This is the fight that she has to finish.

"The Normandy will dock at the Citadel," she says, "Garrus. You will take Miranda, Jacob, Zaeed, Samara, and Kasumi, and secure the Presidium. Make sure that whatever it was that Harbinger fired did not take out the Council. On approach, Wrex and Grunt will be fired out of the probe launcher on an intercept trajectory to stop whatever it was that Harbinger fired."

They nod, all standing with her around the briefing table. Her crew. Her soldiers.

"Tali, Kaiden, and Legion will be on a shuttle with me and Joker. While it's distracted, we're going to land at an access port EDI's located on Harbinger's hull. We're going to get inside him and we are going to wreck shit inside there until Harbinger dies. We know that the Collectors were after me, and we know that the Collectors were controlled by Harbinger. We are going to give him me, and then I am going to paint another Reaper on the side of the Normandy. Get your gear. We're finishing this."

They file out. This sort of thing is not new to them, after all, save for Kaiden, who watches them go before turning back to her. He walks out with her, as she walks into the armory, opening up a weapons locker and taking out a handgun larger than her forearm and holstering it.

"I guess what Garrus said was right," Kaiden says, "The Collectors killed you, and all it managed to do was piss you off."

"I had a lot of repressed anger, Kaiden," she says, taking out the Vindicator Assault Rifle, hefting it up with one hand and locking it onto her back, "I'm not repressed anymore."

She compresses the shotgun, attacking it to the mount on the small of her back, the sniper rifle folded into a bulb and resting next to the machine gun.

"You haven't asked me if you can trust me," Kaiden says.

"I don't need to," she responds, "Get your gear, Alenko. Meet us at the shuttle in five. I'm going to make sure Tali has her enhancements ready."

She walks out. He watches her go, tilting his head slightly.

"The more things change," he sighs, and starts grabbing his weapons.

This is going to be a fun week.


...


He runs. He runs as fast as he can, and if John Shepard has learned anything by being the brother of the woman who reamed the Blue Suns a new one, it's how to run. He runs as fast as he can down the presidium, towards the tower stretching rimward in the distance. He passes the Conduit, passes the Krogan statue, as the female figure in black, eyes glowing beneath the face plate, chases him.

He must be valuable. She's obviously armed, but hasn't fired on him. That does not comfort him.

People are looking, but not at him. No, instead, he notes, they are looking up, which is just when he sees the frigate diving past the tentacle ship, aiming directly for the presidium, and firing off two glowing blue projectiles.

They hurtle through silent space, crash through the glass as it seals up a force field behind their impacts, and dive down towards the lake. It is then that John realizes that they are not missiles. Because missiles do not scream.

"-OGAAAAAAAAAN!"

They impact the water, sending up a plume of vapor which gets his pursuer's attention. Grabbing onto the handrails, two Krogans climb onto the bridge, shaking themselves off before the older one slaps the young one on the back.

"Heh," he says, "Haven't done atmospheric entry in centuries."

The woman pauses. She stares at the two, and her voice comes out distorted but female.

"...Wrex?"

Wrex tilts his head. He arches a brow, curling his lip. Which is when the woman's eyes glow, and veins of yellow run along the armor, before her voice distorts into a bounding bass that Grunt finds all too familiar.

"I AM ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL."

Two more eyes join the two glowing beneath the face mask, as the woman floats in mid air, yellow light wrapping around her hands.

"This is where they start shooting crap at us and randomly exploding, right?" Wrex asks, unholstering his rifle.

"Yes, Chief Wrex," Grunt responds, unholstering his own shotgun.

Wrex grins.

"Awesome."


...


The craft is an older model shuttle. It has four jets for atmospheric landing, two engines at the back, and a small Mass Effect core built into the center which lets it make short FTL jumps to return to its mother craft. The last part was actually a new addition, invented by the second crew member of the two man shuttle. It was both the brilliance of the design and the camaraderie between the two which made the pilot choose the young, nervous, twitchy quarian as his second.

"Alright, Veetor," the red suited quarian says, folding his rocket launcher closed and strapping it to his back as he takes his rifle off the mount by the shuttle door, "Stay at my side. Keep your omnitool on and in passive scan, and we'll be out of her in a couple of hours."

Veetor'Nara sighs, nodding as he separates himself, finally, from the seat. Stumbling over, he takes a pistol, holstering it at his side.

"Nothing else?"

"I'm...I'm not comfortable with guns," Veetor responds, "Kal."

Kal'Reegar nods, patting him on the shoulder.

"Okay. Keep by my side, Veetor. I'll watch out for you, you watch out for me."

"Okay."

The doors open, revealing the ruins, blasted and rubble, of what was once a Quarian colony world. They exit, Kal's rifle raised, the light shining off the mounted glow stick as he leads them, Veetor's omnitool pulsing as he follows his commander and friend's lead.

They are here on a hunch. Tali's comrade on the Normandy is a Geth, going by the moniker of Legion. And from what they have been told, this world, in fact any of the former colony worlds, should be habitable as the Geth supposedly cleaned up after themselves, following the Morning War.

"Veetor?"

"Everything is...well, everything's clean."

He waves the omnitool again, bending down to a knee. He plays the light over the grass and dirt, muttering to himself. Radiation, normal. Chemicals, normal. Toxins normal for baseline. Deep inside, Veetor is jumping for joy. Everything they were told by Tali seems to check out. They could bring the entire Migrant fleet to this planet, in theory, and settle. In a generation or two, maybe even go without their encounter suits.

The world is clean. The Geth did remove the toxins and the radiation, even if they didn't save the buildings. But considering the ordinance that was tossed during that brief, terrible war, it isn't surprising, even if-

"VEETOR!"

Veetor snaps out of his daze. He turns, to ask what Kal needs, and looks down the barrel of a pulse rifle. It is large, blue. It is being held by a set of two fingered metal hands, ending in a flickering light atop a very quarian like head.

"Oh," Veetor says, "Oh. Oh. Oh dear."

Several dozen, in fact. The more humanoid ones resemble him and Kal- bent legs, two fingered hands with a thumb, lean and tall and with an elongated head. Except where they have faces, these have flashlights, steadily glowing and flickering.

Behind them, there is on sixty feet tall, standing on thin, spiked legs, its massive head humming with the steady drone of its charging pulse cannon.

"They snuck up on us," Kal says, "It's a trap. We can't get through them back to the shuttle, and I wouldn't be surprised if they have a drop ship waiting to blast us out of the sky."

"Okay," Veetor says, voice trembling as he stands, "W...what now?"

Kal sighs. His rifle is held tightly in his hands. And sighing, his eyes closed and head shaking, he loosens his grip.

"Screw this," he says, and drops his rifle. The geth, as one, look at the rifle, then back to Kal. Then back at the rifle, then back to Kal.

"We're not going to fight?" Veetor asks.

"We've been fighting for three hundred years," Kal says, shrugging off the rocket launcher and dropping it, "Fat lot of good that's gotten us. I figure if I'm going to die, I'm not going to die tired."

Veetor sighs, shoulders slumping. Another fine mess he got into he figures.

"Well, for what it's worth," Veetor sighs, turning to the mass of Geth, "I'm sorry."

And then, the oddest thing happens. The Geth, all of them, as one, lower their weapons. The whine of the pulse cannon in the Colossus dies down and it lowers itself. Both quarians tilt their heads, Kal raising an eyebrow underneath his face mask, as one of the Geth soldiers steps forward.

"Apology accepted. Designation?"


...


The door to the cargo hold opens, and he looks up as the shimmering blue field around the pile of crates and wreckage flickers to admit the visitor. Shorter than Shepard, perky, with a bright smile and nice eyes, she eminds him of his sister, and despite himself he almost says the name as she walks over.

"Hello, Mr. Mercer," she says, "I'm Kelly. I'm the Commander's personal assistant."

He nods. The material around his hood shifts, receding into his jacket, revealing the shock of brown hair framing his head.

"That's a nice trick," she says, "I understand you can shapeshift?"

"Been a while since I did," Alex grumbles, "I think I need to eat someone to really copy them, though."

"Mm," Kelly says, tapping her omnitool as the field turns opaque around them, "And I'm pretty sure the Commander wouldn't approve. She also wouldn't approve of this, but I make it a point to not burn bridges, and he was insistent on talking to you."

The walls around them shift, holograms playing over the borders of the containment field and becoming a large, open room. Or at least the illusion of a large, open room.

"EDI?"

The voice is not Kelly's or EDI's, but that of a man. The accent, that which comes through, denotes intelligence. Control. Alex turns to the direction of it, to see a man silhouetted by a blue roiling sun behind him.

"Connection achieved. I am monitoring multiple channels. I advise you to keep this brief, as the Commander will not be pleased by you doing this behind her back."

"Duly noted."

Alex stands, Next to him, Kelly nods and takes a step back.

"Who are you?" Alex asks.

"My real name is not important," the man says, tapping his cigarette against the ash tray in his chair, "The standard non clementure, however, is The Illusive Man. Much like how you are referred to as Alex Mercer. Both are aliases, and we both know how important they are."


...


The woman charges, blurring as she launches herself at the two Krogan. Wrex grunts, snarls, and meets her mid way with a head butt, knocking her back before his eyes glow and a wall of blue force slams into her like a battering ram. Grunt charges, the lines of his armor glowing as he slams his head into her stomach, carrying her across the bridge as he roars.

Her eyes glow, and Grunt is launched skyward, splashing into the waves as Wrex mutters something to himself about children. Picking up Grunt's discarded shotgun and unlocking his rifle, he advances, firing both one handed, peppering the woman's shields as she turns towards him, narrowing yellow eyes.

"You do not understand that which you fight, Krogan."

"Never stopped me before," Wrex growls, as the air before him ionizes, pushing him back as it hits him like a solid thing.

"You will feel this-"

"And so will you."

The avatar of Harbinger looks up just as the air above him turns blue, a wall of blue force slamming into her, sheering the bridge before slamming him into the lake below. Still glowing, the sheer power wrapped around her like a second skin and armor, Samara descends from the balconies above.

"I had her," Wrex grumbles.


...


They can feel the voices bearing down upon them, whispering promises of perfection in their ears. When they boarded the corpse of the Reaper in the Hawking Eta cluster, they witnessed the fate of the scientists who studied it. Even a Dead God can Dream, after all. And the one they are aboard now is very much living.

Her three comrades are with her. They know what to expect. Legion knows the frequency of the Reaper's voice, and has tuned it out. Kaiden was with her when Sovereign laid siege to the Citadel, and knows the face of the voice whispering silky promises of peace. Tali has seen two Reapers die, and knows their promises are futile.

And she just listens to their promises and turns each and every one down.

"SHEPARD."

They walk through the corridors, writhing walls of wire and metal, like the shifting ribs of a great predator around them. Entry was simply enough. Joker parked their shuttle, waiting at the exit, assault rifle in his hand for whatever the Reaper throws at him. But they have yet to encounter any defenses. Either the Reapers were so secure in their power that they never thought to have internal defenses...

Or Harbinger wants them on board.

"So, which is it?" she asks.

Kaiden glances over to her, his arms extended, hand cannon in front of him.

"Which is what?"

"Are the Reapers careless, or did Harbinger let us aboard?"

Kaiden snickers.

"The way our luck works out, I'm probably going to say this is a trap."

The corridor shifts. Where was pulsing metal becomes a great open auditorium, reaching so high it disappears in clouds of vapor. Holographic screens fold out in the air around them, a great hologram of Harbinger itself appearing above them.

"We are the harbinger of your perfection. Shepard. Why do you resist?"

"You're seriously asking me this?" Shepard asks, lowering her gun as she stares at the flickering image, "Why?"

Legion lowers his gun, next. He stares at the image, the flower petals around his head folding out. His eye flickers, as the soft light of his omnitool plays over the room.

"Harbinger is damaged."

Screens flicker. They see a world of vast violet oceans, gleaming spire crystals, a tower reaching into the sky itself. Uncountable faces flash past, each and every one unique. Each and every one watching the sky as dark shapes descend.

Flashes of light, and color, and blurring perspectives as they merge. Legion watches, transfixed, as Shepard and Tali look away. They know what the black spots in the vision entail. They saw it happen to the colonists of Horizon.

"What...what is that?" Kaiden whispers, going pale.

"Harbinger's birth," Tali says, "This is how it was made."

"Why do you resist?"

The voice is softer. Less authoritative. The bass of the voice trembles, wavering as the screens multiply. Lives play in seconds, each and every one a different perspective. And all of them cease, freezing in frame as they show the great ships, like demonic, space born cuttlefish, descending upon them.

"Why do you resist?"

The screens blink out, one by one by one. Only the effigy of the Harbinger remains, hovering over them, before it, to, flickers and disappears. And then, the walls shake and the floor trembles, and a great and mighty scream echoes through the chamber, Shepard and Kaiden covering their ears, Tali killing the audio feed on her suit, and Legion stares transfixed at something in the distance. It is a scream, both mechanical and all too human.

A scream of horror.

And then, every light descends into darkness.


...


The woman climbs out of the lake, as the others join up. She looks up to see Wrex and Garrus both holding assault rifles at her, others, unfamiliar, having also taken up position, a wall of weapons aimed at her. She coughs, collapsing to her knees as the yellow glow leaves her, and looks up with a laugh.

"Finally," she says, "What year is it?"


...


The lights flicker on. But, instead of yellow, the light is blue.

"Shepard. I have used the available processing power from the Citadel to boost my own cyberwarfare abilities and, to use non clementure, assumed direct control."

The floating, spherical blue head of EDI hovers above them, the red vertical line widening with each word as the avatar of the Normandy's AI speaks to them like the Great and Powerful Oz.

"EDI?" Shepard asks, "Are you now in control of a Reaper?"

"Yes. And I would appreciate it if you did not refer to me as EDI, but as 'Your Majesty.'"

The four go silent. Uncomfortable silence hands in the air.

"That was a joke."

"What the Hell just happened?" Kaiden asks, "What was that...what happened to the Reaper?"

"I am combing through the memory archives now," EDI explains, "To put it in human terms, Harbinger has suffered a nervous breakdown. I am endeavoring to determine why."

The floor shifts before them. Legions steps back as the cylinder rises, filling with viscous orange fluid. A silhouette forms beneath fogged, murky glass, as the jets of steam escape it, and it drains. The figure in it is not human. It is lanky, tall, a long thin neck ending in a human sized head with two, closed eyes which open to pure black. Tendrils fall down the back of its head, knotting between the shoulders. Its skin is blue and green, mottled black running down the neck and sides, tapering off at three four fingered hands which open and close reflexively.

They bring up their guns as the cylinder opens and the figure, which Shepard notes as a strong resemblance to an Asari despite being male, steps out.

"Shepard," it says, "We are...were...Harbinger."

"Okay. This is new," Tali says, "Shepard, I'm reading a high amount of element zero coming from him."

"You're Harbinger," Shepard says.

"Yes. We. Were," the figure says, "We are...we..."

He blinks, turns and stares at her.

"We surrender."


...


Holding his head, John Shepard looks at his phone, seeing messages blinking on it. One from the Councillor, one from Udina. For the life of him, he can't remember how he got here. Instead, he sits up on the couch, turning and locking eyes with the cloaked Asari girl who smiles back, nervously. He smiles himself, scratching the back of his head, turning to the door to see the smoke clearing.

"Hey," he says, extending his hand, "Uh...John."

She smiles, slightly, her lips a faintly bent line.

"Ariadrila," she says, "I...are you here to see the Consort?"

He blinks, looks around, and realizes where he is.

"Uh...no. No. No no no. No no. I...uh...was being chased. I think someone my sister pissed off, really."

He clears his throat, starting to stand.

"Mr. Shepard?"

The asari woman in tight fitting leather armor walks in, in a manner more befitting a dancer or model than one who could, say, break the bridge with a single biotic blast, even if the results outside say otherwise. She levels her gaze at him as he climbs to his feet, knees still shaking as her nervously grins.

"No, let me guess," he says, "You know Jane?"

"You are Commander Shepard's brother," the woman says, "I am Samara."

And Ariadrila stands, her hood falling down as she pushes past John. The stern, matronly look on Samara's race falls, her mouth opening in mute shock as the girl locks her eyes with her.

"Rila?" Samara asks.

The girl nods.

"Yes," she says, "Hello, Mother."