Chapter 48: Redemption

"Are you aware what must be done?" Shepard asked the prothean.

"My body may have been in stasis, but the Oracle has been keeping me informed of current events," Jarvis replied. His eyes wondered to Shepard's sword. "So that's Asha Bel. Mind if I quickly have a look?"

"Here," Shepard said while handing him the sword.

Jarvic held the sword in his hands. He appeared to be focused on the sword. "This sword has seen a lot of death. Good. Means that you don't let anything get in your way."

"How would you know how much death this blade has seen?"

"It told me."

"It told you?" Shepard repeated in confusion.

"All matter is nothing more than information. My people can read that information. This sword has seen much combat. Many wins and some losses. Here." Jarvic handed Shepard's sword back to him. "We have much work to do and little time."

Shepard started walking back to the entrance of the temple with Jarvic.

"What will you be doing?" Shepard asked him.

"I will be activating the Citadel's systems while you activate the temple on Earth."

"Couldn't anyone activate the Citadel's systems?" Shepard asked.

"This system was created by me to be used only by me," he answered. "A safety precaution I worked out with the Oracle to ensure no one tampers with it. All you need to do is bring me to the Citadel. Not to mention that I will have to make a sacrifice, just like you."

"It will kill you as well?"

"Yes. I don't like it, but I want vengeance for what the reapers did to my specie."

"Will the Citadel need to be evacuated?"

"Most definitely. I need to activate several stages in its systems. The first is the realignment of its arms. The second is to send it through a wormhole to get it to Earth. And the third is to connect it to Earth's temple once it is activated."

"Sounds simple enough."

"It was designed to be fast. We don't want to give the reapers the chance to destroy the Citadel before it activates." There was an air of arrogance to his voice. "Though tell me, artician. How does it feel to know that your specie is responsible for creating these monsters?"

Shepard grabbed him by the next and slammed him against the wall. "Had I been alive in this galaxy, I would never allowed these experiments in the first place. They were done by a scientist who has forgotten everything that made us who we arm. By her actions, she can no longer be considered a member of my race. The same goes for Harbinger, so don't you dare blame my specie for the actions of a few." He released Jarvic's throat.

"Understood," he said calmly.

"We'll head back to the Citadel where we will drop you off to get you started on the Citadel's systems. I'll meet with the Council to tell them to mobilize the fleet."

They arrived at the temple's entrance. With everything activated, the temple's doors opened revealing Shepard's team waiting there.

"You're done in there, Shepard?" Garrus asked.

"The temple has been activated," Shepard answered.

"That's good to hear, Commander," Ash said.

Just then Jarvic walked out of the temple behind Shepard. Everyone stared at him.

"Who the hell is that?" Vega thought out loud.

"Everyone, this is Jarvic," Shepard announced. "He's a prothean."

"A-A prothean?" Liara gasped. "By the goddess!" She quickly approached him. "I'd never thought I would see a prothean up close and-"

"Could you tell the asari to back away?" Jarvic asked Shepard.

"She's just excited," Shepard said.

"It's an annoyance," he scoffed.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to irritate you," Liara said. "It's just that I have been studying your specie for my entire life. I never thought I would see a living prothean in person."

"Now you have. I would appreciate that we leave this world and get to the Citadel as soon as possible."

"Wait, if he's a prothean, why doesn't he look like a bug instead of a squid face?" Jack asked.

"Those bugs were genetically engineered clones of my people," Jarvic corrected her. "And the squid face commented is amusing come from a skinny hairless ape."

Jack glowed blue and bared her teeth. "Why you, bastard!"

"Jack, calm down!" Shepard quickly stopped her from attacking. "I don't need you to likw him, but I need you to not kill him. He is needed to activate the network."

"Just keep him away from me."

"That is preferable," Jarvic said.

"Let's leave everyone," Shepard said. "I'll explain on the ship what must be done to end the reapers once and for all."

"But there is a way?" Tali asked.

"There is." Shepard looked to Shol and said, "Thank you for uncovering this temple."

"It was... qush... kesh... my pleasure, Artice-clan. Anything to... qush... kesh... stop the devil-machines."

VVVVVV

Everyone went straight into the comm. room when they returned to the Normandy. Even Joker and EDI were in attendance at the meeting.

"So what's the plan, Commander?" Vega asked. "How do we defeat the reapers?"

"There's a temple on Earth that activates the entire network of temples," Shepard answered. "Jarvic's job is to activate a secret system within the Citadel which will transport it to Earth's orbit. Once I activate the temple on Earth, the signal and energy field will travel through the Citadel and activate the other temples all at the same time. This will create an energy wave that will travel throughout the entire galaxy wiping out every trace of the reapers and their influence."

"That's great news," Tali said. "We activate the Earth's temple while the galactic fleet distracts the reapers and we win."

"Why not you tell them about the reapers, Commander?" Jarvic reminded him. "After everything, they've been through they deserve to know the true origin of the reapers."

"What is he talking about, Shepard?" Ash asked.

Shepard leaned against the table and released a breath. "A lot. The truth is this. This galaxy, this universe, is an alternate future of my universe."

"By the goddess," Samara gasped.

"Humans were actually genetically engineered by a variety of races over a couple million years in order to recreate articians in this galaxy who are completely extinct. Though due to a variety of factors, humans are only partially related to articians. That's not all. The Oracle finally revealed the truth to me, and that is that not only was she the one who created the reapers, she's an artician."

"So your race is responsible for creating the reapers!" Ash accused.

"Not my entire race," Shepard defended himself. "It's much more complicated than what you may think."

"Then explain it to us," Jack said. Her voice was calmer than Ash. "I trust you, Commander, so just explain it to us."

"In this universe, an artician developed a new ability that made him different than anyone of my race, but still extremely powerful. He was able to manipulate Omega energy. This energy corrupts anything it comes in contact with. It is where the indoctrination ability comes from. With this power, he started a war with my people. This war engulfed the entire galaxy. During this war, I was killed when my wife of this universe was murdered. This turned the war in favour of Harbinger, the rogue artician. The Oracle was a scientist who was working towards a weapon that could be used against Harbinger. In desperation, she found a way to turn people's essences into a ship."

"The reapers," Vega said.

"Yes. She was captured by Harbinger's allies and indoctrinated to serve him. Once her work was completed, she had her essence fused into the second reaper created. She was trapped in that reaper until it was shot and killed 37 million years ago. That reaper we boarded to get the IFF was the reaper that she was contained in. The Oracle has spent all that time trying to help this galaxy destroy the reapers. That is the entire truth of the reapers."

"That's it?" Garrus asked.

"That's it."

"Then I don't see a problem with your people," he said.

"I agree," Tali said. "This is surprising. But I know your people, and I know they would not stand for these reapers. The only one to blame is Harbinger. I'm sure everyone here agrees. Right?"

Everyone around the table nodded in agreement. Even Ashley reluctantly nodded.

"We followed into hell and back, Commander," Joker said. "We're not giving up on you now."

"You people can't honestly be serious?" Jarvic asked in confusion. "This man's race created the reapers. They are responsible for hundreds of trillions of lives being destroyed and all of you nod along like mindless puppets."

"Not mindless puppets but good friends," Samara corrected. Her voice barely contained the annoyance she felt towards Jarvic.

"And warriors," Grunt added. "I'm not backing away from a good fight alongside a good warrior. I would warn you to stop criticizing my battlemaster."

"Anyways it's not Shepard's people who created the reapers," Tali explained. "His people are gone. Even in this galaxy, it wasn't his people but the actions of the few."

"Unbelievable," Jarvis yelled. "You people are completely unbelievable!"

"What the hell is your problem with Shepard?" Jack demanded.

"I currently stand next to a member of a race that is responsible for so much death. My people were wiped out because of his race."

"Your race was wiped out by a few assholes," Jack said. "I know enough about grudges to know that your anger is misdirected. You're blaming an entire race for something a few do. I don't know about you but that is fucked up."

"I, uh," Jarvic tried getting out before stopping himself. "Damn it. You're, uh... You're right. I-I'm sorry, Commander. I was out of line."

"Apology accepted, as long as we can focus back on the task at hand," Shepard said. "We are currently heading to the Citadel where we can get the fleet organized and ready to take back Earth, while Jarvic here will initiate the Citadel's systems and get it ready to activate the temple network. This is it people. The final steps of our mission. Ready yourselves."

VVVVVV

Shepard sat on his couch in his cabin waiting for Tali to come up after sending her a message. He didn't have to wait long for her to arrive. Shepard didn't want to announce to the crew that activating Earth's temple would kill him. He didn't want that knowledge to be foreboding on their minds on their mission to retake Earth and activate the last temple. But he had to tell Tali about this.

"You wanted to talk John?" she said while walking towards him.

"Yes. Please sit down."

Tali sat down across from him on the couch.

"There was something else the Oracle told me that I didn't want the rest of the crew to know, but due to its significance, you need to know. To activate the temple I have to pay a price. That price... is my life."

"What?" Tali cried out. She jumped from the couch and embraced him. "No, no, no! There has to be another way. Some other means to activate it. There has to be another way. You always find a way..."

Shepard held her tightly. "If there was another way, I would do so, I swear I would. If there is I don't know it and the Oracle didn't say."

Tali broke out into tears. "No... I only got you back from the dead recently and now I lose you. You promised me you would never leave me again! You promised!"

Shepard couldn't help but break down as well. Tears ran down his cheeks. "I-I'm so sorry. I don't want to die. I don't want to leave you. You have been the greatest thing to ever enter my life. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. To grow old on Rannoch as we raise our children and reminisce about the old days. I wanted to spend every waking moment of my life making you happy. I wanted to give you all of that. But destiny has other plans for me."

"Wh-What if we just let the fleet handle the reapers?" Tali choked. "You built up a large force of ships they could handle the last of the reapers."

"The reapers and their forces have us outnumbered and outgunned. Even with my fleet joining them, we would not stand a chance against the majority of the reaper's forces."

"Why does it have to be you? You have sacrificed everything in your life for others and now you have to make this sacrifice? It's not fair."

"I wish there was another way, but this is all I can do."

"How do you deal with it? Always sacrificing and fighting when it seems impossible?"

"I know that if I fail, I'll lose everyone that I hold dear to me. That I would lose you. So I push on and fulfill my duty. But I'll be honest. I can't honestly say I do it for our galaxies anymore. It's just too big for me to handle or think of when I fight. I have to make it personal. Which is why, I fight with only you on my mind. I fight to protect your future regardless of the cost to me."

Tali's tears started to fade. She knew despite the ending he would be forced to endure, there is nothing they can do about it. Tali can't accept the fate that has been bestowed upon Shepard, but she can at least be supportive of him. "So what do we do now, knowing you're going to die in this final mission?"

"We make every moment we have left mean something," Shepard answered before kissing her.

VVVVVV

The crew walked through the Presidium. Due to evacuation orders, the area was completely empty; so empty that they could hear the echo of their footsteps as they approached the elevator. Jarvic was dressed in a cloak to hide him from view in case anyone did see him. They did not want to risk any chance of panicking anyone on the Citadel. The elevator took them to the top where they met the Council inside the Council chambers.

Shepard noticed Hackett's hologram next to the Councillors' holograms.

"Admiral Hackett? What are you doing here?" Shepard asked.

"I'm a temporary Councillor," Hackett replied. "The Alliance needed someone to represent them on the Council, so I was selected. We heard about your mission on Thessia."

"We are thankful that your mission on Thessia was a success," Tevos said. "Having an Ardat-Yakshi army would have greatly increased the reaper's power."

"Were you successful in locating the control temple?" Katlyo asked.

"Yes, Councillor," Shepard answered. "Both the temples on Thessia and the control temple have been successfully activated."

"Where do we go from here?" Velarn asked.

"Jarvic will be activating the Citadel, hence the need to evacuate it, and sending it into Earth's orbit," Shepard answered.

"Who is Jarvic and how the hell do you plan on transporting the Citadel in Earth's orbit?"

Jarvic stepped forward and pulled down his hood. "I am Jarvic. The last surviving prothean."

"Goddess," Tevos gasped. "An actual prothean."

"After the reapers left to dark space, I along with my fellow colleagues and the artician, created a new program within the Citadel that would allow it to warp into Earth's orbit. There Shepard would activate the temple on Earth. The Citadel would act as an amplifier and send the signal and energy to the other temples so they would go off all at once. This would engulf the entire galaxy in energy that kills reapers and their slaves."

"So we have everything we need to take back Earth?" Katlyo asked Shepard.

"We do," Shepard replied. "I would suggest mobilizing the fleet and readying them for our assault on Earth. We need keep the reapers busy while my team goes in to activate the temple."

"Then I would suggest we waste no more time here," Hackett said. "The Alliance is ready to attack."

"As are the asari," Tevos said.

"And the salarians," Katlyo added.

"And the Hierarchy," Velarn said.

"And the korgan!" a voice announced.

"And the drell," another said.

Everyone looked back and saw Thane, Wrex and Kolyat approach them.

"Thane, Wrex, Kolyat?" Shepard said. "What are you three doing here?"

"This is the final battle," Wrex stated. "No way I'm missing out fighting by your side in this fight. Besides I have battlemasters to lead the krogan in this fight." Wrex looked to Grunt. "Keeping strong, whelp?"

"Stronger," Grunt replied.

Wrex laughed. "Good boy."

"We have done all we can do by ourselves," Thane said. "It would be an honour to fight by your side once again."

"And I have to make sure he doesn't get himself killed," Kolyat joked. "Though we're not the only ones here. Look." Kolyat pointed behind him.

"Hey, Shepard!" Jacob called out while he jogged towards them.

"Commander," Miranda greeted while walking elegantly towards them.

"Ugh, the cheerleader is back," Jack groaned.

"Jack..." Shepard scorned.

"No trouble, no trouble!" Jack quickly said while throwing her hands up.

"Commander, long time," Nihlus said.

"Shepard-Commander," Legion finally announced itself.

"Looks like the whole team is here," Garrus said. "I almost feel sorry for the reapers."

"We're here to stay, Commander," Miranda said.

"If you're taking this fight to Earth, we want in," Jacob said.

"Success rate exponentially increase with addition support," Legion said.

"Looks like you have everyone you need," Hackett observed. "Our forces will be waiting for your go ahead. Once we get the signal, our forces at Arcturus will initiate the assault on Earth."

"I'll send the signal once we reach Arcturus," Shepard said. "We can be there in a few hours."

"We will be waiting," he said.

"Good luck in your mission, Commander," Tevos said.

"For all our sakes," Velarn said.

Their holograms blinked out.

"We have a mission, people," Shepard announced. "Back to the Normandy."

VVVVVV

When they returned back to their ship, Shepard received a message from Teilo that, with the help of Zaeed and Aria, Omega has united against their common enemy. Ships from Omega's personal security, Blood Pack, Eclipse, and Blue Suns will meet them at Arcturus to aid in the attack on Earth.

Everything is in order. Everyone was as prepared as they could be in the time they have been given. Armadas have been rallied. Shepard's first command was to set a course for Arcturus. The travel would take several hours which would give Shepard enough time to speak with the crew and spend some precious time with Tali.

Shepard stood in the cockpit next to Joker. He watched as the Normandy received

"So this is finally it, huh?" Joker said. "The final battle."

"We've come a long way," Shepard said.

"I'll say. When I graduated from the academy, I thought I would be in some good firefights in space, but I never expected to be part of a mission to save the galaxy."

"Funny how things work out," Shepard commented. "Any regrets?"

"Saving the galaxy several times? Not a chance. We've been through a lot, Commander. I just want you know that it has been an honour. What about you EDI?"

"I have loyally served Shepard's family for centuries," she said. "I would follow the Commander into the darkest depths of the universe."

"Good to hear," Shepard said.

"You can go ahead and do your rounds, Commander," Joker said. "You don't have to worry about EDI and me."

Shepard took his advice and went into the ship's CIC where Nihlus was going over mission Intel.

"Didn't hear from you too much since appeared on the Citadel in my defence," Shepard said to him.

"Been busy, Commander," he said in amusement. "Been getting Spectres together is not easy. Running missions here and there to counter Cerberus attacks. Spectres will be on the ground for the assault on Earth in various places around Earth."

"Sounds like you've had your hands full."

"Oh, yeah. But it appears that you have been busy yourself."

"I do what I can."

"Indeed. Commander... I... I know what happened in Bahak and I wanted to let you know that their deaths are not your fault."

"I know."

"If anything it's the Council's fault for not listening to you and your warnings."

"Once this is all over, they will be held accountable."

"If you need anything, Commander, just ask," Nihlus said. "Now I believe you still have more people to talk to before we reach Arcturus."

Shepard nodded and walked towards the armoury. The doors opened and he saw Vega, Jacob and Ashley working on the weapons, preparing them for the mission ahead. Ashley looked up and saw Shepard.

"Commander," she said while facing him.

"Just checking up on the crew before the mission."

"Nervous to say the least," Ashley said. "It finally comes down to this."

"Finally destroy those reapers," Vega muttered. "It is going to be one hell of a fight."

"Commander, I just wanted to say... I'm sorry again for the way I acted on Horizon."

"It's okay, Ash," Shepard said.

Ashley slammed her hand against the counter. "It's not okay. I was an idiot on Horizon."

"You were in shock and upset."

"I should have realized you didn't truly work for Cerberus. After everything you have done; your attitudes towards how to do your job and towards other races. The very least I should have suspected that you were undercover."

"He was," Jacob confirmed.

Ashley pointed to him in agreement. "Exactly. I messed up and I likely made your mission harder by not being there."

"You're here now, Ash. That's what matters now."

"I just wanted to say that it has been a pleasure serving on your crew, Commander," Vega stated. "After this mission, I'm buying you a beer."

"Count me in," Jacob said. "We still haven't celebrated our victory against the collectors, Shepard. We'll have to make up for it."

Shepard forced a smile. "We sure do. I'll let you three get back to work."

"Weapons aren't going to clean themselves," Ashley said while turning to her work counter.

Shepard exited the armoury, went passed the comm. room and entered the lab where Liara was examining some artician artefacts recovered from Klencory. She looked up and saw him.

"Oh, Shepard. Need something?"

"We're on our way to the final battle; I wanted to know how're you holding up?"

"Just fine," she said sarcastically. Her tone was not harsh but a joking manner. "We're just go to fight against an entire armada of ageless machines who have destroyed the galaxy countless times before. No pressure." Liara let out a small laugh. "If someone told me five years ago that I would be part of a mission to save the galaxy against reapers, I would, well... Have them committed. All of this has just been crazy, just crazy. I can't even begin to imagine what's it's like being you. Having to fight since you were young in one continuous war."

"I get by with the support of my friends and allies. You ever regret joining my crew those years ago?"

"Not even for a moment," she said with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. "Aside from helping save the galaxy, I have learned so much about the protheans and even of another universe. I'm glad I joined your crew years ago. Had I not I would probably be behind a desk in a museum by now."

"Less bullets whizzing by and would be a lot more quiet," Shepard joked.

"And a lot duller. I'm happy where I am, Commander. In the coming battle, I will give it my all."

"Thank you, Liara."

"Any time, Commander."

Shepard left the lab and entered the elevator and took it down a deck. He exited out of it and turned left to enter the observation room where Samara sat in meditation. Shepard went up beside her and sat down.

"How are you holding up?" he asked her.

"You're referring to Thessia?" she said calmly. "My last two daughters are now gone because of the monsters that have plagued this galaxy." A tear rolled from her glowing left eye. "These are wounds that will never heal, but I will keep it together for this one last battle."

"And after?"

"I... I do not know. After this war is over, I will have to do some reflection. I became a Justicar to make up for my mistakes and bring Morinth in. I have fulfilled that duty, but now I have lost my last two daughters. I fear I may have no purpose after the war."

"Purpose is something we choose for ourselves, regardless if it is given to us or if we find it. Once this war is over, this galaxy will need peace keepers to bring back order."

"And there will be individuals who will seek to take advantage of this galaxy with everyone weakened from the war. For the time being, I'll have purpose. I have a feeling there will be a great amount of change after the war."

"You could say that," Shepard replied. "I wanted to say that it has been a pleasure having you on my crew."

"And it has been an honour serving a man of your esteem."

"I'll leave you to your meditations."

Shepard left the room and went ahead to go into the life-support room where Thane and Kolyat examined their sniper rifles and smgs.

"Commander," they both greeted.

"How are you two?"

"We've been keeping it together," Kolyat answered. "I never did get the chance to properly thank you for stopping me from killing that politician, and setting me on my current path."

"You two getting along?"

Thane patted Kolyat on his shoulder. "We have managed to patch things up. Thanks to you, Commander."

"You sound much better since the treatment."

"The nanobots used on me have fully healed my lung tissue," Thane said. "These nanobots will ensure my people will be able to live longer lives. My race is forever in your debt."

"Many of from your race are fighting in this war, Thane. There's no debt between us."

"A generous attitude."

"An honest attitude," Shepard corrected. "You really have helped out in my mission Thane. Helped me take down the collectors and Udina. As far as I'm concerned we're even."

"I don't think you're going to be able to out-humble him," Kolyat said to Thane.

Thane laughed. "Probably. Regardless of debts, Commander, we will with the spirit of Arashu in this final battle."

"I'm not much of a spiritual traditionalist like my father here, but the sentiment remains the same," Kolyat added while ejecting an old heat sink from his pistol.

"May the spirits favour us in battle," Shepard said. "I will leave you to your preparations."

"We'll speak again when the mission begins," Thane said.

Shepard left the life support room and walked to the XO quarters. While garrus was his de facto XO on the Normandy, he stayed in the main battery room working on the Normandy's weapon systems. The room was temporarily given to Williams, but now Miranda had taken it as her temporary office. The doors opened and Shepard saw Miranda hard at work examining reports.

"Commander, good to see you," she said warmly. "Here for something?"

"Just getting a sense of the crew current mood."

"Well, despite what we're up against, I'm optimistic. We have rallied every race in two galaxies to face against the reapers. With this mega-fleet and the temple on Earth, I would say our chances of winning are good."

"How does it feel to be back on the Normandy?"

"Feels like home. Not that I didn't like where I was stationed during your campaign. That space station your people created is something else. And helping Hackett coordinate ground teams all over the galaxy has kept me busy. But being back on this ship and going to battle by your side... just feels right. Though this time as an agent of the Order as oppose to Cerberus. They can rot in hell for all I care."

"Well if you didn't join them I wouldn't be here."

"True. Do any of your people hold a grudge towards me? I didn't exact interact too much while I was on the station."

"You were not responsible for what happen to my galaxy. And you were not involved in any of Cerberus' crimes. You help bring me back to life and then betrayed Cerberus. If anything they'll be planning to construct a statue of you."

"I like the sound of that," she said with a smirk.

"Don't get too full of yourself," Shepard joked.

"It won't go to my head. Though in seriousness, Commander... Thank you for everything. The very least I can do for you now is be here."

"Thank you, Miranda."

"Now, I have to get back to these reports. We want full efficiency when we make our final attack."

"I'll leave you to your work."

"Of course, Commander. Though a suggestion..."

"I'm all ears."

"Do your rounds as quickly as possible," she said while cocking a brow. "You should spend as much time as possible with Tali before the final battle. We don't know what will happen when we go groundside on Earth. These could be the last moments you have left. Make good use of them."

"Oh I will," Shepard said while leaving her room.

"Too much information!" she yelled out before the doors closed.

Shepard laughed as he walked towards the main battery room. Garrus was doing what he usually does when he's not groundside: calibrations. Garrus turned around as his doors opened.

"Shepard."

"I hope you're not too busy with calibrations for a quick chat."

"They're mostly done anyways," Garrus said. "Heh, so what do the humans call it? Deja vu? Or articians? I'm not sure how to view your race or theirs anymore. They two races or one and the same?"

"Different races," Shepard explained. "We evolved in different environments, so despite our genetic similarities, we are different species. To be frank, I probably should have suspected this. It just seemed too coincidental that our races looked exactly alike."

"With an infinite number of universes out there it makes sense that there would be some races that would look like yours. But not much we can do now. This is an all or nothing mission. We go in, walk away from an explosion without looking back-"

"Without looking back?"

"Bad asses don't need to see the explosion. This mission will be our hardest mission yet, but I'm not giving up now. Been three years now since we first met."

"I remember you being the C-Sec cop getting frustrated with his boss and recklessly following any lead you could find."

"My recklessness got your attention," Garrus huffed.

"I saw you had potential to become a great warrior for justice. And here you are. A knight of the Order, the most prestigious title of my galaxy. You have changed a lot since we first met, but for the better."

"Worked out for me at least," Garrus said. "Got to do a lot of good in the galaxy. Even purging Omega of its filth. That many would say is a pipe dream, but we did it nonetheless."

"Garrus I know I haven't truly said this before, but you have been like a brother to me."

"Though I'm the most handsome of the two."

They both shared a laugh.

"Though the feeling is mutual. Though speaking of family, once this war is over with though, I'm going to have to visit mine. I haven't spoken to them in a while and my father is probably thinking I'm just being a disappointment."

"You have acted honourably in our adventures, Garrus. Regardless what he thinks, remember that."

"Of course, Shepard."

"Well, I have a few more people to talk to before we reach Arcturus. I guess we'll talk again when the battle begins."

"I think the conversation then will be, 'shoot that!' 'Shoot this!' 'Garrus, do something awesome!'"

"I don't think I have ever given you that order."

"Any order you give me becomes that order."

"Good speaking with you, Garrus," he said with a chuckle.

Shepard left the main battery room and walked to the med-bay where Chakwas drank some tea while going over a medical report. Shepard went through the med-bay and entered the AI core room where Legion stood.

Legion's flaps flared in recognition of Shepard's presence. "Shepard-Commander."

"How have things been between your people and the quarians?"

"Despite past antagonism, relationship between geth and creator race shows promise. Geth have been assisting the creators in restoring their world and repairing their ships. Whether this mutual cooperation will remain after the war is still unknown. Geth are however... optimistic."

"As long as both sides continue striving for a better future, it will."

"The geth are grateful for the role you and your people have planned in bringing peace to our people. Without your intervention, the likelihood of a war between us was one hundred percent, with a ninety-nine-point-six percent chance of one of our races going extinct. Reaper success in winning the war would have been a certainty."

"I'm glad both of your races were able to work things out."

"With peace between our people, combat efficiency will be high for the battle to take back earth and activate the temple. We stand ready for fight by your side."

"Thank you, Legion. We'll speak again when I give the briefing for this assault."

"Acknowledged."

Shepard left the AI core room and went straight to the elevator. He took it down one level. Upon exiting the elevator he took a left and entered the cargo room where Grunt and Wrex stayed. The two were in a shoving match. Grunt had his hands curled into fists trying to strike against Wrex. Wrex simple held him back by holding his fists. It looked effortless to him.

"Push harder whelp," Wrex said. "You won't be leading the clan in the future if you can't take on an old man."

"You're no mere old man," Grunt muttered.

"He's a Wrex," Shepard interjected.

Wrex looked to Shepard while holding back Grunt. "Ah, Shepard." Wrex then directed Grunt's actions and had him fall to the floor. "What can I do for you?"

"How are you two holding up?"

"We're anxious for this fight," Wrex replied. "It will be the largest fight in our history."

"I do worry about after the war," Grunt said. "Once this battle is over with, I will not be in a battle that will even compare to it. I will be living a long life and yet I'm getting the biggest battle right now instead of near the end like the clan chief here."

"You never know when your big battle will happen, but you make the most of it when it does come. You do that so the memories of your actions will be remembered for centuries to come. And in this battle, you better make the most of it; there will be peace once the reapers are dead, whelp. Only enemies left will be pirates and slavers."

"That doesn't sound very appealing."

"Unless you want to start a war with the Guardians, that's all we'll get."

"For now we should focus on the battle at hand and worry about the krogan's role in the future afterwards," Shepard said.

"At least we have a future now," Wrex said. "Thanks to you and your people. And Mordin."

"I wish he was still around this see the conclusion of this war."

"He died honourably in curing my people," Wrex assured him. "I think the collector base was his last fight. All he could do after that was make amends to my people. With your help he did and he will be remembered. With the genophage cure, my people can finally move forward and remind the galaxy our once status as their protectors. We will fight with ferocity in this battle."

"I know I will," Grunt added. "When you released me out of my tank, I'll admit that I didn't think you would be much of a war. With your funny... peaceful ways and diplomatic nonsense. After fighting by your side many times, I now know that you are a warrior without an equal. An unstoppable force. It has truly been an honour fighting by your side all this time."

"Likewise, Grunt," Shepard said. "Now I have a couple more people I should check up on and I think you two would want to continue preparing for this mission."

"We won't keep you, Shepard," Wrex said. "But one thing, Shepard."

"Yes?"

"I wasn't joking about making you an honorary krogan. I'll make it happen."

"You always keep your word."

Shepard walked out of the cargo room and went towards the room just down the hall. Since Zaeed moved out, Jack took over his space. Shepard entered in through the door and saw Jack lying on her fold-out cot. She was staring up at the ceiling. When she heard Shepard walking in, she sat up and spun to face him. Jack continued sitting.

"Hey," she said in a positive tone. "Doing your routine rounds?"

"Yeah," Shepard answered. "This is going to be our final battle, so I wanted to see how everyone was doing before we go in."

"I'm good, Commander." Jack laughed in a sigh. "I never thought I'd see myself here. If someone told me, a year ago, that not only would I go legit but be part of a mission to save the galaxy, I'd kill them. And then probably take their credit chit. You take us to weird places, Commander. But if it weren't for you, I would still be stuck in Purgatory or dead. I wouldn't have come to terms with my past. And I would have no purpose in my life."

"You have been through a lot in your life, Jack. Despite it all you have truly become an honourable warrior."

"Thanks to you, Commander. If we live after this mission, I am going to get very shitface drunk. There is going to be one hell of a party."

"I'm sure there will be, but I thought you don't like to be around other people."

"I never said I didn't like to get drunk. Anyways, I'm starting to warm up to others." Jack swung her feet back onto the cot. "Now I'm going to take a nap before this battle. I doubt there will be much rest once we get there. If you don't mind..."

"Not at all. I'll see you in a few hours."

Jack turned over on her side facing away from him and just waved to acknowledge him.

Shepard left the room, went through the sub-deck staircase, and entered engineering where Tali was working.

"Tali..." he said to her.

Tali turned around. She walked up to him. Shepard held out his hand and Tali held it. He led her away from engineering to the elevator. No words were needed between the two to convey their feelings or thoughts.

When Shepard and Tali left engineering, Ken chuckled. "I can tell you how those two will be doing for the next couple hours."

"You're such a pig," Gabby sighed.

When Shepard and Tali entered the elevator, Shepard's hands reached for her helmet. He slowly removed her facemask. With the translucent plane of glass out of the way, the two kissed as the elevator doors closed.

VVVVVV

Hackett was facing a window that viewed the massive fleet that waited around Arcturus station. There were easily tens of thousands of ships of various classes and from various races. The view was breath-taking. It was error seeing ships from past enemies sit nearby allies. Amongst them were geth, batarian, rachni and krogan. Regardless of past history, this wasn't a time for past grudges but to fight for a common cause. Hackett would not turn away anyone willing to fight and die for the sake of the galaxy.

It would be another hour before he would go aboard the SSV Aconcagua. The dreadnaught was massive and just recently finished construction just months ago. It contained the most up-to-date technology and weaponry that the Alliance had available. The Guardians themselves were more than willing to make some improvements to give it a boast. A jingle came from the holo-stands to his right. Hackett turned and watched the Councillors take form.

"Councillors," he greet in a neutral tone. "The fleet is all together and we are currently waiting for Shepard's arrival."

"The Commander truly does have a remarkable talent for bringing many different people together form a cause," Tevos observed.

"I doubt even we could have mustered a force even half this powerful without his help," Katlyo added.

"You wouldn't have," Hackett said matter-of-factly. "Without Shepard we would have already lost this war two years ago."

"We are more informed now," Velarn explained. "In retrospect, we could have done more, but we didn't have the intelligence to prove what Shepard was warning us about."

"In retrospect?" Hackett repeated in confusion. "There was more than enough evidence to at least warrant an investigation. We have records of dozens of worlds that were once host to a civilized race only to have their cities destroyed by railgun-like weapons. No scientist were able to match the material of Sovereign with any geth material we've found. We even have Shepard's report from two years ago when he investigated the disappearance of an Exogeni survey team, only to find that they discovered dragon teeth that date older than the geth by thousands of years thus proving that husks were not directly created by geth. Even your own race's military officials urged you to investigate the reaper threat. Yet you three did nothing."

"Don't let your position go to your head," Velarn warned. "We don't answer to you for our past decisions."

"No you don't," Hackett admitted. "But that doesn't mean you don't answer to the people. Once Shepard arrives we will begin the assault. Hopefully we will speak again."

"We wish you luck in your mission, Admiral," Tevos said to him.

Their holograms blinked out. Hackett looked back out the window and mumbled, "Goddamn idiots."

VVVVVV

Shepard lay on his side with his arms wrapped around Tali's naked form. His sheets covered their bodies. Tali rested her head in the nook of Shepard's neck. Shepard felt her breath on his chest. They two lay there exchanging their warmth after their love-making.

"John..." Tali said, breaking the silence. "How do your people come to terms with death? What are your people's beliefs about death?"

Shepard's arms tighten around her. "Despite how old my civilization was, we could never prove nor disprove if there was some higher being. Frankly, we don't see the need to worship such a being as we would assume that such worship would be beneath it. We know there are spirits and souls only because we have actually seen them. But whether there is an afterlife or maybe there is reincarnation, I do not know. My people believed in immortalizing ourselves through our actions so we may be remembered by people we care about or have helped." Shepard then placed a hand on Tali's stomach. "We even bring in another generation so they can keep that memory alive."

Shepard could feel tears hit his chest. "Are you sure you want this, Tali?"

"Yes," she choked. "I-I need a part of you to stay with me. I want this child. It will be all I'll have left of you."

Shepard kissed her head. "Tali... No matter what happens in the coming battle... Know that I will always love you and that you were the brightest part of my life."

"I love you too, John. Keelah, I love you."

VVVVVV

The Normandy came out of the mass relay into the Arcturus system. There it viewed tens of thousands of ships; all of them were organized into rows of which ones would go first through the mass relay to Sol system. Shepard and his team were all wearing their battle-wear and had their weapons strapped on. Hackett's hologram appeared over the table once they entered the system.

"I was beginning to wonder when you would show up," Hackett said.

"It's my destiny to be here today, Admiral," Shepard said. "Are the fleets ready for the attack?"

"They are," Hackett answered. "They are just waiting for their 'go ahead.' Do you have any words of encouragement before we initiate the assault?"

"I do," Shepard replied. "Can you link me to all of the ships?"

"It is done."

"This is Supreme Commander John Shepard," he started. "What lies on the other side of those relays is an enemy that doesn't just threaten the humans' existence, but threatens all life in the galaxy in the present and in the future. For millions of years these reapers have been a parasite that has fed on our galaxies. They've controlled our fate and treated us as lesser beings. Today their reign ends. We will strike back with a ferocity that will even make these abominations shudder. Their taint will be purged from our galaxies. All will know the strength the many united can muster. Today we will fight and we will be victorious!"

The signal cut shortly after his proclamation. Hackett reappeared over the table. "Good speech, Commander."

"I am ordering the initiation of our assault."

"Got it." Hackett's hologram turned another direction. "Attention all vessels. This is Admiral Hackett. The order for the attack has been given. All forces move out!"

The Normandy followed the first row of attackers. Most of the ships were frigates with half a dozen cruisers and a dreadnaught. The ships approached the mass relay. The inner rings started spinning faster as the armada approached it. Electricity surged from the center mass of energy of the relay and impacted several of the ships.

These ships were immediately launched into the Sol system. The ships were joined by the Guardian fleet which skipped using the mass relay and preferred to use their warp drives. As the ships approached Earth, the Normandy started picking up a signal.

"Commander, we're picking up a transmission," Joker announced over the comm.

"Open the channel," Shepard ordered.

"My lord is that you?" a familiar voice asked.

"Aether?"

"It is you! Thank the Architect! I take it means you have united the galaxy?"

"Indeed, old friend. What is the situation on Earth?"

"Bad. Most major cities have been destroyed. We had to move the main Alliance base many times to avoid detection."

"Aether, listen. We now have a way to destroy the reapers once and for all. There's an artician temple in London, England that must be activated. Once it is, it can send out an energy wave that will wipe out all reaper trace in the galaxy."

"London? So that's what they're digging up."

"The reapers located it?"

"I believe so. We had no idea why they were digging in London."

"They can sense the temple," Shepard concluded. "Aether, is Anderson still alive?"

"He is. The Admiral is currently giving out orders for the soldiers."

"I need you to tell him to send every available soldier to London to escort us."

"Yes, sir. Here's coordinates to a safe landing zone near the dig site. We can meet you there."

"Thank you, Aether."

"See you soon, Commander."

Shepard turned his attention to his crew. "I want everyone down in the cargo bay and ready to go groundside. This mission will be fast and brutal. Move!"

VVVVVV

The Normandy went through the atmosphere. There were reapers all over the city. Many of them blast away at the cityscape with their beam weapons. The Normandy found the location that Aether provided and hovered over the ground. Shepard and his team jumped off of the ramp of the cargo bay and landed on the ground.

"We're groundside, Joker," Shepard notified him over the comm.

"Okay, I'll try to lend support when I can," Joker said. "Good luck, Commander."

"Thanks, Joker."

The Normandy flew off from their position. Shepard scanned the area and saw the dig site. The area around the crater was cleared of buildings.

"I'm guessing that's the dig site," Garrus said.

"That would be a fair guess," Jacob said.

"Shepard!" a voice called out.

Shepard looked in the direction of the voice. He saw both Aether and Anderson head their way.

"Admiral, it's good to see you alive."

"Likewise, Commander." Anderson looked at his whole team. "You really have brought in the reinforcements."

"Where are the other Alliance soldiers?"

"In different areas of the city. There are husks all over the place. So what's the plan?"

"In the dig site is a temple my people left here fifty thousand years ago."

"Your people left one here?"

"It's a long story, I'll tell you later, but my sword will activate the temple below. Once I do, an energy wave will come forth from the temple and eliminate all reapers in the galaxy."

"That's great news."

"It is, but we need to get down there," Shepard said. He turned to face his team. "This is it everyone. Just ahead is the crater that contains the last temple. The reapers are going to throw everything they have at us, but I know they will not stop us. We all have been through a lot for the past few years. Face untold horrors and challenges that would break a lesser person. But we have endured. We have been ignored and laughed at, but we still fought on. Every hardship we faced has only made us stronger. I look before me and see some of the greatest warriors of all time. So I ask you to fight with me in this final battle and show these reapers just what we are capable of!"

Everyone on his team pulled out their weapons of choice.

"Move out!"

Shepard took point as his squad followed behind them. They moved around and over rubble left behind from the surrounding buildings that collapsed. The area and sky were grey. It wasn't obvious if it was the natural weather or the ash from the destruction. The ground shuddered from the nearby reapers that prowled the area.

"There's Shepard!" a voice called out.

On top of one of the non-collapsed buildings was a Cerberus Trooper.

"Cerberus!" Ashley called out.

"Fire back!" Shepard ordered.

Thane managed to take out one of the Cerberus soldiers with a well placed sniper shot. Several more Cerberus soldiers appeared from the roof tops. Shepard's squad took cover behind some rubble as the soldiers fired upon their location.

"We don't have time for this," Vega growled.

"For the krogan!" a new voice yelled out.

"For the krogan!" more voices followed.

The Cerberus soldiers were flung off of the buildings. They screamed as they fell and hit the ground. Shepard looked up and saw a dozen krogan soldiers on the rooftops.

"Looks like me people got here just in time," Wrex said. "They'll give us cover."

The krogan did their job as they travelled by rooftop, taking care of Cerberus soldiers that were using the rooftops to their advantage. Shepard's team moved forward down the street.

"We have turrets ahead!" Tali warned.

Just fifty feet down, Cerberus engineers had set up a line of turrets. Again Shepard's team had to take cover to avoid fire.

"Bosh'tets are too far away to hack!" Tali cursed.

"Shepard's team needs to make it to the temple!" a voice rang.

Shepard peeked around his cover and saw a glow surround the turrets indicating a hack. Quarians came out from a sewer manhole. With their omni-tools glowing. Salarians came in through the alleyways and fired off cryo and inferno blasts at the Cerberus engineers. Shepard could recognize one of the quarians.

"Is that you, Reegar?" he asked.

"Good to see you again, Shepard," he replied. Reegar looked to Tali. "M'am."

Tali let the word drop considering the situation they were in.

"You're leading the assault team here?"

"In London, yes," Reegar answered. "We're too help you in any way we can. The salarians as well."

"We'll take all the help we can get," Shepard said.

VVVVVV

The battle in space was hectic. Joker sent a great amount of time, dodging beam attacks from reapers. At least a couple dozen ships on their side were immediately destroyed at the beginning of the battle. So far they have only destroyed a dozen reapers.

"Incoming hostile," EDI announced.

"Tell me something I don't know," Joker groaned.

"I have identified the reaper. It's Harbinger."

"Harbinger?" he repeated. "Ah, hell!"

"Enemy is firing."

The Normandy swayed left and right to avoid Harbinger's attacks.

"At the current rate of fire, we will not be able to dodge for much longer."

"Think, Joker, think," he muttered to himself. Joker suddenly got an epiphany. "EDI, can you contact one of the Guardian dreadnaughts?"

"Which one?"

"One that is the least busy."

"Opening channel to the GSV Hydra."

"This is Admiral Dwem," the captain of the ship responded.

"This is helmsman, Joker, of the Normandy. I need you help in taking care of Harbinger."

"We can help in any way necessary."

"I need you to charge up your pillar of light."

"That weapon is meant for ground attacks," the admiral explained. He was confused why Joker would ask for that weapon.

"Just trust me. Charge it up and fire it when I give my say so."

"Very well, helmsman. Weapon is now charging."

"EDI, I want you to open a line to Harbinger."

"May I ask why?"

"To make sure he keeps chasing us."

"Opening channel."

"Hey, Harbinger. What's wrong? Eons of neglect is starting to take a toll on your targeting systems?"

"PITIFUL INSECT. YOU WILL KNOW GREAT SUFFERING. YOU ARE NOTHING MORE THAN AN ANNOYANCE."

"That's pretty big talk from a ship that can't shoot straight."

"WE WILL EXTEND YOUR SUFFERING."

The Normandy flew directly at the pillar of light cannon of the Hydra.

"Proximity warning," EDI announced. "We are quickly approaching the Hydra. I recommend diverting direction."

"Not yet," Joker said to her. "Not yet."

"YOUR DEATH WILL BE SLOW AND TRANSFORMATION PAINFUL."

Just when the Normandy got within half a click of the Hydra, Joker yelled out over the comm. "Fire pillar of light now!"

"Firing weapon," the admiral announced.

The pillar of light fired in the Normandy's direction. Joker manoeuvred the Normandy out of the way just in time. The massive beam of light engulfed Harbinger incinerating its gargantuan body. The beam travelled further going through the space battle. The beam annihilated a smaller reaper vessel, severed the legs of a second, and obliterated the back of another. Still the beam continued towards the planet's surface.

"That was very reckless," the admiral scorned him. "But damn fine work."

"I really hope that beam doesn't hit anyone on Earth," Joker said.

VVVVVV

Shepard and his platoon fought their way through the streets and were quickly closing in on the crater. A mechanical roar echoed throughout the area. A reaper smashed through a nearby building and charged towards their position.

"Incoming reaper!" Garrus yelled out.

"What the hell is that?" Jack asked out loud. She pointed towards the sky. It looked like a small sun in the sky.

Shepard's eyes widen. "Everyone run!"

None of the soldiers questioned why. They ran in the opposite direction of the reaper. The reaper was closing in on them. Its exoskeleton opened up revealing its beam weapon. The weapon started charging up ready to fire upon Shepard's platoon.

Before the weapon could fire, a pillar of light came down and engulfed the reaper. Everyone in the platoon leaped as far as they could to avoid the weapon. They landed on their stomachs. The beam struck no more than a hundred feet away from them. The beam quickly died down and there was nothing left of the reaper.

"What the hell was that?" Kolyat demanded.

Shepard got to his feet and opened his comm. "Who fired the pillar of light?" he demanded in an irritated tone.

"I ordered the Hydra to fire the beam to take care of Harbinger," Joker answered. "Why? Did it come close to you?"

"Any closer and we would have been ash."

"Sorry, Commander."

"Was Harbinger eliminated?"

"Yes, Shepard. Along with three other reapers up here."

"Make that four. The beam struck a reaper that was about to attack us."

"Ha! Nice!"

"Don't get cocky," Shepard warned him. "Continue your fight. We're almost at the temple."

"Aye, aye. Good hunting."

Shepard's platoon approached the mile wide crater that the reaper dug up. They could see the temple in the center. "There it is!" he pointed out.

Many roars were heard all around. Hundreds of husks of various types came out of the nearby buildings and were approaching their position. Gunfire came in from above at the approaching swarm. Above Shepard's group were dropships that belonged to the asari and turians.

"Commander, you and your team need to go ahead without us," Reegar told him. "We'll make sure you don't have your flank swarmed."

"Can you handle this many husks?" Shepard asked.

A jet roaring sound came in. A geth dropship moved in and shot down a couple dozen troopers and an armature.

"We can hold them off long enough for you to activate the temple. Just hurry, because with that many husks, I don't think it'll be long before they over run us."

"Thank you, Reegar," Shepard said.

"No thank you," he corrected. Reegar looked to Tali. "You keep safe, Tali."

"You used my name," Tali said in amusement.

"I told you I would work on it. Now go!"

Shepard and his team carried on. They could hear the platoon open fire on the many husks.

"We need to be fast," Anderson said. "They won't last too long."

"We don't need too long," Shepard assured him. "We go in-"

"Something exciting happens," Garrus continued, "and then we win."

"More or less."

They continued down the pathway that zigzagged down the edge of the cliff wall of the crater. The pathway connected to a platform that Shepard could only assume was for ships to land on. The platform was a hundred by a hundred feet in its top dimensions. To the side, Shepard could see a staircase that reached the bottom of the hole.

"There's our way to the bottom," Shepard pointed out.

"I won't let you activate the temple," a voice chimed in.

Kai Leng came up from the stairway.

"Leng!" Anderson growled. "I should have killed you when I had the chance."

"But that wouldn't be in your nature," he said. "That child would have died if you had gone after me."

"Well now I can correct it."

Kai Leng pulled out his sword. Everyone had their weapon aimed at him. "Face me in singular combat, Commander. Let me show you who the superior soldier is."

"Weapons down everyone," Shepard ordered.

"You can't be serious, Commander?" Jack said.

"Don't give him the pleasure!" Ashley yelled at him.

"This man needs to die now," Aether said.

"Weapons down everyone!" Shepard ordered again.

This time everyone complied and lowered their weapons.

"I thought you would accept my challenge," Kai said in a chuckle.

"I challenge those who are worthy of facing me," Shepard growled. His eyes glowed green. "I crush those who kill my friends!"

Shepard waved his hand and lifted a shard of metal and flung it at a ridiculous speed. Kai couldn't dodge it and the shard of metal sliced off his left arm. Kai screamed as his arm was severed.

"For those you have harmed, I will send you to the void!" Shepard roared. He used his powers and lifted a large metal crate and threw it at Kai. The crate hit and sent him off of the platform.

"I was worried you were going to accept his challenge," Anderson said.

"The dishonourable have no right to challenge me."

"Way looks clear, we should..." Vega trailed off as the platform started to shake.

Everyone tried to keep their footing. A familiar mechanical groan was heard by them all. A large mechanical hand rose up and grabbed onto the platform. Another giant hand came into view and grabbed the platform. The enemy revealed itself as it pulled itself into view.

"Gods..." Kolyat muttered seeing the monstrosity.

"My god..." Anderson gasped. "What is that?"

"It's a reaper larva," Shepard answered. "Just like the one we faced in the collector base."

The larva before them was different from the one they faced before. Its chest was more covered in armour plating. A large crest extended from its shoulders past its head. Smaller appendages came out from its rib cage. This larva was very close to being complete as at this point, its shape was closer to that of a reaper, like Sovereign, than the skeleton they faced in the collector base.

"This is Commander Shepard, I need a pillar of light strike hear my position ASAP," Shepard ordered over his comm. Shepard saw a compartment open in the forehead of the reaper. In the compartment was Leng who was hooking himself up to dozens of tubes.

"I should have known you would be too cowardly to take me on, on your own," he said. "Now I will become more than human. I will become the perfect being."

The tubes started pumping an unknown fluid into his body. Leng's laughter soon died down as he started to panic. "What's happening? Why is this so painful?" Leng started screaming as his body started to lose its colour and form. The liquid was transforming him. "This isn't what I agreed to! Ah! Someone help me!" Leng's body dissolved and filled in the compartment with his genetic material. All that was left of him was his heavily-implanted skull that was imbedded into the reaper's third-eye.

"This is Admiral Dwem, Commander," a voice called in through the comm. "We are over your position."

"Charge up a pillar of light and strike down the reaper here."

"Charging, Commander, but you need to push it away from you as it is too close. You also need survive long enough for this to weapon charge. Can you do that?"

"We have no choice but to find out," Shepard replied.

The reaper larva started to charge up a beam of energy around its mouth.

"Everyone take cover!" Shepard ordered.

Everyone took cover behind the various boxes and barriers. They beam impacted the cover harmlessly.

"How the hell are we to push that thing back?" Ashley yelled.

"Commander, I see it still has those weak spots like the larva we faced in the base," Nihlus said. "Remember that firing on those points caused it to shudder back?"

"Good idea, Nihlus," Shepard said. "Everyone focus their fire on either the glowing chest piece or its eyes," Shepard ordered. "We need to push it back far enough for the pillar of light to strike."

Everyone jumped out of cover and began firing of its chest piece and eyes. The reaper lifted its right hand and slammed down on the platform. Everyone in the way of the attack rolled out of the way. The attack destroyed a lot of the cover they had on the platform.

"It's going to strike again!" Anderson yelled!

"Take cover!" Garrus yelled.

Everyone rolled into cover. With less cover, a lot of them had to crouch close to each other. Shepard was on his side facing Tali. They looked into each other's eyes. He smiled sadly and stroked her arm. The reaper fired off its beam which impacted the crates and barriers.

The squad popped out of cover and returned a barrage of bullets at the reaper's weak spots. The reaper raised its left arm. Everyone in the way ran out of the way as the arm came down. The last of the cover was destroyed.

"Goddess, we have no more cover!" Liara called out.

"Then it's now or never," Samara said.

"Don't let up!" Shepard yelled out.

The reaper roared and started charging up another blast of energy.

"It's getting ready for another attack!" Grunt said.

"Keep attacking!" Shepard said.

Just when the reaper was about to fire, something impacted its head causing it to fall backwards. Shepard saw the Normandy fly by.

"God damn good timing, Joker!" Shepard said over the comm.

"What would you do without me?" Joker joked.

A beam fired upwards and hit one of the thrusters of the Normandy.

"I've been hit!" Joker yelled. "I can't keep to ship up, I need to take her down."

The Normandy flew out of the crater. They all could hear a crash.

"Joker, do you read?" Shepard called out through the comm. "Joker? Damn it!"

The reaper got up and roared again. Shepard gritted his teeth. "Hydra, fire the pillar!"

"Firing," the admiral said.

The beam of light came down from the sky and impacted the reaper larva. The reaper screamed while reaching upwards as if trying to see what was attacking it. Shepard and his team watched as the reaper was reduced to nothing. The beam died down and all traces of the reaper and Leng were purged from existence.

"The reaper's gone, we need to hurry to the temple," Shepard said.

"After you, John," Tali said.

"Time to end this."

The team ran down the stairway. The climb down was short. At the bottom they could see the impact crater more clearly.

"There's the temple!" Samara said.

They went around the impact crater and approached the temple. Everyone looked the temple up and down.

"That is something else," Anderson whistled.

"So we go in and activate it," Garrus said.

"Sorry, Garrus but there is no 'we' here, just me," Shepard said.

"What do you mean no 'we'?" Garrus asked.

Shepard turned to Tali. She was already starting to cry. "Tali, know that I love you with every fibre of my being and I hope you live a long and happy life."

"I-I love you too, John. I love you so much."

Shepard looked to his team with tears in his eyes. "You have all been good friends, and I want you all to know it has been an honour to fight alongside each of you."

"What are you talking about, Commander?" Jack asked. For the first time, the squad could hear worry in her voice.

"Good bye, all of you." And with that, Shepard went through the doors of the temple which closed shut after him.

Tali fell to her knees and screamed. Garrus and Ashley crouched down next to her.

"Tali, what was he talking about?" Garrus asked her.

"Why are you crying?" Ashley also asked.

"H-He didn't want anyone to know before- before we went into battle," Tali sobbed.

"Know what?" Anderson asked.

"For this temple..." Tali choked on her tears. "He has to... He has to give his life to activate it."

"What?" Garrus exclaimed.

"You mean after all the crap he has been through he dies?" Jack said. "That's bullshit!"

"For once, I agree," Miranda said. "Was there no other way?"

"Shepard would've gone with it if there was," Anderson said in a sigh. The old soldier felt his eyes began to sting. Shepard was like a son to him. He went through some of the worse the galaxy could through at him, yet he still fought on.

"Damn it, Shepard," Aether muttered. "You deserved better than this fate."

Thane said a little prayer. "Gods, please help Shepard."

Liara crouched down next to Tali. "Tali, I'm so sorry. I know how much you loved him."

"There they are!" someone yelled.

The team looked up and saw Cerberus Troopers come in on their jetpack boots.

"Damn Cerberus!" Kolyat spat.

"We have to hold this position until Shepard activates the temple," Garrus said. "Everyone dig in and prepare for the fight of your lives."

"In memory of Shepard!" Grunt roared.

"In memory of the man I love!" Tali yelled. She fired her shotgun taking out one of the Cerberus soldiers who hovered towards the ground.

VVVVVV

A signal blinked on Jarvic's console. He smiled. "You finally found it, artician. Good work."

He type in a few commands on the terminal before him. The area was so empty. It reminded him of when he and his colleagues used the Conduit to transport themselves here after the reapers left. It was also here they met the queen artician who helped make this all possible.

Outside, the tips of the Citadel started surging with electricity. The electricity connected to each type and started vibrating at a rapid rate. A wormhole appeared in front of the mega structure.

"It's all up to you, Commander." Jarvic typed in another command on the terminal.

The Citadel went through the wormhole, leaving its system of origin.

VVVVVV

Shepard ran down the corridor towards the center chamber where the last pedestal would be that needed to be activated. He found the humour that he was knowingly running to his death very bitter-sweet. Like the temples before him, the way was straight-forward as the corridor led him directly to the chamber. There in the center was the pedestal that would kill him.

Shepard started to breathe heavily as he approached the pedestal. He stared at it for a moment just mentally preparing himself for this act. Shepard raised Asha Bel and aimed it at the slot.

"Wait!" a voice yelled out before Shepard could thrust the sword forward. "There is another way Shepard."

Shepard looked to the direction of the voice. The Illusive Man walked out of the shadows.

"You dare enter my people's temple?" Shepard growled.

"Shepard I think we both know it's not just your people's temple. I know that our races are one and the same. I know you hate me, Shepard."

"Hate is too light of a word," Shepard said as he went around the pedestal.

TIM started circling the pedestal as well to keep it between him and Shepard.

"Yes, well, I have another way to stop the reapers."

"Stop them? Why would you want to stop them?"

"Not so much as stop as in control," he corrected himself. TIM noticed the dumbfounded look on Shepard's face. "You thought I was indoctrinated. That is not the case. See Shepard, during the First Contact War, I was a mercenary that worked for the Alliance. During one mission, we came across an ancient artefact. This artefact changed me as you can see by my eyes."

"I suspected as much."

"But you see the artefact didn't take me all the way to the threshold of a husk. Over the years, being exposed to inactive reaper tech has rendered me immune to their indoctrination. This alliance with the reapers was so I could learn more about them. And in doing so I know of a way to stop the reapers without destroying them."

TIM stopped in front of the pedestal as did Shepard. He pulled out a darkened version of Asha Bel and held it in front of him. "Insert this into the pedestal. By doing so, you will have control over all the reapers in the galaxy. And doing so, you will live."

Shepard's eyes widen.

"I know that putting your stone into the pedestal will kill you. I'm offering you a chance to live a long and happy life. Shepard I know our history is terrible. I know that I'm responsible for what has happened to your people, but I want you to see reason. The Oracle has been playing us both. You want to be a pawn to a spirit that treated you no better than a pawn on the board? Humanity for all intents and purposes are the remnants of the articians. The articians can rise again and be the great people they once were. Do the right thing for yourself, for your people and use this sword." TIM held the sword out to Shepard.

Shepard stared at the ground in deep thought and finally said, "I will do what is best for my people."

A smile came across TIM's face. That smile immediately went away as Shepard charged forward and impaled his sword through TIM's stomach and into the slot of the pedestal.

"My people would want this taint purged from the galaxy." Shepard twisted the sword causing more pain to TIM and activating the temple. "Even if it means wiping us all out."

"No!" TIM screamed.

Shepard felt the sword started to pull at the very fibre of his being. 'This is it,' he thought. 'Tali... I love you.'

A burst of energy sent him flying from the sword. The shock knocked him out of his train-of-thought. "What the?" Shepard sat up and saw that the temple was still activating. A misty form started to take shape around the sword. The mist started to become more opaque and take shape. The mist soon formed into someone all too familiar.

"Oracle?" Shepard gasped. "What are you doing here?"

"Seeking my redemption for everything I have done," she cried out. "I have wiped out my people twice, created the reapers, caused the extinction of countless races, and manipulated you. With the part-artician physical essence of Jack Harper and my artician soul, the ritual can be performed."

"No!" TIM choked. Blood came out from his mouth. He was gasping for air.

The Oracle put a finger to his lips. "Shh... Now we must pay for our sins." The Oracle looked to Shepard with a smile. "Good bye, John. I'm sorry for everything I have done. Know that I always thought of you as a son. I love you."

"No!" TIM tried to get out in a futile effort.

Light came from the two as the temple consumed their essences. Shepard shielded his eyes from the bright white light.

VVVVVV

Shepard's team was started to tire from fighting against wave after wave of Cerberus soldiers.

"I don't know how much longer I can last," Liara muttered.

"We need to keep holding on," Anderson urged. "We just need to wait until Shepard activates the temple."

"Look!" Jacob pointed. "The temple is glowing!"

Everyone, including the Cerberus soldiers, stared at the temple. The green energy exploded outwards. The Cerberus soldiers tried to run, but the wave quickly caught up to them. They fell to the ground dead.

VVVVVV

"We've lost the third fleet!" an admiral yelled over the Alliance network. "We are getting destroyed out here."

"We are staying the course!" Hackett reiterated. "We win or lose. There is no retreat. Believe in Commander Shepard."

"I'm detecting an energy surge," one of the Guardian admirals noted.

A wormhole appeared and the Citadel appeared above Earth. Just after it appeared, a green energy wave came forth from Earth.

"Shepard's done it," Hackett muttered.

The energy wave went through everything. When it passed through the reapers, they dissolved into ash while the fleet of thousands of ships remained unharmed. The energy wave impacted the Citadel causing it to glow.

VVVVVV

Inside the energy amplified. Jarvic stood at his console with a look of peace across his face. "We did it." The intense energy was too much for his body to handle. His body vaporized in a flash of light.

VVVVVV

Four wormholes opened in front of the Citadel. The energy that the Citadel collected fired as a beam in each of the wormholes from four of the station's arms. The wormholes closed as soon as the beam of energy was fired through. From the fifth arm, the energy exploded outwards at a pace at roughly the speed of light.

VVVVVVV

Over the planets of Tuchanka, Palaven, Thessia and Khar'Shan, a wormhole opened up unleashing a beam of green light. Each beam impacted the temple on each of these planets reigniting their full function. Each temple at the different corners of the galaxy went off sending off an energy wave larger than they had emitted before.

The wave moved in all directions engulfing the entirety of the galaxy in green light, purging every taint of the reapers. Despite being made by them, the mass relays remained unharmed as they were made from a different material and technology than the reapers.

Everyone on every planet held their breath as they watched the energy wave passed by them.

Every husk, every Cerberus soldier, even indoctrinated agents, either disintegrated or fell over and died on every world the energy wave passed over.

The war was over. Gunfire and ship attacks died downed immediately. Every soldier was quiet as they watched their enemy either die or vanish.

The silence from the civilians and soldiers was short lived as it was quickly replaced by a sound no one has heard since the war began. Cheering.

VVVVVV

Tali stared at the temple a mixture of relief, anger and sorrow filled her. She felt Garrus place a hand on his shoulder.

"He was a good man," he said.

"He was the best," Tali corrected. "There will never be any one like him again."

"Miss Zorah," Anderson said. "I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you."

The group's sorrow and mourning was quickly cut off as they heard the temple door move. Dust was kicked up when the temple activated so the group was unable to see what was opening the door. Just in case, everyone had their weapons ready. Tali stared in the direction of the temple in anticipation.

A figure appeared through the dust and was moving towards them. The figure broke through the dust revealing himself.

"My god..." Anderson gasped.

"Did we win?" Shepard asked rhetorically.

"John!" Tali squealed. She threw her weapon to the ground and ran to him. Tali reached for her face mask and removed it for the last time. The mask was tossed to the ground.

Shepard held his arms out as Tali ran to him. Tali leaped and Shepard caught her. The two embraced and kissed while Shepard spun around in joy.

"You're alive! You're alive! You're alive!"

The heart-warming moment even made tears come to Jack's and Grunt's eyes.

"You crying, Grunt?" Jacob asked.

"No," he replied. "Just the dust."

The group watched the reunion of Shepard and Tali. None of them dared to interrupt this moment between them despite the many questions they had.

"How did you survive?" Tali asked Shepard while pulling away from their tearful kiss. "I thought you were supposed to die when you activated the temple?"

"The Oracle..." Shepard said before a pain hit his heart. "The Oracle sacrificed herself and The Illusive Man so I didn't have to make the sacrifice myself. She wanted me to keep my promise to you."

"You mean...?"

"I'm yours forever."

"Oh, John..."

"You did it, Commander," Anderson congratulated. "You saved us all."

"We did it," Shepard corrected. "If not for all of you, I would never have gotten this far."

"How about not being a pussy for once and taking credit where it's due?" Jack suggested jokingly.

Everyone had a good laugh. Shepard looked around the area. "Looks like you all had one hell of a fight out here."

"It was overwhelming, but thanks to the activation of the temple, they died instantly," Samara reported.

"Commander, are you there?" a familiar voice called.

"Joker?" Shepard answered.

"Oh, good, I was hoping you were okay."

"You're alive?"

"Of course I'm alive! What? You thought that shot would take me down? EDI recalibrated the thrusters so the Normandy is stabile again."

"We heard a crash," Ashley said.

"I, uh... I accidentally smashed into the Palace of Westminster."

"I'm sure the Brits will forgive you," Anderson joked.

"Anyways, while you were all fighting I did some pick-ups. There is someone who wanted to speak."

"I knew you could do it, Shepard!" Reegar yelled over the comm.

"You're alive, Reegar," Shepard said.

"Yup. We took out a lot of husks in that fight. Luckily Joker came around and took out the rest of them. Now we are waiting on the Normandy for you guys."

Shepard looked back to the platform and saw that the staircase was broken beyond use.

"Tell Joker we need a pick-up. We're kind of stuck down here."

"Coming to get you, Commander," Joker said. "Just hang tight."

"Goddess, Tali," Liara said when she saw Tali's face. "You are beautiful."

"Thank you," Tali replied.

"Definitely a shame you quarians had to cover up your faces all this time," Ashley said.

Tali blushed a little at the compliments.

"What will you do now, Shepard?" Nihlus asked him.

"Kind of what I'm wondering," Jacob said. "You've spent your whole life on this mission and now... it's over."

"I've done what was needed to be done. My destiny fulfilled. I think it's time to live for myself now." Shepard wrapped his arms around Tali and rested his hands over her stomach. "And raise my family."

"She's... oh!" Ashley said. "Congratulations, Commander, Tali."

"I'm happy for you, Commander," Anderson said. They all saw the Normandy fly in the crater from above. "Looks like our ride is here. The Council will want to speak to you. Likely a ceremony and everything consider what you have done."

"Oh, I would like to speak with the Council as well," Shepard said. He looked to Nihlus. "There is much to be said."

Nihlus gave him a turian smile and nodded.

VVVVVV

Word reached every corner of the galaxy of Shepard's accomplishments. He was hailed as not just a hero, but a saviour to all. It was decided that Shepard would be honoured with a statue that would be placed in the Presidium and the Galactic Medal of Valour. Every major politician and military leader was at the ceremony that was being held in the Council chambers.

Shepard and his team were dressed in formal wear. Even Jack wore a dress suit. One of the first people to greet them was Rael'Zorah.

"You have done remarkable work, Commander," he congratulated him.

"Thank you, Admiral."

"I would be proud to have you as my son."

"It means a lot to hear that, Admiral. Though there is some you should know."

"What's that?"

Tali stood next to Shepard. "You're going to have grandkids."

"I'm going to be a grandfather?"

Tali and Shepard smiled and nodded.

"Now you two are making me feel old. I still remember when Tali graduated from school. There is much to talk about concerning this joyous news. But for now, Shepard has to receive his medal and be declared a hero of the galaxy."

"Thank you, Admiral."

"Please, just call me Rael."

Shepard and his team moved down the chamber waving to all those they have saved during the reaper war. Everyone from the rachni queen to the turian primachs to the leader of the batarian abolitionist movement were there. Shepard and Tali walked onto the platform in front of the Councillors: Tevos, Velarn, Ketlyo and Hackett stood.

"We have called everyone here today to recognize the accomplishments of Supreme Commander John Shepard," Tevos announced to the hushed chamber.

"Though you may not be of a race from this galaxy," Katlyo continued, "you still fought to save it from the horrors that have plagued it for many eons."

"And due to your selfless actions, billions will live on in this new age of unity and peace," Velarn finished.

"We as the Council award you the Galactic Medal of Valour for your actions," Hackett said while activating a command on his terminal.

A box appeared in front of Shepard's terminal from a hidden slot. Shepard picked the box up and opened it, revealing the medal inside.

"Thank you for this honour," Shepard said.

"You deserve a lot more for what you have done for all of us, Commander. But let this be a start."

Just then many heavily armed soldiers that were asari, turian and salarian came into the chamber and approached the Councillors.

"What is the meaning of this interruption?" Velarn demanded.

Nihlus walked up next to Shepard and said, "Councillor Velarn Hyven, Councillor Katlyo Foril and Councillor Tevos Avila. You three are being charged with gross criminal negligence resulting in the deaths of millions of civilians and military personnel. By our authority, as agents of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance group, we hereby place you three under arrest."

"You can't do this!" Tevos argued.

"By law we can if the crime is severe enough," Nihlus said. "And the crime is severe enough."

Katlyo made no efforts to fight back and held his arms out as they placed cuffs on him. Two agents had to drag Velarn out as well as Tevos.

Nihlus turned to Shepard and told him, "They will pay for their inaction."

"I know they will," Shepard said. "Know that your actions will greatly benefit your future and the future of every race of this galaxy."

"Thank you, Commander."

VVVVVV

Shepard entered inside the holding cell where the Councillors were being kept. There was angry and resentment on their faces when Shepard entered their cell.

"You planned this didn't you?" Velarn accused.

"Of course I did," Shepard replied nonchalantly. "Nihlus and I have been working towards this for a while now."

"Why?" Tevos demanded.

"Why?" Shepard repeated in disgust. "Because you three represent everything wrong with this galaxy's politics. Weak. Lazy. And Ignorant. Despite all the warnings of the reapers, you three did nothing!"

"What warnings?" Tevos said. "We couldn't act on the accusations of just one person, even a Spectre."

"I'm not talking about myself," Shepard yelled. "There has been warnings and evidence all around you, yet if any of you had even had people truly investigated it." Even examining Sovereign would have told you he wasn't geth.

"We did investigate and found no evidence," Velarn defended himself.

"You and I both know that isn't true," Katlyo said. He sat on his cot with his head lowered. "Any scientists we had on that project tried to make the assertion that Sovereign wasn't geth; he was reassigned and gagged."

"Though in a way, maybe I should thank you three," Shepard said. "While you incompetence cost the lives of millions, it has presented an opportunity. See we of the Order are disgusted by the way your government has operated for so long. Originally we were planning to launch a campaign against your government. Not one fought with guns, but one fought with ideals and words. We were planning to turn your own people against you so they would see just how corrupt and terrible you are as a government. But now... Now you have made things easier. The galaxy is furious knowing how you could have acted sooner, but didn't. They know now how things could have been different. They have lost all faith in this government. That is where the Order comes in. We have been there for this galaxy all this time. Saving lives and doing everything in our power to help it. We are seen as the future of leadership of this galaxy. One that will include all of the races and not just a privilege few."

"You bastard!" Velarn roared.

"You won't get away with this!" Tevos yelled.

Shepard walked to the cell door and opened it. Before he left the room he said, "I already have. There is more than enough evidence to convict you three. This galaxy will be led into a new golden age." Shepard left the cell and closed the door behind him.

Epilogue

The transition of governments was difficult, but the Order was able to assimilate the races of the galaxy into their government. Each race of the galaxy was granted a seat on their Order allowing every voice be heard for every decision to be made.

The Councillors were declared guilty of gross criminal negligence and due to the damage they inaction ahs caused, were placed into jail for the rest of their natural lives.

Every world and race managed to rebuild themselves after the brutal war they had endured. Exions and geth went all over to speed up the process of rebuilding worlds and within a few years, normalcy had returned to the galaxy.

Everyone that was a part of Shepard's team had been honoured in their own way. After the Order assimilated the Council government, the SpecTRe members were inducted into the Guardian Knights organization. Garrus was rewarded with his work by being made into the Knight-Commander taking charge of the organization. Ashley, Nihlus, Vega, Jack and Jacob were inducted into the Order.

Samara continued on her never-ending quest to weed out the wicked in the galaxy. Grunt and Wrex returned to Tuchanka to help rebuild their world to its state before the nuclear war of long ago. Miranda went to work of advancing science by working with scientists from the Order. Legion continued helping the people of the galaxy in hopes that they can gain the same acceptance as the exions have. Their future was once again theirs and they continued to learn and gain understanding of organic life.

Mordin was honoured with a statue on Tuchanka, the Citadel and on Sur'Kesh in remembrance of his Genophage cure and his efforts to stop the reapers. Kaidan Alenko was giving a memorial on Jump Zero to remember his actions during the hunt for Saren. Zaeed continued with mercenary life until he earned more than enough money to retire on a frontier world.

Kasumi was given a memorial in a history museum for her efforts in aiding Shepard. Due to her thefts, she was considered a modern day version of Robin Hood. Thane went to live on the Citadel where he could spend time with his son, Kolyat, who went on to become a well-respected member of C-Sec.

Joker continued his long career as a pilot of the Normandy which switched hands many times after Shepard had left the ship. The ship went longest to the person who replaced Shepard, Ashley Williams. Anderson had a short military career after the war before he retired on Earth. Hackett was on the Order for a couple of years before he retired from the post and, soon after, his military career. Both Alliance officers were honoured by a ceremony when they retired.

Shepard and Tali settled on Rannoch. Shepard and Tali helped the quarian people rebuild their planet. Shepard was never bored with his work as there was always something to do, and always happy with his wife by his side. Later after their bonding ceremony they found that Tali was pregnant with twins. A boy and girl. The boy was name Xiltro after the friend Shepard lost during the war. Tali name their daughter after her mother, Mari. Their family lived in a small home on the outskirts of the city that the quarians occupied. The home over looked an ocean that brought in warm air every day.

Ten years have passed since the end of the reaper war. Shepard sat on the bench in front of their house and watched the sea roll in. Tali lay across his lap. Shepard rubbed her stomach. Despite being free from her suit for years, she loved any sort of skin contact.

"What are you thinking about love?" Shepard asked Tali.

"Not thinking at all, just enjoying the moment," she replied. "This is all just so perfect."

Shepard bent down and kissed her.

"I love you."

"I love you."

"Mother! Father!" Mari yelled out while leaning out of the doorway. "Dinner is ready and grandpa is getting ready to tell some stories!"

"We'll be right there, dear," Shepard said looking to his daughter. "Your mother and I are just enjoying the sunset."

"'Kay, father," she said cheerfully. "Don't be long. We're getting hungry." Mari went back into the house.

Shepard wrapped his left arm around Tali's shoulder and lifted her up until she was sitting on his lap. "We shouldn't keep them waiting, love."

Tali wrapped her arms around his shoulder and rested her head on his shoulder as the two went to their feet. Shepard looked into her eyes before he kissed her. "My soul is yours, now and forever."

"As is mine yours, now and forever," she said.